20th Century Fox is juggling awards and popcorn for it’s fall lineup of movies. On the one hand, Academy Award nominees Maggie Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, and director Ang Lee are among those with an eye on the big Hollywood prizes. On the other hand Fox has brought back Liam Neeson and his very specific set of skills and Billy Crystal and Bette Midler are back as a family friendly comedy team.
Here is a look at Fox’s fall lineup at the box office.
“Won’t Back Down”
Release date: September 28
Starring: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis and Holly Hunter
Directed by: Daniel Barnz (“Beastly”)
Written by: Brin Hill (“Ball Don’t Lie”)
Synopsis: Two mothers aghast at the quality of her children’s school set out on a crusade to turn their school into a charter school run by parents and outside the bureaucracy of the failing school system.
Early impression: The trailer is a little too warm and fuzzy for my taste but Viola Davis has a terrific track record of finding challenging roles in commercial movies. Davis alone is enough to keep me interested in “Won’t Back Down.”
Release date: October 5
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, and Famke Janssen
Directed by: Olivier Megaton
Written by: Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Synopsis: Having gotten his daughter back after she was kidnapped in Europe CIA Operative Bryan Mills finds himself taken by kidnappers while in Istanbul with his reunited family. Now, Bryan must use his very specific set of skills to save himself and protect his family.
Early impression: “Taken” took the world by storm in 2011 and transformed Liam Neeson from respected character actor into an action icon. The question now is can “Taken 2” recapture the badass magic. The trailer for “Taken 2” recalls the first film’s phoned in kidnapping instructions conceit and carries the extra punch of Neeson himself as the kidnap victim. Having loved the original “Taken” the sequel had me at hello.
Release date: October 26
Starring: Gerard Butler, Jonny Weston, Elisabeth Shue, and Abigail Breslin
Directed by: Michael Apted and Curtis Hanson
Written by: Kario Salem and Brandon Hooper
Synopsis: Based on the life story of surfer Jay Moriarty, “Chasing Mavericks” stars Jonny Weston as Moriarty, a teenager who discovers a hidden surf spot where legendary waves called ‘Mavericks’ crash the shore. Against the wishes of his mother, Shue, and his mentor, Gerard Butler, Moriarty is determined to ride mavericks.
Early impression: Surfing movies do not have a great track record of quality or box office. “Blue Crush,” “Soul Surfer,” and “Surfer Dude” are just a few of the wipeout examples of this sports movie sub-genre. “Chasing Mavericks” however, does have the advantage of a pair of terrific directors. Michael Apted and Curtis Hanson combine talents in action, drama, and dialogue but they have never directed together before. I’m intrigued just by the notion of whether these directors can work together.
“Life of Pi”
Release date: November 21
Starring: Suraj Sharma, Gerard Depardieu, and Tobey Maguire
Directed by: Ang Lee
Written by: David Magee
Synopsis: Based on the worldwide bestseller, “Life of Pi” stars Suraj Sharma as Pi a zookeeper’s son who survives an accident at sea only to be stranded aboard lifeboat with the only other survivor of the accident, a Bengal Tiger.
Early impression: Fans of the book are very eager and anxious over the film adaptation. In the film’s favor director Ang Lee is a master of grand imagery and lush, fully fleshed storytelling. On the other hand, the story is not one that is easily filmable. 20th Century Fox is optimistic for “Life of Pi” as its late year Awards contender.
Release date: December 25
Starring: Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, and Marisa Tomei
Directed by: Andy Fickman (“The Game Plan”)
Written by: Billy Crystal, Lisa Addario, Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel, and Joe Syracuse
Synopsis: When a single mom (Tomei) needs a little help, she turns to her parents (Crystal and Midler). However, when the grandparents’ school discipline clashes with their daughter’s more modern approach things get testy.
Early impression: While I am happy to see Billy Crystal back on the big screen, “Parental Guidance” sounds like a dud. Director Andy Fickman’s uninspiring resume, including “The Game Plan” starring The Rock and a dog, and “You Again” combined with a laundry list of screenwriters and a less than exciting premise leave the impression that “Parental Guidance” will be a chore.