This article was first published in the Den of Geek NYCC Special Edition Magazine. You can find out about that issue and everything else in it by clicking here.
Autumn is officially here. While the summer movie season is over, cinema’s most rewarding period of the year is literally just beginning as we enter the Fall Movie season. So if you’re curious about what to watch or skip: sit back, pick out a nice October-themed beverage, and get ready to browse the below preview of 44 fall movies about to drop into theaters like so many leaves.
Black Mass – September 18
Whitey Bulger is one of the most famous gangsters in American history—as well as one of its most infamous snitches. That’s right: despite running his own crew (the Winter Hill Gang) and being part of the Boston Irish mob for over 20 years, or perhaps because of it, Bulger was an FBI informant for about just as long. While Bulger, who subsequently went on the lam for another couple of decades before arrest, has since claimed he was playing the feds to dispose of his enemies, this sense of neighborhood betrayal on the streets of Southie has made waves so strong they can be felt in Hollywood with films like The Departed and The Town.
Now the Bulger life story is finally getting the official big screen treatment with Johnny Depp at his most menacing (and awake) in years, as well as a star-studded supporting cast that includes Kevin Bacon, Benedict Cumberbatch, Adam Scott, Dakota Johnson, Corey Stoll, and Joel Edgerton as John Connolly, the FBI handler that tipped off childhood friend Bulger that the feds were finally tightening the noose. Whether director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace) can pull that rope remains to be seen, but it definitely will be seen.
Pawn Sacrifice – September 18
Finally, a sports biopic about chess! Bobby Fischer probably suffered from Bipolar Disorder, schizophrenia, or some combination therein. However, he was also a child prodigy and a genius chess player. With a mind perfect for the most celebrated table game, Fischer became the unlikely poster boy of Richard Nixon when our best and brightest chess player went head-to-head with the Soviet golden boy Boris Spassky.
It is a wild story that star Tobey Maguire has been trying to get made for 10 years, mostly with a script by Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Locke) to boot. While the end results have left critics in a state of check with director Edward Zwick out of Toronto, Maguire is getting the best notices of his career for playing the manic and tortured Fischer while battling the nonverbal Liev Schreiber as Spassky. With Maguire always a restlessly absorbing presence to watch, Bleecker Street’s recent seven-figure acquisition of the film seems like a real edge.
Sicario – September 18
Almost inadvertently touching upon the most heated subjects of the day (besides the eternal debate about what exactly is hibernating on Donald Trump’s head), Sicario combines the subjects of the unending drug war with the debate about what is happening along the U.S. and Mexican border. In this film, Emily Blunt plays a young and idealistic FBI agent who is enlisted by Josh Brolin to aide in clandestine, surgical strikes against the Mexican drug cartels and their inroads to American buyers. Benicio Del Toro also stars as a consultant of a dubious past, but he is just as much embroiled in a fight for survival when the best intentions end where they always seem to in these kind of films…
Everest – September 18
Mount Everest is often used as a metaphor for the pinnacle of man’s ambitions. However on a cold and tragic day in May of 1996, climbers on the real Everest found their ambition simply to survive the worst unexpected blizzard on record in the area. Eight people died and for those who survived, it is a story that still haunts. Whether the actual film does is another matter, which you can read about in our review.
The Intern – September 25
People often wish why their lives could not be more like “the movies.” This is a simple daydream, but it is one that is especially potent when in the hands of filmmakers like Nancy Meyers. The writer and director has helmed projects notorious for their enviously benign conflicts; The Intern is no less perfect in its adorably affable struggles.
When Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) cannot find fulfillment in retirement, he reenters the work force by becoming Jules Ostin’s intern. Jules (Anne Hathaway) is a rich, successful, and compassionate employer and single mom, but she could still use a lesson or two in Baby Boomer know-how if her Millennial startup can survive its transition into the corporate world. Boomers will love it, and the rest of us just might secretly do so too through gritted teeth.
The Green Inferno – September 25
Reliably satisfied with scaring American tourists off of eastern Europe, Eli Roth returns to the big screen with the much delayed The Green Inferno, a movie that aims to take a dent out of South American rain forests’ visitor rolls. In the film, a group of student activists travel to the Amazon in hopes of public service, but they end up just serving as the entrees for a tribe of local cannibals. For gore and torture porn hounds, it will assuredly be a buffet of pleasures.
99 Homes – September 25
There are films that reflect the sad truths of our times, and then there are films that use a twisted, distorted mirror to unmask the surreptitious horrors we pretend do not exist. 99 Homes, which stunned Venice in 2014, could be the latter. Taking on the scale of fable, director Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes imagines a Faustian pact between an evil-incarnate realtor (Michael Shannon) and the desperate single father he once evicted (Andrew Garfield). Determined to support his young son and aging mother (Laura Dern), Garfield’s unemployed construction worker agrees to go to work as the muscle for Shannon’s Rick Carver—the bank’s favorite real estate man used to evict people from their homes. It is an uncomfortably nauseating premise that demands viewing, through squinted outrage or not.
Stonewall – September 25
Some credit the gay rights movement as beginning with the flinging of a single brick. Whether an entire struggle for equality can truly be traced to a solitary day and night in Greenwich Village circa 1969 remains open to debate, but it certainly is a compelling conceit for a movie. And that appears to be just so in Stonewall, the unlikely follow-up of White House Down from usual blockbuster auteur Roland Emmerich. However for this very personal passion project, the camera now turns to the fictional character of Danny Winters (Jeremy Irvine) and his trip to the Manhattan wonderland after he is thrown out of the house for being gay by his parents.
Alone and destitute when he arrives in New York, Danny soon finds community at the Stonewall Inn, a local nightclub and bar run by the mafia. But it is hardly idyllic as discrimination, police harassment, and worse lies in store for the young gays, lesbians and drag queens that frequented the establishment. But then a stone itself came in through a window. The film also stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Ron Perlman, Caleb Landry Jones, and Joey King.
The Walk – September 30
Once upon a time, the Twin Towers of Lower Manhattan inspired sensations of warmth and the capability of man’s ambition. Director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Back to the Future) seeks to remind us of that once shining beacon with The Walk.
Based on the same harrowing story that served as the subject of the stunning documentary Man on Wire, The Walk follows Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a French acrobat, and his passion for traversing the distance of the World Trade Center on a tight rope. Not exactly legal, these men’s crime around the Twin Towers inspired the world and christened the newly completed buildings as an emotional landmark. Hopefully, Zemeckis can do so again as he shoots this film in IMAX 3D, obviously intending to turn a character drama into a blockbuster spectacular.
Find out about October’s upcoming movies on the next page!
The Martian – October 2
Yes, The Martian is a science fiction film about Matt Damon being stranded on an alien world while Jessica Chastain tries to figure out how to save him. Now, put away those remaining Interstellar prequel jokes for a second and focus on the fact that this is a new sci-fi picture from Ridley Scott, one of the genre’s masters. Aye, this is the filmmaker who gave us Alien and Blade Runner (he also directed Prometheus, but let’s try not to hold that too much against him) and he is working from the best-selling book by Andy Weir. There is plenty of reason to not only be optimistic, and maybe even excited.
When astronaut Mark Watney (Damon) is mistakenly left for dead by his crew on Mars, he has only a month’s worth of food and oxygen to sustain him for four years. Well that plus a can-do sense of plucky optimism that makes the necessity for NASA and Earth to rescue him all the more urgent. In a star-studded picture that also stars Chastain, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Michael Pena, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Sebastian Stan, and Donald Glover, this movie might actually be out of this world.
Legend – October 2
Continuing to prove that he is one of his generation’s most interesting (and most mumbling) actors working today, Tom Hardy is attempting something of a hat trick with Legend: he is playing identical twin gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, two of the most notorious figures in British crime lore. These two trigger men of surprisingly different temperaments (and sexual appetites) cut a bloody path across East London during the 1960s, and they’re the perfect kind of subject matter for writer-director Brian Helgeland (42, A Knight’s Tale, screenwriter of L.A. Confidential and Mystic River).
The film also stars Emily Browning, Taron Egerton, Paul Bettany, and David Thewlis. But let’s be honest: you just want to see how Hardy plays off of, well, Hardy.
Steve Jobs – October 9
The movie that has had a backstory as complicated and frayed with egos as any subject matter found in an Aaron Sorkin screenplay is finally here. Steve Jobs is climbing to the stage.
This film was at the center of a monumental struggle at Sony before moving to Universal. Along with its rotating cast of directors and stars, the picture has finally settled on being a Danny Boyle production with Michael Fassbender in the famed turtleneck. And it stands poised to appeal to all the Apple fanatics who were left dismayed by the Ashton Kutcher off-brand model.
Steve Jobs also has the interesting Sorkin conceit of primarily focusing on three days in Jobs’ life: the product launches of the Macintosh in 1984, NeXT in 1988, and the iMac in 1988. It’s all fairly acute for the life of a man who also mainstreamed technological concepts like mp3 players, smartphones, and tablets in the mainstream while also revolutionizing the animation and music industries with Pixar and iTunes, respectively. But there is plenty to also dig into with Jobs, including his first defeat at Apple, his cruelty to employees and friends, and his apathy and exclusion of his oldest daughter. The film should be rife for drama for the Oscar winning screenwriter of The Social Network and Moneyball, and has indeed already won a top-notch cast that includes Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, Seth Rogen, Katherine Waterston, and Michael Stuhlberg.
Pan – October 9
Pan is the latest live-action fairy tale movie that reimagines a beloved children’s classic into a would-be blockbuster epic. This formula has been decidedly mixed to negative in the past with disappointments like Snow White and the Huntsman and Maleficent muddling through 90-minute running times to box office glory. However, Warner Brothers’ Pan seems like one that could break the mold since it’s the first in a long-while that is helmed by a genuine talent instead of a first-time director.
Joe Wright has made a series of diverse, superb dramas in the past whether they be highly red-rose romantics like Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, or red blooded in their violence, such as Hanna. In fact, the latter actioner about a child assassin had a certain fairy tale quality all its own about a girl who never had to grow up, because she was raised to be a tragic adult since birth. Approaching the same concept from reverse in a more traditionally dreamlike take has an appeal for Pan, as does the idea of Hugh Jackman playing a villainous Blackbeard. It certainly can only improve on the last Pirates of the Caribbean film and Ian McShane’s efforts.
The Final Girls – October 9
Horror and comedy go together like Oct. 31 and candy, and trust us when we say The Final Girls promises to be a deliciously sweet treat. Essentially The Purple Rose of Cairo for the slasher movie set, The Final Girls takes Woody Allen’s sense of magical realism nostalgia to the proverbial Camp Crystal Lake of 1980s splatterfest classics. Only this time, it is a group of teen protagonists at the 30th anniversary for a fictional horror movie that find themselves transported through the silver screen to the actual horror movie clichés of yesteryear. And it looks so good.
Crimson Peak – October 16
When you talk to Guillermo del Toro about gothic horror, there’s always a glint of joy in his eye. For the auteur of all things macabre, this isn’t another stuffy genre or period piece; it’s an art form for the passionate and lurid, the whispered and supernatural. There’s something beautifully grotesque about the style, and it’s rotting away from the inside of that evil house on a hill in Crimson Peak.
When a beautiful young author (Mia Wasikowska) is swept up in a whirlwind romance with the dashing Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), she can scarcely fathom what secret hells await her at his country estate of Crimson Peak. There she’ll find a new sister-in-law, played with cryptic venom by Jessica Chastain, and a household haunted by centuries of nightmares… or worse.
Tired of found footage horror with “B-value budgets,” del Toro seeks to exorcise demons from past cinematic triumphs like The Innocents or Rebecca. Indeed, Crimson Peak even opens on the anniversary of Jane Eyre’s 1847 publication. But between del Toro’s legacy and the R-rating, you can expect something much more bloody.
Bridge of Spies – October 16
If ever there was a collaboration that could hype a movie alone, the combined talents of Steven Spielberg, the Coen Brothers, and Tom Hanks on Bridge of Spies should be it. Add in the backdrop of the Cold War, and it just might be the definition of a must-see film.
For Bridge of Spies, Hanks plays James B. Donovan, a Brooklyn born attorney who was recruited by the CIA in 1962 to journey to Berlin and negotiate the release of Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell), a downed U-2 spy plane pilot who was flying for Langley. Unfortunately for Donovan, this can only be accomplished by swapping Powers for Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), a KGB agent who was famously captured years earlier by the FBI in New York City.
Set during the heart of distrust between two world powers, Bridge of Spies emerges at a not-so-surprisingly fortuitous moment from Spielberg, whose last film Lincoln just happened to coincide with a presidential election year. Also marking Spielberg and Hanks’ fourth pairing as director-and-star, Bridge of Spies appears to be a path well worth traveling.
Goosebumps – October 16
Whether you’re ready for it or not, Jack Black and Sony Pictures have turned the Millennial touchstone of the Goosebumps book series into a film—a comedic one where all the monsters from R.L. Stine’s novels come to life like Jumangi. In fact, it is exactly like Jumangi, right down to looking totally avoidable. But the choice is of course yours, dear reader.
Beasts of No Nation – October 16
The same day that it hits Netflix, Beasts of No Nation will be playing in select theaters. And however you end up seeing this movie, Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi, our correspondent at the Venice International Film Festival, insists you need to see it in her review.
In the new film from director Cary Joji Fukunaga (the first season of True Detective), Idris Elba plays Commandant, the figure who forces young boys into the short and awful lives of being child soldiers. One such boy is Agu (Abraham Attah), who journeys through a personal and physical hell as his Commandant becomes his father, his abuser, and worse in a coming of age story similar to The 400 Blows but with a whole lot more killing.
The Last Witch Hunter – October 23
Following up on the $1.5 billion grossing Furious 7, Vin Diesel discovers a new enemy to confront on the movie screen, and she’s now quite bewitching.
As The Last Witch Hunter, Diesel plays Kaulder, a valiant warrior who once vanquished a nigh unbeatable Queen Witch. But that was many centuries ago. In her dying breath, she damned Kaulder to live for eternity, forced to walk the ages alone after his wife and child have shuffled off this mortal coil.
Now in the present day, Vin Diesel’s medieval hero will find help from a modern priest (Elijah Wood), a comely good witch (Rose Leslie), and the impeccable Michael Caine as… Michael Caine! With their assistance, he might just be able to stop a coven of ancient witches that still walk this Earth as they plan to unleash the Black Death upon us all.
Rock the Kasbah – October 23
As the movie that allowed me to see Bill Murray lounge sing in person at San Diego Comic-Con, I already have plenty of affinity for Rock the Kasbah. But the actual movie looks pretty damn good too as it stars Bill Murray as a washed up rock and roll manager who finds a second wind after being ditched by his last client (Zooey Deschanel) in the wilds of Afghanistan during a poorly planned USO tour. Left to his own devices, Murray might find a new local talent, if he can survive long enough to get out of the Middle East. The film also stars Bruce Willis, Danny McBride, and Kate Hudson, and Scott Caan.
Burnt – October 23
In Burnt, Chef Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) had it all – and lost it. A rock star for the gourmet set, this former enfant terrible of the Paris restaurant scene did everything different every time out, and only ever cared about the thrill of creating explosions of taste. To land his own kitchen and that third elusive Michelin star though, he’ll need the best of the best on his side, including the beautiful Helene (Sienna Miller). But is he cooking with matches or gasoline?
Burnt is written by Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Locke) and is directed by John Wells (ER, Shameless). It also stars Omar Sy, Daniel Bruhl, Uma Thurman, and Emma Thompson.
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension – October 23
After skipping a few Halloweens, it appears that Paranormal Activity is back for at least one more go of it. Marketed ostensibly as the final film in the found footage saga that began so promisingly in 2007, this is the film that intends to take us to the “Ghost Dimension” and allow us to finally see what exactly is going bump in the night. For better or worse, the answers will be revealed. More importantly though is whether audiences will still care? At least before the last bowl of candy is emptied this month, we imagine that a few will.
Jem and the Holograms – October 23
So, they turned a beloved Generation X cartoon series into a movie clone of every other “coming of age in the music industry” fantasy, including such fellow gems as Josie and the Pussycats and Hannah Montana: The Movie. Moving on…
Find out what’s coming out in November on the page right below!
Spectre – November 6
A funny thing happened on the way to making the Daniel Craig James Bond movies: they developed a sense of continuity and emotion! From the bitter defeat of 007’s first adventure—and the last Ian Fleming novel to properly make it to the big screen—in Casino Royale to his fiery homecoming on the grounds of Skyfall, this Bond has gone on a journey, and it’s been a painful one.
It’s perhaps most intriguing of all then that he will finally greet the man responsible for it in Spectre. It’s the 24th James Bond film and the one that brings him face-to-face with Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), “the author of all your pain.”
Spectre marks the second consecutive 007 feature from director Sam Mendes and screenwriters John Logan, and Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. After Skyfall, they’ve earned the chance to pen this seeming denouement, which has attracted the impressive talent of Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydoux as the new Bond girls—the latter of whom is introduced in the Spectre trailer with John Barry’s iconic “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” theme. Ominous things indeed for the most discerning of Bond aficionados.
The Peanuts Movie – November 6
Good grief, has it already been 65 years? Why yes it has been, Charlie Brown! Just in time for the anniversary of Charles M. Schulz’s timeless comic strip comes The Peanuts Movie, the first full-length theatrical adaptation of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, and the rest of the Peanuts gang.
As the latest effort from Steve Martino and his team at Blue Sky Studios, The Peanuts Movie arrives with mighty expectations, as well as a screenplay co-written by Craig Schulz and Bryan Schultz (and Cornelius Uliano). Unlike previous screen adaptations of the beloved strip, Blue Sky is ambitiously attempting to recreate Schulz’s iconic art via 3D animation.
While perpetual underdog Charlie Brown embarks on the greatest quest yet in his young life—to woo the new redhead girl in his school—his best pal Snoopy will take to the skies in pursuit of his arch-nemesis, the Red Baron. The only question is will there be a football?
Spotlight – November 6
In 2001, The Boston Globe shook the world to its core when it began running a series of articles about the Catholic Church covering up a multitude of child abuse cases at the hands of priests. Triggering a global investigation into similar cases and revelations, it is a nightmarish exposé that still rocks religious institutions to this day, not to mention the many children and grown adults whose faith was betrayed and heinously violated.
For this investigation, The Boston Globe picked up a Pulitzer Prize for public service in 2004. And now it is also the subject of Thomas McCarthy’s new film with a star-studded cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Brian D’Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, and Billy Crudup.
The film from McCarthy (The Station Agent, Win Win) follows the Globe’s investigation and the “Spotlight” team of reporters who took a year-long dive into a cover-up that went to the highest levels of Boston’s religious, legal, and government establishment. And having already seen it in Venice, we can promise you that it is indeed a winner.
Trumbo – November 6
Dalton Trumbo is considered by many to be one of the last great screenwriters from Hollywood’s Golden Age. This is in no small part due to his ability to craft beautifully rendered characters and storylines that both paid homage to the classic studio star system while injecting it with the first doses of naturalism and reality during a time of painful growth in the industry—but it’s also largely due to the fact that he was a great screenwriter that got blacklisted by anti-Communist witch hunts and the stupidity of others.
So, it only seems fitting today that the screenwriter of Spartacus and Roman Holiday (both technically biographical in their largely imaginative ways) gets his own biopic. Enter Trumbo, the new film starring Bryan Cranston as the famed scribe.
Directed by Jay Roach (most recently of political fare like HBO’s Recount and Game Change), Trumbo follows the successful career of James Dalton Trumbo and how it was completely devastated by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Famously blacklisted as one of the “Hollywood Ten,” Trumbo could not put his name on almost any of his filmed scripts, including Irving Rapper’s The Brave One and William Wyler’s Roman Holiday. In fact, when star Kirk Douglas came out to personally reveal that Trumbo penned his Stanley Kubrick gladiator epic, Spartacus, it brought Trumbo right in the fire—and got President John F. Kennedy to cross the American Legion picket line to see the film.
Trumbo also stars Helen Mirren, Diane Lane, John Goodman, Louis C.K., Elle Fanning, Alan Tudyk, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Michael Stuhlberg.
The 33 – November 13
Most stories about cave collapses and other extreme workplace disasters ends in tragedy. Perhaps that’s why the story of 33 Chilean miners surviving for 69 days underground only to be rescued was such a godsend of a news story in 2010. And it looks to be gripping cinema too in The 33, a new film from Patricia Riggen and starring Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, James Brolin, Lou Diamond Phillips, and many more. It also contains the last fully completed score by James Horner.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 – November 20
As the film to conclude the most successful Young Adult franchise in movie history, expectations are running high for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2. But that has been par for the course with Miss Katniss Everdeen for her entire life, and it might even be the edge this film needs to surpass the more deliberate first half of Mockingjay.
All the stars, including an impressively large cast, appear to be in alignment for the final Hunger Games drama that brings the revolution to the very door of the Capitol—and to the throne room of the wonderfully repellent President Snow. Framed just as much as Jennifer Lawrence versus Donald Sutherland as the Peeta/Gale love triangle’s finale, Mockingjay – Part 2 seeks to end this war with more than a girl being on fire. An entire country will burn too.
Viva la révolution.
Carol – November 20
What is it about the 1950s that makes it such a bleak dystopia when revisited in modern movies? Well, it’s probably because if you weren’t a white Anglo-Saxon male, it was a dystopia. That certainly seems to be one of the many ideas Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven) is exploring in his latest film about repression and department store stolen glances.
Adapted from the 1952 novella “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith (then under the pseudonym Claire Morgan), the story in its original context of release painted a rather shocking portrait of a lesbian love story in New York high society during the decade that gave us McCarthyism and frosty Cold War escalation.
In Carol, Cate Blanchett plays the titular rich housewife trapped in a bad marriage to a husband (Kyle Chandler) who doesn’t know her true heart. But Carol might find someone who does when she meets a 20-year-old department store clerk named Therese (Mara), setting off a taboo affair and even more sweeping romance.
Carol was already nominated for the Palme d’or at Cannes and also won Mara a prize while there in May. We imagine it’s the first of many as the Weinstein Company pulls out the red carpet for this awards contender.
Victor Frankenstein – November 25
Mary Shelley’s Frankensteinis the genesis of all science fiction, and it’s as much about post-romanticism philosophy as it is a horror tale. Shelley was only 18 when she gave the world a secular creation myth and created a genre unto itself. And her story also eventually birthed the most iconic of movie monsters.
Victor Frankenstein puts the focus back on the original protagonist of Shelley’s novel with a new take from director Paul McGuigan (Lucky Number Slevin) and screenwriter Max Landis (Chronicle).
Foregoing the hunchback of Bela Lugosi’s paterfamilias “Ygor,” Daniel Radcliffe embodies the most dashing Igor ever seen, playing assistant to a gifted but enigmatic medical student named Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy). Together, they will play God and raise the dead. But their friendship will need to endure these resurrected monstrosities, lest they soon go on to meet their own maker too.
Creed – November 25
After Rocky Balboa, it seemed that the Italian Stallion franchise had gone the distance for the last time. But despite the return of Sylvester Stallone to his signature role, we are actually most curious about Michael B. Jordan and his portrayal of the son of Apollo Creed.
As Adonis Johnson, Jordan reteams with his Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler for what looks like the most authentic Philadelphia-set boxing movie since the original Rocky. Adonis might lack Apollo’s actual surname, but Creed seems permeated with the legacy of what came before. Rising up from streets just as mean as those stomped by Balboa, it is Stallone’s Old Man Rock that will get Adonis into fighting shape, ready for professional boxing.
Creed has a lot of history on its shoulders, which should be all the better for delivering a Thanksgiving Day haymaker.
The Good Dinosaur – November 25
The reception among families and animation enthusiasts has been so jubilant this year for Pixar’s Inside Out that they often need to be reminded about how Pixar has another picture coming out this year, and it looks to be (pre)historic.
The Good Dinosaur seeks to answer an amusing bit of Mesozoic speculation about what could have happened if an asteroid didn’t kill the dinosaurs. Apparently, they would not only remain the dominant life form on an agrarian Earth, but they’d also be having adventures with those furry things called humans after a few more eons. In that vein, Pixar turns its gaze to Arlo, a young Apatosaurus who befriends a human boy named Spot. Together, they are homeward bound on a journey to return Arlo to his family, but not before meeting a variety of scaly critters, including a clan of backcountry Tyrannosaurus Rex and even a beatnik Velociraptor other two.
The Good Dinosaur was delayed from its original 2014 release date, but the film’s new vision by director Peter Sohn, which meshes photorealistic American landscapes and animated talking dinosaurs, should offer some genuinely new ground for Pixar fans to traverse.
The Danish Girl – November 27
There are few cultural topics more potent in the zeitgeist right now than a growing education on the transgender community. However, their struggles for acceptance are nothing new, and indeed, that challenge will serve as the basis in a new biopic from Tom Hooper of The King’s Speech and Les Misérables. And with his Les Mis star Eddie Redmayne fresh off winning an Oscar for last year’s biopic dujour, The Theory of Everything, Hooper has a lot of instant interest growing for this fall’s The Danish Girl.
In the new film, Eddie Redmayne plays Lili Elbe, the real-life historical figure who was born male in 1882 but who transitioned to her true feminine self in the early 20thcentury with the support of her wife. Elbe was one of the first people to undergo sex reassignment surgery, and she is indeed the titular Danish Girl in a film that also stars Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) in the role of his understanding wife, Gerda.
Certainly looking prepared to win all the awards that it can, The Danish Girl makes her big screen debut on Nov. 27 in New York and Los Angeles. Our review.
I Saw the Light – November 27
Tom Hiddleston is Hank Williams and Elizabeth Olsen is Audrey Mae Williams. It’s hard to imagine much else needs to be explained about this movie, but suffice it to say that this musical biopic seeks to track the all-too-short life of country music legend Hank Williams, who would record 35 singles that placed in the Top 10 on Billboard’s Country & Western before he died at only the age of 29.
Country music, 20th century Americana, and far too much alcoholism and pills, Williams shined bright and fast, and makes for perfect biopic storytelling.
And finish off the preview by checking out the next page of December releases for this year, and also for a long, long time ago…
Krampus – December 4
There’s a good chance that unless you’re of German descent that you don’t know about the Krampus monster—a demon that punishes naughty children on Christmas Eve not with coal, but by gobbling them up whole. But you’re about to find out all the juicy details, because this wickedly entertaining looking lump of coal from director Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat) is forcing its ways down your chimney!
Looking poised to be the ultimate Yuletide horror movie, which is actually a more saturated (though hardly quality) subgenre than you might realize, Krampus could be a delightful bit of humbug. When a family led by Adam Scott, Toni Colette, Allison Tolman, and David Koechner gather for another hollow, commercial bit of passive aggression during the holidays, St. Nicholas decides to sit this one out. Instead, he leaves the family for his “shadow” to visit. And he doesn’t come bearing gifts. Looks like the roast won’t be the only thing carved up this year…
Macbeth – December 4
As that classic Scottish play that causes theatre kids everywhere to cross themselves, Macbeth is one of the Bard’s most iconic and hard to adapt tragedies about a an ambitious would-be king (Michael Fassbender) and his wife—a cleanliness enthusiast played by Marion Cotillard here.
An ambitious effort, director Justin Kurzel is attempting to film the Scottish play that has bedeviled filmmakers from Orson Welles to Roman Polanski, who in this writer’s estimation have yet to make a good filmic version of the Scottish play. Whereas tragedies like Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet have transferred to the screen well in a number of interpretations, this classic of ambition, hubris, and guilt remains damnably unmovable from the stage.
At least until now, perhaps. Because the word out of the Cannes Film Festival is that this one does deliver, not least of all because it stars Fassbender as a Scottish general who dreams of being a king, and Marion Cotillard as the Lady Macbeth, who urges his him to take what is his while over the brow of a sleeping king.
Macbeth also stars David Thewlis as Duncan, Sean Harris as Macduff, Elizabeth Debicki as Lady Macduff, Jack Reynor as Malcolm, and Paddy Considine as Banquo.
Like the woods of Birnam, Macbeth is coming.
In the Heart of the Sea – December 11
Everyone was forced to read Moby Dick in school (as you should be!), but too few have read In the Heart of the Sea, Nathaniel Philbrick’s gripping non-fiction account about the tragedy of the whaleship Essex. Aye, in 1819 the vessel set sail from Nantucket and in November of 1820, it was sunk by a sperm whale. The crew attempted to reach South America, but most died of starvation or worse on the Pacific (where cannibalism was partaken) before the few remaining survivors were rescued in February of 1821.
It’s the stuff of nightmares and eventually great literature as when Herman Melville got a hold of it. But will it make for as gripping a film as it does a story of survival? Hopefully it will when Ron Howard and Chris Hemsworth’s CGI-laden adaptation makes port in time for Christmas.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – December 18
I don’t think I really need to explain this one much to you, but here it goes: there is another Star Wars movie coming out. It finally continues the story of Luke, Han, and Leia 30 years after Return of the Jedi, and it features a whole slew of new characters, heroes and villains, played by John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, and Gwendoline Christie. Oh yeah, and Chewie is in it too.
This is the movie the world is waiting for this fall (and last fall for that matter), and it will hopefully live up to those lofty expectations better than the prequel trilogy did. At the very least, there is finally a new threat as the New Republic, the government set up after the fall of the Empire, has finally collapsed after decades of acrimony. In its place a second civil war has broken out between the Resistance (the good guys) and the First Order (the bad guys).
While the Jedi order is still mostly extinct with Jedi Master Luke Skywalker unaccounted for, a new faction of Force wielding antagonists called the Knights of Ren have emerged, led by Driver’s evil Kylo Ren. To defeat him, three young people named Rey (Ridley), former Stormtrooper Finn (Boyega), and hotshot pilot Poe Dameron (Isaac) will have to join forces with a past generation of heroes. Presumably, there will be much rejoicing and a billion dollars or more in the bank for Disney.
Sisters – December 18
How do you like that as a fine piece of counterprogramming? The same day that Star Wars returns, so does the collaboration of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, though with some role reversal. Still playing an odd couple, it is now Poehler who is the responsible one, and Fey who is the “free spirit.”
A movie that promises to not appeal to the vast majority of Star Wars’ audience, it will still find its own sizeable pocket universe of fans, methinks.
Joy – December 25
With all the biopics released in any given year, the subject of Joy Mangano never seemed like an obvious candidate for the big screen treatment. Nonetheless, this New York businesswoman who invented the “Miracle Mop” is the titular character in one of Christmas Day’s most anticipated movie house gifts. That’s what happens when director David O. Russell and star Jennifer Lawrence team up.
Joyis the third collaboration between director Russell and Lawrence that seeks to maintain the filmmaker’s interest in grandiose drama and slice of life human comedy, not to mention the frantic energy of familial dysfunction that’s a Russell hallmark, be it Flirting with Disaster or Silver Linings Playbook.
For Joy, this means tracking four generations of a family that informed how inventor Mangano became a matriarch in her own right while facing treachery, back-stabbing, and all the other hidden betrayals locked into the glistening world of commerce. The movie also returns Russell stalwarts Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper to his troupe of players, as well as newcomers Édgar Ramírez, Isabella Rossellini, and Virginia Madsen.
The Revenant – December 25
Fresh off his Oscar win for Birdman, Alejandro G. Iñárritu has his next project ready to make a wintry bow, and it appears to be an even more extreme experience. Describing The Revenant as the harder film to shoot, everything Iñárritu has so far revealed about the frigid Western confirms that it’s a uniquely grisly cinematic vision.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, the early 19th century fur trapper who was famously abandoned to die following a grizzly bear mauling. While on an expedition in the Northwestern corridor during a period when the United States was still in its infancy, Glass was left bleeding 200 miles from the nearest American settlement to see to his injuries… yet he still somehow survived, if only to deliver a furious vengeance upon those that left him out there.
The Revenant squares DiCaprio off against Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, and Domhnall Gleeson as Glass’ treacherous companions, and it promises to be another curious experiment since it was shot exclusively on location (first in Canada and then Argentina) with only natural light and not a frame of CGI. Since the shoot sounds almost as hellacious as Glass’ survival, The Revenant appears to really have bled for its art.
Point Break – December 25
Um, they remade the ‘90s cult action classic Point Break? Judge for yourself if it’s worth going further than that…
The Hateful Eight – December 25
There is nothing like a roadshow theatrical release. That’s probably because there hasn’t been a serious or grandiose roadshow film in about 35 years. Until now. For Christmas, Quentin Tarantino fans and cinephiles everywhere will be able to see in limited engagement, and with reserved seating and film programs, The Hateful Eight in glorious 70mm. Composer Ennio Morricone will even provide a classical overture for his first Western in 40 years.
In a little bit of monkey’s paw amusement, Tarantino has finally made his first full fledged “Spaghetti” Western—set in Wyoming during the dead of winter. It’s six, or eight, or perhaps 12 years after the Civil War when a stagecoach with John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his soon-to-die prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) arrives at a stopover mountain pass during a blizzard. There, eight personalities will lie, spy, and die as Tarantino builds from his trusted repertory of actors old and new.
Since The Hateful Eight almost didn’t happen thanks to an Internet leak, the fact that it still came to fruition, and was shot with the same 70mm lenses used on Ben-Hur no less, raises this Stagecoach-meets-Ten Little Indians’ profile immensely. Happy holidays.