The fall film season kicks into high gear over the weekend with five major movies opening nationwide.
And with the latest box-office lineup — “The Fighting Temptations,” “Anything Else,” “Secondhand Lions,” “Cold Creek Manor” and “Underworld” — there’s a little something for everyone.
“The Fighting Temptations” mixes an inspirational story with a little romance and a whole lot of music, with R&B singers Faith Evans, Angie Stone, Montell Jordan, Bilal, rapper Zane and gospel artists Mary Mary, Ramiyah and the Blind Boys of Alabama all appearing (see “Beyonce Teams With Diddy, Destiny On ‘Temptations’ Soundtrack” ).
Of course, the singer heard loudest in the movie is Beyoncé (see “Beyonce Transforms Into Bohemian, Motherly Nightclub Singer” ), who plays Lilly, a lounge singer in a small Southern town recruited to sing in a struggling church choir by a New York advertising executive (Cuba Gooding Jr.) trying to earn an inheritance. (Click for photos from “The Fighting Temptations.” )
“The thing that attracted me to Lilly was how real she was,” Beyoncé said of her character. “She’s a real woman with issues. She made some decisions in her life that weren’t so perfect and she’s judged by a lot of people. I loved the fact that she was a Southern girl. She had a son out of wedlock. She was very, very smart, but very natural, very earthy, but there was nothing glamorous about the character. I was a lot heavier when I did it. My hair was dreaded, no makeup. I wanted people to see me like that. I wanted to become Lilly. I wanted it to be nothing like Beyoncé.”
Mike Epps and Steve Harvey also star in the movie, which was directed by Jonathan Lynn of “The Whole Nine Yards” and “My Cousin Vinny” fame.
“The music in the movie is one of the best things about it,” Beyoncé added. “Gospel music just affects you no matter who you are and how you feel; it just makes you feel comfort.”
And for moviegoers looking for a romantic comedy without the fluff, there’s Woody Allen’s “Anything Else,” which marks a return to the neurotic character studies he is best known for.
The film stars Jason Biggs as a New York writer who falls for a freewheeling sprite played by Christina Ricci, who breaks his heart and her father’s (Danny DeVito) when she has a fling with an aging artist. (Click for photos from “Anything Else.” )
“It was a very thick character that I was playing,” Biggs said. “It was a very Woody-esque character. It was a character that Woody has played and would have played had he not wanted to cast younger.”
Jimmy Fallon and Stockard Channing also co-star in “Anything Else,” while singer Diana Krall makes a cameo.
“[Allen's] films are incredibly funny because they are laughing at all the pain and trials and tribulations that as humans you go through,” Ricci said. “It’s all very reverent, but kind of profound. If you have any self-awareness at all, you are going to think this stuff is funny.”
Offering all the laughs, but more drama, is “Secondhand Lions,” starring Haley Joel Osment as a shy Texas boy in the 1960s whose mother (Kyra Sedgwick) makes him spend the summer with his oddball uncles (Michael Caine and Robert Duvall).
Osment’s character opens up as he learns about his housemates’ mysterious and dangerous past, which recently made them a lot of money. Josh Lucas (“Sweet Home Alabama”) also stars in the film, which Tim McCanlies (“The Iron Giant”) wrote and directed.
For thriller seekers, there’s “Cold Creek Manor,” starring Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone, who move from the city to the country only to discover their new house has a dark history. Kristen Stewart (“Panic Room”) plays another frightened kid, while Juliette Lewis also co-stars in the Mike Figgis (“Leaving Las Vegas,” “Timecode”) movie.
Finally, for the full-on fantasy fans, first-time director Len Wiseman brings “Underworld” to the big screen (see “Kate Beckinsale’s Next Film Mixes Vampires, ‘Matrix,’ Leather Pants” ). Kate Beckinsale stars in the film as a vampire warrior who, in between slaying werewolves, falls in love with a human peacemaker (Scott Speedman of “Felicity”). (Click for photos from “Underworld.” )
And as if five major releases were not enough, several more open in limited release, and the critically acclaimed “Lost in Translation” expands to several more cities (see “Sofia Coppola Scores Movie, Music Coups With ‘Translation’ “ ).
Veteran director John Sayles’ (“Sunshine State”) “Casa de Los Babys” brings together a strong female cast — Daryl Hannah, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Marcia Gay Harden, Mary Steenburgen and Lili Taylor — for a story about American women who travel to a South American country to adopt babies, but discover they have to establish residency there first.
Elsewhere, “E.R.” star Goran Visnjic plays a hypnotherapist hired to help track down a serial killer by communicating with a mute girl who escaped him in “Hypnotic.”
In “Demonlover,” “Basic” ‘s Connie Nielsen, Gina Gershon and Chloë Sevigny compete in the strange business of 3D Japanese manga pornography, and in the comic horror film “Bubba Ho-Tep,” Bruce Campbell plays an aged Elvis Presley battling a 4,000-year-old mummy who is sucking the souls of his fellow nursing-home residents.
Finally, the Canadian romantic comedy “Mambo Italiano” tells the tale of a young gay male couple living together, but hiding it from one of their Italian immigrant parents.
Last weekend, “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” topped the box office and ticket sales all around increased dramatically from the week before (see “Johnny Depp Captures #1 Again, This Time With ‘Mexico’” ).