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To The Rescue 

The 2004 Fall Film Preview

Summer is generally the stomping ground of cinematic superheroes -- this past one gave us Spider-Man, Catwoman and Michael Moore -- but this year's fall season is dotted with feats of comparable gallantry and bravery. The exploits of Sky Captain will grace screens in early September, while November will showcase the adventures of Mr. Incredible. And in between, we can further enjoy movies about real-life heroes (Ray Charles, John Kerry) as well as fictional ones (Team America World Police, Shaun the zombie slayer).

The year-end holiday movies begin in earnest in the days leading up to Thanksgiving; in the meantime, here's a checklist of the 32 titles that we can expect before then, as well as a few limited releases that might also land in our lap before the Yuletide season.

SEPTEMBER 10: After receiving a wayward call from a woman (Kim Basinger) who claims she's been kidnapped, a young man (Chris Evans) desperately tries to locate and rescue her in the thriller CELLULAR, co-starring William H. Macy... A remake of the Argentine art-house hit Nine Queens, CRIMINAL finds character actor John C. Reilly (Chicago, The Hours) in a rare leading role as a seasoned con man who teaches a rookie (Y Tu Mama Tambien's Diego Luna) the ropes... A 14-year-old girl (Addie Land) from a poor home becomes infatuated with the wealthy family of a school friend (Noah Fleiss) in the indie feature EVERGREEN... One of those sequels that nobody asked for (at least I didn't), RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE finds Milla Jovovich again battling zombies in yet another video-game-based gorefest.

SEPTEMBER 17: Bernie Mac stars as MR. 3000, a vain baseball player who, years after his retirement, discovers that three of his 3,000 hits have been rendered void, thus forcing him to again don the uniform in an attempt to make up the difference... NATIONAL LAMPOON'S GOLD DIGGERS centers on two young studs (Will Friedle and Chris Owen) who plan to marry two sisters (Louise Lasser and Renee Taylor) for their loot, little realizing that the much older women are actually bankrupt and are scheming to murder their suitors for the insurance money... Dashing hero Sky Captain (Jude Law), plucky newspaper reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) and feisty fighter Franky Cook (Angelina Jolie) join forces to stop a megalomaniac bent on destroying the world in the retro-flavored fantasy flick SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW... The milieu of tennis provides the backdrop for WIMBLEDON, a romantic comedy in which a struggling British player (Paul Bettany) falls for an American tennis star (Kirsten Dunst), a development that in turn sparks his agility on the courts.

SEPTEMBER 24: Already playing in limited release, DANNY DECKCHAIR is a whimsical comedy about a cement truck driver (Rhys Ifans) whose idea of a vacation is to connect a chair to helium balloons and sail off into the sky -- a feat that turns him into a media celebrity... A group of sex addicts (led by Johnny Knoxville) threatens to take over a blue-collar Baltimore neighborhood in A DIRTY SHAME, the latest kinky outing from writer-director John Waters. The cast includes Tracey Ullman as a born-again nympho with a "runaway vagina," Chris Isaak as her pleasantly surprised husband, and Selma Blair as their daughter, a go-go dancer who performs under the name Ursula Udders... Held from a January release (when it would have competed against another movie with the same plot, Mandy Moore's Chasing Liberty), FIRST DAUGHTER stars Katie Holmes as a college freshman who realizes that it's hard to be treated as a normal girl when your dad (Michael Keaton) happens to be the US President... A loving mother (Julianne Moore) is shocked when her psychiatrist (Gary Sinise) informs her that she never actually had a son and has instead been fabricating memories for the past 8 years; in between bouts of questioning her own sanity, she sets out to uncover the truth in THE FORGOTTEN... Described as a "rom zom com" (romantic zombie comedy), the British hit SHAUN OF THE DEAD centers on a slacker (Simon Pegg) who discovers that London has been overrun by the undead.

OCTOBER 1: Hopefully arriving in time to counter all this Swift Boat Veterans for Truth nonsense, GOING UPRIVER: THE LONG WAR OF JOHN KERRY traces the life of the Presidential hopeful as he moves from decorated war hero to activist to politician. The director is George Butler, whose previous documentaries include the hits Pumping Iron and The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition... A fire chief (John Travolta) is determined to save the life of one of his men (Joaquin Phoenix), who's trapped inside a burning building, in LADDER 49... A serial killer puts his marks through morally revealing scenarios in SAW, starring Cary Elwes as a potential victim and Danny Glover as the detective hot on the trail... DreamWorks, the studio behind the Shrek smashes, hopes to rake in another ton with its latest toon: SHARK TALE, in which a hip little fish (Will Smith) becomes friends with a sensitive shark (Jack Black). The vocal talent also includes Academy Award winners Robert De Niro, Renee Zellweger and Angelina Jolie, director Martin Scorsese and former Columbo star Peter Falk.

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