In Theaters

Prisoners (Warner Bros.)
Prisoners
(Warner Bros.)

Jump-starting the fall’s assortment of all-star cast offerings is Prisoners, the English-language debut from Québécois director Denis Villeneauve (Incendies).  The film centers on Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman), who turns vigilante after his daughter and her friend go missing and the police release the lone suspect, simple-minded Alex Jones (Paul Dano).  Jake Gyllenhaal co-stars as the detective assigned to the case with Viola Davis, Terrence Howard (quietly having a not-so-terrible year), Maria Bello, and Melissa Leo rounding out the roster.  The above details all seem promising, and though the 2.5 hour runtime is somewhat of a concern, it sounds like a story that warrants this sort of investment.

Thanks For Sharing (Roadside Attractions)
Thanks For Sharing
(Roadside Attractions)

Nearly as impressive is the ensemble in Thanks For Sharing, the directorial debut from screenwriter Stuart Blumberg (The Kids Are All Right; in-house favorite Keeping The Faith).  The characters in this dramedy support one another at sex addict meetings, then go off in the world and attempt to get their lives back in order.  Among these folks are Adam (Mark Ruffalo), who’s been clean five years and hesitant to reveal his past when he meets the woman of his dreams (Gwyneth Paltrow); Neil (Jobs Josh Gad), a doctor caught attempting to take a picture under his boss’ dress; and Adam’s sponsor Mike (Tim Robbins).  Joely Richardson, Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous), Pink, and Carol Kane also star.

Austenland (
Austenland
(Sony Pictures Classics)

OK, let’s try this again…The first film from Napoleon Dynamite co-writer Jerusha Hess, Austenland features many women’s dream vacation, that of a Jane Austen theme park.  Jane Haynes (Keri Russell) travels to the titular establishment in search of the perfect gentleman, whose qualities have been shaped by her obsession with the BBC production of Pride & Prejudice.  Jane Seymour and Jennifer Coolidge are fellow guests with Flight of the Conchords‘ Bret McKenzie as an unlikely suitor.  The film is based on the novel by Shannon Hale, who co-wrote the screenplay with Hess.

Fleeing the Scene

Closed Circuit and Blackfish will be no more come Friday, so if you’re in the mood for British legal thrills or orca advocacy, respectively, act fast.

On DVD

Gimme The Loot, the year’s shiniest hidden gem, may now be purchased or rented.  (The $9.93 owning price at Amazon is very tempting.  Update: It’s also on Netflix Instant.)  Other options include the entertaining enough World War Z, the mixed-bag technological thriller Disconnect, Sofia Coppola’s sadly annoying The Bling Ring, and the dumb Sound of My Voice remake The East.

As for unknowns, there’s Steven Soderbergh’s made-for-HBO Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra, starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.  Also, a copy of Carl Franklin’s recent Bless Me, Ultima adaptation is awaiting my review for DVD Snapshot and has all sorts of positive comments from top film writers adorning its cover.  The back case quote from Alex Nogales, CEO of National Hispanic Media Coalition, however, could use a little retooling: “It is important for Latinos to watch this film because it is talking about us.”  OK then!

On Netflix Instant

Stop the (electronic) presses!  Call the Midwife: Series 2 is now streaming!

Continuing the big week for TV is the debut of the Netflix original series Derek, created by and starring Ricky Gervais.  Also, shout out to Craig at Thirsty Monk Gerber Village, who’s actively clawing his way through season 5 of Fringe.

On the narrative front is the wonderful Love, Actually, likewise serving as a shocking reminder that Christmas is three months off.  The Kids Are All Right would have been more appropriate a month back when the kiddies were heading to college, but is a quality view any time of year.  More mainstream is the Aniston/Stiller comedy Along Came Polly and the SJP/Kinnear/Brosnan comedy I Don’t Know How She Does It.

For the subtitlely inclined, South Korea’s Poetry was Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips’ #1 film of 2011 and the African-set War Witch was a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar Nominee back in February.

Documentary-wise, I can mostly vouch for Sushi: The Global Catch (Jiro Dreams of Sushi is way better) and am interested in Radio Unnameable (about talk show pioneer Bob Fass) and Becoming Chaz, which chronicles the former Chastity Bono’s gender reassignment.

One not to recommend, unless you have a keen interest in three mostly silent hours of the dullest political footage possible, is The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceasusescu.  Don’t let the giant New York Times stamp of approval fool you!

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