Fall movie preview: "Gone Girl," "Hunger Games," "Into the Woods" and more

Last Updated Aug 30, 2014 10:54 AM EDT

If you were disappointed by this summer's not-so-hot offerings at the multiplexes, fall movie season may just give you some cinematic warmth.

Despite August blockbusters, like the record-breaking "Guardians of the Galaxy" and the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" reboot, the summer of 2014 has ended with a fizzle in terms of ticket sales.

The films this season have taken in a combined $3.9 billion at the global box office, compared to $4.58 billion by this same time last year.

But a round of high-profile titles (see "Gone Girl" and "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1") are lined up in the coming months, and it seems there's even more releases this season than in fall, 2013.

Even though it's still August, the movie awards season unofficially got underway with the Venice Film Festival, which kicked off Wednesday and runs until Sept. 6.

"Birdman" was chosen as the opening night selection and has already garnered very early Oscar buzz. The film marks the first comedy offering from director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ("21 Grams," "Babel"). Michael Keaton stars as an over-the-hill actor who tries to resurrect his old Batman (excuse me, Birdman) persona in a new Broadway show. The film has been met with acclaim and comes to theaters in limited release on Oct. 17.

In terms of trends, a lot of the films coming out this fall season are based on either books, true stories or both. There's also the obligatory sequels (see "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies").

The hotly-anticipated "Gone Girl" is based on the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the screenplay. Ben Affleck plays a husband who falls under public scrutiny when his wife (Rosamund Pike) suddenly disappears. The film comes from acclaimed director David Fincher and will serve as the opening night selection at the New York Film Festival (which runs Sept. 26-Oct. 12), before going on to an Oct. 3 national release.

Based on a true story, "The Good Lie" stars Reese Witherspoon as an American woman who takes care of three Sudanese refugees in her home. Corey Stoll plays her neighbor. The film will run at the Toronto Film Festival and opens in theaters on Oct. 3.

"The Good Lie" is just one of several releases starring Witherspoon this season. The Oscar-winner will also appear in the star-studded crime drama "Inherent Vice," based on the 2009 novel by Thomas Pynchon -- marking the first time the author's work has been adapted to the big screen.

In addition to Witherspoon, the "Inherent Vice" cast includes Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Benicio del Toro, Eric Roberts and Owen Wilson. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson ("Boogie Nights," "There Will Be Blood,"), the film will debut at the New York Film Festival on Oct. 4 and comes to theaters on Dec. 12.

Witherspoon is attracting best actress Oscar buzz for her upcoming "Wild," based on a memoir by a young woman who hiked solo along the Pacific Crest Trail in search of herself. The drama is due out Dec. 5.

Another film generating awards attention is "The Judge," given its all-star cast featuring Robert Duvall, Robert Downey Jr., Vera Farmiga, Vincent D'Onofrio and Billy Bob Thornton. Duvall plays the titular judge, who is accused of murder and seeks the help of his attorney son (Downey Jr.) in defending him. "The Judge" will make its world premiere as the opening selection at the Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 4, before being released in U.S. theaters on Oct. 10.

Other possible awards contenders include Brad Pitt as a World War II-era soldier in "Fury" (Oct. 17) and Bill Murray, for his performance as an eccentric war vet who strikes up a friendship with his young neighbor in "St. Vincent" (Oct. 24).

Pitt's new wife, Angelina Jolie, is likewise getting notice for her role as a director on the upcoming "Unbroken," due out Christmas Day. With a script from the Coen Brothers, the film focuses on World War II POW and Olympic distance runner Louis Zamperini, played by Jack O'Connell.

Steve Carell is also attracting Oscars buzz for his performance in "Foxcatcher." He plays the real-life former philanthropist and wrestling coach John du Pont, who mysteriously murdered one of his friends. Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo also star. The film was a big hit at Cannes this year. Look out for "Foxcatcher" in theaters beginning Nov. 14.

Carell also has a very different film set for release this season --"Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day," based on the classic children's book, comes out Oct. 10.

Other releases aimed towards kids include "Dolphin Tale 2" (Sept. 12), "Book of Life" (Oct. 17), "Penguins of Madagascar" (Nov. 26), the "Annie" remake (Dec. 19), "Night at the Museum: The Secret Tomb" (Dec. 19), and the upcoming "Paddington" film adaptation, based on the beloved teddy bear character. That film will be released Dec. 25.

Also out on Dec. 25 is "Into the Woods," based on the popular stage musical. "Chicago" filmmaker Rob Marshall helms this big-budget Disney adaptation, with a cast that includes Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Tracey Ullman, James Corden and Chris Pine.

Check out our photo gallery to the left of this story for a full list of upcoming releases.

Tell us: Which films are you looking forward to seeing this fall movie season?

  • Ken Lombardi On Twitter» On Facebook»

    Ken Lombardi is an entertainment reporter for CBS News. He has interviewed over 300 celebrities, including Clint Eastwood, Oprah Winfrey and Tom Hanks.

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