Fall film lineup is impressive


Forget the bummer of a summer for movies.

It’s time to focus on the promise of fall films, which means heavyweight directors (Eastwood, Scorsese, Spielberg), A-list stars (Clooney, Streep, Cruise), and a whole lotta Oscar buzz (The Descendants, J. Edgar, A Dangerous Method, The Ides of March).

Below are some spotlight-worthy films you won’t want to miss in the coming months — for quality purposes or just to be in the pop culture loop — now through Dec. 30. As always, the opening dates are subject to change.

Oct. 7: The Ides of March

Directed by George Clooney. Starring Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood.

Based on the play Farragut North by Beau Willimon, The Ides of March is set during the frantic waning days in a heavily contested Ohio presidential primary, when an up-and-coming campaign press secretary (Gosling) becomes involved in a political scandal that threatens to upend his candidate’s shot at the presidency.

Why you should see it: A film exploring dirty politics for the highest office in the land is the perfect presidential campaign season kickoff.

Oct. 28: Anonymous

Directed by Roland Emmerich. Starring Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson, David Thewlis, Xavier Samuel, Sebastian Armesto, Rafe Spall, Edward Hogg, Jamie Campbell Bower, Derek Jacobi.

Anonymous speculates on an issue that has intrigued academics and brilliant minds such as Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Sigmund Freud: Who actually created the body of work credited to William Shakespeare? The drama supposes that it was a member of the Royal Court who wrote the plays, amid the backdrop of Elizabethan England and its scandalous political intrigue, illicit romances, and schemes of greedy nobles lusting for power.

Why you should see it: Shakespeare in Love, a 1998 film exploring the inspirations of the Bard, earned a Best Picture Oscar. Strong buzz on Anonymous suggests this is a better film.

Nov. 11: J. Edgar

Directed by Clint Eastwood. Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench, Ed Westwick, Josh Lucas.

The film chronicles the life of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who founded the crime-fighting organization in 1935 and remained its director until his death in 1972.

Why you should see it: This is the first pairing of DiCaprio and Eastwood. Will their actor-director chemistry be as fruitful and successful as that of the DiCaprio-Martin Scorsese films? Plus, DiCaprio in a dress (if the film addresses the rumors of Hoover’s cross-dressing) is worth a trip to the theater.

Nov. 18: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1

Directed by Bill Condon. Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Dakota Fanning, Anna Kendrick, Ashley Greene, Michael Sheen, Kellan Lutz, Jackson Rathbone, Peter Facinelli, Billy Burke.

The love triangle of a girl, a vampire, and a werewolf is winding down. In the first installment of the two-part finale, Bella (Stewart) is pregnant by her vampire boyfriend, Edward (Pattinson). Naturally, there will be consequences from the vampire coven and wolf pack, not to mention her human dad.

Why you should see it: Because you’re a fan of Stephenie Meyer’s books, or you want to be part of a waning pop culture phenomenon.

Happy Feet Two

Directed by George Miller. Featuring the voices of Elijah Wood, Elizabeth Daily, Robin Williams, Hank Azaria, Alecia Moore (Pink), Sofia Vergara, Anthony LaPaglia, Magda Szubanski, Hugo Weaving, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon.

Mumble (Wood) has a problem with his tiny son, Erik (Daily), who doesn’t like to dance, runs away, and falls under the influence of the Mighty Sven (Azaria), a flying penguin. But it only gets worse for Mumble when the world is shaken by powerful forces and he must bring together the penguin nation as well as other land and sea creatures to make everything right.

Why you should see it: Happy Feet won a deserving Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film in 2007, beating out Pixar’s Cars. With Pixar’s first critical flop Cars 2 this year, history is likely to repeat itself.

Nov. 23: Hugo

Directed by Martin Scorsese. Starring Asa Butterfield, Chloe Moretz, Jude Law, Emily Mortimer, Sacha Baron Cohen, Michael Pitt, Christopher Lee, Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley.

Based on Brian Selznick’s novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, this is the story of 12-year-old orphan Hugo (Butterfield), who secretly lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station in the 1930s and looks after the clocks. He gets caught up in a mystery adventure involving his recently deceased father when he attempts to repair a robot.

Why you should see it: Consider this family film a child’s introduction to the cinematic magic of Scorsese. It’s also the first 3-D feature the filmmaker has made, which means the mostly Hollywood gimmick may finally live up to its creative promise.

The Descendants

Directed by Alexander Payne. Starring George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Beau Bridges, Robert Forster, Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard, Nick Krause.

Matt King (Clooney) is an indifferent husband and father of two girls forced to re-examine his past and embrace his future when his wife suffers a boating accident off of Waikiki. The event thaws his icy relationship with his daughters, while Matt wrestles with a decision to sell the family’s land handed down from Hawaiian royalty and missionaries.

Why you should see it: Several years removed from exploring the oblique drama of midlife crisis with the darkly funny Sideways, Payne returns with The Descendants. And a fall film season is always better with Payne in the mix.

The Muppets

Directed by James Bobin. Starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones.

Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, et al., have moved on from their TV show days. But the threatened destruction of their old theater by a rich oil man (Cooper) is reason for Walter, the world’s biggest Muppets fan, his brother (Segel), and his brother’s girlfriend (Adams) to track down and reunite the Muppets to put on a show to raise enough money and save the building.

Why you should see it: Don’t tell me your heart isn’t warmed by the first Muppet movie in more than a decade?

Dec. 16: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Directed by Guy Ritchie. Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Stephen Fry, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris.

Holmes (Downey) and his sidekick Dr. Watson (Law) join forces to bring down their fiercest adversary, Professor Moriarty (Harris).

Why you should see it: The first Sherlock Holmes was a blast and cemented Downey’s career comeback. It’s also nice to support an action-hero film franchise that doesn’t feature a man in tights. Plus, with Moriarty now in the game, Holmes can square off against his ultimate nemesis.

Dec. 21: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Directed by Brad Bird. Starring Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, Vladimir Mashkov, Josh Holloway, Anil Kapoor.

The continuing adventures of super agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his Impossible Mission Force. After the bombing of the Kremlin, Hunt and his team are strategically blamed by the U.S. government, but are allowed to operate outside of government jurisdiction — "ghost protocol" — to find those responsible for the attack.

Why you should see it: Bird wrote and directed Pixar’s The Incredibles, a wonderful animated film about a family of superheroes. The action sequences and effects were dazzling, so imagine what he will do with Cruise in a live-action setting.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Directed by David Fincher. Starring Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, Yorick Van Wageningen, Joely Richardson.

Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Craig) agrees to spend a year writing the history of the wealthy Vanger family as a cover for solving the mysterious disappearance of a young woman 40 years earlier. He is aided in his investigation by a precocious computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander (Mara), but as the pair dig deeper into the unsolved case, the answers they unearth lead only to more questions and unexpected troubles.

Why you should see it: Have you seen the mesmerizing eight-minute promotional trailer? If that doesn’t at least pique your curiosity about this Hollywood adaptation from Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson’s best-selling novel, you might as well purchase your tickets for the new Alvin and the Chipmunks movie, Chipwrecked, now.

Dec. 23: The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn

Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Gad Elmaleh, Toby Jones, Mackenzie Crook.

A young reporter named Tintin (Bell) and his terrier named Snowy travel the globe on countless adventures in this motion capture 3-D film based on three Tintin stories published in the 1940s. The film includes Tintin’s first encounter with Captain Haddock (Serkis), and the discovery of a clue to the treasure of his ancestor, Sir Francis Haddoque.

Why you should see it: Spielberg and Peter Jackson are such big fans of the comic-book series The Adventures of Tintin by Belgian artist Georges Hergé, the former directed this movie and the latter produced it. If the film does well, Jackson will direct a part two in a proposed trilogy, and it’s suggested he and Spielberg will team up to codirect the third installment.

Dec. 28: War Horse

Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup, Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irvine.

Set in rural England and Europe during World War I, War Horse is the epic journey of one horse and its ability to inspire and change the lives of those it meets, including a young British boy, the British calvary, German soldiers, and a French farmer and his granddaughter.

Why you should see it: The movie is based on the 1982 children’s novel, which was adapted into a popular stage production in 2007. The story is a reflection of the high cost of war, so don’t expect Spielberg to shy away from death on the battlefield — even in a family movie.

For a full list of other films coming to a theater near you through the end of the year, CLICK HERE.

Contact Kirk Baird at: or 419-724-6734.