Summer is over, and it’s time to get down to brass tacks — that is, movies of quality. But autumn is a time of great fruitfulness, and the movies coming out are a diverse lot: not just award-gobblers but blockbusters, family entertainment, dumb thrillers, the odd horror film for Halloween. If you’re stoked for one type of big movie, may we recommend something smaller with which it might share an obvious, or possibly tiny and probably inconsequential, quality? Here’s our guide to the plethora of riches for the next few months.
'The Martian' (Oct. 2) / 'Queen of the Desert' (Fall)
Common connection: Inhospitable locations
Where would you rather be stranded? On the Angry Red Planet with Matt Damon and director Ridley Scott? Or on our planet’s own dry spots with Nicole Kidman and director Werner Herzog? The first has a terminally worried supporting cast including Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jessica Chastain (doing space drama from earth once again). But “Desert” has James Franco, Damian Lewis and Robert Pattinson, who now seems to exclusively work with weirdo auteurs.
'The Transporter Refueled' (Sept. 4)/ 'Taxi' (Oct. 2)
Common connection: Cars
Yes, the leftfield, Jason Statham-less “Transporter” spinoff, starring one Ed Skrein, features automotive mayhem and gunplay and then still more automotive mayhem. But the Iranian drama “Taxi” might, in a way, be more thrilling. It’s the third film Jafar Panahi has made in secret after being banned from filmmaking by the government and, like “This is Not a Film” and “Closed Curtain,” it was secreted out of the country. Now that’s exciting (and tragic).
'Black Mass' (Sept. 18) / 'The Danish Girl' (Nov. 27)
Common connection: Onscreen transformations for famous actors
Johnny Depp has made such a career of freakish transformations that it's not really surprising anymore — except when he transforms into Whitey Bulger, the balding, understated middle-aged gangster at the center of "Black Mass." It's a far more unsettling metamorphosis than Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne's in "The Danish Girl" as Lili Elbe, one of the first trans women to undergo sexual reassignment surgery.
'Everest' (Sept. 18) / 'Mississippi Grind' (Sept. 25)
Common connection: People doing crazy, maybe suicidal things
Thrill-seeking takes many forms, and a lot of them can be life-threatening. You could, for instance, spend tens of thousands of dollars to risk your life climbing Mount Everest like the men and women in the true-to-life "Everest." Or you could risk everything on a high-stakes New Orleans poker game, like Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds in the '70s throwback "Mississippi Grind."
'The Intern' (Sept. 25) / 'Carol' (Nov. 20)
Common connection: May-December relationships
In Nancy Meyer’s “The Intern,” Anne Hathaway plays a flummoxed young Internet fashion god who finds herself taking old school (but, happily, not tooooo old school) advice from a retiree intern, who’s played by Robert De Niro. They don’t fall in love, though perhaps they should have. After all, that happens in Todd Haynes' period romance, which charts the relations between a young department store clerk (Rooney Mara) and an older housewife (Cate Blanchett) in the 1950s. Now that, then, is progressive!
'Stonewall' (Sept. 25) / 'Jem and the Holograms' (Oct. 23)
Common connection: Fan-polarizing trailers
You know what's awkward? Alienating your core audience with just the first trailer for your film. That's the monumental obstacle both "Stonewall" — about the 1969 riots that sparked the gay pride movement — and "Jem and Holograms" — a modern take on the '80s girl rock band cartoon — are looking to overcome, since their first glimpses actually angered the folks most likely to show up.
'The Walk' (Sept. 30) / 'Our Brand is Crisis' (Oct. 30)
Common connection: Stories already good as documentaries
Does the story of “The Walk” sound familiar? Very, very familiar? If so, perhaps that’s because the tale of Philippe Petit, a Frenchman acrobat who walked across a tightrope strung between the World Trade Center buildings, was told in the documentary “Man on Wire,” which made millions, won the Best Documentary Oscar, etc. Now here it is as a perhaps unnecessary Robert Zemeckis movie with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The relatively obscure 2005 doc “Our Brand is Crisis,” which looks at the Americanization of South American politics, makes more sense being turned into a star-studded film, this one by David Gordon Green and starring no less than Sandra Bullock and a hairless Billy Bob.
'Legend' (Oct. 2) / 'By the Sea' (Nov. 13)
Common connection: Couples acting together
If you like your drama with an extra meta layer of knowing that the folks on screen are actually a couple in real life, then watching Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie play a couple who marriage is crumbling during a luxe vacation in "By the Sea" is for you. Meanwhile, in "Legend" Tom Hardy does some of his best work opposite … Tom Hardy as real-life identical twin gangsters Ronald and Reginald Kray — because who doesn't want twice as much Tom Hardy?
'Steve Jobs' (Oct. 9) / 'Entertainment' (Nov. 13)
Common connection: Brilliant loners
Aaron Sorkin’s latest study of a cold genius bastard is “Steve Jobs” (not to be confused with the doc “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine,” out this week), which spends nearly three hours looking in detail at three of his biggest moments. Jobs remains controversial even in death, while Gregg Turkington — or at least his alter ego: anti-standup comic Neil Hamburger — is an all-too divisive figure still walking amongst us. In “Entertainment” the notorious creation gets his own film, and one by filmmaker Rick Alverson, who also made “The Comedy,” which has Tim Heidecker also tormenting unsuspecting nice people.
'Pan' (Oct. 9) / 'Suffragette' (Oct. 23)
Common connection: Fighting the man
The struggle against tyranny can make for entertaining drama when said tyranny is a larger-than-life pirate played by Hugh Jackman and the plucky hero is a young Peter Pan (Levi Miller). Or, on a more historically accurate note, you can watch Meryl Streep and Carey Mulligan fight for women's rights in the more historically accurate "Suffragette." Damn the man, whether he's a pirate or a chauvinist.
'Bridge of Spies' (Oct. 16) / 'Sleeping with Other People' (Sept. 11)
Common connection: Fraught relationships we know will work out in the end
In Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies,” an American lawyer (Tom Hanks) battles with a KGB agent (Mark Rylance) over the release of a pilot captured in Cold War-era Soviet Russia. But we know the two will eventually make a connection, just as we know the besties in the rom-com “Sleeping with Other People,” played by Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis, will ultimately stop all that jibber-jabering and hook the hell up.
'Goosebumps' (Oct. 16) / 'Sicario' (Sept. 18)
Common connection: Fighting horrors
Films about the dangers unleashing monsters onto the world? We've got you covered, whether you want your fight against evil to be more whimsical — alongside Jack Black in the comic fantasy "Goosebumps" — or gritty and terrifying, with Emily Blunt facing the horrors of the Mexican drug war in "Sicario."
'Crimson Peak' (Oct. 16) / 'Rock the Kasbah' (Oct. 23)
Common connection: Charismatic men preying on younger women
It can be pretty fraught out there for a young lady, especially when, like in "Crimson Peak," you're a young author (Mia Wasikowska) whose dashing new husband (Tom Hiddleston) lives in what turns out to be a house of horrors. Just as dangerous? Being a young Afghan singer who earns the attention of a washed-up and stranded rock manager (Bill Murray) who wants to get you on Afghanistan's version of "American Idol."
'Burnt' (Oct. 23) / 'The Green Inferno' (Sept. 25)
Common connection: Eating
Hungry? You could watch Bradley Cooper once again try to get his Anthony Bourdain on in “Burnt,” which exists in part because no one watched him actually playing Bourdain in the “Kitchen Confidential” show a decade ago. Or you could take in the sights of a bunch of environmentalist do-gooders becoming cannibal chow in Eli Roth’s “The Green Inferno.” Let your stomach guide the way.
'Scouts Guide the Zombie Apocalypse' (Oct. 30) / '99 Homes' (Sept. 25)
Common connection: Fighting
Sometimes the only answer to adversity is getting your hands dirty — and maybe a little bloody. But "adversity" can take many forms, like the comically violent zombie apocalypse in "Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse" or the more frighteningly realistic Florida in a post-housing crash 2010, in which downtrodden single dad Andrew Garfield gets into the wrong side of the eviction game with Michael Shannon.
'Spectre' (Nov. 6) / 'The Lobster' (Fall)
Common connections: Lea Seydoux and Ben Whishaw, secret societies
The fourth in the brooding Daniel Craig 007 jaunts, “Spectre” features Bond finally getting in deep with super duper clandestine criminal organization SPECTRE (and maybe nifty shape-shifting honcho Ernst Blofeld). But that’s not as chilling as the world of another film also touting Bond Girl Lea Seydoux and current Q Ben Whishaw (plus Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz and John C. Reilly). “The Lobster” depicts a dystopia where the terminally single are forced to mate. If they fail, they’re turned into random creatures — a fate more terrifying than that old groin laser from “Goldfinger.”
'Peanuts' (Nov. 6) / 'Youth' (Dec. 4)
Common connection: A state of arrested adolescence
Rather than ruin the aura of a childhood fave a la the “Smurfs” and “Alvin and the Chimpmunk”’s movies, the makers of the “Peanuts” movie appear to have stayed true to Charles Schulz’s comic strip source, spackling it in CGI but keeping the intimacy and, best of all, actual children voicing our leads. They’re free to gallivant about like kids — just, as it were, like Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel in Paolo Sorrentino’s art film-horndog follow-up to his Oscar winner, “The Great Beauty,” where the two hit the Alps to carouse (and occasionally reflect on life and aging and also girls and stuff).
'Rings' (Nov. 13) / 'Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of National Lampoon' (Sept. 25)
Common connection: Rehashing the past
Everything old is new again in "Rings," a late-in-the-game followup to "The Ring" in which a group of teens run afoul of a certain cursed VHS tape. Speaking of media kids today might scratch their heads at, "Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead" chronicles the history of comedy publishing and film titan the National Lampoon.
'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2' (Nov. 20) / 'Brooklyn' (Nov. 6)
Common connection: Girl against the world
If you're in the market for a strong but vulnerable young female protagonist, you're probably already lining up for the final installment of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) fighting for freedom from tyranny. But you might also enjoy Saoirse Ronan's Irish immigrant torn between old home and new in "Brooklyn." Oh, and each has a love triangle, if that helps.
'Creed' (Nov. 25) / 'Experimenter' (Oct. 16)
Common connection: Testing the human body
In one corner there’s the son of the late Apollo Creed — actually named Adonis, and played by Michael B. Jordan — who has to learn to trust his father’s former nemesis-turned-friend Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) as he trains for a fight. In the other, there’s social psychologist Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard), who, in 1961, wonders if his radical behavior experiments can prove that regular people will always obey authority. May the best look at human resilience win!
Also coming out
Did you know there’s a new M. Night Shyamalan movie? And it’s supposed to be intentionally funny this time? The great Kathryn Hahn heads up “The Visit” (Sept. 11). / Tobey Maguire is chess player Bobby Fischer in “Pawn Sacrifice” (Sept. 16), which was made from one of those scripts from the too-good-to-be-actually-made The Blacklist. / Kate Mara and David Oyelowo steep to doing the hostage drama "Captive" (Sept. 18) /Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld and Muna Otaru are three Civil War-era Southern women trying to protect the land they live on in “The Keeping Room” (Sept. 25). / With the release of his cannibal opus “The Green Inferno” (see above) delayed for two years, Eli Roth went and made another horror film, “Knock Knock” (Oct. 9), this one with Keanu Reeves. / The indie “I Smile Back” (Oct 23) finds Sarah Silverman going serious (which she’s done before, but you know). / Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette are besties in strife in “Miss You Already” (Nov. 6). / The 2010 Chilean mine collapse gets told, with Antonio Banderas and Juliette Binoche in key roles, in “The 33” (Nov. 13). / And do you want to see dashing Brit Tom Hiddleston play Hank Williams? Of course you do. Go see “I Saw the Light,” opening Nov. 27.
Holiday Season Movie Meltdown
We’d be remiss in not name-dropping the many December releases. Mid-month sees both “Sisters,” not a remake of the Brian De Palma classic but a comedy with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and something called “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the new film with “Inside Llewyn Davis” actors Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver. Christmas Day boasts [deep breath] the Will Smith football expose “Concussion”; David O. Russell’s “Joy,” which of course features JLaw and BCoop; the inexplicable remake of “Point Break”; Oliver Stone’s sure-to-be nutso “Snowden”; Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s long take-heavy nature grinder “The Revenant”; and Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight,” which will bow in theaters equipped for 70mm only before expanding to other, less fancy theaters. All this and Michael Fassbender as The Scottish Play in "Macbeth" (holiday season-ish).