The fall movie season has gotten off to a pretty mediocre start, and this week’s slate of new multiplex offerings does little to reverse the trend: a pair of ho-hum-looking sci-fi thrillers, Pandorum and Surrogates, and what looks to be a glossy remake of Fame, the 1980 movie musical that would serve as the senior play for yours truly many years later (I played Ralph Garcy.) Not coincidently, all three screened after our print deadline, typically a sign that they’re not ripe for much critical love.
One the plus side, I just watched the trailer for Wes Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox, a stop-motion animation adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s book. George Clooney provides the voice of the titular character in a project that blissfully ignores digital effects in favor of old-fashioned handcrafted ingenuity. I can’t wait for its late-November release date.
Speaking of Clooney, check out my roundup from the recently completed Toronto International Film Festival, which previews several other anticipated fall films.
DEPARTURES — Winner of the 2008 Oscar for Best Foreign Picture, Departures is director Yojiro Takita's emotionally rich story about Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki), a world-class cellist who moves with his wife to his northern Japanese hometown when the symphony he plays for goes bankrupt. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — Cole Smithey (Rated PG-13.) Grade: A
FAME — This remake of the 1980 musical again delves into the lives of singing and dancing students at a school for the performing arts in New York City. Expect this PG version to be much tamer than the R-rated original, which while not completely successful, was at least interested in investigating the lives of its characters with unblinking frankness. The cast of mostly unknowns is anchored by Debbie Allen. (Opens wide today.) — Jason Gargano (Rated PG.) Review coming soon.
PANDORUM — Christian Alvart’s sci-fi thriller centers on a pair of astronauts (Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster) who wake up in deep space with the feeling that they’re not the only creatures on their ship. Which begs the question: How many different ways can Alien be ripped off? (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated R.) Review coming soon.
SURROGATES — Bruce Willis’ rapidly devolving career hopes to get a shot of adrenaline via this futuristic thriller in which humans’ experiences are now lived vicariously through robotic surrogates. Director Jonathan Mostow directs this adaptation of Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele’s graphic novel. Co-stars Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, James Cromwell and Ving Rhames. (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated PG-13.) Review coming soon.
STONING OF SORAYA M. — In fulfilling its blatantly exploitative title, director Cyrus Nowrasteh crafts a prosaic telling of the brutal 1986 murder of an Iranian family woman, as orchestrated by her own husband in the interest of avoiding divorce payments and running off with a teenaged girl. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — CS (Rated R.) Grade: C-