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Fall Movies Preview: Worlds to be immersed in

Friday - 8/30/2013, 11:44am  ET

This film image released by Columbia Pictures shows Matt Damon, left, and George Clooney in "The Monuments Men." (AP Photo/Columbia Pictures - Sony, Claudette Barius)

JAKE COYLE
AP Entertainment Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Tom Hanks didn't know where the cameras were.

"Captain Phillips," a based-on-a-true-story tale about a cargo ship taken by Somali pirates, was Hanks' first time working with Paul Greengrass, the "United 93" and "The Bourne Supremacy" director known for his visceral, documentary-like filmmaking. Hanks, who plays the titular captain in a performance sure to be hailed as one of his best, had been warned by Matt Damon about the chaos of Greengrass's unblocked, naturalistic approach.

But Hanks, after one particularly chaotic take, asked his director: "Are you going to get that little session over by the maps?"

"They'd say: 'No, we got that,'" recalls a still perplexed Hanks. "When? When did you get that?"

"Captain Phillips" (out Oct. 11) is only one way moviegoers this fall will be fully, often staggeringly immersed in worlds as varied as slavery-era Louisiana ("12 Years a Slave"), 1970s Massachusetts conmen ("American Hustle") and outer space, among the detritus of a space station torn apart by a storm of debris ("Gravity").

The movies, perhaps more than any other art form, have the ability to transport -- a capacity to carry away -- that's on full display this fall.

"We shot this in the real world: the real engine rooms, the real decks," says Hanks. "They'll say: How did you make that movie where that ship was out in the middle of the ocean? Well, we got on a ship and we went out to the middle of the ocean and we shot it there. Extraordinary how that happens."

Soon, the fall movie season will unofficially commence, the superheroes (mostly) falling from theaters like autumn leaves. After a summer of blockbuster gluttony, Hollywood will, as if penance for its binging, trot out its more serious and ambitious fare. George Clooney -- this fall directing ("The Monuments Men"), producing ("August: Osage County") and acting ("Gravity") -- will put down stakes.

There's some hope that after a knock-about summer heavy with city-destroying tumult and some spectacular flops, that a degree of levity will return to the multiplexes. (That is, until the ever-expanding Oscar horse race commences in earnest.)

Last fall, after all, showed that good, adult-oriented movies could still draw crowds. A varied best-picture field, from "Lincoln" to "Life of Pi," made more than $2 billion at the box office worldwide even before the Academy Awards.

This autumn promises no less a mix of both aspirational filmmaking and mainstream attractions. As if her fans needed notice, Jennifer Lawrence will return not just with "Silver Linings Playbook" director David O. Russell in "American Hustle," but also as Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" (Nov. 22).

A quite different fervor will greet Will Ferrell's "Anchorman: The Legend Continues" (Dec. 20), the long-in-coming sequel. There will be other sequels, too, including Chris Hemsworth in "Thor: the Dark World" (Nov. 8) and Peter Jackson's high-frame rate "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" (Dec. 13). As the CIA analyst of the best-selling Tom Clancy books, Chris Pine will try to jumpstart a new franchise in "Jack Ryan" (Dec. 25).

But other types of powerhouses will compete with action spectacle. John Wells' adaptation of Tracy Letts' Pulitzer Prize-winning play, "August: Osage County," features an ensemble cast topped by the tantalizing duo of Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts as mother and daughter.

"As a moviegoer, I would much prefer that films were spread more evenly over the year," Wells says. "But realistically, we've now programmed everyone to expect this when these kind of films are going to be there. Not unlike a certain fruit or vegetable that's in season at certain times of the year, you kind of anticipate it and look forward to it."

It's picking time.

TRUE TALES

For "12 Years a Slave" (Oct. 18), director Steve McQueen drew from Solomon Northup's 1853 autobiography about his horrifying odyssey as a free black man with a family in upstate New York kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841. With undiminished dignity, Chiwetel Ejiofor ("Dirty Pretty Things," ''Kinky Boots") plays Northup as he's led from plantation to plantation.

McQueen tells the story straightforwardly, often in long takes, submerging the audience in the world of slavery. Ejiofor says McQueen aimed to tell Northop's story literally, without embellishment. "In doing that, it creates its own intensity," says the actor.

"I remember having conversations about if one can capture -- even for a moment for an audience -- what any of these things might have felt like, might have tasted like, might have really been like, then I think it's a really powerful piece of filmmaking," says Ejiofor.

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