Peek at promising fall movies

Peek at promising fall movies

With the summer film season coming to a close, the box office winner will be “The Avengers” with “The Dark Knight Rises” a close second; both earned $100 million-plus. Already trailers for fall and holiday season movies are popping up in theaters, signaling that it’s time to look ahead.

September has never been a strong month for movie openings. Vacations end, school starts and the box office take goes down. The releases for September are usually weak, with one huge exception for 2012.

“The Master” (release date: Sept. 14) marks the return of writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson with his first film since “There Will Be Blood” (2007). This time, instead of the oil business, Anderson sets his focus on the leader of a Scientology-like cult with Philip Seymour Hoffman starring as a quasi-religious leader who rises to fame just after World War II. The film also marks the return of Joaquin Phoenix, absent from the screen for almost four years, as one of his ardent believers. Amy Adams also stars in what is being touted as a serious Oscar contender.

September has a few other highlights:

“Arbitrage” (release date: Sept. 14) is a Richard Gere project about a billionaire hedge fund manager on the eve of selling his company who’s keeping some serious secrets. Susan Sarandon stars as his wife with Tim Roth and Brit Marling also in the cast. It looks like a typical Gere project — a compelling character that doesn’t stretch his range too much.

Never say never. Clint Eastwood recently announced his retirement from acting, but soon after, director Robert Lorenz talked him into playing an aging baseball scout who goes on the road one last time with his daughter, played by Amy Adams in “The Trouble with the Curve.” The film boasts a great supporting cast with John Goodman and Justin Timberlake (release date: Sept. 21)

“Looper” (release date: Sept. 28) looks interesting, too, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a hit man from the future. Set in 2072 when time travel has been invented but outlawed, the bad guys have found a clever way to deal with their enemies — sending them back in time to disappear forever. The twisted plot is a brainteaser with Gordon-Levitt’s older self (played by Bruce Willis) sent back to kill him. Uh? Also starring Emily Blunt and Jeff Daniels.

October looks more promising with the return of one of my favorite directors, Andrew Dominik, who teams up with Brad Pitt a second time for “Killing Them Softly” (release date: Oct. 19). Their first film, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” (2007), ranks high on my Top 10 list, but sadly it failed to register much attention. This one looks to be more mainstream with Pitt playing a mob enforcer sent to deal with two punks who rob a high stakes poker game. Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini and Ray Liotta also star.

Buzz is also good for “Argo” (release date: Oct. 12) directed by and starring Ben Affleck as a CIA agent who is forced to improvise during the 1979 Tehran hostage crisis to secure some U.S. diplomats. Based on true events, Affleck’s character creates the charade of a movie production to fool the Iranians into letting them into the country so they can smuggle out the diplomats hiding in the Canadian ambassador’s residence. The title comes from the name of the science fiction screenplay used in the plot.

Recent still photos of Tom Hanks and Halle Berry released from the set of “Cloud Atlas” created a stir, setting curious minds to work learning more about this project. Beware the movie that cannot easily be explained in a sentence or two. Remember Darren Aronofsky’s 2006 bomb, “The Fountain”? This has similar themes of past, present and future with Hanks, Berry and others playing multiple characters and crossing genders. It’s risky, but with the potential for a big payoff. Still, I have a bad feeling about this one.

Two projects generating a lot of anticipation for the 2012 holiday season have now been put off until 2013. Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” in 3D (groan) will now premiere in summer 2013. Producers are putting a good face on the reschedule saying that the film is so good it deserves a larger summer opening. Still it just doesn’t make sense to take the film out of Oscar competition, which leaves me to wonder as to the real reason.

The Coen Brothers have set their sights on the New York folk music scene of the ’60s with “Inside Llewyn Davis,” which was supposed to appear this fall and has now been pushed to February 2013. Starring in the titular role is Oscar Isaac with Carey Mulligan and the now ubiquitous Justin Timberlake and John Goodman also in the cast as musicians.

There is much more to come as the holidays approach including the release of Peter Jackson’s greatly anticipated “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” When it cools down a little, we’ll take a look at this film and more.