Starring Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow ?
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, PG-13
Steven Soderbergh knows that his new thriller, Contagion — about a highly communicable virus that wipes out millions of people worldwide in a matter of weeks — may be even more unsettling than most horror films. ”You can avoid going into the ocean or taking a shower if Jaws and Psycho scare the s— out of you,” says the director. ”You can’t live a normal life without coming into contact with germs.”
Contagion is a kind of Towering Inferno for the science-geek set, featuring an A-list cast whose lives collide amid the ensuing international chaos: Matt Damon plays a Midwestern dad whose wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) is one of the disease’s first victims; Kate Winslet appears as a Centers for Disease Control doctor; Marion Cotillard portrays a World Health Organization official; and Jude Law is a crusading blogger. (Sept. 9) —Dave Karger
Starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks
?Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, R
In the high-octane noir Drive, Ryan Gosling plays a Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver and gets entangled in a crime plot that goes awry. So it’s only fitting that the journey to make the film began in a car. With Gosling and Refn behind the wheel, the nature of the film changed. ”Drive was originally a $60 million action movie Hugh Jackman was going to make,” says Refn. (The stripped-down thriller earned him the Best Director prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.) ”It became a completely different movie out of this strange, mystical relationship between Ryan and me in that moment in the car” after their first meeting. (Sept. 16) —Josh Rottenberg
Starring Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Jason Isaacs, Alfred Molina, Sigourney Weaver, and Maria Bello ?
Directed by John Singleton, PG-13
Director John Singleton (Four Brothers) gave Taylor Lautner a warning before production began on Abduction. ”I told him, ‘You are going to get smacked in this movie,”’ he says. And indeed he does. In the 19-year-old actor’s first leading role outside The Twilight Saga, Lautner plays Nathan, a high school senior who discovers a picture of himself on a missing-persons website and embarks on a thrill-packed adventure to learn his true identity. ”The goal was to make him the next-generation action star,” says Singleton. ”I wanted him to be not just a guy that girls like, but one that guys can go, ‘Okay, that dude?s cool.”’ Lautner kickboxes, leaps out of exploding houses, slides down hills, and tosses a bad guy from a train. ”Taylor’s a different guy in this movie than he is in Twilight,” says Singleton. ”I’ve worked with a lot of new talent throughout my career. He is, bar none, one of the best people I’ve ever worked with.” Tom Cruise might want to watch his back. (Sept. 23) —Sara Vilkomerson
Starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright, and Philip Seymour Hoffman
?Directed by Bennett Miller, Not yet rated
”It’s not a baseball movie,” says Moneyball director Bennett Miller. ”Period.” Of course, it is a baseball movie — one of the most detailed and realistic takes on the game ever to hit the big screen. But to the film’s director and cast, some of whom say they’ve never been huge fans of America’s pastime, its themes reach far beyond the world of balls and strikes. Based on Michael Lewis’ 2003 nonfiction book, the movie follows Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) as he struggles to reinvent his cash-starved team in the early 2000s by rejecting some of baseball’s most fundamental assumptions. ”To me, it’s about thinking differently,” says Jonah Hill, who plays a clever young A’s exec working with Beane. ”I saw a story about people being undervalued.” (Sept. 23) —Rob Brunner
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston?
Directed by Jonathan Levine, R
When his friend Will Reiser was diagnosed with spinal cancer at age 25, Seth Rogen began developing a buddy comedy based on their friendship during Reiser’s extensive treatment. Rogen even got Reiser, who’s been in remission for years, to pen the screenplay. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Reiser’s alter ego in the film, and Rogen, who produces, plays a version of himself. Both actors point out that while 50/50 does hit on some lighter moments (such as cancer’s unexpected babe-magnet potential), it doesn’t shy away from depictions of chemotherapy, diminished libido, and hair loss. For one literally buzzworthy scene filmed on the first day, Gordon-Levitt shaves his head on camera. ”So most of the time you see me with hair, it’s a wig,” Gordon-Levitt says. ”But don’t print that! Because then people will just be looking for the wig.” (Sept. 30) —Christian Blauvelt
The Ides of March
Starring Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti?
Directed by George Clooney, Not yet rated
Part morality tale, part thriller, The Ides of March offers an unflattering warts-and-all look inside the machinery of a presidential campaign, exploring the lengths people will go to in order to attain power, even at the cost of everything they say they hold dear. George Clooney plays Gov. Mike Morris, an inspiring Democratic candidate trying to win a hard-fought, high-stakes Ohio primary. Ryan Gosling stars as Stephen Meyers, his idealistic young media strategist. When Meyers learns that Morris has a secret that could destroy his campaign (don’t worry, we won’t spoil it), he’s forced to choose between his highest values and his desire to win, whatever it takes. ”I don’t really find it to be a movie about politics,” says Clooney, who co-wrote the script — based on Beau Willimon’s play Farragut North — with producing partner Grant Heslov. ”It’s about a guy doing anything to win at the cost of his soul. Those are universal themes you could play with in any genre or in any workplace. It’s just that the political arena is so much fun to work in.” (Oct. 7) —Josh Rottenberg
Starring Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Dakota Goyo
?Directed by Shawn Levy, PG-13
The robo-boxing drama Real Steel includes plenty of metal-on-metal violence, but director Shawn Levy tried to target the story’s emotional core. Set in the near future, the movie replaces the sport of human boxing with remote-control mechanized brawls. After his ex dies, a washed-up pugilist (Hugh Jackman) finds himself caring for his estranged son (Dakota Goyo, the child god in Thor), and together they try to restore a rusty hunk-of-junk robo-fighter named Atom. ”Shawn and I kept saying ‘We really have to be able to substitute, I don’t know, Ping-Pong or tennis for the robot boxing,”’ Jackman says. ”As badass as I think the robots are, the movie is really about the father and son and the relationship between them.” (Oct. 7) —Anthony Breznican
Starring Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid, Andie MacDowell
?Directed by Craig Brewer, Not yet rated
Remaking a 1980s classic (see: A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Karate Kid, Clash of the Titans) is always risky. But there were special challenges to updating Footloose, the beloved 1985 teen flick that boasted a blockbuster pop soundtrack and a star-making turn by Kevin Bacon as a city-boy hoofer named Ren McCormack who’s stuck in a small town where dancing is banned. ”It’s kind of like I’m making love to somebody’s old girlfriend,” jokes director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow), who took the reins after High School Musical‘s Kenny Ortega dropped out in October 2009. As for the new Ren, 27-year-old newcomer Kenny Wormald (MTV’s Dancelife) stepped in after Zac Efron and Chace Crawford both passed on the role. The story has been updated to include modern Step Up-style choreography and a more racially diverse cast, but fans will be relieved to see familiar Footloose hallmarks, from Ren’s gymnastics-heavy angry dance in an abandoned mill to the country-bar road trip to a ”Let’s Hear it for the Boy” number featuring Ren’s rhythm-impaired sidekick Willard (Rabbit Hole‘s Miles Teller). (Oct. 7) —Tim Stack
Starring Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Jennifer Lawrence
Directed by Drake Doremus, PG-13
There’s a voyeuristic draw to director/co-writer Drake Doremus’ Like Crazy, a love story about a London girl (Felicity Jones) and an L.A. guy (Anton Yelchin) who fall madly for each other in college, then try to sustain that passion on opposite sides of the world despite work, immigration law, and their own misplaced hesitation. ”I wanted to make something that felt found and stolen,” says Doremus, who based the story, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival this year, on a long-distance relationship of his own. ”We like to think it’s so easy to be in love, and then we’ll just be that way forever. But it was interesting for me to try to understand why two people can’t be together even though they want to be together.” (Oct. 28) —AB
Puss in Boots
Starring Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis
?Directed by Chris Miller, Not yet rated
”I know him pretty well,” says Antonio Banderas of Puss in Boots, the orange tabby who first flashed a sword — and two adorably huge eyeballs — in 2004’s Shrek 2. Banderas has voiced the frisky feline in three previous feature films and four shorts, and has done so in English, Italian, and two versions of Spanish. ”Antonio is the encyclopedia of Puss in Boots,” jokes director Chris Miller (Shrek the Third), adding that the actor even wanted to tackle the movie’s Japanese dub (the studio went with a native speaker instead). This ogreless spin-off stars a younger Puss, who, after being tricked into robbing a bank with childhood friend Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), finds himself a wanted cat. ”It’s a redemption tale,” says Miller. ”He’s searching for a way to clear his name and wash away the sins of his past.” (Nov. 4) —John Young
Starring Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Alan Alda?
Directed by Brett Ratner, Not yet rated
Like any good caper, director Brett Ratner’s action comedy Tower Heist spent a lot more time in the planning phase than in the execution. In fact, the project had gone through so many revisions, touch-ups, and cast changes that star Ben Stiller didn’t know whose idea it was in the first place. ”I remember talking to Brett about a role and saying the dream casting would be Eddie Murphy,” says Stiller. ”And he said, ‘Well, actually, this whole movie was Eddie’s idea.”’ Here’s the gist of the story: A group of employees at a Trump-esque apartment complex — the film was originally called Trump Heist — decide to steal $20 million from one of the residents, a Bernie Madoff-like financial wizard (Alan Alda) who lost their pension funds in a Ponzi scheme. For a project more than half a decade in the works, the stealing-from-the-rich element certainly helps keep things timely. ”The recession definitely makes it more relevant,” says Ratner, ”but really I think heist movies never go out of style.” (Nov. 4)—Keith Staskiewicz
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer
Directed by Clint Eastwood, Not yet rated
As America’s top cop for five decades, J. Edgar Hoover oversaw the creation of the FBI, helped popularize fingerprints and other forensic evidence, and wielded nearly unchecked authority to manipulate evidence and investigate supposed enemies of the state such as Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Now director Clint Eastwood is turning the tables, prying into Hoover’s life in a big-screen biopic that would doubtless make the notorious G-man squirm.
The movie traces Hoover’s life from his childhood in Washington, D.C., through his ascent to power in the 1920s, his 50-year reign over the FBI, and his death in 1972 — with Leonardo DiCaprio donning prosthetic makeup to portray the man well into his bulldog-like elderly years. ”To me, it’s really a story of how absolute power corrupts absolutely,” says the star. ”He was always an outsider.” (Nov. 9) —AB
Jack and Jill
Starring Adam Sandler, Katie Holmes, Al Pacino?
Directed by Dennis Dugan, PG
Adam Sandler may be playing two characters in his new comedy — a suburban family man and his abrasive twin sister — but he took home only one paycheck. ”At least I hope so,” says director Dennis Dugan (Just Go With It). ”That would move the profit margin back quite a bit.” Sandler dons makeup, a wig, and two shapely lumps of silicone to portray the difficult Jill, who visits her brother, Jack, for Thanksgiving and then refuses to leave. ”Adam makes a hilarious woman,” says Katie Holmes, who plays Jack’s wife. ”What I love about Jill is that she has a sweet heart, and I really believe she’s only annoying to her brother.” (Nov. 11) —KS
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1
Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson?
Directed by Bill Condon, PG-13
”This is sooo weird,” cries Kristen Stewart. It’s a sunny Thursday afternoon in San Diego, and the 21-year-old actress is tucked into a sofa beside Twilight Saga costar (and never-confirmed-but-obvious boyfriend) Robert Pattinson, 25. The actors, along with Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) — the director of the final two installments of the franchise, Breaking Dawn — Part 1 and 2 (in theaters Nov. 18, 2011, and November 2012) — are relaxing with coffee in a quiet hotel suite after a busy Comic-Con morning. Or at least they were till Entertainment Weekly started reading aloud from Stephenie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn, the 2008 best-seller that’s the basis for the two movies. ”It’s just so strange, I can’t get over it,” Stewart says of hearing the words she guesses she’s read ”thousands” of times, now that production on both parts of Breaking Dawn has wrapped. But if you want to talk strange, just consider what takes place in the upcoming movie: Bella and Edward’s long-awaited wedding and (even longer-awaited) passionate honeymoon consummation; Bella’s pregnancy with a half-vampire baby, who grows at an accelerated rate and puts her life in danger; Jacob’s mysterious relationship with the unborn baby; and an entirely gruesome and bloody birth that results in Bella’s death (sorta). (Nov. 18) —SV
Starring George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Matthew Lillard?
Directed by Alexander Payne, R
Alexander Payne (Sideways) is finally back with a new feature, this one starring George Clooney as a Hawaiian land baron whose life is upended after his wife (Patricia Hastie) goes into a coma and he learns that she’d been having an affair. Like many of Payne’s movies — ?including Sideways, About Schmidt, and Election — The Descendants aims for a delicate balance between the dramatic and the comedic. ”As I always say,” Payne quips, ”tone wasn’t built in a day.” (Nov. 23) —JR
Starring Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, ?Sacha Baron Cohen
Directed by Martin Scorsese, Not yet rated
A 3-D fantasy set in 1931 Paris with a plucky boy hero, a mysterious robot, and Sacha Baron Cohen as a goofy authority figure? It doesn’t sound like the work of Martin Scorsese, master of gritty urban dramas. Yet Hugo, adapted from Brian Selznick’s 2007 novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, still allowed Scorsese to explore his cineast passions. The film follows a young orphan (Nanny McPhee Returns‘ Asa Butterfield) who inherits a broken automaton from his late father. The device’s inventor turns out to be Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley), a real-life toymaker and pioneering French filmmaker. ”The films of Georges Méliès have always inspired me, and it was a gift to really live with them and think about Méliès as a person,” says Scorsese. (Nov. 23) —Jeff Jensen
Starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper?
Directed by James Bobin, Not yet rated
It’s been 12 long years since the late Jim Henson’s beloved felt-puppet creations have had their own big-screen vehicle (Muppets From Space). To breathe fresh life into the franchise, The Muppets has been carefully engineered to target both the inner children of nostalgic Gen-Xers and a new crop of kids who may be only dimly aware of the characters. Jason Segel stars as Gary, a die-hard Muppet fan who, upon learning that the Muppet Theater is going to be destroyed by a sinister oil magnate (Chris Cooper), sets out to reunite Kermit and the gang to save it. He’s joined in his efforts by his girlfriend (Amy Adams) and his best friend, a new Muppet named Walter. Like Gary, Segel, who co-wrote the film, is driven by a missionary zeal to rescue the Muppets from cultural oblivion. ”We’re coming from a really pure place,” he says. ”The thing that would have ruined this movie is if it were done with a sense of irony, with a wink-wink. This is purely about love for the Muppets.” (Nov. 23)—JR
The Iron Lady
Starring Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent ?
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd, Not yet rated
It may have been a gamble to cast an American to play a public figure as quintessentially British as former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, but if that person is Meryl Streep, the odds would seem to be in her favor. ”It’s not an impersonation in any way — it’s an incarnation,” says director Phyllida Lloyd. The Iron Lady spans seven decades but focuses on the peak of Thatcher’s power in the 1980s. Even moviegoers who don’t warm to Thatcher’s conservatism may find something to cheer. ”As much as the film is about the roller coaster of her extraordinary political career,” says Lloyd, ”it’s also about family and love and loss and bereavement.” And, of course, one trailblazer’s strict, nonnegotiable policy about wearing pearls. (Dec. 16) —SV
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris, Noomi Rapace
Directed by Guy Ritchie, Not yet rated
Unlike 2009’s Sherlock Holmes, which revolved around an occult conspiracy plot, the sequel delivers a more grounded adventure for Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed detective, again played by Robert Downey Jr. ”We have left the supernatural behind, more or less,” says Guy Ritchie, who returns to direct. This time, Holmes comes to the aid of a fortune-teller (Noomi Rapace) threatened by the malevolent math whiz Professor James Moriarty (Mad Men‘s Jared Harris). As always, Holmes is joined by his partner, the soon-to-wed Dr. Watson (Jude Law). Despite the impending nuptials, the heroes’ bromance remains ”the driving force of the narrative,” says Ritchie, and the film allows Downey to have continued fun with quips and disguises: ”Robert was quite keen on dressing up as a woman.” (Dec. 16) —JJ
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Starring Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer
Directed by David Fincher, Not yet rated
Rooney Mara (pictured) is at the center of one of the holiday season’s most anticipated movies, playing troubled heroine Lisbeth Salander in the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. David Fincher’s adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s gigantic international best-seller — about crusading Swedish journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and antisocial computer hacker Salander (Mara), who team up to solve an old mystery — promises to be violent, creepy, and deeply scrutinized by the book’s legion of passionate fans. ”Some people are going to come to it with a preconceived notion of what it is,” says screenwriter and executive producer Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List), who’s also currently writing the script for the follow-up, The Girl Who Played With Fire. ”At the end of the day, it is and it isn’t those things. The way that David [Fincher] has directed it, the way the actors have performed it, the way I’ve written it, it’s all its own thing.” Dec. 21 —RB
Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol
Starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton
Directed by Brad Bird, Not yet rated
Five years after Mission: Impossible III marked a box office low for the franchise (though it still earned $134 million), superagent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is choosing to accept another assignment. His secret weapon this time? Pixar vet Brad Bird (Ratatouille), making his nonanimated directing debut. ”I’ve never made a spy movie before,” says Bird. ”But anybody who saw The Incredibles could tell that I like them.” The plot finds Hunt tracking the culprits behind a bombing at the Kremlin. (Dec. 21) —Adam Markovitz
The Adventures of Tintin
Starring Jamie Bell, Daniel Craig
Directed by Steven Spielberg, Not yet rated
Tintin, the plucky boy reporter whose adventures were written and drawn by Belgian cartoonist Hergé (1907?93) starting in 1929, is a mass phenomenon all over the world — except in America, where he’s merely a cult item. ”When I was 8 years old, I wanted to be Tintin,” says British actor Jamie Bell. Well, now he is — as the voice and model for the hero in a 3-D motion-capture CG animated feature directed by Steven Spielberg. The story takes elements from three Tintin books, particularly The Secret of the Unicorn and features a treasure hunt. (Dec. 23) —Ken Tucker
We Bought a Zoo
Starring Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church
Directed by Cameron Crowe, PG
To persuade Matt Damon to play We Bought a Zoo‘s Benjamin Mee — a real-life London newspaper columnist who moved his family to a decrepit rural zoo and, after the death of his wife from cancer, worked to reopen it — director Cameron Crowe visited the actor on the Texas set of last year’s True Grit with a care package. ”I’m going to give away my age because I would call it a mixtape even though it was all on a computer,” says Damon of the gift, which Crowe assembled to evoke the mood of the film he wanted to make. ”There was lots of Eddie Vedder and Neil Young. I downloaded it, and the day after I got home, I went for a long run in Central Park and listened to all 15 songs. At the end of that run I was like, ‘Well, that’s a feeling I really like.”’ Scarlett Johansson plays a zoo worker who helps Mee cope with his wife’s death. (Dec. 23) —DK
Starring Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullan
Directed by Steven Spielberg, PG-13
Over the years, Steven Spielberg has worked with some unusual protagonists: sharks, extraterrestrials, robots. But in War Horse, he centers a harrowing survival story on a steed named Joey who’s sent into the nightmarish battlefields of World War I. The story begins with Albert (newcomer Jeremy Irvine), a British farm boy who nurtures Joey as a pet and workhorse until Albert’s father (Peter Mullan) sells Joey to the British army. Soon Albert enlists as well, hitting the trenches in the naive hope of finding Joey and returning home to a prewar sense of calm.
Though Joey is the catalyst for the drama, the film focuses on the people he encounters on his journey. ”Every character recognizes parts of themselves in Joey,” says Spielberg. ”Joey is both a companion and a reflection of how we treat each other and how we hope to be treated by others.” (Dec. 28) —AB
Starring Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly
Directed by Roman Polanski, Not yet rated
Kate Winslet loved the riotously funny 2009 Broadway production of God of Carnage so much (”I actually peed my pants, and not just once,” she says) that she joined Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz, and John C. Reilly for the film adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s Tony-winning play. They star as two sets of Brooklyn parents who try — and fail — to be civil to one another after their tween sons get into a playground fight. (Release date TBA) —DK