Fall movie preview: from 'The Hobbit' to 'Skyfall'

Daniel Craig is back as Bond in "Skyfall."

Daniel Craig is back as Bond in "Skyfall." (Credit: Francois Duhamel)

Movie studios are always on the lookout for a sure thing, and this fall they've found a few of them. One is Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit." Another is "Skyfall," featuring Daniel Craig in his third James Bond suit. And don't forget -- as if you could -- about the last episode of "The Twilight Saga."

Even more interesting: the season's many wild cards.

When Warner Bros. postponed the December release of Baz Luhrmann's big-scale, rap-infused version of "The Great Gatsby," we lost one of the weirder-looking releases of the season. But there are plenty of others. In "Cloud Atlas," directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer -- yes, three directors -- Tom Hanks changes characters over multiple time spans, while other characters change genders. In "This Must Be the Place," Sean Penn plays a 50-year-old Goth-rocker, complete with makeup and wig, who hunts a Nazi. The literary adaptation "Life of Pi," an awards-season hopeful, stars an unknown teenager from India and a partially animated tiger.

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All of which may sound ridiculous, but who would have guessed that last year's Oscar sweeper would be a silent movie about silent movies? Here's a look at 25 of this fall's safe bets, long shots and giant question marks.

1. Finding Nemo (Sept. 14)

The 2003 Disney-Pixar favorite, about an overprotective clown fish (voiced by Albert Brooks) and his young son (Alexander Gould). In 3-D.

2. Trouble With the Curve (Sept. 21)

An aging baseball scout (Clint Eastwood) brings his grown daughter (Amy Adams) on what could be his last mission. With Justin Timberlake. Robert Lorenz makes his directorial debut.

3. Hotel Transylvania (Sept. 28)

The animated tale of Count Dracula (voice of Adam Sandler), whose quiet getaway for persecuted monsters is disrupted by a human visitor. Additional voices by Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez and Kevin James.

4. Looper (Sept. 28)

A hit man (Bruce Willis) is sent to kill his younger self (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in this sci-fi thriller from Rian Johnson ("The Brothers Bloom"). With Emily Blunt and Paul Dano.

5. Frankenweenie (Oct. 5)

Tim Burton expands his 1984 live-action short into a stop-motion feature about a young boy (Charlie Tahan) who brings his dead dog back to life. Voices by Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short and Winona Ryder.

6. Taken 2 (Oct. 5)

Liam Neeson is former CIA agent Bryan Mills, once again protecting his family with his "particular set of skills." With Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen. Directed by Olivier Megaton.

7. Argo (Oct. 12)

Ben Affleck directs himself as CIA man Tony Mendez, who attempted to sneak six Americans out of Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis by disguising them as . . . a Hollywood film crew? Based on a true story. With Alan Arkin, Clea Du Vall and Chris Messina.

8. Alex Cross (Oct. 19)

Tyler Perry replaces Morgan Freeman as the homicide detective last seen in 2001's "Along Came a Spider." It's Perry's first major acting gig outside of his own movies. With Matthew Fox and Edward Burns.

9. Cloud Atlas (Oct. 26)

An adaptation of David Mitchell's sprawling novel about lives that reverberate across the ages. With Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess, Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant. The Wachowskis ("The Matrix") direct with Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run").

10. Flight (Nov. 2)

After crash-landing a passenger plane, pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is hailed as a hero. But what really happened? With Don Cheadle, Melissa Leo and John Goodman.

11. The Man With the Iron Fists (Nov. 2)

Alt-culture favorite RZA makes his directing, writing and leading-man debut in this Quentin Tarantino-sponsored martial-arts movie. With Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu and Pam Grier.

12. Wreck-It Ralph (Nov. 2)

In a video-game world, an unhappy villain (John C. Reilly) decides he'd rather be the hero. Voices by Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch.

13. Skyfall (Nov. 9)

The 23rd James Bond film, and the third to star Daniel Craig, centers on troubling questions surrounding MI6 honcho M (Judi Dench). With Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem and Bérénice Marlohe. Sam Mendes directs.

14. Lincoln (Nov. 9)

No vampire-hunting in this biopic from director Steven Spielberg. With Daniel Day-Lewis as our 16th president, Sally Field as first lady Mary Todd and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as their son Robert.

15. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2 (Nov. 16)

Given the violent sex and belly-eating fetus of "Part 1," this franchise finale has a lot to live up to. Bill Condon returns to direct.

16. Life of Pi (Nov. 21)

The film version of Yann Martel's 2001 novel about a young man (17-year-old newcomer Suraj Sharma) marooned on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. With Gerard Depardieu and Irrfan Khan. Ang Lee directs.

17. The Silver Linings Playbook (Nov. 21)

An ex-con (Bradley Cooper) moves back in with his football-fanatic parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) and meets a girl (Jennifer Lawrence) with problems of her own. Directed and written by David O. Russell ("The Fighter").

18. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Dec. 14)

Orcs and Wargs abound in the first of Peter Jackson's three films based on J.R.R. Tolkien's novel. With Cate Blanchett, Ian McKellen, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins.

19. Les Misérables (Dec. 14)

The movie of the musical based on the novel, with Hugh Jackman as ex-con Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as Inspector Javert and Anne Hathaway as struggling single mother Fantine. Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech") directs.

20. Zero Dark Thirty (Dec. 19)

Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal follow their Oscar-winning Iraq War drama "The Hurt Locker" with the story of the 10-year hunt for Osama bin Laden. With Joel Edgerton, Jessica Chastain and Kyle Chandler.

21. Jack Reacher (Dec. 21)

Tom Cruise is a former military man investigating a mass shooting. With Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins and Werner Herzog as a villain named The Zec. Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie ("The Usual Suspects") from Lee Child's novel "One Shot."

22. This Is 40 (Dec. 21)

Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprise their "Knocked Up" roles as beleaguered married couple Pete and Debbie. It's the first film written and directed by Judd Apatow since 2009's "Funny People."

23. Django Unchained (Dec. 25)

Quentin Tarantino's pre-Civil War Western features some wild casting: Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx are a bounty-hunting team, while Leonardo DiCaprio is a plantation owner whose house slave is played by Samuel L. Jackson. With Don Johnson and Jonah Hill, too.

24. The Guilt Trip (Dec. 25)

An inventor (Seth Rogen) brings his mother (Barbra Streisand) on a road trip to hawk his latest product. Directed by Anne Fletcher ("The Proposal").

25. Parental Guidance (Dec. 25)

Billy Crystal and Bette Midler are old-school grandparents put in charge of their daughter's children. With Marisa Tomei.

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