Fall Arts 2011

Film

take shelter STORMY WEATHER: A troubled father (Michael Shannon) copes with literal and emotional storms in 'Take Shelter,' opening Oct. 7 in San Jose.

IT IS an avant-garde all-stars game this fall as the cinema scene sees new movies by the late Raul Ruiz, Lars von Trier, Pedro Almod—var, Steven Soderbergh and Gus Van Sant. Ruiz's perfumed and voluptuous Mysteries of Lisbon (September 30 in South Bay) goes the Gothic route in that ancient city. The lesser-known Tarsem Singh belongs in this above company thanks to his striking second film, 2006's The Fall. He has something equally decadent in store for this fall: the gilded, berserk post–Michael Powell fantasy IMmortals (Nov. 11), a tale of ancient Theseus and the minotaur. Mickey Rourke plays the vengeful Titan called Hyperion, a celestial being now memorialized by a squalid L.A. boulevard.

This mosh pit of art-house talent will be ringed by the riot of film festivals crowding October. The Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival celebrates its 20th birthday (starting Oct. 22). The first-rate Palo Alto–based UNAFF Fest runs Oct. 21–30. Many big-name documentaries have made their local debuts at UNAFF there; last year, it was Gasland, the expos– of natural-gas fracking. The second annual Silicon Valley African Film Festival plays in Mountain View Oct 14–16.

This uniquely busy month coincides with the World Series, which makes the release of Moneyball (Sept. 23) timely. It's the true story of a team soon to be known as the San Jose Athletics. Brad Pitt plays general manager Billy Beane, facing the rise of sabermetrics, figuring out how to number-crunch the team's way into the post-season.

The fall traditionally offers a transition period between summer escapism and the heart wringers of the higher holidays, such as Steven Spielberg's December War Horse, which looks to combine Black Beauty and All Quiet on the Western Front.

Maladies? We've got 'em. Van Sant's Restless (Sept. 23) stars Mia Wasikowska as a moribund girl who gives a little life lessoning to a downbeat young guy (Henry Hopper). 50/50 (Sept. 30) gives us the reliable Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Brick) as a newly diagnosed patient facing just those even odds, with the help of a one-man cheering section composed of Seth Rogen. Directed by Jonathan Levine (The Wackness).

The Skin I Live In The Skin I Live In

Catastrophes? Also set there. First is Soderbergh's presumably pocket-size approach to plague in Contagion (Sept. 9). Worlds collide in von Trier's most entertaining and melodrama-free work, Melancholia (late fall). The title refers to more than the state of mind of an encircled bride (Kirsten Dunst, excellent). Melancholia is also the linguistically indefensible name of Earth's long-lost twin planet. This rogue globe is wobbling out of orbit into what astronomers scientifically call a "Dance of Death" with Terra. Cosmic, cryptic and directed by one melancholy Dane.

Meanwhile, in Take Shelter (Oct. 7), a blue-collar foreman (Michael Shannon) estranges himself from his wife (Tree of Life's own Eve, Jessica Chastain) with his obsessive preparations for the mother of all tornadoes. On the subject of slightly smaller-scale catastrophe (namely the U.S. electoral system) is the drama The Ides of March (Oct. 7), in which director/star George Clooney follows the problems of a sure-fire candidate embroiled in scandal.

Horror? Check. Not counting the sequel and remake department below, there's Almod—var's The Skin I Live In (late October). It sounds like an essay on the topics raised in the classic Eyes Without a Face. An eminent Spanish plastic surgeon tries to create a miracle flesh while seeking exfoliated guinea pigs.

Jim Sheridan's Dream House (Sept. 30) tells of a couple (Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz) who buys one of those New England murder houses. Perhaps they'd be safer in Louisiana, where it's so cheap to make movies? Don't bet on it: Creature (Sept. 9) is a bayou swamp monster opus, and Shark Night 3D (Sept. 2) plunges a bunch of partying fools into a Louisiana lake: chums who are about to become chum.

For utter spine-chill factor, try to top Sept. 23's Dolphin Tale 3D, the true story of a prosthetically aided porpoise. The crippled Flipper revenges himself on his cruel tormentors, proving that there are some doors man was not meant to enter, yes? No, not at all, apparently.

Now to deal with a mess of sequels & remakes. The most dismaying is Rod Lurie's screamingly unnecessary new version of Sam Peckinpah's 1971 definitive study of how violence breeds, Straw Dogs (Sept. 16). Moral: You too, libtards, will defend your home from invaders who want to rape your wife. So much for your much vaunted civilization, eh? Eh? (This version is shot not in an English village, but, again, in Louisiana.)

Lisbon Lisbon

Happily, Killer Elite, Sept. 23, is not another Peckinpah remake but rather an adaptation of Sir Ranulph Fiennes' novel of international assassins, The Feather Men. It stars Clive Owen and Robert De Niro. Contrarian that he is, Fiennes could certainly beat that Dos Equis shill for the title of the Most Interesting Man in the World, being the first man to cross Antarctica by land, among other distinctions.

We lesser mortals have our work cut out for us: a new Footloose (last done in 1984) and the third version of The Thing (both Oct. 14), Paranormal Activity 3 and a new 3-D Three Musketeers (both Oct. 21) by Paul W.S. Anderson of the several dozen Resident Evil movies.

Then comes Johnny English Reborn (Oct. 28), the heartwarming A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (Nov. 4), which boasts very funny previews, and the Shrek sequel Puss in Boots (Nov. 4). Reheated emo vamps or tap-dancing pengs, your choice: Happy Feet 2 and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn (Part 1) (both Nov. 18).

One film that makes all this recycling bearable: Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) taking on John Le Carr–'s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, previously filmed in 1979 with Alec Guinness. This time, Gary Oldman is the cuckolded, smaller-than-life master spy George Smiley playing a deadly game of Whac-A-Mole.


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