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Fall Movie Preview

By Richard von Busack

The less said up front about the fall movie season, the more room there is to write about it. Noteworthy trends include Westerns (Brad Pitt as Jesse James, Russell Crowe as an Arizona hoodlum), the Middle East fiasco (Rendition, In the Valley of Elah, The Kingdom, Lions for Lambs), and rape-revenge (Death Sentence, The Brave One and Rosario Dawson's Descent, if it ever makes it here).

All dates are subject to the ever-changing whims of neurotic, screaming sub-executives.

Sept. 7

'3:10 to Yuma' James (Walk the Line) Mangold's sweeping but wishy-washy Western remake, with Christian Bale as a broke-down, hollow-eyed rancher facing off against a smooth-as-a-rattlesnake robber (Russell Crowe). 'Shoot 'Em Up' Clive Owen as "Mr. Smith," a gunman in custody of a baby that the evil Paul Giamatti wants dead.

Sept. 14

'The Brave One' Jodie Foster gets it, and so does her boyfriend and so does her dog. Now it's payback time, but the real question is what kind of payoff got director Neil Jordan involved? 'Eastern Promises' Return of the king (David Cronenberg), with Viggo Mortensen as a London gangster.

'The Hunting Party' Ex-reporters Richard Gere and Terence Howard head for Serbia to bag a war criminal. It's a comedy.

'Mr. Woodcock' Much-delayed Billy Bob Thornton vehicle. Seann William Scott plays a writer who learns his mom has taken up with the evil gym teacher he hated in high school. 'Silk' In France in the 1800s, an industrial smuggler (Michael Pitt) goes to acquire silkworms in Japan; there he falls for a powerful noble's woman.

Sept. 21

'In the Shadow of the Moon' The Apollo astronauts speak out in this much-heralded doc. 'In the Valley of Elah' Paul (Crash) Haggis writes and directs this story of an Iraq vet sought by his parents (Susan Sarandon, Tommy Lee Jones) and a police detective who happens to look like Charlize Theron. 'Trade' Two-fisted Kevin Kline tracks down international flesh-peddlers.

Sept. 28

'Across the Universe' "Hey" Jude (Jim Sturgess) and Lucy ("In the Sky," etc.) (Evan Rachel Wood) relive those fabulous '60s under the tutelage of "Dr. Robert" (Bono) and "Mr. Kite" (Eddie Izzard). The coming attractions for Julie (The Lion King) Taymor's visualization of Beatles' songs were uproariously bad. The previews have since been fixed. Has the film?

'The Darjeeling Limited' Three estranged brothers (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman) head to India in hopes of reconnecting. The new comedy by Wes Anderson will either be a Gen X Ishtar or his first unequivocal success. Either way, it'll have a great soundtrack.

'Into the Wild' Sean Penn adapts Jon Krakauer's bestselling wilderness bio of a well-off student who dropped everything to go live in the Alaskan wilderness. 'King of California' Michael Douglas as a recently released mental patient who convinces his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) that there's literally gold in them thar hills. 'The Kingdom' Thriller about FBI agents Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner investigating a Saudi Arabian bombing. 'Under the Same Moon' A little boy makes a desperate journey to cross the U.S.-Mexico border to join his mother.

Oct. 5

'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford' In Missouri, everyone can trace his descent from James, so it's no surprise that the Show Me State's Brad Pitt is playing him. 'Feel the Noise' Omari Grandberry is a Bronx rapper who discovers reggaeton, Puerto Rico and the papi he never knew (Giancarlo Esposito). 'The Heartbreak Kid' Ben Stiller in the remake of the Charles Grodin comedy, playing a honeymooner who dumps his wife for a new girl (Michelle Monaghan). 'Michael Clayton' Tony Gilroy, scripter for the Bourne series, directs this story of heartsick fixer (George Clooney) at a large and malevolent New York law film.

Oct. 12

'Elizabeth: The Golden Age' Cate Blanchett's reprises the role of Queen Elizabeth I, with Clive Owen as Sir Walter Raleigh and Geoffrey Rush as Walsingham, father of the modern police state. 'Lust, Caution' Ang Lee, Tony Leung and Joan Chen in Shanghai during the Big War. 'My Kid Could Paint That' Amir Bar-Lev's documentary about a kindergarten-aged prodigy—an abstract expressionist painter—already being heralded as a genius. 'We Own the Night' Brighton Beach melodrama set in 1988. Eva Mendes, Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix as members of a family on either side of the law.

Oct. 19

'30 Days of Night' Amusing premise, based on a graphic novel. In the Alaskan winter, a gang of vamps attack a small town. 'Rendition' Gavin (Tsotsi) Hood tells of an American wife (Reese Witherspoon) who tries to learn what happened to her Egyptian husband, a chemical engineer, at the other end of the line at a U.S.-run "black base." Jake Gyllenhaal helps with the interrogation. 'Sleuth' Kenneth Branagh directs the remake of the two-man thriller, with Michael Caine in the part of the older cuckold, previously taken by Olivier. Jude Law is the young wife-stealer.

Oct. 26

'Dan in Real Life' Steve Carell in a rom-com about a widower who loses his heart over exactly the wrong woman. 'Reservation Road' A hit-and-run accident ruins the lives of Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo. 'Saw IV' What sound does a saw make? Zzzzzzzzzzz. 'Things We Lost in the Fire' Dogma-grad Susanne Bier's story of a widow who learns to love again. Halle Berry, Benicio Del Toro and David Duchovny co-star.

Nov. 2

'American Gangster' Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in a true story of the great heroin epidemic of the early 1970s. 'Bee Movie' Jerry Seinfeld as an average, animated bee about town. 'Kite Runner' Northern California author Khaled Hosseini's story of the downfall of Afghanistan, as adapted by Marc Forster.

Nov. 9

'The Future Is Unwritten' Maybe the Clash were the only band that mattered after all. Lead singer Joe Strummer is memorialized by Julien Temple, who already made one irreplaceable punk-roc doc, The Filth and the Fury. 'Lions for Lambs' A Babel-icious story of the global war on terror encompassing a professor (Robert Redford), reporter (Meryl Streep) and presidential hopeful (Tom Cruise).

Nov. 16

'Beowulf' "No, but I saw the movie!" Computer-animated by Robert Zemeckis. 'Love in the Time of Cholera' Mike Newell directs the adaptation of the Garcia Marquez novel. 'Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium' Dustin Hoffman is the proprietor of a magic toyshop, Natalie Portman a regular customer.

Nov. 21

'Enchanted' Amy (Junebug) Adams as a fairy-tale princess transported via witch's spell to modern-day New York.

'The Mist' Stephen King's story of a deadly fog must never be mistaken for The Fog.

'No Country for Old Men' The Coen Brothers adapt Cormac McCarthy's grisly novel, with Tommy Lee Jones as the hunter who stumbles into a borderland drug gang's business.

Nov. 30

'Thomas Kinkade's The Christmas Cottage' The ultimate Yuletide horror story stars Peter O'Toole and Marcia Gay Harden in a tale of a young artist who needs to see the light (and smell the money).

Dec. 5

'Atonement' In 1935, a child's casual lie has fateful repercussions. Ian McEwan's novel is the source. 'The Golden Compass' Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials hits the screen; Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards), a 12-year-old denizen of a parallel version of London, learns of a secret organization of the Gobblers. 'Margot at the Wedding' Noah Baumbach's follow-up to The Squid and the Whale has Nicole Kidman attending the wedding of her sister (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and encountering the boor she's proposing to wed.

Dec. 14

'I Am Legend' Will Smith is the last man on earth, immune to a plague that has turned over the world to the undead and, worst of all, driven up the price of gas to $6 a gallon. 'Juno' Blogger/stripper turned screenwriter Diablo Cody's script in the hands of Jason (Thank You for Smoking) Reitman. Sad part: it's another anti-choice thing about a pregnant teen.

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