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October lite

By PETER KEOUGH  |  September 17, 2009

Given the tenor of the rest of this week's movies, the title WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (October 16) might leave you bracing for the worst. But no fear — it's Spike Jonze's live-action adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic children's book about a lonely boy who escapes into an imaginary world. Catherine Keener, Max Records, and Mark Ruffalo can all be found there. The following week it'll be joined by ASTRO BOY (October 23), David Bowers's big-screen version of a 1951 Japanese comic strip about a scientist who constructs a powerful robot in the image of his dead son. Freddie Highmore and Nicolas Cage speak up on behalf of it.

No fall leading up to Oscar season would be complete without an epic, all-star bio-pic, and Mira Nair's AMELIA fills the bill, with Hilary Swank as the doomed 1930s aviatrix. Ewan McGregor and Richard Gere pitch in with the ground crew. Also vying for Academy attention are a trio of films by hot young directors. Based on the Darren Shan series of novels, Paul (American Pie) Weitz's CIRQUE DU FREAK: THE VAMPIRE'S ASSISTANT (October 23) stars John C. Reilly, Willem Dafoe, and Salma Hayek in its story of a non-violent revenant and his young protégé. Jared Hess of Napoleon Dynamite fame returns with GENTLEMAN BRONCOS (October 30), in which a teenager pens a novel that's plagiarized by a famous writer. Sam Rockwell and Michael Angarano also star. And another teenager with problems is looking for love in a trailer camp in Chuck & Buck maestro Miguel Arteta's YOUTH IN REVOLT (October 30), which has superhot Michael Cera and Justin Long.

 
VIDEO: The trailer for Men Who Stare at Goats.

NOVEMBER
Another indie auteur we haven't heard from in a while, Richard Kelly, hopes to recover the Donnie Darko magic with THE BOX (November 6). In this adaptation of a Richard Matheson (I Am Legend) short story, a couple receive a mysterious box that offers them wealth — but only if they agree to kill a stranger. The film was shot locally, with a cast including Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, and Frank Langella.

No less frightening is Olatunde Osunsanmi's THE FOURTH KIND (November 6), a based-in-fact thriller about an Alaskan psychotherapist who's treating victims of alien abductions. And with Milla Jovovich playing the shrink, you know it's got to be true.

Another based-on-fact flick stretching credulity is MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS (November 6), Grant Heslov's black-comic adaptation of Jon Ronson's non-fiction bestseller about a top-secret military unit of black-ops psychic warriors. George Clooney, Kevin Spacey, and the inescapable Ewan McGregor star. And finally, here's a story that might not be true but is all too believable: Oren Moverman's debut drama, THE MESSENGER (November 6), in which an officer returns from Iraq and is assigned to break the bad news to the next of kin of those killed in action. Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, and Samantha Morton help out.

At this point, early though it may be, I could really use a feel-good holiday movie. Robert Zemeckis obliges with the umpteenth adaptation of Charles Dickens's A CHRISTMAS CAROL (November 6), this one boasting 3-D performance-capture animation and a cast starring Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, and Robin Penn Wright. Also looking as if it might pull a few heartstrings is Richard Curtis's PIRATE RADIO (November 6), a story about an illegal radio station broadcasting from a ship in the North Sea in the '60s starring Bill Nighy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Kenneth Branagh.

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