Time for Oscar-y biopics, festival-darling pics - and lots of big-box-office flicks.

Mates: Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, Edward and Bella, wed in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1."
Mates: Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, Edward and Bella, wed in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1." (ANDREW COOPER / Summit Entertainment)
Posted: September 11, 2011

If it's fall, then it's time for Hollywood to wheel out the big guns - Spielberg! Eastwood! Scorsese! - and to get things rolling for the awards season campaigns. But it's also time to rev up the box office again, which is why Robert Downey Jr. is back as Sherlock Holmes, and Tom Cruise is back as Ethan Hunt, and Harold and Kumar are back as Harold and Kumar. (Um, well, who knows why Harold and Kumar return.)

The stars are out (Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep), and so are a handful of festival-tested titles that look likely to be in the mix come Golden Globe and Oscar time.

What follows is a list of probable contenders and audience favorites, from A-list family fare (Hugo, Puss in Boots) to biopics (J. Edgar Hoover, Margaret Thatcher, Marilyn Monroe) to ghost stories and vampire tales to remakes and spinoffs and low-budget, no-star dramas with lots of indie cred. - By Steven Rea and Carrie Rickey, Inquirer movie critics


I Don't Know How She Does It (Friday) Working mom Sarah Jessica Parker juggles children, husband, and corporate career while trying not to be distracted by a handsome client (Pierce Brosnan). With Greg Kinnear.    - C.R.

 Moneyball (Sept. 23) Brad Pitt stars in a sports bio of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane, who took a team of basement-dwellers and brought 'em into the playoffs thanks to the advice of a nerd-kid statistician (Jonah Hill).    - S.R.

50/50 (Sept. 30) Oh no, a cancer movie. But a cancer movie with wit, insight, and Apatow-like dirty jokes (and male bonding), with (500) Days of Summer's Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead. - S.R.

The Ides of March (Oct. 7) Ryan Gosling is the idealistic press secretary of pragmatic presidential hopeful George Clooney. Both candidate and attache struggle to remain above the fray in this Clooney-directed film inspired by Howard Dean's White House run.    - C.R.

Footloose (Oct. 14) Oh no, an '80s remake. But an '80s remake that could work, thanks to odd-choice director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow), and step-savvy stars Kenny Wormald (MTV's Dancelife) and Julianne Hough (Dancing With the Stars). Does Kevin Bacon make a cameo?    - S.R.

The Big Year (Oct. 14) Live-wire Jack Black, deadpan Steve Martin, and screwball Owen Wilson are competitive bird-watchers in David Frankel's comedy about fine feathered enemies.    - C.R.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (Oct. 21) A star-making turn from Elizabeth Olsen, younger sister of twins Mary-Kate and Ashley, in this chilling study of a woman who escapes from a cult and struggles to put her life back on track. This Sundance winner could be this year's Winter's Bone.    - S.R.

Puss in Boots (Nov. 4) A Shrek spinoff, with Antonio Banderas once again giving voice to the purring swashbuckler, who now gets to swash and buckle without any interference from that pesky green ogre.    - S.R.

A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas (Nov. 4) John Cho and Kal Penn are back, and Santa's got 'em! In this third misadventure of the zonked-out stoners, they accidentally incinerate a Christmas tree (guess how?) and must trawl across Manhattan to find its exact duplicate.    - C.R.

J. Edgar (Nov. 11) Leonardo DiCaprio stars as J. Edgar Hoover, who for a half century, from the crimestopper of the 1920s to the Cold Warrior of the 1970s, was synonymous with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In the biopic directed by Clint Eastwood, Armie Hammer is Hoover's friend (and suspected partner) Clyde Tolson.    - C.R.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Nov. 18) Those who have seen this adaptation of the John le Carre espionage thriller say Gary Oldman gives the performance of his career as spymaster George Smiley, called out of retirement to root out a Soviet agent in Britain's Secret Intelligence Service.    - C.R.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 (Nov. 18) Wedding bells for Bella and Edward, and Jacob isn't happy about it. Meanwhile, the Volturi rent Rosemary's Baby from Netflix to see if they can get any birthing tips.    - S.R.

The Muppets (Nov. 23) Star (and screenwriter) Jason Segel has said he wants to restore the Muppets to their rightful place in the kid comedy pantheon, and here's his shot, inheriting the late Jim Henson's furball brood and returning them to the TV show's theater, which is now in danger of demolition. Gonzo goes gonzo, Miss Piggy has a hissy fit, and so on.    - S.R.

Hugo (Nov. 23) From Brian Selznick's fantastical children's book comes Martin Scorsese's effects-laden family flick about a 1930s Paris orphan and his adventures with a robot. Did we say Scorsese? Family flick?    - S.R.

The Iron Lady (Dec. 16) Meryl Streep as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: Oscar's most-nominated actress in Oscar's favored genre, the biopic. From filmmaker Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!)    - C.R.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Dec. 16) Robert Downey Jr. is back with his ersatz English accent and his action-hero chops, sequeling through the follow-up to the hit 2009 Sherlock reinvention. Jude Law is Dr. Watson and Noomi Rapace, the original Lisbeth Salander (see below), hobnobs with the Hollywood big boys.    - S.R.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (Dec. 21) Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to buy The Incredibles' Brad Bird directing Tom Cruise in his live-action Impossible Missions Force franchise. J.J. Abrams produced, and the trailer rocks. And rolls.    - S.R.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Dec. 21) Subtitle-reading Stieg Larsson diehards have grown accustomed to Noomi Rapace's take on Lisbeth Salander in the trilogy of Swedish films, but most of America will be coming to David Fincher's English-language adaptation with fresh eyes. Can Rooney Mara, who dumps Mark Zuckerberg at the beginning of The Social Network, pull this off? The gritty teaser trailer suggests yes. Daniel Craig is her intrepid journo partner, Mikael Blomkvist.    - S.R. 

War Horse (Dec. 28) Steven Spielberg adapts the book and play about a horse that's shipped off to the muddy battlefields of World War I France, and the boy who ventures off to find him.    - S.R.

Release dates are subject to change.


Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com.

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