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Fall Preview 2009: Escape economic woes with great flicks
Actor Max Records plays Max in the film adaptation of the children’s book, "Where the Wild Things Are."

For most of 2009, optimism has been in shorter supply than H1N1 vaccines. I’m happy to inject a dose of good news by telling you things are about to get better — at the movies, at least.

The fall movie season offers all sorts of things to look forward to. Disney returns to hand-drawn animation (and controversy!) with "The Princess and the Frog." The "Twilight" saga continues with "New Moon." Lars Von Trier literally tortures us with "Antichrist" (so divisive the Cannes jury invented an "anti-award" for it). Roland Emmerich destroys the world again in "2012." Pedro Almodóvar directs Penelope Cruz in "Broken Embraces." Richard Kelly ("Donnie Darko") returns to sci-fi with "The Box." James Cameron releases the highly-anticipated "Avatar." Audrey Tautou stars in "Coco Before Chanel." Michael Moore explains the financial collapse in "Capitalism: A Love Story." The Coen Brothers reveal a mysterious new movie called "A Serious Man." And a couple of Sundance faves, "An Education" and "Precious," reach our ZIP code. We’ll also get 10 movies directed by women (that’s relatively a lot for one season), along with the usual romantic comedy, horror, family and holiday fare.

Yes, something for everyone this fall. But here are my choices for most promising of the season.

‘Bright Star’

The set-up: 19th century drama about the three-year love affair between Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) and poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw), who died at 25. Won’t be a dry eye in the theatre.
All you need to know: Jane Campion ("The Piano") directs a love story full of longing and tragedy. The buzz among those who’ve seen it says the pic will make Cornish a star.
Release date: Sept. 18

‘The Informant!’

The set-up: Director Steven Soderbergh satirizes the corporate whistleblower film (and his own "Erin Brockovich"). Righteous but delusional company man Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) provides inside information to the government about his price-fixing employer.
All you need to know: Watch the trailer. Soderbergh has been erratic lately to say the least ("Che" then a failed Liberace biopic project), but he excels at character-driven pieces and works well with Damon.
Release date: Sept. 18

‘The Invention of Lying’

The set-up: In a world where lying does not exist, loser Mark (Ricky Gervais) tells the first lie then proceeds to fib his way to what seems a perfect life. This morality farce provides an ideal role for Gervais.
All you need to know: Gervais stars, co-wrote and co-directed. And check out this supporting cast: Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, Christopher Guest, Louis C.K., Jonah Hill, Martin Starr, Tina Fey, and Jeffrey Tambor.
Release date: Oct. 2

‘Whip It’

The set-up: Misfit, underdog Texas teen Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page) finds strength and identity in roller derby when she teams with a squad of rebels portrayed by Drew Barrymore, Kristen Wiig, Juliette Lewis, and Ari Graynor.
All you need to know: I have no strong argument for this, only the sense that Wiig, Page, Barrymore and co. will have loads of fun with this oddball take on the underdog movie. This is also Barrymore’s directorial debut.
Release date: Oct. 2

‘The Road’

The set-up: Allegorical survival story in which a man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) journey across a post-apocalyptic landscape searching for civilization.
All you need to know: The release date for this one has bounced around — bad sign. But it’s still Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, and Robert Duvall in a Cormac McCarthy story. Cautious optimism on this one.
Release date: Oct. 16

‘Where the Wild Things Are’

The set-up: Live-action telling — with big furry costumes — of Maurice Sendak’s beloved children’s book.
All you need to know: Spike Jonze’ adaptation looks bizarre and worthy of the book’s imaginative spirit. Possibly the best trailer of 2009.
Release date: Oct. 16


The set-up: Biographical drama about legendary, ill-fated pilot Amelia Earhart (Hilary Swank). Supporting roles by Richard Gere and Ewan McGregor.
All you need to know: Honestly, biopics feel a bit tired at the moment, but Mira Nair is one of the world’s best directors and Swank is perfect for the role.
Release date: Oct. 23


The set-up: Another biographical drama, this one about Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) and his campaign to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup during his first term as president in post-apartheid South Africa.
All you need to know: Eastwood directing Freeman and Matt Damon in a Mandela biopic equals the surest Oscar bet in years. Look for Freeman to give one of his best performances in a project he worked for years to get produced.
Release date: Dec. 11