2013 Fall Film Preview, Her, American Hustle, Counselor

With this week feeling, release-wise, a little like the industry at large is taking a deep breath while effecting the gear change from Summer tentpole scheduling to awards season programming, it’s a good moment to pause and take a look at the goodies to come in the waning months of 2013. It’s a pretty stellar line-up, as films we've seen throughout the festival year start to make their way into awards-friendly end-of-year slots, vying with films we haven't yet seen but have been patiently, and in some cases pantingly, looking forward to for months now. In fact, the line-up is so stellar that for the purposes of whittling down a manageable list of the films we're most anticipating, we made the decision to exclude anything that features in our Most Anticipated Toronto Internatioal Film Festival list just to narrow the field a little. And it was still a tricky task, which had the listmaker in us nearly despairing, even as our inner cinephile rejoiced. We may miss the lazy hazy days of summer, but we won't be sad to see the back of a largely disappointing blockbuster season, especially with titles like these on the horizon. Here are the 16 remaining 2013 films that we're most excited about.

The Wolf Of Wall Street

"The Wolf of Wall Street"
Synopsis: A New York stockbroker with a ridiculously decadent lifestyle refuses to cooperate in a large securities fraud case involving corruption on Wall Street, organized crime and the federal government.
What You Need To Know: Any new film from patron saint of American filmmaking Martin Scorsese is an event on the cinematic calendar. This is his fifth collaboration with star Leonardo DiCaprio, but marks just his second feature shot digitally and combines a loosely mob-inflected story with a topical, high-finance setting, and so overall the film promises to deliver an exciting blend of the old and the new from the director. Based on the memoir of the same name by Jordan Belfort, ‘Wolf’ was written by Terence Winter who made a name for himself on “The Sopranos,” and since created the Scorsese-shepherded “Boardwalk Empire” for HBO. And in support the cast is unimpeachable, with a hotter-than-hot Matthew McConaughey featuring and Oscar nominee Jonah Hill, “The Artist” Best Actor winner Jean Dujardin, Jon FavreauKyle Chandler and rising Aussie actress Margot Robbie rounding it out, plus directors Rob Reiner and Spike Jonze in small parts. But perhaps what's most exciting about all of this is that despite his venerable age (the film is released two days before Scorsese's 71st birthday) and the heavyweight cast, it looks, from the excellent, fizzy trailer at least, to be a high-energy, riotous, barbed blast with a nice line in the unusual treatment of seafood (Hill appears to eat a live goldfish; DiCaprio throws lobsters at the FBI). Bring it.
Release Date: November 15th

The Counselor

"The Counselor"
Synopsis: A lawyer anxious to make some quick cash gets in over his head after he begins dabbling in drug trafficking.
What You Need To Know: Based on the first-ever original screenplay by "No Country for Old Men" author and American literary icon Cormac McCarthy, and directed by Ridley Scott, who intends to dedicate the film to his late brother Tony (who tragically committed suicide last summer), "The Counselor" may just boast the A-listiest cast in a season that's teeming with stacked casts. Led by Michael Fassbender with Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt and a flamboyant Javier Bardem in support, Scott's recent output may have been somewhat touch-and-go, alternating between the wildly brilliant and just plain frustrating (sometimes in the same movie—hello, "Prometheus"!), but he's unquestionably one of cinema's most accomplished stylists and is certainly capable of truly amazing things. We're hoping that "The Counselor" is one of those amazing things, and with the team-up of McCarthy and Scott feeling pretty right, straight off the bat, and a dark, sexy, violent trailer that teases more than it tells, the signs are still good that it could deliver. Also, there's a cheetah.
Release Date: October 25th

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire"
Synopsis: As Katniss struggles with her growing celebrity as an icon of rebellion, she is perceived as a greater threat by President Snow, who calls her and Peeta back for the Quarter Quell—an even more brutal competition that pits previous Hunger Games winners against each other.
What You Need To Know: At the time of its release, we all breathed a measured sigh of relief that "The Hunger Games," for all its flaws, was absolutely not "Twilight," in featuring compelling characters and a female lead who had more to do than alternately pine and moon. Barely 18 months later, and the franchise now seems like the sole ray of light on the Young Adult horizon, as adaptation after adaptation has subsequently tried and failed to spin its on-the-page popularity into a film franchise (a look at our 2012 rundown of the YA hopefuls is retrospectively sobering). So Katniss' return, featuring everybody's favorite person and newly minted Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence, is actually one that we are looking forward to, especially with the additions of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jeffrey Wright, as well as rising star Sam Claflin, to an already top-notch supporting cast (Donald Sutherland, Woody HarrelsonElizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci). With our own experience of the books (hey, we have nieces) being that #2 is actually the best of the trilogy in expanding the mythology to a more resonant plane while still retaining the visceral excitement of the first, and with the director who'll be responsible for the taking the franchise home now in the hot seat (Francis Lawrence, replacing Gary Ross), we're hopeful for a film that at least partially deserves its inevitably blockbusting box office, and the trailer makes it look like it may
Release Date: November 22nd

Joaquin Phoenix Her

Synopsis: In the not-too-distant future a lonely man fresh from a break-up falls in love with his computer's operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Complications arise, ones that you probably can't click out of.
What You Need To Know: "Her" marks director Spike Jonze's first full-length feature since 2009's tortured "Where the Wild Things Are" and his first solo screenplay credit ever, which is more than reason enough to get excited for the project (which is still shrouded in many layers of annoying mystery). Need some more reasons? How about the cast, led by the terrific Joaquin Phoenix, in a role that seems completely suited to his peculiar, outsidery sensibilities, and Scarlett Johannson as the voice of Her (and yes, it says something for storytelling confidence if you cast Scarlett and don't actually show her)? How about the trailer? How about the fact that indie music heavyweights Arcade Fire are providing the score (their first since Richard Kelly's little-seen "The Box")? Or how about its place as the closing night film of the prestigious New York Film Festival? Additionally, distributor Warner Bros. shuffled the release date until later in the year to better coincide with an Oscar campaign, a sign that the studio feels the film (which co-stars Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde and Chris Pratt) is a serious awards contender and not just some low-budget doodle. Phoenix provided further proof, if any were needed, that he can be one of the most magnetic performers around in last year's "The Master," and he's absolutely terrific too in the as-yet-undated "The Immigrant," so we can't wait to see him tackle this role, which appears to be in a more touching, albeit probably more off-kilter, register than anything we've seen him in recently.
Release Date: December 18th