Fall Movie Preview 2013


This summer gave us quite the array of entertainment, from sci-fi blockbusters to coming-of-age films, but now things shift toward the awards contenders. I know, it feels like the Oscars were last month, but if  Movie Muse is your only source of film anything, then you likely actually do think it was last month given my frequency of posting this summer. I’m working on it.

If you’re not into dramas, however, the fall has some surprising diversity and even more surprising quality. Some films that I would have pegged as holiday releases or late-year releases to contend for Oscars are getting wide releases in September and October. Does that mean they’re not as good as I expect them to be? I’m not so sure. “Argo” was a September release and it obviously won Oscar gold this year.

As with my summer preview, I’ve listed my top 15 films  for fall (that I’m most excited for, that are receiving the most buzz and that I expect to pay off), followed by 10 that I’m skeptical of (that could go either way and that expectations should be kept low for). But who am I to say? Let me know what you’re looking forward to or if you would move a film from one list to the other.


15 Most-Anticipated Films of the Fall


riddick_ver415. Riddick (Sept. 6)

Consider me among the cult fans of David Twohy’s “Riddick” series, though I wouldn’t exactly consider myself hardcore. “Pitch Black” was an entertaining little sci-fi horror flick, while “The Chronicles of Riddick” completely eliminated the horror tone for sci-fi epic. Now, “Riddick” appears to be somewhere in between, perhaps leaning toward the original. The story involves a group of mercenaries who hunt Riddick only to discover they need him in order to survive some nasty aliens. Definitely worth checking out “Pitch Black” if you’ve never seen it, so consider this a PSA even if you don’t care to see “Riddick.”

insidious_chapter_two_ver214. Insidious: Chapter 2 (Sept. 13)

I don’t always watch horror films, but when I do, I prefer James Wan.

I would have thrown this movie straight into the skeptical pile under most circumstances, being that its a horror sequel, but with stars Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne returning and more importantly, writer Leigh Wannell and director James Wan, I can consider optimism in this instance. I did enjoy the first film to an extent and Wan just knows how to milk horror conventions for all they are worth. In this chapter, the Lamberts discover they’re not done being haunted by spirits from another realm, a consequence of first film’s events. I suspect horror fans will be satisfied at the least.

prisoners_ver313. Prisoners (Sept. 20)

A ton of stars and the seasons’s only true thriller plot have me intrigued by “Prisoners,” which feels as though it could’ve easily been based on a Dennis Lehane novel. The behind-the-camera talents are inexperienced but that can sometimes be a good thing. Hugh Jackman, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, Maria Bello, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano and Melissa Leo all star in a story of a kidnapping of two girls, one of whom’s father (Jackman) gets impatient with the local detective (Gyllenhall) and tries to take matters into his own hands before it’s too late.

cloudy_with_a_chance_of_meatballs_two12. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (Sept. 27)

I swear I’m not just ranking them by release date. Anyway, the first “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” was one of the more clever and original yet classic animated films I’d seen. It bent the rules of reality a la the old Looney Tunes days in order to have a good time and peppered in countless clever jokes. The sequel has run away with the food puns, as Flint and friends travel to their old town of Swallow Falls to stop his old machine from creating dangerous food monsters that could threaten them yet again. They must outrun tacodile supremes, shrimpanzees and watermelephants to name a few.

fifth_estate11. The Fifth Estate (Oct. 11, limited)

I didn’t follow much of anything in detail about WikiLeaks and Julian Assange back in 2009, but I really really like Benedict Cumberbatch. I also like Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci, Anthony Mackie and most of the rest of the cast. Bill Condon (“Kinsey”) directs and Josh Singer (“The West Wing”) adapted the books on Assange and WikiLeaks. The film is also about some really important ideas, like, you know, whether the people have a right to expose their government’s secrets, so hopefully those come across well in the film. Early word will come in when the film premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival this week.

dallas_buyers_club10. Dallas Buyers Club (Nov. 1, limited)

Matthew McConaughey has been on an indie film tear the last couple years and “Dallas Buyers Club” looks like it could finally be the film that gets him some Oscar attention for it, if for nothing else but the physical transformation he had to endure to play a character with AIDS. McConaughey stars as Ron Woodroof, a rodeo champion who contracts HIV and gets frustrated with the availability of medicine, so he starts accumulating/smuggling non-approved drugs to get treatment to fellow patients. Also starring are Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto (who plays a transgender character, which I only point out because it’s so rare that we see one).

captain_phillips_ver29. Captain Phillips (Oct. 11)

Director Paul Greengrass (“The Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum”) took forever to decide his next project, and he ultimately went with something similar to “United 93,” the account of what happened on the 9/11 flight that was brought down by passengers over Pennsylvania. This account is of the Somali pirates who in 2009 hijacked the MV Maersk Alabama, a U.S. cargo ship. Tom Hanks stars as the titular captain who tried to save his life and crew.

counselor-poster-screencap8. The Counselor (Oct. 25)

Famed author Cormac McCarthy wrote the script for “The Counselor” directly for the screen, so naturally it appealed to the biggest and best names working in Hollywood including director Ridley Scott and stars Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz and more. Be careful, however, because McCarthy writes weird stuff. Not everyone loved “No Country for Old Men.” This one is about a lawyer (Fassbender) who is into drug trafficking and all hell breaks loose when a huge shipment is stolen.

rush_ver127. Rush (Sept. 27)

Not since “Frost/Nixon” has Ron Howard directed something with Oscar potential. “Rush” might not be that film, but it’s tons more legitimate than “Angels & Demons” and “The Dilemma.” Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl star as James Hunt and Nicki Lauda, two rival Formula 1 racers who challenged each other to greatness in the ’70s. Peter Morgan (“The Queen,” “Frost/Nixon”) wrote the script, so there is some promise here; it’s not unfathomable that “Rush” could receive some Oscar attention, especially when you just consider that it’s a sports drama.

don_jon6. Don Jon (Sept. 27, limited)

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s writer/director debut has gotten some great responses since it played at Sundance earlier this year. JGL stars as someone you’d expect to see on “Jersey Shore”obsessed with superficiality (and his family and friends too) whose addiction to porn has some consequences in his real-life relationships, namely a new lady in his life played by Scarlett Johansson. Julianne Moore and Tony Danza also star, but you gotta love JGL.

twelve_years_a_slave5. 12 Years a Slave (Oct. 18, limited)

If you’ve seen “Hunger” or “Shame,” you know Steve McQueen is going to make a great and universally praised film some day. He might have already done so by the looks of “12 Years a Slave,” the story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man living in the north who gets kidnapped and sold into slavery. The cast is absolutely loaded with other names you’ve already read in this preview: Brad Pitt, McQueen regular Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” stars Quvenzhane Wallis and Dwight Henry, Sarah Paulson (“American Horror Story”) and more. It looks nothing short of an epic historical drama.

enders_game4. Ender’s Game (Nov. 1)

Are the odds in favor of Gavin Hood’s take on this staple of science-fiction literature? No, but we’ll take them over nothing. Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” has been calling for a big-screen adaptation for decades and finally fans of the novel get to see what’s been in their heads for so long. Ender (Asa Butterfield) is a promising young boy recruited for a space military academy that is training soldiers in hopes of finding the young minds that can help turn around a decades-long war with aliens that has tilted out of humanity’s favor. Other exceptional young talents Abigail Breslin and Hailee Steinfeld join veterans Harrison Ford, Viola Davis and Ben Kingsley. Fingers crossed, book fans.

thor_the_dark_world_ver23. Thor: The Dark World (Nov. 8)

How rare it is that we’re treated to a fall superhero movie, so “Thor: The Dark World” has climbed high up my list. I didn’t totally love Thor’s first solo outing, but after “The Avengers,” it’d be hard not to get excited for what this adventure holds in store. The action already looks a million times better (Alan Taylor of “Game of Thrones” replaces Kenneth Branagh as director) and the stakes a million times higher than 2011’s “Thor” and the continuation of Thor’s dicey relationship with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is something that should keep it grounded in the characters, which any good Thor movie needs to do to be successful. This sequel sees Thor needing Loki’s help to handle Malekith the Accursed (Christopher Eccleston) and the Dark Elves in order to keep Asgard from falling entirely.

wolf-wall-street2. The Wolf of Wall Street (Nov. 15)

Martin Scorsese’s latest, “The Wolf of Wall Street” stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort (the film is based on Belfort’s book), who made it big as a stockbroker and eventually caused massive scandal through widespread corruption and mob infiltration of the corporate banking world and Wall Street. Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, Jon Favreau and others co-star. Not much else needs to be said about this film, except that the script comes from Terence Winter (“The Sopranos,” “Boardwalk Empire”). Just watch the superb trailer.


gravity1. Gravity (Oct. 4)

It’s been seven years since Alfonso Cuaron (“Children of Men,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”) treated us to a feature film. That’s too long for a man of his talent. “Gravity” stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as two astronauts left floating in space after an accident severs them from their ship. The trailers show nothing, but they do set the tone. At 90 minutes, expect an intense film with long takes and plenty to ooh and ahh at. Early word from the Venice Film Festival has been really positive.


10 Fall Films to be Skeptical About


familyThe Family (Sept. 13)

Mob comedies don’t always work, but maybe “The Family” can change that. It’s either a great sign or a terrible sign that Robert De Niro stars and Luc Besson (“The Professional”) writes and directs. Besson’s projects as a producer have been all over the place (“Taken” vs. “Taken 2” says it all) and De Niro has been no better. The film follows the Manzonis, who are taken into witness protection and moved to France where they’re told to blend in. It doesn’t work too well. Michelle Pfeifer, Tommy Lee Jones and Dianna Agron co-star, while former “Sopranos” characters fill in the supporting cast.

runner_runner_ver3Runner Runner (Oct. 4)

Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck (this movie would’ve been huge in 2001) star in a high-stakes gambling thriller from the writer of “Rounders” and director Brad Furman (the underrated “The Lincoln Lawyer”). The film takes place when online poker had been made illegal and high-stakes players had to go off-shore to compete. Timberlake’s character gets in way over his head when he finds himself at the mercy of Affleck, who is doing a great impression of his “Boiler Room” character. I really like the talent in place, but the trailer has me tentative to buy in, maybe because it doesn’t show anything new.

machete_killsMachete Kills (Oct. 11)

I enjoyed the heck out of a chunk of 2010’s “Machete” (slice?), but not enough to be sure that a character born of a fake movie trailer deserves a sequel (he’ll apparently get another if Robert Rodgriguez has his way. Fans of exploitation films will likely get an even more amusing dosage this time as the cast additions are even more unbelievable this time around: Sofia Vergara, Mel Gibson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Demian Bichir, Antonio Banderas as his “Spy Kids” character, Vanessa Hudgens, Amber Heard, Lady Gaga (you read that right) and Carlos Estevez, a.k.a. Charlie Sheen, who plays the president of the United States.

escape_planEscape Plan (Oct. 18)

The old action heroes are at it again. Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger star in what actually sounds like a pretty great premise: Stallone’s character, Ray Breslin, is something of a renowned prison escape artist, so he’s hired by the creators of the world’s most high-security prison to find out if it’s escape-proof. Of course, he’s double-crossed in the process and must indeed escape from the prison. I’m just not sure this film needed to have 60-year-old stars, but it has promise.

carrieCarrie (Oct. 18)

Remaking a classic is always dangerous territory. Kimberly Peirce (“Boys Don’t Cry”) will bring an interesting perspective to be sure in this story of a teenage girl (Chloe Grace Moretz of “Kick-Ass” fame) with an overprotective Christian mother (Julianne Moore) who discovers she can move things with her mind. Carrie has trouble fitting in at school, and when her bullies go too far, all hell breaks loose. The trailers evoke all the classic imagery and moments (including the spoiler-filled ones), so I’m skeptical Peirce has brought something new and insightful to the table.

bad_grandpaJackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (Oct. 25)

After the 3D “Jackass” movie broke a fall box-office record, it’s no surprise to see them turn Johnny Knoxville’s famous “Bad Grandpa” bit into a feature film. Something tells me, however, that all the funniest moments in this movie are in the trailer. “Bad Grandpa” goes the “Borat” and “Bruno” route in a way by setting up a story and filling it with moments showing real people’s candid reactions to their shenanigans. Knoxville plays Irving Zisman, an 86-year-old on a road trip with his grandson.

last_vegas_ver2Last Vegas (Nov. 1)

“Last Vegas” deserves being labeled “‘The Hangover’ with old people” because that’s exactly what it is. An old group of best friends (Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline) come together because one of them is getting married and they all go to Vegas for the bachelor party. Dan Fogelman (“The Guilt Trip,” “Crazy Stupid Love”) writes and “National Treasure” helmer Jon Turteltaub directs.


free_birdsFree Birds (Nov. 1)

Turkeys going back in time to end the tradition of slaughtering turkeys on Thanksgiving? I’m down with that premise, but I’m not sure the talent behind “Free Birds” matches up. Owen Wilson stars as a turkey selected to be the president’s turkey, but his posh life at the White House is interrupted by a Woody Harrelson-voiced turkey who convinces him to go back in time. The big question mark on “Free Birds” is that the production company has only made straight-to-video animated films and Christmas specials. I don’t exactly trust Relativity Media as distributor to push out a great animated movie either.


about_timeAbout Time (Nov. 8)

Richard Curtis’ attachment (“Love, Actually”) to “About Time” and Rachel McAdams playing yet another love interest who falls for a time traveler will surely turn heads, but I’m skeptical. Domhnall Gleeson stars as a young man who learns at age 21 that the men in his family can time travel. He uses his newfound gift to woo a young American (McAdams) but finds time travel has its consequences. Having openly admitted to my failure at impartiality when it comes to time travel movies, my hesitance here might seem surprising, but it’s mostly because I would rather my expectations be exceeded.


the-book-thiefThe Book Thief (Nov. 15)

It’s like “The Reader,” but for kids.

Okay — maybe not quite. “The Book Thief” puts a family-geared spin on a Holocaust drama as it centers on a young girl (Sophie Nelisse) adopted by a German couple who “collects” books, experiences life’s cruel nature when her adoptive parents harbor a young Jewish man who shares her same passion. The question isn’t whether it will be good or whether Geoffrey Rush is awesome, but whether “The Book Thief” can make a new statement in the overdone WWII sub-genre.


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