Aug. 31--Movie stars are always in season, and upcoming films offer a variety of ways to showcase them.
This fall's offerings range from movies with everyone in them (the trailer for "The Counselor" is basically a list of the Screen Actors Guild) to movies with almost nobody in them (billed alphabetically, Robert Redford is both first and last in "All Is Lost").
We'll say hello to a few performers ("12 Years a Slave" should finally make versatile Chiwetel Ejiofor a star) and goodbye to others (R.I.P., James Gandolfini).
Here's what I'm looking forward to seeing the most (and check out the packed-with-possibilities weekend of Sept. 27):
"Salinger": It's rare for a documentary to get as much buzz as this one, but the
bombshells have already started falling. For starters, the film (and a similarly titled book, just out) reveals that reclusive writer J.D. Salinger, who didn't publish a word from 1965 until his death in 2010, left behind explicit instructions to unveil five new or partially new works. Word is the film also will reveal a fair amount about the troubled history of the "Catcher in the Rye" author, who reportedly never recovered from what he saw during World War II. Opens Sept. 6.
"Short Term 12": This one's a cheat because I've seen it already. But I was crying so much of the time, I may have missed a few good parts. Beautiful, funny and truthful, it may sound like a movie you wouldn't want to see, but it emphatically is a movie you would want to see. Brie Larson plays a woman who supervises a group home for troubled teenagers and who may be good at her job because she has issues of her own. I loved it so much I have a hard time imagining it not making my year-end top 10. Opens Sept. 13.
"Prisoners": I am skeptical about director Denis Villeneuve, who made the wildly overrated "Incendies." But there's no quibbling with the cast: Hugh Jackman, Viola Davis, Jake Gyllenhaal, Melissa Leo, Terrence Howard and Maria Bello
all appear in the story of families that resort to desperate measures when a pair of girls are kidnapped. Opens Sept. 20.
"Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2": The first "Cloudy" was a warm, witty adventure triggered by an invention that made it rain delicious foods. The sequel ups the ante: Now, it's raining freakish mutations that are part delicious foods, part menacing creatures. So maybe it should really be called "Night of the Living Meatballs." Opens Sept. 27.
"Don Jon": As an actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is riding a string of great movies ("Inception," "The Dark Knight Rises," "Looper"). Can he extend the streak with his acting/directing debut, a comedy/drama about a man who acts out his relationship issues by trying to have sex with every female he meets? Opens Sept. 27.
"Enough Said": Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays an empty-nester who falls for a guy (the late James Gandolfini), only to learn he's the much-hated ex-husband of her buddy. The buddy is played by Catherine Keener, who has appeared in all of writer/director Nicole Holofcener's films ("Lovely and Amazing," "Please Give"), and the cast includes many other swell, funny women, including Toni Collette and former "Saturday Night Live" alum Michaela Watkins. Opens Sept. 27.
"Rush": Ron Howard is not known for movies with a lot of personality or sex appeal, but the word is this Formula One racing movie has both. Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl star as '70s drivers James Hunt
and Niki Lauda, who were rivals on and off the track. Opens Sept. 27.
"Gravity": In a season of large ensemble casts, "Gravity" goes in the opposite direction. It's basically just Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts who become separated from their craft in space and must struggle to survive, unsure if they'll ever get back to civilization. The great Alfonso Cuaron has never made a bad movie ("A Little Princess," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Y Tu Mama Tambien" are all on his varied resume), and this is his first directing gig since the masterful "Children of Men" in 2006. Opens Oct. 4.
"Captain Phillips": Not to be outdone by Benedict Cumberbatch or Michael Fassbender, Tom Hanks also has
multiple movies hitting theaters before the end of year. His portrayal of Walt Disney in "Saving Mr. Banks" will have to wait for our holiday movie preview. In the meantime, he is the heroic commander of a boat hijacked by Somali pirates. Based on a true story, "Captain Phillips" was directed by Paul Greengrass ("United 93") and co-stars a number of Somali actors from the Twin Cities. Opens Oct. 11.
"All Is Lost": It was a sensation at this year's Cannes Film Festival, where the talk was that Robert Redford gives the performance of his career, a performance that could shoot the 77-year-old past Henry Fonda as the oldest best-actor Oscar winner. No one in the film competes with him for screen time -- it's just Redford trying to navigate toward shipping lanes while his ailing yacht slowly sinks. "All Is Lost" was directed by J.C. Chandor, who made the tense "Margin Call." Opens Oct. 18.
"The Fifth Estate": Benedict Cumberbatch launches an all-out assault on late-2013 movie screens with this biopic. He's also in November's "12 Years a Slave" and December's "August, Osage County" and "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." In "The Fifth Estate," he plays Julian Assange, the mastermind behind Wikileaks who is maybe a hero, maybe a villain or probably both. Bill Condon, who made "Dreamgirls" and "Kinsey," directs, and future Dr. Who, Peter Capaldi, plays a supporting role. Opens Oct. 18.
"The Counselor": There are so many reasons to be excited about this one: It's the first original screenplay by novelist Cormac McCarthy ("No Country for Old Men"). It's a twisty caper, filled with nasty humor and menacing drug lords. The material seems perfect for stylish director Ridley Scott ("Alien," "Prometheus"). And check out this cast: Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz and Rosie Perez. One question: There wasn't a part for Benedict Cumberbatch? Opens Oct. 25.
"Blue Is the Warmest Color": Controversy is a good way to make a splash at Cannes, and this explicit French lesbian romance snagged plenty of it. Opens Nov. 1.
"12 Years a Slave": Director Steve McQueen's previous films ("Hunger," "Shame") were both tough-minded gems, and "12 Years," based on a novel titled "Twelve Years a Slave," looks like it could be another. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays a free man who is duped into slavery and who fights to free himself. The distinguished cast also includes Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alfre Woodard. Opens Nov. 1.
"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire": Jennifer Lawrence returns as the young woman with the fate of civilization on her shoulders. She has a new villain to deal with in the second film of four: Philip Seymour Hoffman's nastily named Plutarch Heavensbee. Opens Nov. 22.
Movie critic Chris Hewitt can be reached at email@example.com or 651-228-5552. Follow him on twitter.com/ChrisHMovie.
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