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With Oscars up for grabs, Hollywood leans toward the dramatic this fall
Focus » With Oscars up for grabs, Hollywood leans to the dramatic.
First Published Sep 05 2013 12:45 pm • Last Updated Feb 14 2014 11:33 pm

Summer is behind us, and the fall movie season is showing signs of comparative maturity.

It’s a time for serious drama as the studios gear up for a tough Oscar campaign. There are stories of survival in outer space in Alfonso Cuarón’s "Gravity" and on the open sea in "All Is Lost," starring Robert Redford.

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There are the true-life ordeals of a pre-Civil War black man in "12 Years a Slave" and a 21st-century victim of Somali pirates in "Captain Phillips."

There are adaptations of Shakespeare’s "Romeo & Juliet" and Charles Dickens’ "Great Expectations."

But it’s not all dark material. There are plenty of comedies this fall, a few kids’ films, some intriguing documentaries and plenty of action.

From now to the end of the year, there are 98 movies coming your way — so there’s sure to be something for every taste.

Read on to see what’s coming between now and Thanksgiving (release dates are tentative) and what’s in store for the hectic Oscar season of December:


Survival is at the center of two of this fall’s biggest dramas. In Alfonso Cuarón’s "Gravity" (Oct. 4), Sandra Bullock and George Clooney portray astronauts who are stranded in space when a disaster hits the space shuttle. And Robert Redford carries a movie all by himself in J.C. Chandor’s "All Is Lost" (Oct. 18) as a man trying to make it alone at sea.

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South African icon Nelson Mandela’s life is depicted (by "Pacific Rim’s" Idris Elba) in "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" (November TBD). The fact-based "12 Years a Slave" (October TBD) shows an earlier battle for freedom, of a free black man (Chiwetel Ejiofor) in pre-Civil War America who is kidnapped and sold into slavery.

Real-life drama comes in: "Captain Phillips" (Oct. 11), with Tom Hanks as a cargo-ship captain dealing with Somali pirates; "The Fifth Estate" (Oct. 18), a look at the beginnings of WikiLeaks with Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange; "Blue Caprice" (TBD), a spare drama inspired by the D.C. "Beltway Sniper" case; "Parkland" (Oct. 4), which looks at ordinary people in Dallas on the day John F. Kennedy was shot; "Dallas Buyers Club" (Nov. 15), starring Matthew McConaughey as a Texas electrician fighting the system to help HIV sufferers in the mid-’80s; and "The Wolf of Wall Street" (Nov. 15), with Martin Scorsese directing Leonardo DiCaprio in a tale of a high-living stockbroker.

Great literature goes on screen in "Romeo & Juliet" (Oct. 11), with Douglas Booth and Hailee Steinfeld as Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers; a new "Great Expectations" (TBD), starring Helena Bonham Carter as the jilted Miss Havisham; Langston Hughes’ musical play "Black Nativity" (Nov. 27) boasts a cast that includes Oscar winners Jennifer Hudson and Forest Whitaker; and Daniel Radcliffe plays a college-age Alan Ginsberg in "Kill Your Darlings" (October TBD).

In "The Book Thief" (Nov. 15), an adaptation of Markus Zusak’s novel, a German girl (Sophie Nélisse) encounters a Jewish refugee (Ben Schnetzer) in her foster parents’ basement during World War II. The aftermath of that war and the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann factor into the biographical drama "Hannah Arendt" (September TBD).

Sexual taboos are shattered in two movies that debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Robin Wright and Naomi Watts play best friends who begin affairs with each other’s adult sons in "Adore" (TBD), originally titled "Two Mothers." And a lesbian housewife (Robin Weigert) takes a turn in the sex trade in "Concussion" (TBD). Meanwhile, the French lesbian drama "Blue Is the Warmest Color" (Nov. 8), the Palme D’Or winner at Cannes, also arrives this fall.

A Christian singer (AJ Michalka) is tempted by crossover success in "Grace Unplugged" (Oct. 4), and a young man (Logan Bartholemew) learns life lessons in his grandfather’s journal in the inspirational "The Ultimate Life" (Sept. 6). A different kind of musical drama arrives, in a b-boy dance competition, in the 3-D "Battle of the Year" (Sept. 20).

Two views of women in the Muslim world: In "The Patience Stone" (Oct. 25), a young Afghan wife reveals all to her paralyzed husband; and in "Wadjda" (Oct. 4), a young Saudi girl defies gender stereotypes when she tries to enter a Koran recitation contest so she can buy a bicycle.

Crime and punishment are at odds in "Prisoners" (Sept. 20), with Hugh Jackman as a father who turns vigilante when his daughter is abducted, and "Ain’t Them Bodies Saints" (September TBD), a moody drama starring Rooney Mara as a young mother torn between her fugitive husband (Casey Affleck) and a kind-hearted lawman (Ben Foster).

Brie Larson supervises a foster-care facility, dealing with the troubled teens there, in "Short Term 12" (Sept. 20), while two inner-city kids fend for themselves in "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete" (October TBD).

Last, Billy Bob Thornton returns as star, director and co-writer in "Jayne Mansfield’s Car" (TBD), which brings two families — one from Alabama, one from England — together awkwardly in 1969.

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