For those of you who like to take your brains into the theater with you, take heart that the summer blockbuster season is coming to an end. In its place we have the deeper, more daring movies of fall - theoretically, anyway.
As always, release dates are subject to change and a lot of these movies will not be released in the lakes area. But keep them in mind when they hit DVD.
1. "In the Shadow of the Moon" (Sept. 7) - This documentary, produced by Ron Howard, features the living astronauts from America's six moon landings in the 1970s. It's fascinating to realize that technology has advanced - compare today's tiny digital cameras to the bulky devices used to snap photos of the shuttle launches - and yet, we couldn't return to the moon today if we wanted to.
2. "The Mist" (Nov. 21) - This adapts one of my favorite Stephen King novellas, about a mysterious mist that rolls into an unsuspecting small town, stranding residents in a grocery store. It's written and directed by Frank Darabont, who is two-for-two in King adaptations with "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Green Mile."
3. "Leatherheads" (Dec. 7) - The latest passion project from George Clooney chronicles the early days of professional football in the 1920s. Clooney deserves credit for using his fame and power to make quality movies - "Good Night, and Good Luck" being the prime example. Here is a rare sports movie that won't fall back on clichs.
4. "I Am Legend" (Dec. 14) - In a slow season for science fiction films, this third - and hopefully best - adaptation of Richard Matheson's classic novel stands out. If you're going to ask a star to carry a good chunk of a movie with no dialogue and only a German shepherd to act with, Will Smith would be on the short list. If it works, it'll create a horror-movie vibe against an end-of-the-world backdrop.
5. "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" (Nov. 16) - Every blockbuster promises spectacle like you've never seen before, and few deliver. This family flick about the toy store equivalent of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory looks genuinely colorful and magical. The presence of Natalie Portman will boost the film immensely, even if Dustin Hoffman's wacky store-owner shtick wears thin.
6. "Enchanted" (Nov. 21) - The premise is delicious: A typical Disney princess (the adorable Amy Adams from "Junebug") is thrust out of her animated world into the mean streets of modern-day New York City. The fact that this is a Disney movie - rather than an outside entity parodying Disney - means it will only scratch the surface of exposing fairy tale clichs; for example, characters' tendencies to express feelings through musical numbers. Still, it should be fun.
7. "Dan in Real Life" (Oct. 12) - Co-writer and director Peter Hedges showed a knack for heartfelt character studies in "Pieces of April" and "About a Boy." In this one, Steve Carell takes a serious turn away from "The Office" as a guy who falls for his brother's girlfriend.
8. "The Heartbreak Kid" (Oct. 5) - The Farrelly Brothers co-write and direct this update of the Charles Grodin classic. Ben Stiller plays a guy who finds his true love shortly after getting married to a nightmare of a woman. Let the R-rated laughs ensue.
9. "Alien vs. Predator: Requiem" (Dec. 25) - The sixth "Alien" film and fourth "Predator" film, following the not-so-great "Alien vs. Predator" from a few years ago, edges out the "National Treasure" sequel as the fall's must-see unintentional comedy. This movie will be bad, but hopefully it will be so bad it's good.
10. "In the Valley of Elah" (Sept. 14) - Writer and director Paul Haggis, riding high from the success of "Crash" and "Million Dollar Baby," explores the human cost of the Iraq war for one family. This looks to be a murder mystery with more emotional depth than standard genre fare.
11. "Across the Universe" (Sept. 14) - It's a fresh musical take on the Beatles' greatest songs. It might just be weird enough to be special, and it doesn't hurt that Evan Rachel Wood is among the cast; the "Once and Again" veteran is overdue for a good film role.
12. "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" (Dec. 21) - I'm surprised the trailer for this parody of music docudramas such as "Walk the Line" isn't funnier, what with Judd Apatow being one of the writers. But the concept is gold, John C. Reilly is always good and there's a window open for hilarious cameos such as Justin Long as George Harrison.
13. "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" (Dec. 21) - The original was a decent actioner and this could be another fun romp through pseudo-history as Nicolas Cage explores the murder of Abraham Lincoln. It'll probably be more funny-good than genuinely good, but at least it will whet our appetites for next May's "Indiana Jones IV."
14. "Good Luck Chuck" (Sept. 21) - The trailer of this Dane Cook-Jessica Alba rom-com about a guy that women see as a stepping stone before they find true love is funny. Alba walking into a pole while googly eyed over Cook is an unexpected twist on the clich of the guy being smitten with the girl. But the trailer also seems to tell the whole story, making one wonder if this comedy plucks only one note.
15. "The Comebacks" (Oct. 26) - This sports movie parody looks mildly amusing, although it is redundant to make fun of "The Waterboy" and "Dodgeball," which were themselves parodies. But that promo display has been in the hallway of Movies 10 all summer, so we might as well get this thing in theaters and see if it's any good.
JOHN HANSEN, entertainment editor, may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5863.
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