Excitement! Dread! Blatant Oscar baiting!

FALL ARTS PREVIEW: A select guide to Hollywood's fall releases
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Where the Wild Thing Are Hip

cheryl@sfbg.com

Let's be honest, film fans: summer 2009 hasn't exactly been an exercise in awesome. Early entries like X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Terminator Salvation were disappointing; hyped projects like Public Enemies and Brüno offered some entertainments, but overall felt kinda meh. The Hangover, Up, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Star Trek may have been mostly deserving of their $250 million-plus hauls, but think how many poor suckers emptied their wallets at the sublimely awful Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which has raked in a bone-rattling $400 million so far. (That's a lotta robot balls.)

But in Hollywood, there's always hope. District 9 kicked ass, and Inglourious Basterds — while not Quentin Tarantino's masterpiece, not by a forehead-carving longshot — at least provoked spirited debate among filmgoers who've been chomping on flaccid fare like GI Joe for months. What follows is a selective list of upcoming releases (dates are subject to change), including some surefire Oscar contenders, though I'm still holding out hope for a dark horse Drag Me to Hell nomination or two.

Sept. 11: In behind-the-scenes Vogue doc The September Issue, the devil wears Prada and busts fashionista chops while getting her magazine's most important issue to press. Anna Wintour takes off her sunglasses! She cooly dismisses headlines, underlings, feathers, and an ugly pink-and-black ensemble! Director RJ Cutler (producer of 1993's The War Room) gets the ever-so-glamorous dirt. Also out today: The Hills fembot Audrina Patridge brings her ceiling eyes to the big screen in horror flick Sorority Row; and mumblecore master Andrew Bujalski rolls out his third feature, after 2002's Funny Ha Ha and 2005's Mutual Appreciation.

Sept. 18: In a clash of the zeitgeists, Transformers thespian Megan Fox stars as a demonic high schooler in the Diablo Cody-scripted Jennifer's Body. Irony is, like, so hot, y'know? For The Informant!, Steven Soderbergh returns from indieland to "from the director of Ocean's Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen" mode. His newest is the tale of a goofy, whistleblowing agribusinessman played by a fat-and-mustachioed Matt Damon.

Sept. 25: Proud, profiteering misogynist Tucker Max — a figurehead in the "fratire" literary movement — cowrote the script for I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, based on his book (in turn, based on his blog), which kinda looks like a crasser spin on The Hangover. Fame updates the 1980 high school song-and-dance classic, a remake that actually makes sense given the popularity of the High School Musical series and all those bajillions of televised talent contests.

Oct. 2: Judging by its trailer, Zombieland could be the greatest movie ever made. Also: British footy drama The Damned United, with a script adapted by Frost/Nixon (2008) screenwriter Peter Morgan; and the latest from Michael Moore (the self-explanatory Capitalism: A Love Story) and the Coen brothers (A Serious Man, a '60s-set black comedy that features no major movie stars).

Oct. 16: At long-friggin'-last, the Cormac McCarthy adaptation The Road — starring Viggo Mortensen and directed by John Hillcoat (2005's The Proposition )— comes shuffling down the postapocalyptic highway. Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are squares off for its twee-off with Wed Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox (out Nov. 13).

Oct. 23: Lars von Trier's Antichrist shocked Cannes — will it make a splash here, opposite Saw VI (oh yeah, they made a sixth one)?

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