The weather's cooling off, but before we plunge into fall, let's take a moment to think about this past summer. Specifically, let's think back to all those movies that were never screened for critics, or were deliberately screened late enough to preclude opening-weekend reviews. The trend stirred debate over whether critics were even necessary anymore, and it reached an apex when the summer's most-hyped movie, Snakes On A Plane, was released without critics' screenings. The logic: Reviews could only hurt the fervent anticipation built up by months of Internet buzz. (How did that strategy pan out? We only vaguely remember some kind of Snakes On A Plane movie.)
Well, now it's fall. Popcorn-movie season is gone, and it's time for more difficult prestige fare, the kind of movies that don't sell themselves without the help of critics and their fall movie previews. But if the studios don't want to cooperate with us, we don't see why we should bother cooperating with them.
At least not any more than we're absolutely obligated to.
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon
What we guess it's about: The Departed is about this one guy who totally departs from something.
Studio-imposed official statement: Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, and Leonardo DiCaprio burn up the screen in Martin Scorsese's riveting remake of the Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs!
Cast: Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly, Patrick Wilson
What we guess it's about: With that title and an all-star cast, we're thinking it's one of those animated CGI things. Bring the kids!
Studio-imposed official statement: Affairs and crime rock a seemingly placid suburban enclave in this adaptation of a bestselling novel by Election author Tom Perrotta!
Man Of The Year
Cast: Robin Williams, Laura Linney, Christopher Walken
What we guess it's about: This looks a little like a quickie sequel to Employee Of The Month, but where's Dane Cook?
Studio-imposed official statement: It's Network meets The Candidate meets Patch Adams when talk-radio gasbag Robin Williams runs for president!
Flags Of Our Fathers
Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Adam Beach, Jesse Bradford, Jamie Bell
What we guess it's about: Not much of a powerhouse cast here. Maybe this is a heartwarming indie drama about pennant collectors?
Studio-imposed official statement: Director Clint Eastwood takes you behind the scenes of the famous photograph of Marines raising the American flag at Iwo Jima!
Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Judy Davis
What we guess it's about: Kirsten Dunst stars in a biopic of the infamous French queen.
Studio-imposed official statement: Kirsten Dunst stars in a biopic of the infamous French queen!
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine, Christian Bale
What we guess it's about: Someone has finally made a movie about the Weinstein brothers and their annual campaign to shove middlebrow "prestige pictures" down the Academy's collective throat.
Studio-imposed official statement: Prepare for pure cinematic magic in this riveting period drama about the sexy misadventures of rival magicians Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale!
Running With Scissors
Cast: Joseph Cross, Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin, Brian Cox
What we guess it's about: The poster sports a wacky picture of a fist with legs, so this must be some kind of outrageous teen romp, where boys will be boys, and girls learn to love them.
Studio-imposed official statement: The son of two neurotic parents spends his adolescence being raised by a therapist. Blackly comic ennui ensues!
Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael García Bernal
What we guess it's about: An all-star cast goes on a madcap cross-continental journey to find some treasure, but when their ship capsizes, they must race to the bottom in order to get to the top.
Studio-imposed official statement: Long before Crash won the Oscar, Alejandro González Iñárritu did the whole lives-intersecting-through-tragedy thing (Amores Perros, 21 Grams), and he's at it again!
Catch A Fire
Cast: Derek Luke, Tim Robbins, Bonnie Henna
What we guess it's about: Taking a break from austere, socially progressive dramas, Tim Robbins stars alongside Derek Luke in an old-fashioned, ethnically mismatched buddy-cop comedy with a sunny South African backdrop.
Studio-imposed official statement: In the tradition of Cry Freedom, A World Apart, and A Dry White Season comes another stirring tale of apartheid told by white people!
Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian, Pamela Anderson
What we guess it's about: Fox rolls the dice on this gritty, subtitled drama about the brother of the #4 prostitute in all of Kazakhstan and their relationship with the town rapist.
Studio-imposed official statement: Join the fun as Kazakhstan's loveable cultural reporter comes to America and embarks on a heroic quest to deflower Pamela Anderson!
Cast: Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas
What we guess it's about: From the Spanish word meaning "to return," Pedro Almodóvar's latest involves a person or persons who return somewhere. May have some thematic similarities to The Departed.
Studio-imposed official statement: Volvando a España después un muerte carrera en Hollywood, Penélope Cruz definas "Cruz control" con ayuda para Almodóvar!
Fur: An Imaginary Portrait Of Diane Arbus
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Robert Downey Jr.
What we guess it's about: The fur will be flying in what we imagine is a sexy comedy about the madcap shenanigans of the chinchilla industry. Also, an imaginary portrait of Diane Arbus may somehow be involved.
Studio-imposed official statement: Fur may or may not be murder, but it'd be a crime to miss this sexy biopic of sexy shutterbug Diane Arbus, starring top Hollywood megastar Nicole Kidman!
A Good Year
Cast: Russell Crowe, Abbie Cornish, Albert Finney
What we guess it's about: Crowe and director Ridley Scott are reteaming? Aw, yeah! Bring on the Gladiator-style bloodletting!
Studio-imposed official statement: A self-absorbed businessman learns to appreciate the simple things in life when he inherits a vineyard in Provence!
Stranger Than Fiction
Cast: Will Ferrell, Dustin Hoffman, Maggie Gyllenhaal
What we guess it's about: Playing the latest in a long line of eccentric characters, Will Ferrell stars as Phineas J. Fact, thereby adding a clever twist to the title. Other details were unclear at press time.
Studio-imposed official statement: America's love affair with Luigi Pirandello comes full flower in this story about one character (Ferrell) in search of an author (Emma Thompson) intent on killing him off!
Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Judi Dench
What we guess it's about: The poster makes it look like a transparent attempt to cash in on the poker craze, although the presence of Judi Dench and Eva Green screams "arthouse," so it may be some kind of talky chick flick.
Studio-imposed official statement: The thrills never stop in the 21st entry in the official James Bond series!
Fast Food Nation
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Wilmer Valderrama, Catalina Sandina Moreno, Bruce Willis
What we guess it's about: Not since the glory years of Hot Dog: The Movie and Hamburger: The Motion Picture has the screen held such junk-food-inspired hijinks!
Studio-imposed official statement: Director Richard Linklater fictionalizes Eric Schlosser's bestselling exposé of the unethical and unhealthy fast-food business. You'll never look at French fries the same way again!
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn
What we guess it's about: All signs suggest that this is a team-up between Rachel Weisz's character from The Mummy and her adventures with Wolverine across several centuries. We're not sure how they meet, if they fall in love, or whether they fight mummies.
Studio-imposed official statement: Can love exist outside of time? Join stars Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz as they journey through the ages to find out!
The Nativity Story
Cast: Keisha Castle-Hughes, Oscar Isaac, Shohreh Aghdashloo
What we guess it's about: A little over 2,000 years ago, a couple traveled to Bethlehem to deliver what turned out to be the Son Of God. Yeah, we know, crazy story.
Studio-imposed official statement: After a long search to find the right person to bring Christ's birth to the big screen, New Line Cinema is proud to support Catherine Hardwicke, who promised not to get drunk and launch into anti-Semitic rants!
Cast: Rudy Youngblood, Gerardo Taracena, Raoul Trujillo
What we guess it's about: Yet another low-budget J-horror adaptation, perhaps shot in Mexico?
Studio-imposed official statement: Mel Gibson returns to the ancient world for a subtitled epic about the fall of the Mayans. Jews are welcome!
Breaking And Entering
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Robin Wright Penn, Jude Law
What we guess it's about: Like Lovely And Amazing and Walking And Talking, this looks to be a chatfest featuring gals jibber-jabbering mindlessly about shoes, cookies, and their crush on noted hunktor Jude Law.
Studio-imposed official statement: A break-in changes the lives of a wealthy couple in the latest from master storyteller Anthony Minghella!
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou
What we guess it's about: It's all about the bling-bling in what we suspect is a rap-happy hip-hop musical where the rhymes and laughs fly as fast as the bullets.
Studio-imposed official statement: Leonardo DiCaprio stars in a riveting exploration of the cruelty and bloodshed behind the lucrative diamond-mining industry!
Cast: Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Robert Carlyle
What we guess it's about: Jeremy Irons' presence in a family-friendly fantasy epic can only mean one thing: They finally answered our e-mails, letters, and hourly phone calls by making another Dungeons & Dragons sequel! Yay!
Studio-imposed official statement: A plucky youngster discovers a fantastical dragon's egg and embarks on the journey of a lifetime!
The Pursuit Of Happyness
Cast: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Thandie Newton
What we guess it's about: Given the crazily misspelled title and the mostly African-American cast, we guess this is one of those zany-but-uplifting Tyler Perry-style comedies.
Studio-imposed official statement: Smith and son will touch your heart as a single-parent family striving to work their way out of the ghetto. Bring a full box of Kleenex!
The Good Shepherd
Cast: Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Robert De Niro
What we guess it's about: At Christmas, what the world needs is the inspiring story of the men who stopped tending their flocks when the Angel Of The Lord descended and told them The Good News about Jesus.
Studio-imposed official statement: De Niro directs an epic spy thriller about the real-life consequences of working in the CIA. Dust off a spot on your Oscar shelf, Matt!
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Tarver, Milo Ventimiglia
What we guess it's about: Wasn't there an explorer by that name? Oh wait… Stallone's in this? Then this must be… oh, crap.
Studio-imposed official statement: Call it a comeback! Rocky returns!
Children Of Men
Cast: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine
What we guess it's about: The trailers promote this science-fiction film as the latest from the director of Y Tu Mamá También and Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban. So clearly this is some sort of hybrid halfway between those two movies.
Studio-imposed official statement: Imagine a future in which you can have all the unprotected sex you want without worrying about having children! Paradise on Earth!
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Beyoncé Knowles
What we guess it's about: Booty Call smoothed out on the Adventures Of Pluto Nash tip with a Fighting Temptations fizz.
Studio-imposed official statement: Get lost in a glittery world of glamour and seduction in Bill Condon's star-studded adaptation of the venerable musical!