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Navigating the ups and downs of the fall movie season

Usually the time for films of lesser pedigree, this year could bring forth a few surprises

Navigating the ups and downs of the fall movie season

It's the season of sunny contentment in Hollywood.
Moviedom has been basking in the warm glow of mostly rave reviews and beaucoup ticket sales for "Iron Man," "Sex and the City," "WALL-E" and especially the record-smashing "Dark Knight," now poised to become the top movie earner ever (displacing "Titanic").
Heck, even the art scene has enjoyed long-running hits like "The Visitor" and "Young @ Heart" that moved in and refused to leave.
If only this cinematic summer could go on endlessly.
But no, the fall movie season is upon us.
Some of us question whether there actually is such a thing as the fall movie season. Summer is known for big popcorn pictures and the holidays for Oscar-bound fare. But autumn defies categorization _ except, perhaps as "movies we didn't know what else to do with."
Looking over the titles that will be hitting the multiplex between now and Thanksgiving (officially the beginning of the holiday movie season) it's hard to work up much enthusiasm.
Even some interesting titles have big question marks attached. For instance there's "Righteous Kill," a police thriller reuniting Robert De Niro and Al Pacino for the first time since "Heat." Sounds promising ... but it's directed by Jon Avnet, whose last outing was the hopelessly dumb "88 Minutes."
It's difficult to get worked up over sequels and remakes like "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," "Saw V," "Death Race" and "High School Musical 3."
So is there anything out there to get a movie geek's pulse racing?
Maybe. What follows is a list of 10 fall films that pique my curiosity. I cannot say whether they will live up to my expectations.
"Hamlet 2": Funnyman Steve Coogan plays a failed actor now teaching high school drama. His brainstorm: a musical version of "Hamlet."
"Burn After Reading": Ethan and Joel Coen lighten up after their unrelentingly pessimistic "No Country for Old Men." In this comedy, a CIA agent's memoir ends up in the hands of a couple of loser gym employees, who think they'll get rich by selling it. Great cast: Brad Pitt, George Clooney, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand.
"Miracle at St. Anna": Spike Lee tackles World War II. Four black GIs (Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso, Omar Benson Miller) find themselves trapped behind enemy lines in a Tuscan village when one of them risks his life to save an Italian boy. It's a rare venture into period drama for Lee.
"Appaloosa": It's not a remake of the old Marlon Brando flick, but it is a Western. Ed Harris, directing for the second time (after "Pollock"), has cast Viggo Mortensen, Jeremy Irons, Renee Zellweger and himself in an oater about two pals hired to keep the law in a small town dominated by a wealthy and ruthless rancher. The arrival of a young widow complicates things. Could go either way (and Westerns are a hard sell), but we already know that Viggo looks good on a horse.
"Religulous": Comic Bill Maher takes on organized religion in this Michael Moore-ish documentary directed by Larry Charles of "Seinfeld" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Guaranteed to have tongues wagging.
"Body of Lies": Ridley Scott directs Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. What else do you need to know? Oh, OK. The movie is about a former journalist hired by the CIA to track down an al-Qaeda leader in the Middle East. Sounds intriguing.
"W.": Oliver Stone takes on the legend of George W. Bush. How will Stone, never the most subtle (or conservative) of filmmakers, handle this political hot potato? Will "W." be a hatchet job? Or, as Stone claims, will it actually be sympathetic? And has there ever been a major motion picture about a president while he was still in office?
Anyway, Josh Brolin is the prez, Elizabeth Banks the first lady, Jeffrey Wright is Colin Powell and Richard Dreyfuss is Dick Cheney.
"Quantum of Solace": Haven't a clue as to what the title means. Don't know what the plot's about (the plots in Bond movies don't matter). All we know is that Daniel Craig is back as 007, and he's the best Bond since Sean Connery. With Judi Dench and Mathieu Amalric. Marc Forster ("Finding Neverland," "Stranger Than Fiction") directs.
"Australia": In the mood for a good, old-fashioned David Lean-style epic? Down Under's Baz Luhrmann ("Moulin Rouge") hopes to satisfy with this tale of an English aristocrat (Nicole Kidman) who during the Depression inherits a ranch and with a rugged stockman (Hugh Jackman) drives 2,000 head of cattle across the continent to Darwin, arriving just in time to see the city bombed by the Japanese.
"The Soloist": In this true story a schizophrenic street musician (Jamie Foxx) dreams of playing in the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Joe Wright ("Atonement," "Pride and Prejudice") directs; with Robert Downey Jr.and Catherine Keener.


Updated : 2021-03-03 05:04 GMT+08:00