We're now in the early stages of the fall movie season, that delightful time of year when studios attempt to atone for the transgressions of previous months by releasing an onslaught of pedigreed awards bait from October through December.
While this year's roster doesn't appear to be particularly notable (especially with the bizarre shelving of Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island"), hopefully some of the smaller films will generate some impressive buzz.
In the meantime, here are 10 movies that already have me excited (ranked in order of potential awesomeness):
1. "Where the Wild Things Are" (Oct. 16, wide)
I wasn't even a huge fan of the book as a kid, but the previews have me convinced that Spike Jonze's adaptation of the beloved fantasy story could very well be one of the most charming and visually stunning films of the year.
Casting James Gandolfini as the voice of the primary Wild Thing may seem obtuse at first, but just watch the trailer. If his interactions with young Max don't make you tear up and leave you grinning from ear to ear, then I submit that you have no soul.
2. "Nine" (Nov. 25, limited)
Daniel Day-Lewis' presence alone would be enough to push "Nine" onto my "must-see" list.
But when you consider its origins as a Broadway musical based on Federico Fellini's masterpiece "8 1/2," and add in the fact that it's directed by Rob Marshall (who should have won an Oscar for "Chicago"), it becomes clear that in addition to another great Day-Lewis performance, we can also anticipate a brilliantly theatrical production at a time when the musical genre could use a boost.
Oh, and Nicole Kidman being all slinky and seductive is always a plus in my book.
3. "The Lovely Bones" (Dec. 11, limited)
Peter Jackson is, quite simply, the man.
We haven't heard from him since 2005's "King Kong" (although he produced this year's impressive "District 9"), but hopefully this adaptation of Alice Sebold's murder yarn will be worth the wait. Look for a return to the filmmaker's more psychologically subtle, fantastical filmmaking style, as in "Heavenly Creatures."
4. "Paranormal Activity" (Now playing limited; expanding)
Buzz is already through the roof for this documentary-style horror flick about a couple experiencing supernatural phenomena in their suburban home.
The previews look sufficiently creepy, and the film is drawing comparisons to 1999's masterful "The Blair Witch Project," a prospect that has me most interested indeed.
Let's hope some stilted acting doesn't get in the way of the generally creepy, dread-inducing atmosphere the film reportedly evokes.
5. "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnasuss" (Dec. 25, limited)
I'm always up for some Terry Gilliam experimentation, even if the guy hasn't given us a good film since 1998's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."
Seems to get hit with the worst luck, though, and his latest project starring Heath Ledger is no exception. Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell all stepped in to replace the late actor in various scenes, and the result looks like a promisingly twisted Faustian fantasy with some truly wild visuals.
Consider me psyched, but very much bracing for a letdown.
6. "A Christmas Carol" (Nov. 6, wide)
I'm not ashamed to say that Robert Zemeckis' "The Polar Express" will haunt and terrify me 'til my dying day, but his retelling of Charles Dickens' timeless (and therefore infinitely remakable) classic looks a fair bit more fun, thanks to improved computer effects and the presence of Jim Carrey as not only Ebenezer Scrooge, but also all three Christmas ghosts.
And am I alone in thinking that casting Gary Oldman as Tiny Tim is pretty much the best idea ever? Thought not.
7. "Ong Bak 2: The Beginning" (Oct. 23, limited)
The first "Ong Bak" was one of the most amazing martial arts films of recent years.
So amazing, in fact, that star Tony Jaa had to disappear into the jungles of Thailand for several months to become one with nature and decide how to top himself for part two. (True story, by the way.)
Nobody, but nobody, kicks butt like Tony Jaa, and even if the movie consists of nothing except him kneeing people in the head for two hours, I would consider it time well-spent.
8. "Sherlock Holmes" (Dec. 25, wide)
This should be the start of a second major franchise for Robert Downey Jr. after having his career recharged by the smash hit "Iron Man," and a return to form for director Guy Ritchie after having the life drained out of him by the succubus called Madonna.
I've heard grumblings that the movie bypasses the more cerebral aspects of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective stories, but I don't see the harm in having a little fun at the expense of the ridiculously intricate explanations and long-winded speechifying found in Doyle's work. Yeah, I said it.
9. "A Serious Man" (Now playing limited; expanding)
The Coen Brothers continue to churn out films pretty much every year, but quality doesn't appear to be suffering — the Coens are just that hardcore.
Their latest, about a "serious man" who finds his carefully ordered existence crumbling apart piece by piece, looks like something different for them, and sports what may be the season's most original and provocative trailer.
10. "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" (Nov. 20, limited)
"Shoot him again — his soul is still dancing." With these words, Nicolas Cage has actually managed to get me interested in one of his new films.
Here he plays a strung-out dirty cop investigating immigrant murders in New Orleans (the movie apparently has nothing to do with 1992's great "Bad Lieutenant" starring Harvey Keitel), and with any luck director Werner Herzog will be able to get out of him one of those fantastic "crazy Nic Cage" roles we used to know and love before the actor decided to make the slow slide into irrelevance.
Jason Wallis is a News-Sentinel copy editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.