TGIF! Thank God It's Fall, 'cause here come the contenders, the indies and the movies meant for more discriminating viewers. 

Flick Forward

After surviving eight months of movies targeted at charter members of the Britney Spears fan club, get ready for some seasonal relief. It's fall and that means Hollywood's releasing movies requiring brain power rather than hormonal surges. In fact, in about a month moviegoers will be bemoaning the fact that there's just too much they want to see.

September eases us into the quality pictures, offering a transitional mix of upcoming more mature-minded films and the remaining teen dreams and screams. But with the arrival of October, get out the PalmPilot and start marking your calendar: The good stuff's back! Here follows a Friday by Friday quick rundown of coming distractions. But as always, release dates are subject to change.

Sept. 7

Mark Wahlberg takes to the mic in "Rock Star," a tale of a wannabe who gets to be. And no, it's not really typecasting 'cuz the band's heavy metal. Jennifer Anniston co-stars as Wahlberg's girlfriend; Stephen ("The Mighty Ducks") Herek directs.

Alexander Dumas' classic swashbuckling tale of honor gets a Hong Kong martial arts update in "The Musketeer." Justin Chambers ("Liberty Heights") plays the young D'Artagnan, with support from such heavy hitters as Catherine Deneuve, Tim Roth and Stephen Rea. This mix of martial arts and 360-degree freeze shots, is directed by Peter ("End of Days") Hyams.

Sept. 14

"The Glass House" begins the season of Sobieski. Leelee joins Trevor Morgan as teen orphans here, who begin to suspect their adoptive parents/guardians may have plotted their parents' death. Diane Lane and Stellan Skarsgaard costar in this life-or-death thriller.

Then gang warfare circa 1958 Brooklyn hits the big screen in "Deuces Wild," the latest from cult director Scott ("The Basketball Diaries") Kalvert. Stephen Dorff and Debbie Harry star.

"Hardball" picks up where "The Mighty Ducks" left off, except this time the venue is Chicago's infamous Cabrini Greens housing projects. Keanu Reeves plays the reluctant baseball coach.

Then Robin Hood gets an Asian remake in "Iron Monkey." Master martial-arts choreographer ("The Matrix," "Crouching Tiger" etc.) Yuen Woo-Ping directs.

Sept. 15

Get ready for some really big-screen cuddliness. Here comes IMAX's "China: The Panda Adventure" at the Science Museum of Virginia. This large-screen-format flick offers a look at the American woman who spent her life studying pandas in 1930s China.

Sept. 21

After suffering serious post-production problems, not the least of which being its star's well-documented breakdown, "Glitter" opens. Mariah Carey stars in this semiautobiographical tale of a young singer's rise to the top of the charts.

Tim Allen, Rene Russo and Janeane Garofolo star in "Big Trouble," an ensemble piece based on the writings of humorist Dave Barry. Barry Sonnenfeld directs this Miami-based action-adventure meets crime caper.

Well, it's almost October and that means time for "Halloween: The Homecoming." Jamie Lee Curtis breaks away from her lucrative phone commercials to return to the franchise that made her famous. For anyone who's counting, this marks the eighth appearance of masked serial killer Michael Meyers.

In "Training Day," Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke team up for another cop psychological thriller. Washington is the unorthodox veteran; Hawke the rookie.

Ed Burns directs and stars in "Sidewalks of New York," another romantic comedy he hopes rivals the success of his debut film, "The Brothers McMullen." Heather Graham and Stanley Tucci star.

Sept. 28

Mr. Catherine Zeta-Jones, aka Michael Douglas, returns to the big screen in "Don't Say a Word," yet another taut thriller. This time, Douglas plays a psychiatrist whose daughter is kidnapped.

In the comedy "Zoolander," Ben Stiller fleshes out a character he created for the 1996 VH1 Fashion Awards show. Stiller plays a dim male model who finds himself mixed up in a bit of international intrigue.

"Hearts in Atlantis," marks the latest Stephen King adaptation to head to the big screen. Scott ("Shine") Hicks directs Anthony Hopkins in this tale of mysterious stranger who comes to the aid of a single mom (Hope Davis) and her young son.

Oct. 3

Ready for a little wacky humor? Here comes "The Wash," some zaniness starring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Eminem, set at an L.A. carwash. Sound familiar?

"Collateral Damage", on the other hand, offers Arnold Schwarzenegger as a fireman who hunts down the terrorist who killed his wife and daughter during an attack on a Colombian motorcade in Los Angeles.

Oct. 5

The tension continues with "Joy Ride," a thriller about a homicidal trucker. Leelee Sobieski makes her second appearance this Fall, directed by John ("Red Rock Canyon") Dahl.

Finally, something for the family. Disney presents "Max Keeble's Big Move," featuring Alex D. Linz as a seventh grader who learns to stand up to some school bullies.

In "Serendipity," John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale play college sweethearts who try to reconnect after a decade apart.

Oct. 12

"Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton join forces in "Bandits," playing crafty bank robbers who end up fighting over their hostage, none other than Cate Blanchett.

The Dumas Season continues with "The Count of Monte Cristo." Kevin ("Waterworld") Reynolds directs Jim Caviezel as the imprisoned nobleman. Guy Pearce and Richard Harris costar.

Robert Redford makes the first of two screen appearances this Fall in "The Last Castle." He's a wrongfully imprisoned three-star general who leads an inmate revolt. James Gandolfini is the corrupt warden Redford wants to take down.

Then Steve Martin stars in "Novocaine," a comedy thriller about a dentist who's seduced into a life of crime by a pretty patient. Helena Bonham Carter is the seducer; Laura Dern, Martin's stalwart hygienist/girlfriend.

In "Mulholland Drive," David Lynch directs an eclectic ensemble cast (think Ann Miller and Billy Ray Cyrus) in this L.A.-based thriller.

Oct. 19

Johnny Depp plays a Scotland Yard inspector in "From Hell," who's after none-other-than Jack the Ripper in this adaptation of Alan Moore's graphic novel. "Menace to Society's" Allen and Albert Hughes co-direct.

Penny Marshall helms the fact-based, decades-spanning dramedy of an unmarried mom in "Riding in Cars with Boys." Drew Barrymore stars, supported by Steve Zahn and Lorraine Bracco.

Oct. 24

Get a second dose of Snoop Dogg this month with "Bones," where the rapper plays a dead man who returns as a ghost to clean up D'hood. Ernest Dickerson directs; Pam Grier costars.

In "K-PAX," Kevin Spacey plays a mental patient who insists he's from another planet. Jeff Bridges plays his intrigued shrink.

Oct. 26

David Mamet joins the ranks of writer-directors with works coming this fall. He's penned "Heist," a thriller about a jewel robbery plotted by Gene Hackman and Danny DeVito.

Shock/schlockmeister William Castle's "13 Ghosts" gets a New Millennium update. Shannon Elizabeth, Tony Shalhoub and F. Murray Abraham star in the shocker.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars in the fantasy "Donnie Dark" that sounds an awful lot like a reworking of "Harvey." He's an alienated teen who gets support from an imaginary 6-foot rabbit and guidance counselor Drew Barrymore.

Then Kevin Kline stars in the drama "Life as a House." He's a dying man who comes to terms with his mortality by building a house that will live on. Kristin Scott Thomas and Mary Steenburgeon costar.

Nov. 2

The holiday season kicks in with "Monsters Inc." the latest computer-generated fun from Pixar (The "Toy Story" movies). It's all about childhood fears from the perspective of the Bogeymen.

Jet Li gets his kicks in with "The One," an action-thriller about an L.A. cop who battles a version of himself in a parallel universe. Oh my yes!!! Two Jet Li for the price of one. James ("Final Destination") Wong directs.

Christine Lahti steps behind the camera to direct the nearly ubiquitous Leelee Sobieski in "My First Mister." Sobieski plays a disaffected teen-ager who's life is forever changed by middle-aged Albert Brooks.

Nov. 9

First Julia Roberts, now Gwyneth Paltrow dons a fat suit for "Shallow Hal," the latest from bad-boy writer-directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly. Jack Black plays the womanizer she becomes involved with.

Action-master John Woo turns serious with "Windtalkers," a tale of a Marine (Nicolas Cage) who's assigned to one of WWII's Navajo code experts.

The Coen Brothers offer up "The Man Who Wasn't There," a stylish black-and-white homage to the film noir genre. Expect the Coen's usual character-rich entertainment with Billy Bob Thornton as a barber out to blackmail the boss James Gandolfini of his wife Frances McDormand.

Nov. 16

Attention all Hogwart Academy alums, it's finally here. "Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone" makes it to the big screen in time for the all-important merchandise tie-in holiday season. Expect to see Harry's duo-tone muffler adorning every kid — and kid at heart — you know, once the much-anticipated J.K. Rowling bestseller opens.

Nov. 21

Funnyman and mimic Martin Lawrence does the "Connecticut Yankee" thang in "The Black Knight," a time-traveling comedy. This time Lawrence is a hustler who takes on an evil medieval king.

Then it's Robert Redford Redux with the arrival of "Spy Game." In this Tony Scott-directed thriller, Redford plays a retired spy who must rescue his former protege, Brad Pitt.

Holiday Hints

Then the real crush begins as the top-drawer stars, directors and writers vie for a prestigious opening date during the holiday movie season. Here's a quick look at some the wonderful things Hollywood hopes you'll find in your stocking: "Gangs of New York," Leo DiCaprio stars; Martin Scorsese directs. "Ali," Will Smith stars as the Champ; Michael Mann helms. "Beautiful Mind," Russell Crowe stars as schizo Nobel mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. under the direction of Ron Howard. "The Shipping News," Lasse Hallstrom directs this adaptation of Pulitzer-Prize winning novel; cast includes Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore and Judi Dench.

And of course, "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring." Much-anticipated barely covers the excitement among Boomer fans who've waited decades for this classic fable of good and evil to make its way onto the big screen. The first in a planned trilogy, Sean Astin and Elijah Wood star this time out. Move over "Harry Potter," here come the Hobbits.


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