25 must-see movies

Fall. The summer roller coaster rides have ended, and you leave the theater, stuffed with popcorn, a bit queasy. It’s time for something quieter, something of substance. The 2006 fall movie season has that in spades. The guy movies are slightly smarter, the chick flicks are slightly longer and biopics suddenly start appearing

from every corner. Family films jostle for “Cars”-like success, as each and every movie battles for a golden Oscar nomination.

Note: All dates are subject to change.


It’s a good time to be a guy. We’ve got boxers, detectives, kung fu masters and James Bond.

The Black Dahlia

Brian De Palma’s big-screen version of James Ellroy’s novel is less literate than “L.A. Confidential,” and with a less dazzling cast, but it’s far more lurid, punchy and personal. Two ex-boxers (Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart) try to solve the (partially factual) case of a murdered would-be actress (Mia Kershner). Hillary Swank and Scarlett Johansson co-star. It’s one of the year’s best films. (Sept. 15)

Casino Royale

The fall’s must-see movie. Martin Campbell (“Goldeneye”) updates the first Ian Fleming novel. Will Daniel Craig join the ranks of Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan as one of the great James Bonds, or will he sink into parody like Timothy Dalton or George Lazenby? (Nov. 17)

The Departed

Martin Scorsese adapts Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s great Hong Kong film “Infernal Affairs” (2002) about an undercover cop infiltrating the mob and a gangster infiltrating the police department. Jack Nicholson signs on with Scorsese for the first time, and Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon co-star. (Oct. 6)


For the first time since leaving Hong Kong for Hollywood, Jet Li is teamed with a Hong Kong director who can keep up with him. Ronny Yu (“The Bride with White Hair”) helms this biopic about Chinese martial arts master Huo Yuanjia (1869-1910). “Fearless” has already opened big in China and Hong Kong;it should be at least as good, if not better than, “Hero.” (Sept. 22)

Flags of Our Fathers

Clint Eastwood unveils his first war movie since “Heartbreak Ridge” (1986), though this one, a story of Iwo Jima, is a great deal more serious. Next year, Eastwood will follow up with “Letters from Iwo Jima,” a second feature told from the Japanese point of view. (Oct. 20)

OTHER PICKS: “Renaissance” (Sept. 29), “Killshot” (Oct. 20) and “The Prestige” (Oct. 20).


Fall comedies tend to be a little less like “Little Man” and more like “Little Miss Sunshine.” Here are some of the most promising.

For Your Consideration

Christopher Guest (“This Is Spinal Tap,” “Best in Show”) checks in with his fifth faux documentary, this one spoofing movie awards-season buzz — just in time for real-life awards-season buzz. His usual cast of misfits is on board, plus Ricky Gervais, Bob Balaban and Claire Forlani. (Nov. 22)

Running with Scissors

Augusten Burroughs’ hilarious collection of comical, autobiographical essays becomes a new comedy-drama, starring Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin, Gwyneth Paltrow, Evan Rachel Wood and Joseph Cross as young Augusten. (Oct. 20)

School for Scoundrels

Billy Bob Thornton continues to milk his new comic sourpuss image as a manly-man who teaches wimps how to seduce women by becoming outlaws. Todd Phillips (“Old School,” “Starsky & Hutch”) directs, hopefully with the same gleeful naughtiness. (Sept. 29)

Tenacious D in ‘The Pick of Destiny’

Jack Black’s real-life rock band Tenacious D plays a fictitious rock band called Tenacious D in this road-trip comedy. The newly-formed duo attempts to steal a magical guitar pick. It’s gotta be better than “Nacho Libre,” right? (Nov. 17)

Deck the Halls

Lately, Christmas comedies have ventured into the land of Christmas turkeys (“Surviving Christmas,” anything with Tim Allen, etc.). But there’s hope for this one: Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick play neighbors who try to outdo each other’s electric holiday decorations. (Nov. 22)

OTHER PICKS: “Man of the Year” (Oct. 13), “Borat” (Nov. 3), “Stranger Than Fiction” (Nov. 10) and “Sleeping Dogs Lie.” (TBD)


As summer ends, romantic comedies usually give way to weepy dramas and British costume pics. Fortunately, there are some alternatives.

Marie Antoinette

Sofia Coppola’s follow-up to her great “Lost in Translation” did not fare very well during its Cannes debut, but it still could be the fall’s most beautiful film. Kirsten Dunst stars as the young queen of France. (Oct. 20)


Penelope Cruz stars in her third film with director Pedro Almodovar. In his new film — the title of which translates to “Return” — a mother’s ghost visits her daughters to attain the closure denied to her in life. (Nov. 22)

The Holiday

Writer-director Nancy Meyers (“Something’s Gotta Give”) strikes chick-flick gold with her romantic comedy cast: Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black, Rufus Sewell and Edward Burns. Some of them fall in love and some of them will be kooky sidekicks. (Dec. 8)

The Good German

If you’re looking for potential Oscar nom-

inees, look no further than Steven Soder-

bergh’s adaptation of Joseph Kanon’s novel. A reporter returns to post-war Germany to find his mistress and is lured into a deadly mystery. Oscar-winners George Clooney and Cate Blanchett star. (Dec. 8)

Little Children

Actor-turned-director Todd Field builds on his smashing directorial debut “In the Bedroom” with this adaptation of a novel by Tom Perrotta (“Election”). A cast of Oscar hopefuls (Jennifer Connelly, Kate Winslet, etc.) plays a series of married couples whose lives cross in various, desperate ways.

(Oct. 6)

OTHER PICKS: “The Last Kiss” (Sept. 15), “Infamous” (Oct. 13), “The Queen” (Oct. 13), “Babel” (Oct. 20) and “A Good Year” (Nov. 10).


This fall promises more computer-animated films mixed with some genuinely promising items; now movies are less about energy and more about imagination.

Happy Feet

The great Australian director George Miller hits the big screen for the first time since his 1998 classic “Babe: Pig in the City.” In this computer-animated musical, emperor penguins communicate and mate through song. One penguin is born without the ability to sing, but he makes up for it by tap-dancing. Robin Williams, Hugh Jackman, Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman and Brittany Murphy provide voices. (Nov. 17)


An honest-to-goodness live-action family drama that will have little girls dreaming of owning their own ponies. Alison Lohman stars as a girl who tries to tame a wild horse. It’s based on the 1941 novel by Mary O’Hara, also filmed in 1943 as “My Friend Flicka.” (Oct. 20)

Flushed Away

This is almost guaranteed to have its share of bodily-function jokes, but it comes from Aardman Animations, the home of “Wallace & Gromit,” “Chicken Run” and other favorites. A ritzy, conceited rat accidentally winds up in the London sewers and must adapt to his new environment. (Nov. 3)


Terry Gilliam’s modern, reportedly bizarre updating of “Alice in Wonderland” may be too grotesque for younger viewers, but it promises some memorable visuals. (Oct. 20)

OTHER PICKS: “Stormbreaker” (Oct. 6), “Night at the Museum” (Dec. 22), “Lassie” (TBD)


For some reason, the fall art house movies buck the trend of polite, middlebrow award-contenders and venture into the realm of the truly subversive.


A Film About the Pixies

The Roxie will open this documentary/concert movie about arguably the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band of all time. Frank Black (a.k.a. Black Francis), Kim Deal and the others bash out their greatest tunes for all to hear. (Sept. 29)

Mutual Appreciation

Thanks to aggressive adoration from film critics, Andrew Bujalski’s amazing debut feature, “Funny Ha Ha,” was eventually rescued from oblivion and distributed. Now the Red Vic opens his follow-up, another drama of disaffected ennui so funny it’s disturbing. (Sept. 29)

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

Oscar-nominated documentarian Kirby Dick (“Sick,” “Twist of Faith”) unveils a much-needed exposé on the ultra-secretive Motion Picture Ratings Board and its shady dealings that extend — frighteningly — much farther than just the movies. (Sept. 15)

Fast Food Nation

Along with the summer’s “A Scanner Darkly,” Richard Linklater offers a twofer with this fiction film based on the nonfiction book by Eric Schlosser. Cheeseburgers may become the greatest movie villains since Darth Vader or Enron. (Nov. 17)

49 Up

Yep. Another seven years have passed and Michael Apted revisits his legendary ongoing documentary series, begun when his British subjects were just seven years old. (Oct. 6)


The maker of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” John Cameron Mitchell, has already raised hackles with his sex-drenched second feature, the story of several outcasts who meet and sleep with each other at an underground salon. (Oct. 6)

OTHER PICKS: “Edmond”(Sept. 15), “Jimmy and Judy” (Sept. 15), “The Science of Sleep” (Sept. 22), “American Hardcore” (Oct. 6) and “Old Joy” (Oct. 20).

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