Overheated, maybe even burned out, by summer’s epic blockbusters and superhero sagas? Not quite up for winter’s blizzard of prestige pics and Oscar bait? Then take a step back and catch your breath with a harvest of cool fall flicks, ripe with cinematic color and tang. For those with adventurous tastes, the fall harvest promises a crop of provocative titles and premises. But, not to worry, there’s the usual quotient of familiar fare, faces and genres. And, as usual, you can expect some movies that are far from fresh, long gone into the territory of rotten.
Get ready for autumnal moviegoing with our in-depth preview of cinematic hits and misses.
CREAM OF THE CROP … MAYBE
Definitely not about Scientology
For starters, there’s Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” starring A-lister Philip Seymour Hoffman and the famously intense Joaquin Phoenix, both already being touted as potential Academy Award winners. Anderson’s Oscar-nommed “There Will Be Blood” was a controversial portrait of naked American ambition; now this super-talented director’s framed another single-minded native son (Hoffman), the charismatic leader of a post-WWII spiritual movement.
Time travel on the grand scale
OK, American history looks pretty small in light of the mind-bending chronological panorama of “Cloud Atlas,” coming down to earth courtesy of Tom Tykwer and siblings Andy and Lana Wachowski. From distant points in human history, six stories and multiple characters are interwoven in a complex, philosophically challenging narrative. Anchored by a stellar cast — some playing six different roles — including Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon and Hugo Weaving, this wild card’s a must-see.
Crime and punishment
Rian Johnson’s “Looper” is also into (illegal) time travel: The past is a perfect killing ground for hit man Joseph Gordon-Levitt to off mob targets. But what happens when the older “looper” from the future (Bruce Willis) becomes his younger self’s target? Got your mind wrapped around that paradox? Johnson and Gordon-Levitt mined stylish death and despair out of high school noir in “Brick”; look for lightning to strike again.