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Fall Movie Lineup: They're Ba-aa-ck

Bond is back. So is Hannibal "the Cannibal" and British boy wizard Harry Potter.

How's that for "original" Hollywood variety for the Fall movie season that starts next week -- a secret agent, a serial killer and a teenage wand waver?

As usual, the Fall film slate is aimed more at adults, favors mostly dramas and throws in a few Oscar contenders among a long list of movies ranging from big-budget battle epics like "The Four Feathers" (Sept. 20) to indies like October's "The Grey Zone" (Oct. 11), a story set in the Nazi death camps.

Familiar names like Dustin Hoffman fill marquees, but there are fresh faces, too, such as the newest member of acting's "it" list, Jake Gyllenhaal, who teams with Hoffman for "Moonlight Mile" (Sept. 27), about a young man whose fiancee dies, leading to an odd relationship with her parents.

While deep plots and dramas dominate the Fall, a few comedies that should guarantee laughs hit theaters before Thanksgiving, from the low-budget "Barbershop" (Sept. 13) to a big broad comedy "I Spy" (Nov. 1), starring Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy as mismatched government agents.

"Audiences should expect the funniest movie they've ever seen," said director Betty Thomas, whose other work includes Howard Stern's "Private Parts" and "The Brady Bunch Movie."

When pressed to explain, Thomas can't, really. "Dude," she said, "It's just the funniest."

The summer was a success for Hollywood's movie machine with domestic box offices expected to equal or top 2001's record $3.06 billion, led by Sony Pictures sensation "Spider-Man" and sequels to "Star Wars," "Men in Black" and "Austin Powers."

"I have to admit, we have enjoyed the success, and we want to keep it going," said Jeff Blake, president of global marketing and distribution for Sony Pictures.

And, as the saying goes: if it ain't broke...

In September, last year's "Legally Blonde" star Reese Witherspoon chooses her real love -- an uptown New Yorker or a down-home country boy -- in "Sweet Home Alabama" (Sept. 27).

Martial Arts expert Jackie Chan once again kicks his way into theaters in a buddy picture, although this time his "buddy" is Jennifer Love Hewitt, in "The Tuxedo" (Sept. 20).

For families, there is "Miyazaki's Spirited Away" (Sept. 20), an animated movie from Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki about a 10-year-old girl who is lost in a secret tunnel and fights spirits to return to the human world. It is the highest grossing movie ($220 million) of all time in Japan.

Among other films to watch for will be drama "City by the Sea" (Sept. 6) with Robert De Niro and newcomer James Franco, and on the indie front there will be Sundance Film Festival favorite "Secretary," starring Maggie Gyllenhaal (Jake's sister) as a sex slave assistant to a lawyer portrayed by James Spader.

Sound weird? Just wait.

The king of all flesh eaters, Hannibal Lecter ("Silence of the Lambs," "Hannibal") kicks off October in "Red Dragon," (Oct. 4) in a real, well, nail-biter of a movie.

Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins again plays the madman, but this film -- the fourth Lecter movie -- is really based on the first Thomas Harris novel. In this story, FBI Agent Will Graham (Edward Norton) probes Lecter's mind to find another killer.

Among October dramas, Salma Hayek stars in "Frida," (Oct. 25) about painter Frida Kahlo's tortured life. "White Oleander" (Oct. 11) is about a teenage girl (Alison Lohman) whose mom (Michelle Pfeiffer) is imprisoned, sending her on a harrowing journey of self-discovery with foster mothers.

But it's not a "chick flick," swears director Peter Kosminsky. "It's about that turning in the point in your life when you leave the person your parents want you to be, behind. That affected me as a man, and it affects all men," he said.

On the thriller front, there's "The Truth About Charlie" (Oct. 25.) with Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton and "The Ring" (Oct. 18), about a video that, if one watches it, he or she will die in seven days. So be careful, moviegoers.

The indie crowd will be watching for Tribeca Film Festival winner "Rodger Dodger" (Oct. 25), "Auto Focus" (Oct. 18) about "Hogan's Heroes" star Bob Crane, and "The Rules of Attraction," (Oct. 11), starring squeaky clean TV teens like James Van Der Beek and Jessica Biehl doing bad, bad things in college.

For families, there is the biblical story of Jonah and the whale, "Jonah: The VeggieTales Movie" (Oct. 4), based on the hit VeggieTale videos starring computer animated vegetables.

Families, too, will be able to bond around comedy "The Santa Clause 2," starring Tim Allen as the reluctant Saint Nick and kicking off November, and families have "Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets" only two weeks later on Nov. 15.

In this version, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his buddies Ron and Hermione return to the magical Hogwarts Academy to take up their tutelage in the ways of wizardry.

But it could be rap singer Eminem who steals this year's Fall movie headlines from Harry, which has climbed to No. 2 on the all-time box office leader chart with $966 million in global tickets sales. "Titanic" is still No. 1.

Eminem appears in drama "8 Mile" (Nov. 8) about a rap singer's life from urban rags to Hollywood riches, directed by "L.A. Confidential" helmsman Curtis Hanson.

Or maybe venerable old spy James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) will kick major tail in "Die Another Day" (Nov. 22).

"He's betrayed by the bad guys and by his own people. He doesn't know which side he's on," said Brosnan.

Intrigue, drama, Fall movies -- one can almost hear the Bond theme song playing now.

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