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Fall features: This season's roster filled with action, comedy, horror

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

At this point we're just about three-quarters of the way through the year and the consensus of virtually every critic and industry insider is about the same: 2010 is the worst year for movies in nearly half a century. There has been a scant few memorable releases (most of them animated) and the majority of what Hollywood has served up so far is horrifyingly subpar.

The good news (in theory) is that the last four months of the year is when the industry carts out its most promising (read: award-seeking) titles. For people who don't care much for serious, brow-furrowing, Oscar-hopeful dramas, there's more good news. This fall's roster is heavily peppered with lots of action, comedy and horror titles. There's also just a handful of sequels and at least one bona fide, four-star masterpiece ("Red" set to be released Oct. 15).

Here are some thumbnails of most of the high profile releases and a few of the more interesting looking art house titles. As always, all opening dates are subject to change.

Sept. 1

"THE AMERICAN" -- George Clooney is back in the action/adventure saddle again with this thriller in which he plays an assassin trying to complete his final assignment in Italy before retiring.

Sept. 3

"GOING THE DISTANCE" -- Real-life off/on partners Justin Long and Drew Barrymore play a couple trying to maintain a bi-coastal, long-distance relationship in this romantic comedy.

"MACHETE" -- Robert Rodriguez directs Danny Trejo (as the title character), Robert de Niro (as a U.S. Senator) and Lindsay Lohan (as a nun!) in what will surely be a non-stop action bloodbath.

Sept. 10

"I'M STILL HERE" -- Casey Affleck makes his directorial debut with this documentary centering on the personal and professional meltdown of actor Joaquin Phoenix.

"THE TILLMAN STORY" -- Documentary about the cover-up of the truth regarding the death of former NFL player-turned foot soldier Pat Tillman in Iraq.

"THE VIRGINITY HIT" -- Will Ferrell and frequent collaborator Adam McKay produced this low-budget coming-of-age teen-sex romp starring a bunch of people no one has ever heard of.

Sept. 15

"NEVER LET ME GO" -- Based on the novel of the same name, this mystery/thriller starring Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan (from "An Education") as sisters contemplating life, love and death has been generating hugely positive overseas buzz.

Sept. 17

"DEVIL" -- Based on an original story by M. Night Shyamalan, this claustrophobic thriller set almost entirely in an elevator features six strangers, one of whom is the devil.

"EASY A" -- Based loosely on "The Scarlet Letter," Emma Stone plays a straight-arrow high-school girl that turns the tables on a jealous rival (Amanda Bynes) who is trying to soil her reputation.

"THE TOWN" -- In his sophomore effort as director, Ben Affleck stars in this action/thriller as a Boston bank robber who falls in love with a teller (Rebecca Hall), a woman that could lead to his undoing. If it's as good as Affleck's debut ("Gone Baby Gone"), prepare to be wowed.

"LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA'HOOLE" -- Director Zack Snyder ("300," "Watchmen") makes a stylistic 180 in this animated adventure based on a series of young adult fantasy novels.

Sept. 24

"WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS" -- Michael Douglas reprises his iconic character Gordon Gecko in director Oliver Stone's long-delayed (perhaps unnecessary) sequel co-starring Shia LeBeouf.

"YOU AGAIN" -- Former high-school rivals (Sigourney Weaver and Jamie Lee Curtis) put on the gloves once more when their daughters (Odette Yustman and Kristen Bell) start repeating their past nasty behavior in this comedy co-starring Betty White.

Oct. 1

"BARRY MUNDAY" -- After losing a very important part of his male anatomy (as he also did in "Hard Candy"), Patrick Wilson's title character is slapped with an out-of-left-field paternity suit in this oddball black comedy.

"LET ME IN" -- This American remake of "Let the Right One In" -- the near-perfect, mostly bloodless Swedish vampire movie with "Twilight" overtones -- could be a major smash or a total bust.

"THE SOCIAL NETWORK" -- Director David Fincher's highly-anticipated ensemble drama stars Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerman, the guy who created (or maybe didn't) the Internet phenomenon known as Facebook.

Oct. 8

"IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY" -- Sounding a lot like "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," this dramedy is about a depressed teenager who checks himself into an adult mental health clinic.

"LIFE AS WE KNOW IT" -- Godparents Josh Duhamel and Katherine Heigl assume custody of the children of their recently deceased friends in what appears to be a very formulaic romantic comedy.

"SECRETARIAT" -- Diane Lane and John Malkovich star as the owner and trainer of the race horse that kept America riveted while pursuing the Triple Crown in the early 1970s.

"TAMARA DREWE" -- Based on a graphic novel that itself was based on a traditional novel by Thomas Hardy, this Stephen Frears-directed drama stars Gemma Arterton as a writer determined to reclaim her childhood home.

"WAITING FOR 'SUPERMAN'" -- David Guggenheim ("An Inconvenient Truth") directs this documentary about the education system in America that will surely shock, anger and polarize viewers.

Oct. 15

"CONVICTION" -- Hilary Swank stars as woman who puts herself through law school in order to save the life of her brother (Sam Rockwell), who has been wrongly convicted of murder.

"JACKASS 3-D" -- What can you possibly say about this? Long after the fleeting concept peaked, Johnny Knoxville and his band of sick-puppy nut-jobs risk life and limb to entertain the mouth-breathing masses.

"RED" -- Screened for the press two months prior to release, this adaptation of the graphic novel perfectly mixes brains, brawn, comedy and romance and sports a (literally) killer cast including Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Mary Louise Parker, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren.

Oct. 22

"HEREAFTER"-- Director Clint Eastwood is back in Oscar-bait mode with this supernatural thriller that is already drawing comparisons to "The Sixth Sense." Matt Damon (whose character can see dead people) is one of three leads who talk about their different death experiences.

"PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2" -- It would be unfair to conclude that this film will suffer the same fate as the sequel to "The Blair Witch Project" (bad overpriced cash-in follow-up to a winning low-budget horror original), but don't be surprised if it stinks and subsequently tanks.

"THE COMPANY MEN" -- It looks promising but will almost certainly pose problems for the person in charge of marketing it. Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper consider taking manual labor jobs after a worldwide recession claims their former white collar executive careers.

Oct. 29

"SAW VII 3-D" -- This consistently high-performing franchise is a Hollywood executives' dream: It has a low-budget, requires next to no advertising, has a built-in, rabid following and always turns a healthy profit. What's not to like?

Nov. 5

"127 HOURS" -- From the folks who brought you "Slumdog Millionaire," this drama starring James Franco is based on the true story of Aron Ralston, a rock-climber who had to amputate his own arm under duress to escape certain death.

"DUE DATE" -- "The Hangover" director Todd Phillips and lead Zach Galifianakis deliver a similar comedic mismatched buddy road flick that co-stars Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx.

"FAIR GAME" -- Sean Penn (as Joseph Wilson) and Naomi Watts (as his wife Valerie Plame) star in this political thriller about the covert C.I.A. agent whose identity was vindictively leaked by the George W. Bush administration.

"MEGAMIND" -- The unlikely pair of Will Ferrell and Brad Pitt are the lead voice performers in this animated science-fiction comedy/adventure.

Nov. 12

"MORNING GLORY" -- After two opening date changes (not a good sign), this comedy about a troubled a.m. news show starring Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton and Rachel McAdams might finally make it into theaters.

"UNSTOPPABLE" -- Director Tony Scott and lead Denzel Washington team up for the fifth time in this action thriller about attempts to stop an unmanned runaway train carrying explosives.

Nov. 19

"HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS -- PART 1" -- Nearing the end of the hugely successful franchise, director David Yates sets up the final installment slated for 2011. What's it about, you ask? Does it really matter?