Picks and Pans Review: Raking in the Fall
THE DAYS WHEN FALL AT THE CINEPLEX was a time reserved for sleepy period pieces and earnest message pictures are long gone. This autumn is all bullets and no butlers, and even the British actors are running for their lives instead of ruminating about them. First up is The Game (Sept. 12), starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn in a thriller about a billionaire who, instead of making a killing, tries to avoid getting killed. "Michael Douglas the way you want to see him," says one film exec of the star, who hasn't had a hit lately. In the similar The Edge (Sept. 26), Anthony Hopkins (as another billionaire) and Alec Baldwin get lost in the wild and try to avoid becoming a bear's brunch. Staking out a spot in Chinatown territory, L.A. Confidential (Sept. 19) is a saga of postwar California corruption with Kevin Spacey and Kim Basinger. The buzz is "very, very high on it," says an exec from a rival studio. Vying for audiences the same weekend will be the comedy In and Out, with Kevin Kline playing a gay teacher outed at the Academy Awards. It's based loosely on Tom Hanks's 1993 acceptance speech after his Oscar for Philadelphia. October brings such edgy fare as The Devil's Advocate (Oct. 17), with Keanu Reeves as a young lawyer and Al Pacino as a senior partner who turns out (duh!) to be Satan. Brad Pitt heads for the mountains and more credibility as a serious actor in Seven Years in Tibet (Oct. 8), an epic about the Chinese-occupied country whose freedom is the favorite cause of Richard Gere. Gere hits screens twice in November, first in The Jackal, a Nov. 14 political thriller with Bruce Willis partly based on the 1973 film The Day of the Jackal (itself based on the 1971 book). Two weeks later he plays a lawyer arrested for murder in China in the thriller The Red Corner. That film was shot in California because Gere's Tibetan activism would get him arrested for real in China.
November brings in special-effects bonanzas such as Alien Resurrection (Nov. 26), with a reborn Sigourney Weaver and freshly buffed Winona Ryder, and Starship Troopers (Nov. 7), a sort of Independence Day with giant bugs. "The first cut," says one early viewer, "was really gory. They should invent a new rating." Just don't see it after Thanksgiving dinner.