Fall film guide: Adult fare from some of industry's best directors
The amphetamized summer crush of superheroes and sequels runs out of steam following the Labor Day weekend.
Fall presents a respite from the mayhem, as popcorn movies based on comics are replaced by adult fare based on more serious books such as "The Life of Pi," "Cloud Atlas," "Anna Karenina," "The Hobbit," "Les Miserables" and "On the Road."
As the calendar flips toward its final weeks, Oscar bait will arrive in the form of Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," written by Tony Kushner and starring the excellent Daniel Day-Lewis, and "Hyde Park on the Hudson," starring Bill Murray as Franklin D. Roosevelt.
A few of the industry's finest and most exciting directors, Quentin Tarantino ("Django Unchained"), Ben Affleck ("Argo"), David O. Russell ("The Silver Linings Playbook") and Paul Thomas Anderson ("The Master") all have promising films lined up for fall.
But fantasy fans fret not: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" and "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2" will offer plenty of big-screen escapism.
Here, we take a look at 50 of the most anticipated films scheduled to be released between now and New Year's Day.
‘The Cold Light of Day'
A family vacation turns mysterious and deadly in this thriller from Mabrouk El Mechri, director of the meta Jean-Claude Van Damme film "JCVD." Henry Cavill, best known for his role on the British TV show "The Tudors," stars alongside Sigourney Weaver and Bruce Willis and his smirk. The boilerplate suspense should benefit from the stylistic eye of El Mechri.
‘For a Good Time, Call ... '
Actress and screenwriter Lauren Miller treads into the raunch-com waters familiar to her husband, Seth Rogen. Miller, in a script she co-wrote, stars with Ari Gaynor as frenemies who end up living together and building a successful phone sex business. Successful shorts filmmaker Canadian Jamie Miller directs his feature debut that looks to build on the success of female-driven comedies such as "Bridesmaids."
‘Portrait of Wally'
University of Texas associate professor Andrew Shea traces the remarkable history of Austrian artist Egon Schiele's "Portrait of Wally," which was looted by Nazis before turning up in a Vienna museum. The documentary, part journalistic examination of the status of art provenance and part legal thriller, was co-produced by Austin Film Festival executive director Barbara Morgan.
This tale of a would-be novelist (Bradley Cooper) plagiarizing his way to best-seller status should feel timely in the wake of several journalism scandals in the past year. The two men responsible for the story behind "Tron: Legacy" wrote the script, and though this film is more grounded in reality, it does layer time and play with identities the way one would expect in a science-fiction tale. The result looks melodramatic and hokey.
Richard Gere plays Robert Miller, a duplicitous money man who struggles to keep secrets from his family as his business threatens to implode. With a vintage performance, Gere carries the movie, appearing in almost every scene, and Tim Roth brings a swagger and seething disgust to his role as a cop who will go to great lengths to bust Miller.
‘Finding Nemo 3D'
Like a hungry shark, the Pixar beast stays in constant movement, biting off huge chunks of box office bucks along the way. Here Pixar repackages one of its Academy Award-winners into 3-D, making the nerves of lovable clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks) almost spill into your lap. The 3-D release precedes the first Blu-ray edition of the fish tale, which should be available for purchase before the holidays.
‘Resident Evil: Retribution'
Alice (Milla Jovovich) goes back down the rabbit hole in her skin-tight suit to fight the Umbrella Corporation in the fifth installment of the franchise based on a video game. Longtime "Resident Evil" producer and director Paul W.S. Anderson returns to direct his wife in what will surely be a hyperkinetic bit of storytelling.
Kind of like one of those "American Pie" movies but without all of the characters we're already tired of seeing. Friends gather for a 10th reunion to see who's changed and who will fall in or out of love. Channing Tatum attempts to ride his "Magic Mike" hot streak, and "Parks and Recreation's" Aubrey Plaza and Chris Pratt come along for comedic relief.
Moody, tempestuous, dark, layered and graced with a mesmerizing score, "The Master" looks like classic Paul Thomas Anderson. "Boogie Nights" alumnus Philip Seymour Hoffman stars as a military veteran who founds a religious cult, with Joaquin Phoenix playing his protégé. The film's narrative bears some resemblance to the origin story of Scientology, though Anderson and producers deny that the film was based on Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
Karl Urban will do his best to make us all forget the Sylvester Stallone abomination from the mid-'90s when he stars as the titular lawman in this movie based on the British comic. Judge Dredd is joined by Judge Anderson (sexy rising star Olivia Thirlby) to help rid the streets of a drug-slinging gang.
‘House at the End of the Street'
Jennifer Lawrence, who proved herself an actress to watch with 2010's "Winter's Bone," does a little slumming in the world of horror. Audiences of a certain age will be reminded of the passing of time as Elisabeth Shue ("Leaving Las Vegas") plays mother to Lawrence's character in the tale of a haunted house.
‘Trouble with the Curve'
Clint Eastwood has directed three films since he last appeared on screen as curmudgeonly bigot Walt Kowalski in "Gran Torino." The octogenarian leading man leaves directing duties to his longtime assistant director, Robert Lorenz, in this tale of a baseball scout who reconnects with his daughter (Amy Adams) on a final recruiting trip. Take some Kleenex. No word on whether "The Chair" makes an appearance.
"Saturday Night Live" and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" veteran writer Robert Smigel brings his silly and twisted humor to this animated tale. Adam Sandler plays Dracula, who decides to open a halfway house of sorts for scary characters. His obnoxious voice work translates better to animation than live action, making his shtick much more tolerable. Fellow gazillionaire comic actor Kevin James co-stars as Frankenstein.
Director Rian Johnson and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt teamed for the excellent 2005 indie noir film, "Brick," and the duo returns with this high-concept science fiction film. Gordon-Levitt plays a time-traveling specialized assassin who sets out to kill a future version of himself ... unless his older self can protect his younger self. Bruce Willis is along to help sort it all out.
‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower'
More than a dozen years after writing the novel, author Stephen Chbosky goes behind the lens to direct the film adaptation of his story about the difficulties of adolescence. Chbosky has only one directing credit, 1995's "The Four Corners of Nowhere," on his résumé, so it should be interesting to see how he handles the emotionally complex material, told, in the novel, through a series of letters.
What hath "Bridesmaids" wrought? The feature debut from writer-director Leslye Headland doesn't make even the slightest attempt to avoid comparisons to the Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo-penned comedy from last year. Kirsten Dunst and Isla Fisher co-star as friends throwing a bachelorette party for a girl they used to hate. The movie does have a comedy pedigree, as Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, through their Gary Sanchez Productions, had a hand in production.
Screenwriter John August and director Tim Burton collaborate again, this time telling Burton's story of a young boy who gets in a little too deep when he tries to resurrect his dog, Sparky.
Liam Neeson's Brian Mills is not a man to be trifled with, but apparently the memo did not make it onto the bad guy listserv. This time it's his wife (Famke Janssen) who is taken hostage, which means it's time for unlikely action hero Neeson to start kicking butt and making menacing phone calls.
Have you ever wanted to see Anna Kendrick ("Up in the Air") sing "No Diggity" a capella style? You're in luck. TV veteran Jason Moore makes his directorial feature debut with this college musical about a group of girls and guys going head to head to be Big (Wo)Man on Campus.
Following the success of his superb 2010 film "The Town," Ben Affleck slips back behind the camera to direct himself and Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad") in this period piece that focuses on a daring hostage rescue mission in 1979 Iran. This may earn him the Oscar nomination that eluded him with "The Town."
‘The Big Wedding'
More broad comedy from Robert DeNiro and Diane Keaton, who get an assist from the even broader Robin Williams in this romantic comedy about a dysfunctional family trying to pull off a wedding under extreme conditions. An odd multicultural subplot makes it ever so slightly different than the lot of similar films that have come before it.
Lots of laughs and loads of testosterone expected in this wild ride from "In Bruges" writer-director Martin McDonagh. Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell star as four of the seven titular characters in this '90s-style shaggy dog film.
‘Here Comes the Boom'
Lovable lug Kevin James throws on a few pounds of muscle as a well-meaning high school teacher who decides to enter the world of mixed martial arts in order to make some extra cash to help save his school. Salma Hayek plays the love interest. If it sounds like an Adam Sandler movie, it may be because it is directed by the guy who brought you "The Waterboy" and "The Wedding Singer."
You know how you've been constantly telling your diary for years how you'd love to see "Party of Five's" Matthew Fox and Tyler Perry team up for a cop movie directed by the man responsible for "The Fast and The Furious"? Well, your wait is over.
‘Paranormal Activity 4'
When you can spend seven figures to make nine figures, well, that's some pretty hard math to ignore. You'll probably want to sleep with the lights on for a night or two after the fourth installment starring series regular and native Texan Katie Featherston and young newcomer Kathryn Newton.
‘Killing Them Softly'
Five years after his critically acclaimed Western "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," director Andrew Dominik returns to helm this mob pic based on the George Higgins' novel "Cogan's Trade." The crime flick starring Brad Pitt boasts a deep cast that includes Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini and Sam Shepard.
‘Not Fade Away'
"The Sopranos" creator David Chase makes his feature directorial debut with a cast largely made up of relative unknowns. The coming-of-age story set to a score by the E Street Band's Steve Van Zandt is set in 1960s New Jersey and co-stars Tony Soprano himself, James Gandolfini.
"L.A. Confidential" writer-director Curtis Hanson takes a trip up the coast for a story about a legendary group of surfers that includes Gerard Butler.
Blending science fiction elements with magical realism, Brit David Mitchell's complex 2004 novel garnered a good deal of critical adoration and an armful of awards. Three different directors join forces to tackle the near-three-hour film adaptation starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugh Grant.
‘The Man with the Iron Fists'
Martial arts fanatic, veteran actor and Wu-Tang Clan member RZA slides behind the camera for this high-flying film starring Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu. Yep.
Denzel Washington plays, surprise, a heroic but tortured man in this story of a pilot who makes a successful crash landing. But before the laurels can be laid upon him, things take a turn for the worse, as his personal life gets picked apart.
"American Beauty" and "Road to Perdition" director Sam Mendes takes the helm in the latest installment in the indefatigable James Bond series. In the role of bad guy: Javier Bardem. In the role of Bond girl(s): Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe. Also starring: Daniel Craig's bathing suit.
‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2'
Yes, friends, everything eventually dies. Even vampires and werewolves and teenage dreams. And thus brings us to the conclusion of the Twilight film juggernaut. But with stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart enduring romantic hardship in their private lives, will audiences still want to see the two on screen together? Don't be silly.
If Steven Spielberg's movie is as arresting as the movie poster featuring Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th president, we're gonna be in pretty good shape. I doubt any movie this fall will have better Oscar odds than this film. Prepare for a massive dose of Spielbergian nostalgia. The good news? No vampire hunting here.
‘The Silver Linings Playbook'
The mercurial and very talented David O. Russell ("Three Kings," "The Fighter") directs Bradley Cooper, whom studios keep trying to make into a movie star, and Jennifer Lawrence in the offbeat romantic comedy about a man trying to piece his life back together after getting out of a mental institution.
‘Rise of the Guardians'
Alec Baldwin and Hugh Jackman lend their voices to this animated Dreamworks tale of a group of childhood myths and dreams who fight against a dark threat to their purity.
The new Cold War lives! One of the (thankfully) few remakes this fall — a group of teens and twenty-somethings bond together to fight the threat of an invading ... North Korean army? Um, OK. They have Thor (Chris Hemsworth) on board. How could they lose? Wolverines!
‘The Life of Pi'
Buoyed by the friendship of a tiger, a young boy goes on a fantastical voyage of discovery in a magical land painted by Ang Lee ("Brokeback Mountain"). Ready your heartstrings.
The increasingly impressive Keira Knightley plays the titular role in this adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's classic story of an affair between a beautiful married aristocrat and a cavalry officer (Aaron Johnson). I smell an adult date night and likely some costume and set design Oscar nods.
‘Rust and Bone'
Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose") and Matthias Schoenaerts ("Bullhead") star as a couple battling odds and physical impairment to find a transcendent love in this melodramatic French-language film from Jacques Audiard, director of the Oscar-nominated 2009 film "A Prophet."
‘Playing for Keeps'
Gerard Butler weakens the knees of women everywhere with his portrayal of a sexy, newly single former soccer star who is now just a wayward soccer dad looking to rekindle love with his ex, the equally sultry Jessica Biel.
‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'
Peter Jackson continues his collaboration with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien in this highly anticipated adaptation of the 20th century classic. Elijah Wood is back as Frodo, and Brit Martin Freeman ("The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy") slips into the boots of Bilbo Baggins. Watch your head!
Victor Hugo's saga of the French Revolution has certainly had a long shelf life. One hundred-fifty years after the publication of the novel, we have yet another iteration on screen. Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech") adapts the famous musical, with Anne Hathaway in the role of Fantine, Amanda Seyfried as Cosette and stage veteran Hugh Jackman playing Jean Valjean.
‘Zero Dark Thirty'
"The Hurt Locker" director Kathryn Bigelow examines the long hunt for Osama bin Laden that eventually ended in the heroic efforts of Navy SEAL Team 6. We'll see if she can do for Chris Pratt's ("Parks and Recreation") career what she did for Jeremy Renner's. Central Texan Kyle Chandler ("Friday Night Lights") also stars.
‘This is Forty'
Billed as a "sort-of sequel" to "Knocked Up," Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reunite as a married couple battling the anxieties of entering their 40s in writer-director Judd Apatow's latest heartfelt comedy with just a tinge of raunch.
Has Tom Cruise's star faded following the Katie Holmes saga? We will soon find out if he still has drawing power, when the diminutive superstar tracks a sniper.
Slave noir meets pulpy Western thrill ride in the always-ambitious Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained," starring a wicked trio of Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz. Not your typical Christmas Day movie, but certainly one not to miss.
‘The Guilt Trip'
Where have all the mother-son comedies gone? Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen star in this comedy about a son who takes his mom on the road with him to sell his latest invention and maybe, just maybe, find his mother love. "27 Dresses" and "The Proposal" filmmaker Anne Fletcher directs, so don't expect many hard edges to this sweet tale.
‘Hyde Park on the Hudson'
Bill Murray delivers an uncanny performance as Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a joyful romp that details a summer when the president and his cousin, Margaret Suckley (Laura Linney), became best friends and Roosevelt befriended the king and queen of England.
‘On the Road'
Director John Salles, who also hit the road for 2004's "The Motorcycle Diaries," sets out on a mad ramble with Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) and Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) in this adaptation of Jack Kerouac's Beat classic.