Jigsaw won't lie still, and neither, it seems, will the Middle East. Hollywood has put some of its best earners on the job. October opens with Grace Is Gone (Oct. 5), in which John Cusack portrays an Iraq war widower; Rendition (Oct. 19) depicts Reese Witherspoon's search for her Egyptian-born husband, who's disappeared behind the CIA's black curtain. Lions for Lambs (Nov. 9) offers multiple storylines involving U.S. politics, academics and the war in Afghanistan, plus heavyweights Robert Redford, Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep. Stepping back a bit, Mike Nichols' Charlie Wilson's War (Dec. 25), starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, sets its oil-and-desert-warfare action in the 1980s.
Look for easier laughs when the Farrelly Brothers and Ben Stiller team up again in The Heartbreak Kid (Oct. 5). And what about that buzz for Bee Movie (Nov. 2), an animated comedy about the other black-and-gold, starring the voice of Jerry Seinfeld?
By fall, Oscar is in the crosshairs, and meaty dramas abound. Drawing inspiration from '70s-style thrillers, Michael Clayton (Oct. 5) finds George Clooney and Tom Wilkinson butting heads at a top law firm that might be involved in a corporate conspiracy. Opening Oct. 19, Reservation Road, adapted from the 1998 novel, tracks two sets of couples whose lives are disrupted by the hit-and-run death of a child. Things We Lost in the Fire (Oct. 19), from After the Wedding's Susanne Bier, depicts a widow (Halle Berry) who takes in her late husband's junkie pal (Benicio Del Toro). Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe star in Ridley Scott's crime drama about drug smugglers in 1970s Harlem; American Gangster opens Nov. 2.
A number of classics and other weighty tomes are tumbling off the bookshelves and into theaters this fall. They include: Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, set in Afghanistan (Nov. 2); Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men, starring Javier Bardem, and lensed by the Coen brothers (Nov. 9); and Love in the Time of Cholera, from Mike Newell (Nov. 16). An action epic based on that high school chore, the centuries-old poem Beowulf, is due out Nov. 16. Ian McEwan's Atonement gets the big-screen treatment on Dec. 7.
For popcorn fare, there's David Slade's 30 Days of Night (Oct. 19), about vampires above the Arctic Circle, where there's a month of uninterrupted night. Francis Lawrence directs box-office fave Will Smith in I Am Legend (Dec. 14), a thriller that pits Smith, the last man on earth, against man-eating mutants.
And speaking of the sparkle season, we're on track for two upbeat films about toys: In Fred Klaus (Nov. 9), Vince Vaughn causes comic disorder at the North Pole toy factory; one week later, we get Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, starring Dustin Hoffman as a quirky toy-store owner. For polarizing holiday fare, sentimentalists and everyone else can duke it out over the sure-to-be-golden-lit Thomas Kinkade's The Christmas Cottage (Nov. 30). However, the real battle takes place on Christmas Day, when Aliens vs. Predator Requiem opens.
Finally, what's fall without a film festival or two? A pair of long-running local festivals return. The 22nd Annual Pittsburgh International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival (www.pilgff.org) runs Oct. 19-28, followed closely by the 26th Annual Three Rivers Film Festival (www.3rff.com), unspooling Nov. 2-15.