Autumn films to cure election fatigue

Had enough Obama drama? Already feeling some disdain for McCain? As wall-to-wall electioneering overwhelms us this fall, there is an escape — the movies!

Between now and November, the voters must decide on a new president. But for autumnal filmgoers, the choices will be easier, thanks to a box-office ballot filled with variety. Note: Opening dates are subject to change.

Sept. 5

Bangkok Dangerous: This gritty crime thriller resurrects Nicolas Cage’s bad-boy side; the former A-lister plays a brutal hitman on assignment in Thailand opposite an Asian supporting cast. It’s directed by the Pang Brothers, remaking their own popular Hong Kong action film. Rated R.  

Sept. 12

Righteous Kill: After sharing only one brief but memorable scene in 1995’s “Heat,” powerhouses Robert De Niro and Al Pacino reunite as New York City detectives on a big serial-murder case. Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Donnie Wahlberg, and Brian Dennehy also star. Rated R.

Burn After Reading: Last fall, Joel and Ethan Coen gave us the award-winning “No Country for Old Men.” This time, they give us two really cute middle-aged ones, presenting George Clooney and Brad Pitt alongside quirky character actors John Malkovich, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton in a dark espionage comedy. Set in (but only partially filmed in) Washington, D.C., the film's madness involves a disgruntled ex-CIA agent, an oversexed gym rat, an Internet dating hook-up and a wild blackmail scheme. Rated R.

The Women: In what could turn out to be the cinematic crime of the century, Meg Ryan, Bette Midler, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes and Jada Pinkett Smith deign to remake 1939’s all-female film classic, adapted from Claire Boothe Luce’s play about infidelity and friendship. Rated PG-13.

Sept. 19

My Best Friend’s Girl: Kate Hudson, Dane Cook and Jason Biggs star in what seems to be a trend in romantic comedies with a contorted premise about dating; Hudson, of course, is the ideal prize blonde. Rated R. 
Igor: A big-time voice cast including John Cusack, Eddie Izzard, Steve Buscemi, Jennifer Coolidge, John Cleese, Sean Hayes, Molly Shannon, Jay Leno and Arsenio Hall lends talent to this animated feature about a mad scientist’s assistant who has big dreams of his own. Rated PG.

Sept. 26

The Duchess: Keira Knightley’s next literary costume drama employs the British beauty as the extravagant 18th-century aristocrat Georgiana, duchess of Devonshire, opposite Ralph Fiennes. Rated PG-13.

Eagle Eye: This assassination thriller from “Disturbia” director D.J. Caruso stars recent DUI offender Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan as strangers who find themselves the pawns of a mysterious woman who uses them against their will to further a diabolical plot. Rated PG-13.

Nights in Rodanthe: After 2002’s sexy “Unfaithful,” Diane Lane and Richard Gere join forces again in another romantic drama. This one concerns two melancholy strangers who find themselves staying together at the same picturesque North Carolina beach town. Rated PG-13.

Oct. 3

Beverly Hills Chihuahua: Walt Disney Pictures’ kid-friendly comedy about the exploits of some talking animals combines live action with special effects. Drew Barrymore voices the title’s spoiled L.A. pooch who ends up on the mean streets of Mexico. Co-starring critters are voiced by Salma Hayek, Andy Garcia and George Lopez. Rated PG.

Religulous: Lacking a Michael Moore offering this fall, this documentary from edgy political humorist and unapologetic agnostic Bill Maher is sure to stir controversy as it questions sacred institutions and exposes hypocrisy among the pious. Rated R.

The Express: A fact-based sports drama, set in the 1960s and arriving just in time for football season, remembers the groundbreaking gridiron legend of Ernie Davis (played by Rob Brown), the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. Dennis Quaid plays his coach. Rated PG.

Oct. 10

Body of Lies: Under the direction of the eminent Ridley Scott, Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe anchor one of fall’s big prestige projects. The realistic terrorism drama involves covert intelligence operatives tracking an al-Qaida leader in the Middle East, based on the David Ignatius novel. Not yet rated.
City of Ember: This family-friendly sci-fi fantasy boasts Bill Murray and scene-stealing youth Saoirse Ronan from “Atonement” in a tale about two children’s mission to save the inhabitants of a mysterious dark city. Also with Tim Robbins and Martin Landau, it’s based on the 2003 Jeanne Duprau novel. Not yet rated.

Oct. 17

Max Payne: Aimed to be the fanboy favorite this autumn, this adaptation of the well-known shooter video game lands Mark Wahlberg in the title role of a vengeful undercover DEA cop with a personal score to settle. Not yet rated. 

W.: Fewer than three weeks before his replacement is elected, the lame duck commander-in-chief gets the full Oliver Stone biopic treatment in what is sure to be the cinematic hot potato of the season. At the very least, the casting choices are inspired with, among others, Josh Brolin as George W., Elizabeth Banks as Laura Bush, Ellen Burstyn as Barbara Bush and Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney. Whatever your political persuasion, the dramatic potential is undeniable in a story about a malaprop-prone, former frat boy who finds religion and becomes the 43rd U.S. president. Not yet rated.

Oct. 24

The Brothers Bloom: Oscar winners Rachel Weisz and Adrien Brody — along with Mark Ruffalo and Robbie Coltrane — appear in this con-man comedy about a guy who gets the tables turned on him by his girlfriend when he decides to go for one last scheme with his brother and their silent partner. Rated PG-13.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year: After two insanely popular TV movie musicals with kid idols Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudges, the Disney franchise at last earns a big-screen opening. Not yet rated.

Oct. 31

Changeling: After enjoying good buzz out of this summer’s Cannes Film Festival, director Clint Eastwood’s 1920s-era mystery presents Angelina Jolie as the mother of a kidnapped 9-year-old boy. John Malkovich and  Amy Ryan of “Gone Baby Gone” provide support. Rated R.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno: Despite the racy title, look for more laughs than extreme lewdness. That’s because two once-and-future movie jesters — writer-director Kevin Smith (who challenged the initial NC-17 rating and won) and headliner Seth Rogen — are involved. The movie looks to be a lark about friends who start a porn business to impress classmates at their high school reunion. Rated R.

Nov. 7

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa: The big CGI animation family picture of the season is a sequel about that adventurous New York zoo menagerie on the run. Ben Stiller, Chris Rock and company reprise their vocal performances, this time with the gang discovering their wild roots on the dark continent. Not yet rated.  

Nov. 14

Soul Men: Sadly, this soul-music satire may be remembered for the sudden prerelease deaths of two of its costars on the same weekend. The late Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes appear opposite Samuel L. Jackson in a road comedy about backup singers who reunite after a 20-year estrangement. Not yet rated.

Quantum of Solace: Sometimes called “the 22nd James Bond picture,” depending on how you count them, the movie marks Daniel Craig's second go (after 2006's “Casino Royale”) in the role, playing a less smirking, more hardcore 007. Its title taken from an unrelated Ian Fleming short story, the film showcases a distinguished European ensemble, including Mathieu Amalric as the megalomaniacal villain and Olga Kurylenko as the main Bond girl. Vets Judi Dench and Giancarlo Giannini return. If nothing else, the action flick certainly should offer a license to eat popcorn. Not yet rated.
Australia: This lusty historical epic reunites master visual stylist Baz Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge”) and his fellow Aussie Nicole Kidman down under. They're joined by a cast of their countrymen, including hunky Hugh Jackman as Kidman's love interest. The tale of class conflict, violence and love at the dawn of World War II begins on an outback cattle station and unfolds as the Japanese attack. Both Russell Crowe and the late Heath Ledger were originally considered for the Jackman role. Not yet rated.

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