AND SO. It’s time for Good Movie Season to commence. I hope you’ve all got your scorecards, because starting here in September, we’ve actually got a surprisingly robust-looking crop of movies (with potential home runs of the high-, middle-, and lowbrow varieties). Most of the movies I’m excited about, though, are MOVIES FOR ADULTS, which is something they try to keep away from us the rest of the year. I’m going to rank 30 of the most tantalizing upcoming (or just-released-today) flicks right now in order of preference, so… let’s dive in, shall we?
Oh wait. One quick addendum — I’m starting this list with today’s releases, and going all the way through December. The “fall movie season” really spans all of September through all of December (despite fall technically lasting from September 23rd to December 21st), the way the “summer movie season” spans the first week of May/last week of April through the end of August (summer actually lasts from June 21st through September 22nd this year). ALSO — everyone should go check out Filmcore cinematographer Mike Bove’s great “Uncle John” (his first director of photography credit on a feature) starring John Ashton (a.k.a. Sergeant Taggart of “Beverly Hills Cop” fame — we have an exclusive interview with Mike in an upcoming podcast, P.S.), in limited release on September 18th. I saw it at its Chicago premiere, at a Midwest Film Festival screening earlier this year, and it’s a very fun, taut little small-town thriller. Not to be missed, friends.
30. “Truth” (10/16): Robert Redford plays ex-CBS news anchor Dan Rather dealing with fallout from his inaccurate reportage on Dubya’s military record in 2004, with supporting work from Elizabeth Moss, Cate Blanchett, and Bruce Greenwood. On the writer-director, James Vanderbilt (making his directorial debut) — the pluses: he penned “Zodiac” and “The Rundown.” The minuses: he also wrote both “Amazing Spider-man” movies. So… who fucking knows?
29. “The Revenant” (12/25, limited): A lot of other Filmcore folks are considerably more excited for this DiCaprio-Tom Hardy-Domnhall Gleeson historical epic than I am, due to Emanuel Lubeszki’s expansive cinematography. “The Revenant” was plagued by crazy production shenanigans (the production was called “a living hell” by one anonymous crew member in this hilarious Hollywood Reporter article, from its potentially power-mad director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (last year’s Best Director Oscar winner of overrated Best Picture winner “Birdman”), who insisted on filming in natural light and in sequence, all on-location in frigid temperatures, stretching production from October 2014 to around August 2015, which is, you know, insane. Several crew members left the movie, there was a 6-week Christmas-season break in the middle of filming, the budget ballooned from $60 million to possibly as much as $135 million. Inarritu’s response to the rumblings of on-set unrest: “If we ended up in green screen with coffee and everybody having a good time, everybody will be happy, but most likely the film would be a piece of shit.” I’m not as big a Tom Hardy proponent as most people I know, mainly because that guy mumbles his way through every performance that isn’t “Bronson” (2009) — that’s why his Thanksgiving release, “Legend,” featuring him mumbling at himself as twin British crooks, is not appearing on this list. And Domnhall Gleeson’s shrinking-violet act has never done it for me. Sorry Domnhall Gleeson. Your dad’s cooler.
28. “Victor Frankenstein” (11/25): Mainly because of the writing credit: Max Landis, who gave us “American Ultra” in August and “Chronicle” (2012) — but more importantly, he is the progeny of one of my top-3 all-time-favorite directors, John Landis, who’s directed more of your favorite movies ever than you’d expect. Also, though I’m normally not into re-boots, I can never resist a good-looking “Frankenstein” or “Dracula” movie, especially one that adds a new wrinkle to the proceedings (this is purportedly a prequel, like last year’s beautifully-shot Luke Evans Prince of Darkness movie “Dracula Untold”).
27. “Labyrinth of Lies” (9/25): German post-WWII historical drama, it’s gotten good notices thus far. These smaller kinds of movies, if they don’t get enough traction on the coasts, tend to not make it inland, so this may just be a VOD-type deal.
26. “The Witch” (10/16): Mainly just ’cause this poster is the tits. It also won Best Director at Sundance so… this 1630’s-set chiller about a family plagued by black magic, featuring a no-name cast, could actually be good.
25. “Goodnight Mommy” (9/11): A well-reviewed Austrian Mom-has-plastic-surgery-and-terrifies-children horror indie. IN.
24. “Regression” (12/31): An Emma Watson-Ethan Hawke cult-thriller with a bang-a-rang trailer, written directed by Alejandro Amenabar, helmer of “The Sea Inside” (2004) and “The Others” (2001).
23. “Sleeping With Other People” – 9/11 (limited, out in Chicago 9/18): ALISON BRIE. JASON MANTZOUKAS LAMELY RELEGATED TO A MINOR ROLE AS “THE ETHNIC FRIEND.” Jason Sudeikis I guess but who cares about Jason Sudeikis? Anyway, this promises to be the indie version of the “When Harry Met Sally” premise — two people who are insanely attracted to each other decide to be “just friends” and… “Sleep With Other People.”
22. “Midnight Special” (11/27): A new Jeff Nichols-Michael Shannon intimate sci-fi movie, after “Take Shelter” (2011) and “Shotgun Stories” (2007)? Sign me up. Kirsten Dunst is in it too, she’s made a habit of taking cool, interesting choices in after the original Sam Raimi “Spiderman” movies ran their course.
21. “Mississippi Grind” (9/25): Ryan Reynolds is a horrible actor, BUT “Mississippi Grind” comes from from Anna Bolden and Ryan Fleck, the writer-directors of “Half Nelson” (2006) and “Sugar” (2008), so it could be really good, plus it’s about gambling, which is always fun. Ben Mendelsohn, a great supporting actor in the little-seen “Killing Them Softly” (2012) and “Animal Kingdom” (2010), gets second billing here, and it’ll be nice to watch him chew on something with (potentially) a little more heft.
20. “Snowden” (12/25): Oliver Stone returns to political territory, where he’s made some of his wildest work, including “JFK,” “Nixon,” “Born on the Fourth of July,” “Platoon,” “Heaven & Earth,” and the annoyingly apolitical “W.” “W.,” by the way, was primarily wild because it featured the famously liberal Oliver Stone operating as a centrist in covering one of the worst presidents of all time. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, and IT HAS NICOLAS CAGE.
19. “In The Heart Of The Sea” (12/11): A historical Ron Howard whaling adventure, based on the true events that inspired “Moby Dick,” starring Thor, Brendan Gleeson and the criminally-under-the-radar Cillian Murphy, directed by Ron Howard. Despite his Oscar for “A Beautiful Mind,” Howard’s biggest strength is the action movie, as evidenced by 2006’s “Cinderella Man” (it was much more effective if you look at it as being a cool boxing movie than as the inspirational family drama that Universal tried to peddle), “Rush” (2013), “Apollo 13” (1995), “Ransom” (1996 — GIVE ME BACK MY SON), and of course “Backdraft” (1991 — that’s some all-time Billy Baldwin right there, folks). My favorite Ron Howard movie, for the record? “Frost/Nixon” (2008), featuring Frank Langella in full evil-politico-glower mode.
18. “Everest” (9/18): BROLIN FIGHTING A MOUNTAIN. Down. Gyllenhaal gets an “And” credit in the trailer, which means he’s gonna die. Not sure why they’re releasing this, “The Maze Runner,” AND “Black Mass” all on the same weekend, it doesn’t feel like the marketplace in the fall is big enough for all of them.
17. “The Peanuts Movie” (11/6): If you say its name quickly, it stops becoming a kid-friendly title and becomes a Lars Von Trier film. By the way, that title confuses me. It thinks it’s “THE” Peanuts movie, as in, a definitive theatrical entry into the series. In point of fact, it’s the fifth. And I get the feeling that it runs the serious risk of swapping out the bittersweet melancholy of the original four Charles M. Schulz-Bill Melendez-Bill Mendelson theatrically-released features (“A Boy Named Charlie Brown” in 1969, “Snoopy Come Home” in 1972, “Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown” in 1977, and “Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown” in 1980), and the original Schulz comics (at least through the mid-’80s, when the newspaper strips started running out of steam as Schulz entered his dottage), for something more rote. Because, well, studio heads typically don’t think children can take sad things in their movies, having apparently contracted amnesia when it comes to what happens in “E.T.,” “Bambi,” and, again, most of those original Peanuts movies (especially the first two).
16. “Spectre” (11/6): I’m not much of a “Skyfall” fan, and I’ve never been much of a Sam Mendes fan (outside of the solid “Road To Perdition,” which was an OK ***-star Chicago gangster flick, and the last good Blue Eyes movie), so I can’t say I was that stoked to find out that Mendes would be returning to James Bond. But I’m not about to miss a new James Bond movie, especially with Daniel Craig. I’m really pulling for Mendes-Craig to rebound with “Spectre,” though, and I’m glad that Christoph Waltz, Leah Seydoux and Monica Bellucci are joining the fray. I thought Bardem was a pale imitation of Heath Ledger’s Joker (He wants to get captured! He wants to disrupt the system! He has a predilection for explosives! He forces people to kill each other! He disguises himself as a cop to kill our hero’s #1 ally!), albeit with Christopher Walken’s Max Zorn haircut. And then the superfluous ending sequence at James Bond’s (Scottish?) childhood estate, Skyfall (horrible name), was more or less an under-lit “Home Alone” ending. Also, while we’re on the subject — does the movie really expect us to believe that James Bond, the world’s greatest spy, doesn’t know everything about the field agent he’s traveling with during the movie’s bravura pre-credit sequence in Istanbul? Then she accidentally shoots him instead of the baddie he’s combating on the train in that sequence (played by Noomi Rapace’s ex, Ola Rapace), and THEN, significantly later on, we get an intimate scene where she shaves a shirtless Bond’s neck. Anyway, at the very end of the movie, he asks for her name, so that we can get the Moneypenny reveal. So… he didn’t know her name this entire fucking time? Seriously? And then also, who cares about the Moneypenny reveal? If they’re making a Spectre movie, I’m assuming EON (the James Bond series’ production company) doesn’t expect contemporary audiences to remember that, well, there were seven James Bond movies about Spectre already (six with Connery, one with Lazenby), and an eighth featured a throwaway Blofeld pre-credits sequence (“For Your Eyes Only”). So… who cares that it’s Moneypenny, exactly? Those of us who’ve actually seen the old-school Bond movies?
15. “The Last Witch Hunter” (10/23): VIN DIESEL. MICHAEL CAINE. And… Elijah Wood? Hunting witches in… the future? SOLD.
14. “Burnt” (10/23): An adult Bradley Cooper drama about a recovered drug addict-turned-baller chef, in London? I’m there.
13. “Experimenter” (10/16): Peter Sarsgaard and… Winona Ryder star in a movie about a twisted psychology experiment? Buzz on this is good.
12. “Crimson Peak” (10/16): A NEW GUILLERMO DEL TORO HORROR MOVIE.
11. “The Walk” (10/2): Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in Robert Zemeckis’s follow-up to the solid Denzel-drunk-and-on-coke drama “Flight” (John Candy is hilarious as his dealer, by the way, but Zemeckis overuses “Gimme Shelter,” WHICH IS SCORSESE’S SONG, BOB) a narrative adaption of “Man On Wire.” Can I just say I’m really glad Zemeckis has taken his signature integration of visual effects and storytelling back to the realm of live-action, after those three dead-eye motion capture movies?
10. “Spotlight” (11/6): I am a sucker for a good newspaper drama, and this one has BATMAN (plus Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo). Michael Keaton actually made a newspaper drama before, a Ron Howard flick called “The Paper” (1994), that’s definitely worth checking out if you like Michael Keaton. This one comes to us courtesy of Tom McCarthy, the actor-turned-director responsible for “The Visitor” (2007) and “The Station Agent” (2003, Peter Dinklage’s breakout movie).
9. “Creed” (11/25): A “Rocky” spin-off that, thank goodness, still features Sly as the Italian Stallion, so obviously I’m there. It actually looks good though, but kind of understated — which would make it just the third realistic entry among the seven “Rocky” movies (alongside the first two; “Rocky Balboa” was wholly unrealistic, because there’s no way a geriatric Rocky would beat a 30-ish pro boxer, especially with zero calcium in his bones). But this stars Michael B. Jordan, one of the most exciting young actors on the rise today, as Apollo Creed’s son (they never should have killed off Carl Weathers in “Rocky IV,” PS), and comes from his “Fruitvale Station” director Ryan Coogler. So it’s tough to be anything less than excited. I mean, just watch this preview and tell me you’re not excited.
8. “Sicario” (10/2): A new Benicio Del Toro/Josh Brolin desert-based drug epic? Plus the awesome Emily Blunt is in there? IN LIKE CINNAMON (assuming that’s a phrase). If that’s a phrase.
7. “99 Homes” (9/25): New Rahmin Bahrani, with Andrew Garfield and, more importantly, Michael Shannon, playing the Gordon Gekko of the Florida real estate world.
6. “Star Wars: Episode 7 – The Force Awakens” (12/18): Dumb title. But, I mean, come on… LUKE SKYWALKER, HAN SOLO, AND PRINCESS LEIA ORGANA are back. My big question: did somebody forget about Billy Dee Williams? Where’s Lando? Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, Jon Boyega, and Gwendolyn Christie all look pretty cool in the trailer; we don’t see much of Adam Driver or the aforementioned, getting-on-my-nerves-at-this-point Domnhall Gleeson, so the jury’s still out on how cool they look. Simon Pegg gets to fulfill his fanboy dream and jump into his second “Star” franchise, he was the best thing about the Abrams “Star Trek” movies and his “Mission: Impossible” installments, so I’m hoping he helps lend this series a levity it hasn’t successfully had since 1983.. J.J. Abrams apparently tried to keep the CGI effects to a minimum, and brought back the old-school models, miniatures and make-up vibe. And Larry Kasdan co-wrote the script!
5. “The Hateful Eight” (12/25): A NEW TARANTINO WESTERN STARRING KURT RUSSELL AND SAMUEL L. JACKSON. It’s getting the limited-release treatment to steer clear of “Star Wars,” it rolls out in wide release on January 8th. Also featuring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, “Death Proof”‘s Zoe Bell (who does all her own stunts, and was the stunt woman for Uma in the “Kill Bill” movies), Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern (plus the apparently-ubiquitous Walton Goggins). Sadly, Channing Tatum is also in it.
4. “Bridge of Spies” (10/16): The Spielberg-Hanks one-two punch returns! So many Hitchcockian high-angle/wide-angle shots in this trailer; and I love that it’s a legal drama. I miss seeing cinematic legal dramas, which need to stage a comeback. Outside of last year’s “The Judge” and Spielberg’s own “Lincoln” in 2012, there has been a significant dearth of lawyer movies lately.
3. “Pawn Sacrifice” (9/16): I’m a sucker for any period movie about smart, crazy geniuses; and Cold War-era American chess maestro Bobby Fischer was absolutely certifiable. There’s a great documentary on him from HBO, “Bobby Fischer Versus The World.” So good. Pumped. Liev Schrieber is the man, and he looks to nail his Russian accent as Fischer’s immortal Soviet nemesis Boris Spassky; Tobey-that’s-how-he-spells-it Maguire is good in the right roles. Ed Zwick can be a solid director when he puts his mind to it (“Glory,” “The Last Samurai,” “Courage Under Fire”), and the trailer looks great. Maybe I’m the only person who cares about this thing, but damn it, you guys should care too.
2. “Black Mass” – Johnny Depp, as Boston’s infamous Whitey Bulgar (the inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s demented Frank Costello in “The Departed”) beats up or kills eight people in the trailer alone. The early buzz on this is that it’s Oscar-caliber. And that make-up (by Depp’s longtime key make-up artist, Ken Niederbaumer) is absolutely demonic.
1. “STEVE JOBS” (10/16): SORKIN. FASSBENDER. BOYLE. WINSLET. ONLY FOUR SCENES. FUCK.
Anyway, while we’re here, we may as well suss out the likely losers of the fall season (in terms of content, not box office — sadly).
Top 5 Least-Appealing Fall Movies:
5. “The Jungle Book” (10/9): Yet another live-action “Jungle Book” remake? Damn Disney, you really need to come up with some new ideas outside of your Pixar division.
4. “The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” (9/18): Yet another Young Adult Novel transcribed into yet another bland-as-fuck franchise, and god I could not be less interested in watching it. Its producer hilariously described it as an “underdog franchise.” Go make a movie about something interesting for $5 million, and THEN I’ll believe you, producer of “Maze Runner.”
3. “Friday The 13th” (11/13): Yet another remake of a horror movie that wasn’t that interesting in the first place (sorry, Jason Voorhes is just a pale imitation of the original mute psycho, Michael Meyers) just in time for… Thanksgiving? ? I mean, seriously? Just because that would be a Friday the 13th, you’re going to skip Halloween? Everything about this movie, from the fact that it’s just cynical cash-grab to its stupid, two-weeks-late release date, serves to douse this movie in flop sweat. The only cool part of “Friday The 13th” WAS THIS.
2. “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” (11/20): You’d have to pay me good money to see this thing. I was out after the crappy first movie. Josh Hutcherson’s name is Peeta and his best skill is that he can disguise himself as a log? So dumb. Such a waste of J-Law.
1. “Point Break” (12/25): Man, fuck you, Hollywood. How fucking dare you. “Via con dios,” as the original young-dumb-and-full-of-cum undercover Johnny Utah says, ’cause I ain’t seeing this — a PG-13 remake of one of the all-time dumb-but-amazing action movies? Thankfully, it’s coming out on a very crowded Christmas (see above), so it will most likely get lost in the shuffle. Its director, Ericson Core (great namecore, Ericson), did make the surprisingly-competent sports drama “Invincible,” where Mark Wahlberg plays a bartender-turned-walk-on Philadelphia Eagle. Too bad this is his theatrical follow-up.