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October lite

The outlook is still gloomy, but film finds time for childish things
By PETER KEOUGH  |  September 17, 2009

VIDEO: The trailer for Where the Wild Things Are.

We expected the vampires, the werewolves, the zombies, and the homicidal maniacs. Same thing with the android doubles, the alien abductors, the sexually abused pregnant teenager, the Apocalypse, and the post-Apocalypse. But kids' movies? And not just Disney-esque pabulum, but kids' movies made by some of Hollywood's edgiest auteurs — like Spike Jonze and Wes Anderson. This fall takes a surprise dip into childhood innocence — and given the rest of what's being released (not to mention what will likely be going on in the real world), it should be a desperately appreciated reprieve from dread, doom, and despair.

VIDEO: The trailer for The Invention of Lying.

The season begins with a glimmer of hope, a reminder that despite its problems and its divisiveness, America still shines as the promised land for the huddled masses of the world. But does the reality match the promise? In Cherien Dabis's debut feature, AMREEKA (September 25), a Palestinian family escape from the misery of the West Bank to settle in the green pastures of xenophobic rural Illinois.

Okay, so it doesn't seem that attempt at achieving the American Dream is going to work out too well. But how about the old standby FAME (September 25)? Kevin Tancharoen's update of Alan Parker's 1980 musical about New York's High School of the Performing Arts puts those driven kids through their paces as they sing and dance their hearts out in search of the elusive title reward. Kay Panabaker, Kelsey Grammer, and Bebe Neuwirth (Frasier and Lilith together again!) star.

If fame doesn't work out, there's always immortality. John Keats may have died at age 25, but "Ode on a Grecian Urn" will endure as long as Lit 101 is a college requirement. So, too, might his love for Fanny Brawne, now that the great Australian director Jane Campion has preserved it in BRIGHT STAR (September 25), with Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish.

It's just a short step from poetry to fiction and THE INVENTION OF LYING (September 25), the first film by British comic Ricky Gervais and co-director Matthew Robinson. In an alternate world far, far away from Fox News, no one has any concept of falsehood — fertile territory for an ambitious entrepreneur with the title innovation. Gervais also stars, along with Jennifer Garner and Jonah Hill.

In our own future, meanwhile, lying and living a double life will be a lot easier if Jonathan Mostow's Philip K. Dick–like SURROGATES (September 25) is any indication. Taking Facebook to its logical extreme, a new technology creates robotic doubles for people by means of which they can vicariously live their own lives. When one of these surrogates gets murdered, a detective investigates. The film stars Bruce Willis and Radha Mitchell, or reasonable facsimiles thereof.

VIDEO: The trailer for The Road.

The month opens with a couple of documentary reminders of how we're all being screwed over and what we can do about it. Michael Moore returns to infuriate conservatives (and some liberals) with his personal take on the recent Wall Street meltdown, CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY (October 2). Given the health-care-reform debate, he might also want to re-release Sicko. And in case you hadn't noticed, rampant capitalism and consumerism have had an adverse effect on the environment as well as the economy. In their documentary NO IMPACT MAN (October 2), Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein look at Colin Beavan, who's vowed to reduce his family's carbon footprint to zero.

But enough about that boring stuff — what's Drew Barrymore been up to lately? She's making her directorial debut and starring in WHIP IT (October 2), in which Ellen Page plays a Juno-esque waif torn between her mother's Little Miss Sunshine–like ambition for her to become a beauty queen and her own dream of putting on skates and fishnets and becoming a roller-derby champ.

Up for more shenanigans from high-school girls in sexy stockings? Oliver Parker's ST. TRINIAN'S (October 2) does it British-style, as the naughty hotties try to save the school — and the long-running British-comedy franchise — from bankruptcy. Colin Firth and Rupert Everett star, the latter reportedly in drag.

As adolescence turns into an older form of adolescence, our comedy gets more adult and complicated, as in Peter Billingsley's debut, COUPLES RETREAT (October 9). A bunch of young marrieds from the Midwest sign up for a vacation resort in search of relaxation and fun in the sun but instead find themselves thrown into a rigorous and mandatory therapy program. Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn wrote the screenplay, and they star along with Kristen Bell and Malin Akerman. Those couples would have a lot more to complain about if they had ended up in ZOMBIELAND (October 2), Robert Fleischer's slapsticky splatter film, in which Woody Harrelson plays a desperado trying to save a group of survivors from a plague of the flesh-eating cadavers.

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Related: War zones, Autumn peeves, The plots thicken, More more >
  Topics: Features , Celebrity News, Entertainment, Bruce Willis,  More more >
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 See all articles by: PETER KEOUGH

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