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2016 Fall Movie Preview: 50 Movies That'll Prove Film Isn’t Dead

“Film is dead” essays are the worst death hoaxes out there, even compared to viral Facebook posts that try to kill poor Jaden Smith off every two weeks. The sentiment was wrong decades ago, even when brilliant writers tried to wrap their heads around it, and it’s still not correct today in spite of what some have recently theorized. The greatest art form ever made, suddenly kaput? No. Anxiously evolving, though ungenerously so to non-blockbusters, and re-defining its experience? Yes. Hugely flawed at times? Hey, it’s only human. 

I’m a ruthless optimist, so the next four months of movies big and small seems like the change of menu we need. Some films listed below have already been seen by yours truly, some I’ve read about from recent festivals and there’s plenty that only exist for now to the public as a poster, an IMDb page and maybe a trailer. Some of them are preceded by their huge passion to exist, as with Warren Beatty’s “Rules Don’t Apply,” essentially 40 years in the making, or Martin Scorsese’s long-gestating missionary epic “Silence.” Others boast, at the very least, exciting casting choices (“Queen of Katwe”), promising directorial association (Ang Lee with his “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”), or thrilling collaborations ("Moana"). Some will very likely be very bad, if not disastrous. But even the lesser entries will help keep the experience of film alive by lighting up the silver screen. 

Below I’ve assembled a list of films that I’m excited for this season, a task that proved difficult with so many titles that had to be cut. (Sorry, "The Edge of Seventeen," "The Handmaiden," "Hacksaw Ridge," "Keeping Up with the Jonses" and many, many others.) These are just 50 titles that indulge my interests and optimism during the upcoming next fourth months, featuring theatrical releases of the mainstream, indie and foreign variety. We’ll be covering many of these titles in the next few weeks as our festival coverage ramps up, so be sure to check back at our festival page for updates. And of course, all of these titles will be reviewed at RogerEbert.com during their week of release. Be sure to check in on which films are good or bad, and take note as to how each of these movies have helped keep cinema alive. 

SEPTEMBER

"Sully" (September 9): Clint Eastwood returns to the director’s chair after the huge box office success of 2014’s “American Sniper,” this time focusing on another revered American hero, Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger. Tom Hanks plays the airline pilot who crash landed a plane on the Hudson River in 2009. Aside from the positive buzz this film received last weekend when it played at Telluride, “Sully” also has the very curious aspect of being shot almost entirely with IMAX cameras, which should offer a scope and thrill of its own so long as Eastwood takes advantage of it. Aaron Eckhart, Valerie Mahaffey, Delphi Harrington, Mike O’Malley, Laura Linney and Anna Gunn star. 

Blair Witch” (September 16): One of the best surprises this year happened at the San Diego Comic-Con, when viewers previewing a horror movie called “The Woods” was revealed to be a sequel to “The Blair Witch Project.” It was a brilliant way to avoid outside sequel pressure and create a great deal of hype along the way. Now that the cat is out of the bag, here’s hoping that director Adam Wingard has more surprises coming in the story itself. 

"Bridget Jones’s Baby" (September 16): Oscar-winner Renée Zellweger returns to the silver screen for the first time since 2010 with “Bridget Jones’s Baby,” a second sequel for her famous Bridget Jones character. Although this is yet another sequel that may not have exactly been on the general moviegoer’s high demand list, this project from “Bridget Jones’s Diary” director Sharon Maguire doesn’t skim on bringing back the stars, with Colin Firth also returning with Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones and others. This project even receives a boost with a co-writing credit going to actress/writer Emma Thompson

Snowden” (September 16): It’s hard to imagine that it’s been four years since the last Oliver Stone film. But with his first movie since 2012's "Savages" Stone takes on the true story of Edward Snowden with this heavily-anticipated biopic, featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the infamous title NSA agent. The movie has been curiously kicked around from an original summer 2015 release date, but lands back at an encouraging premiere spot at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival. The supporting cast includes Shailene Woodley, Scott Eastwood and Nicolas Cage.

"Audrie & Daisy" (September 23): Sundance 2016 documentary “Audrie & Daisy” tells two separate, devastating stories of sexual assault involving high school young women, from the perspective of those in their respective communities who were directly effected by it. The film's goal is to talk about only two instances in a horrific ocean of others, and the film is quite powerful as a result. I’m thrilled that Netflix will be distributing it this month, especially as our public conversations often concern sexual assault cases, but without complete pictures of such cases as found in “Audrie & Daisy.” 

The Dressmaker” (September 23): Director Jocelyn Moorhouse’s “The Dressmaker” might be the only movie this year with the tagline “A film about love, revenge and haute couture.” A few cherries on top to this intriguing period piece is the cast, which has Kate Winslet playing the title glamorous Australian woman who uses fashion to get back at those who did her wrong. She’s joined by the likes of Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving, Sarah Snook and Judy Davis

"The Magnificent Seven" (September 23; pictured above): The remake, ensemble-driven mentality of the summer season carries over into the fall with Antoine Fuqua’s “The Magnificent Seven,” which promises to be a Western superhero movie of sorts. The new line-up for this update includes Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-Hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sansmeier. The screenwriting credits directly reference the original inspiration, Akira Kurosawa's “Seven Samurai” (so Kurosawa has a “based on a screenplay by” credit), and “True Detective” writer Nic Pizzolatto shares writing work with Richard Wenk. We’ll be getting our first look at this film in just a few days when it screens at the Toronto International Film Festival. 

"Queen of Katwe" (September 23; main photo): Director Mira Nair has one of the season's superstar duos in her latest films, her first since 2012’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.” Her story about a Ugandan chess player, “Queen of Katwe,” stars Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo, which is sure to satisfy our need to see them on the big screen, now sharing the same heartwarming frame. 

Storks” (September 23): Leave it to the burgeoning Warners Animation Group to raise the bar on silliness for blockbuster animated fare, while making comedies that transcends age limits. From the people who gave us “The Lego Movie,” “Storks” imagines a world where the birds no longer deliver babies but packages. Aside from the listed voice talents of Andy Samberg, Jennifer Aniston, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele and more, this movie is actually the latest from “Neighbors” director Nicholas Stoller, who co-directs his original screenplay. In that facet, "Storks" look like one of the more ambitious films to hit the multiplex this season. 

"American Honey" (September 30): "Fish Tank" director Andrea Arnold, hailing from England, makes a 150-minute epic about young people traveling through the Midwest, played by the likes of Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough. It was a divisive film when it premiered at Cannes this past May, which makes it all the more enticing. Sign me up. 

"Deepwater Horizon" (September 30): Director Peter Berg has made for himself a nice home with unflinching, macho stories of heroism, as evident in the scene in 2013's “Lone Survivor” where a group of American soldiers throw themselves down a steep hill in suicidal hopes of escaping gunfire. It’s that type of physical honesty I’ll be looking for when he takes on the historical oil spill of the Deepwater Horizon, this time with Mark Wahlberg back as his lead, joined by Dylan O’Brien. Special points if Berg can also get a deep historical context within his project, one that can be found in Margaret Brown’s harrowing documentary “The Great Invisible” from 2014. 

"Denial" (September 30): Rachel Weisz helps bring to life the story of Deborah Lipstadt, who had the bizarre experience of having to prove in court that the Holocaust happened. Said denier is played by Timothy Spall, in a series of events that led Lipstadt to write the uniquely-titled memoir, History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier. Though this film adaptation title lacks the same bite, perhaps it’ll offer a special horror through vivid dialogue and performance. 

Masterminds” (September 30): I previewed this movie last year when it was supposed to be released in 2015, but Relativity's money problems had to get in the way. My feelings still stand. This ensemble comedy starring Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, and Jason Sudeiikis and directed by Jared Hess (“Napoleon Dynamite”) is still one of my most anticipated films that’s not released. I won’t say anymore in case being excited for “Masterminds” is a jinx and pushes the movie back even further. 

"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" (September 30): Tim Burton’s latest film is an adaptation of a Ransom Riggs novel, which sounds like an X-Men-esque project with less chance of bright colors and spandex. Adding to this comparison is that the adapting scripter is Jane Goldman, who previously helped writer both “X-Men: First Class” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” It’s questionable as to what was the last Burton movie to really connect with audiences (probably 2010's “Alice in Wonderland,” at least money-wise), but here’s hoping that Burton’s title-role-casting of the invaluable Eva Green will lead to some type of magic in this ensemble cast. Er, a new kind of Burton magic, somehow. Kim Dickens, Samuel L. Jackson, Asa Butterfield, Allison Janney, Chris O’Dowd, Ella Purnell, Judi Dench, Rupert Everett and Terence Stamp also star. 

OCTOBER

"Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience" (October 7): Terrence Malick’s movies explore a great deal of subjects, to put it very lightly, but the unmentioned idea involves how the hell the once reclusive director decided to become prolific, releasing movies now at a far faster rate than his usual decade-or-so at a time. Case in point, his upcoming documentary “Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey,” which will play on IMAX screens and give the biggest screens possible a taste of his “The Tree of Life” philosophy. The film will have two versions: Brad Pitt narrates a version that is roughly 40 minutes long, while Cate Blanchett offers her voice talents to a version that will be about 90 minutes long. 

"The Late Bloomer" (October 7): Comedian Kevin Pollak makes his directorial debut with this strange tale about a sex therapist (Johnny Simmons) who goes through puberty in the course of three weeks after it having been delayed for 15 years. As sex comedies go, this is one of the more original premises, and for me, the selling point is Simmons, who I imagine could sell an erection joke with a smile, especially as he vividly wrestled with masculinity in last season's baseball drama "The Phenom." Maria Bello, Brittany Snow, Jane Lynch, J.K. Simmons, Kumail Nanjiani, Beck Bennett and Paul Wesley also appear. 

"Mascots" (October 13): It’s been ten years since parody god Christopher Guest directed a feature (“For Your Consideration,” which is legendary in its laugh-less-ness), but we will always need a voice like his to make sense of the odd people that are definitely not ourselves. Enter “Mascots,” his latest film and one that will premiere to Netflix, as focused on the world of competitive mascots. The ensemble includes favorites of his films, like Jennifer Coolidge, Parker Posey, Jane Lynch, Fred Willard, John Michael Higgins and Bob Balaban. It’ll be exciting to see the talents of Zach Woods, Tom Bennett, Chris O’Dowd, and Oscar Nuñez and more entering into what feels like a very overdue comedy tradition. 

"The Accountant" (October 14): Post-“ArgoBen Affleck has been pretty interesting; he can seemingly play whatever lead he wants, whether it’s Nick Dunne in David Fincher's “Gone Girl” or Batman in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice." He now leads the thriller “The Accountant,” directed by “Jane Got a Gun” rescuer Gavin O’Connor. This original script from Bill Dubuque finds Affleck playing a savant of sorts who “un-cooks the books for illicit clients,” to quote the IMDb synopsis, and certainly fulfills Affleck's interest in playing complicated, afflicted men. He’ll be joined by Anna Kendrick, Jon Bernthal, J.K. Simmons, John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor

"Certain Women" (October 14; main photo): When the latest from director Kelly Reichardt premiered at Sundance this past January, our own Brian Tallerico said that this triptych proved her filmmaking voice is still essential. That’s enough of a recommendation for me when this finally comes to theaters. The lead cast list is a must-witness, especially when working under the wisdom of someone like Reichardt: Laura Dern, Michelle Williams and Kristen Stewart

Kevin Hart: What Now?” (October 14): Kevin Hart is the only comedian who makes blockbuster stand-up specials any more, and his latest film “What Now?” looks to be a massive venture even for him. It also could be a do-or-die moment for specials like these, as Hart aims to create a blockbuster event during an era in which film stars don’t sell projects by name alone, especially comedians. But, audiences respond to size, and this movie looks like it could be huge. 

"American Pastoral" (October 21): This past July saw the reemergence of the Philip Roth film adaptation, with James Schamus’ “Indignation” impressing audiences, in particular with a now-famous scene between Logan Lerman and Tracy Letts. Carrying the Roth torch next is Ewan McGregor in his directorial debut, adapting a massive novel about family and nostalgia that could also become a great film, but needing very focused hands. McGregor stars in the movie as former high school hotshot “Swede” Levov, married to Dawn (Jennifer Connelly) whose daughter Merry (Dakota Fanning) is radicalized. If McGregor even nails the disturbing ending of the novel, that will be an achievement itself. 

Moonlight” (October 21; pictured above): The second movie from “Medicine for Melancholy” director Barry Jenkins played beautifully to audiences this past weekend at Telluride, giving even more hope that this tale about black masculinity and homosexuality in America will find a wide audience. Included in the cast are Mahershala Ali, Shariff Earp, Duan’Sandy’ Sanderson, Alex R. Hibbert, Janelle Monáe, Naomie Harris, André Holland and much more. 

Ouija: Origin of Evil” (October 21): “Oculus” and “Hush” director Mike Flangan moves into the studio horror game with this sequel to a game that you might have played in high school if you liked joking about Satan. It’s Flanagan’s name that makes this project more interesting than it probably has any right to be, but as these past few months have shown, studio horror movies have become an equally calculated and successful business. Doug Jones, Henry Thomas, Elizabeth Reaser, Kate Siegel, Lin Shaye and Annalise Basso also appear. 

Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween” (October 21): I swear I believed Tyler Perry back in 2014 when his fan page email said in so many words that he wasn’t going to be directing for a long while, especially after the mess that was “The Single Moms Club,” a garbage movie even by his standards. But, as Perry’s brand continues to languish on TV, so does he bring back his most polarizing character ever, Madea, for a movie that directly winks back at a joke from Chris Rock’s “Top Five.” The extra point of intrigue is the wonder of what soap-boxing Madea could achieve for a film set in Halloween, of all times of the year. Bella Thorne, Kian Lawley, Cassi Davis and Patrice Lovely also appear. 

The Eagle Huntress” (October 28): Of the many successes that came from Sundance 2016, “The Eagle Huntress” was one of the quickest. It seemed instantaneous how quickly this documentary, about a young girl wanting to becoming the first female in 12 generations to become an eagle hunter, was scooped up by Sony Pictures Classics for fall release. Daisy Ridley provides narration for this film that for a long while on the festival circuit has proven to be the best kind of crowd pleaser.  

Rings” (October 28): Yes, no one asked for a sequel to the “Ring” franchise (American style), especially since “The Ring 2” faded into obscurity. But the one interesting facet of this present-day sequel from F. Javier Gutiérrez is that it has the Guillermo Del Toro seal of approval, as he acts as executive producer. He’s not the type of talent that just throws his big name on anything; nor is he the type of film presence to play dumb. Here’s to hoping that he doesn’t lead us astray. The cast includes Vincent D’Onofrio, Aimee Teegarden, Laura Wiggins, Johnny Galecki and Bonnie Morgan, and the scares will probably include something with extra-uncomplimentary Snapchat filters. 

NOVEMBER

Doctor Strange” (November 4): The Marvel Cinematic Universe continue to grow with this adaptation of the mystical Doctor Strange character, perhaps one of their most obscure tentpole subjects yet, played here by Benedict Cumberbatch. Scott Derrickson, former director of horror movies like “Sinister” and “Deliver Us from Evil” takes on the challenge. The cast for this one is huge, including Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton, Scott Adkins, Benedict Wong, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Stuhlbarg.

Loving” (November 4): Writer/director Jeff Nichols adapts a true story of a historic interracial marriage in 1958 Virginia, as portrayed by Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton. This could very well be the type of love story that the world needs now, and the very warm reception it received from Cannes gives me even more hope. Nick Kroll and Michael Shannon also star. 

Almost Christmas” (November 11): Prolific writer/director David E. Talbert brings us his first feature since 2013’s “Baggage Claim” with “Almost Christmas,” a family comedy with a cast that pitches itself. From the poster alone: Kimberly Elise, Omar Epps, Danny Glover, John Michael Higgins, Romany Malco, Mo’Nique, Nicole Ari Parker, JB Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Jesse T. Usher and DC Young Fly. 

"Arrival" (November 11): Here's a film that's already having a great fall. The latest from director Denis Villeneuve, about a woman (Amy Adams) who communicates with aliens, has been listed constantly as a favorite from Venice and Telluride, with many praising the manner it tells an original sci-fi story. Forest Whitaker, Jeremy Renner and Michael Stuhlbarg co-star in this movie that gets progressively enticing the more it's written about. We'll be seeing this soon at the Toronto International Film Festival, so stay tuned for our review. 

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” (November 11; pictured above): Director Ang Lee returns after “Life of Pi” with another experience that aims to push the boundaries of the cinematic experience, while telling a story about a soldier retiring home from war. The film will premiere at the New York Film Festival before its wide release, and will also be boasting a 4K, 3D, 120 frames per second format. It’s enough technical craziness to almost make one miss how intriguing the cast is, which features Kristen Stewart, Vin Diesel, Garrett Hedlund, Chris Tucker, Steve Martin, Beau Knapp and more. 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (November 18): Harry Potter fans will get more of their beloved franchise when this non-adaptation expands the series' world, this time with different characters and a whole assortment of that thing called magic. J.K. Rowling is credited with both writing the script and the “textbook.” The cast includes Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell, Zoë Kravitz, Ron Perlman, Jon Voight, Katherine Waterston, Samantha Morton, Carmen Ejogo and more. 

Manchester by the Sea” (November 18): The only thing you should know about it is that it might be both the most powerful and restrained American movie you see this year. Don’t watch any trailers for this one; it’s not something that can be distilled to marketing, it only needs a hearty recommendation. Casey Affleck, Kyle Chandler and Michelle Williams star in this film from "Margaret" director Kenneth Lonergan

"Bleed for This" (November 23): "Whiplash" actor Miles Teller puts another achievement onto his young actor's board with "Bleed for This," where he plays a boxer. Teller's fighter of choice is Vinny Pazienza, who famously recovered from a near-fatal car crash and spinal cord injury to get back in the ring. If Telluride buzz is to be believed, Teller boasts quite a performance in this movie from "Boiler Room" director Ben Younger

Allied” (November 25): Robert Zemeckis directs this WWII love story which is based on an original script by writer Steven Knight, the latter of such home runs as “Locke” and “Eastern Promises,” but also big whiffs like “The Hundred-Foot Journey.” The casting of the movie also has our gaze, as it will pair Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard together, creating a forbidden relationship (of sorts) alongside performances by Lizzy Caplan, Matthew Goode, Raffey Cassidy and more. 

Moana” (November 25; main photo): One of my most anticipated movies of the year, “Moana” is a Disney project that should intrigue viewers with its involved names alone. For one, it is co-directed by Ron Clements & John Musker, who directed “Aladdin,” among other productions. The voice talents include the likes of Dwayne Johnson, Jemaine Clement Alan Tudyk and newcomer Auli’i Cravalho playing the title character. And not for nothing, it features two enticing writing contributions: Taika Waititi, director of “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” and currently in production on “Thor: Ragnarok,” is credited as a co-writer; Lin-Manuel Miranda, the man behind the “Hamilton” phenomenon, has contributed music to “Moana” as well. 

Rules Don’t Apply” (November 25): File this project under “Movies In the Making for 40 Years.” Actor/writer/director Warren Beatty has been wanting to make a Howard Hughes movie for that long, and this fall will finally see its release. It will also be his first on-screen feature performance since 2001’s “Town & Country” (Beatty donned the yellow coat again in a “Dick Tracy” special in order keep the rights in 2010, it is weird). "Rules Don't Apply" also has some great new leads, like Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich, while Beatty will play the strange billionaire at the center of it all. 

Silence” (November TBD): Within Martin Scorsese’s always extending filmography, “Silence” has been one of the projects that promised a great story (about Jesuit missionaries facing violence in Japan) and true motivation. Now, the film has finally been made, and stars Liam Neeson, Adam Driver, Andrew Garfield, Ciarán Hinds, Tadanobu Asano, Shin’ya Tsukamoto and others. When will the film officially hit theaters? It’s to be determined as of this publishing, but a November promise has us waiting impatiently. 

DECEMBER 

La La Land” (December 2; pictured above): “Whiplash” director Damien Chazelle returns with another story of passion and music, channeling them into a love story co-starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone and executive produced by John Legend. You may have heard a lot about this film in the past week as it has just premiered to mega raves out of Venice and Telluride. Those are just a few of the fests it will hit along the way towards its anticipated wide release. 

Man Down” (December 2): It will be over a year since Dito Montiel’s “Man Down” premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2015, but better than never with this intriguing post-apocalyptic story from the previous director of the heartbreaking Robin Williams vehicle “Boulevard.” And for anyone who has been following Jai Courtney’s strange, persistent, flatlining career, maybe “Man Down” will give him a role more like his great turn in “Felony” and nothing like the stuff Hollywood continues to enlist him for. The cast for “Man Down” also includes Kate Mara, Shia LaBeouf, Gary Oldman and Clifton Collins Jr. 

Miss Sloane” (December 9): Here’s a timely movie that overcomes its dull director (John Madden) to make me want to see it anyway: Jessica Chastain plays a lobbyist attempting to pass gun control legislation. It might as well be the most heroic movie of the year without even seeing it. She’ll be joined on-screen by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alison Pill, Mark Strong, Jake Lacy, John Lithgow, Michael Stuhlbarg, Sam Waterston and Dylan Baker. The best revenge will be hopefully nuanced portrayals of the evil members of the gun lobby. 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (December 16): “Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens” successfully restarted the “Star Wars” brand’s presence at the box office, mostly by simply being released. Less immediately guaranteed are viewers for spin-offs, especially when most characters are unfamiliar. Here’s hoping that director Gareth Edwards (previously of “Godzilla”) does something special with this Felicity Jones-led blockbuster, which also stars Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, Ben Mendelsohn, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Jimmy Smits, Forest Whitaker, Donnie Yen and more. Oh, and James Earl Jones will reprise his role as the voice of Darth Vader, for this story about a group of rebels who try to steal the plans for the infamous Death Star. 

Julieta” (December 21): The praise coming out of Cannes 2016 for the latest from auteur Pedro Almodóvar wasn’t quite as loud as one may hope, but that never makes his films any less of a must-see. For “Julieta,” Almodóvar adapts a group of short stories by Alice Munro, which should provide some very striking inspiration for his dramatic tendencies. The film stars Adriana Ugarte, Rossy de Palma, Emma Suárez and Michelle Jenner. 

Patriots Day” (December 21): This marks the second Peter Berg true story of the year, starring Mark Wahlberg. "Patriots Day" focuses on the Boston bombing in 2013 and the men who brought justice, including the Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman). For those keeping track at home, this movie is only one of two Patriot's Day bombing movies on the horizon; David Gordon Green’s film “Stronger,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal, is due out in the spring. “Patriots Day” features Melissa Benoist, Michelle Monaghan, Kevin Bacon, J.K. Simmons and Rachel Brosnahan

Passengers” (December 23): “Passengers” is one of those odd duck titles with a lot of strange parts, and it feels like until anyone sees it that it’ll seem like both awards-movie material and just a blockbuster. On one hand you have director Morten Tyldum, Oscar-nominated for Best Director for “The Imitation Game,” guiding Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence and a relatively small cast that looks to be more dialogue-oriented than special effects. But on the other hand, you have the appearance of blockbuster-ready Chris Pratt, and a script by Jon Spaihts, who previously divided the sci-fi world with his “Prometheus” co-writing credit. 

Why Him?” (December 23): Bryan Cranston wards off the dumb boyfriend (played by James Franco) of his daughter (Zoey Deutch) in “Why Him?” the latest from “I Love You, Man” director John Hamburg. The trailer for the film is a bit unpromising as not-so-wacky pitches go (of which actor Jonah Hill has a story credit), but with these strange titled comedies, who knows? “Daddy’s Home” brought two competing dads together, played by Mark Wahlberg & Will Ferrell, for very junky fun, and in spite of its poor quality, people connected with it. “Why Him?” also features Adam Devine, Keegan-Michael Key, Megan Mullally and Casey Wilson

"Gold" (December 25): Matthew McConaughey ventures to find gold in what is assuredly not a sequel to his previous quest, "Fool's Gold." This time, McConaughey joins the likes of Edgar Ramírez and Bryce Dallas Howard in search of the shiny stuff in the Indonesian jungle. Whatever they discover, it will surely amount to more than what McConaughey's recent "The Sea of Trees" was able to scoop up. Stephen Gaghan directed this film, his first feature since 2005's "Syriana," and co-wrote the original screenplay with Patrick Massett and John Zinman

Fences” (December 25; main photo): Denzel Washington returns to the director’s chair for the first time since 2007’s “The Great Debaters” with this adaptation of August Wilson’s play, who also wrote the script. Whether this movie’s recently established, awards-friendly release date means anything or not, it’ll be a thrill to see Washington behind the camera and in front of it once again, acting along the likes of Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson and Stephen Henderson. 

Toni Erdmann” (December 25): One of the biggest breakouts from the Cannes Film Festival this past may was the 162-minute comedy “Toni Erdmann,” which comes from German writer/director Maren Ade. The movie has been a favorite of other festivals since, and will finish with a late release in hopes of an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. I’m always amazed at comedies that can run past two hours with the jokes still in tact, and the idea that it’s from a writer/director makes it all the much sweeter. Here’s hoping I can catch this if/when it comes to the Chicago International Film Festival this fall. 

20th Century Women” (December TBD): There isn’t much known about the latest from writer/director Mike Mills, who most previously made the very touching “Beginners" back in 2010, a distinct story about the eternal conundrums of love and loss. His latest feature takes him to 1970s Southern California, where a small IMDb synopsis mentions that this story focuses on “three women who explore love and freedom.” If I had to take a guess, those specific women are the ones played by Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning, and who will be joined by the likes of Laura Wiggins and Alia Shawkat

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