Try as she might, Zellweger’s Judy never goes beyond an impression of the multi-talented artist; her all-caps version of acting failing to allow the role…
After a summer dominated by fidgety dinosaurs and peppy, yellow sidekicks, we now enter into the main event of the year, the fall season (AKA "Awards Season.") This upcoming fall roster is so massive that it often offers two for the regular seasonal price; there are two Steve Jobs projects, two films from director Eli Roth, two biopics lead by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, two projects that were bumped by Warner Bros. from earlier in 2015 to the fall, and even two Tom Hardys as the case with Brian Helgeland's October release "Legend." If numbers are your thing too, be sure to keep track of how many movies Anthony Mackie's impeccable smile is bound to appear in (about 501 or so).
Along with regularly-scheduled multiplex fare, this fall is the blockbuster time for non-fiction, in which numerous legacies and experiences get their cinematic sheer. Taking a glance at the list, I count around 20 films based on true events, from "Everest" to "Spotlight" to "Joy."
To brace you for this upcoming season that features golden hopefuls, intriguing indies, and some good ol' expensive tentpoles, RogerEbert.com has compiled this overview of the films that will be hitting theaters and VOD near you, with all dates subject to change, or in some cases, subject to quality-proving world premieres at an upcoming festival. Be sure to check back here for our coverage of each of these titles and more, as our team tackles these releases and preps you for the best (and worst) of the year. Many of these films will be covered over the next month in our Festivals & Awards section. Check there often.
“A Walk in the Woods” (September 2): Robert Redford plays author Bill Bryson in this adaptation of Bryson’s novel, which finds him deciding out of the blue to traverse the Appalachian Trail. Nick Nolte joins him on the excursion. The film also stars Kristen Schaal, Emma Thompson, and Nick Offerman for one scene at an outdoors store.
“The Transporter Refueled” (Sept 4): With no Jason Statham on board, it's time for a new ruffian to drive impeccably in the face of danger. Ed Skrein is the guy, hoping along with this reboot's "Taken" producers to reignite a series that wore out its welcome not even ten years ago.
“Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine” (September 4): The first of two Steve Jobs films coming this fall, this one a documentary from prolific filmmaker Alex Gibney, who addresses his curiosity about the Apple phenomenon with a look into the Jobs philosophy, and the sacrifices he made to become a god of technology.
“The Perfect Guy” (September 11): Morris Chestnut and Michael Ealy star as two men fighting for the affection of a woman played by Sanaa Lathan. Both of them very handsome, but one of them apparently not to be trusted. Place your bets now.
"The Visit" (September 11): Hot and sometimes extremely-cold M. Night Shyamalan returns with a found footage movie that played well to preview audiences at San Diego Comic-Con, riding the somewhat-positive reviews of his new series “Wayward Pines.” Of all concepts for the subgenre, this one is about a trip to grandma's house. Kathryn Hahn stars.
"Goodnight Mommy" (September 11): Two boys experience an existential crisis when their mother returns home one day looking completely different. This one has weirded audiences out at various festivals, from Toronto to the Chicago Critics, and could make for a great horror jaunt for the art house crowd.
“Sleeping with Other People” (September 11): This hilarious game-changer to the modern romantic comedy was first introduced at Sundance 2015, where audiences fell for two single friends played by Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis who are compulsive cheaters, but want to maintain their own platonic relationship. The ensemble cast includes Brie, Sudeikis, Jason Mantzoukas, Adam Brody, Adam Scott, Natasha Lyonne, and Amanda Peet.
“Black Mass” (September 18): After playing Chicago’s own villain John Dillinger in "Public Enemies," costume-loving Johnny Depp now dons the accent and slicked back hair of another regional gangster. In director Scott Cooper’s new film, Depp takes on the infamy of Whitey Bulger, and the Boston legend's tenuous relationship with authorities. Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Joel Edgerton, Corey Stoll, Kevin Bacon, Adam Scott, Juno Temple and more star.
“Captive” (September 18): A man (David Oyelowo) and a woman (Kate Mara) have a life-changing experience when he takes her hostage. Though a tempting pairing, we’ve seen this type of project turn sour, such as with the similarly-plotted "Labor Day" starring Kate WInslet and Josh Brolin, and that turned out to be a dud.
“The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials” (September 18): The second installment in the "Maze Runner" franchise has its rules changed, with the titular labyrinth now leading way to very dangerous open roads. I still haven't caught up with the first one, but it's been stated pretty firmly that these films won't split up its finale (looking at you, "Hunger Games," "Divergent," and "Twilight,"), so there's no way this franchise can be that bad. Dylan O'Brien stars in this young adult adventure that features Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Aidan Gillen, Patricia Clarkson, and Nathalie Emmanuel.
“Sicario” (September 18): Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio del Toro star in this morally-complicated drama centered around the war on drugs in Mexico. Worth noting is that this Cannes-premiered project is directed by Denis Villeneuve, previously of the disturbing missing child drama “Prisoners.”
“Cooties” (September 18): Anyone who has ever dreamed of watching Eijah Wood and Rainn Wilson fight off a horde of infected elementary school children can breathe a sigh of relief with “Cooties.” Packing some promise for its bonkers scenario, the movie is armed with a list of funny supporting talent, including Jack McBrayer, Alison Pill, Nasim Pedrad, Jorge Garcia, and Leigh Whannell, the latter having a co-writing credit.
"Everest" (September 18): A true story that's primed for an IMAX experience, here's a survival tale with a massive ensemble and an even bigger snow storm. Included in this journey are Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Emily Watson, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, and Jake Gyllenhaal.
“Before I Wake” (September 25): Mike Flanigan is a quickly rising talent in the horror studio scene, having made mirrors scarier than long stares at one's self with his film “Oculus.” Now he's got a supernatural weird kid project, starring Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane as parents whose adopted child is able to bring his nightmares and dreams to life.
"Hotel Transylvania 2" (September 25): Adam Sandler’s animated take on classic horror characters returns, this time with his patriarch Dracula becoming a grandfather. Zippy animated slapstick chaos is promised, especially delightful for anyone starved for Frankenstein, the Mummy, a werewolf, or the Invisible Creature to make a fart joke.
“The Intern” (September 25): Robert De Niro will apparently take any job, even if it's an internship at an online fashion magazine. Such is the case with this comedy from writer/director Nancy Meyers, where De Niro works under a young boss player by Anne Hathaway.
“99 Homes” (September 25): After premiering during the 2014 festival circuit, the rest of the world finally gets to see this drama from EbertFest favorite Ramin Bahrani. Brian Tallerico saw the film when it played at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2014, and said that it’s his “most confidently made film. It doesn’t feel like there’s a beat, a shot, an angle that’s out of place or unconsidered.”
“Stonewall” (September 25): Roland Emmerich uses his directorial powers not to create a disaster movie per usual, but to recreate the historic events of the Stonewall riots, focusing his narrative around a young man's coming-of-age during the events. The cast includes Joey King, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jeremy Irvine, Caleb Landry Jones, and Jonny Beauchamp.
“The Green Inferno” (September 25): After premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept 8, 2013, Eli Roth’s cannibal horror story disappeared due to financial issues with the distributor. The film went so far as having previews before it was put on indefinite hold. Now, Blumhouse’s own Jason Blum is releasing the film nearly two years after its original date. Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Aaron Burns, Kirby Bliss Blanton, and Magda Apanowicz star.
"Legend" (October 2): Anyone that can't get enough of Tom Hardy when he's on-screen will have such appetite tested by seeing two Hardys, when he plays twins Reggie and Ronnie Kray, orchestrators of a massive crime ring in 1960s Britain. Along with this Hardy party, writer/director Brian Helgeland has assembled a cast that includes Emily Browning, Paul Bettany, Taron Egerton, Christopher Eccleston, and Chazz Palminteri.
"The Martian" (October 2): An astronaut (played by Matt Damon) is stranded in space and tries to get back home in this project from Ridley Scott, adapted from the beloved novel by Andy Weir. Also appearing in the film are the likes of Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, Jessica Chastain, Sebastian Stan, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Donald Glover, and Naomi Scott.
“Freeheld” (October 2): In this intriguingly-cast drama from director Peter Sollett, Julianne Moore plays a New Jersey police lieutenant recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, who fights to get her pension benefits with her partner Stacie Andree (Ellen Page). Steve Carell, Josh Charles, and Michael Shannon also star in this timely drama that goes so far as using the equal sign from everyone’s Facebook profile picture for its promotional material.
"He Named Me Malala" (October 2): The extraordinary life of Malala Yousafzai is the subject of this celebratory documentary from Davis Guggenheim, previously of films like "Waiting for 'Superman'" and "An Inconvenient Truth." A fact worthy of a documentary to explore it, Yousafzai is the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Prize, at the age of 17.
"Big Stone Gap" (October 9): Author Adriana Trigiani joins a very small list of writers who have also adapted/directed their own book, this story focused on a woman going through a transitional period of her small Appalachian town. Ashley Judd stars, appearing opposite such names as Patrick Wilson, Jane Krakowski, Whoopi Goldberg and Jenna Elfman.
“Pan” (October 9): “Atonement” director Joe Wright jumps into the unpredictable waters of “Peter Pan” film adaptations, supported by a cast that features Garrett Hedlund as Hook, Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard, Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily, and newcomer Levi Miller as the title boy. The film was originally set for summer 2015, but got bumped closer to award season. Take that as you will.
“Steve Jobs” (October 9): Just as the world needed a movie about Facebook with “The Social Network,” so is our Apple fixation worthy of a cinematic treatment. After bouncing around between different actors (Christian Bale to Michael Fassbender) and directors (David Fincher to Danny Boyle), this script from Aaron Sorkin finally has a home, featuring Seth Rogen and Kate Winslet acting opposite Fassbender's portrayal of the tech god.
"Knock Knock" (October 9): If one Eli Roth movie wasn't enough for you this fall, another one comes right behind it, trying to seduce you with Keanu Reeves playing a lame dad. A comedy horror about a husband who doesn't resist two strange women that appear on his doorstop one rainy night, “Knock Knock” is a certainly playful nightmare of the philosophy of "free pizza.” Here’s my 2015 Sundance interview with the stars and producers of the film, a little tease before Roth’s funny game is unleashed.
"The Walk" (October 9): Director Robert Zemeckis applies his eye for the spectacular to the life of Philippe Petit, the tightrope walker previously celebrated in James Marsh's Oscar-winning documentary "Man on Wire." Bringing Petit to narrative feature light is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, acting opposite Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Charotte Le Bon, and Ben Schwartz.
“Bridge of Spies” (October 16): Tom Hanks stars in this Cold War drama co-written by Joel and Ethan Coen, and directed by none other than Steven Spielberg. Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Austin Stowell, Mark Rylance, Sebastian Koch, and Eve Hewson also appear. The film is set to have its world premiere at the New York Film Festival.
“Crimson Peak” (October 16): After playing with big robots in 2013’s “Pacific Rim,” Guillermo del Toro ventures back to the world of horror with this haunted house tale starring Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Doug Jones, and Burn Gorman. Expect some master thrills, possible strong performances, and likely the scariest movie of the Halloween mini-season.
“Goosebumps” (October 16): Author R.L. Stine sees his monsters come to life (and he finally gets a film adaptation), with this family adventure based around the popular book series. Stine is played by Jack Black, who acts opposite appears opposite Dylan Minnette and Halston Sage, playing two young folk who witness the monsters he’s unleashed in their Maryland town.
“Room” (October 16): Brie Larson plays a mother who raises her child in a single room in this drama from “Frank” director Lenny Abrahamson. Author Emma Donoghue adapts her own best-selling novel, in this production that features Joan Allen and William H. Macy.
“Beasts of No Nation” (October 16): Director Cary Fukuanga (“True Detective,” the good season) returns to filmmaking with a project that will play both the silver screen and your mobile device with its historic Netflix distribution deal. Fukuanga adapts a novel by Uzodinma Iweala about child soldiers in an unnamed African country, with Idris Elba playing highly influential Commandant character.
“Jem and the Holograms” (October 23): In this live-action adaptation of the glitzy '80s animated series, a band of young women from humble beginnings become set on becoming superstars, with a little fantasy thrown in the mix. Promotional material for the film doesn't provide much promise this will be like the original show, which is a truly outrageous artistic decision indeed. Jon M. Chu directs, bringing both his experience working with Justin Bieber feature projects and “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.”
“The Last Witch Hunter” (October 23): Vin Diesel has quite the life source with the “Fast & Furious” movies, but his efforts to give life to other franchises have been far clumsier. It’s a lot of him pursuing things that no one is particularly begging for, like that past third Riddick movie, or the “xXx” sequel that he’s always threatened but will now officially start filming soon. Now, there's this weird thing. In Diesel’s savvy social media fashion, he’s already hyped up on his incomparable Facebook page that the studio wants a sequel. Elijah Wood, Rose Leslie, and Michael Caine co-star in this action-horror that is indeed about the last guy left to defeat some witches.
“Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” (October 23): After five movies of filming mean-spirited supernatural forces bully people on candid camera, the sixth installment promises "Paranormal Activity" fans on its poster that we'll be able to peek behind the demonic curtain, so to speak. We'll believe it when we see it, but if this is the road the found footage series has been leading to with all of its bizarre third acts, a "Poltergeist"-like adventure from "Paranormal Activity" could prove a rewarding step forward.
“Rock the Kasbah” (October 23): Bill Murray plays a struggling music manager who discovers a young talent in Kabul, and tries to make the young woman a superstar in Afghanistan. From director Barry Levinson, this project also boasts the likes of Zooey Deschanel, Bruce Willis, Scott Caan, Kate Hudson, Taylor Kinney, Danny McBride, and Sarah Baker. Its writer, Mitch Glazer, also co-wrote the upcoming Bill Murray Christmas special that will hit Netflix in December, “A Very Murray Christmas.”
“Tokyo Tribe” (October 23): Of the many directors given access to buckets of blood for a single day of shooting, few are as underrated as Sion Sono, a cinematic artist of narrative left-turns and the giddy spectacles of gore. This new project about warring Japanese gangs follows the bizarre likes of his slicing "Tag," or his raucous "Why Don’t You Play in Hell?", and promises to be just as impeccably unhinged.
“Suffragette” (October 23): Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Annie-Marie Duff, and Meryl Streep star in this story about the British women’s suffrage movement, as they overcame a sexist government system during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Directed by Sarah Gavron and from “The Iron Lady” scribe Abi Morgan, “Suffragette” has already made history by being the first film to be shot in the Houses of Parliament.
"I Smile Back" (October 23): Sarah Silverman's performance as a frightening alcoholic in writer/director Sarah Polley's "Take This Waltz" certified the comedian's dramatic promise, but she hasn't played a character like that since. Now, in this Sundance-introduced film from director Adam Salky (co-written by Amy Koppelman, adapting her novel, and Paige Dylan), Silverman plays a housewife with destructive impulses that start to take its toll on her family. Josh Charles, Tom Sadoski, and Mia Barron also appear in the film.
“Our Brand is Crisis” (October 30): Prolific, unpredictable director David Gordon Green adapts Rachel Boynton’s documentary of the same name to create a feature riff on the subject of American political campaign strategies, especially when brought abroad. Sandra Bullock stars in the film as “Calamity” Jane Bodine, opposite the talents of Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Zoe Kazan, Scoot McNairy, Ann Dowd, and more.
“Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” (October 30): The yawning event of a zombie apocalypse gets a new spin with the addition of heroic scouts, played by actors like Patrick Schwarzenegger and Tye Sheridan. Surprisingly not based on a beloved quirky book or graphic novel, this is an original script that caught steam on the 2010 Blacklist, the roster of promising yet at-the-time unproduced scripts.
“Peanuts” (November 6): After decades and decades of failing to kick the cinematic football, Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang are finally getting their big screen adaptation, from the animators at Blue Sky Studios (“Ice Age,” “Rio”). Guiding this project as producer is none other than Paul Feig, who has experience with awkward blockheads and sweet moments from his days on the show “Freaks and Geeks,” among his own other films.
“Spectre” (November 6): Bond, James Bond returns to multiplexes with director Sam Mendes. No plot synopsis is worth digging up (unlike with many other films, a brief story synopsis doesn’t declare whether a Bond movie sounds good or not) but just as “Skyfall” did, this project will boast a very unique cinematographic talent behind the camera - Hoyte Van Hoytema, previously of “Her” and then “Interstellar.”
“Spotlight” (November 6): Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci are part of an ensemble in this newsroom drama about how the Boston Globe unveiled the disturbing history of sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston. A little underdog story also comes in tow with this project, as director Tom McCarthy will fight to erase all bad will he brought upon audiences that saw his previous film/abomination of any creative’s nightmares, “The Cobbler.”
“Trumbo" (November 6): After years of playing supporting parts on the silver screen, or as a lead in “Breaking Bad,” Bryan Cranston gets his moment with this biopic from director Jay Roach about screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Sharing the screen with him are the likes of Elle Fanning, Diane Lane, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Helen Mirren, Alan Tudyk, John Goodman, Louis C.K. and Michael Stuhlbarg.
“The 33” (November 13): The news headline phenomenon of the 33 miners who were trapped underground for 69 days gets its feature treatment, this time from Mexican director Patricia Riggen (“Under the Same Moon” and “Girl in Progress”). Featured in the cast are Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, Antonio Banderas, Gabriel Byrne, James Brolin, Lou Diamond Phillips, Oscar Nuñez, and Cote de Pablo.
“By the Sea” (November 13): As a director, Angelina Jolie has displayed as fascination with pain through massive world conflicts (“In the Land of Blood and Honey” and last year’s “Unbroken”). Now, she places her camera, her screenwriting capabilities, and her on-screen presence into her original screenplay about a couple trying to save their marriage, acting opposite none other than her husband, Brad Pitt.
“Love the Coopers” (November 13): Taking the place of this holiday’s family reunion movie is “Love the Coopers” (not “Love, The Coopers”), whose cast make this ticking time bomb of dysfunction initially intriguing. Here are the names from the poster alone: Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Diane Keaton, Jake Lacy, Anthony Mackie, Amanda Seyfried, June Squibb, Marisa Tomei and Olivia Wilde.
“Rings” (November 13): As if the original video tape from Gore Verbinski’s “The Ring” wasn’t killer enough, a second sequel to that film arrives, this time promising more than the original with by just its plural title alone. Aimee Teagarden and Johnny Galecki star in this sequel that boasts an Akiva Goldsman screenwriting credit, which is scary unto itself.
“Entertainment” (November 13): I’m not sure how to fairly talk about this movie without making it sound like it should be the awards season dark horse, but if you are going to see one movie this year about life as performance, it must be “Entertainment.” This Sundance film is going to be one of the trippier movies you’ll see this season; for what it’s worth, it’s miles ahead better than “Birdman.” Gregg Turkington stars in this pitch-black drama from director Rick Alverson that features Tye Sheridan, John C. Reilly, Amy Seimetz, and the most unexpected appearance from Michael Cera yet on film.
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2” (November 20): The dystopic young adult franchise finally comes to a close, after non-productively splitting up its finale. Now we get the last piece, which will include the revolution we were teased with in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.” Returning for this finish are the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Banks, Jena Malone, Julianne Moore, Sam Claflin, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.
“Secret in Their Eyes” (November 20): Eduardo Sancheri’s novel that previously made for an Oscar-winning foreign language film (directed by Juan José Campanella) now gets the American treatment, this time from the acting talent of Chitwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts, and Nicole Kidman. They play a group of FBI investigators whose dynamic is ruined when one of their children is murdered. Not for nothing, the film is directed by “Captain Phillips” writer and “Breach” helmer Billy Ray, who has proven to know his way around a tight, dialogue-driven story.
“Carol” (November 20): Rooney Mara plays a department store clerk who falls in love with an older woman in this 1950s-set Todd Haynes film, adapted by Phyllis Nagy from the novel by Patricia Highsmith. To give an idea of the hype behind this movie, it’s already won two big kudos from the Cannes Film Festival - Mara tied with Emmanuelle Bercot for Best Actress, and Haynes won the Queer Palm. Expect to hear lots more about this project, especially as it begins to show up on the festival circuit.
“Criminal Activities” (November 20): Oscar-nominee Jackie Earle Haley makes his directorial debut with this crime drama about four men whose investment gets them caught up in the mob. Haley stars in the movie, alongside Dan Stevens, John Travolta, Michael Pitt, Christopher Abbott, Edi Gathegi, and Rob Brown.
“Creed” (Nov 25): Here’s the “Rocky” spin-off/sequel that we definitely want to see. “Creed” is a passion project from the very-promising “Fruitvale Station” director Ryan Coogler, who shifts the focus of Philadelphia fighters from Rocky Balboa to the son of his friend Apollo Creed, Adonis (played by Michael B. Jordan). Only a few morsels of the film’s trailer are needed to be fired up about this film, aptly taking us into the next generation of fighters.
“The Good Dinosaur” (November 25): Anyone who might have gotten some decent emotional exercise from this last summer’s “Inside Out” will be happy to know that there’s a second project coming this year from Pixar Animation Studios. This one, from director Peter Sohn, follows the unlikely friendship between a green dinosaur and a little human being, in a world where the asteroid never rendered the dinos extinct.
“The Night Before” (November 25): A holiday get-together too well-cast to resist - in “The Night Before,” Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Anthony Mackie play friends looking for the best Christmas party in New York City, especially as their tradition of getting together each year is set to change. Adding further comedy kudos to this project is its director, Jonathan Levine, who found a great balance between Rogen-brand comedy and real-life friendship drama with his cancer tale “50/50,” which also starred Gordon-Levitt.
“Victor Frankenstein” (November 25): If you can somehow yield your yawns, the saga of Frankenstein now presents itself from the perspective of his assistant Igor. At the very least, in a bout of casting more intriguing than its narrative shift, “Harry Potter” veteran Daniel Radcliffe will play Igor, while James McAvoy (with all of his “X-Men” credit) is the mad scientist himself. If director Paul McGuigan knows what’s right, he’ll at least give the actors’ fan base plenty of Tumblr-ready scenes of the two and their fantastical bromance.
“The Danish Girl” (November 27): Fresh off his Oscar win for last year’s “The Theory of Everything,” actor Eddie Redmanye takes on the true-life story of Lili Elbe, a transgender woman who had a historical marriage in the 1900s to Gerda Wegene (played by Alicia Viklander). Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech,” “Les Miserables”) directs this story highly-anticipated, really topical drama that also features Amber Heard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ben Whishaw, and Emerald Fennell.
“I Saw the Light” (November 27): Tom Hiddleston throws a cowboy hat in the musical biopic game, trying to duplicate a very distinct country music presence - Hank Williams, the yodeling maestro of songs like “Lonesome Blues” or “Hey Good Lookin’”. Writer/director Marc Abraham adapts a biography by Colin Escott, working with a cast that also includes Elizabeth Olsen, David Krumholtz and Bradley Whitford.
“Krampus” (December 4): The mythology of the Krampus (a killer Santa Claus, so-to-speak) is rife for some VOD horror, but thankfully a studio pairing (Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures) is gonna give this potential jolly madness a little more oomph. Director Michael Dougherty utilizes the bizarre tale of the Krampus for this ensemble horror that looks primed to play in the “Sharknado” waters, but with a studio budget. Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Allison Tolman and David Koechner star.
“Youth” (December 4): Harvey Keitel and Michael Caine play men of a certain age, at a certain part in their careers, in this story from writer/director Paolo Sorrentino (“This Must Be the Place,” “The Great Beauty.”) Viewing the film during its Cannes premiere this past May, writer Michał Oleszczyk stated that compared to its immediate contemporaries (“Quartet,” “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”), “the film radiates a kind of serenity in the face of death that most of the inspirational fare simply doesn’t have.”
“Macbeth” (December 4): From Justin Kurzel, the director of the brutal “The Snowtown Murders,” comes this adaptation of the Shakespeare play, this time with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard as the couple that muck up Scotland. Despite the hype behind the movie, our own Barbara Scharres was not a fan of the film when she saw it at Cannes, saying that it’s “astonishingly dull,” and that its tackling of Shakespeare’s dialogue is “strangely lacking in emphasis or variation.”
“In the Heart of the Sea” (December 11): Ron Howard’s whaling adventure was set for a spring release this year, but got pushed to the awards season-friendly date of early December. What’s so special about this survival on the sea story, especially opening a week before “Star Wars”? On board for this story (adapted from Nathaniel Philbrick’s book “In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex”) are the likes of Chris Hemsworth, Tom Holland, Cillian Murphy, Michelle Fairely, Ben Whishaw, Benjamin Walker, Charlotte Riley and Brendan Gleeson.
“Sisters” (December 18): Tina Fey and Amy Poelher star in this comedy about two sisters who want to have a final party before their parents sell the house they grew up in. This movie still hasn’t budged from its release date of you-know-what, and could unfortunately, but likely suffer the fate forgettable fate of that previous Fey & Poehler movie (I think it was called “Baby Mama”?)
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (December 18) It feels like forever since we’ve had a “Star Wars” movie in theaters, even though a casual IMDb glance proves it has only been ten years. Now, arriving with a Disney manufacturing label and likely modeled with the calculated nature of a Marvel movie, the “Star Wars” franchise is geared to dominate multiplexes, wallets, toy aisles, cereal box covers, the very economic infrastructure of the world stock market, attention spans, and everything in between. J.J. Abrams directs this new installment, continuing from the saga ended by “Return of the Jedi” (1983), featuring a massive cast: Oscar Isaac, Max von Sydow, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Simon Pegg, Gwendoline Christie, Domhnall Gleeson, and original members like Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill.
“Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip” (December 23): You didn’t ask for it, but here it is, a fourth “Alvin and the Chipmunks” live-action/CGI film, where everyone’s favorite stylized yard rats venture on the road Kerouac-style to stop master Dave from proposing to someone, AKA ditching them, apparently. Consider this project karma for director Walt Becker, of the previously abysmal “Wild Hogs” and “Old Dogs.”
“Concussion” (December 25): Will Smith plays football legend Dr. Bennet Omalu, who changed the game off the field when he discovered brain trauma within professional players. Framed as a David vs. Goliath story, this project from Peter Landesman (2013’s JFK drama “Parkland”) has Smith starring opposite Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Eddie Marsan, Stephen Moyer, Luke Wilson, Albert Brooks and David Morse.
“Daddy’s Home” (December 25): Pairing Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell proved an inspired comedic choice with Adam McKay’s “The Other Guys,” the buddy cop parody from 2010. Now, they’re set as opposing father figures (Ferrell is the step dad, Wahlberg is the biological one) in a concept that only loses some of its promise because its from “That’s My Boy” helmer Sean Anders.
“Joy” (December 25): David O. Russell’s biopic about Miracle Mop inventor Joy Mangano turns out to have more initial narrative ambition than most other life stories found at this time of year - this one reportedly covers four generations of Mangano’s family, leading to the construction of their dynasty. Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Virginia Madsen and Isabella Rossellini star.
“Point Break” (December 25): One of the worst parts of the “Fast & Furious” franchise is how it always inspires middling attempts to duplicate its gravity-defying magic; this remake of “Point Break” could very well be a part of that list, or if the thrills are done right, it could prove giddy genre counter-programming (although against a Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg comedy? I’m not so sure). Extreme sports and robberies ensue, while the likes of Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Ray Winstone and Édgar Ramirez try to legitimize this project.
“Snowden” (December 25): Joseph Gordon-Levitt doubles down on the biopic beat this season, following up his Phillipe Petit high-wire act with that of controversial subject Edward Snowden, in the latest project from Oliver Stone. Based on two different Snowden books, this could be the hot-topic foray that Stone (and a holiday-timed release) want it to be. Or, it could also be the exhausting final sigh of a season full of biopics. Shailene Woodley, Scott Eastwood, Timothy Olyphant, Melissa Leo, Tom Wilkinson and Joely Richardson also appear.
“The Hateful Eight” (December 25): After that recent interview with Vulture in which he all but declared his presidency for 2020, Quentin Tarantino better put his writing/directing where his mouth is for this next venture, a western with an ensemble cast. No official word yet on what Tarantino has changed in this script after it was leaked during pre-production, or if a brutally-murdered character will be renamed to Gawker. Nonetheless, in Tarantino’s savvy way to keep his definition of cinema alive, or just to bribe cinephiles, “The Hateful Eight” will reportedly be shown on as many 70mm projectors as possible, as it was filmed in Ultra Panavision 70.
“The Revenant” (December 25): “Birdman” director Alejando González Iñárritu returns to awards season just a year later, now with a period wilderness drama in which Leonardo DiCaprio plays a frontiersman who is left for dead in the early 1800s. Aside from a cast that includes Tom Hardy and rising star Will Poulter, “The Revenant” also boasts the promise of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who was reportedly one part of many elements in this film’s very specific, grueling production.
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