Fall movie guide: Back to better

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Andrew Cooper, SMPSP

We’ve had our fun all summer long with silly comic book films,
star-packed action movies and our fair share of mediocre comedies.  As
the weather gets cooler, the more serious-minded fare makes its way into
the local cinema — but it’s bringing along the next James Bond
installment, some family flicks and a horror film or two.

Oscar bait

September

‘The Master,’
Sept. 14
You could all but hand the Oscar statuette over to Paul Thomas Anderson, so big is the buzz for this film that is rumored to be loosely based on the life of Scientology founder Ron L. Hubbard.

‘Trouble with the Curve,’
Sept.  21
We’re hoping everyone’s over the now-infamous RNC empty chair incident once Clint Eastwood makes an appearance with this film about an aging baseball talent scout who takes his daughter on a last recruiting trip.

October

‘Argo,’
Oct. 12
Ben Affleck solidifies his status as a top-flight Hollywood director with his third film behind the camera, this one centering on a CIA “exfiltration” specialist who plans to free six Americans in hiding during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.

‘Seven Psychopaths,’

Oct. 12
From Martin McDonagh, the man who brought us “In Bruges,” comes a quirky ensemble comedy about a part-time dog thief who swipes the wrong shih-tzu –  that of a psychotic gangster played by Woody Harrelson.

‘Killing Them Softly,’

Oct. 19
Brad Pitt is already getting high praise for this thriller about an enforcer (Pitt) who investigates a heist that occurred during a mob-protected poker game.

‘The Sessions,’

Oct. 26 (limited)
John Hawkes, William H. Macy and Helen Hunt star in this gentle story about a man with an iron lung (Hawkes) who, while entering middle age, seeks the help of a professional sex surrogate (Hunt) in order to lose his virginity.

‘Cloud Atlas’
 
Oct. 26
Eyeballs will explode and minds will be blown — so we hear — by this ambitious Wachowski Brothers adaptation of the multidimensional novel by David Mitchell. Tom Hanks and Halle Berry play several characters in the past, present and future.

November

‘Flight,’

Nov. 2
Like an alternative universe scenario of Captain Chesley Sullenberger, this Robert Zemeckis film, starring Denzel Washington, centers on one pilot who saves his plane from disaster. Unfortunately for the hero, an investigation into the incident offers some damning evidence against him. 

‘Lincoln’

Nov. 9
Daniel Day-Lewis, Spielberg and Sally Field? Wrap it up, we’ll take it. This look at the 16th president’s struggle to negotiate the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is all but guaranteed a few awards nods later in the year.

‘Life of Pi’

Nov. 21 (limited)
Director Ang Lee may make his comeback after 2009’s egregious dud, “Taking Woodstock.” This 3-D adaptation of the 2001 book of the same name promises to be magical, mystical and loaded with exotic animals behaving strangely.

Honorable mentions

While these films didn’t quite make the critics’ short list for must-see movies, there’s plenty of thought-provoking filmmaking here that could make some waves with audiences.

September

‘Arbitrage,’
Sept. 21
Richard Gere stars in this complex film about a hedge fund magnate who finds himself beholden to an unlikely person while trying to offload his trading empire.

‘End of Watch,’
Sept. 21
Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena star as two young police officers who get themselves tangled up with a gang-related drug ring and subsequently become marked men.

‘Looper,’
Sept. 28
Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes on the ungainly task of playing a young Bruce Willis — prosthetic forehead and all — in this sci-fi action film about a future in which an assassin must go into his past to kill his younger self.

‘Won’t Back Down’
Sept. 28
Let’s get all “power to the people” with this uplifting David and Goliath story about two mothers (Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal) who band together to make changes in their local inner-city schools.

October

‘The Paperboy’
Oct. 5
All we keep hearing about this film is a strange Zac Efron/Nicole Kidman urination scene, but the story about a journalist (Matthew McConaughey) investigating a wrongful conviction with his brother (Efron) and the inmate’s girlfriend (Kidman) should prove to generate buzz in less scintillating respects.

‘Cloud Atlas’

Oct. 26
Eyeballs will explode and minds will be blown — so we hear — by this ambitious Wachowski Brothers adaptation of the multidimensional novel by David Mitchell. Tom Hanks and Halle Berry play several characters in the past, present and future.

November

‘Rust and Bone,’
Nov. 16
As lovely as Marion Cotillard was in “The Dark Knight Rises,” she’s even more seductive speaking her native tongue in this French film about a young man who falls in love with a killer whale trainer, directed by Jacques Audiard.

Action films

The fall movie season isn’t only about high-minded awards-bait. James Bond and a few very able heroic counterparts will be blasting their way through the chilly months as well.

September

‘Stolen’
Sept. 14
Oh Nicolas Cage, what awesome one-liners can you give us that will make their way into another great supercut of your strangest onscreen moments? We’re hoping there will be plenty in this action film about a former thief searching for his kidnapped daughter.

‘Dredd 3-D’
Sept. 21
Like any other film set in the future, this take on the comic book “Judge Dredd” finds us in an irradiated nightmare wherein the police force acts as judge, jury and executioner. 

October

‘Taken 2′
Oct. 5
Liam Neeson is going on an awfully long streak of playing bad-ass rebels who make no apologies — and we’re glad to welcome another installment to that series, this time with a sequel to his 2008 Luc Besson film.

‘Alex Cross’
Oct. 19
Tyler Perry in an action film? Oh yes, it is happening. The famous purveyor of sitcoms, rom-coms and “Madea” movies takes a serious turn in this procedural crime film based on the James Patterson novel, “Cross.”

November

‘The Man with the Iron Fists’
Nov. 2
Co-written, co-starring and directed by RZA, with additional cast members Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu, this martial arts mayhem boasts a killer soundtrack with contributions from Kanye West, Method Man, The Wu-Tang Clan, Ghostface Killah and RZA himself.

‘Skyfall’

Nov. 9
The world has been waiting for this 23rd Bond film for quite some time, with only the announcement of Bond girl Naomie Harris as a quantum of solace (sorry, couldn’t help it) Javier Bardem serves as 007’s nemesis and Sam Mendes directs. Daniel Craig, of course, continues his reign as the smoldering spy.

‘Red Dawn’
Nov. 21
Could a bunch of teenagers defend their small Washington home town from an invasion of the North Korean military? Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson and Jeffrey Dean Morgan will help us find out.

Date Night

There’s nothing like a movie that examines the nature of relationships
to put your own under the microscope, but these selections will make the
process less painful.

September

“Liberal Arts” 
Sept. 14
Auteur-in-training
Josh Radnor follows up the success of “Happythankyoumoreplease” with a
film about a 30-something writer who returns to his alma mater, only to
find himself powerfully drawn to a young co-ed (Elizabeth Olsen).

“10 Years” 

Sept. 14
High
school reunions are such fertile ground for messy, sentimental
hook-ups, but in the case of Jake (Channing Tatum) it may offer an
opportunity to rekindle the romance with classmate Mary (Rosario
Dawson).

‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’
Sept. 21 (limited)
Stephen
Chbosky’s book by the same name has often been considered a modern
classic in young adult literature. Directed by the author, this film
also boasts Emma Watson in her first post-Potter outing.


October

“Pitch Perfect”
Oct. 5
Find yourself
having “Glee” withdrawal? Hollywood will keep you supplied with the high
school musical smack that’ll keep you going till the next fix. Anna
Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Brittany Snow star in this film
about an all-girls a-capella group determined to crush their male
opponents in a singing competition.

“Nobody Walks”

Oct. 12 (limited)
John
Krasinski, Olivia Thirlby and Rosemarie DeWitt make up a bizarre love
triangle in which, as the title indicates, no one really gets off easy.

November

‘Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn
— Part Two’
November 16
Hopefully all your tears will have dried from the demise of Robsten by the time promotion of this film requires that the two actors offer squirm-inducing explanations for their public breakup during an excruciating series of interviews. There’s not enough ice cream in the world that will make this better.

“Silver Linings Playbook”
Nov. 21
It’s a bit hard to imagine Bradley Cooper as a broken man freshly checked out of the mental institution, but we think he has the chops to convince us.

Hell-raising horror

Autumn is high season for the year’s strongest horror film offerings and this year promises not to disappoint with a few franchise favorites and some gory new stories.

September

‘House at the End of the Street’

Sept. 21
Jennifer Lawrence sheds her plainspoken survival-girl persona for this horror film about the new kid in town who befriends a neighbor who is more haunted by his sister’s death than the average mourner.

October


‘Sinister’

Oct. 5
Ethan Hawke stars in this spooky caper in which an author finds old 16mm film in the attic of his new home that gives evidence of the family that was murdered in it years before. Their demise could soon spell his own.

‘V/H/S’

Oct. 5
Already known as one of the most innovative horror films of the year, “V/H/S” is a pastiche of six short films, held together by the story of two men sent into the home of a dead recluse to find one particularly valuable VHS tape.

‘Paranormal Activity 4’

Oct. 19
With the “Saw” franchise dead and buried — for now anyway — it’s nice to know we can rely on another film to be made over and over again every year but with slight variations. Thank you, “Paranormal Activity 4,” for filling that void. 

‘Silent Hill: Revelation 3-D’

Oct. 26
Stay with us here: this film is the sequel to one of the adaptations of the Playstation 2 game franchise of the same time. The “Silent Hill” of the title is an alternative universe to which a young girl is drawn in order to learn about her disturbed past.

Cackle-worthy comedy

For a serious season, the fall serves up laughs in equal measure.

October

‘Butter’

Oct. 5
Just in time to capture the election day fervor that will be sweeping the nation in a month’s time, this satire about a small town’s butter sculpting competition is sure to strike a chord with cynics of the electoral process.

‘Here Comes the Boom’

Oct. 12
If you enjoyed last summer’s “The Zookeeper” (and seriously, shame on you if you did), then you are sure to love the next collaboration from filmmaker Frank Coraci and Adam Sandler’s pal Kevin James.

‘The Big Wedding’
Oct. 26
Robert DeNiro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams star in this comedy about divorcees (DeNiro and Keaton) who must pretend to be married in order to satisfy their son’s future in-laws.

‘Fun Size’

Oct. 26
It’s not often that Halloween acts as the backdrop to anything other than a horror film, but this comedy starring Johnny Knoxville and Chelsea Handler shows what can go wrong at a Halloween party besides stabby mask-wearing freaks making an appearance.

For the family

Kid-friendly films are churned out all year, but this season offers some of the most attractive and innovative animated movies that all are, shockingly, not sequels.

September

‘Finding Nemo’
Sept. 14
The modern classic about a timid clownfish in search of his father gets the 3-D treatment.

‘Hotel Transylvania’

Sept. 28
The Adam Sandler fraternity that includes Kevin James, David Spade, Jon Lovitz and Andy Samberg gives voice to this animated feature about Dracula’s lavish resort for monsters craving a human-free vacation.

October

Frankenweenie’
Oct. 5
Tim Burton rarely fails when it comes to kooky animated features, and this film about a boy’s quest to reanimate his dog should be no different. Shocking­ly, Burton’s wife, Helena Bonham Carter, is not in the cast — but Winona Ryder is.

November

‘Wreck-It Ralph’
Nov. 2
If there’s one animated feature Metro is dying to see this season, it’s this 8-bit video game adventure. John C. Reilly voices the title character who, growing tired of his villain status, seeks to become a hero but unleashes a deadly enemy in the process. The film is loaded with great comic talents such as Mindy Kaling, Jane Lynch, Jack McBrayer, Sarah Silverman and Horatio Sanz.

‘Rise of the Guardians’ 

Nov. 21
You can’t exactly call it a “Shrek” knock-off, but this 3-D animated film –featuring characters like Santa Claus, Jack Frost, the Sandman, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny — does bear a striking resemblance. Featuring the voice acting of Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Hugh Jackman and Isla Fisher, “Guardians” must be worth its mettle to draw such a strong cast.



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