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Movies of the fall: 'The Ides of March,' 'Warrior,' 'Drive' and more lead the hot list

Posted 4:00am on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011

How do you define a hot movie? Is it one that has big buzz and A-list stars, which all the critics are expecting will make for a run for the Oscar, like the new George Clooney-Ryan Gosling drama The Ides of March? Is it one with impossibly sexy people doing incredibly glamorous things, like Drive, starring Ryan Gosling (yes, him again) and Carey Mulligan? Or does it just feature a lot of people profusely sweating, like the remake of the classic '80s musical Footloose?

Lucky for us, this fall's crop of movies pretty much have all the definitions of "hot" covered. Here are 10 that this critic thinks look the hottest between now and Thanksgiving, in order of expected release:

Warrior (Sept. 9)

To just about everyone's surprise, early critical buzz has been off the charts for this mixed martial arts drama starring Tom Hardy (Inception) and Joel Edgerton (Animal Kingdom) as brothers who square off in the ring. Could it be this year's The Fighter?

Drive (Sept. 16)

Gosling set the Cannes Film Festival ablaze with this ultra-stylized thriller from Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson), about a stunt man who becomes dangerously embroiled with his next-door neighbor (Mulligan) and her ex-con husband. A lot of folks are saying this could be the movie that allows Gosling to make the leap from well-respected rising actor to international superstar.

50/50 (Sept. 30)

I caught an early screening of this comedy-drama starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young man blindsided by a diagnosis of cancer -- and it's just terrific. Director Jonathan Levine nails the mixture of anguish and ribald comedy, and Gordon-Levitt and Anjelica Huston (as his mother) deserve Oscar consideration.

The Ides of March (Oct. 7)

Only George Clooney's second directorial effort since Good Night, and Good Luck, Ides stars Gosling as a campaign staffer who has some serious dirt on the presidential candidate (Clooney) for whom he is working. The supporting cast -- Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood -- is aces.

Footloose (Oct. 14)

Proof that nothing is sacrosanct in Hollywood, the 1984 musical gets a 21st- century update, with newcomer Kenny Wormald stepping into Kevin Bacon's dancing shoes. Craig Brewer -- who broke through a few years ago with Hustle and Flow -- directs.

The Skin I Live In (Oct. 21)

The trailer for Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar is one of the creepiest things I've seen in a long while: Antonio Banderas (reuniting with the director for the first time since 1990's Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!) plays a mad plastic surgeon trying to create a new type of synthetic skin. Critics were violently divided at Cannes, suggesting this will be the most talked-about art-house release of the fall.

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (Nov. 4)

For those of us who regard the original as one of the great stoner comedies of all time, the thought of watching our beloved Harold and Kumar in 3-D can only inspire giggles of anticipation.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Nov. 18)

All eyes are on Gary Oldman to make a run for the Best Actor Oscar as John le Carré's famous spy George Smiley, in this new version of the classic. Last year's Best Actor Oscar winner Colin Firth co-stars.

A Dangerous Method (Nov. 23)

And still more delicious-sounding Oscar bait: David Cronenberg (The Fly, A History of Violence) directs Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender and Keira Knightley in a drama about Sigmund Freud and Karl Jung warring over a beautiful young patient.

The Muppets (Nov. 23)

Finally, there's nothing especially "hot" about the Muppets, but for a guy like me who grew up watching Kermit, Fozzie and Miss Piggy and who played the vinyl soundtrack to the original Muppet Movie approximately 3,000 times, this return to the big screen -- co-starring Jason Segel and Amy Adams in the human parts -- will be akin to a religious experience.

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