Although summer is typically thought of as the season for big-budget “tent-pole” blockbusters, there are quite a few potentially big movies coming out this fall and winter. From the release of the first chapter in Peter Jackson’s epic “Hobbit” saga to a new James Bond spy flick to a sweeping big-screen version of the musical “Les Misérables,” the final few months of 2012 will be a busy time at the box office. While it’s tough to predict what films will be successful just based on trailers and short film synopses, here are some of the movies I’m most looking forward to for fall and winter:
1. “Looper” (Sept. 28)
Out of all the films slated for release later this year, this one arguably has the most creative concept. It’s about assassins known as “loopers” who are assigned to off targets transported back in time from the future. Things get complicated when a looper named Joe (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is assigned to kill an older version of himself (played by Bruce Willis). Although the director’s slim $35 million budget means this probably won’t be a special effects heavy film, I think this will ultimately work out in the movie’s favor. I’m hoping “Looper” will be a thought-provoking sci-fi thriller that will spend a lot of time focusing on character development, giving its strong cast of actors (a team that also includes Emily Blunt) a chance to show off their skills.
2. “Taken 2” (Oct. 5)
“Taken,” starring Liam Neeson, became a surprise hit when it was released in 2009. It’s an intense, relentless thriller about an ex-CIA agent named Bryan Mills who brutally pursues a group of Albanian thugs who have kidnapped his daughter. In the sequel, the thugs take Mills’ ex-wife hostage in retaliation for all the men Mills killed while trying to rescue his daughter. With sequels, it’s always a challenge to both capture the essence of what made the first film successful, and bring something new to the table. However, Neeson’s always-great acting and a new film setting/plot twist are enough reasons for me to give this sequel a shot.
3. “Wreck-It Ralph” (Nov. 2)
Some of the best comedies lately have been animated ones — “Tangled,” “Despicable Me” and “Megamind” — and it looks like “Wreck-It Ralph” could follow in this tradition. Wreck-It Ralph is a 1980s video game villain who doesn’t want to be a “bad guy” anymore and decides to explore other video games. Expect plenty of cameos from characters from classic video games, such as “Pac-Man.” Another fall animated movie that looks like it could be fun is “Hotel Transylvania” (Sept. 28), about a vampire running a hotel for supernatural and undead creatures. Hopefully both these movies will be as cute and clever as the trailers make them appear.
4. “James Bond: Skyfall” (Nov. 9)
When I first heard Daniel Craig had been cast as James Bond several years ago, like many filmgoers, I was a little skeptical he could pull it off. However, I think it only took about 60 seconds of the first Daniel Craig Bond movie I saw to turn me into a fan. Craig’s debut as Bond, “Casino Royale” (2006), is my all-time favorite spy movie, and while critics didn’t respond as enthusiastically to the follow-up “Quantum of Solace” (2008), I still thought it was a good film. “Skyfall” will have Craig facing off against Javier Bardem, who plays a man named “Silva” who is gunning for MI6 and “M” (Judi Dench). The trailer for the film is tense and exciting, and I’m looking forward to seeing Craig take on this role again.
5. “Red Dawn” (Nov. 21)
This film is a remake of a Cold War-era film about a group of high school students fighting off a Soviet invasion (the update changes the villains to North Koreans). While initially I was a little skeptical about how good this movie would be, the trailer looks pretty cool. The movie — which was actually filmed several years ago and delayed due to MGM’s financial struggles — likely will receive a boost from the newfound star power of Chris Hemsworth (“Thor”) and Josh Hutcherson (“The Hunger Games”), who were cast in “Red Dawn” before they became famous.
6. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (Dec. 14)
This is the film I’m most looking forward to this winter, and it’s also probably my most anticipated movie overall this year. Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy ranks near the top of my favorite movies list, and I’d been keeping my fingers crossed for a really long time, hoping Jackson would also take up “The Hobbit.” This film has a lot of good buzz going in, and I think this could easily end up being one of the year’s best films if Jackson is able to capture the same magic he did with “Lord of the Rings.” The film is generating some Oscar buzz, as well.
7. “Les Misérables” (Dec. 14)
Likely no other musical is as deserving of the description “epic” as “Les Misérables,” a sweeping, complex tale of redemption set during a revolution in France. It contains some of my favorite songs from the stage, second only to the music from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera.” The film version of “Les Misérables” has a strong cast, led by Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway. The trailer shows a lot of promise, with Anne Hathaway providing a haunting and heartfelt rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream.” However, this musical may face some challenges at the box office. The original stage musical is almost entirely sung, similar to an opera (I don’t remember there being any spoken dialogue), and from what I understand, the movie version will be almost entirely sung, as well. It may be a tricky concept to pull off on film. I really hope they can do it, though, because I’d love to see this musical succeed on the big screen. It is a little surprising “The Hobbit” and “Les Misérables” are opening on the same date. Hopefully audiences will make an effort to see both films that weekend.
Some other good picks this fall and winter could be “The Words” (Sept. 7), a drama starring Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Irons, about a struggling author who publishes under his own name a manuscript he discovers; “Flight” (Nov. 2), a film about a pilot who appears to be a hero but is dealing with challenges in his personal life, starring one of my all-time favorite actors — Denzel Washington; “Anna Karenina” (Nov. 16), a Russian period drama starring Keira Knightley that’s already generating some Oscar buzz; and “Silver Linings Playbook” (Nov. 21), featuring a disenchanted high school teacher (Bradley Cooper) who befriends a young widow (“The Hunger Games” star Jennifer Lawrence).