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2012 Fall Movie Preview

Coming on the heels of a surprisingly strong handful of late August releases, the 2012 fall season is refreshingly low on remakes and sequels and inordinately high on horror and crime thrillers. Apart from some high-brow art-house titles that have yet to settle on solid release dates, here are some thumbnail capsules of the upcoming roster of titles through Thanksgiving. As always, all release dates are subject to change.

Sept. 7

FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL ... -- A charming, profane and thoroughly side-splitting hybrid of "Bridesmaids" and Spike Lee's "Girl 6" that is set in Manhattan where two former college rivals (Ari Graynor and co-writer Lauren Miller) team-up to start a phone sex service.

THE WORDS -- A fairly dull but handsomely framed mystery/drama about a writer (Bradley Cooper) whose debut novel becomes a smash hit which comes as a surprise to everyone especially a WWII veteran played by Jeremy Irons. Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde and Zoe Saldana co-star.

Sept. 14

ARBITRAGE -- This mystery thriller stars Richard Gere as a Wall Street big shot who spends the entire movie trying to stay a step ahead of the SEC and a dogged cop (Tim Roth) who is looking into the questionable death of a budding artist. Susan Sarandon co-stars as Gere's crafty wife.

FINDING NEMO 3-D -- The "Titanic" of animated movies, the already milked-to-death "Finding Nemo" bellies up to the bar for yet another deep dip into families' wallets.

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER -- Of note solely because it is the first major post-Harry Potter release starring Emma Watson, "Perks" is a romantic high school drama about a freshman coming to grips with the death of a friend and his own impending mental crack-up.

Sept. 21

DREDD 3-D -- Here's a reboot of the mid-'90s action clunker that starred Sylvester Stallone no one asked for or wanted. Although the lead actor (Karl Urban) is far more talented than Sly, it would be well-advised to keep your expectations very low.

END OF WATCH -- Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena play two uniformed cops who make the huge mistake of confiscating the cash and weapons belonging to a major drug cartel.

HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET --Elisabeth Shue and Jennifer Lawrence ("The Hunger Games") play a mother and daughter who move to a new neighborhood and next to a house previously owned by a married couple who were murdered by their own child.

THE MASTER -- Paul Thomas Anderson ("Magnolia," "Boogie Nights") directs the certifiable wing-nut Joaquin Phoenix who plays a troubled war veteran with PTSD that comes under the undue influence of a charismatic cult leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE -- Filmed in and around Atlanta, this baseball drama stars, but is not directed by, Clint Eastwood who plays a grizzled scout attempting to teach his daughter (Amy Adams) the ropes on his way out. Justin Timberlake co-stars as an up-and-coming whiz kid.

Sept. 28

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA -- Looking to be a far more funny, family-friendly and better-looking version of "ParaNorman," this animated adventure is about a human boy who mistakenly falls for Dracula's daughter. Adam Sandler, Kevin James and Andy Samberg supply some of the voices.

LIBERAL ARTS -- Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen and Zac Efron lead the cast in this dramatic romantic comedy centered on a 30-something confused guy who returns home to attend his father's retirement party and falls in love with a much younger college student.

LOOPER -- This one could be real interesting. Set in 2072 and 2042, this sci-fi crime thriller features Bruce Willis as a man who is sent back in time to alter an event that forever changed his life. Joesph Gordon-Levitt plays Willis' younger self.

WON'T BACK DOWN -- Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis and Holly Hunter, this cause drama explores the travails of a mother and her child's teacher who team up in an attempt to shake up their local board of education. The big question: is it a pro-Red or a Blue state movie?

Oct. 5

FRANKENWEENIE -- Yet another Tim Burton animated horror flick (based on his own 1984 short), this one (questionably presented in black and white) tells the tale of a boy who tries to zap his deceased pet dog back to life.

PITCH PERFECT -- Anna Kendrick and Brittany Snow go musical as members of a Runaways-type all-girl singing group who go up against all-male rivals in a college contest.

SINISTER -- The latest in the getting-real-tired found-footage horror sub-genre stars Ethan Hawke as a novelist turned private eye who tries to get to the bottom of a series of murders that took place in his home.

TAKEN 2 -- One of the thankfully few sequels of the season, this follow-up to the surprise hit original again stars Liam Neeson as an ex-secret agent who this time, along with his wife (Famke Janssen), becomes the victim of a kidnapping.

Oct. 12

ARGO -- Ben Affleck attempts to direct his third straight winner with this fact-based political thriller about a team comprised of CIA agents and brave filmmakers who attempt to get in and then out of Iran while rescuing the hostages held at the U.S. embassy in the late '70s.

HERE COMES THE BOOM -- Kevin James plays a dedicated high school teacher who, in a bit of hair-brained inspiration, tries to save programs on the verge of cancellation by deciding to raise money by becoming a mixed-martial arts fighter.

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS -- Director Martin McDonagh's follows up his near-perfect "In Bruges" with what looks like another crackling, Tarantino-inspired crime comedy about a screenwriter whose research for a project gets him a little too close to the mob.

Oct. 19

ALEX CROSS -- Based on the first in the series of James Patterson novels, Tyler Perry stars as the title character who seeks revenge after the murder of one of his family members.

KILLING THEM SOFTLY -- Yet another crime thriller with another primo cast (Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, James Gandolfini) where an enforcer tries to find and kill the guys behind the surprise attack on a mob-backed, high-stakes card game.

PARAMORMAL ACTIVITY 4 -- Highly profitable largely because they're so cheap (and it shows) to make, the "PA" franchise shows no signs of slowing down ... or ever stopping.

Oct. 26

CHASING MAVERICKS -- Here's something you don't see too often: a surfing drama. Gerard Butler plays a veteran wave rider that tutors a cocksure upstart (Jonny Westin) who wants to tackle the infamous California Mavericks surf break. Based on a true story, or so they say.

CLOUD ATLAS -- The early front-runner for the Best Picture Oscar, this sprawling, multi-layered epic metaphysical drama was co-written and directed by the Wachowskis ("The Matrix") and Tom Tykwer ("Run, Lola, Run") and stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon and Jim Sturgess.

FUN SIZE -- Victoria Justice and Johnny Knoxville are the leads in this Halloween-themed blow-out comedy about a girl whose younger brother goes missing during a college party.

THE SESSIONS -- Here's one that could make you laugh, cry, cringe or all three at once. A religiously devout paraplegic man (John Hawkes) seeks the advice and consent of a Catholic priest (William H. Macy) while employing the services of a sex therapist (Helen Hunt).

Nov. 2

FLIGHT -- Director Robert Zemekis is back in full-bore Oscar-seeking mode with this high-stakes drama about a top-notch airplane pilot (Denzel Washington) who saves hundreds of lives during a crash but is later held up to ridicule and prosecution because he was legally drunk at the time.

THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS -- Produced by Quentin Tarantino, this action blood-fest -- recalling the heyday of cheesy Kung-fu flicks -- was directed by rapper/composer RZA (who co-wrote with Eli Roth) and stars Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, Pam Grier and Asian bombshell Zhu Zhu.

WRECK-IT RALPH -- This animated comedy centers around the title character (John C. Reilly) who is a bad guy in a video game who wants to clean up his image and become a hero in another. Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, Ed O'Neill and Dennis Haysbert provide additional voice support.

Nov. 9

SKYFALL -- Because this 23rd installment of the James Bond franchise is directed by Sam Mendes ("American Beauty," "Road to Perdition") and Judi Dench's M is afforded as much screen time as 007 (Daniel Craig), hopes are way high that this could turn out to be the smartest Bond flick ever.

Nov. 16

LINCOLN -- Easily the biggest weekend of the season includes this epic biographical drama about the 16th U.S. president (Daniel Day-Lewis taking over for Liam Neeson) that is directed by Steven Spielberg and co-stars Sally Field as Mary Lincoln and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as her son Robert.

TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 --The franchise that caused throngs of teen girls to swoon finally and thankfully comes to its merciful end, yet the nasty, very-public, real-life breakup of the romantic leads (Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart) could overshadow it.

Nov. 21

LIFE OF PI -- If the trailer is any kind of indicator, this sprawling epic steeped deep in Eastern mysticism from Ang Lee appears to be a visual feast and slightly reminiscent of "Cast Away."

RED DAWN -- A remake of the Patrick Swayze movie, "Red Dawn" trades in the Soviet Union for North Korea and stars Chris Hemsworth in the original Swayze role.