It’s over! Summer is dunzo, and now we can have more variety at the movies. Wait, is there only one film about superheroes coming out? (That’s right!) Of course, it’s also Oscar Season, but that doesn’t mean we’re stuck on a strict diet of high-toned dramas and serious performances. Here are five kinds of movies you can choose this fall:
Franchises, of course
Autumn is the season when the constant stream of sequels and prequels and reboots and remakes takes a long-needed vaca…oh, who are we kidding? There’s still plenty of franchises comin’ at us. There’s so many, in fact, that all we can do is list them: There’s a new “Blair Witch” (Sept. 16), the belated threequel “Bridget Jones’s Baby” (Sept. 16), a new Kevin Hart stand-up movie (“What Now?”, Oct. 14), another Tyler Perry Movie (“Boo! A Madea Halloween,” Oct. 21), another damn Robert Langdon movie (“Inferno,” Oct. 28), even a new Marvel movie superhero romp (“Doctor Strange,” Nov. 4). Oh, and Billy Bob Thornton’s drinking vodka handles in front of children again, hopefully to few diminishing returns, in “Bad Santa 2” (Nov. 23).
The one we’re genuinely pumped for, though, is “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” (Oct. 21), in which Tom Cruise returns as the brutally efficient mercenary or fixer or whatever he is. Don’t get too, too excited, though: The director this time is the boring Edward Zwick (“The Last Samurai”), and the villain is no longer played by Werner Herzog. Still, Cruise is our last real movie star. Don’t take him for granted, as you sometimes do.
There aren’t just franchises; there are also attempted franchises. Some of them even have long names, like Tim Burton’s Eva Green-starring “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” (Sept. 30) and the “Harry Potter” spin-off “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (Nov. 18). Perhaps there’s a tentpole series to make out of the new “The Magnificent Seven” (Sept. 23), starring Denzel, which may be another remake/reboot but one we’re cool with because Westerns ought never to have died.
It’s rare that we get a movie that might change the movies — heck, even the culture. So we have high, high hopes for Ang Lee’s latest technological marvel, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” (Nov. 11), which is exciting because it will be projected in a high, high frame-rate. Without getting too technical, that means the images will be so crisp they’ll look less like a movie than honest-to-god real-life. (It’s what the first “The Hobbit” did back in 2012, though, by early reports, this time it won’t look hideous.) Dipping into the memories of a decorated solider (Joe Alwyn), it promises gruesomely realistic, you-are-there depictions of battle, on top of a Mad Libs cast including Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Vin Diesel and Steve Martin. And it might just change the way we literally watch movies.
The other game changer comes with a giant asterix: It’s “The Birth of a Nation” (Oct. 7), Nate Parker’s Sundance titan about Nat Turner’s slave revolt. A movie about the black experience actually told by a black perspective, it was supposed to change the way we discuss race, and at a time when Black Lives Matter has somehow been treated like a controversial movement. Instead, Parker only recently opened up about the alleged rape he was accused of in his past, and now people are, quite understandably, talking about avoiding it altogether. Parker’s personal life is an impossible subject to broach, and all we can say is we hope the movie is as strong as everyone says it is.
Biopics and docudramas have been largely sequestered to Oscar Season, and the major studios (and small distributors) have clogged the next four months silly with them. First up is “Sully” (Sept. 9), which finds Clint Eastwood taking an incident that lasted about two minutes — when pilot Chesley Sullenberger (played by Tom Hanks) successfully and improbably landed a doomed commercial plane into New York’s Hudson River — and turns it into a thoughtful meditation on doubt, trauma and humanity at its best. Speaking of which, not everyone would call Edward Snowden a hero, but that’s how he comes off in Oliver Stone’s “Snowden” (Sept. 16), with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the man who sacrificed his freedom to protect everyone else’s.
These are recent stories — as are “Deepwater Horizon” (Sept. 30), with Mark Wahlberg battling the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and “Queen of Katwe” (Sept. 30), about Ugandan chess star Phiona Mutesi. But some reach back into the far-off past. “Loving” (Nov. 4) offers a muted retelling of Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), the couple that challenged Virginia’s miscegenation laws in 1967. Robert Zemeckis’ “Allied” (Nov. 23) is a WWII spy movie with Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard in love. And remember The Fab Four? One of them worked with Kanye once, we think. They get a new doc, “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years” (Sept. 16), from Ron Howard, who knows better than try to tackle their entire discography in two hours.
Actual Original Stories
There’s some legitimate creativity afoot, too, but surely some of these will be sequelized to death, right? A movie with a title like “The Accountant” (Oct. 14) screams out for a franchise, especially since it’s a thriller with Ben Affleck as an accountant and math savant who lends himself out to the mafia. “Moana” (Nov. 23), Disney’s 56th animated feature, is the rare toon with a female lead, and one who’s not white — though, being a Disney movie, it will score at least five direct-to-video sequels and maybe even a TV show.
We’re using “original” loosely when we talk about something like“Voyage of Time” (Oct. 7), in which Terrence Malick basically expands on the coolest part of “The Tree of Life” — the creation of the universe — for an IMAX spectacular.Then there are literary adaptations."Arrival" (Nov. 11), the new film from Denis Villeneuve ("Prisoners," "Sicario"), finds Amy Adams forced by uneasy scientists to aliens who (hopefully) are benevolent. It's based on a short story, while“Elle” (Nov. 11), the first proper movie by Paul Verhoeven (“RoboCop,” “Showgirls”) in a decade, is taken from a novel. But we promise the tale of a woman (Isabelle Huppert) who has a series of very strange, to put it lightly, reactions to a rape plays like nothing else — and will prompt an avalanche of outraged think pieces. As for books many people have actually read, we also get the inevitable movie of “The Girl on the Train” (Oct. 7), which at least stars Emily Blunt.
We hate to dump all the tiny-movies-that-could into one category, but that only speaks to how hard they are to classify. The movie we most can’t wait to see this fall is the one that will probably make us cry for two-hours-and-change: “Manchester by the Sea” (Nov. 18), by Kenneth Lonergan, is another of the “Margaret” director’s studies of grief and guilt, with Casey Affleck dealing with the death of his brother, played by no less than the world’s most likable human, Kyle Chandler.
Meanwhile, do you know Kristen Stewart is now a cool art house movie star? She’s one of the three female leads in “Certain Women” (Oct. 14), the latest from Kelly Reichardt (“Wendy and Lucy,” “Meek’s Cutoff). (Alas, you’ll have to wait till early next year to see her latest French art film, “Personal Shopper.”) Other promising indies/art house films include Kate Winslet stomping about Australia in “The Dressmaker” (Sept. 23); Ethan Hawke and John Travolta gunslinging in Ti West’s Western “In a Valley of Violence” (Oct. 21); Park Chan-wook’s South Korean Sapphic costume drama/thriller “The Handmaiden”(Oct. 21); and “American Honey” (Sept. 30), Andrea Arnold’s almost-three-hour road movie about annoying youngs, including Shia LaBeouf and “It” girl Riley Keough.
Things to Come: The Winter Movie Slate
The Internet has been totally low-key about “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (Dec. 16), the spin-off about the peeps who stole the Death Star plans that made the first “Star Wars” possible. But there's a legitimate piece of counter-programming that day: The modern day musical "La La Land," starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling and made by "Whiplash"'s Damien Chazelle, is already a hit at the Venice Film Festival. (Or there's“Collateral Beauty,” a comedic drama about depression starring Will Smith, Kate Winslet and Helen Mirren.)
The Christmas Day movie dump is pretty light this year, promising only the strange-sounding “Assassin’s Creed” movie with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, “Passengers” — the one with Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt in space — and a movie about singing animals (“Sing”). But what if the best movie of December is “Keep Watching” (Dec. 2), the requisite rando horror film dumped into the month’s first week? Stranger things have happened, especially in 2016.