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Fall Preview: Film

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OCTOBER

Requiem for a Dream
Prepare for a grim, relentless barrage of druggy footage as Darren Aronofsky (who wrote and directed 1998's most eccentric sleeper, ¼) presents his blistered-lips-and-all depiction of four Coney Island junkies: Ellen Burstyn is the speed-addled mom; Jared Leto, her heroin-addicted son; and Jennifer Connelly and Marlon Wayans, his jittery girlfriend and buddy. There've been some battles with the MPAA over a threatened X rating, so it will be interesting to see who caves first. (October 6)

Meet the Parents
Ben Stiller plays Teri Polo's skittish husband-to-be, who has an agonizingly tough first run-in with her father, a surly ex-CIA psychologist played for all it's worth by Robert De Niro. Directed by Jay Roach (the man behind both Austin Powers films), the cat-and-mouse comic pairing of the Taxi Driver himself and the whiny Stiller sounds perfect. (October 6)

Two Family House
Fans of The Sopranos will be arriving en masse to check out Michael Rispoli (who appeared as Jackie Aprile on HBO's hit series) playing a real family man who yearns to transform his Staten Island home into a cabaret theater. (October 6)

Dr. T & the Women
He may falter a bit more than before, but a new Robert Altman film is still news. In his latest, Richard Gere plays a much-requested gynecologist whose well-ordered existence is coming apart because of the ladies in his life: There's his alcoholic sis (Laura Dern), his neurotic daughter (Kate Hudson), and, trickiest of all, his frazzled wife (Farrah Fawcett), who has taken to skipping in fountains totally naked. (October 13)

Billy Elliot
Boy likes ballet. Father gets angry. Universal's new art division, Universal Focus, gets rolling with this British tale about an 11-year-old (Jamie Bell) who chooses a tutu over boxing gloves and chagrins his family, most of all his testosterone-dipped dad. (October 13)

The Yards
Shady wheelings and dealings are occurring within the bowels of the New York City subway system, and James Caan plays a grimy businessman whose company repairs subway cars. We're literally in the underworld, and there's fear and corruption everywhere. Caan's nasty wife (Faye Dunaway) and scheming nephew (Mark Wahlberg) are both after the family business, and betrayals and back-stabbings abound -- particularly after Joaquin Phoenix, playing Wahlberg's childhood best friend, enters the picture. Directed by James Gray. (October 20)

Pay It Forward
Haley Joel Osment wasn't invited back to join Bruce Willis and M. Night Shyamalan for Unbreakable, perhaps as a result of his Golden Globe sniffle-fest. Nevertheless, he's featured prominently here, playing an altruistic seventh-grader who teaches his troubled parents (Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt) a thing or two about redemptive grace. We're imagining the film as the celluloid equivalent of those PRACTICE RANDOM KINDNESS and SENSELESS ACTS OF BEAUTY bumper stickers. (October 20)

Lucky Numbers
Nora Ephron follows up You've Got Mail with what seems to be a departure from her trademark sticky sweetness. Her new black comedy centers on a downtrodden TV weatherman (John Travolta) who with the help of a mischievous co-worker (Lisa Kudrow) rigs the state lottery so the numbers are in his favor. (October 27)

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2
The sequel to the highest-grossing indie film in history eschews handheld shakiness for a more traditional storytelling approach. This time around, four teenagers (all played, again, by newcomers) sign up to go on a walking tour of the Black Hills, only to return from the bewitched woods with bizarre symbols etched into their bodies and blood-curdling hallucinations. Directed by Joe Berlinger, known for his documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. (October 27)


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