Fall Movie Preview 2017

The fall usually has something for everyone, and heralds the first wave of the films everyone will be talking about come December and January.

There are blockbuster options (“Thor” and “Blade Runner” sequels), plenty of horror (“It” opens tomorrow), thrillers (“The Snowman,” “mother!”) and prestige films (“Mark Felt,” “LBJ”).

As per usual, I’ve got 15 anticipated films, 7 to be skeptical of and a whole slew of honorable mentions.

15 Most Anticipated Fall Movies

It (Sept. 8)

I’ve not read Stephen King’s famous novel or the creepy made-for-TV movie starring Tim Curry that gave so many people nightmares. Considering all the frightening clown stuff out there on the Internet, and the iconic nature of this particular King title, it’s no wonder “It” not only broke but shattered the record for most online trailer views in 24 hours. It will make a lot of money, and I’m curious about it despite not knowing much. Maybe that’s a good place to be. It comes from the director of “Mama,” Andres Muschietti, and one of the writers is Cary Fukunaga (“True Detective,” Season 1).


mother! (Sept.15)

Director Darren Aronofsky returns to the thriller genre, where he belongs. Snatching Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeifer and Domhnall Gleeson helps tremendously too. The marketing has gone for “batshit crazy” and in tandem with Lawrence, that approach might be enough to get people into theaters. Although it has a “Get Out” type vibe to it, meaning it might be one of those predictably unpredictable films, but it’ll be worth a watch just to see what Aronofsky has cooked up.


Kingsman: The Golden Circle (Sept. 22)

One of 2014’s more underrated blockbusters, “Kingsman” returns with its bloody twist on the “James Bond”-esque spy genre, but more importantly, director Matthew Vaughn and his writer partner, Jane Goldman are back too. These two don’t miss, at least not when they’re working together. The cast is even more stacked this time, with Channing Tatum and Pedro Pascal (“Game of Thrones”) on board, along with Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore. If some of those names haven’t tipped you off, clearly this film sees Taron Egerton’s Eggsy teaming up with American spies.


Battle of the Sexes (Sept. 22, limited)

Hard not to get excited about Emma Stone and Steve Carell reuniting to play Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in the story of their 1973 tennis match. Directing duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (“Little Miss Sunshine”) are behind the camera with a script comes from Oscar-winner Simon Beaufoy (“Slumdog Millionaire”). Even if this doesn’t reach Oscar-caliber, it’s sure to be wide-appeal entertaining and strikes me as one of the fall’s safest choices for families of diverse interests trying to make a movie-going decision.


American Made (Sept. 29)

Director Doug Liman and Tom Cruise re-team after the success of “Edge of Tomorrow” (or “Live. Die. Repeat” or whatever) to tell the story of a pilot who starts working for the CIA as a drug-runner in the 1980s. It’s a little unusual to see Cruise take on a morally ambiguous character like this, but that’s part of the appeal. Ironically, “American Made” will have been released in just about every other country in the world before arrive in American theaters, and it’s already out in a couple dozen countries. Early reviews have been very favorable, namely in terms of the entertainment value.


Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House (Sept. 29, limited)

If Sony Pictures Classics or whoever named this film want to ensure this movie a swift death at the box office by giving it a made-for-TV documentary name, that’s their business, but the true story of “Deep Throat,” the inside source that helped Woodward and Bernstein break the Watergate scandal, has this “All the President’s Men” fan waiting in gleeful anticipation. Liam Neeson stars as Felt, the former FBI associate director who did not agree with the bureau’s handling of information surrounding President Nixon. Peter Landesman (“Concussion,” “Kill the Messenger”) directs a script he adapted from Felt’s book. Felt was revealed as “Deep Throat” in 2005 and died in 2008.


Blade Runner 2049 (Oct. 6)

35 years after the release of “Blade Runner,” fans of the dystopian genre tone-setting science-fiction film from the mind of Philip K. Dick and the vision of Ridley Scott finally have a sequel, and you have to like the talent involved. In addition to the return of Harrison Ford and even Edward James Olmos, the cast includes Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Dave Bautista and Ryan Gosling. Hampton Fancher, one of the original screenwriters, shares a credit with Michael Green (“Logan,” “American Gods”) and the talented Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”) directs. Villeneuve is the perfect choice to emulate the original’s subdued but engrossing aesthetic and energy. Most importantly, perhaps fans will finally get the answer to an age-old question …


The Florida Project (Oct. 6, limited)

Here’s a film you might not have heard of at this point, but you very likely will have come award season. “The Florida Project” comes from Sean Baker, whose debut film “Tangerine” about two trans prostitutes in L.A. earned quite a bit of praise in 2015. This film heads across the country to Orlando where 6-year-old Moonee lives with her young single mom in the Magic Castle motel, which is run by a grumpy but protective manager (Willem Dafoe). It’s a young coming-of-age story that deal with some harsh realities and because of the locale, has drawn comparisons to “Moonlight.” The film debuted at Cannes and buzz will surely pick up when it play the Toronto International Film Festival this weekend.


The Snowman (Oct. 20)

In the last several years, the fall has turned into the season of film adaptations of popular best-selling thriller novels (“Gone Girl,” “The Girl on the Train,” “The Martian”). This Jo Nesbø book is a little less known and a lot darker, but the story did at one point draw the interest of Martin Scorsese. Fans of serial killer mysteries who haven’t already heard of this one will be instantly drawn in, and the trailer feels awfully close in tone to “Se7en.” Tomas Alfredson’s (“Let the Right One In,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”) involvement as a director tells you there should be some dramatic weight to this one, if Michael Fassbender starring didn’t already suggest this would have chops. The screenwriters include Hossein Amini (“Drive”), Peter Straughan (also “Tinker Tailor”) and Søren Sveistrup, who created the Swedish TV show “The Killing,” on which the acclaimed AMC show was based.


Wonderstruck (Oct. 20, limited)

The best way to understand what “Wonderstruck” is going for is to compare it to its author (and adapter) Brian Selznick’s previous Hollywood hit, “Hugo.” The story follows a boy in the present and a girl 50 years earlier in a time-crossing story with a mysterious connection. The film is an very capable hands with Toddy Haynes (“Carol”) and has gotten a a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes, which could be better. Maybe not the Oscar success of “Hugo,” but certainly more sophisticated family entertainment. Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams line the supporting cast.


Suburbicon (Oct. 27)

The credits on “Suburbicon” make it impossible to resist: George Clooney directs Matt Damon in twisted-suburbia tale written by Joel and Ethan Coen. Clooney has, at this point, had a fair share of directorial misses (“The Monuments Men,” “Leatherheads”) to go with his hits (“Good Night, and Good Luck,” “The Ides of March”), but the combination of talent here and the offbeat tone most closely resembling Clooney’s debut, “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” holds too much promise to be ignored. There’s a lot going on in this trailer, but it appears Damon plays a dad who’s gotten in bad with the mob and refuses to break, and the family drama and suburban angst that ensues. Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac co-star.


The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Oct. 27, limited)

Thanks to the delays upon delays for Yorgos Lanthimos’ last film, “The Lobster,” my No. 3 film of 2016, his follow up is already here, not to mention drawing more effusive praise. Colin Farrell stars again for Lanthimos, this time as a surgeon who makes a sacrifice regarding his family when the fatherless teenage boy (Barry Keoghan, who caught a lot of attention in “Dunkirk”) he takes in begins to insert himself into the pristine family in increasingly sinister ways. Lanthimos has yet to misfire and the film has by and large drawn a lot of praise. We’ll see if that grows following TIFF this weekend.


Thor: Ragnarok (Nov. 3)

The “Thor” standalone films could easily be considered Marvel Studios’ least impressive. There are fans of Kenneth Branagh’s “Thor” but “The Dark World” didn’t garner praise on the level Marvel is used to. All that looks to change quickly with “Ragnarok.” The hilarious New Zealander Taika Waititi (“What We Do in the Shadows”) directs, and his humor in tandem with the comic gifts of Chris Hemsworth are sure to make this one of the (naturally) funnier Marvel entries. Plus, we get a little more time with The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in what’s being described as an intergalactic buddy road trip film. Cate Blanchett, at least in terms of casting, could prove to be one of Marvel’s better villains of late.


Murder on the Orient Express (Nov. 10)

This remake of the Agatha Christie novel that became a 1974 film features a couple names that have already come up in this preview: Kenneth Branagh, who directs and stars, and screenwriter Michael Green, who is clearly one of the hottest writer names given his involvement in “Blade Runner 2049,” “American Gods,” “Alien: Covenant” and “Logan.” Of course it’s the laundry list cast of stars that will make this film sink or float: Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Olivia Colman and “Hamilton” star Leslie Odom Jr., among others.


Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Nov. 10, limited)

When playwright/screenwriter Martin McDonagh makes a new film, it launches to the top of my anticipated list. His last film, “Seven Psychopaths,” was my favorite of 2012 and is one of the most underrated films of the decade, though he is still best known for 2008’s “In Bruges.” “Three Billboards” stars Frances McDormand as a mother of a girl whose murder has gone unsolved, who pays for said billboards to criticize the town’s chief of police (Woody Harrelson), causing a rise in tension on both sides. Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, Peter Dinklage, Caleb Landry Jones, Lucas Hedges and John Hawkes round out the cast. The Venice Film Festival premiere this weekend drew rave reviews with comparisons to a Coen Brothers’ film, though McDormand (“Fargo”) probably has something to do with that.

7 Fall Films to be Skeptical Of

American Assassin (Sept. 15)

I think Dylan O’Brien (“The Maze Runner”) has what it takes to be a star, but I’ve my doubts that this film will get him there. “American Assassin” comes from the Vince Flynn novels centered on counter-terrorism agent Mitch Rapp (O’Brien), a vengeful dude recruited by the CIA for black ops and given to a character played by Michael Keaton to train. Turns out they’re trying to stop the Keaton character’s former protege (Taylor Kitsch). Occasional “Homeland” director Michael Cuesta helms with a script that saw a few rewrites, which is where the alarm bells go off for those hoping to key in on the next “Bourne” or “Jack Reacher” franchise.


The Mountain Between Us (Oct. 6)

I love Kate Winslet and Idris Elba, and their presence suggests this would be a pretty dramatic film about two strangers stranded in the mountains after a plane crash, but writer J. Mills Goodloe, adapting from Charles Martin’s novel, has “The Age of Adaline,” “The Best of Me,” and “Everything, Everything” to his name, three titles that say sappy melodrama instead. Director Hany Abdu-Assad has made (what appear to be) compelling films about Palestinian characters, so this endeavor seems a strange departure.


Goodbye Christopher Robin (Oct. 13, limited)

I love nostalgia and childhood wonder films, but when I first saw the trailer for “Goodbye Christopher Robin” I was struck by how it did not present any semblance of plot or conflict despite revealing how “Winnie the Pooh” came to be. The second trailer suggests a little bit more tension between the novel’s success and its impact on the real Christopher Robin, but I’m still not sold that this is anything more than a fluffy period biopic of sorts. Simon Curtis (“Woman in Gold,” “My Week with Marilyn”) directs, so maybe I’m just being a bother.


Geostorm (Oct. 20)

You might be surprised not to find disaster filmmaker extraordinaire Rolland Emmerich’s name attached to “Geostorm,” about a future in which natural disasters caused by climate change are mitigated with a powerful satellite system, a system that malfunctions and begins to cause global weather catastrophes. Well, Emmerich’s “Independence Day” co-writer and producer Dean Devlin is attached to this one as a writer and director. Gerard Butler is the perfect star to attract the “___  Has Fallen” movie fans who cling to the days of ’90s action.


Same Kind of Different As Me (Oct. 20)

Greg Kinnear always appears in these ambiguously religious melodramas and I can’t understand why. He stars as a man who befriends a homeless man (Djimon Honsou) as a gesture to his wife (Renée Zellweger) that blossoms into an unlikely and powerful friendship. It is the feature debut of writer/director Michael Carney; Don Hall (Kinnear’s character) wrote the book and helped adapt it for the big screen. Usually these kind of films end up in the bargain bin and there’s no reason to expect “Same Kind of Different” to be any kind of different.


Thank You for Your Service (Oct. 27)

The writer/adapter of “American Sniper,” Jason Hall, is sticking to his niche genre of recent war veteran stories adapted from books. He makes this David Finkel book about a group of soldiers (primarily Miles Teller) reintegrating into civilian life his directorial debut. “American Sniper” was such a huge hit at the box office that I don’t think this movie was made because the story was so compelling. If the title doesn’t give you a sense at the emotional appeal DreamWorks is going for in hopes of putting certain parts of the country’s butts in seats, I don’t know what else to say. PTSD is all too common a theme in modern war movies, but perhaps “TYFYS” will shed some new light on it.


A Bad Moms Christmas (Nov. 3)

If you happen to read my content regularly, you’ll know what I have to say about comedy sequels, let alone to sequels to comedies whose first entry got a middling reception. I love Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn, and I’ll admit I did not see the original, but this seems like an obvious studio ploy to take advantage of the holiday season.


Honorable Mentions

The LEGO Ninjago Movie (Sept. 22) – The third LEGO movie, though it would appear by title to be way more kid-focused, appears to take the same humorous approach as its predecessors. (Dir. by Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan)

Stronger (Sept. 22, ltd.) – Jake Gyllenhaal continues his string of roles that are the opposite of the everyman in this story of a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing. (Dir. David Gordon Green)

Woodshock (Sept. 22, ltd.) – Kirsten Dunst has a crazy drug trip in the woods. That’s about all I got on this striking-looking directorial debut from a pair of fashion designer sisters. (Dir. by Kate Mulleavy and Laura Mulleavy)

Marshall (Oct. 13) – Add another black historic icon to Chadwick Boseman’s (“42”) collection, as he plays Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in this story about a case Marshall tried early in his career. (Dir. by Reginald Hudlin)

The Foreigner (Oct. 13) – Is it the late ’90s? Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan star in a cat-and-mouse revenge flick from the writer of “Enemy of the State” and the director of “Goldeneye.” Seriously. (Dir. by Martin Campbell)

Only the Brave (Oct. 20) – The story of the Arizona firefighters who battled a massive blaze in 2013, led by Josh Brolin. (Dir. by Joseph Kosinski)

Novitiate (Oct. 27, ltd.) – Young nuns in a convent wrestle with their elders sisters and change after the announcement of Vatican II in the 1960s, which greatly modernized the Catholic Church. Melissa Leo plays the Mother. Enough said. (Dir. by Margaret Betts)

LBJ (Nov. 3, ltd.) – President Lyndon B. Johnson has within the last year been portrayed by Bryan Cranston and John Carroll Lynch. Add Woody Harrelson (a Texan) to the mix in this film focused on his response to upholding President Kennedy’s legacy. (Dir. by Rob Reiner)

Roman Israel, Esq. (Nov. 3, ltd.) – There’s no trailer, but do you really need one to be interested in a film from the director “Nightcrawler” with Denzel Washington playing a defense attorney who finds himself needing to take “extreme action?” (Dir. by Dan Gilroy)

Lady Bird (Nov. 10, ltd.) – No, not a weird “LBJ” coincidence; this is indie darling Greta Gerwig’s writer/director debut starring Saoirse Ronan as a young woman dealing with life in Northern California. (Dir. by Greta Gerwig)


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