Don't worry, award season moviegoers: There's plenty of safe or painfully familiar franchise titles to protect you from daring or at least original films. Not that franchises are always a bad thing:
‘Dolphin Tale 2’ (Sept. 12)
Remember that lovable dolphin who didn’t have a tail and then got a prosthetic tail at the end? Now he needs to a girlfriend, which is enough reason to make a sequel. Then again, with Morgan Freeman, Kris Kristofferson and Harry Connick Jr., this will be one lovely movie to just listen to.
‘Atlas Shrugged: Who is John Galt?’ (Sept. 12)
Now this is funny: Utterly rejected by the free market to which it genuflects, the attempt to turn Ayn Rand’s Objectivist/anti-poor people doorstop into a trilogy limps to the finish line, with yet another amusing recasting of all the actors, this time making room for Rob Morrow and the acting debut of one Ron Paul.
‘The Equalizer’ (Sept. 26)
Type: Movie of a TV show
The ’80s show about a mysterious ex-intelligence officer who rights wrongs (or at least kills criminals) is back, now with Denzel Washington taking down a Russian sex ring. But this is less about nostalgia for a show not too many may remember well than about watching Denzel Washington hurt people again. That it’s playing the Toronto International Film Festival is a good sign.
‘Left Behind’ (Oct 3)
Oscar-winner and sometime genius Nicolas Cage stars in a low budget adaptation of Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’ series about what happens after the Christian rapture. Of course, there already was a low budget film series about these awful books. They had Kirk Cameron. But Cage freaking out is preferable.
‘Dracula Untold’ (Oct. 17)
It’s a clumsy title, but what this is is one of those origin stories, this one showing the man (Luke Evans) who became Dracula, with an overqualified cast including Dominic Cooper, Charles Dance, Sarah Gadon and Samantha Barks. Surely he won't be something as boring as the man who inspired Bram Stoker to create Dracula: the aristocratic sadist dubbed "Vlad the Impaler."
‘Big Hero 6’ (Nov. 7)
Type: Comic book movie
Instead of going the usual live-action route, the latest Marvel film is actually a toon, this one about a young inventor and the giant, goofy robot he created to fight crime. The trailers suggest a comics movie that prefers deadpan comedy — including much patient slow burn humor — to thrills. If “Guardians of the Galaxy” felt like an atypical Marvel movie, this one could be really outside the box. Maybe.
‘Dumb and Dumber To’ (Nov. 14)
Type: Really, super belated sequel
Holy crap, “Dumb and Dumber” came out 20 years ago? Jim Carrey and the Farrelly Brothers have fallen on hard times, meaning it’s time to resurrect Harry and Lloyd. On the one hand, Carrey hasn’t done his hyper-controlled rubber faced shtick in awhile. One other, the trailer suggest they revive a lot of gags from the first. Also, they look very old because we all are very, tragically old.
‘Horrible Bosses 2’ (Nov. 26)
Type: Unnecessary sequel
It might have seemed like its own self-contained narrative, but the first one — about a trio of friends (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudekis) who try and kill their employers — made money so here’s another one, with everyone back but Colin Farrell. Fun fact: Did you know the first one and this one were co-written by John Francis Daley, who played Sam Weir on “Freaks and Geeks”? Isn’t that adorable?
‘Penguins of Madagascar’ (Nov. 26)
Those penguins from one of those animal-related cartoon franchises get their own spin-off, presumably because they’re the best part. And hey, maybe the "March of the Penguins"/"Happy Feet" afterglow hasn't faded.
‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ (Dec. 12)
The trend towards Hollywood religious movies gets to one of the biggies: The tale of Moses (Christian Bale) leading the Jews from Egypt, done by a director (Ridley Scott) who sometimes thinks as big as “The Ten Commandments” director Cecil B. DeMille. Then again, Scott can also be pretty humorless, as witness his surreally dull “Robin Hood.” And Joel Edgerton, playing hissable Pharaoh Ramses, is a fine actor but he is no Yul Brynner.
‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ (Dec. 17)
It’s only taken three movies and something like nine hours to adapt a 300-page novel aimed at children, but we did it and now we can go home — after a no doubt prolonged battle with a pretty cool dragon (voice of Benedict Cumberbatch). The second one was an improvement over the hilariously padded-out first. Of course, this might actually be a three-hour climax. If someone can make you sick of watching an awesome dragon, Peter Jackson might be it.
‘Annie’ (Dec. 19)
That musical about a plucky orphan (Quvenzhane Wallis) who warms the heart of a rich guy actually named Daddy Warbucks (Jamie Foxx) gets modernized. That's not a crime, but what is a crime is having Foxx apparently spend most of the film with a rug over his character's iconic bald melon.
‘Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb’ (Nov. 19)
What is actually and perhaps regrettably Ben Stiller’s highest grossing franchise returns again, this time sending his night watchman around the globe for some reason. At least these movies give space (or at least well-earned money) to a lot of talented comedic actors, among them Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais and the late Robin Williams, seen in one of his last roles, playing Teddy Roosevelt. On the other hand, they're dreadful.
For more of our Fall Movie Preview, see our list of top 10 films to see this season and our round-up of the other films big and small that aren't so easily categorized.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge