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War zones

Fall films face terror at home and abroad
By PETER KEOUGH  |  September 12, 2007

DON’T LOOK BACK: Cate Blanchett is one of a half-dozen Bob Dylans in I’m Not There.

Fall preview 2007
“Happy endings: Bad news begets good tunes.” By Matt Ashare.
“BBC? America!: The networks put some English on the fall TV season.” By Joyce Millman.
 “Busy busy: Something for everyone this fall.” By Debra Cash. 

“Stage worthies: Fall on the Boston boards.” By Carolyn Clay. 
“Basstown nights: The new scene emerges; Halloween preparations.” By David Day. 
“Bounty: The best of the season’s roots, world, folk, and blues.” By Ted Drozdowski.
“War, peace, and Robert Pinsky: The season’s fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.” By John Freeman.
“Trane, Joyce Dee Dee, Sco, and more: A jam-packed season of jazz.” By Jon Garelick.  
“Turn on the bright lights: Art, women, politics, and food.” By Randi Hopkins.
“Locked and loaded: The fall promises a double-barreled blast of gaming greatness.” By Mitch Krpata.
“World music: The BSO goes traveling, and Berlin comes to Boston.” By Lloyd Schwartz.
“Singles scene: Local bands dig in with digital.” By Will Spitz. 
The party’s over. Time for the lessons to begin. After a $4 billion summer of fun, the film industry now focuses on the real world. It’s time to take things seriously and cram for the finals: the Academy Awards.

That means audiences will have to face some inconvenient and — for the studios — potentially noncommercial truths. While waiting for the Bush administration and the Department of Defense to give us the lowdown on Iraq this month, Hollywood has begun its own surge of features on the subject. Paul Haggis’s In the Valley of Elah opens this week; upcoming films taking on the War on Terror include The Kingdom, Rendition, Grace Is Gone, and Lions for Lambs.

Back home, the situation doesn’t look much rosier. Illegal immigration? Check out La misma luna|Under the Same Moon. Organized crime? There’s Ridley Scott’s American Gangster. And Ben Affleck in his directorial debut confronts the grim topic of child abuse in Gone, Baby, Gone.

Students might take advantage of this renewed seriousness on the screen. Those needing to brush up on their history can watch Elizabeth: The Golden Age. In lieu of Cliffs Notes, they’ll have adaptations of Beowulf, Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, and Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men.

So what can we expect in the way of mere entertainment when even the f/x thriller Resident Evil: Extinction has an agenda of apocalypse and global doom? How about pop music? Like Control, a feel-bad bio-pic about Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division, who committed suicide at age 23? Or Todd Haynes’s I’m Not There, a schizoid portrait of the young Bob Dylan, with six actors, including Cate Blanchett, playing the iconic superstar?

Maybe the Farrelly Brothers will come through with their remake of the 1972 Elaine May comedy The Heartbreak Kid. And you can’t take the movies too seriously when they close the fall slate with The Christmas Cottage, perhaps the first major feature based on a kitschy painting.

VIDEO: The trailer for Resident Evil: Extinction

September 21
The titles alone tell you that no other franchise based on a video game plumbs the depths of despair like the Resident Evil series. The previous entry was Resident Evil: Apocalypse; now, we reach RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION. Where can it go from there? Someplace even gaudier and more desolate than the ruins of Las Vegas, where the survivors of the T-Virus hole up to battle zombies, killer crows, and other mutants. Milla Jovovich and Iain Glen star; Russell Mulcahy directs.

Closer to home, those warnings against drilling in the Alaska wildlife preserve prove well-founded in THE LAST WINTER, in which oil explorers uncover something cruder than crude beneath the tundra. Larry Fessenden directs; Ron Perlman and James Le Gros star. And if illegal immigration works you up more than environmental disaster, there’s Patricia Riggen’s LA MISMA LUNA/UNDER THE SAME MOON, in which a Mexican boy crosses into the US to find his mother.

What to do in the face of such doom and injustice? How about a book club celebrating a 19th-century author? In THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB, the six persons who form the title klatch find their lives mirroring Austen’s fiction. Robin Swicord, who wrote the awful film adaptation of Memoirs of a Geisha, directs a cast that includes Emily Blunt, Maria Bello, and Hugh Dancy.

VIDEO: The trailer for The Darjeeling Limited

September 28
Then there’s the equally extreme option of dropping everything and heading for the hills. Or at least the forbidding frontier of central Alaska, which is where quixotic, eco-worshipping Chris McCandless (Emile Hirsch) of INTO THE WILD camps out. Sean Penn’s adaptation of Jon Kracauer’s non-fiction bestseller is heavy on the landscape and idealism, but it seems motivation doesn’t matter when it comes to unforgiving nature, as McCandless doesn’t make out much better than do the corporate exploiters in The Last Winter.

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