With the kids back in school, the days growing shorter and the summer season still prominent in the rearview mirror, studios in Hollywood and elsewhere prepare their first wave of cooler weather 2009 fare. Here's a thumbnail sketch of most of the higher-profile and more interesting-looking independent titles. As always, all release dates are subject to change.
· All About Steve - Romantic comedy where Bradley Cooper ("The Hangover") stars as a CNN reporter who is stalked across the country by a flighty and eccentric crossword whiz (Sandra Bullock).
· Extract - The latest comedy from "Beavis and Butthead" creator Mike Judge looks like a science-based reworking of his cult hit "Office Space." Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig and Mila Kunis lead the cast.
· Gamer - The overexposed Gerard Butler stars as a champion online gamer in this futuristic thriller where humans can control the behavior of others via the Internet. Michael C. Hall (TV's "Dexter") plays the villain.
9 - The first of two 2009 movies with the numeric title "9" (the musical "Nine" is the other) is an animated, post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller featuring the voices of Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly and Martin Landau.
· It Might Get Loud - Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), the Edge (U2) and Jack White (the White Stripes) trade riffs, technical secrets and war stories in this guitar-heavy musical documentary.
· The September Issue - Sure to be juicy documentary about editor Anna Wintour and the behind the scenes preparation of the September 2007 issue of Vogue, the longest (and heaviest) edition ever of that magazine.
· Sorority Row - Shades of '70s exploitation abound in this horror/thriller about a group of sorority sisters who try to cover up the death of one of their own and are later stalked by a serial killer.
· Whiteout - Kate Beckinsale stars in this long-delayed thriller as a U.S. marshal playing beat-the-clock while tracking down a fugitive in Antarctica before the annual six-month period of darkness arrives.
· World's Greatest Dad - Robin Williams plays a high school teacher in this pitch-black comedy where his character orchestrates a well-intended cover-up of the death of a close relative and lives to regret his decision.
· Armored - Caper thriller about a group of armored truck employees who plan on stealing $42 million from their boss. Whether they get away with it depends on their collective ability to remain on the same page.
· Burning Plain - Looking like a grittier take on "Terms of Endearment," Kim Basinger and Charlize Theron play a mother and daughter trying to mend torn fences.
· Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs - This animated adventure based on a children's book is the story of a town where food falls out of the sky like rain.
· The Informant! - Director Steven Soderbergh and Matt Damon team up in this fact-based farce about a dim-witted undercover employee who frustrates detectives trying to gather dirt on crooked corporate executives.
· Jennifer's Body - Current "it" girl Megan Fox stars in this horror flick about a cheerleader turned serial killer. It could be more than just slasher eye candy - it was written by Oscar-winner Diablo Cody ("Juno").
· Love Happens - Aaron Eckhart plays a self-help romance guru who needs to take some of his own medicine after meeting a strong-willed woman (Jennifer Aniston) attending one of his seminars.
· Pandorum - In this sci-fi thriller, two space travelers wake up after a long hibernation period with amnesia.
· Bright Star - Jane Campion directs this period piece drama about the doomed real-life love affair between 18th century writer John Keats (Ben Winshaw) and next-door neighbor Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish).
· Coco Before Chanel - Audrey Tautou ("Amelie") plays the famous French fashion icon during the early stages of her career.
· The Damned United - Fact-based sports drama about abrasive, by-the-book football (soccer) coach Brian Clough (Michael Sheen) and his brief, contentious relationship with his sometimes rule-breaking players.
· Fame - The movie from the '80s that led to two TV series is back again as a feature film. While it sticks with the original plot and New York setting, you can expect some snazzy new dance routines and a beefier score.
· The Invention of Lying - Ricky Gervais co-wrote and directed this cleverly conceived comedy/fantasy about a world where everyone always tells the truth. Everyone, that is, except Gervais' smarmy lead character.
· Surrogates - Bruce Willis stars in this sci-fi thriller about a society where people operate their own mechanical replicates from the safety of their own living rooms.
· A Serious Man - The Coen brothers are back on solid black comedy turf in this '60s period piece about a Midwestern Jewish man who is forced to choose between his blood and marital relationships.
· Capitalism: A Love Story - Fear-monger Michael Moore is at it again, this time in a documentary focusing on the economic meltdown that took place during the transition between the Bush and Obama administrations.
· More Than a Game - Already garnering heavy positive buzz, this sports documentary follows the career of basketball superstar LeBron James from high school through his current NBA stint.
· Toy Story 3-D - Now here's something everybody already knows will be fantastic and a great bargain to boot: the two classic "Toy Story" movies remastered in 3-D and presented as a double feature.
· Whip It - Drew Barrymore makes her feature film directorial debut while playing a Roller Derby veteran who takes a shy, introverted Texas girl (Ellen Page) under her wing.
· An Education - "Alfie" meets "Lolita" in this '50 period piece about a teen girl in London and her possible romantic involvement with a new neighbor: a man twice her age with the reputation as a notorious womanizer.
· Bronson - Not exactly the biography of the actor the title might suggest, but rather a psychological drama about a man who survives 30 years in solitary confinement by imagining that Charles Bronson is his alter-ego.
· Couples Retreat - "Swingers" buddies Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn reunite in this romantic comedy about four couples vacationing on a tropical island.
· Good Hair - Chris Rock narrates what could be a brilliant and side-splitting documentary about the history of popular black hairstyles.
· Zombieland - Shot mostly in Atlanta, this zombie horror/comedy with an A- and B-list cast led by Bill Murray and Woody Harrelson looks to be an American riff on "Shaun of the Dead."
· Law Abiding Citizen - "Death Wish" meets "Cape Fear" with Gerard Butler (again) as a vigilante bent on revenge after the killer of his family is set free.
· Motherhood - Uma Thurman stars as the mother of a toddler who is having a tough time juggling her domestic chores and her budding career as a writer.
· New York, I Love You - Think "New York Stories" times four. Nearly a dozen directors collaborated on this mixed-genre, love-letter anthology to the Big Apple.
· The Road - After a bunch of release date changes, this snake-bit post-apocalyptic drama finally sees the light of day. Viggo Mortensen forges ahead with other survivors trying to make it in the wild after nuclear fallout.
· The Stepfather - Dylan Walsh ("Nip/Tuck") gets the chance to go Bat-guano crazy in this horror/thriller about a stranger with a possible past who moves in with a divorcee and raises the suspicions of her eldest son.
· Where the Wild Things Are - The long-anticipated adaptation of the children's book by Maurice Sendak looks like a winner and, being adapted and directed by Spike Jones, could be both charming and a big head trip.
· Amelia - Bearing an uncanny physical resemblance to the title character, Hilary Swank stars in this sweeping biographical drama as the iconic aviator and trailblazing feminist Amelia Earhart.
· Astro Boy - Based on the '60s anime TV show, the somewhat dark nature of the story could lead to box-office disaster for what is being pitched as a rollicking family adventure. It might be this year's "Speed Racer."
· Saw VI - The latest in what might be the most consistently performing horror franchise ever. Instead of the usual decline, the "Saw" films' profits increase in revenue with each installment and show no signs of fatigue.
· The Vampire's Assistant - Formerly known as "Cirque du Freak," this horror/drama based on the series of books by Darren Shan (which is also the name of the main character) could become another "Twilight."
· Michael Jackson: This Is It - The first and certainly not the last cash-in on the recently deceased singer's memory throws together rehearsal footage from Jackson's final, unrealized tour. Prepare to be underwhelmed.
· Gentlemen Broncos - "Napoleon Dynamite" creator Jared Hess is on the tween track again with this story about a fanboy who attends a convention and discovers that a famous writer might have stolen his story idea.
· Youth in Revolt - Borderline catatonic actor Michael Cera plays a teen that abandons his mild-mannered demeanor and goes gonzo in an attempt to attract the attention of a girl and shake up his parents.
· A Christmas Carol - Adapting the classic Charles Dickens' tale, director Robert Zemeckis' third foray into creepy motion-capture animation features Jim Carrey and Gary Oldman both playing multiple characters.
· The Box - In this sci-fi thriller Cameron Diaz and James Marsden play a married couple whose financial worries are replaced with those of another kind with the arrival of a strange and unexpected package.
· The Men Who Stare at Goats - George Clooney stars as one of two U.S. soldiers who claim to possess psychic/paranormal powers that could either end or prolong the war in Iraq. By the way, it's a comedy.
· Pirate Radio - This holdover from the summer (formerly titled "The Boat that Rocked") is Richard Curtis' follow-up to "Love, Actually" and centers on a band of rebel DJs illegally broadcasting off the coast of England.
· Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire - As pretentious as its ridiculously long title implies this stark, mostly downbeat urban drama was jointly produced by Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey.
· Wolfman - Benicio del Toro takes the lead in this reworking of the classic horror story. Set in England, the trailers indicate it might be to the Wolfman what Francis Coppola's "Bram Stoker's Dracula" was to Dracula.
· Fantastic Mr. Fox - Fringe indie filmmaker Wes Anderson adapts the relatively obscure Roald Dahl book about a town that revolts after a sly and cunning fox starts gobbling up the local chicken population.
· Red Cliff - Chinese-born filmmaker John Woo returns to his homeland for this epic war drama based on actual events involving the hostile transfer of dynasties that took place in the early third century.
· 2012 - According to the ancient Mayan calendar, the world as we know it will end on Dec. 22, 2012. John Cusack leads an all-star cast in what will surely be a most controversial and thought-provoking disaster epic.
· The Young Victoria - Emily Blunt stars as the longest-serving English monarch ever in this bio-drama about her early years as the queen and the romance with her first cousin Prince Albert (Rupert Friend).
· The Blind Side - Sandra Bullock plays a wealthy housewife who takes in an illiterate black teenager in this "feel good" human-interest drama. If the trailers are accurate, expect overflowing levels of sap and saccharin.
· Broken Embraces - Director Pedro Almodovar casts his favorite leading lady Penelope Cruz in this thriller about a former movie director who became a full-time writer after going blind.
· New Moon - The probable box-office champ of the season, if not the entire year, is the second in the "Twilight" series starring Robert Pattinson as vampire Edward Cullen and Kristen Stewart as his human love interest Bella.
· Planet 51 - Looking like a lighter version of the under-appreciated "Battle for Terra," "Planet 51" is an animated sci-fi comedy where visiting human explorers landing on a faraway planet are the actual aliens.