As Hollywood sweeps up the wreckage of failed summer blockbusters and sequels, movie fans can look forward to a fall season of promising films.
Before we go there, two films that arrived in late summer and are still in theaters deserve a look. The Western noir "Hell Or High Water" and the improv comedy-drama "Don't Think Twice" are stand-outs that have given viewers reasons to leave the heat and go into movie theaters.
The fall movie season is when the studios begin trotting out their Oscar-bait films, and while some will disappoint, some will surely be heard from again when the Academy Award nominations come out. The release dates below are subject to change, and some of these films will emerge first in major cities before arriving in Berkshire movie houses.
Madina Nalwanga plays a Ugandan chess prodigy and Lupita Nyong'o, an Oscar winner for "12 Years a Slave," plays her mother in "Queen of Katwe" (Sept. 23), which is based on a true story. Do we need another "Magnificent Seven" given that this film is based on a 1960 Western of the same title, which was based on the 1956 Kurosawa classic "The Seven Samurai"? We'll find out on the 23rd with Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt starring.
The tragic 2010 oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico comes to the big screen in "Deepwater Horizon" (Sept. 30). Mark Wahlberg and Kurt Russell star. Also on the 30th, Rachel Weisz plays an historian who brings a lawsuit against a Holocaust denier in "Denial," which is another film based on a real event.
"The Birth of a Nation" (Oct. 7), which is based on Nat Turner's 1811 slave revolt, was a sensation at the Sundance Film Festival. Nat Parker stars, directs and co-wrote the script. "The Girl On The Train," starring Emily Blunt in a thriller based on a best-selling novel, also opens on Oct. 7.
Ben Affleck plays a brilliant, tormented accountant who works for criminals in "The Accountant" (Oct. 14). Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons and Jeffrey Tambor are among an intriguing supporting cast.
Ewan McGregor directs and stars in "American Pastoral" (Oct. 28), based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Philip Roth. Also on the 28th, Tom Hanks' academic-investigator Robert Langdon pursues a Dante-obsessed killer in "Inferno," the third movie installment of Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code" series.
"Moonlight" (Nov. 4), a Telluride Film Festival hit, charts the travails of a young African-American (Trevante Rhodes) growing up in Miami. Also on a busy Nov. 4, Mel Gibson directs Andrew Garfield as the Battle of Okinawa medic who was the first conscientious objector to win a Medal of Honor in "Hacksaw Ridge," and Miles Teller stars as boxing legend Vinny Pazienza, who came back to the ring after breaking his neck in a car accident, in "Bleed For This."
On the 11th, Ang Lee directs newcomer Joe Alwyn as an Iraq war hero suffering from a troubled conscience in "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk," and in yet another based-on-fact film in this serious movie season, Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton play the Virginia couple who took their fight for the legalization of interracial marriage to the Supreme Court in "Loving."
Armored-car company workers Zach Galifianakis and Kristen Wiig plot to ruin their employers in "Masterminds" (Sept. 30,) which is based on a 1997 incident. Yes, even the comedies this fall are based upon real events.
A newly arrived student (Griffin Cluck) takes on an overbearing principal (Andrew Daly) by attempting to break every rule in the school's code of conduct in "Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life" (Oct. 7), which is adapted from a series of books.
Zach Galifiankis is back on Oct. 21 as half of a dull suburban couple (Isla Fisher is the other half) who suspect their new neighbors are spies in "Keeping Up With The Joneses." Also on the 21st, Tyler Perry's wise-cracking grandma is back on screen in "Tyler Perry's Boo! A Madea Halloween!"
Nov. 11 is almost Christmas, and on that date, Danny Glover plays a dad who hopes to avoid his family over the holidays in "Almost Christmas."
An orphaned American teen (Asa Butterfield) finds himself on a British island with children possessing unique powers in "Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children" (Sept. 30,) which is adapted from a 2011 novel. It sounds dangerously like an "X-Men" movie, for which there is no further need, but director Tim Burton can usually be trusted to provide something eye-opening and original.
A family running a scam seance business in 1967 accidentally invite a demonic spirit into their home in "Ouija: Origin of Evil" (Oct. 21). It is a prequel to the unheralded 2014 box office hit. "Rings" (Oct. 28) is the third film in a series that began so long ago it involved an evil videotape. The newest film explores the dark urban legend of that mysterious videotape with devastating results for one brave seeker.
"Doctor Strange," an apparent escapee from the summer movie season, arrives Nov. 4, with Benedict Cumberbatch as a neurosurgeon who develops extraordinary abilities while searching for a cure for his crippled hands. Tilda Swinton plays the Ancient One who expands the doctor's mind in a film from the Marvel universe of graphic novels-turned-movies.
"Arrival" (Nov. 11), the one science fiction entry of the fall movie season, stars Amy Adams as a prominent linguist recruited by the government to communicate with newly arrived visitors from outer space. Jeremy Renner plays a theoretical physicist.
Summer is primarily the season for what used to be called cartoons, but the fall offers two animated films.
Storks have lost their jobs delivering babies to an Internet giant, but one stork, voiced by Andy Samberg, decides to get back in the business in "Storks" (Sept. 23).
"Trolls" (Nov. 4) is not about those unlovable internet get-a-lifers but is based on those lovable, funky-haired troll dolls that have enjoyed popularity for decades. Anna Kendrick voices the leader of the blissfully happy troll community while Justin Timberlake voices a gloomy troll who frets that a monster attack is imminent. Spoiler alert! He's right.