Like a plane crash survivor crawling through a barren desert towards a delicious lake of refreshing water, we dragged ourselves through the summer movie season with our eyes on a single prize: fall (and a hope that such a destination wasn’t a mere mirage). Yes, fall, when the instant credibility of year-end lists and the looming awards season prompts Hollywood to lock up the Transformers, Smurfs, and Sandlers and pretend like they’ve been making prestige pictures all year long. There’s a particularly juicy crop of Movies for Grown-Ups™ to look forward to this season — daunting, even. But have no fear; Flavorwire has sifted through the next four months of releases and plucked out the best of the bunch, as well as throwing in a word or two on the also-rans. It’s all exhaustive and a little overwhelming, but hey, that’s what fall moviegoing is all about.
Salinger (September 6)
One of (if not the single) major bombshells of Shane Salerno’s comprehensive documentary portrait of the elusive writer has already dropped — that at least five more volumes of J.D. Salinger’s work are on the way. But the intriguing trailer indicates that’s not all that Salerno’s dug up, and the idea of finally getting a grasp on what made this legendary recluse tick is too good to pass up.
The Family (September 13)
Sure, a Robert De Niro movie could be good, ha ha. But this action/comedy from Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita) looks surprisingly entertaining, especially with Tommy Lee Jones along for the ride and Michelle Pfeiffer making a welcome return to Married to the Mob territory.
Also in September:
- Vin Diesel returns to his other inexplicably fertile action franchise in Riddick. Ten bucks says he growls a lot. (September 6)
- Mere months — weeks, really — after the unexpected success of The Conjuring, director James Wan returns to his previous scary-house-where-things-go-boo tale for Insidious: Chapter 2. (September 13)
- Prisoners boasts a stellar cast — Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman, Melissa Leo, Viola Davis, etc. — a strong premise, and a promising new director (Denis Villeneuve). In fact, it’s only in the also-rans to keep you from seeing the trailer, which appears to show pretty much the entire movie. (September 20)
- If you weren’t worried before about Josh Holloway’s post-Lost career, you can start here: Battle of the Year finds him co-starring with Chris Brown. (September 20)
- Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs was charming enough, but was anybody really clamoring for Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2? Oh, right, Columbia was, because Cloudy 1 made a boatload of money. (September 27)
- Say what you will about the oft-vanilla filmmaking efforts of Ron Howard, but the guy is a solid, sturdy craftsman, which means that his based-on-a-true-story Formula 1 picture Rush could be worth a look. (September 27)
- And then there’s Baggage Claim, which would have us believe that Paula Patton can’t get a date. Oh, Hollywood! (September 27)
Gravity (October 4)
It’s cool, Alfonso Cuarón, just blow everybody’s minds with the possibilities of cinema by making Children of Men and then cold vanish for seven years, whatever. Critics at the Venice Film Festival, where it made its debut this week, are going bananas for his long-awaited follow-up, in which George Clooney and Sandra Bullock play astronauts stranded in space; the filmmaker reportedly returns skillfully to the complex unbroken takes and unguarded emotion that made Children so unforgettable.
Captain Phillips (October 11)
After sitting out the last Bourne movie, director Paul Greengrass returns to the you-are-there dramatizations of Bloody Sunday and United 93 with this documentary-style look at the 2009 hijacking of the MV Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates. Tom Hanks plays the title role, doing his quiet Everyman thing, with Catherine Keener in welcome support; the trailers look tense, intimate, and a little terrifying.
Carrie (October 18)
Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s first novel was just about right, as far as horror movies or King adaptations go, so news of an unnecessary remake was met with the proper degree of skepticism. But with Chloe Grace Moretz in the title role, Julianne Moore stepping in for Piper Laurie, and Boys Don’t Cry director Kimberly Peirce at the helm, that dubiousness pretty much melted into a pool of pig’s blood.
All is Lost (October 18)
For all of his importance and influence as a Hollywood power player, it’s been a good long while since Robert Redford’s done much of note in front of the camera. That could change in a very big way thanks to this solitary drama by J.C. Chandor (Margin Call), which wowed critics at Cannes this year. Redford is literally the only credited cast member in this story of a sailor lost at sea; comparisons have been drawn to Cast Away and The Grey, but all favorably, and Redford’s work is said to be simply astonishing.
12 Years a Slave (October 18)
Director Steve McQueen (no, the other one) and actor Michael Fassbender team for the third time (following Hunger and Shame), but this time Fassbender plays a supporting role; the star is the great Chiwetel Ejiofor (Serenity, Dirty Pretty Things, American Gangster), bringing to life the true story of Solomon Northrup, a free Northerner kidnapped and sold into slavery. Boasting a robust ensemble cast, important subject matter, and a wide historical canvas, this could be the film that breaks McQueen from art house fave into mainstream territory.
The Counselor (October 25)
12 Years’ Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender also co-star in the latest from Ridley Scott, along with Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Goran Visnjic, and presumably a few other people who aren’t sickeningly good-looking. Scott’s output has been pretty spotty as of late (see Body of Lies, Robin Hood, Prometheus — or, y’know, maybe don’t), but the screenplay credit is worth getting worked up over: it’s an original by Cormac McCarthy (only his second, after the excellent made-for-HBO film The Sunset Limited).
Also in October:
- Ben Affleck’s first post-Argo picture is, sadly, Runner Runner, a shady-world-of-online-poker Justin Timberlake vehicle which, even under the guidance of pulpy Lincoln Lawyer director Brad Furman, looks pretty bad. (October 4)
- I’m not made of wood, and I’m not immune from the pleasures of Robert Rodriguez’s grindhouse tribute (and Grindhouse spin-off) Machete. Even us fans weren’t exactly clamoring for Machete Kills, but hey, more Danny Trejo is a good thing, and (Mel Gibson notwithstanding) it should be interesting to see what Rodriguez does with this bizarro ensemble. (October 11)
- May gave us a crackerjack documentary treatment of the Wikileaks story in Alex Gibney’s We Steal Secrets ; now it’s time for the docudrama version, with Benedict Cumberbatch making a convincing Julian Assange avatar in Bill Condon’s already controversial The Fifth Estate. ( October 11)
- Adaptation by Downton Abbey’s Jullian Fellowes and leading turn by True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld notwithstanding, is anybody jonesing for yet another movie version of Romeo and Juliet? (October 11)
- Stallone and Schwarzenegger team up to try to break out of a high-tech prison — and presumably their own late-career doldrums (how ‘bout those The Last Stand and Bullet to the Head grosses, eh?) — in Escape Plan. And in cast you weren’t already excited: 50 Cent co-stars! (October 18)
- Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa is also a movie that apparently exists. (October 25)
The Wolf of Wall Street (November 15)
Martin Scorsese teams with Leonardo DiCaprio for the fifth time in a film that looks to do for Wall Street what Goodfellas did for the mob — complete with snazzy camerawork, winking voice-over, and a juicy supporting cast. Along for the ride are Jonah Hill (don’t forget, now an Oscar nominee) and Matthew McConaughey (who should’ve been an Oscar nominee, for about four different movies last year); the script is by Terence Winter, who created the Scorsese-produced Boardwalk Empire.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (November 22)
The Hunger Games was a rare tentpole blockbuster that didn’t treat its audience like morons, and featured a female lead who was more than mere window dressing. That film’s director, Gary Ross, is out this time around, but I Am Legend’s Francis Lawrence is in—as are Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jeffrey Wright, filling out an already impressive carryover cast.
Nebraska (November 22)
Alexander Payne took as long as Cuarón between Sideways and The Descendants, but thankfully he’s not making a habit of such sabbaticals. Just two years after Descendants, he’s back with a moody black-and-white comedy/drama starring Will Forte and (in a move seemingly engineered by Payne to create squeals of joy among his fellow aficionados of the “New Hollywood” era) Bruce Dern.
Oldboy (November 29)
It wasn’t unreasonable to question the necessity of remaking Park Chan-wook’s 2003 film, since it is, what’s the word, perfect. But Spike Lee isn’t the kind of filmmaker who’s just going to ape what’s come before him, and he seems to do his most interesting work, at this point, not when given total free reign (She Hate Me, Red Hook Summer) but when confined to tightly-structured genre pictures like this and Inside Man. And, bonus, it marks the filmmaker’s first collaboration with Samuel L. Jackson since Jungle Fever, clear back in 1991.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (November 29)
Those who worship at the altar of The Wire have been waiting years for Idris Elba to become the mega-star he deserves to be, and while Pacific Rim didn’t quite close the deal, he’s got an opportunity here for awards consideration and critical kudos, big time (and ditto that for co-star Naomie Harris). Director Justin Chadwick’s feature resume is a little slim — I saw The Other Boleyn Girl, but damned if I can remember a single thing about it — but Mandela’s story is due for a good, rugby-free telling.
Also in November
- Yes, fine, Ender’s Game will be out. If you can hold your nose long enough to put money in Card’s pocket, enjoy. (November 1)
- About Time is a time-travelling romance with Rachel McAdams. Wait, didn’t this already happen? Am I having a stroke? (November 1)
- Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline pick up easy paychecks in Last Vegas, an old-dudes-Hangover from director Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure). What’s the over/under on first Viagra joke? (November 1)
- Hey, let’s all pretend like the Thor movie wasn’t the weakest of the “Phase 1” Avengers cycle and we’re all real excited about Thor: The Dark World, eh? C’mon, be a good sport! (November 8)
- Wait, there were enough people who liked Malcolm Lee’s atrocious The Best Man to warrant a 14-years-later sequel, The Best Man Holiday? (November 15)
- Vince Vaughn finds out he’s the father of 533 children via anonymous sperm donations in Delivery Man, which is somehow PG-13. (November 22)
- Little kids will want to go to the movies over Thanksgiving weekend! And for them, Disney has created Frozen, which we know very little about except that Kristen Bell voices the lead, so hurray for that. (November 29)
- Kasi Lemmons hasn’t directed nearly enough movies since Eve’s Bayou blew everyone away back in 1997, so let’s get behind her latest, even if it’s a soppy-sounding holiday tale like Black Nativity. (November 29)
- Nicole Kidman will play Grace Kelly for the Weinstein Company in Grace of Monaco, so look for that Best Actress nomination, regardless of if the movie’s actually any good. (November 29)
Out of the Furnace (December 6)
Nobody was talking about Crazy Heart at this point in 2009 — in fact, it didn’t even end up on the fall schedule until Amelia tanked and Fox Searchlight needed an Oscar hopeful. It went on to win a Best Actor statue for Jeff Bridges. Crazy Heart writer/director Scott Cooper’s follow-up, Out of the Furnace, has a similarly low profile at this point, which is why you should keep an eye on it; he’s attracted Christian Bale and Casey Affleck for the leading roles and the likes of Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana, Forest Whitaker, Sam Shepard, and Willem Dafoe in support.
Dallas Buyers Club (December 6)
All those “holy shit, how did Matthew McConaughey get so thin” photos were thanks to this drama from director Jean-Marc Vallée, the true story of a Texas wild man diagnosed with HIV in 1986 who relies on his own ingenuity and legal flexibility to find stop-gap treatments for himself and other patients. The trailer hints at some pretty easy feel-good beats, but McConaughey’s on quite a winning streak these days, and his transformation is remarkable indeed.
Inside Llewyn Davis (December 6)
The Coen Brothers dramatize the early-‘60s Greenwich Village folk scene with the help of O Brother music supervisor T-Bone Burnett and a terrific ensemble cast, including Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Girls’ Adam Driver and Alex Karpovsky, and (in his first Coen film since O Brother) their bellowing favorite John Goodman.
American Hustle (December 13)
Director David O. Russell combined the casts of his last two films — teaming The Fighter’s Christian Bale and Amy Adams with Silver Linings Playbook’s Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro — for this ‘70s crime drama in the Goodfellas/Boogie Nights vein. Throw in Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., and a trailer that’s like a two-minute adrenaline shot, and we’re all the way in.
Anchorman: The Legend Continues (December 20)
It took years of failures and false starts, but the long-awaited sequel to Adam McKay and Will Ferrell’s 2004 quote machine is finally upon us. The cameo leaks have been a tad obnoxious (c’mon, save some surprises for the movie), but that’s barely a complaint anymore; suffice it to say that, with the entire crew back on board, we’re ready for McKay and Ferrell to take us back to Pleasure Town.
The Monuments Men (December 20)
Writer/director/star George Clooney seems to have mated his biggest box-office success (the Ocean’s series) with his recent Oscar winner (Argo) to cook up this utterly irresistible true story of a band of curators and historians rescuing works of art stolen by the Nazis. Backing him is one of the fall’s best ensemble casts — Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, and Jean Dujardin are all present — and the WWII angle will make this the movie your Dad votes for on the Christmas Day multiplex outing.
Her (December 20)
Director Spike Jonze gets his first solo feature writing credit, but the premise of this one bears the unmistakable stamp of his frequent collaborator Charlie Kaufman: what if a heartbroken anti-social type (Joaquin Phoenix) fell in love with his Siri-type AI operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) — and she seemed to feel the same way? Sure, this sort of thing always makes for a great trailer, but based on what we’ve seen so far, Her has the potential to be peculiar, beautiful, and heartbreaking.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (December 27)
Few could be blamed for counting Ben Stiller out by this point; his filmography has descended into a seemingly endless loop of Fockers and Night at the Museum pictures, with little of the challenging work he made his name on. But his latest directorial effort (his first since the savvy and uproarious Tropic Thunder) seems to have a genuine sense of ambition, wonder, and riskiness, and its late-on-the-calendar positioning indicates real confidence in the film’s artistic worth.
Also in December
- There will be another Hobbit movie. It will be called The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. It will not be the last one. There will never be a last one. (December 13)
- In case you weren’t already over the moon about Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas, here’s another incentive: co-starring Larry the Cable Guy! Camp-out line starts to the left. (December 13)
- The Blind Side’s John Lee Hancock directs Disney’s dramatization of how Walt Disney got P.L. Travers to let him make Mary Poppins in Saving Mr. Banks, the most expensive DVD bonus feature ever. (December 20)
- When you wanna reboot your series as “young and sexy,” you apparently use Star Trek as the template — which the producers of Jack Ryan quite literally did in casting Chris Pine as the young version of Thomas Clancy’s hero. (December 27)
- Keanu Reeves plays a samurai in 47 Ronin, which is somehow not a comedy. (December 27)
- Grudge Match, on the other hand, is a comedy — a boxing comedy, with Rocky and Raging Bull themselves, Stallone and De Niro, duking it out as retired boxers for director Peter Segal (The Longest Yard, Anger Management, The Nutty Professor II). Sure, it won’t be terrible. (December 27)
- Since August: Osage County is one of the finest plays of the 21st century, we were anxious for its film version (in spite of the presence of director John Wells, director of The Company Men and the guy who wrote The West Wing into the ditch after Sorkin was fired). And then we got a look at its trailer. Oy. (December 27)
Those are our fall must-sees and also-rans—what are yours?