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"Skyfall," the latest 007 adventure, is just one of the highly anticipated flicks due out this fall.
"Skyfall," the latest 007 adventure, is just one of the highly anticipated flicks due out this fall.

Five movies to look forward to this fall

Swimsuits have been put away. The weather is finally cooling off (well, a little bit). Kids are grumpily waking up at seven in the morning to get packed up and ready for class. Yes, it seems summer has run its course, and fall is upon us.

Most importantly, though, the arrival of fall brings a collection of new movies hoping to entertain audiences and be in the conversation for end of the year awards. Here are five highly anticipated movies that make waving goodbye to summer a lot less painful.

"The Master"

Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson only makes a movie about once every five years, but when he does, it leaves an impact. His films are more like experiences, filled with unforgettable imagery and characters. With their long running times (only "Punch-Drunk Love" is under two hours) and often-strange moments, they can be a test for audiences. But they're always tests worth taking.

Five years after "There Will Be Blood," one of my favorite movies of all time, Anderson is finally returning to the screen with "The Master." The film follows a writer/philosopher who creates a cult-like religion that most definitely isn't Scientology. Controversy aside, "The Master" looks fascinating and it has brought together arguably Anderson's best cast so far, with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams in the lead roles. Combined with Anderson's typically mesmerizing images and Jonny Greenwood's uniquely hypnotic score, "The Master" has the potential to be the filmmaker's masterpiece.

"Looper"

Rian Johnson impressed a lot of people in 2005 with his debut feature, the high school detective noir "Brick." He impressed significantly fewer people with his sophomore effort, "The Brothers Bloom." If "Looper" is the writer/director's attempt at reconciliation, he seems to be on the right track.

The film follows a hit man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as he attempts to kill the future version of himself, who comes in the form of Bruce Willis. The plot, according to the trailers, seems to be an exciting combination of gangsters, time travel, future dystopias and some pretty sweet-looking action sequences. It could be wildly intricate and possibly confusing ("Brick" certainly was), but after a long summer of generic mindless blow-'em-ups, it'll be refreshing to see a movie that has some brains to go with its explosive booms.

"Argo"

Despite his past reputation as a massive superstar, Ben Affleck's career as a director has been comprised of very modest, but very effective, thrillers. "Gone Baby Gone" showed he could tell an emotionally complex story, and "The Town" flaunted his abilities with a larger cast, a larger budget and larger action. Now, Affleck has "Argo," a thriller that takes him out of his comfort zone of Boston and into the global universe of espionage. The film hasn't been insanely hyped, but the cast (featuring Bryan Cranston and "Friday Night Lights"' Kyle Chandler) is beyond solid, and the early festival buzz is full of praise. If the chatter is accurate (we'll find out Oct. 12), Affleck might finally push the memories of "Gigli" and "Daredevil" out of audiences' minds.

"Skyfall"

It's hard to believe there was a time when making another Bond movie seemed completely unfeasible. MGM, the franchise's studio, was bankrupt, and after "Casino Royale" seemed to resurrect Bond, the far less intelligent "Quantum of Solace" killed much of the buzz surrounding the new, grittier take on the character.

The world's most famous secret agent has proven himself difficult to kill in the past, however, and he's proven it again with this November's "Skyfall." The cast looks terrific, especially Javier Bardem as 007's nemesis (Bardem already owns the honor of being one of cinema's greatest bad guys thanks to "No Country for Old Men"), and the visuals look vivid and exciting. Surprising, considering director Sam Mendes has never done a conventional action movie. He has, however, won an Oscar, so I suppose that merits a good deal of trust.

"Wreck-It Ralph"

It's not very often that people are more excited for a Disney animated film than one by Pixar. However, now that "Brave" has come and gone from theaters with surprisingly subdued praise and clamor, the table is set for Disney's video game-themed "Wreck-It Ralph" to become the cream of the animated crop.

The film, set for release Nov. 2, follows a video game villain (voiced by John C. Reilly) tired of being the bad guy who goes on a quest through several game universes to find his true calling. "Wreck-It Ralph" might not have the emotional depth of Pixar, but with great animation, clever jokes and a surprisingly large number of cameos by beloved video game characters (Q-Bert, Pac-Man ghosts and Bowser, just to name a few), it has the potential to be rich in entertainment and nostalgia.

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