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Movies that Pop!
Fall films feature plenty of action, drama and comedy

Now that the summer roster has been thankfully exhausted and the days begin to grow shorter, Hollywood lets fly with its first wave of cooler-weather fare. While there are certain serious-minded Oscar contenders in the bunch, there's also more than the usual number of action, comedy and sure-fire crowd pleasers. Here's a list of some of the higher-profile titles and a few low-budget, independent productions that could be sleeper hits. Please note: all opening dates are subject to change.

Sept. 12

· Burn After Reading - The Coen brothers' follow-up to their multiple Oscar-winning "No Country for Old Men" finds them back in extreme black humor territory with an all-star cast including Brad Pitt, George Clooney and John Malkovich.

· Towelhead - Oscar-winning screenwriter ("American Beauty") Alan Ball's directing debut is about the sexual awakening of an underage Lebanese/American girl. It is brilliant, controversial and all but guaranteed to become major watercooler fodder.

· Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys - Yet another dysfunctional family comedy/drama from the prolific Atlanta filmmaker. It's a good bet the Perry faithful (but few others) will be thrilled.

The Women - This remake of the 1939 George Cukor film centers on the wife (Meg Ryan) of a cheating husband who, along with her friends (Annette Bening, Jada Pinkett Smith and others), decides to confront the home wrecker (Eva Mendes).

Sept. 19

· Battle in Seattle - Actor Stuart Townsend directs his off-screen girlfriend Charlize Theron and Woody Harrelson in this political drama about a band of protesters who disrupt a gathering of the World Trade Organization.

· Ghost Town - "The Sixth Sense" meets "Heaven Can Wait." After a near-death experience, an easily bothered man (Ricky Gervais) can now see dead people. While dealing with the ghosts, he gets caught in the middle of a possible affair involving Greg Kinnear and Tea Leoni.

· Hounddog - Conyers native Dakota Fanning takes her first step toward adult roles with this dark southern Gothic tale about an obsessed Elvis Presley fan dealing with her fractured family and the aftermath of sexual battery. Fanning is excellent; the movie itself is a total bust.

· Igor - Call it a "Frankenstein" spin-off for the young folks. This animated adventure finds the hunchback title character (John Cusack) looking to break out on his own by entering a science contest. Other voice talent includes Steve Buscemi, John Cleese and Eddie Izzard.

· Lakeview Terrace -Neil LaBute directs this thriller about a rogue cop (Samuel L. Jackson) who is determined to force out an interracial couple who just moved into his neighborhood.

· My Best Friend's Girl - After breaking up with his girlfriend (Kate Hudson), a jealous guy (Jason Biggs) calls on his buddy (Dane Cook) to take her out and act like a loser so she'll know how good she had it.

· Taken - In this Luc Besson-produced action/thriller, Liam Neeson plays a retired spy who risks capture while trying to rescue his kidnapped daughter (Maggie Grace).

Sept. 26

· Blindness - Julianne Moore stars in this fantasy/thriller about a woman who is the only person left with sight in a city of mysteriously blinded inhabitants. The premise is as equally out-there as director Fernando Meirelles' last film ("City of Men").

· Choke - Based on the twisted novel by Chuck Palahniuk ("Fight Club"), this dark comedy stars Sam Rockwell as a sex-addicted con-man who pretends to choke on food at fancy restaurants and then counts on the donations of strangers to fund his lifestyle.

· The Duchess - Keira Knightley stars as an 18th century English aristocrat and duchess targeted by the masses because of her opulent lifestyle. Sounds like "Marie Antoinette" minus the guillotine.

· Eagle Eye - This political action/thriller starring Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan looks like a retread of "Enemy of the State," which is not necessarily a bad thing. Billy Bob Thornton and Rosario Dawson co-star.

· The Lucky Ones -This could be a first; an Iraq War comedy. Upon their release from the Army, Rachel McAdams, Tim Robbins and Michael Pena return home and discover much has changed.

· Miracle at St. Anna - Spike Lee's fact-based action/drama about four black American soldiers who find themselves trapped in an Italian city during WWII.

· Nights in Rodanthe - "Unfaithful" leads Richard Gere and Diane Lane reunite in this adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel. Expect lots of tender moments and all of the other usual chick-flick embellishments.

Oct. 3

· Appaloosa - Leading man Ed Harris' sophomore directorial effort is a Western with "High Noon" overtones. The strong supporting cast includes Viggo Mortensen, Renee Zellweger and Jeremy Irons.

· Beverly Hills Chihuahua - An action/comedy strictly for tikes and dog lovers. A spoiled, diminutive California canine gets separated from her owner (Piper Perabo) while vacationing in Mexico.

· Flash of Genius - Fact-based story about a professor and part-time inventor (Greg Kinnear) who sued American car makers who stole his idea for a unique windshield wiper.

· How to Lose Friends & Alienate People - Simon Pegg plays a cutting-edge English journalist who moves to New York and takes a job with a mainstream entertainment glossy. The fish-out-of-water comedy also includes Kirsten Dunst, Megan Fox and Jeff Bridges.

· Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist - A Punk Rock love story. In an effort to avoid her ex-boyfriend, Norah (Kat Dennings) calls on platonic guy-pal Nick (Michael Cera) to pretend he digs her.

· Rachel Getting Married - Anne Hathaway stars as woman with substance-abuse issues who is released from rehab and is called on to participate in her sister's wedding.

· Religulous - Comedian/political commentator Bill Maher's documentary dissects assorted facts and myths of various world religions. Certain backlash is sure to follow in its wake.

· Sex Drive - Teen comedy about a nerd who poses as an online jock that travels cross country to meet the supposed girl of his dreams.

Oct. 10

· Body of Lies - Leonardo DiCaprio plays a CIA agent sent to the Middle East to capture an Al Qaeda fugitive. Directed by Ridley Scott, it co-stars Russell Crowe as the shady man pulling all the strings.

· The Express - Dennis Quaid in yet another inspiration sports drama. This time, it's the true-life story of football player Ernie Davis, the first black man to win the Heisman Trophy.

· Igor - Call it a "Frankenstein" spin-off for the young folks. This animated adventure finds the hunchback title character (John Cusack) looking to break out on his own by entering a science contest. Other voice talent includes Steve Buscemi, John Cleese and Eddie Izzard.

· Lakeview Terrace -Neil LaBute directs this thriller about a rogue cop (Samuel L. Jackson) who is determined to force out an interracial couple who just moved into his neighborhood.

· My Best Friend's Girl - After breaking up with his girlfriend (Kate Hudson), a jealous guy (Jason Biggs) calls on his buddy (Dane Cook) to take her out and act like a loser so she'll know how good she had it.

· Taken - In this Luc Besson-produced action/thriller, Liam Neeson plays a retired spy who risks capture while trying to rescue his kidnapped daughter (Maggie Grace).

Sept. 26

· Blindness - Julianne Moore stars in this fantasy/thriller about a woman who is the only person left with sight in a city of mysteriously blinded inhabitants. The premise is as equally out-there as director Fernando Meirelles' last film ("City of Men").

· Choke - Based on the twisted novel by Chuck Palahniuk ("Fight Club"), this dark comedy stars Sam Rockwell as a sex-addicted con-man who pretends to choke on food at fancy restaurants and then counts on the donations of strangers to fund his lifestyle.

· The Duchess - Keira Knightley stars as an 18th century English aristocrat and duchess targeted by the masses because of her opulent lifestyle. Sounds like "Marie Antoinette" minus the guillotine.

· Eagle Eye - This political action/thriller starring Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan looks like a retread of "Enemy of the State," which is not necessarily a bad thing. Billy Bob Thornton and Rosario Dawson co-star.

· The Lucky Ones -This could be a first; an Iraq War comedy. Upon their release from the Army, Rachel McAdams, Tim Robbins and Michael Pena return home and discover much has changed.

· Miracle at St. Anna - Spike Lee's fact-based action/drama about four black American soldiers who find themselves trapped in an Italian city during WWII.

· Nights in Rodanthe - "Unfaithful" leads Richard Gere and Diane Lane reunite in this adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel. Expect lots of tender moments and all of the other usual chick-flick embellishments.

Oct. 3

· Appaloosa - Leading man Ed Harris' sophomore directorial effort is a Western with "High Noon" overtones. The strong supporting cast includes Viggo Mortensen, Renee Zellweger and Jeremy Irons.

· Beverly Hills Chihuahua - An action/comedy strictly for tikes and dog lovers. A spoiled, diminutive California canine gets separated from her owner (Piper Perabo) while vacationing in Mexico.

· Flash of Genius - Fact-based story about a professor and part-time inventor (Greg Kinnear) who sued American car makers who stole his idea for a unique windshield wiper.

· How to Lose Friends & Alienate People - Simon Pegg plays a cutting-edge English journalist who moves to New York and takes a job with a mainstream entertainment glossy. The fish-out-of-water comedy also includes Kirsten Dunst, Megan Fox and Jeff Bridges.

· Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist - A Punk Rock love story. In an effort to avoid her ex-boyfriend, Norah (Kat Dennings) calls on platonic guy-pal Nick (Michael Cera) to pretend he digs her.

· Rachel Getting Married - Anne Hathaway stars as woman with substance-abuse issues who is released from rehab and is called on to participate in her sister's wedding.

· Religulous - Comedian/political commentator Bill Maher's documentary dissects assorted facts and myths of various world religions. Certain backlash is sure to follow in its wake.

· Sex Drive - Teen comedy about a nerd who poses as an online jock that travels cross country to meet the supposed girl of his dreams.

Oct. 10

· Body of Lies - Leonardo DiCaprio plays a CIA agent sent to the Middle East to capture an Al Qaeda fugitive. Directed by Ridley Scott, it co-stars Russell Crowe as the shady man pulling all the strings.

· The Express - Dennis Quaid in yet another inspiration sports drama. This time, it's the true-life story of football player Ernie Davis, the first black man to win the Heisman Trophy.

Oct. 17

· Filth and Wisdom - She can't act so there's no reason to believe Madonna can write or direct either. The early buzz indicates this dramatic trilogy set in London will be a major stinker.

· Max Payne - Mark Wahlberg stars as the title character with Mila Kunis as a mysterious assassin who are both looking for revenge. The trailers indicate a cross between "Wanted" and "The Bourne Identity" franchise.

· W. - Oliver Stone's biographical drama of the current U.S. president (played by Josh Brolin) is, as usual, generating a lot of mixed buzz and early accusations of bias. Let's hope it's as even-handed as Stone's brilliant "Nixon."

· What Just Happened - Director Barry Levinson's satirical comedy with Robert de Niro as a once-great movie producer who is having trouble finding the funds for his latest project.

Oct. 24

· The Brothers Bloom - Period piece with Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo as the title characters, two con men looking to relieve a wealthy heiress (Rachel Weisz) of her fortune. Sounds like "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" in a corset.

· High School Musical 3: Senior Year - After scoring hits with the first two Disney Channel installments (and the recent successes of "Hairspray" and "Mamma Mia!"), Disney figured general audience's attitudes toward musicals might have changed for the better.

· Passengers - Anne Hathaway's second dramatic offering of the season, this time as a grief councilor whose clients - all survivors of the same tragic plane clash - begin disappearing.

· Pride and Glory - On the shelf for close to a year, this crime drama starring Edward Norton and Colin Farrell seems cursed. Both men play New York City detectives and in-laws. An investigation by one leads to the implication of another in a string of unsolved murders.

· Saw V - What can you say? The most successful and dependable horror franchise of recent years just keeps chugging along with no signs of slowing down or losing its fervent core audience.

· Synecdoche, New York - Screenwriter extraordinaire Charlie Kaufman makes his directorial debut about a theater director (Philip Seymour Hoffman) whose set design plans far exceeds his modest budget.

Oct. 31

· Changeling - Clint Eastwood's moody drama stars Angelina Jolie as the mother of a returned kidnapped child. The film has already received mixed reaction from festival audiences and critics.

· RocknRolla - Director Guy Ritchie gets backs to original sick puppy mode with this action/thriller about the corrupt English recording industry. Gerard Butler temporarily abandons his position as current, go-to chick-flick man-candy and goes a little more "300" gonzo.

· Zack and Miri Make a Porno - Kevin Smith wrote and directed this romantic comedy starring Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks about two platonic friends trying to make ends meet by filming a porn flick and discover their latent feelings for each other. Let's hope it's better than "Jersey Girl."

Nov. 7

· Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa - The inevitable sequel to the so-so original sounds exactly like the plot for the first movie. The returning voice talent (Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith) is joined by Sacha Baron Cohen and the late Bernie Mac.

· Quantum of Solace -Daniel Craig returns as James Bond in this absurdly titled 22nd installment of the indestructible franchise. A lot of non-Bond fans are interested because of the participation of acclaimed director Marc Forster ("Finding Neverland," "The Kite Runner").

Nov. 14

· Lake City - Sissy Spacek and Tory Garity play an estranged mother and son who band together during trying times after a long estrangement. Rocker Dave Matthews co-stars.

· Nobel Son - Alan Rickman stars as a stuck-on-himself professor and recent winner of a Nobel Prize who must decide whether or not he loves his son enough to pay a kidnapper's ransom to save him. It's a comedy, by the way.

· Nothing Like the Holidays - John Leguizamo, Alfred Molina and Freddy Rodriguez are among the many members of a Chicago-based Puerto Rican family faced with the possibility that their next Christmas together might be their last.

· The Road - Director John Hillcoat follows "The Proposition" with a post-apocalyptic thriller starring Viggo Mortensen as a man trying to survive nuclear winter. As it's based on a Cormac McCarthy ("No Country for Old Men") work, expect much doom and gloom.

· Role Models - Seann William Scott and Paul Rudd play energy drink sales reps that get into hot water with the law and must pay back their debt to society by joining a Big Brother outreach program. Expect testosterone-laden hijinks to morph into sappy Hallmark-laden schmaltz.

· Soul Men - In what will surely be a bittersweet experience, the late Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes star in this musical comedy about an R&B group brought together after years of infighting and the death of one of their band members.

Nov. 21

· Twilight - Based on the enormously popular novel by Stephenie Meyer about a teen girl (Kristen Stewart) who falls for the dreamy vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).

· The Soloist - The last time Jamie Foxx played piano in a movie, he won an Oscar. Here he stars as a homeless man and former piano protégé who, with the help of a concerned journalist (Robert Downey Jr.), tries to get back in the game.