Cool films on horizon Fall movies look to offer relief from dismal summer showing

Chris Hemsworth (left) and Daniel Bruhl star in “ Rush.”

Do you remember the time when movie theaters were the place to be during the summer? When there was an amazing, must-see movie coming out almost every week?

Yeah, those times seem like a distant memory for me, too.

While there were a few gems released over the last few months — I’m looking at “Star Trek Into Darkness” and “World War Z” — overall, the folks over on the left coast have not delivered much in the way of the usual summer blockbusters, with a few out-and-out bombs. (Can you say “Lone Ranger” and “After Earth”? Though I fully admit I haven’t seen them yet; the trailers screamed “rent me.”)

With an extremely disappointing slew of summer films, movie fans such as myself are looking to the rest of the year as Oscar contenders start to emerge and some major blockbuster follow-ups are slated to hit the big screen.

Release dates are subject to change.

Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde

Summary: While sports films have been on the rise of late, this one has the promise of being a hit. With Ron Howard in the director’s chair and Chris Hemsworth (aka Thor) in the lead, there’s Oscar buzz surrounding this dramatized documentary. Re-creating the rivalry between Formula One drivers James Hunt (Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) from the ’70s, this is one of two Academy Award hopefuls for Universal Pictures. Also of note, this will be Bruhl’s first starring role in the States; he’s previously had supporting roles in “Inglourious Basterds” and “The Bourne Ultimatum.”

Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza

Summary: There’s something appealing about Joseph Gordon-Levitt in front of the camera; in this film, it might just be his full-on car performance of “Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Making his directorial debut, Gordon-Levitt channels “Jersey Shore” as a guy devoted to his body, home, friends, family, church and porn. You read that right. Joining the ranks of recent films focusing on sexual addiction (“Shame,” “Thank You for Sharing,”), this one takes a look at the unrealistic expectations that can develop when watching pornogropghy.

Director: Alfonso Cuaron

Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris, Eric Michels

Summary: If you haven’t seen the preview for this one yet, hop on the closest computer ASAP. The trailer for this film leaves viewers on the edge of their seat, so I have no doubt the film will have you feeling the same way. Starring Sandra Bullock in her first sci-fi role, the film follows a medical engineer and an astronaut as they try to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space. George Clooney also stars, though it’s been made clear that his screen time will be minimal. And with Oscar-nominated director Alfonso Cuaron (“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” “Y Tu Mama Tambien”) at the helm of his first project since 2006’s “Children of Men,” there’s a lot to look forward to.

Director: Paul Greengrass

Cast: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman

Summary: Based on the true story of Capt. Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking of the MV Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in 200 years, this film will likely have you on the edge of your seat, holding your breath, waiting to see how the story unfolds. Starring two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks in the lead role, you know this film will be captivating.

Director: Bill Condon

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Carice van Houten, Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci

Summary: Benedict Cumberbatch (“Sherlock,” “Star Trek Into Darkness”) stars as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in this thriller based on real events. With Oscar-winning writer Bill Condon (“Chicago”) in the director’s chair, this film will likely create a firestorm of controversy as the previews tout Cumberbatch’s Assange as a “visionary” and as a “traitor.”

Director: Kimberly Peirce

Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer

Summary: At the height of the fight against bullying, this classic horror tale has been reimagined and is being brought back to the big screen. Sissy Spacek immortalized the character in the original 1976 film, so it will be hard to top, though it will be interested to see what Chloe Grace Moretz (“Kick-Ass,” “Dark Shadows”) does as the telekinetic outcast. While I have no doubt that Moretz can pull it off, I’ll be interested to see what Julianne Moore does as the Bible-beating mother.

Director: Steve McQueen

Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti

Summary: Yet another film based on a true story, this telling of free black man Solomon Northup’s abduction and selling into slavery won’t be easy to watch. With Chiwetel Ejiofor (“Salt,” “2012”) in his first leading role, he has an all-star backup cast in Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano and Paul Giamatti. Based in the antebellum period, it will be interesting to see what “Shame” director Steve McQueen does on such a large scale.

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz

Summary: “Alien” director Ridley Scott takes on this screenplay by Cormac McCarthy (“No Country for Old Men”) of a lawyer who finds himself in over his head when he gets involved in drug trafficking. With an all-star cast of Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz, there’s already some Oscar talk surrounding Pitt’s role in the film. And based on the previews, this also looks like another opportunity for us to see Bardem’s crazy side, which is always fun.

Director: Gavin Hood

Cast: Asa Butterfield, Abigail Breslin, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis

Summary: Based on two books in Orson Scott Card’s science-fiction series, the film focuses on an advanced military academy in space where gifted children prepare for a future alien invasion. While Card’s books have won numerous awards, there’s no telling how the film will pan out as it was placed in the hands of “The Wolverine”director, Gavin Hood — who knew it was possible to mess up a Hugh Jackman-as-Wolverine movie. While it seems to be slanted more toward the tween crowd, adults will likely enjoy the film for its special effects and appearances by Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley.

Director: Jon Turteltaub

Cast: Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline

Summary: While this film screams “The Hangover,” the fact that Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline have replaced Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Justin Bartha is reason enough to see this film.

Director: Alan Taylor

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christopher Eccleston, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston

Summary: If you need to be told why you should see this film, then you’re not a true Marvel fan. For the uninitiated, Marvel does a beautiful job of blending action, humor and emotion, leading to some thoroughly entertaining movies. And with one of the greatest big-screen villains of all time, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), making a return appearance, you just can’t go wrong. The original cast of Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins, among numerous others, returns to take on Malekith the Accursed (Christopher Eccleston). Also of note is the fact that Alan Taylor from “Game of Thrones” is in the director’s chair on this one, which raises the bar a bit.

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, P.J. Byrne, Jon Favreau, Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill

Summary: Martin Scorsese has teamed up yet again with Leonardo DiCaprio — the quest for a Best Actor Oscar continues — in this true-life tale of the rise and fall of stockbroker Jordan Belfort. With a supporting cast filled out by the likes of Matthew McConaughey and Jonah Hill, might this finally be DiCaprio’s chance?

Director: Francis Lawrence

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Philip Seymour Hoffman

Summary: There’s no doubt that this will be a hit at the box office as there’s a strong following from filmgoers and readers alike. After emerging as victors in the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are targeted as a rebellion stirs. To show that the Capitol can not be overtaken, the 75th Hunger Games, the Quarter Quell, sees existing victors facing off against one another in a cruel twist.

Directors: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee

Cast: Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Idina Menzel, Alan Tudyk

Summary: While it’s hard to say how this Disney tale will turn out as the only trailer currently available is reminiscent of the squirrel and the nut shtick from the “Ice Age” films, there are a few points that make me have hope. Based on Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen,” one of his most highly acclaimed stories, the adaption is being brought to the screen by the creators of “Tangled” and “Wreck-It Ralph.” Also of note is that Idina Menzel of Broadway’s “Wicked” is voicing the Snow Queen; here’s hoping Disney goes back to its old-school formula with lots of character singing in this film.

Director: Olivier Dahan

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, André Penvern, Frank Langella

Summary: While the initial buzz after the preview’s release wasn’t exactly glowing — there was lots of talk about how pretty Nicole Kidman is as Grace Kelly but noted that the plot of the film was absent — there’s still some hope. Rather than a large-scale biography, “La Vie en Rose” director Olivier Dahan focuses on a trying moment in her reign as princess of Monaco. Film aficionados will likely find favor in the cinematography, while fashion fans are sure to be wowed by the costumes, if nothing else.

Director: Jean-Marc Vallee

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto, Steve Zahn

Summary: Garnering lots of buzz while filming was still taking place because of Matthew McConaughey’s extreme weight loss to play HIV-positive Ron Woodroof, a Texas electrician, the story follows him as he takes on the medical establishment and pharmaceutical companies. After being diagnosed, Woodroof uses legal and illegal means to get ahold of alternative treatments. Wanting everyone to benefit, he establishes a “buyers club” to avoid government sanctions when he starts selling non-approved medicines and supplements.

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch

Summary: The second film in “The Hobbit” series, there’s no doubt that Peter Jackson will pull out another CGI-leaden smash hit with “The Desolation of Smaug.” Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) continues his journey with Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and a team of dwarves on a quest to reclaim the lost dwarf kingdom of Erebor and the gold guarded by the dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch).

Director: David O. Russell

Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner

Summary: Outside of what I’m sure is a great story, what has me most excited about this film is the fact that it brings together the cast of “The Fighter” (Amy Adams and Christian Bale) and “Silver Linings Playbook”(Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence), tosses in a dash of Jeremy Renner, and mixes it with the sparkle of the ’70s. I expect pure magic.

Director: Adam McKay

Cast: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Vince Vaughn

Summary: For anyone who was a fan of the first film, there’s no need to explain why the excitement is palpable for the return of the Channel 4 news team. One of the most quoted movies of the last decade, the long-awaited sequel sees Ron Burgundy leave the ’70s and San Diego behind to take on New York. While comedy sequels are notoriously disappointing (can you say “The Hangover Part II”?), here’s hoping this one breaks the trend.

Director: George Clooney

Cast: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman

Summary: Dubbed “this year’s ‘Argo,’ ” this true-life story sees a crew of art historians and museum curators save works of art before Hitler destroys them. With a stellar ensemble cast that includes director George Clooney, Matt Damon, part-time Charleston resident Bill Murray, John Goodman and Cate Blanchett, to name a few, there’s no doubt this will play well and likely score a few Oscar nods.

Director: John Lee Hancock

Cast: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Ruth Wilson, Paul Giamatti

Summary: As a big Disney fan, it will be great to see the imaginative genius brought to life by the talented Tom Hanks. The film, while maybe a bit too advanced for the younger crowd, will offer a chance for a whole new generation to be acquainted with the tale of “Mary Poppins.” The story follows the “untold true story” of Disney’s wooing of author P. L. Travers and his efforts to make her character “fly off the pages.”

Director: Carl Rinsch

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano

Summary: It’s hard to believe this film is finally coming out, more than a year after its original release date, which makes it a big question mark. Adding to the questionable factor is the casting of Keanu Reeves as a samurai.

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh

Summary: Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan character is set to appeal to a younger crowd as Chris Pine of “Star Trek” takes over a role that’s previously been played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck. Between Pine and fans of Kenneth Branagh’s work behind the camera, there’s sure to be interest. But it will be interesting to see how this plays out as a book in the Jack Ryan series hasn’t been released since 2002.

Director: Peter Berg

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Eric Bana

Summary: This is the year for true stories to make their way to the big screen. This true-life tale shows the failed June 28, 2005, mission dubbed “Operation Red Wings,” which saw four SEAL Team 10 members tasked to capture or kill Taliban leader Ahmad Shahd ultimately facing an army. As we already know that Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg) was the only survivor, this will, understandably, be hard to watch.