COLUMN: 2015 Fall Movie Preview


After the traditional summer movie season of blockbusters, the following fall movie season tends to be a lull and a letdown before the next round of event films and the awards contenders fill up the months of November and December.  September is normally filled with rejects that weren't big enough for summer and not good enough for the holidays.  With Halloween capping October, the darker stuff tends to fill that month.  That's been the trend but the climate is shifting like the season.  It is with great surprise that this fall movie season, on paper, is shaping up to be truly legitimate.  

Ever since the likes of "The Departed" and "Argo" started their Oscar runs in October rather than the traditional awards season months of November and December, more and more quality films are starting to drop in early fall.  Case in point, when have you ever seen a Steven Spielberg film open not in summer or the holidays?  You get that this year and his film is one of many genuine contenders.  Kicking off even more of the awards season, the headline industry event, where many films below are represented, is the annual Toronto International Film Festival, which begins on September 10.  Pay attention to October 2015.  You're getting some rare quality this season.  Here's my complete 2015 Fall Movie Preview.  Enjoy!


"The Transporter: Refueled"-- Well, despite that big introduction, they all can't be winners.  Here's your prerequisite unnecessary action sequel that returns no original cast members.  They might as well release this and "Agent 47: Hitman" is a dollar store two-pack when it hits Blu-ray and DVD.  If you care, "Game of Thrones" star Ed Skrein gets the new keys to this car.  (trailer)

"A Walk in the Woods"-- Here's "Wild" for senior citizens.  Robert Redford and Nick Nolte team up as old friends stuck together through misadventures while trekking the entirety of the Appalachian Trail.  Expect tamer, older, huskier, and slower than Reese Witherspoon.  (trailer)


"Sleeping with Other People"-- Elevating from "We're the Millers," Jason Sudeikis leads this more refined romantic comedy that made its mark at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in January.  He plays a womanizer who befriends a fellow cheater (Alison Brie) and they hit it off while trying to help each other change their ways.  Adam Scott, Amanda Peet, and Natasha Lyonne co-star.  (red band trailer)

"The Visit"-- Frequently failed filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan just won't die and keeps talking his way into jobs.  Universal Pictures is letting him write and direct this PG-13 psychological thriller about two kids stuck at the deeply disturbed grandmother's house for the weekend.  Boy, I bet that game of bridge or bunco is intense.  Please.  (trailer)


"Black Mass"-- Now we're seeing a step up in quality.  "Black Mass" is the latest from Scott Cooper, the director of "Crazy Heart" and "Out of the Furnace," and outlines the peak years of the notorious South Boston crime lord Whitey Bulger, played with striking makeup and intensity by Johnny Depp.  It will be nice to see Johnny Depp, the actor again, after his usual cartoonish routines elsewhere.  The loaded ensemble cast includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sargaard, Corey Stoll, Sienna Miller, and Adam Scott.  (trailer)  

"Everest"-- The famed 1996 Mount Everest disaster that was documented in the lauded non-fiction bestseller "Into Thin Air," gets the 3D blockbuster/disaster film treatment focused on the daring search and rescue teams led by Jason Clarke and Jake Gyllenhaal (likely with a shirt-off clause in his contract).  Expect a whole mountain of facts to be bent for cinematic dramatization purposes.  Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Michael Kelly, Robin Wright, Sam Worthington, Emily Watson, Elizabeth Debicki, and Keira Knightley round out the big showcase.  (trailer)

"Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials"-- After a modest success last year, this young adult franchise gets its second installment of a planned trilogy.  Dylan O'Brien's Thomas and his cohorts (including Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Ki Hong Lee) are out of the maze and searching for answers about the organization that's running the show of their desolate post-apocalyptic landscape.  The finale third film is slated for 2017 if all goes well.  (trailer)

"Pawn Sacrifice"-- In his first film in five years, director Ed Zwick ("Glory," "Legends of the Fall," "Courage Under Fire," "Blood Diamond," "Love and Other Drugs") returns for historical drama about the political lead-up and famed Cold War chess match-up between American professional Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) and the Soviet champion Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber).  This film has been on the backburner awaiting distribution and release since the 2014 Toronto Film Festival and finally gets it day in the lights.  You can tell this one wants to be this year's "The Imitation Game."  (trailer)  

"Captive"-- "Selma" star David Oyelowo stars in the true crime escape, murder, and kidnapping story of Brian Nichols ripped from the 2005 Atlanta headlines.  Kara Mara co-stars as the titular captive along with Michael K. Williams as the lead investigator.  Oyelowo's presence raises this film's quality and buzz.  (trailer)


"Hotel Transylvania 2"-- For as much as this website preaches to anyone who will listen to avoid Adam Sandler's live-action movies, go ahead and avoid his animated ones too.  This parenthood monster sequel will probably rake it in after the long drought since "Minions" as viable family fare.  Go ahead and keep protesting if you can.  (trailer)

"Stonewall"-- Going small scale and artsy, blockbuster filmmaker and active LGBT campaigner Roland Emmerich ("Independence Day," "Godzilla," "2012," "White House Down") brings the historical 1969 Stonewall Riots to life that kicked off the gay rights movement in New York City.  "War Horse" star Jeremy Irvine is your protagonist and he's joined by Jonathan Rhys Myers and Ron Perlman.  (trailer)

"The Intern"-- This Anne Hathaway/Robert De Niro combination is romantic comedy queen Nancy Myers's first film since 2009.  Hathaway plays a young CEO of a web-based fashion company that takes part in a community outreach plan to have seniors, instead of fellow young people, work as interns.  That's where Bobby D comes in and charms hearts as a father-figure and likely romances Rene Russo.  It's been too long since Myers ("What Women Want," "Somethings Gotta Give," "The Holiday") had a win.  We'll see if "The Intern" can click.  (trailer)

"Sicario"-- This new film from French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve ("Prisoners") competed for the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival in France and now makes its domestic debut.  "Sicario" is a crime thriller involving a young female FBI agent, played by Emily Blunt, that ventures south of the U.S.-Mexican border to track down a mysterious drug lord.  Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, and Jon Bernthal round out the squad.  With Villeneuve, be ready for something intense.  (trailer

"The Disappointments Room"-- Fall wouldn't be complete with a few horror entries.  This one has some pedigree behind the camera.  "The Disappointments Room," starring Kate Beckinsale discovering some not-so-nice things about the attic of her rural dream home is written by "Prison Break" star Wentworth Miller (who also wrote "Stoker") and directed by D.J. Caruso of "Disturbia," "Eagle Eye," "I Am Number Four," and "Taking Lives."  Those two make this one a step up from the usual unknown trash.  (trailer)

"The Keeping Room"-- Stranded on their own during the time of the Civil War, three southern women (Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, and Muna Otaru) seeks to defend themselves by force from two wayward soldiers (including Sam Worthington) looking to poach their homestead.  Made by Drafthouse Films., "The Keeping Room" is billed as a feminist western thriller.  It looks intense.  This could be a small-time hidden gem this season.  (trailer)


"The Martian"-- This is the beginning of the loaded October that was promised and promoted.  Director Ridley Scott adapts the 2011 science fiction bestseller from author Andy Weir.  Matt Damon plays Mark Watney, an astronaut stranded on Mars and presumed dead.  While he digs in for long-term survival, NASA and his teammates work to muster a mission to go back and bring him home.  Ridley Scott and space was all you had to say.  Add a celebrated novel and an excellent cast (Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Kara Mara, Jeff Daniels, Donald Glover, Sebastian Stan, and Sean Bean) and this one is a sure-fire hit with awards potential.  (trailer)

"London Has Fallen"-- Gerard Butler saving the day once as a stud Secret Service agent in "Olympus Has Fallen" wasn't good enough.  He and his U.S. President buddy (Aaron Eckhardt) find themselves in a jam again, this time in London where the top leaders of the world attend the funeral of the deceased Prime Minister as a new threat emerges.  The supporting brass of Vice President Morgan Freeman, Secret Service Director Angela Basset, General Robert Forseter, and Secretary of Defense Melissa Leo all return as well.  It's time to blow stuff up!  (trailer)

"Legend"-- Oscar-winning screenwriter ("L.A. Confidential," "Mystic River") and occasional director ("42," "A Knight's Tale") Brian Helgeland gives us a double dose of Tom Hardy playing the identical twin role of Ronald and Reginald Kray, two former London psychopaths of organized crime from the 1950's and 60's.  Emily Browning is one of the wife's in the middle and Christopher Eccleston is the lead flatfoot on their trail.  (trailer


"The Walk"-- Using IMAX and 3D to bolster its thrilling heights and possibilities as only Robert Zemeckis can, the "Flight" and "Polar Express" visionary stays in live-action with the true story of Philippe Petit's famed 1974 high-wire stunt between the two towers of the World Trade Center.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt mans the lead.  "The Walk" will premiere at the New York Film Festival on September 25 before beginning an exclusive IMAX early release on September 30 before going wide on October 9.  Count this as a crossover contender for box office and awards season.  This is the best trailer you'll see in the whole preview.  

"Pan"-- Grandiose filmmaker Joe Wright ("Atonement," "Hanna," "Anna Karenina") brings his baroque vision to an origin story retelling of Peter Pan.  In this iteration, Blackbear (Hugh Jackman) rules all of Neverland, Peter (newcomer Levi Miller) hasn't become the hero of his destiny, and James Hook (Garrett Hedlund) is just a lowly pirate and his friend.  The sets, stunts, effects, costumes, and production design already look off the charts.  Warner Bros. sat on this one and opted for a fall release rather than a prime summer one.  Let's see if it pays off.  (trailer)

"Steve Jobs"-- Screw Ashton Kutcher and his small potatoes attempt two years ago.  Sharpened with all kinds of dramatic intensity by Oscar-winning British filmmaker Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire," "127 Hours," "Trainspotting," "28 Days Later") and powered by an Aaron Sorkin ("The Social Network," "Moneyball") screenplay, this is your serious Steve Jobs biography film.  Michael Fassbender puts on the glasses and turtlenecks to play the visionary innovator while Seth Rogan, Kate Winslet and Jeff Daniels assist in supporting roles.  Word is the film is composed of three 30-minute real-time backstage segments recreating Jobs' famed product launches and spanning 17 years of his life in key flashbacks.  Right there with "The Walk," this trailer sells it with minimal reveal.


"Bridge of Spies"-- To repeat, when was the last time you have ever seen a Steven Spielberg film get a non-summer or non-holiday release?  In his first film since 2012's "Lincoln" and passing "American Sniper" to Clint Eastwood, Spielberg collaborates for a fourth time with Tom Hanks on the background history of Brooklyn lawyer James Donovan (Hanks) sent to Russia to negotiate the release of the captured U-2 spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell of "Whiplash") at the onset of the Cold War.  Mark Rylance, Alan Alda, and Amy Adams are also included.  As always, when Spielberg is involved, the Oscars pay attention, and he owns the historical drama playground.  (trailer)

"Crimson Peak"-- Billed as a supernatural horror romance, "Crimson Peak" is the latest original creation of Guillermo del Toro (the "Hellboy" series, "Pan's Labyrinth," "The Hobbit" wingman).  Mia Wasikowska's young author falls for and marries a handsome Northrn English nobleman (Tom Hiddleston) who is not who he seems.  Expect ghosts, apparitions, suspense, and Charles Hunnan and Jessica Chastain in the mix.  Del Toro's fanboy status is still high and this film has been the buzz of the Comic-Con crowd for two years.  (trailer)

"Goosebumps"-- Even with a brand name such as "Goosebumps" that long-time fans have been clamoring to see come to life on the big screen, the zany presence of Jack Black playing R.L. Stine himself makes this a tough sell.  This will get family business during the Halloween season, but the trailer is cringe-worthy experience, and not one of the "Goosebumps" variety.  Wit and cleverness seem to be replaced by gags and weak jokes.  (trailer)

"Truth"-- Hollywood action screenwriter James Vanderbilt (both recent "Amazing Spider-Man" reboots and "White House Down") makes his directorial debut in a far quieter political drama surrounding the controversial reporting by CBS news anchor Dan Rather (played by Robert Redford) on President George W. Bush's military service record in 2004 that cost him and his producer (Cate Blanchet) their jobs.  Dennis Quaid, Elisabeth Moss, Topher Grace, and Bruce Greenwood round out the cast.  This film will debut at the Toronto International Film Festival.  (no trailer yet)


"Burnt"-- This is going to sound a lot like Jon Favreu's "Chef" only slightly darker, but Bradley Cooper plays a high-end chef who is trying to recover from the drug abuse and vanity that cost him his career by revitalizing a London restaurant in hopes of stepping up to Paris.  Join Cooper in director John Wells's ("August Osage County") kitchen are Sienna Miller, Omar Sy, Daniel Bruhl, Ms. Everywhere Alicia Vikander, Matthew Rhys, Lily James of "Cinderella", Uma Thurman, and Emma Thompson.  Let's see if this returns Cooper's golden touch after the "Aloha" bomb of this past summer.  (trailer)

"The Last Witch Hunter"-- Vin Diesel stars in something that doesn't have cars.  Can you believe it?  He even wields a sword here at a New York City witch hunter defiantly battling against a supernatural plague choking the city.  Mixed in here with Diesel are Elijah Wood, Michael Caine, and "Downton Abbey" and "Games of Thrones" starlet Rose Leslie.  Vin normally doesn't do well outside of going fast and furious.  This is a big risk banked on his name and stature.  (trailer

"Jem and the Holograms"-- Well, after "Goosebumps," it wouldn't be fall without a couple more digressive stinkers and childhood-ruining disasters-in-waiting.  Part of Hasbro's invasion from toys to films right next to the "Transformers" and "G.I. Joe" franchises, is this musical fantasy based on the 1985-88 animated series.  Virtual unknown (unless you watch "Nashville") Aubrey Peeples leads the band with Juliette Lewis, Ryan Guzman, and (holy 80s) Molly Ringwald in the background.  Good luck, folks.  High hopes are hard to find.  (trailer)

"Rock the Kasbah"-- Following up his award-worthy lead in "St. Vincent" last year, Bill Murray stars in another near-vanity project as another wild and zany old coot.  This time, he's a downtrodden rock manager stranded in war-torn Afghanistan without a passport on a USO tour where he discovers a new local singing voice that he's convinced can make it to the big time.  Bruce Willis, Zooey Deschanel, Kate Hudson, Danny McBride, and Scott Caan pop in for the tunes too.  (trailer

"Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension"-- The profitable and successful horror franchise that won't die or change gets its fifth film just in time for Halloween.  Cue the usual one-weekend crowds that make back triple the meager film's budget and keep the series going.  (trailer)


"Our Brand is Crisis"-- Eclectic director David Gordon Green continues to eschew the broad comedies ("Pineapple Express" and "Your Highness") that made him a success for a feature film adaptation of the 2005 documentary of the same name that chronicled sneaky American political strategies that played puppeteer in the 2002 Bolivian presidential elections.  Green gets George Clooney's power backing as a producer (it worked for "Argo") and scored a top-notch cast led by Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, Scoot McNairy, and Anthony Mackie.  This too wants to make an awards season splash at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival.  (no trailer yet) 

"Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse"-- Last, but not least, this may very well be your anticipated crowd-pleaser for the Halloween holiday more than the usual horror entries.  Zombies are all the rage, so this film populates them in a comedy where a trio of camping scouts (Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, and Joey Morgan) are thrust into a bonding adventure trying to save their little town from the undead.  Cute laughs, a fun R-rating, and the teen factor could make this a modest winner.  (red band trailer)