Silver screen playbook

FALL ARTS: FILM Hustlers, slaves, anchormen, and Nebraskans -- Hollywood and rep-house picks for the season ahead

Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Jennifer Lawrence star in "American Hustle."

FALL ARTS In the Bay Area film scene, the volume is pretty much turned all the way up, all year 'round. But fall is particularly jam-packed: we've got more festivals and art-house events than we know what to do with — and coupled with the buzzy Hollywood stuff, film fans best prep for a solid diet of popcorn until New Year's Eve. Or you could pick and choose the events and openings that excite you the most, using my multi-point plan as a jumping-off point.

12 Years a Slave (Oct. 18) The latest from provocative filmmaker Steve McQueen (2011's Shame) adapts the 1853 autobiography of black freeman Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who was kidnapped and forced to work on Southern plantations. The intriguing cast includes Brad Pitt and McQueen stalwart Michael Fassbender — who'll also co-star in Ridley Scott's upcoming The Counselor — and Quvenzhané Wallis, in her first role since 2012's Beasts of the Southern Wild.

The Wolf of Wall Street (Nov. 15) Martin Scorsese directs muse Leonardo DiCaprio (alongside Jonah Hill, Jean Dujardin, and Matthew McConaughey) in this tawdry account of a Wall Street tycoon's rise (drugs! Luxury yachts!) and spectacular fall. If the zippy trailer is any indication, Wolf just might atone for the last Scorsese-DiCaprio collab, 2010 stinker Shutter Island.

Nebraska (Nov. 22) Two years after The Descendants, Alexander Payne returns with another sad-dad tale, but seriously, nobody does it better. Here, the troubled patriarch — a man rambling from Montana to Nebraska with his son (Will Forte) in search of sweepstakes winnings — is played by Bruce Dern, who won Best Actor at Cannes and is a likely Oscar nominee.

Inside Llewyn Davis (Dec. 20) The Coen Brothers' latest follows an up-and-coming folk singer in 1961 Greenwich Village. Appropriately, up-and-coming actor Oscar Isaac stars, alongside a cast of Coen regulars (John Goodman) and noobs (Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake).

The Monuments Men (Dec. 18) He's got his Best Picture Oscar (for producing 2012's Argo); now George Clooney returns to the director's chair to guide a gold-star ensemble (Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett) through this thriller about art curators rushing to preserve Nazi-nabbed artworks. (And yep, someone on's message board has already dubbed it "Inglourious Basterds meets Ocean's 11.")

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (Dec. 20) Appropriately enough, in a season stuffed with dude-heavy stories, the ultimate manly man returns. What have Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and his San Diego news posse (Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, etc.) been up to for the past nine years? The ubiquitous Kristen Wiig joins a cast that also lists several huge names (Harrison Ford?) who probably fill cameo roles. (Confidential to Ferrell: will we ever see Step Brothers 2? Asking for a friend.)

American Hustle (Dec. 25) Just a year after the success of Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell returns with this crime drama about a con artist who becomes unlikely partners with a federal agent; it's a fictionalized take on the FBI's real-life Abscam operation (circa late-1970s and early-1980s Long Island and New Jersey, hence the outrageous costumes). Stars include Playbook's Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro, plus Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Jeremy Renner.


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