Diss the season

SN&R’s fall movie preview

Kevin Smith does his best Mike Nichols; Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks do it in this fall’s <i>Zack and Miri Make a Porno</i>.

Kevin Smith does his best Mike Nichols; Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks do it in this fall’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno.

It’s that time of year. The air gets crisper. The days get shorter. The movies get heavier. Well, if they can. Here’s a limited forecast—not all genres, styles, genders, creeds, artistic merits or opening dates are represented. Not all tastes are accommodated. Are they ever?

This fall brings a second Madagascar movie, a third Transporter and High School Musical, and a fifth Saw. It’s fun to imagine them all together in one big crossover of animated anthropomorphized-animal-mercenary college-application torture porn—but maybe not wise to give those spoof-mad meatheads behind Disaster Movie any ideas.

Which is not to say that flagrant franchisery is automatically bad. The season also offers a certain Ian Fleming character (what was his name again?) who, as of November 14, will have graced (or, OK, Moonraked) the silver screen 22 times—though only twice yet while embodied by Daniel Craig, this time tangling with a nefarious business mogul played by the great French actor Mathieu Amalric.

If nothing else, Quantum of Solace will have the headiest tries-too-hard title since Synecdoche, New York, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s October 24 directorial debut about a theater director losing himself inside a grand production, with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Michelle Williams, Samantha Morton and presumably much anguished solipsism by which to be charmed or annoyed.

Cinema adores funny-horrifying intensity, of course. Hence, based on another of Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk’s culty novels, Choke (September 26) stars Sam Rockwell as a sex-addicted med-school dropout who solicits bankable pity from diners at upscale restaurants by pretending to let them rescue him from choking—then uses some of their money to fund nursing-home care for his demented mother (Anjelica Huston). You think that’s depraved? It gets worse: He works by day as a professional historical re-enactor. What kind of sick bastard is this guy?

And the rest of us? Blindness (September 26) is director Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener) and actor-writer Don McKellar’s adaptation of José Saramago’s 1995 novel, in which a city’s entire population, save for one woman, suddenly and inexplicably goes blind—and, accordingly, all hell breaks loose. And while the moviefication of serious, political, allegorical, page-long sentences of non-English fiction from a Nobel laureate may well translate into earnestly leaden Oscar bait, it may also become the best arty disaster movie starring Julianne Moore since Children of Men. Her co-stars include Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover and Gael Garcia Bernal. A trustworthy pedigree, yes. Yet one can’t help but wonder how Blindness would be if written not by Saramago but instead by Palahniuk, such that the reason for the city’s epidemic is a citizenry of chronic masturbators.

Draw your own segue from there to W., in limited release on October 17 from American cinema’s unauthorized presidential biographer Oliver Stone, and starring Josh Brolin, James Cromwell and Ellen Burstyn as George W., George H.W. and Barbara Bush, respectively, with Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney, Toby Jones as Karl Rove, and so on.

Well, it can’t be any more choir-preaching than Religulous (October 3), starring Bill Maher, God and the rest of us, in which Maher goes around the world asking people why they have it. This inspires concern, to think that Maher still has a whiff of media-star-wannabe about him, and his Michael Moore/Morgan Spurlock-style stunt might not help; but also it inspires confidence to know that director Larry Charles (Borat) has a sharper comic touch than all of those clowns and may just pull the whole thing together.

Closer to home, or to homemade, Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married (October 3), is a family drama and, as Demme described it to The New York Times, “the most beautiful home movie ever made.” Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno (October 31), starring Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks as platonic pals who get into the adult-entertainment business, and maybe into each other’s hearts. And pants.

The more movie concepts change, the more they stay the same. If this fall doesn’t prove it, just wait until the holiday season.