Fall is when Hollywood's attention, like leaves, turns from green to gold.
Money is still paramount (and Disney, Universal, Sony, etc.), but studio executives might swap a healthy box office weekend for a guaranteed Oscar or Golden Globe.
Movies generally get better after Labor Day. That's just the way it is. Movies remembered are those rewarded, and award voters have notoriously short memories.
Our annual fall movie guide features 20 upcoming releases, taking us to Thanksgiving, when the prestige race heads down the holiday homestretch.
Dates are subject to change, but not the stakes. As always, please, no wagering.
In 2009, Chesley Sullenberger landed a crippled airliner in the Hudson River, saving everyone aboard. Sullenberger was hailed as heroic, his water landing then routinely investigated. Casting Tom Hanks as Sullenberger tips the judgement scale toward hero; Clint Eastwood directing means he'll nobly squirm. Read a review at tampabay.com/movies.
Universal Pictures via AP
Bridget Jones's Baby
Twelve years past The Edge of Reason, Renee Zellweger returns to the role that made her unconvincingly British. Red flag: Even though Helen Fielding wrote a third Bridget Jones novel, this isn't based on it. Bridget is now forty-ish and preggers, either by Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth) or a McDreamy American (Patrick Dempsey). We love her just as she was.
Oliver Stone hasn't pushed any political hot buttons lately, but taking sides with national security documents leaker Edward Snowden should do the trick. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Snowden, with Zachary Quinto as journalist Glenn Greenwald, who assisted the information leak. (Review, page 18)
The Magnificent Seven
Not exactly a remake of 1960s classic Western, except in the lucky number of gunslingers defending a village, this time against a corrupt rich guy (Peter Sarsgaard), rather than politically incorrect Mexican bandits. Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke are the biggest stars slapping leather for justice.
Scott Garfield/Sony Pictures
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Tim Burton gets back into his spooky groove, adapting Ransom Riggs' novel about a sanctuary for little mutants, and Jacob (Asa Butterfield), a new enrollee just learning his supernatural gift. Don't be late to the show, or you'll miss Tampa Bay portraying Jacob's real world home (Burton filmed scenes around town), before the magical stuff begins.
The final hours of the BP oil rig that exploded in 2009, unleashing an eco-catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. Mark Wahlberg and Kurt Russell lead efforts to evacuate the inferno, while director Peter Berg tries making this a profile in crew courage, rather than just another disaster flick.
Queen of Katwe
Based on the true story of a young girl from Uganda (newcomer Madina Nalwanga) who became a chess champion. Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o and should've been nominated David Oyelowo (Selma) co-star. This is Disney's inaugural feature under its ESPN Films banner.
The Girl on the Train
The runaway bestseller becomes a movie, as so many do. Emily Blunt stars as Rachel Watson, a divorced woman intrigued by the disappearance of a young wife (Haley Bennett) she watched daily from a commuter train. Maybe Rachel had something to do with the gone girl. Maybe she didn't. There's no more spoilable fall movie out there, so shush.
The Birth of a Nation
Nate Parker directs and stars as Nat Turner, leading a bloody Virginia slave rebellion, decades before the Civil War. After a glorious reception at Sundance, Parker and his movie are now tainted by the re-emergence of a sexual assault charge he had in 1999 while enrolled at Penn State University. He was acquitted then, but the jury of public opinion is still out.
After muffing Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, Ben Affleck finds another line of work. Now he's an antisocial math savant hired as a forensic accountant, uncooking crooks' books. Hey, if Matt Damon can play a math genius, why not? Anna Kendrick and Oscar winner J.K. Simmons lend a hand when things don't add up safely.
This movie season for Tom Hanks, it's out of the flying can (Sully), into theological fire. He's back as author Dan Brown's symbologist Robert Langdon, globetrotting to stop a madman from unleashing a global virus. Director Ron Howard has the Langdon formula down pat, after two previous blockbuster adaptations, with another (The Lost Symbol) possibly on the way.
Benedict Cumberbatch adds a dash of elegance to Marvel's cinematic universe, as former surgeon Stephen Strange, who visits Nepal and brings home the ability to cast spells. Cumberbatch has done that on fans for years, now with the CGI effects to back it up. Doctor Strange crosses dimensions like others cross streets, and trailers promise plenty of Inception-style mind games.
Based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga), an interracial couple whose 1958 marriage violated Virginia law, sending them to prison. Writer-director Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Midnight Special) follows the outrage all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Loving has been touted as an awards contender since its debut at Cannes.
20th Century Fox
Animated Internet users leave comments on websites for no other reason than to incite anger, making them feel better about themselves. I'm kidding. This 'toon is about those wild-haired, semi-nude squeeze toys that every kid has settled for sometime in life. Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick up the cute quotient with their voices.
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
My personally most anticipated movie of the season. Two-time Oscar winning director Ang Lee adapts Ben Fountain's novel of a teenage soldier (Joe Alwyn) being honored at an NFL game. The hoopla sharply contrasts with his Iraq War memories. Vin Diesel co-stars as Billy's sergeant, with Kristen Stewart as the kid's sister, and Steve Martin doctoring the patriotic spin. The trailer gives me chills, the good kind.
A linguistics expert (Amy Adams) is recruited by the U.S. military as an interpreter for aliens that have landed, in locations worldwide. Why they're here, and what we'll do about it might be easily guessed, except Denis Villeneuve is directing, and after Sicario, Enemy and Prisoners, anything is possible. Arrival was Villeneuve's warmup for the Blade Runner sequel he's now filming.
Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. Pictures
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Harry Potter's path to wizardry began by reading Newt Scamander's book on supernatural matters. Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne gets his very own franchise as Newt, an immigrant to New York with a suitcase full of beasties. Colin Farrell and Katherine Waterston are part of the secret society Newt joins, just in time to stop occult forces.
Bleed for This
A decade removed from Citrus County's Lecanto High School, Miles Teller has graduated to name above the title stardom, and now serious Oscar buzz. Teller plays boxer Vinny Pazienza, who won three world titles after recovering from a car accident that broke his neck. Two years ago, Teller told me it's the most dramatic role he has taken, and that's after Whiplash and Rabbit Hole. Aaron Eckhart co-stars as his trainer, Lou Duva, along with Katey Sagal as Vinny's mom.
Lin-Manuel Miranda's march to rare PEGOT status continues, after collecting a Pulitzer, Emmy, Grammys and Tonys. Co-writing songs for a Disney animated feature is a good start toward the "O." Moana is the adventure of a Pacific island girl (voice of Auli'i Cravalho) searching for her lost family with the help of a demigod (Dwayne Johnson). She's not throwing away her shot.
Humphrey Bogart was a star but he was no Brad Pitt in the looks department. Pitt takes a role that Bogey would've loved in Robert Zemeckis' World War II drama, a spy romancing a French resistance fighter (Marion Cotillard) behind enemy lines. Don't worry if Allied doesn't work out as hoped. We'll always have Casablanca.
Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.