Fall movie preview Questions abound as season begins

Ian McKellen as Gandalf in New Line Cinema’s and MGM’s fantasy adventure “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”

Taking attendance for big movies you’re looking forward to this fall? You’re going to be marking a lot of hotly expected films “absent” and handing out tardy slips.

From “World War Z” to “The Great Gatsby,” Sandra Bullock’s sci-fi epic “Gravity” to the renegade cops period piece “Gangster Squad,” you could have built a seriously buzzed-about cinema season over the films yanked for more work or for greener pastures among 2013’s release dates.

But enough bad news. We’ll make do with “The Hobbit” and “The Master,” “Les Miserables” and Liam Neeson (“Taken 2”).

It’s the serious cinema season, when comic-book adaptations like “Dredd 3D” open opposite Oscar’s beloved Judge Clint (Eastwood, in “Trouble With the Curve”).

More than anything else, this fall is a movie mystery — which films will break out, which will earn awards buzz and become Oscar contenders?

And that mystery bears the question: Will this fall and winter have us begging for January, when all these delayed movies start trickling out as the (possibly) “best of 2013”?

Here’s a look at what’s coming up (please note that release dates are subject to change):

“For a Good Time Call” (Focus): Ari Graynor and Lauren Miller play former college roommates who start a sex phone line service to help make ends meet in this comedy, co-written by Miller.

“10 Years” (Anchor Bay): Channing Tatum, Rosario Dawson, Chris Pratt, Kate Mara and Ari Graynor star in this drama about a high school reunion.

“Arbitrage” (Lionsgate/ Roadside Attractions): Richard Gere is a hedge-fund titan trying to maintain his public image as successful, philanthropic and happily married with his secret life of having a mistress, a failing company and troubles with the Feds. Susan Sarandon and Brit Marling also star.

“Finding Nemo 3D” (Disney/Pixar): Pixar’s animated classic, newly converted to 3D, returns to theaters.

“The Master” (Weinstein): Joaquin Phoenix returns to the screen in this tale of a World War II vet who falls under the influence of a charismatic writer and cult leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Paul Thomas Anderson supposedly based this on the beginnings of Scientology.

“Resident Evil: RETRIBUTION” (SCREEN GEMS): Milla Jovovich is still vengeful, still out there in the post-apocalyptic future and still killing the undead.

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (Summit): Stephen Chbosky adapted his novel into a script and then directed that script, about a naive college freshman learning the ways of the world from the more experienced. Emma Watson and Logan Lerman star.

“Stolen” (Millennium): Nicolas Cage reteams with his “Con Air” director Simon West for this New Orleans-Mardi Gras tale of an ex-con whose daughter (Sami Gayle) has been kidnapped by his old gang.

“Dredd 3D” (Lionsgate): Another attempt at the comic-book purveyor of sci-fi justice, Judge Dredd, this time starring Karl Urban, with Lena Headey and Olivia Thirlby.

“End of Watch” (Open Road): Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena star in this drama about cops who pick the wrong drug lord to cross. Anna Kendrick and America Ferrera also star.

“House at the End of the Street” (Relativity): Elizabeth Shue and Jennifer Lawrence are mother and daughter who move next door to a home where a girl murdered her parents. Horror ensues.

“Trouble With the Curve” (Warners): Clint Eastwood’s an aged, cantankerous baseball scout losing his eyesight and Amy Adams is the daughter who goes on his last recruiting trip in this dramedy.

“Hotel Transylvania” (Sony Columbia): Adam Sandler is the voice of Dracula, an overprotective vampire dad, with Selena Gomez as his daughter, and the voices of Kevin James, Steve Buscemi and Molly Shannon fleshing out this animated romp.

“Looper” (Sony Tristar): Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in this sci-fi thriller in which a hit man sees his future self (Bruce Willis) as one of his targets. Emily Blunt and Paul Dano also star.

“Won’t Back Down” (Fox): Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Holly Hunter are the stars of this drama about moms from different backgrounds who team up to make a local school better.

“Butter” (The Weinstein Co.): Jennifer Garner, Olivia Wilde and Yara Shadihi are caught up in an Iowa butter-carving contest full of treachery and intrigue in this R-rated comedy.

“Frankenweenie 3D” (Walt Disney): Tim Burton turns his stop-motion animated short film about the boy who brings his dachshund back to life, Frankenstein fashion, into a feature film with the voices of Winona Ryder, Martin Landau and Martin Short.

“The Paperboy” (Millennium): Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron and John Cusack star in Lee Daniels’ follow-up to “Precious,” a dark and kinky tale of the paperboy (Efron) who could free a convict (Cusack) with the right persuasion from a femme fatale (Kidman).

“Pitch Perfect” (Universal): Anna Kendrick (“Up in the Air”) stars in this college comedy about competitive glee clubs. Brittany Snow and Rebel Wilson also star.

“Sinister” (Summit): Ethan Hawke plays a true-crime novelist who uses found footage to discover the truth about a gruesome crime, a truth that puts his family in danger.

“V/ H/ S” (Magnet): More found-video horror as would-be burglars stumble across a stash of footage full of unspeakable horror. If only they still owned a VCR.

“Taken 2” (Fox): This sequel has the ex-CIA agent (Liam Neeson) whose daughter (Maggie Grace) was kidnapped in “Taken” kidnapped himself, along with his ex-wife (Famke Janssen). Luc Besson scripted it; Olivier Megaton directed.

“Argo” (Warner Bros.): Ben Affleck directed and stars in this thriller about a CIA agent charged with getting a small group of Americans out of Iran in the middle of that country’s Islamic Revolution. The omnipresent Bryan Cranston also is in the cast.

“Here Comes the Boom” (Columbia): Kevin James plays a high school teacher who moonlights as a mixed martial arts fighter to save the school’s music program. A “Warrior” with laughs? Salma Hayek co-stars.

“Nobody Walks” (Magnolia): John Krasinski is a music producer happily married to Rosemarie DeWitt but tempted by musician Olivia Thirlby in this layered, multicharacter romantic drama.

“Seven Psychopaths” (CBS Films): Colin Farrell plays a screenwriter comically mixed up with a mobster (Woody Harrelson) after his pals (Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell) kidnap the mobster’s dog. Martin (“In Bruges”) McDonaugh wrote and directed it.

“Smashed” (Sony Classics): Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul star in this drama about two drunks who try to survive as a couple after one of them goes sober.

“Special Forces” (eOne Films): Diane Kruger and Djimon Hounsou star in this thriller about French commandos sent to rescue a kidnapped journalist in Pakistan.

“Alex Cross” (Summit): Tyler Perry takes over the tracker-of-serial-killers role that Morgan Freeman made famous in this murder mystery/ticking clock thriller. Matthew Fox, Cicely Tyson, Jean Reno, Edward Burns and Rachel Nichols are also in the cast.

“Killing Them Softly” (Weinstein): Brad Pitt is a hit man called in to make things right when a mob-connected poker game is robbed. Ray Liotta and Richard Jenkins also star.

“Paranormal Activity 4” (Paramount): A better-looking cast is the hook for this fourth installment in the found-video horror series.

“The Big Wedding” (Lionsgate): Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton have to pretend to be married (leaving new flame Susan Sarandon out of the picture) to avoid upsetting the future in-laws. As if having Robin Williams as the presiding clergyman isn’t upsetting enough. That’s four Oscar winners right there, people.

“Chasing Mavericks” (Fox): Jonny Weston and Gerard Butler star in Curtis Hanson’s film about a legendary surfer who tackled an infamous surf break in 1960s California.

“Cloud Atlas” (Warner Bros.): Tom Hanks and Halle Berry star in this multilayered, multicharacter drama, based on David Mitchell’s novel, about how lives and choices we make “ripple across the centuries.” Tom (“Run Lola Run”) Tykwer and the Wachowskis (“The Matrix”) collaborated on this epic.

“Fun Size” (Paramount): Victoria Justice of TV’s “Victorious” plays a teen who loses her nuisance little brother on Halloween, and spends all night finding him in this comedy. Johnny Knoxville, Chelsea Handler and Ana Gasteyer also star.

“Halloween 3D” (Dimension): Yet another installment, the third in this current reboot, of the Michael Myers saga.

“The Sessions” (Fox Searchlight): John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy and Moon Bloodgood star in this dramedy about a man confined to an iron lung in search of a “professional sex surrogate.”

“Silent Hill:REVELATION 3D” (OPEN ROAD): The last of the October horror sequels serves up Adelaide Clemens as our heroine and Sean Bean as her missing dad, with Malcolm McDowell, Rahda Mitchell, Carrie-Anne Moss and Deborah Kara Unger along for the scary 3D ride.

“Jack and Diane” (Magnolia): Juno Temple, Riley Keough, Cara Seymour and Kylie Minogue star in this young-lesbians-in-love romance.

“Flight” (Paramount): Robert Zemeckis leaves his “Polar Express” motion-capture mania behind for this live-action thriller about a pilot (Denzel Washington) who becomes a hero after a crash, only to be questioned as further details of his behavior come to light. With Don Cheadle and John Goodman.

“The Man With the Iron Fists” (Universal): Russell Crowe is the heavy hitter in this martial arts-slasher picture about a weapons-maker/blacksmith (RZA) in feudal China who gets caught up in sword-slashing power-grab. RZA also directed this, with Rick Yune and Lucy Liu in the cast.

“This Must Be the Place” (Weinstein): Sean Penn, Frances McDormand and Judd Hirsch star in this oddball dramedy about a bored cross-dressing rocker (Penn) who sets out to find his father’s World War II-era tormentor.

“Wreck-It Ralph” (Walt Disney): There’s trouble in the arcade when a longtime video-game villain who wants to be a hero breaks out and into a new game and unleashes mayhem in the form of a new super-villain in this animated action comedy starring the voice of John C. Reilly.

“Anna Karenina” (Focus): Keira Knightley has the title role and Jude Law is her cuckolded husband in this lush period piece based on the Tolstoy novel of the same name.

“Nature Calls” (Magnolia): The year’s second Scout troop camping comedy (after “Moonrise Kingdom”) stars Patton Oswalt, Johnny Knoxville, Rob Riggle, Maura Tierney, Patrice O’Neal and Darrell Hammond.

“Skyfall” (Sony): Daniel Craig returns as James Bond, with Judi Dench, Javier Bardem and Ralph Fiennes along for the ride as Bond must face an enemy from his boss’ past.

“A Late Quartet” (eOne Films): Oscar winners Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christopher Walken, with Catherine Keener and Imogen Poots, are in the cast of this drama about a world-famous string quartet coping with the death of a member and that member’s replacement. “Insuppressible lust” and “egos,” the studio promises us. Yes, that’s classical music all right.

“Lincoln” (Touchstone): Steven Spielberg’s film biography stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln, presiding over a bipartisan Cabinet during the Civil War; based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “Team of Rivals.”

“The Twilight Saga: BREAKING DAWN — PART 2” (SUMMIT): The sweeping saga of teens Bella, Edward and Jacob comes to a toothy conclusion as Bella and her new baby face one last threat from the Volturi.

“Rust & Bone” (Sony Classics): Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts star in this French romantic drama about second-chance love and an “accident” involving a killer whale trainer.

“Life of Pi 3D” (Fox 2000): Ang Lee’s film of Yann Martel’s novel about an Indian zookeeper’s son who is shipwrecked with a lifeboat full of animals stars Tobey Maguire, Irrfan Khan and Tabu.

“Red Dawn” (MGM/ Open Road): This remake of the Reagan-era commie-invasion thriller features Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson and Josh Peck in a tale of high school kids who lead a revolt against the, um, North Koreans, after they take over their town. (No sense offending the Chinese or Russian audiences, is there?)

“Rise of the Guardians” (Paramount): The Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), Jack Frost (Chris Pine) and others team up to save Santa (Alec Baldwin) from the Boogeyman in this animated holiday comedy.

“The Silver Linings Playbook” (The Weinstein Co.): Bradley Cooper stars in this David O. Russell film, based on the Matthew Quick novel, about a teacher who goes to live with his parents after getting out of a mental institution, and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Robert De Niro plays his dad, with Julia Stiles and Jennifer Lawrence.

“Universal Soldier”: DAY OF RECKONING” (MAGNET): Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren reunite in this revival of the B-movie action franchise.

“The Collection” (LD Entertainment): Josh Stewart plays a guy who survives an encounter with the serial killer known as “The Collector” in this slasher picture.

“Deadfall” (Magnolia): Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde play siblings-robbers on the run from a heist gone wrong. It’s snowing. And they stumble into a Thanksgiving family gathering where Oscar winner Sissy Spacek presides.

“Hyde Park on the Hudson” (Focus): Bill Murray is FDR in this serio-comic period piece about the king and queen coming to visit the president at his private home.

“The Hobbit: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY 3D” (NEW LINE/WARNER BROS.): Peter Jackson goes back to Middle-earth for this three-part prequel to “Lord of the Rings,” with Martin Freeman starring as the young Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit sent on an epic adventure by the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen).

“Les Miserables” (Universal): Victor Hugo’s classic novel, rendered into a hit musical, comes to the screen with Hugh Jackman’s Jean Valjean squaring off against Russell Crowe’s Inspector Javert. Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen also are in the cast.

“Zero Dark Thirty” (Columbia): More than a few Brits and one Aussie have been cast in this film from the “Hurt Locker” writer and director about the hunt for and killing of Osama bin Laden: Tom Hardy, Idris Elba, Rooney Mara, Jennifer Ehle and Guy Pearce star.

“The Impossible” (Summit): Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor star in this drama-spectacle set against the backdrop of the worst tsunami disaster of modern times.

“Jack Reacher” (Paramount): Tom Cruise is the ex-MP-turned-private eye in this possible action franchise, based on the Lee Child novels.

“This is 40” (Universal): Judd Apatow’s growing-older-but-not-up comedy stars that “Knocked Up” supporting couple, Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, and Jason Segel and Megan Fox.

“Django Unchained” (Weinstein): Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio star in Quentin Tarantino’s tale of violence and revenge in the post-Civil War South.

“The Guilt Trip” (Paramount): Seth Rogen is the inventor who has to take his annoying mom (Barbra Streisand) on the road with him as he tries to sell his latest invention.

“Parental Guidance” (Fox): Billy Crystal co-wrote and stars in this comedy about a grandpa who resorts to “old school” methods when he’s stuck baby-sitting the grandkids. Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei and Bailee Madison also star.