The Eagle's summer
movie preview observed that the movies in store for the hot weather months were generally angst-ridden, and even the comedies ("The World's End" for example) hinted at the end of days. The fall movie season is now upon us and nothing much has changed.
Wall Street mischief, kidnapping, totalitarianism, slavery and AIDS are among the fodder for the films of autumn. The comedies should offer some respite, but on the other hand, two of them are about sex addiction. Welcome to 2013, where Syrian chemical attacks dominate the news and the movies reflect the generally jittery nature of the nation and world.
The good news is that many of these movies look promising, which is expected as fall unofficially kicks off the competition for Oscars and other film honors. The release dates listed below are subject to change, and many of the films will open in major cities before expanding to the Berkshires. The first category contains the films with the greatest hopes for award-season glory.
It will be 50 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy this November, and on Oct. 4 "Parkland," which is named after the Dallas hospital where the president was pronounced dead, explores that day through the ordinary people touched by it. Paul Giamatti is amateur photographer Abraham Zapruder and Billy Bob Thornton is Secret Service agent Forrest Sorrels.
The trailer for "Gravity" (Oct. 4), with astronauts Sandra Bullock and George Clooney tumbling through outer space and trying desperately to cling to the outside of their craft, is a stunner. Bullock and director Alfonso Cuaron, making his first film since the outstanding "Children of Men," are attracting awards buzz.
Academy favorite Tom Hanks takes on another heroic role in "Captain Phillips (Oct. 11), based on the true story of the captain whose ship was taken over by Somali pirates in 2009. Also on the 11th, Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" gets an updated treatment with Douglas Booth and Hailee Steinfeld as the star-crossed lovers and Julian Fellowes, the creator of "Downton Abbey," directing.
Chiwetel Ejiofor is getting strong notices for his performance as Solomon Northrup, a free black man from Saratoga Springs, N.Y. who in 1841 was kidnapped into slavery, in "12 Years a Slave" (Oct. 18). The movie, which also features Michael Fassbender as a ruthless southern slave owner, is based on Northrup's 1853 memoir.
Remarkably, Robert Redford has never won an acting Oscar. That may change following his performance in "All is Lost" (Oct. 18), in which the 76-year-old actor dominates the screen as a veteran sailor alone in the Indian Ocean on his sinking sailboat. Naomi Watts portrays the iconic Princess of Wales in "Diana" on Nov. 1. The movie is centered around her secret affair with a Pakistani heart surgeon (Naveen Andrews), whose influence helped her shed her party girl image.
The frenetic, engrossing trailer for Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" (Nov. 15) recalls the director's classic "Goodfellas." Leonardo DiCaprio plays high-rolling 1990s stockbroker Jordan Belfort, whose fall to earth was chronicled in Belfort's memoir. Also on the 15th, "The Book Thief" stars Canadian gymnast turned first-time actor Sophie Nelisse as a young girl who steals to support her family in Nazi Germany.
Bruce Dern, who is a year older than Redford, won the Best Actor prize at the Cannes film festival for his performance in "Nebraska" (Nov. 22) as an addled old-timer who believes he has won a $1 million lottery prize. Alexander Payne ("The Descendants") directs.
Benedict Cumberbatch, who will show up all over movie screens this fall into winter, dons a white wig to play WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in "The Fifth Estate" (Oct. 18). Daniel Bruhl plays ally turned foe Daniel Dornscheit-Berg, upon whose memoir the film is partially based. Also on the 18th, the 1944 murder that linked Beat Era icons Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), William Burroughs (Ben Foster) and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) is explored in "Kill Your Darlings."
Asa Butterfield ("Hugo") is a teen prodigy chosen to lead humanity in its battle against aliens in "Ender's Game" (Nov. 1), which is based on the popular 1985 futuristic novel by Orson Scott Card. Based on a true story, "Dallas Buyers Club" (Nov. 1) stars Matthew McConaughey as a blue collar Texan who after being diagnosed with HIV in 1986 does an end run around the pharmaceutical giants to import potentially curative drugs.
The teen romance may be the selling point for the "Hunger Games" films but their value is in exposing young audiences to totalitarianism and the way it can be sold through the media like any other product. "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" (Nov. 22) finds Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss Everdeen, the triumphant heroine of the first film, dealing with her fame and the machinations of the villainous state that both exploits her and fears her.
Early word is strong on "Prisoners" (Sept. 20) starring Hugh Jackman as a distraught father who pursues the man suspected of kidnapping his young daughter when police are unable to build a case against him. "Rush" is a dismayingly generic title -- is it a bio of the arty Canadian band? -- for a promising film. Chris Hemsworth plays high-living race car driver James Hunt and Daniel Bruhl (also seen in "The Fifth Estate") is straight-laced driver Niki Lauda in a film based on their real-life rivalry. Ron Howard directs the movie, which also opens Sept. 20.
Having lost big bucks in an online poker game, Justin Timberlake's (apparently aging) college student tracks down an off-shore online poker magnate (Ben Affleck) in "Runner Runner" (Oct. 4). "Machete Kills" (Oct. 11), the sequel to the 2010 cult favorite "Machete," finds our craggy-faced hero (Danny Trejo) taking on a villain with designs on world domination (Mel Gibson). Also on the 11th comes "Carrie," a remake of the 1976 horror classic, with Chloe Grace Moretz in Sissy Spacek's iconic role of the tormented, psychic teen who turns her prom blood-red.
Sylvester Stallone finds himself jailed in a prison he helped design in "Escape Plan" (Oct. 18). Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a fellow inmate. Jailed for campaign fund raising violations? Michael Fassbender is an ambitious lawyer who gets caught up in drug-smuggling in "The Counselor" (Oct. 25). Brad Pitt and Javier Bardem are also aboard in this Ridley Scott film.
Chris Hemsworth removes his flame-retardant racing suit for his space-hero duds in "Thor: The Dark World" (Nov. 8), the sequel to the 2011 original. Thor's Earthling girlfriend (Natalie Portman) is once again in jeopardy -- not to mention planet Earth -- and Thor's evil brother Loki (Tom Huddleston) could be part of the problem or of the solution.
Mark Ruffalo tries to overcome a nasty case of sex addiction with the help of Gwyneth Paltrow in "Thanks for Sharing" (Sept. 20). Joseph Gordon-Levitt is writer-director-star of "Don Jon" (Sept. 27), the tale of a porn addict who could be cured by Scarlett Johansson.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a divorced single mom who falls in love with the detested ex-husband of a good friend in "Enough Said" (Sept. 20.) The late, great James Gandolfini stars as the object of Louis-Dreyfus' affection. Paula Patton's flight attendant gives herself 30,000 travel miles to get engaged in "Baggage Claim," which also opens on the 27th.
Johnny Knoxville wears old-age makeup and hits the road with his 9-year-old grandson (Jackson Nicoll) to prank unsuspecting dupes Borat-style in "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa" (Oct. 25). In "Jackass" tradition, the trailer is painful to watch. Boyhood friends played by Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas and Kevin Kline travel to Las Vegas for a bachelor party in "Last Vegas" (Nov. 1), a movie that sounds an awful lot like "The Hangover" but which almost has to be better by definition.
Domnhall Gleeson, the son of the terrific Irish actor Brendan Gleeson, has the cool gift of time-travel but it is wrecking his romance with Rachel McAdams in "About Time" (Nov. 8). Peter Dinklage, Sam Rockwell and Sienna Miller are part of a good cast in "A Case of You" (Nov. 15), which explores the perils of online dating.
A quiet season for what used to be called cartoons. "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2" (Sept. 27) finds Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) dealing with the invention that produced food storms in the 2009 original. Now his device is creating food-animal combos.
A month before Thanksgiving comes "Free Birds" (Oct. 25), in which a pair of turkeys voiced by Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson plot ways to avoid being packed with stuffing and accompanied by cranberry sauce.