By Ann Hornaday
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 12, 2010; E18
It's easy to imagine Hollywood as a big product factory, its wheels grinding out homogenized movies geared toward smaller and smaller audiences. Desperate to woo viewers away from the comforts of their home entertainment centers, studios seem increasingly prone to pandering to whatever demographic group is still willing to shell out bucks -- preferably more than once -- to see a movie in an actual multiplex. Polls indicate that boys between 12 1/2 and 13 go over and over again to anything involving World of Warcraft, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and 3-D.
Conventional wisdom holds that fewer and fewer movies are being made for the rest of us -- non-action fans, or women, or grown-ups. But every year, especially around this time, that assumption proves cheeringly false. Admittedly, the lineup of movies opening throughout the rest of this year and in early 2011 features the requisite amount of action ("Buried," "Unstoppable"), horror ("Devil," "Let Me In," "My Soul to Take"), sequels ("Paranormal Activity 2," "Tron Legacy") and animated family films ("Alpha and Omega," "Megamind," "Tangled") that define Hollywood's most reliable output. And yes, dear reader, you will be seeing ads for "Jackass" and "Saw" sequels, both in 3-D.
But those laser-targeted demographic pleasers claim space on an otherwise diverse-looking slate of movies, inviting the cautiously optimistic impression that, for the next few months at least, there really will be something for everybody at the cineplex.
Fans of art-house fare can look forward to films that have made their way from Sundance to South by Southwest to Tribeca and finally here, including actor Philip Seymour Hoffman's directorial debut, "Jack Goes Boating"; Sam Taylor-Wood's biopic about John Lennon, "Nowhere Boy"; Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck's "It's Kind of a Funny Story"; and Derek Cianfrance's "Blue Valentine," in which Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling star as a couple confronting an unraveling marriage.
Also playing in art houses will be a bumper crop of documentaries, including "A Film Unfinished," "Marwencol," "Freakonomics" and "Waiting for 'Superman,' " all of which played to enthusiastic audiences at this year's Silverdocs film festival in June. The fall will also feature two of the season's most highly anticipated titles -- Charles Ferguson's "Inside Job," about the economic meltdown, and Alex Gibney's film about Eliot Spitzer, "Client 9" -- as well as two promising essays on different forms of power: Jeff Reichert's "Gerrymandering" and Don Hahn's "Waking Sleeping Beauty," about corporate machinations at Disney in the 1980s.
If the aging-but-agile action comedy "Red" has too many things that go "Boom!" for some tastes, there's the prospect of the romantic comedy "How Do You Know," with Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd and from romantic-comedy maestro James L. Brooks. Or "Due Date," a potentially raunchy-but-fun road comedy starring Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis.
As ever, the fall season includes its share of literary adaptations, and not just of the "Harry Potter" variety. Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley star in "Never Let Me Go," Mark Romanek's eggshell-delicate adaptation of the popular Kazuo Ishiguro novel. "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," which wraps up the Stieg Larsson trilogy, will give fans of that series their last chance to see Noomi Rapace in the role of Lisbeth Salander before the Americans take over in David Fincher's planned adaptation.
Fincher has a film coming out this fall -- "The Social Network," about the founding of Facebook -- and he joins a roster of highly regarded directors who will be bringing out new films. (Terrence Malick, alas, will not be among them, his long-gestating "The Tree of Life" apparently needing even more time in editing.) No less than Woody Allen ("You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger"), Oliver Stone ("Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps"), Darren Aronofsky ("Black Swan") and Julian Schnabel ("Miral") will have new releases, as well as Danny Boyle ("127 Hours"), Ben Affleck ("The Town") and Clint Eastwood ("Hereafter").
Eastwood's film, about three people dealing with death whose lives intersect in unexpected ways, is part of the fall season's most cheering trend: the resurrection of the endangered cinematic species known as the Adult Drama. Along with "Hereafter," "Wall Street 2" and "The Social Network," several films directed at grown-ups are in the pipeline, including "Stone," "Conviction," "Fair Game" and "Secretariat," which appeals to so many interest groups (Sports fans! Nostalgic boomers! Horse lovers! Fans of feel-good, come-from-behind drama!) that it stands a strong chance of breaking out to become the one movie every member of the family can see together and actually enjoy.
Hey, there's a concept for Hollywood to start tinkering with. In the meantime, somehow the wheels keep spinning.