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Fall movie preview: 'Wolf of Wall Street,' 'Hunger Games' and more

A bland summer movie season has come mercifully to a close leaving us with a bad taste in our mouths and eager to savor fall's Oscar-potential drama.

Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney will serve signature performances in the coming months and others (we're looking at you Sylvester Stallone) will chew some scenery.

Autumn also will be seasoned with Norse superhero Thor, a second-helping of “meatballs,” a hint of “Jackass” and another “Hunger Games.”

To make the transition from heat to cool easier to take, “Riddick” starring Vin Diesel as the futuristic outlaw with the ability to clearly see in the dark opens today.

The best of the fall menu with scheduled release dates (that could change) includes:


“The Family” (Sept. 13): Retired mafia kingpin Robert De Niro is placed in witness protection along with his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) and two teenaged kids. Restless and not enjoying the suburban lifestyle, each family member dabbles in a little criminal mischief to maintain their sanity, despite the presence of Tommy Lee Jones as the glorified babysitter (federal agent). While appearing playful, the novelties of this will die-off faster than a “family snitch.”

“Insidious 2” (Sept. 13): After a successful haunted outing, the sequel from returning director James Wan (“Saw,” “The Conjuring”) brings back the Lambert family (Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins), as they still find themselves dealing with the diabolical spirits that plagued them just a few years ago. In 2010, Part I mostly used old-school tricky to raise the hairs on the back of our respective necks, expect more of the same here.

“Prisoners” (Sept. 20): In what promises to be an engrossing thriller, this film about two families searching for their kidnapped children is rich with talent — Hugh Jackman, Maria Bello, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, and Melissa Leo. When the families lose faith in the detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) after he lets the prime suspect (Paul Dano) walk, they take matters into their own hands.

“Battle of the Year” (Sept. 20): Twenty-something's from all walks of life get together, form a dance team, and compete against other countries on a worldwide stage. How many off-shoots of “Step Up” do we need America?

“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” (Sept. 27): A few years removed from the events of the first film, Flint Lockwood learns his weather machine that turned things into food, is now churning out monster-like foods. Literally. He and some familiar pals from the first flick, venture off to a mysterious island hoping to shut down the machine and thwart a takeover by the mutant foods. Much like the first adventure, this should be a clever ride for all ages.

“Rush” (Sept. 27): Academy Award Winner Ron Howard directs the biopic about the sexy and dangerous rivalry involving Formula 1 racers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) during 1976. The storytelling should highlight the rock star status that Hunt flaunted both on and off the track yet also pull back the curtain on the intensity of the sport once Lauda appeared on the scene to challenge the charismatic playboy champ.

“Baggage Claim” (Sept. 27): Paula Patton is a flight-attendant who is starting to freak that she'll be the last in her family to get married. As her mental clock is ticking, Adam Brody devises a plan for her to rekindle the flame with an ex-boyfriend. With the help of co-workers, she tracks her ex and works every flight he's on. We're hopeful hilarity takes flight.

“Don Jon” (Sept. 27): Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt writes, directs, and stars in this tale about a guy (think “Jersey Shore” reject) that only cares about a handful of things in life: Body, pad, car, family, and sex — and not necessarily in that order. When he meets the eye-catching Scarlett Johansson, his priorities change, but an addiction to pornography is a downer that limits his ability to experience happiness or intimacy.

Also playing: “Salinger” (Sept. 6), “Blue Caprice” (Sept. 13), “Metallica Through the Never” (Sept. 27)


“Gravity” (Oct. 4): A thriller that received rave reviews at the recent Venice Film Festival, this “Open Water” set in space stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney adrift after a collision destroys the shuttle. Respected director Alfonso Cuaron co-wrote this emotional juggernaut that looks as if it will dazzle with paralyzing moments.

“Runner Runner” (Oct. 4): The tag-team of Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck could make this better than it should be. Timberlake plays an impressionable and eager online poker player who wants to hit it big and fast. Affleck is in the role of the charismatic antagonist and could steal the show. Either way, at least there's eye-candy for select audiences.

“Romeo & Juliet” (Oct. 11): Every 20 years or so filmmakers feel the need to tell Shakespeare's epic love story. In this version, the star-crossed lovers are Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth and the story is told in its traditional setting. And even though we know how it ends, we'll see go see it.

“Captain Phillips” (Oct. 11): Tom Hanks stars in a true account about modern-day pirating, as a large U.S. freighter is boarded and Phillips' crew is taken hostage by Somali pirates. In the shaky hands of director Paul Greengrass, the cinematography will likely be as rambunctious as kindergartners on Skittles, but the standoff between the U.S. Navy and pirates through Hanks' character's eyes could be compelling.

“Machete Kills” (Oct. 11): In this sequel with over-the-top-klil-fest potential, Machete (Danny Trejo) takes his orders from the U.S. president — played by Charlie Sheen (yep, you read that right). There's something about an arms dealer launching weapons into space, but honestly it will be the objectifying of Amber Heard, Sofia Vergara, Jessica Alba (and others) and potential slicing of Mel Gibson, Antonio Banderas and Cuba Gooding Jr., that will draw a crowd.

“Carrie 2013” (Oct. 18): The only reason to consider this version of a bullied high school girl with telekinetic powers, which will apparently play-off the highly publicized social issues dealt with in today's school system, is the excellent Chloe Grace Moretz in the famed title role. But seriously, pop in the original from 1976 starring Sissy Spacek if this remake's trailer entices you. #NoMoreRemakes

“Escape Plan” (Oct. 18): We have Sylvester Stallone. And we have Arnold Schwarzenegger. The legendary acting tough guys are stuck in a hi-tech prison and must use their wits and brawn to break free. Armed with a supporting cast as solid as the leads' respective Botox, this could end up being a nice mindless adrenaline rush.

“The Counselor” (Oct. 25): In what easily boasts the most elite casting this year, Ridley Scott directs this backstabbing tale where an attorney (Michael Fassbender) ends up ticking off the wrong people and relies on a vague Brad Pitt for guidance.

“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” (Oct. 25): If you're a fan of “Jackass” movies, you know what you're in for. In this one, Johnny Knoxville rocks an old-man costume. It may appear more cinematic than the normal raw-footage director Jeff Tremaine rolls with, but the levels of immaturity and “I can't believe they just did that” will be present.

Also Playing: “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” (Oct. 11), “12 Years A Slave” (Oct. 18), “All Is Lost” (Oct. 18)


“Ender's Game” (Nov. 1): After a year chock full of lackluster sci-fi products, this journey that looks like a big boy version of 1984's “The Last Starfighter” will hopefully do more than stimulate the eyes. Still, this space-war set 70 years after a massive alien invasion of Earth could be fun as a chosen boy with extraordinary abilities is mankind's only hope to thwart an advanced alien race.

“Free Birds” (Nov. 1): Two turkeys (the voices of Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson) break into a secret government facility containing a time machine in order to travel back and stop the tradition of eating, uh, their kind, at holiday dinners. All in glorious 3D animation. We swear we didn't make this up.

“Last Vegas” (Nov. 1): Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and Robert De Niro in the seemingly senior citizen version of “The Hangover,” as they venture to Sin City for Douglas' bachelor party. With a fresh set of jokes, lead talent and drool-inducing women, this movie might sober us up from the uninspired Vegas-romp sequels.

“Man of Tai Chi” (Nov. 1): Keanu Reeves directs and stars in this film about a young martial artist who compete in an underground fight club to protect his way of life. Of course, I think we've already blown the first rule of fight club by telling you about this movie.

“Thor: The Dark World” (Nov. 8): Thor fights to restore order in the cosmos and reunites with Jane Foster. As long as they keep this sequel off Earth, we're in excellent shape fellow fan boys.

“The Wolf of Wall Street” (Nov. 15): Martin Scorsese tells the true story of stockbroker Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he rises and, big surprise, falls. Though the story arc is nothing new, this what looks to be a blend of “Wall Street” and “The Great Gatsby” has Oscar buzz.

“The Best Man Holiday” (Nov. 15): This follow-up to the 1999 film brings back the entire smooth ensemble — Taye Diggs, Morris Chestnut, Terrence Howard, Nia Long, Regina Hall, Sanaa Lathan. Fifteen years may have passed, but rivalries and romance reignite quickly. The performers' chemistry will be top notch, yet the story is as fundamental as it gets.

“The Book Thief” (Nov. 15): A girl gets adopted by a blue-collar German couple (Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson) during World War II. While bonding through literature, the family daringly takes in a Jewish refuge and hides the teenager from the Nazi regime. Be prepared to be moved.

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (Nov. 22): In this highly anticipated sequel, we're hoping a growing rebellion in a Dystopian future puts a spark into serviceable leads (Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson) – who were as effective as Nyquil the first go-round. Yeah, the first film left us hungry.

“Delivery Man” (Nov. 22): Vince Vaughn plays a guy learning his donation to a sperm clinic years ago has fathered more than 500 children, who are suing to find out who's their daddy. Vaughn has gone this character route before, but the best advice: return to sender.

“Black Nativity” (Nov. 27): Didn't think we get through the entire fall season without a musical did you? This holiday season coming-of-age tale follows a teen living with distant relatives who sees a whole new side of life for better-or-worse. Film includes Jennifer Hudson, Mary J. Blige, Nas, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, and Tyrese Gibson.

“Frozen” (Nov. 27): Based on a fairy tale of “The Snow Queen,” about a woman who causes eternal winter and the sister, with (in the Disney version) a mountain man, reindeer and snowman in tow), who attempt to melt her icy powers. If the humor can appeal to both adults and the youngsters, the 53rd animated film for the storied studio may steal the holiday spirit.

“Homefront” (Nov. 27): Sylvester Stallone adapts a thriller where a former DEA agent (Jason Statham) butts heads with a drug lord (James Franco) in a small town. Franco tends to amp it up in these types of roles while Statham will be Statham.

“Oldboy” (Nov. 27): Not that a remake of the spectacular 2003 South Korean was warranted, but at least the mysterious epic tale of revenge set in present times is armed with a bevy of talent. Spike Lee directs Sharlto Copley, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson, and Josh Brolin in this gritty action drama centered on ruthless aggression and vengeance.

Also Playing: “About Time” (Nov. 1), “Nebraska” (Nov. 22)

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