With the release of Warrior and Drive, awards season seems to have gotten an early start, and the field will only get more crowded as DiCaprio slips into drag to play J. Edgar Hoover, Michelle Williams spends a week as Marilyn Monroe and George Clooney covers every creative base from acting to writing with two offerings already building buzz. It’s a good time to head to the movies.

SEPT. 23

Abduction (Lionsgate)

Can Taylor Lautner headline a movie? Will there be life after Twilight? With this action flick from John Singleton, we’re going to find out. Lautner stars as a man forced to go on the run after he discovers he was kidnapped as a child and may be at the center of a vast conspiracy.

Dolphin Tale (Warner Bros.)

A heartwarming family film about a boy who befriends a dolphin who lost her tail in a crab trap. With the help of Morgan Freeman, a prosthetic appendage is created for the dolphin who becomes an inspiration to people with special needs. Based on a true story, it’s like Free Willy and How to Train Your Dragon and Flipper all rolled into one … and we’re already tearing up!

Killer Elite (Open Road)

When his mentor (Robert De Niro) is taken hostage, a retired member of Britain’s Elite Special Air Service (Jason Statham) is forced to do what he (begrudgingly) does best: kick ass and kill people. De Niro as a damsel in distress playing second fiddle to Statham? Uh, okay. Sadly, Killer Elite looks neither killer nor elite, but rather a continuation of De Niro’s incomprehensible recent trend of picking subpar material (see: Righteous Kill, What Just Happened, Stone).

Machine Gun Preacher (Relativity Media)

Based on the true story of Sam Childers, a former drug-dealing biker who found God and became a crusader for hundreds of Sudanese children forced to become soldiers, the film stars Gerard Butler and was directed by Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, Monster’s Ball).

Moneyball (Columbia)

Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane, the unorthodox general manager of the Oakland A’s who put together his baseball club on a shoestring thanks to computer-generated analysis. While it could swing toward Major League or The Natural territory, we’re guessing it’ll be closer to the latter considering it was directed by Bennett Miller, in a long awaited follow up to 2005’s Capote, with a screenplay adaptation courtesy of Oscar winner Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network).

Puncture (Millennium Entertainment)

Chris Evans stars as a drug-addicted lawyer who takes on the case of a comely young ER nurse (Vinessa Shaw) who was pricked by a contaminated needle while on the job. Taking a turn to The Pelican Brief/Erin Brockovich territory, as the case deepens a conspiracy emerges, pushing the young lawyer to his breaking point.

SEPT. 25

Red State (Smodcast)

Kevin Smith’s dark and controversial departure from the realm of Jay and Silent Bob, headlined by Michael Parks, Melissa Leo and John Goodman, was inspired by Smith’s fear of fundamentalist religious groups. A dark, twisted and politically charged horror film about a woman who lures three teen boys to her home with the promise of sex, only to capture them for her ultra-violent fundamentalist preacher. Based on the leader of the Westboro Baptist church, Smith bought the rights to the film himself in order to distribute it the way he saw fit. The film screens one night only at the New Beverly Cinema.

SEPT. 30

50/50 (Summit Entertainment)

A well-conceived and moving dramedy about a play-by-the-rules, color-inside-the-lines 27-year-old (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who finds out he’s battling a rare form of cancer with a 50/50 survival rate. Also starring Seth Rogen and Anna Kendrick.

Dream House (Universal)

After Will Atenton (Daniel Craig) and his family (including Craig’s new real-life wife, Rachel Weisz, whom he met on the film’s set) relocate to a quaint New England town, they discover a mother and her two children were murdered in their new – you guessed it – dream house. While most everyone thinks the killer is the husband who survived the incident, Will works with a local woman (Naomi Watts) to piece together an even more disturbing puzzle. As Amityville-lite as the story sounds, Dream House was directed by six-time Oscar nominee Jim Sheridan (In the Name of the Father, In America, My Left Foot), and that makes it a must-see.

Margaret (Fox Searchlight)

After sitting on a shelf since 2007, Kenneth Lonergan’s tale of a New York City high school student (Anna Paquin), who may have played a role in a fatal bus accident, finally arrives in theaters. Co-starring Matt Damon, Matthew Broderick and Mark Ruffalo, who previously starred in Lonergan’s critically lauded debut, You Can Count on Me.

Take Shelter (Sony Pictures Classics)

Winner of the Critics Prize at Cannes this year, Michael Shannon stars as a man haunted by visions of a coming storm, a nightmare that drives him to build a shelter in his backyard, an obsession that starts to drive people away. Featuring another standout performance by this year’s most ubiquitous (and welcome) onscreen presence, Jessica Chastain.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (Magnet Releasing)

Tucker and Dale (Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine) are just a couple of good ol’ boys, hanging out in the mountains of West Virginia having hillbilly fun at their cabin retreat, when a chance encounter with a group of college kids turns into a bloody, deadly misunderstanding. This horror-comedy hybrid made quite a splash during its debut midnight screening at Sundance 2010.

What’s Your Number? (Twentieth Century Fox)

A woman (Anna Faris) unwilling to go over 20 sexual partners and risk being labeled a slut, revisits her old flames, hoping one of the men might have been her true love. Luckily she’s assisted in her quest by her super hot neighbor, Chris Evans. Gee, wonder if he’ll be lucky number 21? If you miss this one in theaters, you can always rent “The Ex List,” a short-lived TV series starring Twilight’s Elizabeth Reaser with a very similar premise.

OCT. 7

Dirty Girl (The Weinstein Company)

Road trip! Two high schoolers from Oklahoma – “dirty girl” Danielle (Juno Temple) and closet-case Clarke (Jeremy Dozier) – hit the road for Los Angeles to find Danielle’s dad and to keep Clarke away from being sent to military school.

The Ides of March (Columbia)

George Clooney directed and co-wrote this political drama about a wunderkind political strategist, played by Ryan Gosling, which is loosely based a play (“Farragut North”) that’s loosely based on Howard Dean’s unsuccessful 2004 presidential run. With a supporting cast that includes Paul Giamatti, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Marisa Tomei, it’s an early Oscar contender across the board.

Real Steel (Walt Disney)

Remember Rock ’Em, Sock ’Em Robots? Well, imagine they made them about 15-feet high and bouts were as watched as Monday Night Football. Set in the future, where 2,000-pound humanoid robot boxing is as big as reality TV, a struggling promoter (Hugh Jackman) thinks he’s found a champion in a discarded robot.

OCT. 14

The Big Year (Fox 2000)

Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin star as bird watchers competing to spot the most rare birds in North America at a prestigious annual event.

Footloose (Paramount)

If you haven’t kicked off your Sunday shoes with Kevin Bacon (and you really should), then you might not know that Footloose is the story of out-of-towner Ren McCormack (Kenny Wormald, stepping into Bacon’s dancing shoes), who moves to a small town where rock ’n’ roll and dancing have been banned. But once he hooks up with the preacher’s daughter (Julianne Hough) everybody cut loose, footloose. While we’ve seriously hit the wall on remakes, the involvement of director Craig Brewer (Hustle and Flow) gives us the tiniest glimmer of hope that this movie might not suck, unlike the sacrilege known as the recently announced Dirty Dancing remake with Kenny Ortega at the helm.

The Skin I Live In (Sony Pictures Classics)

A thriller about a plastic surgeon (Antonio Banderas) who has been conducting experiments on a human subject (Elena Anaya) while trying to perfect an artificial skin to use to treat his severely burned wife. Directed by Pedro Almodóvar (Talk to Her, Volver, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) it seems a foregone conclusion that this will be an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film.

Texas Killing Fields (Anchor Bay)

The Debt co-stars Sam Worthington and Jessica Chastain, along with Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Chloë Moretz, star in the debut feature by Ami Canaan Mann (aka Michael Mann’s daughter). A film so dark that Danny Boyle, the guy who directed a feature about a dude who cut his own arm off, said it couldn’t be done. The story centers on two detectives in small-town Texas chasing down a serial killer.

The Thing (Universal)

A prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 classic about an alien life form with the ability to mimic anyone it ingests, this reboot takes place three days before the original kicks off in snowy, secluded Antarctica. Starring poised-on-the-brink Joel Edgerton (also see Warrior) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

Trespass (Millennium Entertainment)

8mm cohorts Joel Schumacher and Nicolas Cage reunite for this tale of a husband (Cage) and wife (Nicole Kidman) being held at gunpoint.

OCT. 21

Margin Call (Roadside Attractions)

Set in a large investment bank in the 24 hours that may or may not have triggered our nation’s economic meltdown, first-time director J.C. Chandor has assembled a cast of heavy hitters, including Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons and Stanley Tucci, but buzz following the film’s premiere at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival was lukewarm.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (Fox Searchlight)

After Sundance last year, this indie about a girl (Mary-Kate and Ashley’s younger sister, Elizabeth Olsen) haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia after fleeing a sexually abusive cult, turned the youngest Olsen into an industry darling.

Paranormal Activity 3 (Paramount)

Reportedly, the third film in the Paranormal franchise takes place in 1988, when sisters Katie (Katie Featherston from the first film) and Kristi (Sprague Grayden from the second film) were kids. Kicking it old-school, VHS style, while the girls are making video proof of Bloody Mary, they become the first confronted by the monstrous demon that has haunted them throughout the series. Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who caught heat for what was suspected to be a staged documentary, Catfish.

The Three Musketeers (Summit Entertainment)

A 3D, steampunk-inspired reimagining of the well-known tale of three inseparable friends who live by the motto, “One for all, all for one!” which has previously inspired seven animated adaptations and over 20 live-action interpretations. This one – directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil) – stars Anderson’s wife, Milla Jovovich, as well as Christoph Waltz, Luke Evans and Orlando Bloom.

OCT. 28

Anonymous (Columbia)

Was Shakespeare a hack? This political thriller, set at the cusp of the Essex Rebellion against Queen Elizabeth I, centers on the Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans), who may have been the real author of William Shakespeare’s plays.

In Time (Twentieth Century Fox)

Set in a future where super hot young people like Amanda Seyfried and Justin Timberlake die at 25 unless they’re rich enough to buy more time. When a poor young man (JT) is accused of murder after inheriting a fortune in time, he’s forced to go on the run from the Timekeepers. This is gonna be Surrogates bad or Blade Runner good – seeing as it’s directed by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, S1m0ne), it’s a toss-up.

Johnny English Reborn (Universal)

Mr. Bean (aka Rowan Atkinson, aka the British Buster Keaton, aka Johnny English) stars in this follow-up to the 2003 James Bond spoof. This time Johnny, a top agent in the British Secret Service, is dispatched to save the Chinese premier from a pack of international assassins. Hijinks, no doubt, will ensue.

Like Crazy (Paramount Vantage)

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize in both acting and dramatic competition at last year’s Sundance, the film stars Felicity Jones (who won the acting prize) as Anna and Anton Yelchin as Jacob, college students in Los Angeles who become a couple. Anna is a British exchange student who overstays her visa after it expires on graduation. She returns home to London, and when she flies back to Los Angeles she is turned away by customs officials, throwing the couple into a long-distance relationship.

The Rum Diary (FilmDistrict)

Johnny Depp again channels Hunter S. Thompson in this film adapted from the writer’s early novel about a journalist who moves to Puerto Rico and falls in love with a beautiful woman (Amber Heard), who is already entangled with a sleazy real-estate developer (Aaron Eckhart), while drinking a whole hell of a lot of rum.

Sleeping Beauty (Sundance Selects)

A sexually charged offering that divided critics following its Cannes debut, it stars Sucker Punch star Emily Browning as a college student who answers an ad that lands her the lead role in a sex game. Offering explanation for the title, the idea is she takes a drug that puts her to sleep while paying customers do whatever they want with her limp body with the only rule being no penetration, which isn’t a problem for most customers who prefer to abuse her body.

NOV. 4

My Week with Marilyn (The Weinstein Company)

Starring Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe and Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier (naturally), the film is set during production of The Prince and the Showgirl in the summer of 1956, when Colin Clark (Tony winner Eddie Redmayne), an assistant on the film, spent a week escorting Marilyn around London, giving her the briefest respite from the pressures of Hollywood. Based on the stills alone, which show a transformed Williams, we’re calling early Oscar nominations for this one.

Puss in Boots (DreamWorks Animation)

The best thing about the last two Shrek movies gets his own franchise. Voiced by Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek and Zach Galifianakis, this spin off is set before Puss in Boots met Shrek and his friends, as the feline hero teams up with Humpty Dumpty (Galifianakis) and the street-savvy Kitty (Hayek) to steal the famed Goose that lays the Golden Eggs.

Tower Heist (Universal)

When the hard working staff of a Manhattan high-rise realize they’ve fallen victim to the Ponzi scheme of one of the residents, they conspire to rob his penthouse. Brett Ratner directs a flurry of names including Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller.

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (Warner Bros.)

Finally, a sequel in 3D we can’t wait to see! You know the drill, stoner buddies Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn), with an assist from Neil Patrick Harris, go on an adventure where things go hilariously off the rails. Set six years after their Guantanamo Bay adventure, this time they’re unleashed on New York on the hunt for a Christmas tree after inadvertently burning down Harold’s father-in-law’s prize pine.

NOV. 9

J. Edgar (Warner Bros.)

We couldn’t be more excited to see Leonardo DiCaprio slide into a nice pair of heels to play J. Edgar Hoover in Clint Eastwood’s creative “biopic” about the FBI director, with a script by Oscar-winner Dustin Lance Black (Milk). Could this be the film that finally earns DiCaprio his Academy Award? Very possibly. Co-stars Armie Hammer, as Hoover’s right hand man and supposed lover, and Naomi Watts.

NOV. 11

Immortals (Relativity Media)

Newly minted Man of Steel, Henry Cavill, stars as a mortal man chosen by Zeus (Luke Evans) to lead the fight against the ruthless, bloodthirsty King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), who is on a rampage across Greece to obtain a weapon that can destroy humanity. We’re hoping this one is more 300 than Conan, but either way, expect abs and togas galore.

Jack and Jill (Columbia)

Who wants to see Adam Sandler in drag? Well, too bad, because here it comes. Sandler stars as Jack Sadelstein, a successful advertising executive in Los Angeles with a beautiful wife (Katie Holmes), who dreads one event each year: the Thanksgiving visit of his twin sister Jill (also played by Sandler). Celebrity cameos reportedly include Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, Ryan Gosling, Tom Hanks, Jeff Bridges and George Clooney, to name just a few.

Melancholia (Magnolia)

Perhaps best known as the film which director Lars von Trier was promoting when he made comments that got him banned from the Cannes Film Festival, that performance overshadowed the fact that Kirsten Dunst actually won Best Actress honors for her performance in this film about a woman grappling with the appearance of a nearby planet that threatens to destroy Earth.