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George Clooney in ‘The Descendants’ and More: Fall’s Must-See Movies (Watch Video)

From George Clooney’s Oscar-worthy ‘The Descendants’ to Ryan Gosling’s ‘Drive,’ The Daily Beast’s best fall movies.

With awards season around the corner, it’s time to gear up for fall’s most anticipated movies. From George Clooney’s Oscar-worthy turn as a grieving father in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants and Ryan Gosling’s hammer-wielding badass in Drive to Meryl Streep’s Margaret Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady, The Daily Beast’s 25 must-see movies. By Marlow Stern.

Chuck Zlotnick

Sept. 9: <em>Warrior</em>

Director Gavin O’Connor is no stranger to underdog stories (see Miracle), and his latest film, the mixed-martial arts drama Warrior, left audiences in my screening cheering. Former Marine Tommy Reardon (Tom Hardy) has just returned to his blue-collar hometown of Pittsburgh after 14 years away, and his alcoholic, abusive father (Nick Nolte) tries to reconnect. Meanwhile, his estranged older brother, Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton), is a high-school physics teacher whose house that he shares with his wife and two daughters is about to go into foreclosure. The two brothers—both former fighters—decide to enter Sparta, a winner-take-all Mixed Martial Arts playoff with a $5 million purse. Rising stars Hardy (Inception) and Edgerton (Animal Kingdom) deliver poignant performances, while Nolte’s turn as the alcoholic dad is reminiscent of Dennis Hopper’s in Hoosiers. The fights are exhilarating in this Rocky-meets-MMA tale of familial strife, economic uncertainty, and blue-collar redemption, and Hardy’s traps are truly a sight to behold.

Watch the trailer here.

Richard Forman

Sept. 16: <em>Drive</em>

In this neo-noir homage to 1980s action films like To Live and Die in L.A., Ryan Gosling stars as a man who spends his days as a stunt driver on Hollywood films. By night, however, he serves as a getaway driver for various Los Angeles criminals. The stoic driver soon falls for Irene (Carey Mulligan), but when her husband returns from prison and owes some favors, the driver gets mixed up in a botched heist, which leads to a contract being put out on his life by gangster Bernie Rose (a razor blade–wielding Albert Brooks). Gosling personally selected Nicolas Winding Refn to direct, having enjoyed his gory Viking epic Valhalla Rising. Refn doesn’t hold back on the violence here, which hits you like, well, a shotgun blast to the face. The electronic soundtrack is entrancing, and Gosling comes off like this generation’s Steve McQueen in one of the best genre films of recent memory.

Watch the trailer here.

Melinda Sue Gordon

Sept. 23: <em>Moneyball</em>

This adaptation of Michael Lewis’ nonfiction book about Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, who developed a unique system for his baseball team to thrive despite financial constraints, was mired in production hell for quite some time. After director Steven Soderbergh exited the project, Capote filmmaker Bennett Miller came in to helm it. Brad Pitt stars as Beane, and is joined by Jonah Hill as Beane’s assistant GM and Philip Seymour Hoffman as A’s manager Art Howe. The film was scripted by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List), so expect plenty of awards buzz—especially for Pitt, who may be up against his Oceans co-conspirator George Clooney in the best-actor race (more on that later).

Watch the trailer here.

Saeed Adyani

Oct. 7: <em>The Ides of March</em>

In his follow-up to the Oscar-nominated Edward R. Murrow film, Good Night and Good Luck, director George Clooney has decided to adapt the political play Farragut North, which provides an insider’s look at back-door wheeling and dealing on the campaign trail. Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling) plays the campaign mastermind behind Democratic Gov. Mike Morris’s (Clooney) White House run. When things look dire for his candidate, he is tempted to betray his campaign manager (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and join forces with an opposing candidate, managed by Paul Giamatti. With Clooney at the helm, Gosling in the lead, and an impressive supporting cast, including Evan Rachel Wood as a Morris intern and Marisa Tomei as a political reporter for The New York Times, this smells like Oscar bait.  

Watch the trailer here.

Oct. 21: <em>Martha Marcy May Marlene</em>

Sean Durkin’s film about Martha (Elizabeth Olsen), a young woman who flees from a brainwashing cult in the Catskills, garnered critical raves when it premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Martha struggles to adapt to her normal family life, overcome by paranoia that convinces her that the cult’s charismatic leader, Patrick (John Hawkes), will come after her. With its breakout star Elizabeth Olsen, a menacing John Hawkes, and a lurid ripped-from-the-headlines subject matter, Martha Marcy May Marlene is looking a lot like this year’s Winter’s Bone. Whether it makes the same Oscar noise, however, remains to be seen.

Watch the trailer here.

Stephen Vaughan

Oct. 28: <em>In Time</em>

This film marks Andrew Niccol’s (Lord of War) long-awaited return to science fiction. His 1997 film, Gattaca, is one of the more underrated sci-fi flicks of recent memory, and this dystopian nightmare concerns a future where the aging gene has been switched off, and people must pay to add years to their lives. Thus, the rich live forever, while the poor must hustle in order to survive. Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is accused of murder when he inherits a large sum of money from a dead aristocrat, and is forced to go on the run from corrupt "timekeepers," led by Leon (Cillian Murphy). The film also stars a banged Amanda Seyfried as Timberlake’s love interest, Olivia Wilde as his sister, and Vincent Kartheiser playing Phillipe Weis, a rich snob similar to his Pete Campbell character on Mad Men.

Watch the trailer ++here.

Paramount Pictures

Oct. 28: <em>Like Crazy</em>

Like a cross between Blue Valentine and 500 Days of Summer, this romantic drama from up- and-coming filmmaker Drake Doremus centers on a British college student (Felicity Jones) who falls in love with an American student (Anton Yelchin) stateside. When she overstays her visa, however, she is deported from the country and separated from her true love. Like Crazy was the subject of a bidding war following its premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it took home the grand jury prize, as well as a special jury prize for Felicity Jones’s heartbreaking performance. If the lovely trailer (see below) is any indication, this film is shaping up to be the hip date movie of the fall.

Watch the trailer here.

The Weinstein Co

Nov. 4: <em>My Week With Marilyn</em>

Oscar-nominated actress Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) may not be your first choice to play busty Hollywood actress and icon Marilyn Monroe, but early photos look very convincing. The film tracks the making of the 1957 film The Prince and the Showgirl, which starred Monroe and Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh). A British assistant working on the film, Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), whisks Monroe away for a week—giving the micromanaged movie star a taste of Britain. With Williams in the lead, and an all-star supporting cast, also including Dame Judi Dench, Emma Watson, Dominic Cooper, and Derek Jacobi, this biopic is looking like a potential awards darling. 

Watch still footage here.

Keith Bernstein

Nov. 9: <em>J. Edgar</em>

Any Clint Eastwood film is major Oscar bait these days, and this biopic of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, written by Oscar-winning Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and starring three-time Oscar-nominee Leonardo DiCaprio, looks like yet another. The controversial film tracks Hoover’s career, as well as his alleged homosexual relationship with Clyde Tolson, played by Armie Hammer (The Social Network). With Eastwood at the helm, DiCaprio in the lead, and a supporting cast that includes Naomi Watts, Dame Judi Dench, and Gossip Girl’s Ed Westwick (for the tweens) in his biggest film to date, expect J. Edga to be on everyone’s Oscar radar. 

Sony Pictures Classic

Nov. 18: <em>Carnage</em>

The 2009 Broadway production of Yasmina Reza’s play, God of Carnage, starring James Gandolfini, Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden, and Jeff Daniels, was a massive hit, raking in millions in box-office receipts and taking home the Tony award for best play. The film adaptation, written and directed by the great Roman Polanski, stars Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz, as well as Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly, as two sets of parents who are forced to meet with each other after their children get into a fight at school. After drinks are imbibed, the two sets of parents are soon forced to confront their own lingering issues. Polanski, as we all know from Rosemary’s Baby and Repulsion, has a gift for capturing claustrophobia—he is known to hold his film cameras about an inch from his actor’s face to enhance this effect—so this dark comedy sounds like the perfect recipe for the Oscar-winning filmmaker.

Watch the trailer here.

Focus Features

Nov. 18: <em>Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy</em>

After helming the brilliant and haunting 2008 Swedish vampire film, Let the Right One In—a film so good it inspired a remake just two years later, director Tomas Alfredson had his veritable pick of the litter for his follow-up. He chose to adapt John le Carré’s espionage novel about George Smiley (Gary Oldman), a British spy who comes out of retirement to track down a Russian double agent. The cast reads like a who’s who of talented British thespians, including Oscar-winner Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, and John Hurt. If the reviews out of the Venice Film Festival are any indication, this solid spy film could mean awards recognition for the long-overdue Gary Oldman.

Watch the trailer he.

Disney

Nov. 23: <em>The Muppets</em>

Anyone who saw Forgetting Sarah Marshall knows that its star and co-writer, Jason Segel, has a gift for puppetry (see Dracula musical). A longtime admirer of Jim Henson’s Muppets, Segel has teamed with his Marshall co-writer Nicholas Stoller to pen this musical film. When oil is discovered under the Muppet Theater, two big Muppets fans (Segel and Amy Adams) must raise $10 million in order to save it from being destroyed by a greedy Texan oilman, played by Chris Cooper. This family film is worth it for the laundry list of A-list cameos alone, including Billy Crystal, George Clooney, Lady Gaga, Zach Galifianakis, Jack Black, Ricky Gervais, and Ben Stiller, just to name a few.

Watch the trailer here.

Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

Nov. 23: <em>The Artist</em>

This silent black-and-white crowdpleaser made waves when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where it’s star, Jean Dujardin, took home the best-actor award. Michel Hazanavicius’s film is about the rise and fall of George Valentin (Dujardin), the world’s biggest silent-film star whose career crumbles when films make the transition from silent to talkies. A former Valentin admirer, Peppy Miller (the director’s wife, Bérénice Bejo) replaces him as the marquee name and also attempts to turn his luck around. “I had this fantasy for a long time, and it’s very difficult because it’s so out of the market so nobody would put money toward a silent, black-and-white movie,” Hazanavicius told The Daily Beast at the Telluride Film Festival. If distributor the Weinstein Co. plays its cards right, The Artist may be the first silent film to be nominated for the best-picture Oscar since The Patriot in 1929.

Watch the trailer here.

Paramount Pictures

Nov. 23: <em>Hugo</em>

Based on Brian Selznick’s novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, this fantasy-family film marks the great director Martin Scorsese’s first foray into 3-D filmmaking. Whether or not that’s a good thing remains to be seen, but any Scorsese film is cause for anticipation. Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is a young boy living a secret life in the walls of a Paris train station, but when he comes across a mysterious young girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) and a busted automaton, he becomes swept up in a wild adventure. Although Scorsese’s last film, Shutter Island, had a Shyamalan-esque twist, we’ll withhold judgment on this until we see it. Plus, the supporting cast alone, including Sacha Baron Cohen, Jude Law, A Serious Man’s Michael Stuhlbarg, and fantasy-film regular Christopher Lee, is worth the price of admission.

Watch the trailer here.

FOX

Nov. 23: <em>The Descendants</em>

After making its world premiere at this year’s Telluride Film Festival, The Descendants, the first film in seven years from Oscar-winning Sideways filmmaker Alexander Payne, set off a tidal wave of Oscar buzz. Matt King (George Clooney) is a stingy, workaholic, distant father with a gargantuan land inheritance who is forced to reconnect with his two young daughters when his wife falls into a coma after a boating accident. The Hawaii-set film is full of Payne’s familiar mix of dark humor and pathos, and Clooney is guaranteed an Oscar nomination as the struggling father. Newcomer Shailene Woodley (The Secret Life of An American Teenager) also dazzles as Clooney’s rebellious teenage daughter, and may be looking at some awards recognition of her own in what will ultimately be recognized as one of the best films of the year.

Watch the trailer here.

Dec. 2: <em>We Need to Talk About Kevin</em>

Based on Lionel Shriver’s bestselling novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin marks the first film in nine years from acclaimed Scottish director Lynne Ramsay (Morvern Callar). This impressionistic horror film concerns Eva (Tilda Swinton), a mother who struggles with the aftermath of a school shooting perpetrated by her troubled teenage son (Ezra Miller). She is forced to look inward, analyzing how she raised the child to see if anything could have been done to prevent the tragedy. Swinton’s performance as the helpless mother is absolutely devastating, and will surely garner her recognition come awards season. The score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood (There Will Be Blood) is fantastic, as are Ramsay’s artistic eye and Miller’s performance as the demonic teen. “I feel like there should be couches outside the screenings,” Swinton told The Daily Beast at Telluride. “This film will be psychoanalyzed.”

Watch the trailer here.

Paramount Pictures

Dec. 16: <em>Young Adult</em>

While not a lot is known about filmmaker Jason Reitman’s follow-up to his Oscar-nominated Up in the Air, what we do know is that it reteams him with his Oscar-winning Juno scribe Diablo Cody in a film that centers on a writer of teen literature (Charlize Theron) who, in a rut, decides to return to her hometown to win over her now-happily married high-school squeeze (Patrick Wilson). However, she ends up forming an unlikely bond with one of her decidedly dorkier former classmates, played by Patton Oswalt. Reitman has emerged as one of the most gifted young filmmakers of his generation, and the combination of him and Theron is one to watch out for. Let’s just hope Diablo Cody’s screenplay is a vast improvement over her last one, Jennifer’s Body.

Dec. 16: <em>The Iron Lady</em>

This biopic of British former prime minister Margaret Thatcher reteams the one and only Meryl Streep with her Mamma Mia! director, Phyllida Lloyd. The film is narrated through a series of flashbacks chronicling the 17 days leading up to the Falklands War, and also features Jim Broadbent as Thatcher’s husband, Denis. Any film with Meryl Streep is worthy of Oscar buzz, let alone a biopic of her as Margaret Thatcher being distributed by Oscar guru Harvey Weinstein. Will it be this year’s The King’s Speech? Who’s to say. If Streep’s last performance in a biopic—as famed chef Julia Child in Julie & Julia—is any indication, this should be another home run.

Watch the trailer here.

Dec. 21: <em>Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol</em>

Animation expert Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) will make his live-action directorial debut with this, the fourth entry in the Mission: Impossible film franchise. Impossible Mission Force superagent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team are disavowed when a group of terrorists blows up the Kremlin and a “ghost protocol” is enacted, whereby the IMF agents are allowed to operate in the dark. But if they're captured, they’ll be branded terrorists. Hunt and his squad, including Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg), team with ex-IMF agent Brandt (Jeremy Renner) to take down a terrorist cell led by Trevor Hanaway (Josh Holloway). The third Mission: Impossible movie, directed by J. J. Abrams, was a bit too convoluted. Let’s hope Bird injects some of that Pixar magic into this lagging franchise.

Watch the trailer here.

Sony Pictures

Dec. 21: <em>The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo</em>

David Fincher’s last film, The Social Network, should have won the Oscar for Best Picture. For his follow-up, he’s decided to adapt Stieg Larsson’s bestselling novel for the big screen, and has enlisted his Network star, Rooney Mara, to play bi-curious goth hacker Lisbeth Salander, as well as Daniel Craig in the role of Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist whom Salander is monitoring. The two eventually team up to solve a mystery involving a woman who’s been missing for more than 40 years. This dark, twisted tale is perfect Fincher fodder, with the trailer (below) resembling a cross between Fincher’s previous films, Zodiac and Seven. And the score by his Oscar-winning The Social Network composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross will surely kick ass, judging by the Reznor/Karen O cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” in the film’s trailer.

Watch the trailer here.

Dec. 23: <em>In the Land of Blood and Honey</em>

Marking the screenwriting and directorial debut of actress Angelina Jolie, this film is about a couple who fall in love during the Bosnian War and how the conflict affects them. Jolie decided to use largely local actors, and told Vanity Fair she was inspired to write the script during a bout with the flu. “I had to be quarantined from the children for two days,” said Jolie. “I was in the attic of a house in France. I was isolated, pacing. I don’t watch TV and I wasn’t reading anything. So I started writing. I went from the beginning to the end. I didn’t know any other way.” The film will be released by Film District during the height of Oscar season.

Neal Preston

Dec. 23: <em>We Bought a Zoo</em>

Having been almost as absent from feature filmmaking as Alexander Payne, Oscar-winning filmmaker Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous) returns with his first film since 2005’s poorly received Elizabethtown. The film centers on Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon), a family man who uses his entire life savings to operate a neglected zoo. This comedy-drama also stars Thomas Haden Church, Scarlett Johansson, Elle Fanning, and even the hilarious JB Smoove, otherwise known as Larry David’s pal Leon on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. The music is composed by the gifted Jonsi (of Sigur Ros fame) in a movie that hopefully brings Crowe back to his Jerry Maguire/Almost Famous groove, as opposed to his last two films: Vanilla Sky and Elizabethtown

Warner Bros.

Dec. 25: <em>Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close</em>

With the exception of Paul Greengrass’s United 93, 9/11-themed mainstream films have been critical and box-office failures across the board. This film, written by Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) and directed by awards darling Stephen Daldry (The Hours, The Reader) has as good a chance as any to buck the trend. Adapted from the Jonathan Safran Foer novel of the same name, the movie centers on a 10-year-old boy (Thomas Horn) whose father, played by Tom Hanks, died in the Sept.r 11 attacks. The boy then goes on an epic journey to find a lock box that his father left him the key to. With supporting turns from Sandra Bullock, as the boy’s mother, John Goodman, James Gandolfini, and The Help star Viola Davis, this movie has Oscar written all over it.

Dec. 28: <em>War Horse</em>

The great Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of the Tony award–winning play tells the tale of Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine), a British boy whose beloved horse, Joey, is sold into the British cavalry at the onset of World War I, and shipped to the front lines in France. The boy then poses as a British soldier and embarks on an epic journey to reunite with his best friend. Emily Watson costars as the boy’s mother, along with A Prophet’s Niels Arestrup as a French grandfather and David Thewlis. We all want to forget Spielberg’s last film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, so hopefully the familiar subject matter of war (Saving Private Ryan, Empire of the Sun) and creatures (Jaws, E.T.), will do him a world of good.

Watch the trailer here.