It’s that time of year again—actually, it’s PAST that time of year again, but I was on vacation—time for my Fall Movie Preview! The Oscar Race begins here as a ton of prestige films try to get out before the end of the year, while some last minute blockbusters try to make a few bucks in a release schedule that is less top-heavy than what we saw in the summer. As usual, I’ll be running down the films that I’ll most be looking forward to that will be released over the next four months. Be warned, though, Fall Films are notorious for shifting release dates as studios jockey for the best Oscar position and many of the dates listed here are initial dates for when these films launch in limited release—you may not see them in your area until January. Take a gander!
The Magnificent Seven (9/23)
Director Antoine Fuqua helms this remake of the classic western with an all-star cast headed by Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and is receiving mixed reviews, but I’m still interested in seeing it. It looks like a lot of fun, but the problem with remakes is that they always end up getting compared to the originals and the original Magnificent Seven is a classic, so the deck is already stacked against this one.
Deepwater Horizon (9/30)
Director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg surprised me with their last collaboration, Lone Survivor, which was a really, really good film. So because of that result, I’m looking forward to Deepwater Horizon, a film that will not focus on the aftermath of the explosion that led to an ecological disaster, but on the heroes that the situation created. If it’s half as good as Lone Survivor, the film should be a winner. Kurt Russell and Kate Hudson also star.
I saw the trailer for this film recently and was intrigued by the premise. Based on a true story about historian Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) and her legal battle with Holocaust denier David Irving (Timothy Spall). It looks to be an interesting, taut legal drama. Tom Wilkinson also stars.
Based on the novel by Ransom Riggs and directed by Tim Burton, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children looks a lot like a YA X-Men with Eva Green serving as Professor X. Asa Butterfield is our point of view character into this strange world, while Samuel L. Jackson plays the main antagonist. It looks interesting and if they make it as different from X-Men as possible, it could end up being more X-Men than Fox’s X-Men movies.
Birth of a Nation (10/7)
Ever since Nate Parker’s film about Nat Turner played at Sundance, it has garnered both rave reviews and controversy. The story is about Nat Turner’s slave rebellion in 1831 and Parker deliberately took the title from D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film supporting the KKK as a way to take it back. I was a big fan of 12 Years a Slave and I’m hoping this film is of equal quality. Films like this are important for confronting and understanding our history, despite what some naysayers might argue.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (10/21)
Jack Reacher was one of 2012’s surprises despite some complaining from fans of the Reacher novels about star Tom Cruise being too short for the role. What resulted was a solid action movie that hearkened back to great action flicks of the 1980s. Well, Cruise is back for the sequel and it looks to be just as action-packed as the first. Really looking forward to it.
A Monster Calls (10/21)
A boy (Lewis MacDougall) invents a tree monster (Liam Neeson) to cope with the terminal illness of his mother (Felicity Jones) as well as the general turmoil of adolescence. It looks like a sweet tearjerker and it’s getting rave reviews out of Toronto, so it’s high on my list. The film is directed by J.A. Bayona and written by Patrick Ness, who also wrote the novel. Sigourney Weaver also stars as the boy’s cold grandmother.
Bleed for This (11/4)
Miles Teller plays real-life boxer Vinny Pazienza, who survived a nasty car accident to stage an amazing comeback after not knowing if he’d be able to walk again. Boxing movies seem like they’re a dime a dozen these days, but I like Teller and the cast they’ve assembled around him and the trailer made this looks like a good one. Here’s to hoping it pans out.
Doctor Strange (11/4)
Marvel Studios unleashes their latest hero on the world with Doctor Strange, the tale of crippled surgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his journey to become the Sorcerer Supreme, master of the mystic arts. This will be new territory for Marvel as they drive into the world of magic, which is prevalent in their comic book world. The cast is dynamite featuring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton, and Rachel McAdams and it looks like Director Scott Derrickson has crafted a visually stunning film. We’ll see if it all comes together in November.
One of my favorite filmmakers, Jeff Nichols, brings audiences the tale of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple imprisoned in 1958 Virginia for the simple crime of getting married. Tales of racism like this are hard to fathom in this day and age, but it is important to re-visit them so we don’t forget where we’ve been and how far we’ve come. Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga play the Lovings, while Nichols regular Michael Shannon appears in a supporting role. Comedian Nick Kroll also turns in a rare dramatic role as the lawyer that champions the Lovings’ case.
Aside from December’s Rogue One, the film I’m most looking forward to is Arrival from Denis Villeneuve. Aliens have arrived on Earth and linguist Amy Adams has to figure out how to communicate with them. Jeremy Renner co-stars as a theoretical physicist and Forest Whitaker plays a military officer assigned to the two. Arrival won raves from Toronto and Villeneuve has quickly become one of my favorite filmmakers. I’m excited to see what he does with this material, especially in anticipation of his helming the Blade Runner sequel.
Warner Brothers attempts to keep the Harry Potter franchise rolling with this film from Director David Yates and first-time screenwriter J.K. Rowling—you may have heard of her. Fantastic Beasts is set in the 1920s and focuses on Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a British wizard visiting America with his case full of magical beasts. Fans will finally see how the magical world operates in America, which could be fascinating, but will a movie set in the Harry Potter universe take off without Harry Potter? That is the billion dollar question.
Manchester by the Sea (11/18)
Written and Directed by Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea has been garnering effusive reviews on the festival circuit. Many reviewers are hailing the film as a surefire Oscar nomination for star Casey Affleck and possibly for Michelle Williams as well. The film is a story about loss, grief, and family as Affleck’s character finds out that he is the designated guardian for his teenage nephew after his brother dies. Based on the trailer, it looks to be a solid drama that’s also darkly funny. The universal praise has put this one high on my list as a must-see.
I’m a sucker for any World War II film, especially one that involves spies, so Allied, starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, looks to be right up my alley. Pitt and Cotillard play spies for America and France respectively. The two of them find love, but in this game nothing is ever what it seems, so there will be plenty of intrigue. I’m a big fan of both actors, so I’m looking forward to seeing them work together in one of my favorite genres. Robert Zemeckis directs from a script by Steven Knight.
Bad Santa 2 (11/23)
Was anyone really clamoring for a sequel to Bad Santa? No, not really. However, the first film was absolutely hilarious and while this sequel probably should have come out a long time ago, I have to see this one for the sole reason that they got Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly) back. Billy Bob Thornton reprises his role as a degenerate thief who poses as a department store Santa Claus to plan and pull robberies. Tony Cox is also back as Thornton’s partner, which should be interesting considering how the last film ended. Kathy Bates joins the cast as Thornton’s estranged mother and Christina Hendricks also joins in as the female lead. I love Hendricks, but it’s unfortunate the filmmakers chose to leave Lauren Graham out of the sequel. It will be stupid, but hopefully it will be funnier than most comedy sequels.
La La Land (12/2)
Musicals are usually not my bag, but La La Land, an homage to the classic musicals of the 1950s, has a lot going for it. It stars two of my favorite actors in Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, who both showed they had amazing chemistry together in Crazy, Stupid, Love and to a lesser degree, the disappointing Gangster Squad—Stone and Gosling’s scenes might have been the best part of that film. Combine that with the fact that the film is written and directed by Whiplash filmmaker Damien Chazelle, and you have the makings of a real winner. Those who have seen it on the festival circuit have showered it with praise, so all of that should help me get over my natural aversion to musicals to enjoy the hell out of this one.
Office Christmas Party (12/9)
Like Bad Santa 2, this movie looks to be an incredibly stupid holiday comedy. The reason I’m interested, though, is 100% due to the cast. The film features T.J. Miller, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, and Courtney B. Vance(!). The trailer looks crazy and hilarious. I would say the only downfall for this movie will be if it gets slapped with a PG-13—the trailer lists it as “Not Yet Rated.” Any film like this is only helped by an R-rating. This should be a welcome palette-cleanser after seeing a lot of films with their sights set on Oscar gold.
The Founder (12/16)
This film was due to be released in August, but it looks like the studio held off in order to cash in on any Oscar potential. So, I’ll just say what I said in my Summer Preview: The Founder will tell the story of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), the man who helped franchise McDonald’s after essentially cheating the brothers who opened the first McDonald’s restaurant—at least that’s how it looks in the trailer. This looks to be a fascinating story and I’m really looking forward to it. Keaton has been on a tear as of late and I don’t see it slowing down with this one. Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, and Laura Dern also star.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (12/16)
And so, it begins. The expanding of the Star Wars Saga starts here. Sure there are books, cartoons, and comic books, but for most, the only Star Wars is what shows up on movie screens and Rogue One will be the first Star Wars film to take place outside the Skywalker family saga. Felicity Jones stars as Jyn Erso, the woman selected by the Rebel Alliance to steal the original Death Star plans from the Galactic Empire. The film is directed by Gareth Edwards and is said to end about fifteen minutes prior to the start of the first Star Wars film. There have been rumors of behind the scenes turmoil, so fans are approaching this one with equal amounts of anticipation and trepidation. Diego Luna and Forest Whitaker also star on the Rebellion side, while Ben Mendelsohn plays the main baddie. Oh, and look out for an appearance from everyone’s favorite absentee father, Darth Vader. It’s Star Wars, so it’s the film I’m most looking forward to this fall. The fact that it actually looks great is a huge plus.
And now we come to a film that could equally be a massive hit or a massive flop and at this time, we have no clear indication that it will even make its December release date. Passengers is a sci-fi drama starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt as two people on a generation ship on a 120-year journey. Everyone travelling on the ship is in suspended animation, but Pratt and Lawrence are awakened 90 years early. Directed by Morten Tyldum and written by Jon Spaihts, the film has a fascinating premise and will ultimately prove if movie stars are still the main draw at the theater or if intellectual property reigns supreme. However, it’s September and we haven’t seen a trailer yet, which is odd for such a major release, especially one being released five days after a Star Wars film. Let’s see if this actually releases in 2016.
Matthew McConaughey plays Kenny Wells, a man intent on finding a massive gold deposit in Indonesia. However, the big problems start for him after he finds what he’s looking for. The film, directed by Stephen Gaghan, is loosely based on a true story and the trailer has the vibe of David O. Russell’s American Hustle, a film that I absolutely adored, so I’m really looking forward to this one. Edgar Ramirez and Bryce Dallas Howard also star.
And that will do it for this year’s preview. Clearly, there are a TON of other films being released this fall and some that are just being announced, as they are just securing distribution out of the festivals—looking at you, Jackie, starring Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy—so, be sure to listen to The Hodgepodge Podcast as Dirty A and I will review most of what we see and we’ll champion those films that might get lost in the shuffle of the bigger boys on the block. As usual, if you’d like a more comprehensive Fall Preview, be sure to check out Entertainment Weekly. Thanks for reading and see you at the movies!