Movies tend to get more serious in the fall, and if you don't believe it, consider Sandra Bullock and Hugh Jackman.
This past summer, Bullock starred as a cop partnered with Melissa McCarthy's loose cannon in the puerile action comedy The Heat. A few weeks later, Jackman once again donned his adamantium claws to slash his way through the Japanese mob in the comic book movie The Wolverine.
Note, now that the calendar pages have flipped into September, how those actors aspire to more serious fare. Bullock teams with George Clooney to play a pair of astronauts who find themselves marooned in space in director Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity (Oct. 4). Jackman, meanwhile, plays the desperate father of a missing child forced to vigilantism in the drama Prisoners (Sept. 20).
Fall 2013 sees its share of regular movie fare: fightin', frivolity and fear. But sprinkled throughout are instances of serious Oscar bait. Here's how it looks:
Big and important
WHAT movie is as big and important as The Wizard of Oz? That's the reason Warner Bros. upgraded the 1939 fantasy for a 3D Imax venue, which means, when Margaret Hamilton's Wicked Witch of the West points her bony green finger at you, it should really be pointing at you. Look for it to play for one week beginning Sept. 20.
Chris Hemsworth trades Thor's hammer for a Formula One steering wheel to play race driver James Hunt in director Ron Howard's Rush (Sept. 20), a dramatization of Hunt's intense rivalry with Austrian ace Niki Lauda (Daniel Brºhl). It was scripted by Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon) rather than frequent Howard collaborator Akiva Goldsman (Batman & Robin)... that's a good thing.
Oscar magnet Tom Hanks plays the skipper of an American cargo ship taken hostage by Somali pirates in the fact-based Captain Phillips (Oct. 11), directed by Paul Greengrass.
The most anticipated Winnipeg film of the season is Special Ed (starting Oct. 17 at Cinematheque), director John Paskievich's documentary portrait of embattled Winnipeg animator Ed Ackerman, now -- alas -- best known not for his unique body of animated films but for his high-profile run-ins with the law over properties the city deemed derelict.
Ridley Scott's The Counselor (Oct. 25), from an original screenplay by Cormac McCarthy, stars Michael Fassbender as a lawyer who gets in over his head with a drug cartel. Co-starring are Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz and Javier Bardem, whom you may remember from another McCarthy adaptation, No Country for Old Men.
The Wolf of Wall Street (Nov. 15) is another collaboration between star Leonardo DiCaprio and director Martin Scorsese (The Aviator, Shutter Island, The Departed) about a criminally successful Wall Street stockbroker Jordan Belfort. Think of it as Goodfellas in the financial district.
Spike Lee adapts Chan-wook Park's 2003 Korean classic in the remake Oldboy (Nov. 27), starring Josh Brolin as a man suddenly set free after being inexplicably kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years.
ROBERT De Niro plays the patriarch who joins his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) and kids in witness-protection exile in France in the weird action-comedy-drama whatsit The Family (Sept. 13) from director Luc Besson.
There's more animated food-related fun in the sequel Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (Sept. 27).
Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed and stars in Don Jon (Sept. 27) as a Jersey guy whose new love (Scarlett Johansson) interferes with his ongoing affair with porn.
Johnny Knoxville dons his old-age Jackass persona of Irving Zisman and goes on a road trip with his eight-year-old grandson "Billy" for some outrageous hidden-camera hijinks (Think: Borat) in Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (Oct. 25)
Last Vegas (Nov. 1) features Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline as a quartet of old dudes who decide to "party like it's 1959" in Sin City on the eve of Douglas's latest wedding.
A young man learns he has the ability to go back in time at will to correct past blunders in the Richard Curtis (Love, Actually) comedy About Time (Nov. 8).
Delivery Man (Nov. 22), an American remake of the French-Canadian comedy Starbuck, casts Vince Vaughn as a shlub who finds purpose in his life when he learns he has fathered 533 kids via sperm donations made anonymously to a fertility clinic decades earlier.
A Disney animated version of The Snow Queen, Frozen (Nov. 27) is about a young woman (Kristen Bell) who embarks on a quest to find her sister (Idina Menzel), whose magic has trapped their kingdom in an eternal winter.
RUNNER Runner (Oct. 4) stars Justin Timberlake as a guy enticed into a glamorous offshore/online gambling empire fronted by Ben Affleck, with predictably sexy-violent results.
In Machete Kills (Oct. 11) Robert Rodriguez's B-movie Bronson-esque antihero (Danny Trejo) returns for more grindhouse mayhem alongside, hands down, the most bizarre cast of the year including Lady Gaga, Mel Gibson, Sofia Vergara and Charlie Sheen as a President of the United States with a penchant for colourful executive orders: "Go kick some ass."
Past box-office heavyweights Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone pool their aging resources to play prisoners intent on getting out of a high-tech penitentiary in Escape Plan (Oct. 18).
Ender's Game (Nov. 1) is a serious science-fiction story about a gifted military academy student (played by Asa Butterfield) instructed in the ways of extraterrestrial combat by Harrison Ford's gruff Col. Graff. It's debatable whether Ender author Orson Scott Card's homophobic beliefs will reflect on the box office. But note that Mel Gibson's latest acting role is as a campy villain in Machete Kills.
Every season has its comic-book movie and this fall, it's Thor: The Dark World (Nov. 8) with Chris Hemsworth's God of Thunder facing off against an all-new, all-powerful foe (Christopher Eccleston).
Another apocalyptic franchise continues with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Nov. 22). Jennifer Lawrence's bow-wielding heroine Katniss Everdeen is once again enlisted to fight for her life against a ruthless militaristic government given to distracting the downtrodden populace with gladiatorial spectacle.
THIS autumn is pretty light on horror offerings, which is why we might expect big, scary things from Insidious Chapter 2 (Sept. 13), James Wan's followup to the low-budget 2010 ghost/possession story in which a family (including Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) finds itself haunted by a persistently malevolent force.
Carrie (Oct. 18) is actually the second remake of Brian De Palma's classic adaptation of the Stephen King novel, this time starring Chloe Moretz as the telekinetic teen and Julianne Moore as her demented, religious-zealot mom. It was directed by Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don't Cry).