Fall Film Preview: Fall into the Movies 

click to enlarge Stephen Chbosky's 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' opens on Sept. 14. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Stephen Chbosky's 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' opens on Sept. 14.

The fall movie slate is perhaps the most exciting. Roller-coaster rides have ended, and it’s time for serious stuff in the warm-up to awards season, where real risks are taken. But it’s also Halloween, bringing spooky flicks. This year, there will be kisses, screams and gunshots, one or two great, lasting works of art, and amazement.

The Words Sept. 7

  • The cast: Bradley Cooper, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde, Zoe Saldana
  • Behind the scenes: Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal
  • The story: Two writers on “Tron: Legacy” make their directorial debut with this film about a struggling writer who publishes stolen material as his own. With a good cast and appealing trailer, it looks like a sexy, potentially intriguing, thriller.
  • Rated: PG-13

Hello I Must Be Going Sept. 7

  • The cast: Melanie Lynskey, Blythe Danner, Christopher Abbott, John Rubinstein
  • At the helm: Todd Louiso
  • The story: Melanie Lynskey, best known for playing the stalker neighbor on TV’s “Two and a Half Men,” gives a breakout performance as a newly divorced woman who embarks upon a love affair with a 19-year-old guy. Director Louiso, who played a music store nerd in “High Fidelity,” also made the heartbreaking “Love Liza.”
  • Rated: R


The Perks of Being a Wallflower Sept. 14

  • The awkward teens: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Paul Rudd
  • At the helm: Stephen Chbosky
  • The story: Director Chbosky adapted his own novel, a frank and intense coming-of-age tale, starring the charming Watson in her first lead role post-“Harry Potter.” These types of films are often formulaic, but this could be one of the good ones that sometimes gets loose.
  • Rated: PG-13

Arbitrage Sept. 14

  • The wheeler-dealers: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Brit Marling, Tim Roth
  • At the helm: Nicholas Jarecki
  • The story: Screenwriter Jarecki (“The Informers”) makes his directorial debut with this adult drama in the style of last year’s amazing “Margin Call.” Gere plays a businessman on the verge of a make-or-break deal, whose mistress (Victoria’s Secret model Laetitia Casta) throws a monkey wrench in his plans.
  • Rated: R

The Master Sept. 21

  • The followers: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Laura Dern
  • At the helm: Paul Thomas Anderson
  • The story: After his film “There Will Be Blood” earned comparisons to “Citizen Kane,” some think P.T. Anderson is the salvation of American cinema. His new period drama about a growing religious organization could be the movie of the year — or it could inspire head-scratching.
  • Rated: R


House at the End of the Street Sept. 21

  • The inhabitants: Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Shue, Max Thieriot, Gil Bellows
  • At the helm: Mark Tonderai
  • The story: Featuring Oscar- nominees Shue and Lawrence as mother and daughter, this movie is about a small town enshrouded in a horrible secret — and newcomers who try to dig up trouble. Screenwriter David Loucka wrote the similar-sounding dud “Dream House,” so this could be a do-over.
  • Rated: PG-13


Trouble with the Curve Sept. 21

  • The ballclub: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman
  • At the helm: Robert Lorenz
  • The story: Lorenz, a producer and assistant director on many Eastwood films now making his directorial debut, has brought the 82-year-old star out of acting retirement. Eastwood plays an aging baseball scout who brings his daughter (Adams) along on his last trip. Sounds like a winning team.
  • Rated: PG-13

Hotel Transylvania Sept. 28

  • The monsters: Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Andy Samberg
  • At the helm: Genndy Tartakovsky
  • The story: From “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” to “The Monster Squad,” there’s nothing quite like a monster get-together. Dracula (voiced by Sandler) takes the lead as the manager of a hotel filled with creepy guests — and one human. The downside: The last time Sandler tried animation, the result was the abominable “8 Crazy Nights.”
  • Rated: PG-13


Looper SEPT. 28

  • The loopers: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt
  • At the helm: Rian Johnson
  • The story: In a future where mob killers use time travel to get rid of their victims, a man recognizes his own older self and lets him escape. Johnson made a memorable, brilliant debut with the high school detective movie “Brick”; this original sci-fi tale may have the same offbeat appeal.
  • Not yet rated

Sinister Oct. 5

  • The snoopers: Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Juliet Rylance, James Ransone
  • At the helm: Scott Derrickson
  • The story: The “Exorcism of Emily Rose” director returns to the horror genre with this tale of a true-crime novelist (Hawke) who moves into a new home and discovers a box of old films and pieces together a harrowing murder mystery — one that doesn’t yet have an ending. Cue the spooky music!
  • Rated: R


Frankenweenie Oct. 5

  • The mad scientists: Charlie Tahan, Frank Welker, Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara
  • At the helm: Tim Burton
  • The story: Burton has been having trouble lately finding an outlet for his peculiarly sweet-dark sensibility, but this looks promising. As a young animator at Disney in the early 1980s, Burton created his bizarre “Frankenweenie” short film. Now he expands it to a full-length, black-and-white, stop-motion animated feature. As a bonus, the voice of Frankenweenie, Frank Welker, is also the voice of Scooby-Doo!
  • Rated: PG

V/H/S Oct. 5

  • The watchers: Calvin Reeder, Lane Hughes, Adam Wingard
  • At the helm: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence
  • The story: A band of would-be criminals breaks into a house to steal a rare VHS tape, and ends up watching disturbing short films. Yes, it’s another “horror anthology” film, but it had good notices at Sundance, and one of its  filmmakers is West, whose “The Innkeepers” is still the horror movie of 2012.
  • Rated: R


Seven Psychopaths Oct. 12

  • The psychopaths: Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken
  • At the helm: Martin McDonagh
  • The story: McDonagh, a U.K. playwright, made an impressive feature film debut with “In Bruges,” boasting some dazzling dialogue. His follow-up is another crime comedy, though with a “struggling screenwriter” as its hero (one hopes it’s not autobiographical). His world is interrupted when his pals kidnap a beloved dog from a local gangster.
  • Rated: R

Argo Oct. 12

  • The rescuers: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman
  • At the helm: Ben Affleck
  • The story: Not long ago,Affleck was a ridiculed actor (“Gigli”), and now he’s a respected director. After the captivating “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town,” Affleck steps up with “Argo,” a drama about the 1979 hostage crisis in Iran and a secret, true attempt to rescue six key Americans.
  • Rated: R


Killing Them Softly Oct. 19

  • The criminals: Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins, Scoot McNairy
  • At the helm: Andrew Dominik
  • The story: Last time out, New Zealander Dominik gave us a masterpiece: “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” Now he takes on a 1970s crime novel by George V. Higgins (“The Friends of Eddie Coyle”), about an investigation into a mob heist. This could capture the long-lost grittiness that 1970s movies had in spades.
  • Rated: R

Cloud Atlas Oct. 26

  • The humans: Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent
  • At the helm: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
  • The story: Based on a sci-fi novel by David Mitchell, the massive production — about the rippling effects of human acts across generations — has a huge cast and three directors. German-born Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”) joins forces with Andy and Lana (formerly “Larry”) Wachowski (“The Matrix”). The result could be a winning combo of deep thoughts, cool chases and fights.
  • Rated: R


Chasing Mavericks Oct. 26

  • The surfers: Jonny Weston, Gerard Butler, Elisabeth Shue, Abigail Spencer
  • At the helm: Curtis Hanson
  • The story: Competent and versatile Hanson, who was the toast of the town with “L.A. Confidential,” returns to the big screen after a five-year absence, directing this surfing biopic about Jay Moriarity and his quest
    to ride the most dangerous wave in California.
  • Rated: PG


Wreck-It Ralph Nov. 2

  • The gamers: John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman
  • At the helm: Rich Moore
  • The story: Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by Reilly) is the bad guy in a classic 1980s arcade game who wants to do some good. He escapes and visits other games, but inadvertently stirs up a batch of bigger trouble. Director Moore is a veteran of “The Simpsons,” which bodes well for this.
  • Not yet rated

Lincoln Nov. 9

  • The cabinet: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones
  • At the helm: Steven Spielberg
  • The story: America’s greatest filmmakers, from D.W. Griffith to John Ford, made movies about Lincoln; now Spielberg tries his hand. It will be interesting to see how close he follows in his forefathers’ footsteps, but with mesmerizing Day-Lewis in the lead, prospects are good. (Not to be confused with “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”).
  • Not yet rated

Skyfall NOV. 9

  • The nest of spies: Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem
  • At the helm: Sam Mendes
  • The story: “Casino Royale” was among the best of the James Bond movies; then “Quantum of Solace” one of the worst. Here’s hoping Craig’s third outing in the series, and 23rd official film overall, at least lands somewhere in between. With Oscar-winner Mendes (“American Beauty”) at the helm, it stands a very good chance.
  • Not yet rated

Anna Karenina Nov. 16

  • The Russians: Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Johnson, Kelly Macdonald
  • At the helm: Joe Wright
  • The story: Leo Tolstoy’s novel has been filmed many times, perhaps most famously in 1935 with Greta Garbo. Classy director Wright and acclaimed writer Tom Stoppard attempt to take it back, with Knightley in the title role and Law as her illicit paramour. Can they reignite the passion, or will the fancy costumes get in the way?
  • Rated: R




About The Author

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson has written about movies for the San Francisco Examiner since 2000, in addition to many other publications and websites. He holds a master's degree in cinema, and has appeared as an expert on film festival panels, television, and radio. He is a founding member of the San Francisco Film Critics... more
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