As we close in on Labor Day — you can do it, c’mon, five short days, and you know you can get away with sneaking out early on Friday — the summer movie season is winding down, so you know what that means: the fall movie season is winding up! (Can’t not be in a movie season, ya know.) It’s something of a changing of the guard at the multiplexes; the superheroes, action heroes, and animated animals march off, replaced by (mostly) serious actors and prestige projects. It’s that special time of year when Hollywood pretends like they make intelligent, grown-up movies all the time, so let’s play along! Our ten most anticipated fall flick are collected after the jump, organized by release date; agree, disagree, and add your own in the comments.
RELEASE DATE: September 14
DIRECTOR: Paul Thomas Anderson
CAST: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Laura Dern, Kevin J. O’Connor
It’s been five long years since Paul Thomas Anderson knocked us out with There Will Be Blood (and there were five years between that film and Punch Drunk Love — not crazy about the productivity rate, PTA), and we couldn’t be more excited about The Master, a period drama that, depending on who you listen to, is either a barely-veiled take on the origins of Scientology, or this totally unconnected unrelated thing that really has nothing to at all to do with Scientology, a religion that has nothing resembling a stranglehold on Hollywood. Whatever the case may be, those abstract teasers and masterful trailers have got us all but salivating to see what Anderson’s cooked up this time.
RELEASE DATE: September 28
DIRECTOR: Rian Johnson
CAST: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Piper Perabo, Paul Dano, Jeff Daniels
We’re suckers for time-travel action/sci-fi tales, so we were already interested in this futuristic tale of an assassin who is given the assignment of offing his future self. But when we found out Looper was written and directed by Rian Johnson, we were all the way in; after all, this is the inventive filmmaker behind Gordon-Levitt’s breakthrough film, the hard-boiled high school noir flick Brick, as well as the giddily entertaining (and sadly underseen) The Brothers Bloom. And Emily Blunt’s in it too? Well, now they’re just taunting us.
RELEASE DATE: October 12
DIRECTOR: Ben Affleck
CAST: Ben Affleck, Byran Cranston, John Goodman, Chris Messina, Alan Arkin, Michael Parks, Phillip Baker Hall, Kerry Bishé
The rebirth of Ben Affleck has been one of the cheerier comeback stories in recent Hollywood history; after a series of dud movies and total overexposure as half of “Bennifer” (remember that mess?), Affleck disappeared, regrouped, and re-emerged as a character actor and director. He quickly proved himself to be no half-stepper; this is a gifted filmmaker, and Gone Baby Gone and The Town are two of the best studio genre movies in recent memory. He’s working on what looks like a bigger canvas and bigger budget with his new film, Argo, and — if its electrifying trailer is any indication — juggling some different colors as well, with elements of true docudrama and Hollywood satire commingling. We can’t wait.
Killing Them Softly
RELEASE DATE: October 19
DIRECTOR: Andrew Dominick
CAST: Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, Sam Shepard
No, it’s not that straight-to-DVD movie with all the Heather Graham nudity. (Oh, you weren’t confusing it with that? Yeah, me neither.) It’s another long-awaited follow-up to a 2007 masterpiece — this time, Andrew Dominick’s reteaming with Brad Pitt, the star of his gorgeous Western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. They’ve returned to the milieu of men with guns, but this time the setting is more contemporary, with Pitt playing a mob enforcer looking for the punks that knocked off an outfit poker game. That sounds like a pretty standard plot, but Dominick’s unique style should provide a fresh take to this underworld tale.
RELEASE DATE: October 26
DIRECTOR: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
CAST: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Hugh Grant, Jim Sturgess, Susan Sarandon, Keith David
Not having read David Mitchell’s sprawling novel, your film editor wasn’t quite sure what the hell everyone was so worked up about while Cloud Atlas was in production; it had been a while since either Tykwer or the Wachowskis had made anything terribly interesting, after all. Then we got our first look at that remarkable mega-trailer, and, well, we get it now. Atlas looks big, bold, and beautiful — an old-fashioned epic with a decidedly modern feel, wearing its giant emotions right on its sleeve. It’s the kind of grand project that will either blow everyone away or fail, massively. We’ve got a feeling it’s going to be the former.
RELEASE DATE: November 9
DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes
CAST: Daniel Craig, Ralph Finnes, Javier Bardem, Judy Dench, Albert Finney, Naomie Harris
C’mon. It’s Bond. What’re we gonna do, not go see it?
RELEASE DATE: November 9
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
CAST: Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, Jared Harris, Sally Field, David Strathairn, James Spader, John Hawkes, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Spielberg is one of the finest filmmakers of our time, no doubt about it, but he’s also not infallible — and since his last effort was the hoary War Horse, we weren’t automatically sold on his Lincoln biography. But then we started seeing those uncanny images of Day-Lewis as Honest Abe, and we cried uncle; that spot-on casting, and the impressive ensemble Spielberg has assembled around it, has got us very interested. Bonus: the script (adapted from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s indispensible A Team of Rivals) is co-written by Tony Kushner, whose breathtaking Angels in America (and script for Spielberg’s ethically complex Munich) doesn’t exactly indicate that we’re in for a straight-forward, starry-eyed biopic.
This Is 40
RELEASE DATE: December 21
DIRECTOR: Judd Apatow
CAST: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Jason Segel, Albert Brooks, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Lena Dunham, Megan Fox
When it comes to comedy sequels, lighting seldom strikes twice (ask anyone who’s sat through Ghostbusters II, Caddyshack II, or The Hangover Part II), so you can’t blame Judd Apatow for dubbing This Is 40 a “sort-of sequel” to Knocked Up. That film’s leads appear to be absent from the picture; instead, the focus is on Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann, Mrs. Apatow), who are closing in on the big 4-0 and having some anxiety about it. The two trailers thus far have had big laughs, familiar faces, and hints of the gentleness and warmth that makes Apatow one of our favorite comic directors, and the idea of such comic masterminds as Brooks and Dunham popping up as well has made us even more jazzed for this one.
Zero Dark Thirty
RELEASE DATE: December 21
DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigelow
CAST: Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt, Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Jennifer Ehle, Kyle Chandler, Harold Perrineau
Hurt Locker’s Oscar-winning director and writer reunite for this ground-level look at the tracking and killing of Osama bin Laden, which they apparently got some rather unprecedented access to (leading to cries of PROPAGANDA CREATION BY LIBRUL HOLLYWOOD from some folks on the right — a claim that might hold water if the movie was coming out, oh, before November 6). They’ve assembled a top-notch cast for the job — though we have to say, we’re most interested in seeing Parks and Rec’s Chris Pratt in what’s presumably a straight role (he showed hints of some real dramatic skill in last year’s Moneyball). The trailer is terrific and the story is thrilling; this one seems like a can’t-miss.
RELEASE DATE: December 25
DIRECTOR: Quentin Tarantino
CAST: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Don Johnson, Bruce Dern, Samuel L. Jackson
We’re been waiting so long now for Tarantino’s Western (or “Southern,” as he’s called it, since it’s set in the pre-Civil War South) that we’re not sure what else to add: he’s assembled a terrific cast, the back-and-forth between Foxx and Waltz in the trailers looks like vintage QT, and we can’t wait to see DiCaprio do the scenery-chewing villain thing. We also can’t wait to see if Tarantino actually hits that Christmas release date: principal photography finally wrapped (after over four months of shooting) less than a month ago, so the editing process could be a little bit hectic, yes? No screwing around, Quentin; make it happen.
Those are our can’t-miss fall movies — what are yours? Let us know in the comments!