We have, mercifully, made our way to the end of the 2016 summer movie season. It may have been generally horrible, but there were a few little hidden gems (I’m looking at you, Hell or High Water). That being said, here comes fall, and the overall quality week in and week out just ticks up a little.
Awards hopefuls, adult thrillers, and big franchise entries are scattered throughout the next few months as the temps drop and the leaves change. It’s a glorious time of year, and here are 10 must see films, at least from my perspective, we should all soak up like all that pumpkin spice.
15. Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them (Nov. 18) – I’ve seen all the Harry Potter films, but I’m not really a big fan. That being said, I recognize the allure to the world, and from an objective point of view, Fantastic Beasts looks to capture all the essence of J.K. Rowling’s creations. I doubt I’ll be seeing this one in theaters, but there are certainly more folks out there counting down the days for this one.
14. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (Oct. 21) – Chris McQuarrie’s Jack Reacher has aged significantly well over the last couple of years. At the time it was sort of a shrug from everyone, but 2016 comes with a new appreciation for Tom Cruise’s next franchise, and Never Go Back looks like a quality sequel. McQuarrie has handed over directing duties to Ed Zwick, and the first few trailers look confident and exciting.
13. The Birth of A Nation (Oct. 7) – Things have gotten rather disturbing with Nate Parker these last few weeks, and it’s certainly hurt any awards chances and reception for his upcoming slavery-revolt biopic. Parker’s sexual assault history cannot be overlooked. It should be noted, and any backlash against the film is probably deserved. But The Birth of A Nation is also supposed to be an incredible film, and the notion of separating art from artist is for another piece entirely.
12. Snowden (Sept. 16) – Regardless of what has become of Oliver Stone these last few years, a biopic from Stone about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden should be a fascinating thriller. Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks convincing in the title role, but what I’m more excited about I think is the inclusion of Nicolas Cage. Cage has been doing VOD trash for so long, and has been in such ridiculous movies, it will be nice to see him in a prestige picture once again. I can’t wait to see the guy show off his real talent in a meaty role.
11. Allied (Nov. 23) – Robert Zemeckis is hit or miss as a filmmaker. Despite recognizing the incredible problems with Flight, I still love the movie. Zemeckis’s dramas grab me, even when they’re too on the nose. That, combined with the fact I love World War II spy thrillers, and I am sold on Allied. Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard glam it up as spies who fall in love behind enemy lines, and can you blame them? Expect some obvious needle drops, but don’t overlook surefire dramatic tension.
10. La La Land (Dec. 16) – I’m not the biggest musical fan, but boy does this film look special. The chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone is a known entity these days, and Whiplash director Damien Chazelle behind the camera is worth the price of admission. Those melancholy trailers we’ve gotten, and the beautiful cinematography on display, have worked their magic on me.
9. The Girl on The Train (Oct. 7) – This adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ massive bestseller is fashioning itself as 2016’s Gone Girl. It could go one of two ways: it could be a terrific adult thriller, or a clunky, hamfisted shadow of Hawkins’ awesome thriller. This cast, from Emily Blunt as the troubled witness, to Justin Theroux, Edgar Ramirez and Scott Hipwell, sets it up to hopefully be the former not the latter.
8. Passengers (Dec. 21) – Imitation Game director Morten Tyldum is a curious choice for Passengers, an Insterstellar-esque space adventure involving malfunctioning sleep chambers aboard a transport which make two passengers wake up 60 years before they should. Those two passengers are Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt – luckily for everyone two beautiful people woke up from their slumber, huh?
7. Manchester By The Sea (Nov. 18) – With the controversy surrounding The Birth of A Nation, Manchester By The Sea is now in the driver’s seat for Oscar gold. That first trailer we got last week wasn’t anything remarkable, it looked pretty generic, but this movie was a massive hit with critics at Sundance. It will be nice to see Casey Affleck back in a heavy dramatic role as well.
6. Doctor Strange (Nov. 4) – After years of tying their movies together and, to some, watering down the finished product with entertaining but milquetoast adventures, Marvel is about to branch out a little. Doctor Strange looks like something wholly unique in the Marvel-Verse, and connecting it with the other films will be more challenging than the rest of their films Whitewashing issues aside, the cat of Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, and Rachel McAdams looks solid.
5. Loving (Nov. 4) – Jeff Nichols’ latest looks similar to his other work, but different at the same time. His previous dramas have flirted with thriller elements and, in the case of Midnight Special, dove headfirst into sci-fi storytelling. With Loving, Nichols grounds what appears to be an intense and troubled romance firmly in a harsh past reality. Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as an interracial couple in 1958 Virginia looks like some heavy stuff, loaded with some compelling melodrama.
4. The Accountant (Oct. 14) – Say what you will about Ben Affleck the actor, his adult thrillers have been solid the past few years. He may not have the range of some, but in The Accountant he appears to be playing a wholly unique character. The first trailer, set to the dreamy tones of Radiohead’s “Everything In It’s Right Place” sold me. And despite having a bit of a grasp on the story, I’m certain there are some unexpected twists and turns along the way.
3. The Magnificent Seven (Sept. 23) – Sure, it’s another remake of a property that’s been redone into oblivion, but any time a Western comes along and looks this energetic, it’s a must see. The Western has been on life support forever, but we still get rousing entries from time to time. And this cast! Denzel, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Peter Sarsgaard as the villain. Take my money!
2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Dec. 16) – Despite having those rumored re-shoots (gasp!), the fact that these Star Wars satellite tales are kicking off with a Gareth Edwards action-thriller is tremendous. The first trailer, with that siren-beat, is easily one of the best trailers of the year. And while Rogue One clearly has those Star Wars staples (hey, Darth), the look and feel of those trailers and the grit of the cast indicate this will be something entirely fresh and new within the parameters of an existing universe.
1. Arrival (Nov. 11) – Alien invasion movies have been run into the ground for years. Some have been fascinating exercises, some masterpieces, and so many more have been pure drivel. Arrival has a chance to reach greatness, not only because of the presence of Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner in the lead roles, but the eye of Denis Villeneuve behind the camera. The first trailer doesn’t blow me away by any means, but I am absolutely certain Arrival will have more on it’s mind than Independence Day 2. Or 1 for that matter.
There are dozens of other promising films coming down the pike this fall. It gets going this weekend with Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander in The Light Between Oceans. Then Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks’ Sully. The Holiday season brings promise with A Monster Calls, among others.
What are you looking forward to?