As the summer movie season draws to a close, the kids head back to school, the temperatures (eventually) drop, and superheroes and cartoon characters take a backseat to more serious fare. Now is the time to look forward to pictures with aspirations for awards or, at the least, aspirations for more adult-oriented storytelling. Now is the time for the FALL MOVIE PREVIEW.
Let’s look through the highlights from September, October, and November; the theme early on feels heavy, even foreboding, as we dive headlong into the underworld, the border drug wars, and Cold War espionage. Along the way there are also a few harrowing adventures, a few scares and, of course, a brand new ride with 007…
Historically, September is a muddled dumping ground of films not good enough to make the summer slate, and other pictures too aimless to be considered for Awards Season. Occasionally, a movie will break the mold (American Beauty came out in September), but the status quo is for studios to dispatch drivel while kids and parents are readjusting to school, and fall festivities hit their stride. That doesn’t seem to be the case this year, as studios appear to be anxious to get some of their more hotly anticipated properties out earlier than usual.
M. Night Shyamalan makes yet another attempt at a comeback in September with The Visit (Sep. 11), a supernatural thriller that shows M. Night may be tracking back to his roots. The film centers around two young kids sent away to their grandparents for a visit, only to discover Grandma and Grandpa are rather disturbed and, maybe, even possessed. While the trailer does show promise of some scares, I’m a little disappointed Shyamalan is taking the found-footage route. The technique is tired at this point, and if Shyamalan truly wanted a comeback maybe he shouldn’t try and jump on the back of a fledgling horror subgenre. I am holding out hope, however, that the director can have at least a brief resurgence.
The following Friday is when September overloads cinemas with some intense, anticipated material. First up is Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger in the star-studded Black Mass (Sep. 18). Depp is unsettling in his appearance, and the surrounding cast that includes Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, and Sienna Miller among many more, is more than promising. That same week, Denis Villeneuve’s drug-cartel thriller Sicario drops, and may be my most anticipated of the fall. Sicario stars emerging action star Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and the great Benicio Del Toro. And just in case you forgot, here is the sizzling second trailer:
As if the one-two punch of Black Mass and Sicario weren’t enough, that same weekend audiences will get to witness the death-defying dramatization that is Everest (sep. 18). The film, based on several books, one being Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, follows a group of climbers on their trek to the top of Mt. Everest, and the subsequent avalanche that places them in peril. The cinematography in the Everest trailer looks breathtaking, making it one that begs to be seen in IMAX.
That same weekend brings us The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (Sep. 18), but I’m not sure anyone cares about those Y.A. adaptations anymore.
Rounding out September is Hotel Transylvania 2 (Sep. 25) which, judging by its non kid-friendly opening date and distance from Halloween, indicates there is little faith behind an animated sequel to a poorly received original movie. There is also Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno (Sep. 25), a cannibal horror movie Roth has been shopping around for a couple of years.
The best month of the entire year for a myriad of reasons kicks off with a bang at multiplexes. Up first is Ridley Scott’s The Martian (Oct. 2), starring Matt Damon as an astronaut stranded on Mars after an accident forces his crew to leave him behind:
The source material, Andy Weir’s electric novel, is brilliant in its mix of humor, tension, and hard science. Hopefully this will be Scott’s rebound picture, after both Prometheus, The Counselor and Exodus: Gods and Kings, missed their respective marks.
Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk (Oct. 9) tells the dramatized story of Philippe Petit, and his high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of The World Trade Center in the late 70s. The story was told in the 2008 Oscar-Winning documentary Man on Wire, but Zemeckis is aiming to bring some dramatic flair to the incredible story, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the role of Petit. Zemeckis is one of the more underrated visual storytellers of his generation, and the trailer for The Walk showcases his ability to create a sense of awe in his camera:
That same week, audiences can check out yet another version of Peter Pan in this new origin story, Pan (Oc. 9), which looks at this distance to be a bit of a mixed bag. And then there is Masterminds (Oct. 9), the new comedy starring Zach Galifianakis and Kristin Wiig as incompetent armored-car thieves. The film is directed by Napoleon Dynamite‘s Jared Hess, and it does look funny. That doesn’t always mean it will be funny.
Mid October always brings with it a few scary flicks, and this year we get one for the kids and one for the adults. First up is the meta kids horror Goosebumps (Oct. 16), based on the popular kid’s novels from R.L. Stine. The rub here is that Jack Black plays Stine in the film, and his creations come to life in the “real world.” Goosebumps looks like some solid fun for pre-teens who are fans of the books… if, do kids still read those books? For adults wanting scares, there will be Guillermo del Toro’s much-anticipated haunted house sendup, Crimson Peak, which looks to be a lavish and hyper-stylized gothic stunner:
In the midst of scary cinema is Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, taking on the Cold War in Bridge of Spies (Oct. 16). The film tells the story of an Insurance lawyer (Hanks), who is pulled into the Cold War to try and bring back a pilot being held prisoner in the Soviet Union. The trailer does little for me, to be honest, as it looks like stuffy Oscar bait. But who can really deny Spielberg and Hanks the chance to impress?
Vin Diesel looks to branch out from his Fast and Furious cash cow to try and kickstart another franchise with The Last Witch Hunter (Oct. 25). That same weekend, Bill Murray and Bruce Willis lead a USO-themed comedy, Rock the Kasbah (Oct. 25). The film, directed by Barry Levinson, looks to be a little mix of The Men Who Stare at Goats and Levinson’s less successful, whimsical ensemble comedies like What Just Happened. I’ll hold out hope because of Murray’s involvement.
November kicks off with a bit of counter-programming, as Spectre (Nov. 6) and The Peanuts Movie (Nov. 6) share cinemas. Spectre brings back Daniel Craig and Sam Mendes to the Bond franchise, and the additions of Dave Bautista and Christoph Waltz on the villainous side add some incredible intrigue. The trailer looks appropriately amazing, especially the glimpses of the opening action sequence, set in Mexico City:
Early November also brings us Spotlight (Nov. 6), a true story involving corruption and sexual abuse in the New England Catholic church system. The cast is spectacular, with Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, and Stanley Tucci taking on the heavy subject matter. Surely this cast will produce an Oscar nominee or two.
The rest of November is lackluster, outside of the final entry into the Hunger Games franchise with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 (Nov. 20). Other studios appear to be steering away from the mid-November release date, fearing that Mockingjay’s clout will overshadow their films. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, however, audiences will get a fall Pixar treat with The Good Dinosaur (Nov. 25) and another entry into Universal’s attempt at a monster-movie universe with Victor Frankenstein (Nov. 25). The first “MMU” entrant was last-year’s flaccid Dracula Untold, but Victor Frankenstein has the strength of James MacAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe in its corner.
Did we miss anything big in our Fall Movie Preview? What are you looking forward to the most?