Fall movies: Award contenders or weak material?

By Travis Poppleton

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Sept. 8 2011 3:24 p.m. MDT

Fall is always a mixed bag for moviegoers. As audiences go back to school, studios are torn between unloading their weakest material, and campaigning behind their award-worthy projects before the year comes to an end.

As a result, in 2010, fall gave us everything from “Skyline” to “The King’s Speech.”

In 2011, the lineup seems similarly diverse.

— “Apollo 18” appears to be a cross of two films — “Red Planet” and “Paranormal Activity.” But as one of the two horror films that opened last weekend (along with “Shark Night 3D”), it may be difficult for what some are already calling the "Blair Moon Project" to find its respective audience.

— “Contagion” opens this weekend with a more than capable cast. It’s almost impossible to ignore the similarities between “Contagion” and the 1995 Dustin Hoffman film, “Outbreak,” which also boasted an incredible cast. But trailers suggest “Contagion” is taking a grittier approach to the man-versus-disease plot device.

— “I Don’t Know How She Does It” will try to connect with the working moms of the world, while Disney fans may want to check local listings for the limited release of “The Lion King 3D.”

— October swings in with a steady lineup of remakes including “Footloose,” “The Thing” and a fantasy-glazed “The Three Musketeers.” It’s not always difficult to gauge which remake will be “True Grit” or which will be “The Truth About Charlie,” but none of the early press material for these films suggests a lazy effort.

— October also holds a couple candidates for the award season with “Ides of March,” a film based on the Beau Willimon play and starring George Clooney, Paul Giamatti, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei and Ryan Gosling, and “Anonymous,” a film exploring the “Did Shakespeare really write Shakespeare?” question.

OK, true, the Academy probably won’t take “Anonymous” seriously since it’s being directed by Roland Emmerich, the same guy who directed “Godzilla” and “2012," but it does have an epic, sweeping, historical feel that Oscar voters occasionally swoon for.

— As for November, the exciting conclusion to pumpkin pie and harvest celebrations enjoys a family friendly spirit. “Puss in Boots,” “The Muppets,” “Happy Feet 2” and “Arthur Christmas” will all be vying for your family’s attention around Thanksgiving time.

But let’s face it, there’s one crowd looking forward to November more than any other. Those fans who believe vampires avoid sunlight because they’re glittery: Yes, the “Twilight” fans. And following the “Harry Potter” strategy, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1” will give fans the first half of the final chapter of Stephenie Meyer’s wildly successful vampire series.

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