October movies

Filming ''Alfie'' was no less a personal experience for Pope. ''I've wanted to remake this movie since I was 13,'' she says wistfully. ''It was just so bittersweet -- the guy who's afraid of love.'' And who may yet have a tough time finding it. WHAT’S AT STAKE Law's potential overexposure. He's in not one, not two, but six films between September and Christmas. (Oct. 22)

I [Love] Huckabees

Russell has always dangled on the edge -- from the incest comedy ''Spanking the Monkey'' to his biggest hit, 1999's prescient Gulf War phantasmagoria, ''Three Kings.'' But his latest experiment in random raucousness might just be his strangest movie yet. In the ensemble comedy ''Huckabees,'' Hoffman and Tomlin are existential detectives who track their clients' every move in hopes of helping them answer the Big Questions. When a wussy environmentalist (Schwartzman) enlists their help to better understand his conflict with a rising executive at Huckabees department stores (Law), their bumbling behavior sets off a bizarre chain of events. (Want more? Well, what could be weirder than appearances from Tippi Hedren and Shania Twain?)

''I kept saying to David, 'I'm not the smartest person in the world, but do you even want this to be accessible?''' laughs Hoffman, who reveals that his on-screen Beatlesque hairstyle ''is really my hair! Wigs are painful and sticky and hot. I haven't worn one since 'Hook.'''

Wahlberg, who also appeared in ''Kings,'' plays firefighter Tommy Corn, and here he finally got a chance to hone his little-seen comedic skills. ''If you were handed this script, you wouldn't say that Mark Wahlberg should play the role,'' he says. ''But David doesn't want me doing the same thing over and over again. I was studying [author, former Tibetan monk, and father of Uma] Bob Thurman and Buddhism and ''The Jewel Tree of Tibet'' for months on end. He's asking actors to do some pretty outrageous stuff.'' And while he agrees that Huckabees is hardly lightweight, he hopes ''that people will go to it and think about and debate some of these issues. David's movies are good for me and they are good for film. They are always a learning experience.'' WHAT’S AT STAKE Russell's rep. He'll need that great cast to get audiences -- and critics -- to warm up to a talky comedy with a pretzel plot. (Oct. 1)

Team America: World Police

Five years after ''South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut,'' Parker and Stone are launching their sophomore film effort...involving, uh, marionettes who kick ass and, uh...let Stone explain: ''We wanted to f -- - up some puppets. The whole idea behind the movie is just f -- -ing killing puppets.'' Thus, the duo has made an R-rated, all-marionette action flick about a group of superagent types that takes satiric jabs at conservatives and liberals (and has already spawned a Drudge Report worrying that it mocks the war on terror). Along the way, Parker and Stone experienced some tangles: First, Paramount got nervous about financing an R-rated puppet movie...so the directors sacrificed their up-front fees. Then the filmmakers discovered the limitations of their actors (''Puppets can't do s -- -,'' says Parker), which caused scheduling overruns and budget increases...which forced the two to give up their back-end deal. ''So we're just total bitches now,'' Parker says. But they'll have the film to show for their pains, right? Concludes Parker: ''If that sucks, then I just f -- -ed myself harder than anyone.'' WHAT’S AT STAKE Four-word recap: R-rated puppet movie. (Oct. 15)

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