The fall movie season gets underway this week with a curious quartet of options: a languid character piece about a mysterious hit man played by George Clooney; a reasonably effective romantic comedy featuring a pair of real-life lovers; a B-movie homage packed with a crazy-quilt cast; and an intriguing documentary about our ill-advised adventure in Afghanistan.
Of course, anything will be an improvement over what has been an undeniably lackluster summer season. But, in the spirit of Tim Owens' fall preview, let's look forward to a season that promises the return of several high-profile filmmakers, most of which come armed with projects that should test the burgeoning notion that Hollywood can no longer craft adult films that generate audience interest.
Yes, apparently it's up to you, dear discerning moviegoers, to save us from the likes of Saw XXV and Twilight: The Return of a Still-Uninteresting Woman Named Bella.
Oh, and for those curious, the new efforts from a quartet of relatively young directors — Darren Aronofsky, Sofia Coppola, David Fincher and David O. Russell — top my list of anticipated (American-made) fall movies.
THE AMERICAN — Usually when people talk about a movie feeling “European,” it’s not exactly a compliment. It’s shorthand for languid pacing, character-based drama, maybe a few casually naked boobs and a general lack of Hollywood conventionality. The American feels very much like the product of people who want to make a “European”-style movie — except that they forgot to pay attention to the last phrase in that equation. (Read full-length review here.) (Opened wide Wednesday.) — Scott Renshaw (Rated R.) Grade: C-plus
GOING THE DISTANCE — Nanette Burstein, whose “documentary” American Teen proved a nice warm-up for the romantic-comedy hijinks here, works from a script by Geoff LaTulippe that tries hard to inject new life into a long-listless genre. The surprise is that it often succeeds, delivering unique character details (its use of pop culture is relatively keen) and a central duo that seems naturally at ease. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Jason Gargano (Rated R.) Grade: B-
MACHETE — Robert Rodriguez expands one of the faux movies trailers from his Quinten Tarantino collaboration Grindhouse into a full-length feature centering on a badass, machete-wielding dude hellbent on revenge (Danny Trejo). Given Rodriguez's mixed track record, we're not sure what to expect of this thing, but the cast sure is curious; it features B-movie staples (Trejo and Jeff Fahey), discarded action heroes (Steven Seagal), has-beens (Don Johnson and Cheech Marin), actresses noted for things besides their acting chops (Lindsey Lohan, Michele Rodriguez and Jessica Alba) and a legend who continues to make head-scratching choices (Robert DeNiro). (Opens wide Friday.) — JG (Rated R.) Review coming soon.
RESTREPO — Filmed from June 2007 to July 2008, documentarians Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger put faces to the names of soldiers from one U.S. platoon's deployment in Afghanistan's dangerous Korengal Valley, soldiers like Captain Kearney and First Sergeant LaMonta Caldwell as they secure outpost “Restrepo,” named after one of their early fallen comrades. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — Cole Smithey (Rated R.) Grade: B