Summer’s high temperatures didn’t correspond to any type of hot streak at the box office. There were many uncomfortable attempts at franchise glory. Marvel didn’t aim high, especially with that pesky Fox property that was far from fantastic. At least fall brings with it shade and some of the more eagerly anticipated films of the year.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (Dec. 18): Only one film matters: the new “Star Wars,” With notoriously secretive director J.J. Abrams at the helm, we know little. Rey (Daisy Ridley) might be Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) daughter. Viral racists bemoaned the appearance of Finn (John Boyega) as a “black Stormtrooper,” but he’s actually the primary Jedi in the film, so calm down.
And Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is the new Darth Vader, but he’s not a Sith Lord. He reports to Supreme Leader Snoke, a motion capture character played by Andy Serkis. There’s also General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), who appears to be a disposable Empire lackey.
There’s plenty to be thrilled about. George Lucas is still a visionary, but the last trilogy proved he can’t direct. Abrams can, and he’s creating a world with a better mix of CGI and puppetry, something absent amid robotic characters like Jar Jar Binks, General Grievous and Hayden Christensen. This one’s back to the western motif with a diverse cast to match. The force is strong with this one.
“Crimson Peak” (Oct. 16): Guillermo del Toro is a master filmmaker. “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Cronos,” “The Devil’s Backbone,” both “Hellboys,” “Pacific Rim,” even “Blade 2.” And now, he’s tackling a British period horror film starring Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnan and Mia Wasikowska. I love all of these people. Mostly, I love del Toro so much.
“Sisters” (Dec. 18): From the director of “Pitch Perfect,” Tina Fey and Amy Poehler star in an R-rated comedy about two sisters hosting one final rager in the house of their childhood. This is where dreams come from.
Tom Hooper’s “The Danish Girl” (Nov. 27): “Les Misérables” was an insult to the source material. The story dragged, the singing underwhelmed and the editing was lazy. This was especially disappointing since he was on fire following “The King’s Speech.” Not so with “The Danish Girl,” starring Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe and her wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander). The cast alone is splendid – the premise is rich.
“Spectre” (Nov. 6): “Skyfall” deserved a best pic nom. I stand by that statement. The “James Bond 007” franchise found its new niche, and just in time, since “Spectre” might be Daniel Craig’s last stand as the titular character. Rumor has it Sony wants a black Bond, but current Bond author Anthony Horowitz believes Idris Elba is too “street” for the role, considering his rough-around-the-edges performance in BBC’s “Luthor.”
Only Elba deserves to carry on where Craig leaves off. And since “Spectre” will likely connect all the events of the previous films, including “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace” – with Christoph Waltz as the villain – this one’s sure to make us beg for another Vesper martini – shaken not stirred, of course.
“Birdman” director Alejandro González Iñárritu presents his next Oscar bait, “The Renevant” (Dec. 25), this time with Leonardo DiCaprio, oh-so desperate for that Oscar. He just might get it this time. “The Scorch Trials” (Sept. 18) continues the fun “Maze Runner” series with its solid cast of young actors. But that young-adult adaptation must kneel before Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and the grand outro of “The Hunger Games” series, “Mockingjay, Part 2” (Nov. 20).
And who knows? We all might just be surprised by the “Rocky” spinoff, “Creed” (Nov. 25), featuring Apollo Creed’s son, Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), and the incredible directing talents of Ryan Cooglar (“Fruitvale Station”). Don’t forget Adonis’ coach, Mr. Balboa himself (Sylvester Stallone).
Sound off: “Bridge of Spies” (Oct. 16), “Burnt” (Oct. 23), “The Peanuts Movie” (Nov. 6), “The Good Dinosaur” (Nov. 25), “Macbeth” (Dec. 4) and “In the Heart of the Sea” (Dec. 11).
Fall is also shrouded in mysteries, from the R-rated animated feature, “Hell and Back” (Oct. 2) and the meta-horror film, “The Final Girls” (Oct. 9) to Vin Diesel as “The Last Witch Hunter” (Oct. 23) and Hugh Jackman’s bad hair in “Pan” (Oct. 9), a film originally scheduled for summer.
Likely, “Black Mass” (Sept. 18) will be the Johnny Depp project we’ve been waiting for: serious, dark and a needed break from Tim Burton. And “The Walk” (Sept. 25) looks equally promising in its depiction of high-wire artist Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who walked a tight rope from one of the World Trade Centers to the other. Then again, Robert Zemeckis (the “Back to the Future” trilogy and “Forrest Gump”) hasn’t had the best luck lately, especially with those ridiculous CGI films like “The Polar Express.”
Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” (Oct. 2), starring Matt Damon, has promise, but Scott is also hit or miss. Then there’s Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” (Dec. 25). Will he go for something original or tell another pretentious tale that proves he can charm with witty dialogue and minimal plot?
Sound off: “Everest” (Sept. 18), “The Intern” (Sept. 25), “Legend” (Oct. 2) and “The Night Before” (Nov. 25).
Yet another found-footage horror flick, “The Visit” (Sept. 11) might look creepy, but don’t trust it. M. Night Shyamalan stole our hearts with films like “The Sixth Sense,” but he’s still the same con who ruined “The Last Airbender” He’s 0 for 4 of late.
Gore-lovin’ director Eli Roth will premiere two films: “The Green Inferno” (Sept. 25) and “Knock Knock” (Oct. 9). You might remember the former was scheduled to arrive last fall. Not a good sign. And the latter, featuring some coeds seducing Keanu Reeves and then proceeding to torture him for that infidelity … I’m already yawning.
“Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” (Oct. 30): I want to believe it could be enjoyable, but that trailer is rough. I’m even more confused by the remake of “Point Break” (Dec. 25). If that dialogue represents the film’s best acting, we’re in for something more tragic than the incessant puns in the titles of all the “Alvin and the Chipmunks” films – this time it’s “The Road Chip” (Dec. 25). What a sad note to end on.
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