Aug 22 (TheWrap.com) - Fall is just around the corner, bringing a mixture of Oscar-contenders and holiday blockbusters geared to both the arthouse and Comic-Con set.
On the serious side, just the list of directors is enough to get cinephiles salivating: Martin Scorsese, Alfonso Cuaron, David O. Russell, Alexander Payne, Steve McQueen, Paul Greengrass and the Coen brothers all have movies gunning for the awards circuit.
Here's a look at the films we are dying to see in coming months.
Cast:Â Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard
Director:Â Denis Villenueve
Release Date:Â Sept. 20
Danger: The cast alone makes this movie seemed destined for greatness, but its commercial potential remains unclear: 17 movies open that weekend -- that's a lot of competition, even if most are tiny indies.
Why We're Still Psyched:Â Villenueve's last film wasÂ "Incendies," a criminally underappreciated Canadian movie that earned an Oscar nomination in 2011. Footage showing a man who kidnaps a suspect in the disappearance of his daughter was well-received at CinemaCon; it showcased strong work from Jackman, who just one year ago earned an Oscar nomination for "Les Miserables." Bonus: Roger Deakins, cinematographer extraordinaire.
Cast: Daniel BrÃ¼hl, Chris Hemsworth and Olivia Wilde
Director: Ron Howard
Release Date: Sept. 20 in limited release, goes wide Sept. 27
Danger: Race-car movies often spin out. It's bad news when the best of the bunch is a satire of the genre, "Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby."
Why We're Still Psyched: Howard has a talent for turning true stories into cinematic tales of uplift, as with Oscar-winning "Apollo 13." In the saga of Formula 1 driver Niki Lauda, who survived a horrific accident and came back to compete for a world championship, "Rush" looks to be headed for the winner's circle.
Cast: George Clooney, Sandra Bullock, vast expanses of space
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Release Date: Oct. 4
Danger: The story of two stranded astronauts was originally supposed to touch down in theaters a year ago, but was pushed back to complete post-production work. A delay can be a sign of trouble, although given the complexity of what Cuaron is trying to accomplish, we'll give him the benefit of the doubt.Â The $80 million budget movie is essentially a two-hander: There's Bullock, Clooney, a whole lot of zero gravity and not much else. Performances will be crucial.
Why We're Still Psyched: Cuaron hasn't made a movie in six years, but "Y Tu Mama Tambien" and "Children of Men" demonstrated that he's the rare filmmaker who can combine camera pyrotechnics and gripping drama. Plus, "Gravity" marks his first 3D outing. Cineastes are expecting nothing short of revolutionary.
Cast: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Catherine Keener
Director: Paul Greengrass
Release Date: Oct. 11
Danger: To put it charitably, Hanks has been on a cold streak. "Larry Crowne" and "Cloud Atlas" have underwhelmed critics and audiences; worse, his likable routine has felt a bit tired.
Why We're Still Psyched: As he demonstrated in "United 93" and "The Bourne Supremacy," Greengrass is a master of documentary-like intensity in action sequences, and the real-life tale finds him working in his sweet spot. Sony Pictures is high on the film, believing that its dramatic scenes of people in peril and Hanks performance will pay off during awards season.
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis
Director: Gavin Hood
Release Date: Nov. 1
Danger: Orson Scott Card, the man who cooked up the mega-selling novel that inspired the film, has been openly opposed to same-sex marriage and compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler.
Why We're Still Psyched: Card's theatrics aside, the book about an army of young super soldiers battling an alien race is a gripping yarn. If it works, its producers may have another "Hunger Games" on their hands.
Cast:Â Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz
Director:Â Ridley Scott
Release Date:Â Nov. 15
Danger:Â Ridley Scott hasn't made a good movie in a decade and Cormac McCarthy has never had an original screenplay make it to the screen.Â
Why We're Still Psyched:Â McCarthy is one of the greatest American novelists of his generation, Scott remains a talented filmmaker and this movie is dedicated to his late brother Tony Scott. The cast alone makes this thriller, about a lawyer who gets drawn into drug trafficking, a must-watch.Â
WOLF OF WALL STREET
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey and Jean Dujardin.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Release Date: Nov. 15
Risk Factors: DiCaprio and Scorsese always command attention, but not all of their collaborations have sizzled. "The Departed" was a rollicking crime story and "The Aviator" had its moments, but "Gangs of New York" was a bit of a muddle and "Shutter Island" was a mess.
Why We're Psyched: The trailer for "Wolf of Wall Street" makes it look like a feverish examination of White Collar debauchery and greed. It may be set in the 1990s, but it's a safe bet that audiences will be able to draw a few paralllels with the barons who oversaw Too Big to Fail.
THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Liam Hemsworth
Director: Francis Lawrence
Release Date: Nov. 22
Danger:Â "Hunger Games" director Gary Ross' replacement for this sequel, Francis Lawrence, has shown a talent for spectacle in films like "I Am Legend," but it was the quieter moments in "The Hunger Games" and Lawrence's fully-fleshed performance that gave the movie its pop. He has some big shoes to fill.
Why We're Still Psyched: How many films are events? "Catching Fire" will have fans camping out in front of theaters to get tickets -- and as fans of the books can attest, the stakes only get higher from here.
Cast: Voiced by Jonathan Groff, Kristen Bell, Josh Gad and Idina Menzel
Directors: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Release Date: Nov. 27
Danger:Â Though fairy tales are the backbone of Disney's canon, many of the recent efforts from Disney Animation and Pixar have focused on stories like "Cars" and "Wreck-It Ralph" that are grounded in a post-iPhone world. To succeed, this adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen" will have to show that there still a little pixie dust left in the world of happily ever after.
Why We're Still Psyched: Insiders tell TheWrap that the visual effects work is among the most dazzling they've ever seen. With a plot line that mixes whimsy and comedy, "Frozen" has the potential to be another Disney classic to rank next to another adaptation of Anderson's work, "The Little Mermaid."
Cast:Â Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence
Director:Â David O. Russell
Release Date:Â Dec. 13
Danger: Russell usually takes his time between projects: Five years passed between "Three Kings" and "I Heart Huckabees," while six passed between then and "The Fighter." This movie, about New Jersey con men, marks his third in four years; and the first time the "Silver Linings Playbook"Â director has made a movie in consecutive years.Â
Why We're Still Psyched: Russell directing that cast in a crime movie? Slam dunk. He's directed all of them before save Jeremy Renner -- and four different actors in "Silver Linings" (including Lawrence and Cooper) earned Oscar nominations. With guest spots from Robert De Niro, Louis C.K. and Michael Pena and one thing is clear: all the best actors in Hollywood want to work with Russell.
THE MONUMENTS MEN
Cast: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray and John Goodman
Director: George Clooney
Release Date: Dec. 18
Danger: Sony denied that it's scrapping awards ambitions for the movie, but it is possible that this tale of World War II men on a mission is more of a popcorn flick than a plaudit scavenger.
Why We're Still Psyched: The premise -- a troop of over-the-hill art experts infiltrate Nazi territory in order to save hidden treasures -- is certainly original. And there isn't a dud in that dirty half-dozen or so cast.
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Richard Armitrage and the dulcet tones of Benedict Cumberbatch as the dragon Smaug
Director: Peter Jackson
Release Date: Dec. 13
Danger: The first film in "The Hobbit" trilogy made more than $1 billion, but drew a mixed reception. Making three films out of "The Hobbit," a slender single volume, gives the filmmaker plenty of leeway to be indulgent, which probably means a lot more scenes of dwarves singing.
Why We're Still Psyched: The dragon makes his grand entrance -- and who better to voice the scaly menace than Cumberbatch, an actor who reeks of danger and seduction. Plus, "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and the first "Hobbit" were all released in December, making a stop by Middle Earth practically a holiday tradition.
ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES
Cast: Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Christina Applegate, David Koechner
Director:Â Adam McKay
Release Date:Â Dec. 20
Danger: The original was so hilarious that it's hard to imagine this one living up to it. Comedic sequels almost always fall short, and the dynamic between these actors has shifted a great deal over the past decade.
Why We're Still Psyched: The first "Anchorman" was one of the funniest movies in recent memory and the source of numerous iconic lines, scenes and memes. No other comedy of the decade brought together as many talented comedic actors as the street-fight scene, and Rudd and Carell have since become stars.
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY
Cast: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis
Director: John Wells
Release Date: Dec. 25
Danger: Tracy Letts' darkly humorous look at a dysfunctional family electrified Broadway when it premiered in 2007. But films made from even the tightest plays can be overly stagey on screen, and "August: Osage County" is a sprawling, messy story much like the damaged mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters it depicts.Â Moreover, there's an everything but the kitchen sink element to its casting that reeks a little of Oscar-baiting.
Why We're Still Psyched: Streep is always gripping and in the acid-tongued Violet Weston, the pill-popping matriarch of the unruly clan, she has found a role that ranks among Lady Macbeth and Hedda Gabler. It may mean a fourth Oscar for the Academy's undisputed queen.
THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY
Release Date:Â Dec. 25
Cast: Ben Stiller, Kristin Wiig, Adam Scott, Sean Penn
Danger: Stiller has directed memorable comedies, but he's never made a movie like this before â a remake about a milquetoast with a rich fantasy life that Fox has positioned as its big Oscar movie for the year.
Why We're Still Psyched: The footage that screened at CinemaCon looked stunning and the combination of Stiller and Wiig is enticing. The remake of the 1947 Danny Kaye movie took two decades to put together, that almost seems like the kind of tortured process that will make for a great redemption story come December.Â
THE FIFTH ESTATE
Cast:Â Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Anthony Mackie
DIrector:Â Bill Condon
Release Date:Â Oct. 18
Danger:Â With all of the attention paid to leaker Edward Snowden, you'd think people would be clamoring for a movie about WikiLeaks. And yet, movies have always fared best when they distract people from their troubles or when the threats are unrealistic.
Why We're Still Psyched:Â Julian Assange is the kind of delicious character movies were made for and we can't think of anyone better to play him than Cumberbatch, who could use a big role that isn't "Star Trek."
12 YEARS A SLAVE
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano
Director:Â Steve McQueen
Release Date:Â Oct. 18
Danger: McQueen has never made a truly commercial movie. Even "Shame," which caused women to faint at the sight of Fassbender's manhood, grossed less than $4 million in the U.S. (and less than $20 million worldwide).
Why We're Still Pysched:Â The movie, set before the Civil War, reunites McQueen with Fassbender and gives Ejiofor his first starring role in a major awards contender. McQueen has compared the actor to Sidney Poitier, and we can think of no higher compliment.
Cast:Â Will Forte, Bruce Dern
Director:Â Alexander Payne
Release Date:Â Nov. 22
Danger:Â A black-and-white drama about a father and son traveling through the sparsely populated plains state. Has all the making of a box office smash, right?
Why We're Still Psyched: Payne has never made a bad movie and may have made his best to-date his last time out with "The Descendants." "Nebraska" was already nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, where Bruce Dern won the Best Actor prize.Â
DALLAS BUYERS CLUB
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner
Director:Â Jean-Marc Vallee
Release Date:Â Dec. 6
Danger:Â Besides Leto and Garner?
Why We're Still Psyched: This movie became Oscar bait once McConaughey lost a ton of weight to play an AIDS patient. Given his performances in everything from "Killer Joe" to "Magic Mike," we can't wait.
INSIDE LLEWLYN DAVIS
Cast:Â Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garret Hedlund, Justin Timberlake
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Release Date: Dec. 6 (limited release); Dec. 20 (roll-out expansion)
Danger:Â It's a movie about the New York folk music scene in the 1960s starring an actor nobody knows. While the Coen brothers have plenty of commercial hits, this particular subject limits them at the box office.
Why We're Still Psyched: Three reasons: The Coen brothers, who make writing and directing classic movies look easy. The reaction at Cannes, where everyone who saw it said it was fantastic and an immediate contender for Best Picture. Goodman, who has had a supporting role in the last two films to win Best Picture. He's also in "Monuments Man"; it's a Clooney-Coen showdown.
For the record: An earlier version of this story said that Alexander Payne's last movie was "Moneyball." Payne did not make "Moneyball." His last movie was "The Descendants."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun