Features for the Fall: Hollywood Sobers Up

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/14083513/14142334" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
  • Transcript
Still from In the Valley of Elah i

In the Valley of Elah is the story of a war veteran (Tommy Lee Jones, left) and his wife (Susan Sarandon) who search for their son after he mysteriously goes missing following his return from Iraq. © 2007 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. hide caption

itoggle caption © 2007 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Still from In the Valley of Elah

In the Valley of Elah is the story of a war veteran (Tommy Lee Jones, left) and his wife (Susan Sarandon) who search for their son after he mysteriously goes missing following his return from Iraq.

© 2007 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Still from The Kite Runner i

The Kite Runner is based on the best-selling novel by Afghani-born writer Khaled Hosseini. Amir (Khalid Abdalla, left) returns to Afghanistan to help out a friend whose son (Ali Danish Bakhtyari) is in trouble. Phil Bray/2007 Dreamworks Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Phil Bray/2007 Dreamworks Pictures
Still from The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner is based on the best-selling novel by Afghani-born writer Khaled Hosseini. Amir (Khalid Abdalla, left) returns to Afghanistan to help out a friend whose son (Ali Danish Bakhtyari) is in trouble.

Phil Bray/2007 Dreamworks Pictures
Still from Michael Clayton i

Tom Wilkinson (left) and George Clooney in the corporate corruption drama Michael Clayton. Myles Aronowitz/Warner Bros. Pictures, Samuels Media and Castle Rock Entertainment hide caption

itoggle caption Myles Aronowitz/Warner Bros. Pictures, Samuels Media and Castle Rock Entertainment
Still from Michael Clayton

Tom Wilkinson (left) and George Clooney in the corporate corruption drama Michael Clayton.

Myles Aronowitz/Warner Bros. Pictures, Samuels Media and Castle Rock Entertainment
Still from Darjeeling Limited i

Jason Schwartzman (from left), Adrien Brody and Owen Wilson star in The Darjeeling Limited as three American brothers who set off on a train voyage across India. James Hamilton/Fox Searchlight Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption James Hamilton/Fox Searchlight Pictures
Still from Darjeeling Limited

Jason Schwartzman (from left), Adrien Brody and Owen Wilson star in The Darjeeling Limited as three American brothers who set off on a train voyage across India.

James Hamilton/Fox Searchlight Pictures
Still from Bee Movie: a woman and a bee on a busy N.Y. street. i

In DreamWorks' Bee Movie, Jerry Seinfeld is the voice of a bee who consorts with humans. DreamWorks Animation SKG/Bee Movie TM & © 2007 DreamWorks Animation LLC hide caption

itoggle caption DreamWorks Animation SKG/Bee Movie TM & © 2007 DreamWorks Animation LLC
Still from Bee Movie: a woman and a bee on a busy N.Y. street.

In DreamWorks' Bee Movie, Jerry Seinfeld is the voice of a bee who consorts with humans.

DreamWorks Animation SKG/Bee Movie TM & © 2007 DreamWorks Animation LLC
Still from The Heartbreak Kid i

Eddie (Ben Stiller, left) finds that life with his new bride, Lila (Malin Ackerman), is not the honeymoon he expected in The Heartbreak Kid. Zade Rosenthal/© 2007 DreamWorks LLC. All Rights Reserved. hide caption

itoggle caption Zade Rosenthal/© 2007 DreamWorks LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Still from The Heartbreak Kid

Eddie (Ben Stiller, left) finds that life with his new bride, Lila (Malin Ackerman), is not the honeymoon he expected in The Heartbreak Kid.

Zade Rosenthal/© 2007 DreamWorks LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Still from Sleuth i

Jude Law (above) stars with Michael Caine in the re-make of the 1970s murder-mystery Sleuth. David Appleby/© 2007 Sleuth Productions LTD, courtesy Sony Pictures Classics. hide caption

itoggle caption David Appleby/© 2007 Sleuth Productions LTD, courtesy Sony Pictures Classics.
Still from Sleuth

Jude Law (above) stars with Michael Caine in the re-make of the 1970s murder-mystery Sleuth.

David Appleby/© 2007 Sleuth Productions LTD, courtesy Sony Pictures Classics.
Still from My Kid Could Paint That i

My Kid Could Paint That is the story of Marla Olmstead, a 4-year-old whose canvases started selling for thousands of dollars. Mark and Laura Olmstead/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics hide caption

itoggle caption Mark and Laura Olmstead/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Still from My Kid Could Paint That

My Kid Could Paint That is the story of Marla Olmstead, a 4-year-old whose canvases started selling for thousands of dollars.

Mark and Laura Olmstead/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Still from Beowulf. i

Ray Winstone (left) and Anthony Hopkins star in the old-English literary classic Beowulf. Paramount Pictures/© 2007 by Paramount Pictures and Shangri-la Entertainment, LLC hide caption

itoggle caption Paramount Pictures/© 2007 by Paramount Pictures and Shangri-la Entertainment, LLC
Still from Beowulf.

Ray Winstone (left) and Anthony Hopkins star in the old-English literary classic Beowulf.

Paramount Pictures/© 2007 by Paramount Pictures and Shangri-la Entertainment, LLC
Still from The Brave One i

Terrence Howard (left) as Detective Mercer and Jodie Foster as Erica Bain in the psychological thriller The Brave One. Abbot Genser/Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Abbot Genser/Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures
Still from The Brave One

Terrence Howard (left) as Detective Mercer and Jodie Foster as Erica Bain in the psychological thriller The Brave One.

Abbot Genser/Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures

Hollywood's biggest summer ever is wrapping up. Pirates, wizards, ogres and superheroes collected more than $4 billion at the box office. That's up 14 percent from two years ago, when a deep summer slump led to talk of movie theaters becoming obsolete. This year, so many hot-weather blockbusters topped $100 million — 16 in all — that it hardly seems much of a benchmark anymore. Now comes cooler weather and, at least theoretically, more nuanced moviemaking. It's certainly more adult.

Back to Reality

After a summer of pure escapism, Hollywood has decided that this fall, audiences are ready for something real. Tom Cruise gets right to the heart of contemporary concerns in Robert Redford's Lions for Lambs, by asking what he calls the quintessential yes-or-no question of our time: "Do you want to win the war on terror?"

Lions for Lambs is one of 10 fall films dealing with post-Sept. 11 conflicts. Some are gung-ho action flicks like The Kingdom, in which the FBI goes to Saudi Arabia. Others examine human costs — rescuing a child in Afghanistan in The Kite Runner, for instance, and offering a soldier's-eye view of Iraq from Oscar-winner Paul Haggis in In the Valley of Elah. As might be expected of the writer/director who made Crash, the film raises questions about human and governmental fallibility.

A similar skepticism informs Rendition, in which Reese Witherspoon learns that her Egyptian-born husband, secretly held by the U.S. overseas, will be interrogated by foreign authorities.

While war movies are a big genre this fall, Hollywood seems generally to be in a somber mood. It's tackling immigration in the Harrison Ford drama Crossing Over; corporate corruption in the George Clooney thriller Michael Clayton. Also, that old movie standby, drug dealing, appears in a whole slew of movies, including American Gangster starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crow. Directed by Ridley Scott, American Gangster looks, in its trailers at least, like an African-American version of Scarface.

On a Lighter Note

Happily, not everything will be so downbeat. Unlike the comedies of summer, fall comedies tend to be aimed at adults, but they still come in all shapes and sizes: intellectual romantic comedy, say, in The Jane Austen Book Club.

There will also be a road-movie comedy when Wes Anderson sends three battling brothers railroading across India on the Darjeeling Limited.

An animated Disney princess also goes on a journey in Enchanted — to an unanimated New York City where her usual strategies — singing away her troubles, for instance — don't work.

No season would be complete these days without a digitally animated movie; this fall, it's Jerry Seinfeld's Bee Movie, about a bee who starts consorting with humans.

Where the summer was full of movie sequels, the fall will be full of movie remakes: The Farrelly brothers and Ben Stiller re-doing the '70s comedy The Heartbreak Kid, about a bridegroom who falls for someone he meets on his honeymoon. Also, the murder-mystery Sleuth stars Michael Caine, who was a young interloper in the '70s version, playing an older role this time, opposite Jude Law's interloper. And the '50s Western, 3:10 To Yuma, in a more action-oriented version, with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale in roles originally played by Glenn Ford and Van Heflin.

3:10 To Yuma will be followed just two weeks later by another western — a beautifully shot art-house western with a lengthy running time to go with a lengthy title: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Despite the presence of Brad Pitt as Jesse James, this film is considered a tough sell because it's a character study, not a shoot-em-up.

Oddly Enough ...

Other offbeat efforts this fall include an old-English literary classic, Beowulf, run through the digitized motion-capture technology used for The Polar Express; a documentary called My Kid Could Paint That, about a 4-year-old whose canvases started selling for thousands of dollars a few years ago; and a jukebox musical called Across the Universe that uses Beatles music to tell a new story about a guy named Jude and his friends Lucy, Jojo and Prudence. I'm Not There is a Bob Dylan bio-pic in which six different actors play Bob Dylan, including, oddly enough, Cate Blanchett.

If you want to see Blanchett in a more conventional role, she's also returning to a royal part she played nine years ago in the film Elizabeth. Of course, the filmmakers couldn't call this one "Elizabeth Two," because she's still playing Elizabeth I, so they called it Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

The trailer is filled with what you might call "Oscar emoting," because this is the season for it. In fact, a lot of performers are attracting awards talk, including Jodie Foster playing a public-radio personality in The Brave One — a public-radio personality turned secret vigilante.

I've asked around a bit, and this public-radio-vigilante thing doesn't seem too common here, but then again, I haven't gotten to everyone... who knows what Susan Stamberg does on her own time? She tells me she goes to Doris Day movies.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.