Fall film schedule is loaded with Oscar contenders


It’s a decades-old Hollywood formula: summer releases typically deliver the box-office champ, while fall films bring the Oscar winner.

Don’t look for 2013 to change anything.

Less than two months after its May 3 release, Iron Man 3 became the only film to break the $400 million mark domestically.

And based on its widespread acclaim at the 38th annual Toronto International Film Festival, 12 Years a Slave, out Oct. 18 in limited release, appears to be a lock for Oscar glory.

Chiwetel Ejiofor in a scene from
Chiwetel Ejiofor in a scene from "12 Years A Slave." The film, by director Steve McQueen, is being hailed a masterpiece and a certain Oscar heavyweight.

Director Steven McQueen’s true account of a pre-Civil War free black man named Solomon Northup abducted from his home in upstate New York and sold into slavery in Louisiana, 12 Years a Slave took top prize at the festival. And since its sneak screening at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado earlier this month, critics have lauded the heavy drama, including Oscar talk for McQueen as well as the film’s stars, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon, Michael Fassbender as a malevolent slave owner, and Brad Pitt as a Canadian abolitionist who forever alters Solomon’s life.

An early triumph in the fall-holiday film calendar, 12 Years a Slave is one title in a slate of intriguing and promising dramas and blockbusters arriving in theaters in the coming months. Here’s a look ahead — and as always, opening dates should be viewed as tentative.


Rush: Two-time Oscar-winner Ron Howard explores the intense rivalry of two Formula 1 drivers in the ’70s, James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Based on a true story, the film stars Chris Hemsworth (The Avengers) as the charismatic Englishman Hunt and Daniel Brühl (Inglourious Basterds) as the disciplined Austrian perfectionist Lauda. Also starring Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Maria Lara.

Oct. 4:

Gravity: This harrowing space thriller by Alfonso Cuarón is the stuff of nightmares: two astronauts — one a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission (Sandra Bullock), the other a veteran of space flights (George Clooney) — encounter unimaginable terror on a routine spacewalk when their shuttle is destroyed and they are sent spiraling into the void with limited oxygen supplies.

Oct. 11:

Captain Phillips: In his first of two biographical portrayals this fall, Tom Hanks plays the titular Phillips, captain of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009. Also starring Catherine Keener and directed by Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Trilogy, United 93).

Oct. 18:

All is Lost: Robert Redford stars in this open-water thriller about a resourceful sailer’s lone struggle to survive weather, waves, and sharks after his sailboat is destroyed at sea.

The Fifth Estate: Fresh off his role as villainous Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness, Benedict Cumberbatch jumps to present day as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in this thriller based on real events chronicling the creation of his whistle-blowing Web site and the controversies and problems that followed.

Oct. 25:

The Counselor: Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Cormac McCarthy pens his first screenplay in this tale of a lawyer who finds himself in over his head when he gets involved in drug trafficking. Starring Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Pitt, Penelope Cruz, and Cameron Diaz. Directed by Ridley Scott.

Nov. 1:

Ender’s Game: Hostile aliens attack Earth in the near future. We win the initial battle, but a new generation of recruits is needed to continue the war to save humanity. Leading that charge is a shy but strategically brilliant boy named Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield). Based on the best-selling and award-winning novel by Orson Scott Card. Also starring Hailee Steinfeld, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, and Harrison Ford.

Dallas Buyers Club: Strong buzz surrounds performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto in this drama set in the late 1980s about a Texan’s mission to help himself and others who are HIV-positive with alternative treatments. Also starring Jennifer Garner.

Nov. 8

Thor: The Dark World: The big-screen solo adventures of Thunder God Thor (Chris Hemsworth) continue as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from an enemy older than time itself. Also returning from the first Thor are Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, and Stellan Skarsgård.

Nov. 15

The Book Thief: Based on the international bestselling book, The Book Thief is the tale of a spirited young girl sent to live with a foster family in World War II Germany who begins collecting books. With the help of her new parents and a secret guest under the stairs, she learns to read and creates an inspiring magical world. Starring Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, and Sophie Nelisse.

The Wolf of Wall Street: Martin Scorsese directs and Leonardo DiCaprio stars in this true story of the rise and fall of Jordan Belfort, a wealthy stockbroker caught up in crime and corruption. The cast includes Jon Favreau, Spike Jonze, Jonah Hill, and McConaughey.

Nov. 22

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: The first film adaptation from Suzanne Collins’ book series introduced us to Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and the dystopian future in which she lives. In this sequel, we discover that winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games, along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), is only the beginning of her story, as rebellion is simmering against the Capitol, even as it prepares for the Hunger Games anniversary. Also starring Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland. Director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend) replaces Gary Ross.

Nebraska: In this 2013 Cannes Film Festival favorite, Bruce Dern is an aging, booze-addled father and Will Forte is his estranged son who helps Dad make the trip from Montana to Nebraska to claim a million-dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing prize, meeting family and friends along the way. Also starring June Squibb and Bob Odenkirk. Directed by Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways, The Descendants).

Nov. 27

Frozen: An epic journey to save a kingdom from its wintery fate, Disney’s latest animated work features the voices of Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Idina Menzel, and Josh Gad.

Oldboy: An advertising executive (Josh Brolin) is kidnapped and held hostage for 20 years. When he is inexplicably released, he is obsessed with discovering who orchestrated his bizarre punishment only to find he is still trapped in a web of conspiracy. Also starring Elizabeth Olsen and Sharlto Copley, Spike Lee directs this thriller based on the acclaimed 2003 Korean film, itself based on a Japanese manga series.

Black Nativity: In this adaptation of Langston Hughes’ celebrated play of an all-black Nativity story, a streetwise Baltimore teen raised by a single mother journeys to New York to spend Christmas with his estranged relatives (Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett), and learns many life lessons once there.

Dec. 6

Out of the Furnace: Christian Bale stars as a blue-collar worker who searches for his Iraq war veteran brother (Casey Affleck) when he goes missing shortly after joining a crime ring. Scott Cooper, who wrote and directed Crazy Heart, cowrote and directs this drama about family, fate, and justice. Also starring Harrelson, Whitaker, Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard, and Willem Dafoe.

Dec. 13

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Peter Jackson’s first installment in this trilogy was a warm-up. Now comes the good stuff in the get-rich quest of a band of dwarves, Bilbo Baggins, and Gandalf the Wizard: the gold-hordeing, fire-breathing dragon Smaug (voice of Benedict Cumberbatch). Stars Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, and Evangeline Lilly.

Dec. 18

The Monuments Men: With Hitler threatening to destroy renown works of art stolen by the Nazis, a small crew of art historians and museum curators are sent to recover the priceless pieces. Based on a true story. Starring George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, and Jean Dujardin. Co-written and directed by Clooney.

Her: Heartbroken and lonely, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) strikes up a friendship with an advanced operating system and its affectionate female voice (Scarlett Johansson), only to have their friendship develop into much more. Spike Jonze wrote and directed this film, which also stars Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, and Olivia Wilde.

Dec. 20

Anchorman: The Legend Continues. Nearly a decade after his first film, TV newsman Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) returns, along with co-anchor wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) and the rest of the news team, as they leave the 1970s and San Diego for the 1980s and a 24-hour cable news station. Also starring Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, and David Koechner, Director Adam McKay is back.

Inside Llewyn Davis: The Coen Brothers’ latest work details a week in the life of a young folk singer named Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961. Also starring Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan.

Saving Mr. Banks: Oscar winners Hanks and Emma Thompson star as Walt Disney and Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers, respectively, in this inspired-by-real-life account of the lengthy negotiations and incredible effort he engages to turn her book into a film.

Dec. 25

American Hustle: Fresh off the success of Silver Linings Playbook, writer-director David O. Russell assembles another strong cast in this story of con artists forced to work with a federal agent to turn the tables on other cons, mobsters, and politicians. Loosely based on the FBI sting operation ABSCAM from the 1970s and early ’80s. Starring Lawrence, Bale, Robert De Niro, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., and Michael Peña.

August: Osage County: A family crisis unites the strong-willed women of the Weston family, returning them to the Oklahoma home where they grew up and the dysfunctional woman who raised them. Starring Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Cumberbatch, Abigail Breslin, Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Shepard, and Chris Cooper.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: In this 2013 adaptation of James Thurber’s beloved 1939 short story, consummate day dreamer Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller, who also directs) is an office drone fantasizing heroic feats while pining for a coworker (Kristen Wiig). But with their jobs in jeopardy, he’s off on a global mission to set things right. Also starring Shirley MacLaine, Adam Scott, Patton Oswalt, and Sean Penn.

Labor Day: Writer-director Jason Reitman goes heavy drama with this story of a struggling single mom and her 13-year-old son, who unknowingly take in an escaped convict. Starring Kate Winslet, Brolin, Gattlin Griffith, Tobey Maguire, Clark Gregg and JK Simmons. Based on a novel by Joyce Maynard.

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