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Posted: Wednesday, Sep. 03, 2008

Fall films line up for male call

By Lawrence Toppman
Published in: Eye

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This is such a male-centric movie autumn that even films that don't rely exclusively on the draw of a leading man don't go far in the other direction.

Still, there's plenty to inspire anticipation. Here are a baker's dozen that whet my appetite:

‘Burn After Reading' (Sept. 12)

Why: The Coen Brothers work better for me in humorous mode than pseudo-horror. I don't think you can go wrong with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton and John Malkovich in a dark comedy about a CIA agent blackmailed by two dopey gym employees.

‘Ghost Town' (Sept. 19)

Why: I never get tired of Ricky Gervais, and I want to see if he can carry a film as a leading man. This comedy is about a dentist who sees ghosts and is pestered by one of them to break up his widow's impending marriage.

‘The Secret Life of Bees' (Oct. 17)

Why: Dakota Fanning, the best actress of her generation, flees an abusive stepfather with caretaker Jennifer Hudson and settles in with beekeeping sisters Queen Latifah, Sophie Okonedo and Alicia Keys in S.C. in 1964.

‘Miracle at St. Anna' (Sept. 26)

Why: Director Spike Lee keeps challenging himself. Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso and Omar Benson Miller play American soldiers who get trapped in a Tuscan village during World War II and befriend an Italian boy.

‘High School Musical 3: Senior Year'

(Oct. 24)

Why: This is my chance to find out what the television phenomenon is all about, and I enjoyed Zac Efron in “Hairspray.” He and Vanessa Hudgens lead the group of kids staging a musical to explore their personal feelings.

‘Changeling' (Oct. 24)

Why: Angelina Jolie stars as a mother whose son is kidnapped, and who suspects the boy brought back is not her child. And Clint Eastwood directs. And the cast includes John Malkovich, Amy Ryan and Colm Feore.

‘Synecdoche, New York' (Oct. 24)

Why: Charlie Kaufman makes his directing debut with a look at a disgruntled theater director (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Here's where all the supporting actresses are: Samantha Morton, Dianne Wiest, Emily Watson, Hope Davis, Catherine Keener, Michelle Williams, Jennifer Jason Leigh.

‘Australia' (Nov. 14)

Why: Director Baz Luhrmann loves to go over the top, and what could offer more opportunities than an epic about an Englishwoman (Nicole Kidman) who falls in love with a cattle drover (Hugh Jackman) during the bombing of remote Australia during World War II?

‘Milk' (Nov. 26)

Why: Gus Van Sant seemed a good choice to direct this biopic about Harvey Milk (Sean Penn), the first openly gay elected official in a large city (San Francisco). The almost all-male cast includes James Franco, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch and Diego Luna.

‘Frost/Nixon' (Dec. 5)

Why: We have no more adept actor than Frank Langella, especially when playing powerful, somewhat sinister guys. He should be an ideal Richard Nixon, squaring off against David Frost (Michael Sheen) in 1970s interviews where Nixon accepted blame for Watergate.

‘Doubt' (Dec. 12)

Why: More heavyweights: Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a priest who may have abused a student in 1964, and Meryl Streep plays the nun who decides he has and aims to drive him from the church. John Patrick Shanley wrote and directed this adaptation of his play.

‘The Tale of Despereaux' (Dec. 19)

Why: I like cartoon mice. Three big-eared characters – a bold mouse, an unhappy rat and a bumbling servant girl – set out to assist a princess; Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman, Tracey Ullman, Emma Watson and Kevin Kline supply the voices.

‘Revolutionary Road' (Dec. 26)

Why: Reteaming of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. They play a couple living through 10 years of a rocky Connecticut marriage in this drama directed by Winslet's husband, Sam Mendes (who won an Oscar for a similar theme in “American Beauty”).

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