Okay, let’s just get this out of the way up top: It was a pretty bad summer for movies. We probably don’t even need to rehash the reasons why anymore. But a funny thing happened after the season bottomed out with the mostly abysmal Suicide Squad: Good movies started to appear again. Pete’s Dragon, Hell or High Water, Don’t Breathe, Kubo and the Two Strings, Sausage Party, Morris From America, Little Men, White Girl; All won over audiences and/or critics and all served as reminders that movies could be innovative and surprising at the end of a long stretch of sequels we didn’t ask for and formulaic exercises.
Will this trend carry over into the fall? Let’s hope so. Traditionally a time of year dominated by awards-friendly prestige fare, the coming months also have their share of blockbuster-sized entertainment, including a return to the world of Harry Potter and a new installment in a franchise called Star Wars.
To help you plan your viewing, we’ve prepared a week-by-week guide to the many, many films coming out before the end of the year, breaking out the movie everyone will be going to see and offering some alternatives that might be worth checking out.
The One Everyone Will Be Watching
Directed by: Oliver Stone
Starring: Joseph Gordon Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo
It’s been a relatively quiet stretch of years for Oliver Stone since Savages came and went without creating much of a stir in 2012. Prior to that, even topical films like World Trade Center, W., and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps failed to recapture the spirit of his prime years, when Stone could join a controversial topic to his trademark two-fisted style and start a national conversation.
Done right, Snowden could bring memories of those days backs. In 2013, former CIA employee Edward Snowden leaked information about NSA overreach to the press. Three years later, his actions remain a divisive topic and the right sort of movie could reignite the passions around the subject. Will Snowden be that sort of movie? Tough to say. Stone’s never made a secret of his politics, which swing from left wing to paranoid left wing, but he seems to have done his homework with this one, adapting his screenplay from a pair of books on the subject and speaking to some of the principals involved. Also likely to help matters: A cast headed by Joseph Gordon Levitt as Snowden that includes everyone from Shailene Woodley to Nicolas Cage.
Blair Witch: Writer Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard, the team behind You’re Next and The Guest, surprised Comic-Con by revealing that their latest movie, The Woods, was actually Blair Witch, a direct sequel to the 1999 found-footage hit The Blair Witch Project. Will they be able to recreate the scares of the original 17 years later? It has to be better than Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, right?
Bridget Jones’s Baby: And speaking of overdue sequels, Renée Zellweger returns to the role of the hapless singleton she originated with 2001’s Bridget Jones’s Diary. To echo the above, it has to be better than Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, right?
The One Everyone Will Be Watching
The Magnificent Seven
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio
That person you know who complains about remakes will probably be apoplectic that Antoine Fuqua is directing a remake of John Sturges’ 1960 Western classic, itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai. But everybody else will likely be happy. Denzel Washington takes over Yul Brynner’s role as a bounty hunter who recruits six other heroic (sometimes questionably heroic) types, including Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D’Onofrio, to protect a small town from a horde of bandits.
Hollywood’s spent years trying to revive the Western, with the occasional success (True Grit) amid more modest hits (the recent remake of 3:10 To Yuma.) But if anybody can meld the Western with the demands of a modern action film it’s Fuqua, who’s reunited here with his Training Day stars Washington and Hawke.
Queen of Katwe: Everything about this movie sounds like a typical inspirational sports story from Disney, in the vein of The Rookie or Million Dollar Arm, until you get to the director, award-winning filmmaker Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake), and the cast, which includes Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o. In other words, this will could be anything but your typical inspirational sports story, and that’s exciting.
Storks: Nicholas Stoller (The Muppets) delivers an odd-looking animated movie about storks, who used to deliver babies, but now drop off packages for an Amazon-like service. Then one accidentally activates the Baby Making Machine and, well, you can gather what happens from there. The presence of Stoller, and a voice cast that includes Andy Samberg, Key and Peele, and Kelsey Grammer, promises to liven up what might be a fairly standard visit to the theater for families.