Fall Movie Preview: The other biggies, the indies and everything else
Not everything can be pigenholed. There are lots of films that don’t easily fit genres, or that fit ones that are hyper-specific (e.g., the “old Liam Neeson beats the crap out of people” genre). Here’s what else of some variety of note is in store for moviegoers:
‘The Identical’ (Sept. 5)
What: A musical family is viewed from the ’50s through the ’70s.
Why: It’s the only new major release this weekend, unless you’re counting the IMAX reissue of “Forrest Gump.”
Why not: Starting with the random cast — Ashley Judd, Seth Green, Ray Liotta — this smells like a small distributor (the ones who brought you “God is Not Dead,” in fact) taking advantage of a slow weekend to grab a couple bucks.
‘No Good Deed’ (Sept. 12)
What: Taraji P. Henson plays a mother of two who is rewarded with Idris Elba at her door. Unfortunately he’s an escaped convict and he won’t leave.
Why: Henson and Elba are both excellent actors and should undoubtedly bring class and even subtlety to an old thriller situation.
Why not: This could be good trash or trash-trash.
‘A Walk Among the Tombstones’ (Sept. 19)
What: Liam Neeson is still only 62, so here’s another film in which he hurts lots of people. This time his victims are the mobsters who killed his wife, which was a foolish thing to do.
Why: The writer-director is Scott Frank, who in addition to writing things like “Out of Sight,” also ages ago helmed the pretty good low-budget thriller “The Lookout.”
Why not: This Neeson-as-Charles Bronson cottage industry is bound to collapse at some point, as it did for Bronson himself. But while it’s still fun (and sometimes, as in “The Grey,” unsettling), there’s no reason to complain.
‘The Maze Runner’ (Sept. 19)
What: Will it have been only four weeks since the last YA movie? James Dashner’s trilogy is the latest to be filmed, this one with a kid who awakens in a giant maze.
What: That admittedly sounds not bad for a movie, and it gets better when the cast includes Patricia Clarkson and “We’re the Millers” scene-stealer Will Poulter.
Why not: Could it ever top “Labyrinth”? It sounds like Jim Henson puppets would be too whimsical for a movie this grim.
‘This is Where I Leave You’ (Sept. 19)
What: A father’s death brings four combative siblings together, namely Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Adam Driver and Corey Stoll.
Why: Jonathan Trapper, the author of the book, did the screenplay, so he may retain the prickliness of the source. And Adam Driver is always welcome, which is good because this season he’s in everything.
Why not: Director Shawn Levy is the guy who made “Date Night,” “Night at the Museum” and more.
‘The Boxtrolls’ (Sept 26)
What: A Victorian-era English city finds its sewers overrun by a gang of green monsters who may actually be completely safe and even sweet.
Why: This comes from Laika, the stop-motion animation studio that did “Coraline” and “ParaNorman,” and the source is excessively English to boot.
Why not: Laika is quite good but they’re a bit sub-Aardman. But anything close to Aardman is appreciated.
Men, Women and Children (Oct. 3, expands Oct. 10 and Oct. 17)
What: Adam Sandler goes serious (or serious-ish) in this dramedy, playing one of the parents to a group of teens (including Ansel Elgort) suffering through the birds and the bees, or whatever kids’ parents are calling it these days.
Why: When Sandler gets his act together and stops hanging with his bros, he can be quite good, even great.
Why not: Director Jason Reitman, however, isn’t so good with drama, as witness last year’s hilariously misjudged “Labor Day.”
‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’ (Oct. 10)
What: Judith Viorst’s 1972 children’s classic — about a kid having suffering a non-stop parade of mini-calamities — finally gets a movie.
Why: The book is 32 pages. This runs only 80 minutes. That suggests there may be a relative minimum of padding.
Why not: The book is still pretty thin, because it’s a literally thin children’s book.
‘The Judge’ (Oct. 10)
What: Robert Downey Jr. teams with Robert Duvall as estranged son and father, the former who has to defend the latter in court when he’s accused of murder.
Why: Downey Jr. and Duvall are both rascally screen presences, and since co-writer Nick Schenk also wrote “Gran Torino,” expect lots of over-the-top codger insults and epithets that will make you drop your monocles.
Why not: The epic length — 141 minutes — suggests some perhaps undue self-importance.
‘Kill the Messenger’ (Oct. 10, expands Oct. 17 and 24)
What: Jeremy Renner gets a splashy dramatic vehicle with this tale of Gary Webb, a journalist who uncovered alleged evidence that the CIA was using profits from cocaine smuggling to arm Nicaraguan rebels.
Why: Renner is a terrific actor usually stuck in ensemble casts, and this is the kind of intense role that attracts the major awards consideration he deserves.
Why not: Journalism doesn’t always translate smoothly or coherently into movies, unless they’re a compact story like “All the President’s Men.” This may be too sprawling — or generic.
‘John Wick’ (Oct. 24)
What: Keanu Reeves hasn’t had a movie all to himself in awhile, but here he is, playing an ex-hitman who gets back in the game in the name of revenge.
Why: This looks like “Point Blank” (or its Mel Gibson sort-of-remake “Payback”), but with Neo.
Why not: This will be the season we find out who is John Galt and who is John Wick.
‘Ouija’ (Oct. 24)
What: The fake supernatural board thing that doesn’t allow you to talk to dead people is now the movie.
Why not: Seriously, this isn’t even the first movie to milk a Ouija board for scares. That would be “Witchboard,” from 1986, plus its sequels.
‘Frontera’ (Sept. 5)
Ed Harris headlines this topical drama, playing a former sheriff whose wife’s murder is pinned on a Mexican man trying to cross the border illegally. Eva Longoria and Michael Pena co-star.
‘God Help the Girl’ (Sept. 5)
Another music-heavy film, this one’s British, which means it’s ostensibly more tolerable. Emily Browning plays a young woman who forms a band with two others, all of them smacking from some personal dissatisfaction.
‘My Old Lady’ (Sept. 10)
Kevin Kline plays an unsuccessful writer who appears at his late father’s Paris house only to find it still has a tenant: 90-something Maggie Smith (who in real life is not even 80). Lessons will be learned, as well as scenes with a wonderfully pissed-off Kristin Scott Thomas, as Smith’s daughter.
‘The Skeleton Twins’ (Sept. 12)
Still playing things small, Kristen Wiig stars with Bill Hader in a drama as twins who both cheat death on the same day, causing them to reexamine their apparently awful lives.
‘The Drop’ (Sept. 12)
James Gandolfini’s last screen performance is in this take on a Dennis Lehane short story, concerning a a man (Tom Hardy) caught in the middle of a robbery and subsequent investigation that unearths skeletons in his sketchy neighborhood.
‘The Zero Theorem’ (Sept. 19)
The ever-cursed Terry Gilliam scores a pretty swell cast for his latest, led by Christoph Waltz as a techie on the hunt for the meaning of life. Tilda Swinton, Ben Whishaw and Matt Damon are also there.
‘Tusk’ (Sept. 19)
It’s been a few years since Kevin Smith tried to rejigger the independent film scene by selling his horror film “Red State” to himself, touring with it at unreasonable prices than dumping it on video. But here he is again, with another horror, this one about a madman who kidnaps someone with the purpose of turning him into a walrus. OK, we’re listening.
‘Tracks’ (Sept. 19)
And it’s Adam Driver again! This time he’s in the Australian desert, hanging with a young woman (Mia Wasikowska) who’s decided to cross it armed only with four camels.
‘Jimi: All is by My Side’ (Sept. 26)
Andre 3000 does his best Jimi Hendrix for this biopic on the rocker’s early years, which is also the directorial debut of “12 Years a Slave” scribe John Ridley.
‘The Two Faces of January’ (Sept. 26)
“The Talented Mr. Ripley” author Patricia Highsmith gets adapted again, this time by “Drive” writer Hossein Amini, who tackles her tale of a conman (Oscar Isaac) who gets involved with a couple (Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst) wanted for murder.
‘Whiplash’ (Oct. 10)
While January’s basically evil “That Awkward Moment” was being dumped into theaters, co-star Miles Teller was accepting raves at Sundance for his turn as a wannabe jazz drummer in this drama.
‘St. Vincent’ (Oct. 24)
It’s not clear why this star-studded indie comedy took the name from a popular musician, but at least it gave the title role to Bill Murray, playing a bawdy war veteran who befriends a kid.
‘Laggies’ (Oct. 24)
“Humpday” director Lynn Shelton returns with this tale of a go-nowhere 20-something (Keira Knightley) who reacts to her boyfriend’s marriage proposal by skipping across the country and hanging with a teen (Chloe Grace Moretz).
‘Low Down’ (Oct. 24)
Troubled jazz pianist Joe Albany — one of the few white musicians to play with Charlie Parker — gets profiled in this biopic starring the great John Hawkes and told from the perspective of his young daughter (Elle Fanning).
‘White Bird in a Blizzard’ (Oct. 24)
Before becoming the second or third biggest movie star in the world, Shailene Woodley made this bizarre indie with bad boy Gregg Araki (“The Doom Generation,” “Mysterious Skin”), playing a teen whose mother (Eva Green!) abruptly disappears.
‘Horns’ (Oct. 31)
Daniel Radcliffe’s de-Harry Potter-ization of his career continues with this horror thriller, in which he plays a young man with a dead girlfriend who awakes one morning to find two protrusions jutting out of his head, as well as paranormal powers.
‘The Better Angels’ (Nov. 7)
Terrence Malick produced this very Terrence Malick-sounding look at young Abraham Lincoln, roughing it as the last American president born in a log cabin. Jason Clarke, Brit Marling and Diane Kruger play his parents.
‘The Theory of Everything’ (Nov. 7)
Stephen Hawking finally gets his Great Man biopic, with Eddie Redmayne playing the theoretical physicist before a motor neurone disease robbed him of his ability to speak or for the most part move.
‘Pulp: A Film about Life, Death & Supermarkets’ (Nov. 19)
Britpop legends Pulp get their own doc, which climaxes with their farewell concert after 25 years together. But it’s more than that, spending as much time with the band as they do probing their industrial English town of Sheffield.
‘The Imitation Game’ (Nov. 21)
This movie has Benedict Cumberbatch, so that should be enough for some, even though there’s maybe few other ways to sell a movie about German Enigma Code cracker Alan Turing.
‘Paradise Lost’ (Nov. 26)
A Pablo Escobar movie has been in the works for ages, and the one that’s been made stars Benicio Del Toro, with Josh Hutcherson as the poor kid who falls for the drug dealer’s niece. Whoops!
‘Wild’ (Dec. 5)
Reese Witherspoon takes a 1,100 hike by herself. Sound thrilling? Well, it was written by Nick Hornby and directed by “Dallas Buyers Club”‘s Jean-Marc Valee, so there is that. And at least she at some point presumably talks to costars like Gaby Hoffmann and Laura Dern.
Christmas Day Massacre:
As usual, December 25th sees a massive dump of movies into multiplexes, ranging from the comedic (“The Interview,” with Seth Rogen and James Franco in North Korea; the Cusack-less “Hot Tub Time Machine 2”) to family fare (“Paddington”) to the historical (“Selma,” Tim Burton’s 1950s-set painting saga “Big Eyes”) to a Stephen Sondheim musical helmed by a terrible director (Rob Marshall’s “Into the Woods,” with Meryl Streep as The Witch).
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge