Dear lord, it's only mid-September but already the amount of new releases flooding theaters is getting a bit overwhelming.

2006_09_arts_dahlia.jpgBrian De Palma's highly anticipated adaptation of James Ellroy's novel, The Black Dahlia hits theaters this Friday. Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart are Los Angeles detectives investigating an extremely grisly Hollywood murder of a young starlet in the late '40s. Hartnett's real life Girl Friday, Scarlett Johansson's also in the cast, as is Oscar winner Hilary Swank. Another period flick, though this one animated: Everyone's Hero was directed in part by the late Christopher Reeves. Some of the celeb voices telling this story of a young boy trying to find Babe Ruth's bat include Whoopi Goldberg, William H. Macy, Rob Reiner and Mandy Patinkin.

Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson may seem like an unlikely thespian but his performance in the teen football movie, Gridiron Gang is surprisingly strong. He and rapper Xzibit play real life corrections officers at Camp Kilpatrick in Los Angeles, a juvenile detention center which decided to start a football program. Despite difficult lives spent selling drugs and killing for their gangs, these kids really take to bonding as a team, with no small part owed to their Coach's inspiration. Like a Dead Poet's Society set in the hood, Gridiron will have you standing up and cheering.

Zach Braff is the king of the confessional voice over. He reveals his feelings on screen over laid with an indie rock soundtrack and all the girls swoon. But in his new movie, The Last Kiss, an American remake of the Italian blockbuster, Braff plays a bad guy. See, he's turning 30, his friends are all getting married or having babies but he's still got commitment problems. Though of course he's a sensitive, thoughtful bad guy who is understandably tempted from preggers Jacinda Barrett to dallying with Rachel Bilsen. If you're a fan of Braff's mopey shtick, you won't be disappointed.

If you need some more visceral reasons as to why the fighting in Iraq is affecting a whole generation of young men and women, The Ground Truth, a new documentary about returning vets becoming anti-war activists, will fill you in. Though the movie is mostly just the vets relaying their army experiences directly to the camera though interviews, it's incredibly upsetting stuff.

The Museum of the Moving Image in Queens has two events this weekend previewing up coming films. A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints a new movie by Queens native Dito Montiel will have an advance screening and reception this Friday, Sept. 15. Montiel will be on hand and the movie plays at both 7 pm and 9:30 pm. The Last King of Scotland will have an advance screening on Sunday, Sept 17 at 7 pm and star Forest Whitaker, plus co-star James McAvoy and director Kevin MacDonald will participate in a Q&A after the movie. Audiences at the Toronto Film Festival have been going nutso for Whitaker's performance as Idi Amin, so be sure to check that out.

Two more screening series worth adding to the viewing calendar. Screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière's worked on such amazing movies as Belle De Jour and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. BAM has put together a collection of his films in their Jean-Claude Carrière's Language of Film series which begins today with Milos Forman's Taking Off. Also, blogger The Reeler continues his excellent series of advance screenings with director Q&As, by highlighting the up coming Jesus Camp with a showing at Makor on Friday at 7:30 pm. Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady will be on hand to discuss their documentary about how the Christian right educates their children.

Gothamist Pick:
For fans of political commentary with the bite of satire, you'll really enjoy Al Franken: God Spoke a new documentary about the rise of Franken's celebrity on Air America radio and the lead up to the 2004 election. Acclaimed documentarians Chris Hegedus and Nick Doob with producer D.A. Pennebaker, show Franken as a guy who started out in comedy because he wanted to make his father laugh but has moved into politics over the last few years because he's inspired to do more for Americans. This flick will have you laughing, as he sticks it to conservatives like Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly, and hoping desperately for a "Franken in '08" campaign. Maybe Jon Stewart could also be on the ticket?