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Fall film preview 2014: 30 films (and trailers) you have to see

Sorry to break it to you, but summer's on its last legs. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you can begin planning how to spend your shorter days. Over the past four months, we have seen everything from destructive robots to talking raccoons dominate the box office, but soon enough the fall movie season will be upon us and you will actually see movies that don't use CGI and other special effects. In fact, in a couple of weeks you will be able to see a movie that features normal people.

From family-friendly flicks to likely Oscar winners, there should be something to help get every moviegoer through to the holiday season, and we've compiled a handy list that breaks down which upcoming movies fit your particular taste. You're welcome. (Please note: release dates are subject to change, and ratings will be available closer to release.)

Follow me on Twitter: @Sean_Tepper

Gone Girl (Oct.3)

Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry; Directed by David Fincher; Rated R

Gone Girl sees Fincher take a break from his acclaimed Netflix series, House of Cards, and return to feature films for the first time since 2011’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Based on Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel of the same name, this dark, gritty thriller has Affleck in the role of Nick Dunne, a man who may or may not be responsible for his wife’s sudden disappearance. The movie’s plot is right in Fincher’s wheelhouse, and the film is sure to garner critical attention for bringing the tense novel to the big screen.

Birdman (Oct. 17)

Starring Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Emma Stone; Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu; Rated R

A washed-up actor (Keaton), famous for once portraying an iconic superhero, struggles to relaunch his career through Broadway. Birdman is director Inarritu’s most buzzed about film since Babel.

Interstellar (Nov. 7)

Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Casey Affleck, Jessica Chastain; Directed by Christopher Nolan; Rated TBA

Little is known about director Nolan’s latest thriller, other than it’s set in the not-so-distant future and involves a team of space travellers who embark on a voyage to find a habitable planet and save the human race from starvation. Like most projects that have Nolan’s name attached to them, Interstellar is almost sure to generate a healthy amount of buzz come award season.

The Imitation Game (Nov.21)

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode; Directed by Morten Tyldum; Rated TBA

A historical drama that centers around the top-secret work of Alan Turing (Cumberbatch), a British mathematician turned cryptographer, who helped the Allies win the Second World War by cracking Nazi Germany’s seemingly unbreakable enigma code. The buzzed about docudrama is set to premier at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival and should further elevate Cumberbatch’s status as one of Hollywood’s premiere actors.

Foxcatcher (Nov. 14)

Starring Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Steve Carell, Sienna Miller; Directed by Bennett Miller; Rated TBA

Based on the 1996 murder of Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz, Foxcatcher tells the tragic story from the perspective of Schultz’s brother, Mark (Tatum), and explores his relationship with Dave (Ruffalo) and sponsor John du Pont (Carell). One of the most buzzed about movies following this year’s Cannes Film Festival – where Miller took home the award for best director – critics have lauded Ruffalo, Carell and Tatum’s performances, calling them career-changing.

The Equalizer (Sept. 26)

Starring Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz; Directed by Antoine Fuqua; Rated TBA

A movie about a seemingly quiet man (Washington) with a mysterious past who will stop at nothing to save a young woman (Moretz) from ruthless mobsters. Sound familiar? If the trailer is any indication, The Equalizer has Washington playing a character that combines the role he played in Tony Scott’s Man on Fire with elements of Liam Neeson’s role in Taken.

Annabelle (Oct. 3)

Starring Annabelle Wallis, Alfre Woodard, Eric Laden; Directed by John R. Leonetti; Rated TBA

Little is known about the plot for this horror spin-off, but it’s safe to say that the tried, tested and true formula of gruesome murders and the unexplained events that are ambiguously linked to a creepy children’s doll will be at play. Think Child’s Play, but with a demonically possessed antique instead of a witty, knife-wielding kids’ toy in overalls.

The Judge (Oct. 10)

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton; Directed by David Dobkin; Rated TBA

Probably the closest role to Tony Stark you’ll see Robert Downey Jr. play in a non-Marvel movie, The Judge is the story of a witty, successful big-city lawyer with questionable morals (Downey Jr.) who returns back to his childhood home to help defend his father (Duvall), the town’s long-standing judge, from a first-degree murder charge.

Nightcrawler (Oct. 17)

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton; Directed by Dan Gilroy; Rated TBA

Scheduled to premiere in the Special Presentations section of this year’s TIFF, Nightcrawler sees Jake Gyllenhaal take on the role of a Los Angeles drifter who discovers the underground world of freelance crime journalism. From the trailer, it looks like Gilroy’s directorial debut will be a darker, more action packed episode of The Newsroom, without the unnecessary Sorkinisms.

Fury (Nov. 14)

Starring Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Michael Pena; Directed by David Ayer; Rated TBA

Unlike 2009’s Inglourious Basterds, which saw him lead a group of Jewish soldiers into Nazi-occupied France, Fury has Brad Pitt take on the role of Wardaddy, a hardened Second World War tank commander who leads his five-man crew on a heroic mission behind enemy lines.

The Skeleton Twins (Sept. 19)

Starring Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell; Directed by Craig Johnson; Rated TBA

After coincidentally cheating death on the same day, estranged twins Maggie (Wigg) and Milo (Hader) reunite to consider where exactly their lives went wrong. A dramedy that appears to be more drama than comedy, critics who screened the movie at this year’s Sundance Film Festival have praised Wiig and Hader for delivering and darkly comedic and emotionally fuelled performances.

This is Where I Leave You (Sept. 19)

Starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Rose Byrne; Directed by Shawn Levy; Rated 14A

If summer is the season of blockbuster action movies, then the fall is shaping up to be the season of dark comedies. Based on Jonathan Tropper’s novel, This is Where I Leave You is the story of family members who are forced to reunite after their father passes away. With a star-studded cast and a Canadian director, this movie is definitely one to keep an eye on.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Oct. 10)

Starring Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Bella Thorne; Directed by Miguel Arteta; Rated TBA

Ever have a day where it seems like nothing can go right? If you’re hoping to learn about that type experience from a movie, then look to Disney’s latest comedy, about a family that goes through one of those aforementioned days. Despite being a family-centric movie, the combination of Carell, Garner and Donald Glover should be more than enough to keep the accompanying adults entertained.

St. Vincent (Oct. 24)

Starring Naomi Watts, Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy; Directed by Theodore Melfi; Rated TBA

With Murray as a grumpy old neighbour turned mentor to a young boy, McCarthy as a responsible mother, Watts as an exotic dancer and Chris O’Dowd as a Catholic brother, need we say more? Since TIFF recently immortalized the veteran actor by decreeing Sept. 5 as Bill Murray Day, we’d recommend you go see this movie shortly after it’s released in October. It’s Murray. Don’t ask, just go.

Dumb and Dumber To (Nov. 14)

Starring Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels; Directed by Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly; Rated TBA

It’s been 20 years since Carrey and Daniels have graced the silver screen as the lovable and moronic Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne. The sequel to the 1994 cult comedy features the duo searching for one of their long lost children, and it’s safe to bet that this movie will live up to its title. Whether or not that’s a good thing is for you to decide.

No Good Deed (Sept. 12)

Starring Idris Elba, Taraji P. Henson, Leslie Bibb; Directed by Sam Miller; Rated 14A

For those who love easy-on-the-brain movies with their overpriced popcorn, the fall has plenty to offer. Here, a charming but dangerous convict on the run will stop at nothing to terrorize a young family in their suburban home. Yes, No Good Deed’s premise does sound like it’s taken straight from a 1980s slasher flick, but the fact that it stars Elba, a Golden Globe Award-winning actor, and Henson, an Oscar-nominated actress, gives us hope that it will be one of the better thrillers of 2014.

Kill the Messenger (Oct. 24)

Starring Jeremy Renner, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Michael Sheen, Ray Liotta; Directed by Michael Cuesta; Rated R

In Kill the Messenger, Renner takes a break from becoming the next great action star and assumes the role of an America journalist who in 1996 uncovers the CIA’s role in arming Nicaragua’s Contra rebels with money earned by the rebels’ smuggling operation that imported cocaine into the U.S. It’s based on the true story of San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb.

Dracula Untold (Oct. 17)

Starring Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper, Samantha Barks; Directed by Gary Shore; Rated PG-13

Proof that the vampire craze is still alive and well (at least in the minds of studio executives), Dracula Untold is, well, the untold origin story of Vlad Tepes’ (Evans) transformation into the world’s most famous bloodsucker. Expect big fight scenes and an abundance of special effects that are sure to make moviegoers nostalgic of the summer blockbuster season that was.

Ouija (Oct. 24)

Starring Olivia Cooke, Ana Coto, Daren Kagasoff; Directed by Stiles White; Rated PG-13

A movie based on a game played by, and in most cases feared by, millions of people. What could possibly go wrong? In spite of its predictable plot involving young adults making contact with vengeful spirits from beyond the grave, the casting of Bates Motel’s Cooke suggests that this iteration of a beloved Hasbro board game won’t evoke memories of 2012’s disastrous Battleship.

Horrible Bosses 2 (Nov. 26)

Starring Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Jennifer Aniston; Directed by Sean Anders; Rated PG-13

Other than the fact that most of the cast will be reprising roles from the original, we’re not too sure what to expect from Horrible Bosses 2. Chris Pine and Christoph Waltz add some more star power to the big-budget comedy, so it wouldn’t be surprising if it dominated the box office again.

The Maze Runner (Sept. 19)

Starring Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster; Directed by Wes Ball; Rated PG-13

The latest Hollywood franchise based on a popular, post-apocalyptic, young-adult series of novels, The Maze Runner – the first in a three-part trilogy – is about a boy whose memory was erased shortly before he was thrown into an imprisoned community of young boys. Their only means of escape? Running through a deadly maze that surrounds the secluded community. Put simply, it’s Hunger Games meets Lord of the Flies with a hint of Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire for good measure.

The Boxtrolls (Sept. 26)

Starring Elle Fanning, Simon Pegg, Toni Collette, Ben Kingsley; Directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi; Rated PG

Based on Alan Snow’s children’s novel Here Be Monsters, The Boxtrolls is about an orphaned boy who was raised by an underground society of trash-collecting trolls. Now he must protect his adopted family from Archibald Snatcher, an evil exterminator (voiced by Kingsley), who’s intent on living up to his evil name by wiping them out of existence.

Big Hero 6 (Nov. 7)

Starring Genesis Rodriguez, Damon Wayans Jr., Jamie Chung, Alan Tudyk; Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams; Rated PG-13

Based on a Marvel comic of the same name, Big Hero 6 marks Walt Disney Animation Studios’ first foray into a Marvel-based property since Disney acquired the company back in 2012. With recent and beloved blockbusters hits such as Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph under its belt, Disney has no reason to believe that Big Hero 6 – about a young boy and his inflatable, crime-fighting robot – won’t be the Mouse’s latest animated hit.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (Nov. 21)

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson; Directed by Francis Lawrence; Rated PG-13

Whereas the first two instalments of the blockbuster franchise primarily saw Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) compete in the deadly Hunger Games, the first of the two-part series finale has the young champion reluctantly becoming the symbol of a violent rebellion against President Snow and the corrupt Capitol.

Penguins of Madagascar (Nov. 26)

Starring Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Christopher Knights, Benedict Cumberbatch; Directed by Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith; Rated PG-13

While this may be their first solo outing on the silver screen, Madagascar’s affable secret agent penguins have found success on the small screen with an animated series of the same name which has aired on Nickolodeon since 2008. With Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Jeong and John Malkovich lending their voices to the beloved franchise, the Madagascar spin-off should go a long way in reminding moviegoers that these goofy penguins came before Dispicable Me’s equally goofy (and lovable) minions.

Tusk (Sept. 19)

Starring Genesis Rodriguez, Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment; Directed by Kevin Smith; Rated R

A horror-comedy that kicks off Smith’s True North Trilogy (a series of films whose plots are based on Canadian mythology), Tusk is the odd story of Wallace Bryton (Long), a popular American podcaster who travels north to interview a man with an unbelievable story to tell. Once there, Bryton is held captive by his interviewee and subjected to physical and mental torture in an attempt to turn him into a Walrus.

Dr. Cabbie (Sept. 19)

Starring Vinay Virmani, Adrianne Palicki, Kunal Nayyar; Directed by Jean-Francois Pouliot; Rated TBA

A romantic comedy set in Toronto, Dr. Cabbie tells the story of Deepack (Virmani), a young Indian doctor who converts his taxi into a mobile office after he is unable to get a job as a doctor in Toronto despite having a medical degree from a respected Indian university. Set almost exclusively in downtown Toronto, Dr. Cabbie was co-produced by famed Bollywood actor Salman Khan.

Hector and the Search for Happiness (Sept. 26)

Starring Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer; Directed by Peter Chelsom; Rated R

In this Canadian co-production, the always-charming Pegg plays a psychiatrist who travels the world in search of the ever-elusive secret to happiness in a story that’s so blatantly ironic it’s not worth pointing out.

The Good Lie (Oct. 3)

Starring Reese Witherspoon, Corey Stoll, Sarah Baker; Directed by Philippe Falardeau; Rated PG-13

Based on the true story of an American woman who takes in Sudanese refugees relocated to the U.S., The Good Lie is a hotly anticipated drama from producer Ron Howard and acclaimed Canadian director Philippe Falardeau, who is best known for Monsieur Lazhar.

Maps to the Stars (Oct. 31)

Starring Julianne Moore, Robert Pattinson., Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack; Directed by David Cronenberg; Rated R

Following the story of an insecure middle-aged starlet (Moore) who’s hoping to land a role in a remake of a movie that her mother had previously starred in, Maps to the Stars is director David Cronenberg’s first movie since 2012’s Cosmopolis.

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