Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Fall film preview 2014
Spaceships! Sequels! Hobbits! Kiddie cartoons!
If that movie lineup sounds familiar, that’s because it looks a lot like the one from fall of last year -- or even this past summer. It seems Hollywood really believes in the mantra, “They liked it the first time, they’ll like it the seventh.”
At least the latter part of 2014 is light on super-hero flicks. Not that they’re unworthy; we just had quite a raft of them over the past few months, and it’ll be nice to trade them in for some more serious fare angling for Oscars -- spandex for starched collars, so to speak.
So here is our preview of fall films (release dates subject to change). Ones I think look particularly promising get a gold star (★).
A Walk Among the Tombstones (Sept. 19) -- A kidnapping thriller starring Liam Neeson? Sounds like a retread, but the twist here is Neeson plays a disgraced cop hired by a mob boss to find out who killed his wife. Think hard noir.
This is Where I Leave You (Sept. 19) -- A quartet of adult siblings -- Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver and Corey Stoll -- must deal with the death of their father and their (alive) and overbearing mother (Jane Fonda).
★ The Boxtrolls (Sept. 26) -- Stop-motion animation gets a jump-start in this delightful-looking tale of ugly trash-collecting critters who like to dress themselves in old boxes. Voices of Ben Kingsley and Elle Fanning.
Jimi: All Is by My Side (Sept. 26) -- The long-gestating biopic of guitar legend Jimi Hendrix finally arrives starring Outkast’s André Benjamin in the title role. He has limited acting experience and Hendrix’s estate balked at granting the rights to any of his iconic songs, so…
The Equalizer (Sept. 26) -- The “Geezer Spy” genre gets another try with Denzel Washington tackling a reprise of the cheesy 1980s TV series. He plays a home improvement store drone who helps crime victims by night. The Lowes Ranger?
Annabelle (Oct. 3) -- A prequel of the hit horror flick “The Conjuring,” starring that creepy doll in her origin story.
★ Gone Girl (Oct. 10) -- One of the most hotly anticipated movies of early fall, this drama from David Fincher (“The Social Network”), based on the fanatically popular book by Gillian Flynn (who also wrote the screenplay), stars Ben Affleck as a seemingly perfect husband who may or may not have something to do with his disappeared wife (Rosamund Pike).
The Judge (Oct. 10) -- Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall play battling father and son lawyers whose relationship changes when the dad is accused of a serious crime. With Vera Farmiga.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Oct. 10) -- The beloved children’s book by Judith Viorst gets the big screen treatment starring Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner as parents of a precocious 11-year-old boy having a moment.
Birdman (Oct. 17) -- OK, there is one super-hero movie this fall, but it’s an offbeat black dramedy from “Babel” director Alejandro González Iñárritu starring Michael Keaton as a washed-up actor who mounts an unlikely Broadway production about a masked man he used to play. With Edward Norton, Emma Stone and Zach Galifianakis.
The Best of Me (Oct. 17) -- The newest mushy romance/drama based on a Nicholas Sparks book stars Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden as a couple rekindling their teenage love.
Laggies (Oct. 24) -- Keira Knightley plays a 30-ish woman whose life is stuck in neutral. She decides to get away for a while by bunking with teen Chloe Grace Moretz and falls for her dad (Sam Rockwell).
★ St. Vincent (Oct. 24) -- Bill Murray could be looking at another Oscar nomination for one of his signature funny/sad characters, a misanthropic loner who reluctantly babysits/mentors the troubled young boy next door. Co-starring Melissa McCarthy.
Horns (Oct. 31) -- Daniel Radcliffe wakes up after a personal tragedy to find that he’s sprouting demon’s horns from his head. With Juno Temple.
★ Whiplash (October) -- This indie darling took top honors at Sundance Film Festival and stars Miles Teller as an aspiring jazz drummer taken under the harsh wing of a fearsome conductor (J.K. Simmons).
★ Interstellar (Nov. 7) -- The latest from bold filmmaker Christopher Nolan (“Inception”) stars Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway as astronauts from a dying Earth who make a desperate space journey through a wormhole. Minds, prepare to be tripped.
The Theory of Everything (Nov. 7) -- This biopic of Stephen Hawking stars Eddie Redmayne as the famed astrophysicist, focusing on his early life and romance before being diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). With Felicity Jones.
Big Hero 6 (Nov. 7) -- A teen robotics expert builds his own bodyguard in this Disney animation flick based on a lesser-known comic book.
The Homesman (Nov. 7) -- Tommy Lee Jones directed, co-wrote and stars in this Western about a claim jumper who helps a tough pioneer (Hilary Swank) escort three mentally troubled women through dangerous territory.
Rosewater (Nov. 7) -- Don’t expect this to be a hit in Iran, as it details the detention and torture of a Western journalist (Gael García Bernal) by the Islamist regime. An unlikely directorial debut from TV jokester Jon Stewart.
Dumb and Dumber To (Nov. 14) -- Geriatric dimwits? A reprise of the comically dumb duo of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels seems like a desperate effort to cash in on faded glory. But the trailer’s actually funny, and the Farrelly brothers are due for a hit.
★ Fury (Nov. 14) -- Brad Pitt plays a World War II tank commander who takes his crew on a dire mission behind enemy lines. Directed by David Ayer, who made the terrific but hardly seen “End of Watch.”
★ Foxcatcher (Nov. 14) -- Steve Carell plays waaaaay against type as a wealthy Olympic wrestling philanthropist who murdered one of the team athletes. Co-starring Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo. Directed by Bennett Miller (“Capote,” “Moneyball”).
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 1 (Nov. 21) -- In a familiar move, the final book of a popular film adaptation gets split into two movies. In this half, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) embraces her role as a key figure in the rebellion against the oppressive Panem regime.
The Imitation Game (Nov. 21) -- The story of mathematician Alan Turing, who helped crack the Nazi’s Enigma code during World War II. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley.
Horrible Bosses 2 (Nov. 26) -- Insert your own joke here; it’ll probably be funnier than anything in the movie.
Penguins of Madagascar (Nov. 26) -- The “Madagascar” franchise of animated flicks are winding down, so here’s the spinoff starring those adorable penguins who speak and act like G-men.
Wild (Dec. 5) -- After a troubled few years professionally and personally, Reese Witherspoon tries to be taken seriously again in this true story of a feckless woman who makes a 1,100-mile journey on foot after tragedy and finds herself transformed. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (“Dallas Buyers Club”).
Exodus: Gods and Kings (Dec. 12) -- This year already saw controversy over a revisionist take on the story of Noah; are we ready for an action-hero iteration of Moses? Christian Bale plays the Biblical Jewish prophet, now reconfigured by director Ridley Scott as a badass warrior. With Australian Joel Edgerton, incongruently, as Egyptian pharaoh Rhamses.
★ Inherent Vice (Dec. 12) -- Paul Thomas Anderson and Joaquin Phoenix, who made the kooky and occasionally brilliant “The Master,” team up again in this loopy ‘70s tale of a drugged-up private investigator poking into the disappearance of a former girlfriend. With Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson and Reese Witherspoon.
★ The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Dec. 17) -- Even I, an ardent lover of all things Tolkien, have grown weary of how far astray director Peter Jackson & Co. have wandered from the gentle children’s book by J.R.R. As humble hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) reaches the conclusion of his epic journey to free a mountain of gold from a dragon, can they stick the landing?
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (Dec. 19) -- Hapless museum guard Ben Stiller travels across the Pond for more adventures at London’s British Museum with friends old -- Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) -- and new -- Sir Lancelot and a pharaoh (Ben Kingsley).
Annie (Dec. 19) -- An African-American Orphan Annie? And Daddy Warbucks? Traditionalists might blanch, but Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis and winner Jamie Foxx seem like a perfect fit for this update.
★ Mr. Turner (Dec. 19) -- Perpetual sidekick Timothy Spall gets a shot at a leading role in this drama from celebrated British auteur Mike Leigh, about the life of painter J.M.W. Turner, an influential early Impressionist.
Into the Woods (Dec. 25) -- The Broadway musical gets an adaptation at the hands of Rob Marshall, who knows a thing or two about that (“Chicago”). It’s an ambitious interweaving of various famous fairy tales, from Little Red Riding Hood to Cinderella. Starring Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick and Johnny Depp.
The Interview (Dec. 25) -- Funnymen Seth Rogen and James Franco already got in trouble with real-life Korean dictator Kim Jong-un because of this fictional story about tabloid TV stars who land an interview with him, then get recruited by the CIA to assassinate him.
★ Big Eyes (Dec. 25) -- Offbeat director Tim Burton is back with a bio of artist Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), who tried to claim credit for the ubiquitous midcentury portraits of large-eyed waifs actually created by his wife, Margaret (Amy Adams).
Selma (Dec. 25) -- Is America finally ready for a cinematic portrait of Martin Luther King? David Oyelowo tackles the civil rights icon as one of the leaders of the seminal 1965 drive for voting rights in Alabama.
Paddington (Dec. 25) -- Nicole Kidman plays a taxidermist who wants to stuff a talking, red-hatted bear -- and not with his favorite treat, marmalade -- in this adaptation of the popular children’s books.
★ Unbroken (Dec. 25) -- Angelina Jolie takes another turn behind the camera in directing this amazing true story of Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell), an Olympic runner who suffered a terrible ordeal as a Japanese prisoner of war during WWII.
Maps to the Stars (date TBA) -- Horror auteur David Cronenberg tackles the hypocritical Hollywood scene in this ensemble film about a nobody girl (Mia Wasikowska) who infiltrates the life of a faded movie star (Julianne Moore) and a young driver (Robert Pattinson). With John Cusack.
★ Men, Women & Children (date TBA) -- Hollywood wunderkind Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”) takes a look at love and lust in the Internet age, starring Adam Sandler as a porn addict and Ansel Elgort (“The Fault in Our Stars”) as a World of Warcraft nerd.