LOS ANGELES » Hollywood aims to help you escape from all that lousy economic news in the real world this fall, with a lineup heavy on fun and fantasy.
But Oliver Stone and Michael Douglas won’t let audiences completely off the hook. They’re bringing back Gordon Gekko.
Stone’s "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" — a follow-up to the 1987 hit that won Douglas the best-actor Academy Award — picks up with ex-con Gekko broke, alienated, barred from the stock market and trying to find a place for himself in 2008 as the global economy races toward chaos.
"He’s estranged from his daughter, he’s lost a son while he’s in prison," Douglas said. "Initially, Gordon’s more vulnerable." The key word is initially. Gekko still has tricks up his sleeve.
The "Wall Street" sequel is among releases arriving in September and October. Highlights:
Zack Snyder ("300") directs the animated adventure "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole," based on Kathryn Lasky’s children’s books about owls on a mythic quest against evil.
The animated comedy "Alpha and Omega" features the voices of Justin Long and Hayden Panettiere in a tale of two wolves on a journey after park rangers move them across country.
"Secretariat" stars Diane Lane as a housewife who takes over her ailing father’s stables, guiding the horse to the 1973 Triple Crown.
Lane was 8 years old at the time and traveling outside the United States with a theater company, yet she recalls Secretariat gripping people around the world.
"I had such a crush on Secretariat as a little girl," she said. "He was like Pegasus to me at the time."
Kristen Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver star in "You Again," a comedy about a woman and her mother coping with old high school rivals at a family wedding.
Other comic tales include: "It’s Kind of a Funny Story," about a stressed teen (Keir Gilchrist) who finds a mentor (Zach Galifianakis) at a mental clinic; Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel as a reluctant pair forced to care for their orphaned goddaughter in the romance "Life as We Know It"; "Easy A," and a comic twist on "The Scarlet Letter," with Emma Stone as a teen turning a rumor about losing her virginity to her advantage.
The sober British drama "Never Let Me Go" reunites Keira Knightley with pal Carey Mulligan, who got her start in Knightley’s "Pride & Prejudice."
"Never Let Me Go" features Mulligan, Knightley and Andrew Garfield (recently cast in the title role of the next "Spider-Man" movie) as three boarding school friends raised for a stark destiny in an alternate-reality Britain.
Among other dramatic offerings: David Fincher’s "The Social Network," a drama about the founders of Facebook; Hilary Swank in "Conviction," the story of a woman who embarks on an 18-year crusade to clear her brother (Sam Rockwell) of murder; and Woody Allen’s latest, "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger," with Naomi Watts, Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Josh Brolin, Antonio Banderas and Freida Pinto as Londoners struggling with old and new relationships.
Matt Damon and director Clint Eastwood, who collaborated on last year’s "Invictus," reunite for "Hereafter," a drama about a Frenchwoman, a British boy and an American man with unusual connections to death whose lives gradually intersect.
Damon said the film seeks answers about the most serious question — is there an afterlife waiting for people when they die? "I have to believe there is. I guess I choose to believe there is," Damon said. "I like to believe there’s a bigger point."
Three horror franchises return: "Paranormal Activity 2," a follow-up to last year’s supernatural sensation; "Saw 3D," with survivors of diabolical killer Jigsaw finding new terror as they seek solace from a self-help guru; and "Resident Evil: Afterlife," with Milla Jovovich on the job killing undead zombies.
Hollywood’s love affair with vampires continues with "Let Me In," adapted from the best-seller "Let the Right One In," about the friendship between a bullied boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and a young bloodsucker (Chloe Moretz).
Other frightening tales include "Buried," with Ryan Reynolds as an American contract driver in Iraq who wakes up buried alive in a coffin; and "My Soul to Take," Wes Craven’s tale of a serial killer who may have returned from the dead.
Ben Affleck performs in a couple of money-related dramas. In "The Company Men," Affleck stars alongside Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper and Kevin Costner in a story of downsized executives.
Affleck directs and stars in "The Town," playing a bank robber who falls for a branch manager (Rebecca Hall) his gang took hostage. "In ‘Company Men,’ we’re going down the economic ladder, and in ‘The Town,’ we’re trying to steal our way up," Affleck said.
Affleck pal Damon narrates Charles Ferguson’s documentary "Inside Job," a sweeping chronicle of the 2008 economic crisis.
Amid that crisis, Stone and Douglas unleash Gekko for their "Wall Street" sequel. Estranged from his daughter (Mulligan), Gekko ingratiates himself with her fiance (Shia LaBeouf), a young investment whiz who falls under his future father-in-law’s spell.
LaBeouf said today’s climate as depicted in "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" makes 1980s Gekko-style greed look like child’s play. "You’re dealing with money on a totally different level," LaBeouf said. " These are hustlers who could sell water to a whale. It’s cutthroat in a different way. It’s a totally different business now."
FALL FILM PREVIEW
"Alpha and Omega": Two wolves take a cross-country road trip home in an animated adventure featuring the voices of Justin Long and Hayden Panettiere.
"The American": George Clooney plays a hitman who finds romance and tranquility in the Italian countryside as he prepares for one last assignment.
"Buried": An American driver (Ryan Reynolds) in Iraq wakes up buried in a coffin with only a dying cell phone and a lighter.
"Catfish": A photographer sets out to learn the truth about a woman he falls for after striking up an online friendship with her family.
"Devil": Supernatural terror besets a group of people trapped in an elevator.
"Easy A": A modern twist on "The Scarlet Letter" has a teen (Emma Stone) turning a rumor about losing her virginity to her own advantage.
"The Freebie": A couple (writer-director Katie Aselton and Dax Shepard) try to rekindle their stagnant relationship by allowing each other a one-night stand.
"Jack Goes Boating": Philip Seymour Hoffman directs and stars as an awkward limo driver who finds the prospect of romance with a fellow shy soul (Amy Ryan).
"Lee Daniels Presents: Prince of Broadway": "Precious" director Daniels is a producer on this tale of a street hustler suddenly faced with fatherhood.
"Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole": Zack Snyder ("300") directs an animated adventure about owls on a quest against evil forces.
"Like Dandelion Dust": Mira Sorvino stars in a drama of a custody dispute between the biological parents of a 4-year-old boy and the couple that adopted him.
"Lovely, Still": A lonely old man (Martin Landau) gets a fresh taste of romance with a mystery woman (Ellen Burstyn).
"Machete": An ex-Mexican policeman (Danny Trejo) seeks vengeance against the organization that betrayed him. With Robert De Niro and Jessica Alba.
"Never Let Me Go": Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield star in an alternate-reality melodrama about boarding school friends raised for a grim fate.
"Resident Evil: Afterlife": Milla Jovovich returns as a warrior battling a plague of undead zombies. With Ali Larter.
"The Town": Ben Affleck directs and stars as a bank robber who falls for a woman (Rebecca Hall) his gang took hostage on their last job.
"The Virginity Hit": Four guys aim to lose their virginity in this comedy produced by Will Ferrell and featuring a cast of newcomers.
"Waiting for Superman": Director Davis Guggenheim ("An Inconvenient Truth") studies the ills of America’s public school system.
"Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps": Michael Douglas and Oliver Stone resurrect financial shark Gordon Gekko amid the 2008 meltdown. With Shia LaBeouf.
"You Again": A woman and her mother (Kristen Bell and Jamie Lee Curtis) face their old high school rivals at a family wedding. With Sigourney Weaver.
"You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger": Woody Allen’s latest stars Naomi Watts, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Brolin and Antonio Banderas in a tale of messy relationships.
"The Company Men": A sales executive (Ben Affleck) copes with hard times after his company downsizes. With Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Costner.
"Conviction": Hilary Swank stars as a woman on an 18-year crusade to clear her brother (Sam Rockwell) on a murder conviction.
"Freakonomics": Documentary filmmakers including Alex Gibney and Morgan Spurlock team for a film based on the book that explores the "hidden side of everything."
"Gerrymandering": Arnold Schwarzenegger is among those featured in a documentary about the fight to redraw congressional districts after the U.S. census.
"Hatchet II": A sequel to the 2006 low-budget horror romp pits a team of hunters against a crazed killer in the Louisiana swamps.
"Hereafter": Matt Damon stars in Clint Eastwood’s drama about an American, French woman and London boy whose lives cross after they’re touched by death.
"Howl": James Franco plays poet Allen Ginsberg in the story of his epic work "Howl" and the obscenity trial it provoked.
"Inside Job": Matt Damon narrates director Charles Ferguson’s documentary examining the global economic crisis of 2008.
"I Spit on Your Grave": A woman takes vicious revenge on the men who raped her and left her for dead in this remake of the 1978 shocker.
"It’s Kind of a Funny Story": A stressed teen (Keir Gilchrist) checks himself into a mental clinic. With Zach Galifianakis and Emma Roberts.
"Jackass 3D": Johnny Knoxville and his pals return for more hazardously comic stunts and pranks.
"Let Me In": A troubled boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) finds friendship with a young vampire (Chloe Moretz) in an adaptation of the best-seller "Let the Right One In."
"Life as We Know It": A quarrelsome pair (Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel) must set aside their differences to care for their orphaned goddaughter.
"Monsters": A journalist hunts for a missing woman in a Central American zone quarantined because of creatures that appear after a NASA probe crashes there.
"My Soul to Take": Wes Craven’s latest fright flick tells the tale of a serial killer who may have returned from the dead to continue his rampage.
"Nowhere Boy": Young John Lennon (Aaron Johnson) suffers through mother issues in the formative years of the Beatles. With Kristin Scott Thomas.
"Paranormal Activity 2": The low-budget surprise horror smash spawns a follow-up with a new chapter in the ghost story.
"Red": Former agents (Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich) are caught in a deadly pursuit as they seek to uncover a CIA conspiracy.
"Saw 3D": The horror franchise continues its annual ritual as fresh terror erupts after survivors of killer Jigsaw seek solace from a self-help guru.
"Secretariat": Diane Lane stars as the housewife who oversees the legendary horse to a Triple Crown victory in 1973. With John Malkovich.
"The Social Network": Director David Fincher chronicles the drama behind the founding of Facebook. With Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake.
"Stone": A prison inmate (Edward Norton) uses his wife (Milla Jovovich) to manipulate a parole officer (Robert De Niro).
"Tamara Drewe": Stephen Frears directs a British pastoral romp about a writer (Gemma Arterton) whose homecoming sends her village into an uproar.
"Today’s Special": A sous chef at a grand Manhattan restaurant is forced to take over his family’s failing Tandoori joint.
"Wild Target": An assassin (Bill Nighy) picks up an apprentice (Rupert Grint) and falls for an intended victim (Emily Blunt) in this British crime comedy.
Note: Release dates are subject to change, and some films will play in limited release.