Taking attendance for big movies you’re looking forward to this fall? You’re going to be marking a lot of hotly-expected films “absent” and handing out tardy slips.

From “World War Z” to “The Great Gatsby,” to Sandra Bullock’s sci-fi epic “Gravity” to the renegade cops period piece “Gangster Squad,” you could have built a seriously buzzed-about cinema season over the films yanked for more work or for greener pastures among 2013’s release dates.

But enough bad news. We’ll make do with “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” “Les Misérables” and “Cloud Atlas.”

More than anything else, this fall is a movie mystery. Which films will break out, which will earn awards buzz and become Oscar contenders?

Here’s a look at some of the movies coming this fall. Note: Release dates are subject to change.


Oct. 5

“Butter” — Jennifer Garner, Olivia Wilde and Yara Shadihi are caught up in an Iowa butter-carving contest full of treachery and intrigue in this R-rated comedy. (limited — R)

“Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare” — The film interweaves real-life patient and physician arcs with the stories of political leaders aiming to transform the broken health care system. Directors/producers Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke also offer practical ways to steer through the crisis with low-cost methods of health prevention. (limited, PG-13)

“Frankenweenie 3-D” — Tim Burton turns his stop-motion animated short film about the boy who brings his dachshund back to life, Frankenstein fashion, into a feature film with the voices of Winona Ryder, Martin Landau and Martin Short. (PG)

“The House I Live In” — The film captures the stories of individuals from across the country affected by the U.S. war on drugs — including a dealer, grieving mother, state senator, inmate and narcotics officer. (no MPAA rating)

“The Oranges” — A young woman’s (Leighton Meester) family plays matchmaker and attempts to set her up with a neighbor Toby (Adam Brody) only to find out that she is smitten with the man’s father. (limited — R)

“The Paperboy” — Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron and John Cusack star in Lee Daniels’ follow-up to “Precious,” a dark and kinky tale of the paperboy (Efron) who could free a convict (Cusack) with the right persuasion from a femme fatale (Kidman). (limited — R)

“Pitch Perfect” — Anna Kendrick (“Up in the Air”) stars in this college comedy about competitive glee clubs. Brittany Snow and Rebel Wilson also star. (PG-13)

“Taken 2” — This sequel has the ex-CIA agent (Liam Neeson) whose daughter (Maggie Grace) was kidnapped in “Taken” kidnapped himself, along with his ex-wife (Famke Janssen). Luc Besson scripted it, Olivier Megaton directed. (PG-13)

“V/H/S” — More found-video horror as would-be burglars stumble across a stash of footage full of unspeakable horror. If only they still owned a VCR. (limited — R)

Oct. 12

“Argo” — Ben Affleck directed and stars in this thriller about a CIA agent charged with getting a small group of Americans out of Iran in the middle of that country’s Islamic Revolution. The omnipresent Bryan Cranston also is in the cast. (R)

“Here Comes the Boom” — Kevin James plays a high school teacher who moonlights as a mixed martial arts fighter to save the school’s music program. A “Warrior” with laughs? Salma Hayek co-stars. (not yet rated)

“Middle of Nowhere” — A bright medical student sets aside her professional dreams when her husband is incarcerated in this drama directed by Ava DuVernay. DuVernay won the Best Director award for the film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. (limited — R)

“Nobody Walks” — John Krasinski is a music producer happily married to Rosemarie DeWitt but tempted by musician Olivia Thirlby in this layered, multi-character romantic drama. (limited — R)

“Seven Psychopaths” — Colin Farrell plays a screenwriter comically mixed up with a mobster (Woody Harrelson) after his pals (Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell) kidnap the mobster’s dog. Martin (“In Bruges”) McDonaugh wrote and directed it. (limited — R)

“Sinister” — Ethan Hawke plays a true-crime novelist who uses found footage to discover the truth about a gruesome crime, a truth that puts his family in danger. (R)

“Special Forces” — Diane Kruger and Djimon Hounsou star in this thriller about French commandos sent to rescue a kidnapped journalist in Pakistan. (limited — R)

“Smashed” — Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul star in this drama about two drunks who try to survive as a couple after one of them goes sober. (limited — R)

“War of the Buttons” — Kids form into gangs and fall in love in France during the Nazi Occupation in this French coming-of-age drama. (limited — PG-13)

Oct. 19

“Alex Cross” — Tyler Perry sets aside the Madea drag to play the detective of James Patterson’s best-selling novels, on the trail of a psychotic serial killer (Matthew Fox). (PG-13)

“Killing Them Softly” — Brad Pitt reunites with writer-director Andrew Dominik (“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”) for this violent drama about a mob enforcer investigating the heist hijinks that went down during a high-stakes poker game. (R)

“Paranormal Activity 4” — More spooky things go bump in the night at sudden moments. (not yet rated)

“The Sessions” — The Sundance crowd raved about this drama about a man in an iron lung (John Hawkes) who asks his priest (William H. Macy) and his therapist (Helen Hunt) to help him lose his virginity before he dies. (limited — R)

Oct. 26

“Chasing Mavericks” — A surfer (Jonny Weston) embarks on a quest to ride the dangerous Northern California waves known as Mavericks. (PG)

“Cloud Atlas” — The fall’s most ambitious (and craziest, in a good way) film is an adaptation of David Mitchell’s seemingly unfilmable novel, with Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant playing multiple roles in interlocking stories set during different time periods. Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”) and Larry and Lana Wachowski (“The Matrix”) shared the directing duties. (R)

“Fun Size” — Victoria Justice stars as a teen planning to attend a big Halloween bash when she’s asked by her parents to look after her little brother — who almost immediately disappears. (not yet rated)

“The Loneliest Planet” — A young engaged couple backpacks in the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia only to make a momentary misstep that changes the course of their relationship. (limited — not yet rated)

“Silent Hill: Revelation 3-D” — After the death of her father, a girl is drawn into an alternate universe replete with monsters and spirits. (R)


Nov. 2

“Café de Flore” — The stories of two seemingly unrelated characters — a single mother raising her son in the 1960s and a middle-aged DJ raising his family in the present — intersect in a beautiful and unexpected manner in the latest from Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée (“C.R.A.Z.Y.”). (limited — not yet rated

“Flight” — Robert Zemeckis leaves his “Polar Express” motion-capture mania behind for this live-action thriller about a pilot (Denzel Washington) who becomes a hero after a crash, only to be questioned as further details of his behavior come to light. With Don Cheadle and John Goodman. (R)

“Jack and Diane” — Juno Temple, Riley Keough, Cara Seymour and Kylie Minogue star in this young-lesbians-in-love romance. (limited — R)

“A Late Quartet” — Oscar winners Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christopher Walken, with Catherine Keener and Imogen Poots, are in the cast of this drama about a world-famous string quartet coping with the death of a member and that member’s replacement. “Insuppressible lust” and “egos,” the studio promises us. Yes, that’s classical music all right. (R)

“The Man With the Iron Fists” — Russell Crowe is the heavy in this martial arts-slasher picture about a weapons-maker/blacksmith (RZA, aka Robert Fitzgerald Diggs) in feudal China who gets caught up in a sword-slashing power-grab. RZA also directed this, with Rick Yune and Lucy Liu in the cast. (R)

“This Must Be the Place” — Sean Penn, Frances McDormand and Judd Hirsch star in this oddball dramedy about a bored cross-dressing rocker (Penn) who sets out to find his father’s World War II-era tormentor. (not yet rated)

“Wreck-It Ralph” — There’s trouble in the arcade when a longtime video-game villain who wants to be a hero breaks out and into a new game and unleashes mayhem in the form of a new super-villain in this animated action comedy starring the voice of John C. Reilly. (not yet rated)

Nov. 9

“Lincoln” — Steven Spielberg’s film biography stars Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln, presiding over a bipartisan cabinet during the Civil War, and is based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, “Team of Rivals.” (limited — not yet rated)

“Nature Calls” — The year’s second Scout troop camping comedy (after “Moonrise Kingdom”) stars Patton Oswalt, Johnny Knoxville, Rob Riggle, Maura Tierney, Patrice O’Neal and Darrell Hammond. (limited — R)

“A Royal Affair” — Mads Mikkelsen, Alicia Vikander and Mikkel Boe Følsgaard star in this Danish period piece about the love triangle between a queen, a king and the queen’s attentive, revolutionary physician. (limited — R)

“Skyfall” — Daniel Craig returns as James Bond, with Judi Dench, Javier Bardem and Ralph Fiennes along for the ride as Bond must face an enemy from his boss’s past. (not yet rated)

Nov. 16

“Anna Karenina” — Keira Knightley has the title role and Jude Law is her cuckolded husband in this lush period piece based on the Tolstoy novel. (limited — R)

“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2” — The sweeping saga of teens Bella, Edward and Jacob comes to a toothy conclusion as Bella and her new baby face one last threat from the Volturi. (not yet rated)

Nov. 21

“Life of Pi” — Ang Lee’s film of Yann Martel’s novel about an Indian zookeeper’s son who is shipwrecked with a lifeboat full of animals stars Tobey Maguire, Irrfan Khan and Tabu. (not yet rated)

“Red Dawn” — This remake of the Reagan-era commie-invasion thriller features Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson and Josh Peck in a tale of high school kids who lead a revolt against the, um, North Koreans, after they take over their town. (No sense offending the Chinese or Russian audiences, is there?) (PG-13)

“Rise of the Guardians” — The Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), Jack Frost (Chris Pine) and others team up to save Santa (Alec Baldwin) from the Boogeyman in this animated holiday comedy. (not yet rated)

“The Silver Linings Playbook” — Bradley Cooper stars in this David O. Russell film, based on the Matthew Quick novel about a teacher who goes to live with his parents after getting out of a mental institution and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Robert De Niro plays his dad, with Julia Stiles and Jennifer Lawrence. (not yet rated)

Nov. 23

“Hitchcock” — “Hitchcock” is a love story about director Alfred Hitchcock and his wife and partner Alma Reville. The film takes place on the set of “Psycho.” Starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren. (limited — not yet rated)

“Rust & Bone” — Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts star in this French romantic drama about second-chance love and an “accident” involving a killer whale trainer. (limited — R)

Nov. 30

“The Collection” — Josh Stewart plays a guy who survives an encounter with the serial killer known as “The Collector” in this slasher picture. (R)

“Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning” — Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren reunite in this revival of the B-movie action franchise. (R)


Dec. 2

“The Sweeney” — Ray Winstone stars in this big-screen updating of the ’70s British cop show about an officer more brutal than the crooks he’s chasing. With Hayley Atwell and Damian Lewis. (not yet rated)

Dec. 7

“Deadfall” — Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde play siblings-robbers on the run from a heist gone wrong. It’s snowing. And they stumble into a Thanksgiving family gathering where Oscar-winner Sissy Spacek presides. (limited — R)

“Hyde Park on Hudson” — Bill Murray is FDR in this serio-comic period piece about the king and queen coming to visit the president at his private home. (limited — R)

Dec. 14

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 3-D” — Peter Jackson goes back to Middle Earth for this three-part prequel to “Lord of the Rings,” with Martin Freeman starring as the young Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit sent on an epic adventure by the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen). (not yet rated)

Dec. 19

“Amour” — Emmanuele Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant star in this French tale of 80-somethings whose love is tested late in life. Isabelle Huppert is in the cast of this Michael Haneke film. (PG-13)

“Zero Dark Thirty” — More than a few Brits and one Aussie have been cast in this film from “The Hurt Locker” writer and director about the hunt for and killing of Osama bin Laden — Tom Hardy, Idris Elba, Rooney Mara, Jennifer Ehle and Guy Pearce. (not yet rated)

Dec. 21

“Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away” — Tumbling, dancing, high-wire magic, in story form, from the artists of Cirque du Soleil. (not yet rated)

“The Impossible” — Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor star in this drama-spectacle set against the backdrop of the worst tsunami disaster of modern times. (limited — PG-13)

“Jack Reacher” — Tom Cruise is the ex-MP turned private eye in this possible action franchise, based on the Lee Child novels. (PG-13)

“Not Fade Away” — David (“The Sopranos”) Chase tries to flip the genre script with this 1960s period piece about Jersey kids who want to make it as rock stars. It used to have a better title — “Twylight Zones.” (limited — R)

“This is 40” — Judd Apatow’s growing-older-but-not-up comedy stars that “Knocked Up” supporting couple, Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, with Jason Segel and Megan Fox. (R)

Dec. 25

“Django Unchained” — Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio star in Quentin Tarantino’s tale of violence and revenge in the post-Civil War South. (not yet rated)

“The Guilt Trip” — Seth Rogen is the inventor who has to take his annoying mom (Barbra Streisand) on the road with him as he tries to sell his latest invention. (not yet rated)

“Les Misérables” — Victor Hugo’s classic novel, rendered into a hit musical, comes to the screen with Hugh Jackman’s Jean Valjean squaring off against Russell Crowe’s Inspector Javert. Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen also are in the cast. (not yet rated)

“Parental Guidance” — Billy Crystal co-wrote and stars in this comedy about a grandpa who resorts to “old school” methods when he’s stuck babysitting the grandkids. Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei and Bailee Madison also star. (not yet rated)

“West of Memphis” — The final film in the documentary saga of The West Memphis Three. (limited — R)

— Synopses compiled from the McClatchy-Tribune News Service, the Washington Post and The Miami Herald by Jenny Wasson, The Bulletin