No more apes, mummies, or pies. When movie moguls think of fall, they think serious. Many of these films are looking for the public's - and Oscar's - attention.
Fans have a large slate of films from which to choose in an autumn this fall offering a mix of broad comedies. (Zoolander or Big Trouble), dramas (Don't Say a Word or Hearts in Atlantis,) and thrillers (Training Day.) And that's just September.
There's no letting up in October with actors Robert Redford in the prison drama The Last Castle and Kevin Spacey in K-Pax, while Billy Bob Thornton, Bruce Willis and Cate Blanchett yuk things up in the crime comedy, Bandits. November opens with a huge promotional push for computer-animated Monsters, Inc. as well as John Woo's wartime epic Windtalkers, starring Nicolas Cage.
It used to be we'd get some breathing room, but not this fall, said Terry Press, who heads DreamWorks' marketing team.
Only Shrek made it on the "best" list of both critics and fans. Just two summer movies could generate the word-of-mouth publicity needed to rule box offices in a second-straight week, and only American Pie 2 made it three weeks in a row.
If the major fall movies are yawners, then it leaves room for offbeat and indie films - maybe Dvid Lynch's Mulholland Drive (October) or Joel and Ethan Coen's The Man Who Wasn't There (November) - to win critical praise, box office success and generate Oscar buzz ahead of the holidays.
That has happened this year to movies like the thriller Memento, and for stars ranging from Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast to Tilda Swinton for The Deep End.
Most Oscar-caliber movies are still months away, however, and September's titles still focus on entertainment. Mark Wahlberg (Planet of the Apes) and Jennifer Aniston (TV's Friends) headline in Rock Star, about the rock-n-roll rise to success of a young kid (Wahlberg) who's plucked from suburbia to sing for a heavy metal rock band. It's ... a fun, rock 'n' roll, popcorn-type movie, and I love that, Aniston said recently.
For more serious fare, Michael Douglas plays a psychiatrist whose daughter has been kidnapped in Don't Say a Word. To win her release, he must treat a catatonic woman (Brittany Murphy).
Anthony Hopkins stars in an adaptation of Stephen King's novel Hearts in Atlantis. He portrays a psychic who helps an 11-year-old boy learn about life in what may remind King fans of 1986 hit Stand By Me.
|Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke in "Training Day"|
If there is room for indie strangeness in September, it comes from The American Astronaut, a black-and-white western set in outer space. It's a musical, too, and it had audiences at this years Sundance Film Festival howling with laughter.
Also on the indie front comes David Lynch's Mullholland Drive in October. Lynch's TV show Twin Peaks and movies like Blue Velvet made him a sort of icon for weirdness. Drive centers on an aspiring Hollywood actress and a former starlet and amnesia victim, whom she helps search for an identity.
Dennis O'Conner, vice president of distribution at Universal Focus, said at test screenings the film has generated some of the most intelligent discussions he's heard.
Hees a brief look at movies on the horizon this fall:
Denzel Washington crosses over to the dark side, as an undercover narcotics cop who trains rookie Ethan Hawke amid the LA drug scene in Training Day.
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writer: David Ayer
The Last Castle
Robert Redford teams up with Mark Ruffolo in a military prison to take down its corrupt warden, played by The Sopranos' James Gandolfini.
Director: Rod Lurie
Writer: David Scarpa
The Man Who Wasn't There
Academy Award winner Billy Bob Thornton joins the Coen brothers, who won best director at this year's Cannes film festival, for their black-and-white film noir The Man Who Wasn't There.
Director: Joel Coen
Writer: Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring pop diva Mariah Carey, the movie chronicles singer Billie Franks search for fame in the New York night clubs where Carey herself got a start.
Director: Vondie Curtis-Hall
Writer: Kate Lanier and John Wilder
Thornton also stars with Bruce Willis in the comic tale of America's most wanted criminals.
Director: Barry Levinson
Writer: Harley Peyton
Kevin Spacey plays a man who thinks he's from another planet, and Jeff Bridges is the psychiatrist who sets out to determine whether he actually is.
Director: Iain Softley
Writer: Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin
Life As A House
Kevin Kline stars a dying man trying to reconcile with his teen-age son, played by Hayden Christensen. Kristen Scott Thomas also stars.
Director: Irwin Winkler
Writer: Mark Andrus
|Johnny Depp and Heather Graham in "From Hell"|
Johnny Depp investigates the Jack the Ripper murders in this thriller.
Director: Albert and Allen Hughes
Writer: Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
Riding In Cars With Boys
Drew Barrymore ages from 15 to 35 for the dramatic tale of teen pregnancy and growing up in Riding ICars With Boys, based on the bestseller of the same name.
Director: Penny Marshall
Writer: Beverly D'Onofrio, Morgan Ward
Jonathan (John Cusack) met Sara (Kate Beckensale ) when both were in their 20s and they had one romantic date. Now, after 10 years with two fiancees and 3,000 miles between them, only fate can decide if they're destined to be together again.
Director: Peter Chelsom
Writer: Peter Abrams, Robert Levy, Andrew Panay and Simon Field
Genre: Romantic comedy
Nicolas Cage stars in the action drama Windtalkers, the story of the Navajo Indians whose language was used as a spoken code that helped the U.S win several World War II battles.
Director: John Woo
Writer: John Rice and Joe Batteer
Will Smith hopes for a knockout as Ali, in a movie that follows the former heavyweight boxer from his early days as Cassius Clay, through his rise in sports and politics, to his comeback battles. The cast includes Jamie Foxx and Mario Van Peebles
Director: Michael Mann
Writer: Michael Mann
Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone
Proving Oscar contenders can have blockbuster appeal, Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone lands in theaters on Nov. 16. It follows the adventures of Harry and his friends at the Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardy.
Director: Chris Columbus
Writer: J.K. Rowling and Steven Kloves
On the lighter side, the Farrelly brothers bring us Shallow Hal, the story of a superficial man, who is hypnotized to see women's inner beauty. The film stars Gwyneth Paltrow, who plays a 300-pound leading lady.
Director: Bobby and Peter Farrelly
Writer: Bobby Farrelly
Arnold Schwarzenegger heads into action in the political thriller Collateral Damage, about a fireman whose wife and young son are killed when a Colombian terrorist blows up an American consulate building. John Leguizamo and John Turturro also star in it.
Director: Andrew Davis
Writer: Steven Reuther, David Foster and Peter McGregor Scott
A practical joke turns into a nightmare for Steve Zhan and Paul Walker in this thriller.
Director: John Dahl
Writer: Clay Tarver and Jeffrey Abrams
Gangs of New York
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day Lewis, this film examines opposing Irish and talian immigrant groups in 1860s lower Manhattan.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Martin Scorsese with Steven Zaillian, Jay Cocks and Kenneth Lonergan
On The Line
Lance Bass and Joey Fattone, of the pop group *NSYNC, make their film debuts.
Director: Eric Bross
Writer: Eric Aronson Brent Goldberg
Tim Allen and Renee Russo lead an ensemble cast entangled over a mysterious suitcase lost in Miami.
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Writer: Dave Barry and Robert Ramsey
Tom Cruise, Kurt Russell, Penelope Cruz, and Cameron Diaz star in this thriller about a romeo who is in love with his best friends girlfriend. He gets the girl but only after his face is disfigured in a car crash and rebuilt. It is based on the Spanish film Open Your Eyes.
Director: Cameron Crowe
Writer: Cameron Crowe and Mateo Gil
The Fellowship of the Ring
Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Liv Tyler, and Elijah Wood star in the first of what is to be a Rings trilogy.
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh adapting J.R.R. Tolkien
©MMI, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved