It’s not that I mind the Chipmunks being updated all gangsta. Seriously, that doesn’t bother me. They’re cartoons, you know? And what animated character wouldn’t benefit from being re-imagined as the kids from Kris Kross? It’s just that I’ve seen the trailer where one of them accidentally ingests the other’s… how to put this… chipmunk “leavings.” And so now I know what I have to look forward to from “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” due just in time for all your annual holiday animal-waste-devouring hopes and dreams.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, because right around the bend comes:
“Across The Universe” (Sept. 14)
Never mind that the only notable people ever to assume that the Beatles were telling them a literal story with their songs — If only someone would arrange them in the proper, puzzle-solving order! — were the Bee Gees and Charles Manson. Julie Taymor got the secret message, too. Now there’s a movie starring a character named “Jude” who paints pictures of apples. Well, Ms. Taymor’s got a legacy to live up to. Think back to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” where a character was named “Strawberry Fields,” a robot bleeped out the song “She’s Leaving Home” and Carol Channing participated in an all-star disco cover version of the title number. How do you top that? With Bono? He’s no Carol Channing.
“Game Plan” (Sept. 14)
The Rock plays a pro football player who meets an adorable female child actor claiming to be his daughter (and you thought it was just NBA guys with kids scattered all over the country). Guess what he does then? That’s right, he starts behaving just like a 9-year-old girl. She, in turn (spoiler alert), begins downing human growth hormone, testosterone shots and steroid patches until it’s time for the wacky duo to undergo the final transformation, if you know what I mean.
“In The Valley of Elah” (Sept. 14)
Oh good. Paul Haggis’s traveling “Crash”-themed circus is rolling through town again. What lessons will the Oscar-appointed silencer of all racism be teaching us this time? Hmm? That the war in Iraq hurts American soldiers and is bad? This is an excellent idea. The three percent of the country that still thinks we’re there for a real reason and that the returning veterans are being cared for properly need Hollywood to remind them of how wrong they were. The rest of you can watch the documentary “No End In Sight” and then make sure you’re registered to vote.
“House” (Oct. 10)
It’s about people trapped in a house with a psycho. Great! I’m there. As long as there’s a lot of sex and gore and point-of-impact murders and — oh, you say it’s based on a Christian horror novel? Like one where there’s a Christian message about sin and stuff? Wait, is this going to be like one of those Evangelical haunted houses where there are skits about getting abortions and going to raves and being gay and that’s supposed to be the horror part? May I please watch a sneak preview of “Alvin and The Chipmunks” instead?
“Martian Child” (Oct. 26)
Speaking of the horror of being gay, apparently the brain trust behind this film were sufficiently not into the fact that the real-life and really gay adoptive father of the kid who thinks he’s a Martian was, you know, that way (aka, author David Gerrold, who wrote the memoir “The Martian Child,” about his own experience with adopting an emotionally disturbed boy), because they changed John Cusack’s character to straight. Look, at no point should an audience be confused or exposed to things they aren’t ready for. I think we can all agree on that. What do you bet that the kid snaps out of his emotional troubles at the end, too?
“Saw IV” (Oct. 26)
The killer was killed at the kill-filled end of the killapalooza “Saw III,” which simply means he’ll be back as a phantom or something this time around. So it’s going to be like “Ghost Dad” but with more wacky murder contraptions. And less pudding.
“American Gangster” (Nov. 2)
It’s got Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, both of whom can stop filling up screens with their big A-list blowhard movie star personas and submerge themselves into a character whenever they feel like it. The problem is that they don’t feel like it much lately. Then sprinkle it with Cuba Gooding, Jr., as consistent a filmic curse of doom as any Oscar-winning actor since… since I don’t even know, and you’ve got a movie that will be well over two hours long. The important ones always are.
“Lions For Lambs” (Nov. 9)
Robert Redford, like Paul Haggis, plans to spend his fall lecturing audiences about war. And unlike Haggis, he can get Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise to be in his movie. Cruise plays a psychiatrist who prescribes Ritalin to soldiers. Okay, just kidding. Cruise plays a snaky Republican senator going blah-blah to Meryl Streep about how Republicans love war. He’s hilarious in the trailer, pulling several “nominate me” faces, saying stuff like, “Do you want to win the war on terror? Yes or no?” In my fantasies, a “Shining”-era Jack Nicholson makes a cameo and busts his head through a door yelling, “You can’t handle the truth!” to anyone who’ll listen.
“Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” (Nov. 16)
Dustin Hoffman is Robin Williams as a 200-year-old Willy Wonka-esque toy wizard. With a lisp. And lots of product to make his hair go sproing! Parents will be drawing straws and cursing their fertility.
“The Christmas Cottage” (Nov. 30)
Jared Padalecki from “Supernatural” plays Thomas Kinkade, the painter of light that my mom (and your mom, and everyone’s mom who wasn’t Peggy Guggenheim) adores. Did you know that “cottage” was also old British slang for public toilet?
“The Bucket List” (Dec. 25)
Nothing says “holiday warmth and cheer” like cancer. “Stepmom” proved that. And no one can make cancer warmer and cheerier than director Rob Reiner. And who would you like to see get cancer at Christmas more than Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson? I know, hard to pick, right? Anyway, the pair respond to their impending departure from Earth by riding motorcycles and skydiving and other stuff that most cancer patients you’d meet in real life simply don’t have the energy to deal with. Now, in Rob Reiner’s defense, all this chemotherapeutic “It’s A Wonderful Life” trip has to be is better than his own low-bar-setting films “North” and “Rumor Has It,” and he’s totally safe. This, of course, also means that he could be in major trouble, unless he cuts that scene where Nicholson accidentally swallows chipmunk poop.
Dave White is the film critic for Movies.com and the author of “Exile in Guyville.” Find him at www.imdavewhite.com.