Fall Films: Bond, Bush & High School

James Bond charges through the underground cisterns of Sienna in pursuit of an Mi6 traitor.Location: Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire, UK.
United Artists
Harry Potter pulled a disappearing act from Hollywood's fall and holiday schedule, his sixth big-screen adventure bumped from this November into next summer.

That leaves a little more room to roam at the box office for the likes of James Bond, a vampire heartthrob, the "High School Musical" kids and all those talking cartoon critters studios are about to unleash.

The season offers action (Bond's latest, "Quantum of Solace"), family flicks (the animated sequel "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa"), fantasy romance (the best-seller adaptation "Twilight"), and serious stuff lining up for the Academy Awards, from Nicole Kidman's epic "Australia" to Bond star Daniel Craig's war saga "Defiance."

Brad Pitt reunites with old pals George Clooney and Cate Blanchett in two films, Clint Eastwood does his own two-fer by directing Angelina Jolie in one drama and himself in another, and Oliver Stone takes on his latest president with a George W. Bush biopic.

Here are highlights of what Hollywood has in store:

The World At War

World War II is huge this season, with Cruise, Craig and director Spike Lee all offering dramas touching on little-known aspects of the conflict.

In director Bryan Singer's "Valkyrie," Cruise stars as German Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, who led a group of insiders in a failed attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler with a briefcase bomb.

Key scenes were shot at actual places in Germany where events occurred, including Bendlerblock, the place where the anti-Nazi conspirators were executed.

"It was eerie, but on the other hand, when looking at it from Stauffenberg's viewpoint and what he did and what these men did, it was powerful," Cruise said. "As an actor, I think I can say for all of us who were there that we felt fortunate to get those locations and shoot at those places. It really changes the performances to do it there at that spot."

Craig stars with Liev Schreiber and Jamie Bell in Edward Zwick's "Defiance," the story of Jewish brothers who escape the Nazis and
set up a community of resistance fighters in Eastern Europe.

Spike Lee directs "Miracle at St. Anna," starring Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso and Omar Benson Miller as members of the all-black "Buffalo Soldier" outfit fighting in Italy.

The film dramatizes the valor of troops whose heroism amid bigotry on the homefront is unknown to many Americans today, Lee said.

"These guys are true American patriots. They were fighting two wars," Lee said. "They were fighting the Nazis, the fascists in Europe and fighting the Japanese in the Pacific, and they were fighting Jim Crow racism, prejudice in the United States of America at the same time."

License To Avenge

When we last saw Mr. Bond, the super-spy in the making was really steamed and looking for payback over the death of the love of his life.

"Quantum of Solace" picks up where "Casino Royale" left off, pitting Bond against a phony environmentalist trying to monopolize the water supply.

The title comes from a phrase in an Ian Fleming short story, where someone describes to Bond a relationship that unraveled and what measure of devotion is required to keep love alive.

"I love the idea of it. It applied to where Bond was at the end of the last movie," Craig said. "The one thing he didn't have with the relationship was that quantum of solace."

Also on the action front: "Heat" co-stars Robert De Niro and Al Pacino reunite for "Righteous Kill," playing cops tracking a vigilante serial killer; Mark Wahlberg stars as a cop out to avenge the deaths of his family and partner in the video-game adaptation "Max Payne"; Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen are hired lawmen in the Western "Appaloosa," directed by Harris and featuring Renee Zellweger; and Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe team for Ridley Scott's "Body of Lies," about a CIA hunt for a terrorist

"It's rare where you get a piece of material that's politically pertinent like this but also sort of non-preachy and engaging entertainment for an audience," DiCaprio said.