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10 movie performances to watch this fall

| Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 6:19 p.m.

The fall movie going season offers a bevy of hotly anticipated performances — some from famous faces, others from less familiar ones. Here are 10 worth being excited about:

Matthew McConaughey He's already given an Oscar-worthy supporting performance in Jeff Nichols' Mississippi River coming-of-age tale “Mud” earlier this year. And McConaughey also has a role in Martin Scorsese's upcoming “The Wolf of Wall Street.” But in “Dallas Buyers Club,” he stars as an HIV-positive Dallas man who smuggles alternative medicine. It could be the apogee of McConaughey's recent streak.

Chiwetel Ejiofor The British actor's lead performance in “12 Years a Slave” as a free black man with a family in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., sold into slavery in Louisiana, is a hugely powerful portrait of undefeated dignity.

Sandra Bullock There are two on-screen actors in Alfonso Cuaron's space thriller “Gravity”: George Clooney and Bullock. In zero gravity, Bullock grounds the film in one of the finest, least-adorned performances of her career.

Oscar Isaac Though little known, Isaac landed the lead part in the Coen brothers' Greenwich village folk revival “Inside Llewyn Davis.” In a film about an early ‘60s musician always narrowly missing his breakthrough, Isaac's own big break is assured. He also flawlessly sings and performs several folk ballads in the film.

Barkhad Abdi Tom Hanks' lead performance in “Captain Phillips” will rightly be hailed and almost certainly land him another Oscar nomination. But it wouldn't work if he didn't have a foil. In Paul Greengrass' docudrama of a cargo ship taken by Somali pirates, Abdi plays Muse, the pirate leader who nicknames Hanks' captain “Irish.” It's the first film for the Minneapolis man.

Benedict Cumberbatch The actor many know as Sherlock has no less than four major films this fall: “The Fifth Estate,” as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange; “12 Years a Slave,” as a slightly benevolent slave owner; “August: Osage County,” as Margo Martindale's son; and “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” as the titular dragon. Particularly remarkable is his precise portrayal of Assange.

Bruce Dern It's been years since the 77-year-old actor starred in a film, a chance Alexander Payne gave Dern for “Nebraska,” a black-and-white road trip of father and son (Will Forte). In it, the loquacious Dern turns taciturn as an alcoholic but spirited veteran.

Robert Redford If you thought the Sundance Kid didn't say much, Redford is entirely mum in director J.C. Chandor's “All Is Lost.” Redford is utterly alone on screen in the tale of a man adrift in the Indian Ocean.

Daniel Bruhl The German actor has had parts here and there: “Inglourious Basterds,” “The Bourne Ultimatum.” But this fall, he makes a big impression in starring roles in two films. In “Rush,” he plays the analytical Austrian Formula One driver Niki Lauda battling his rival, the British playboy James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth). He's also the more level head in “The Fifth Estate” as Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the early collaborator and eventual foe of Assange.

Will Ferrell No, Ron Burgundy is not the kind of role that usually lands on lists like this. But who would argue that Ferrell's 1970s TV newsman (now transitioning into the ‘80s in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”) isn't one of the greatest comic creations of the past decade? The mustachioed deserve kudos, too.

Jake Coyle is an entertainment writer for the Associated Press.

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