Fall movie preview: A change of seasons
How do you know when it's fall at the movies?
For one thing, the source material shifts from comic books ("The Avengers") and board games ("Battleship") to works of famous literature, such as Anna Karenina and On the Road.
This is the season when the tone turns serious, as Hollywood aims to appeal to teen moviegoers as well as the tastes of Oscar voters.
Fall is also that time of year when the movies that wowed the crowds at January's Sundance Film Festival finally find a slot in a distributor's schedule.
It's not all heavy lifting, though. There also are a fair number of comedies, children's fare, a few horror films in time for Halloween and the occasional blockbuster which this fall includes the latest James Bond thriller and the final chapter in the "Twilight" saga.
This season's movies includes scenes of Kristen Stewart drinking blood and hanging out with beat poets.
It's also the season when you can see Amy Adams as a religious leader's wife, a baseball scout's daughter or someone hanging out with beat poets.
You can see Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, watch the CIA save Americans in '70s Iran or hunt down Osama Bin Laden. Or you can meet couples surviving a tsunami or making it through middle age.
Here's a full rundown of this fall's Oscar contenders and other treats.
Getting presidential could lead to Oscar glory for Daniel Day-Lewis, as he portrays the guy on the penny in "Lincoln" (Nov. 9), a historical biography that teams director Steven Spielberg and playwright Tony Kushner ("Angels in America"). Bill Murray plays Franklin Roosevelt in "Hyde Park on Hudson" (December), navigating a romance with a distant cousin (Laura Linney) as he plays host to King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman).
Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson follows up "There Will Be Blood" with "The Master" (Sept. 21), a drama about a World War II veteran (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who forms a religious organization around himself, aided by his wife (Amy Adams) and his right-hand man (Joaquin Phoenix) who becomes disillusioned by his leader. (Any similarities to L. Ron Hubbard and the founding of the Church of Scientology are for viewers, and teams of lawyers, to ponder for themselves.)
John Hawkes' performance in the fact-based comedy-drama "The Sessions" (Oct. 26) as quadriplegic poet/journalist Mark O'Brien, discovering sex for the first time with the help of a "sex surrogate" therapist (Helen Hunt) has been generating Oscar talk from the first standing ovation at this year's Sundance Film Festival (when it played under the title "The Surrogate"). Another Sundance hit, Nicholas Jarecki's "Arbitrage" (Sept. 14), could land Richard Gere his first Oscar nomination, for his portrayal of a Bernie Madoff-like stock trader trying to keep his financial world from crumbling.
Literary adaptations are always sure-fire Oscar contenders. Director Joe Wright gives a theatrical sheen to Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" (November), with his "Atonement" star Keira Knightley as the tragic Russian heroine torn between her husband (Jude Law) and the brooding Count Vronsky ("Kick-Ass" star Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Bradley Cooper goes semiserious in "Silver Linings Playbook" (Nov. 21), an adaptation of Michael Quick's novel by David O. Russell ("Flirting With Disaster"), about a teacher released from a mental institution and meeting a young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) with her own problems.
Ang Lee applies wondrous images and 3-D effects to "Life of Pi" (Nov. 21), an adaptation of Yann Martel's novel about a zookeeper's son stranded in the Indian Ocean with a Bengal tiger and other animals. Characters transport across millennia and through different lives in "Cloud Atlas" (Oct. 26), an ambitious adaptation of David Mitchell's novel starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, and directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski ("The Matrix") and Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run").
Ben Affleck directs and stars in "Argo" (Oct. 12), based on a true story of a daring CIA plan to rescue Americans from the Iranian revolution by enlisting a Hollywood producer (Alan Arkin) to help CIA agents pose as a Canadian film crew.
A parent (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and a teacher (Viola Davis) take over their school in "Won't Back Down" (Sept. 28), a drama already being accused by teachers unions of demonizing them.
Denzel Washington stars in "Flight" (Nov. 2) as a pilot whose heroic crash landing leads to uncomfortable revelations, in the first live-action effort in some time by director Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump").
An elderly couple (Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva) find their love tested by illness in "Amour" (to be determined), the drama from director Michael Haneke ("Cache," "The White Ribbon") that won the Palme D'Or at Cannes.
Approaching Christmas, much of the movie world is awaiting Peter Jackson's return to Middle-Earth with "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (Dec. 14), the first of three films to chronicle the journey of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) that leads to his encounter with the ghoulish Gollum (Andy Serkis) and his acquisition of a particular ring.
The oh-so-popular musical adaptation of "Les MisÃ©rables" finally hits screens (Dec. 14), with Oscar winner Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech") directing a cast led by Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen through Victor Hugo's classic story of revenge and redemption on the barricades.
Combat of a modern variety is explored in "Zero Dark Thirty" (Dec. 19), as Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker") chronicles the hunt for Osama Bin Laden with a cast that includes Joel Edgerton and Jessica Chastain.
Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor star in "The Impossible" (Dec. 21), a survival drama about a family separated in the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami.
Director Judd Apatow explores middle age in the comedy "This Is 40" (Dec. 21), which follows the lives of Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann), the married-with-kids couple of Apatow's 2007 hit "Knocked Up."
Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" (Dec. 25) aims to do for Westerns what "Inglourious Basterds" did for World War II movies, in a wild tale of a freed slave (Jamie Foxx) out to get an evil plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Walter Salles ("The Motorcycle Diaries") adapts another literary tour, Jack Kerouac's "On the Road," with Garrett Hedlund and Sam Riley as the iconic Dean and Sal and a cast that includes Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams and Viggo Mortensen.
Past Oscar winner Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose") is in the race for another statuette with "Rust & Bone" (to be determined), playing a killer-whale trainer whose romance with a single dad ("Bullhead" star Matthias Schoenaerts) is altered when she suffers a serious accident.
James Bond has been fighting for Her Majesty for 50 years even parachuting with her into the London Olympics and he returns for more action in "Skyfall" (Nov. 9) as 007 (Daniel Craig) confronts bad guy Javier Bardem (whose blond hairdo may match in ridiculousness his bob from "No Country for Old Men").
It's all over but the fighting in the fifth and final movie based on Stephenie Meyer's sparkly bloodsuckers, "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2" (Nov. 16), in which Kristen Stewart's Bella finally gets her vampire on.
A hitman (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who dispatches people sent to him from the future is ordered to kill his older self (Bruce Willis) in the trippy "Looper" (Sept. 28), which reunites Gordon-Levitt with "Brick" director Rian Johnson.
Kidnapping is a big theme this fall. Liam Neeson returns with "Taken 2" (Oct. 5), about the relatives of the kidnappers he killed last time seeking revenge by kidnapping him and his wife (Famke Janssen). Nicolas Cage plays an ex-thief who has 12 hours to find the loot, demanded as ransom for his kidnapped daughter, in "Stolen" (Sept. 14). In "The Cold Light of Day" (to be determined), Henry Cavill, who will be fitted for Superman's cape next summer in "Man of Steel," plays a bond trader trying to rescue his kidnapped family from intelligence agents seeking a mystery briefcase.
A plot to kidnap a gangster's shih tzu is the focus of the wild thriller "Seven Psychopaths" (Oct. 12), written and directed by Martin McDonagh ("In Bruges"). Brad Pitt's Mob muscle is called in after a poker game is heisted in "Killing Them Softly" (Oct. 19).
A routine traffic stop turns into a deadly chase when two cops (Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael PeÃ±a) confiscate cash and firearms from a drug cartel in "End of Watch" (Sept. 28), directed by "Training Day" writer David Ayer. Meanwhile, a drug runner (Joel Kinnaman) leads a double life in the Swedish "Easy Money" (Sept. 28).
Tyler Perry plays "Alex Cross" (Oct. 19), novelist James Patterson's D.C. detective, who is tracking a psycho killer (Matthew Fox). Tom Cruise plays "Jack Reacher" (Dec. 21), writer Lee Child's investigator, in a case of a sniper who is killing seemingly random victims.
Lesbians and lycanthropy mix for two teen girls (Riley Keough and Juno Temple) in "Jack & Diane" (to be determined), which doesn't have anything to do with chili dogs or a Tastee Freeze. In "Branded" (Sept. 7), a man fights against the system in a corporate-dominated dystopia.
Kung fu meets Wu-Tang in "The Man With the Iron Fists" (Nov. 2), a chopsocky movie featuring Russell Crowe that marks the directorial debut of RZA (of the Wu-Tang Clan).
"Red Dawn" (Nov. 21) is a remake of the '80s classic about teens (including "Thor's" Chris Hemsworth and "The Hunger Games' " Josh Hutcherson) taking up arms when America is invaded by the North Koreans.
Karl Urban dons the mask of the futuristic cop in "Dredd 3D" (Sept. 21). Milla Jovovich returns to battle the evil Umbrella Corp., and an army of the undead, in "Resident Evil: Retribution" (Sept. 14). Another video game-turned-franchise is revived in the horror thriller "Silent Hill: Revelation 3D" (Oct. 26).
A mother and daughter (Elisabeth Shue, Jennifer Lawrence) move into a neighborhood where a girl murdered her parents at the "House at the End of the Street" (Sept. 21). A crime novelist (Ethan Hawke) uses found footage to unravel a murder with supernatural overtones in "Sinister" (Oct. 5). In "Paranormal Activity 4" (Oct. 19), the found-footage franchise returns to more modern scares. And found footage of an earlier vintage dominates in the tag-teamed shocker "V/H/S" (to be determined).
And for suspense without any bad stuff, "The Mine" (Sept. 14) bills itself as "a scary movie with values," about five students (including former "Spy Kid" Alexa Vega) trapped in a mine.
College a cappella groups perform in "Pitch Perfect" (Oct. 5), starring Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson ("Bridesmaids"). In "Bachelorette" (to be determined), Rebel Wilson plays the bride while her three bridesmaids (Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan) get in big trouble just before the wedding.
A teacher (Kevin James) takes to mixed martial arts to save his school in "Here Comes the Boom" (Oct. 12). A washed-up sports star (Gerard Butler) coaches his son's soccer team, and discovers the allure of soccer moms, in "Playing for Keeps" (Dec. 7). The competitive world of butter-carving is the backdrop for "Butter" (October), starring Jennifer Garner and Olivia Wilde as rival sculptors.
"The Big Wedding" (Oct. 26) leads to farcical encounters between the bride's divorced parents (Robert DeNiro, Diane Keaton). In "The Oranges" (to be determined), a married man (Hugh Laurie) has an affair with the daughter (Leighton Meester) of his best friends (Oliver Platt, Allison Janney). And a divorcee (Melanie Lynskey) gets out of her funk thanks to a much-younger guy in the Sundance hit "Hello, I Must Be Going" (to be determined).
More from Sundance: Stand-up comic Mike Birbiglia stars and directs "Sleepwalk With Me" (Sept. 7), an account of an up-and-down relationship and his struggle with a dangerous sleep disorder; two young women (Lauren Anne Miller and Ari Graynor) make ends meet by running a phone-sex service in "For a Good Time, Call..." (Sept. 14); and Josh Radnor ("How I Met Your Mother") directs and stars in "Liberal Arts" (Sept. 28), returning to college and getting involved with a charming student (Elizabeth Olsen).
Barbra Streisand returns to the screen in "The Guilt Trip" (Dec. 25), as a woman hitting the road with her inventor son (Seth Rogen). And Billy Crystal discovers that looking after the grandkids isn't so easy when his daughter (Marisa Tomei) hovers in "Parental Guidance" (Dec. 25).
Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" (Oct. 5) is poised to be a new teen classic about a troubled freshman (Logan Lerman) who is befriended by a misfit group of seniors (including Emma Watson in her first major post-"Harry Potter" role).
Teens in '60s New Jersey form a rock band in "Not Fade Away" (Oct. 19), the feature directing debut of "The Sopranos" creator David Chase. Teens in a gang war in Nazi-occupied France get involved in the Resistance in the French drama "War of the Buttons" (September).
Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams star in "Trouble With the Curve" (Sept. 21), as an aging baseball scout and his estranged daughter, reunited when his failing eyesight endangers his ability to spot talent on the diamond.
A reporter (Matthew McConaughey) and his brother (Zac Efron) get drawn into the case of an accused killer (John Cusack) by his sexpot girlfriend (Nicole Kidman) in the sweaty potboiler "The Paperboy" (Oct. 5), directed by Lee Daniels ("Precious").
Surfing phenom Jay Moriarty's true story is told in "Chasing Mavericks" (Oct. 26), as Moriarty (Jonny Weston) learns about the mythic Mavericks surf break from a mentor (Gerard Butler).
A musician (Mathieu Amalric) has lost his taste for life in "Chicken With Plums" (Oct. 12), a live-action fantasy drama directed by "Persepolis" creators Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi. Sean Penn stars as a rock star-turned-Nazi hunter in the offbeat "This Must Be the Place" (November).
A writer (Bradley Cooper) gets famous off another man's writing in "The Words" (Sept. 7), which scored the biggest distribution deal at Sundance this year. Meanwhile, the biggest controversy at Sundance may have been from "Compliance" (Sept. 28), for its fact-based story of a fast-food manager (Ann Dowd) who suspects an employee (Dreama Walker) of theft.
More Sundance drama: In "Middle of Nowhere" (October), a woman (Emayatzy Corinealdi) deals with life while her husband (Omari Hardwick) is in prison; Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars in "Smashed" (to be determined) as an alcoholic teacher who decides to get sober to the chagrin of her drunk husband ("Breaking Bad's" Aaron Paul); and an artist (Olivia Thirlby) comes into the life of a married couple (John Krasinski, Rosemarie DeWitt) in "Nobody Walks" (to be determined), which boasts a credit by hot young writer Lena Dunham (creator of HBO's "Girls").
A superrich hedge-fund manager (Robert Pattinson) takes a limo ride that goes in some strange directions in David Cronenberg's talky and surreal "Cosmopolis" (Sept. 14).
The Queen of Denmark (Alicia Vikander), dealing with a deranged king (Mikkel Boe FÃ¸lsgaard), has an affair with a German doctor (Mads Mikkelsen) in the Danish historical drama "A Royal Affair" (to be determined).
A video-game bad guy (voiced by John C. Reilly) decides to go good in Disney's computer-animated "Wreck-It Ralph" (Nov. 2). "Rise of the Guardians" (Nov. 21) looks like "The Avengers" for the fairy-tale set with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Jack Frost and the Tooth Fairy joining forces against an evil spirit.
A boy brings his dog back to life in Tim Burton's animated "Frankenweenie" (Oct. 5). In the animated "Hotel Transylvania" (Sept. 28), directed by "Dexter's Laboratory" creator Genndy Tartakovsky, Count Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) runs a resort for his fellow ghouls and tries to keep a wayward human (voiced by Andy Samberg) from dating his teen daughter (voiced by Selena Gomez).
Also for Halloween, Nickelodeon star Victoria Justice must find her little brother in trick-or-treat madness in the comedy "Fun Size" (Oct. 26).
Pixar goes 3-D on two re-releases this season: venturing under the sea with "Finding Nemo" (Sept. 14) and scaring up the power in "Monsters, Inc." (Dec. 19). And Cirque Du Soleil takes to the third dimension in "Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D" (Dec. 21).
"How to Survive a Plague" (Oct. 19), a powerful movie from Sundance, uses amazing found footage to trace the early years of the AIDS crisis and how gay groups mobilized to fight it.
"West of Memphis" (to be determined) is a deep look at the case of the West Memphis Three, teens convicted of the horrific murders of little boys in Arkansas.
"The Imposter" (Sept. 21) is a Texas tall, but true, tale about a young Frenchman who convinces a family that he's their missing teen son. "Searching for Sugar Man" (Oct. 5) deals with another missing person: Rodriguez, a '70s rock star who fell off the musical landscape in the States but became an icon in South Africa.