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FALL MOVIE PREVIEW: Finally, films for big kids

As autumn arrives, cinematic choices improve
Steve Murray, Eleanor Ringel Gillespie - From Staff And News Services
Friday, September 2, 2005

After a dismal season at the box office, Hollywood studio executives are boo-hooing about a summertime slump.

What have they got to crybaby about? We're the ones they actually believed would want to see "Bewitched," "The Dukes of Hazzard," "The Island," "Fantastic Four," "The Bad News Bears," "The Perfect Man," "Must Love Dogs" and other dogs of the cinematic kind. If anybody has reason to complain, it's the poor souls who paid to see those stinkers.

Luckily, summer's over (at the box office, anyway), and movie lovers now will have a reason to go back to the multiplex for more than just the air conditioning. Namely, better movies. Smarter movies. Award-seeking movies.

The fall movie season got a head start on Wednesday with the arrival of "The Constant Gardener," Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles' follow-up to his stunning "City of God." (There are also seven movies opening today, all reviewed in this section, some looking more like summer leftovers than fresh-for-fall deliveries.)

Coming soon are works from well-known directors, like Cameron Crowe's "Elizabethtown," Roman Polanski's "Oliver Twist" and David Cronenberg's "A History of Violence."

These are the kind of movies that should keep serious moviegoers interested until November and December, when the studios tend to release their big-gun, Oscar-courting titles ... as well as fantasy epics for the kid in all of us, like "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and Peter Jackson's mighty (we hope) "King Kong."

Just remember, release dates can change at the whim of the studios.


Sept. 23

:: "Flightplan." Or, "Panic Room" at high altitude. Jodie Foster is back as a bereaved widow (and, more conveniently, an airplane designer) who falls asleep on a flight from Berlin to New York only to wake and discover her young daughter is missing from the seat beside her. The crew and fellow passengers swear the girl was never there in the first place. Peter Sarsgaard and Sean Bean co-star.

Sept. 30

:: "A History of Violence." Arty horror-meister David Cronenberg ("Dead Ringers," "The Fly") returns with this drama about a cafe owner (Viggo Mortensen) who commits murder in self-defense and finds his life turned upside down by the media attention that follows. Maria Bello and Ed Harris co-star.

Oct. 14

:: "Elizabethtown." Inspired in part by autobiographical events, Cameron Crowe's latest finds Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) returning home to Kentucky for his father's funeral (just as Crowe once did in off-screen life). On the trip home, Drew meets flight attendant Claire Coburn (Kirsten Dunst) and romance takes wing. Susan Sarandon, Judy Greer and Alec Baldwin round out the cast, but because this is a Crowe film, pop music is sure to play the strongest supporting role.

:: "North Country." Based on the landmark sexual harassment lawsuit Jenson vs. Eveleth Mines, Niki Caro's drama stars Charlize Theron as miner Josey Aimes, who endures years of abuse and finally fights back in court. The fabulous cast for Caro ("Whale Rider") includes Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sissy Spacek, Sean Bean and Richard Jenkins.

Oct. 21

:: "Stay." Marc Forster ("Monster's Ball," "Finding Neverland") directs this world-of-the-living meets world-of-the-dead drama about an Ivy League professor (Ewan McGregor) who struggles to prevent a student (Ryan Gosling) from committing suicide. Naomi Watts co-stars.

Capsules by DEBORAH HORNBLOW, Hartford [Conn.] Courant, and AJC film critic ELEANOR RINGEL GILLESPIE,

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