1. The Master
Following his indelible portrait of one American monster in There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson tackles another—an L. Ron Hubbard figure, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Has there been a better moment in the last half-century to consider such an American, uh, original as Hubbard (or Joseph Smith)? You can look forward to Joaquin Phoenix as Hoffman’s increasingly disenchanted No. 2—but probably not a cameo from Magnolia co-star Tom Cruise. Sept. 14.
2. Cloud Atlas
Those pop visionaries the Wachowski siblings team with Run Lola Run’s Tom Tykwer in this adaptation of David Mitchell’s virtuosic, kaleidoscopic, … uh [Checking thesaurus] … phantasmagorical novel. With Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, and many more. Not to be confused with the cloud-cuckoo Atlas Shrugged: Part II. Oct. 26.
Robert Zemeckis returns to the land of live-action with the story of a commercial pilot who flies a damaged plane to (more or less) safety—then faces an unexpectedly bumpy going-over. This one must be pretty good, too, since it ends the 50th New York Film Festival. Then again, the stinkeroo Hereafter closed the one before last. Nov. 2.
Abraham Lincoln, director Steven Spielberg, screenwriter Tony Kushner, star Daniel Day-Lewis: The pedigree alone can drop you to your knees. The hope is that the movie itself won’t be overly reverent. My hopes are higher than the Washington Monument. Nov. 9.
5. Life of Pi
After a shipwreck, a boy and a 450-pound Bengal tiger share a boat in this unique mismatched-buddy picture from Ang Lee, based on the best seller by Yann Martel. (“Do you know the toxin levels of raw fish guts?” “I like ’em. Almost as tasty as—your mama.”) It must be pretty good, since it opens the 50th New York Film Festival. Then again, the stinkeroo Carnage opened the last one … Nov. 21.
And We’re Also Anticipating
Because Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy—who play bootlegging brothers in John Hillcoat’s Prohibition-era Western—are usually more appealing when they’re not fleeing Transformers or taunting Batman through a muzzle. Aug. 29
For a Good Time, Call …
Because Ari Graynor has finally graduated from supporting best-friend roles to the star of her own phone-sex comedy. Aug. 31.
Because even if this raunchy wedding comedy is the off-brand Bridesmaids that early reviews say it is, Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, and Isla Fisher still make an enticing trio. Sept. 7.
Keep the Lights On
Because the whole time we were reading Bill Clegg’s crack-addled 2010 memoir Portrait of an Addict As a Young Man, we wondered what his boyfriend—director Ira Sachs—might have been thinking. Sept. 7.
Because the last time Bradley Cooper played a cheating author (in Words, he steals another novelist’s manuscript) we got the unexpectedly fun Limitless. Sept. 7.
Because this high-school-reunion comedy will give anyone who skipped Haywire, The Vow, 21 Jump Street, and Magic Mike one more chance to catch Channing Tatum on the big screen this year. Sept. 14.
Because Richard Gere’s performance—as an unlucky hedge-fund manager attempting to cover up his financial misdeeds and the accidental death of his mistress—is already getting him the best reviews of his career. Sept. 14.
Because this is—finally!—the last superhero movie of 2012. Sept. 21.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Because Emma Watson will debut her American accent. Plus, Paul Rudd plays an English teacher. Sept. 21.
Trouble With the Curve
Because Clint Eastwood is in full-curmudgeon mode as a nearly retired, visually impaired baseball scout surrounded by know-nothing young people (Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake) in desperate need of his cranky wisdom. Sept. 21.
Because even if you refuse to buy the ridiculous premise (Joseph Gordon-Levitt grows up to look like Bruce Willis), Rian Johnson’s time-travel actioner still looks like an Inception-esque good time. Sept. 28.
Because Tim Burton hasn’t disappointed us yet in stop-motion. Oct. 5.
Because Lee Daniels’s campy Precious follow-up became the talk of the Cannes Film Festival owing to a scene in which Nicole Kidman pees on Zac Efron. Oct. 5.
Because this is Bring It On set in the cutthroat world of college a cappella. Hope you like mouth percussion. Oct. 5.
Because Liam Neeson will kill everybody, again. Oct. 5.
Because director Ben Affleck is on such a streak lately (Gone Baby Gone, The Town) that we probably can forgive him for rehiring actor Ben Affleck. Oct. 12.
Because this Lena Dunham–scripted drama (starring John Krasinski and Rosemarie DeWitt as a rich couple who take in an artist, played by Olivia Thirlby) might tide us over until Girls returns to HBO, in January. Oct. 12.
Because, in a stroke of awesome casting, the psychopaths include Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, and Tom Waits. Oct. 12.
Because the titular detective is Tyler Perry’s first starring role in a movie he didn’t also direct, write, or produce. Dude could use the break. Oct. 19.
Killing Them Softly
Because it’s been way too long since Brad Pitt played an unrepentant gangster. Oct. 19.
The Man With the Iron Fists
Because, even in a fall in which Nicole Kidman pees on Zac Efron and Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Bruce Willis, this kung-fu movie (starring Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu) from the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA still sounds totally bonkers. Nov. 2.
This Must Be the Place
Because Sean Penn plays a former rock star in pursuit of a Nazi war criminal (we told you this was a weird season for movies). Nov. 2.
Because Daniel Craig is the best Bond since Connery, and for Craig’s third outing, director Sam Mendes convinced swarthy Javier Bardem to co-star as an albino. Nov. 9.
Because even though Tolstoy’s novel has already been adapted into twelve other movies, this is somehow the first one in which Keira Knightley plays the starring role. Who dropped the ball those other times? Nov. 16.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 2
Because this will be the last we hear of these movies, at least until they reboot the franchise in a couple years. Also, the press tour will be fun. Nov. 16.
Silver Linings Playbook
Because Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper should be fine as a pair of emotionally damaged love interests—but way more importantly, this marks the big-screen return of Chris Tucker, who hasn’t been in a movie not called Rush Hour since 1997. Nov. 22.