Fall movie preview: What's on the big screen

Summer may be ending and the leaves are changing, but don't worry our film expert Bill Everhart gives you something to look forward to in the coming months.

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Fall is a more serious time of year than summer, which is reflected in the movie schedule. Not that there won't be room for dumb comedies, there always is.

It is also the time when Academy Award contenders begin arriving in theaters. It says here, however, that two Best Picture nominees screened during the summer. "Wonder Woman" was the first superhero movie to hit on all cylinders since "The Dark Knight" (2008). Christopher Nolan's stunning "Dunkirk" provided a soldier's eye view of war, which is a mini-theme this movie year.

The release dates below are subject to change. Some movies will open in major cities before going wider and showing up in Berkshire movie theaters.

LIGHT DRAMA

When aging tennis star Bobby Riggs challenged top women's tennis player Billie Jean King to a match for supposed gender supremacy it pioneered the media hysteria that is common today and made King a gender and gay rights icon. Their confrontation is recreated in "The Battle of the Sexes" (Sept. 22) with Steve Carell as Riggs and Emma Stone as King. Also on the 22nd, Judi Dench, who played Queen Victoria in 1997's "Mrs. Brown," revisits Victoria late in life in "Victoria & Abdul," in which the queen strikes up a friendship with a young Indian Muslim man (Ali Fazal).

In "Goodbye Christopher Robin" (Oct 13), author A.A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson), just returned from World War I, finds solace inventing lives for his son's stuffed animals — among them Winnie-the-Pooh and Tigger. Will Tilston plays the title character in the film, which chronicles the invention of the iconic critters and the challenges of fame that descend upon the family.

"Suburbicon" (Oct. 27), a Coen Brothers property taken over by George Clooney, stars Matt Damon as the head of a '50s-era suburban family whose secrets are exposed following a home invasion. Getting back to Wonder Woman, "Professor Marston & The Wonder Women:" (Oct. 29) explores the life of the deeply eccentric psychologist William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans) who invented the comic book superwoman.

HEAVY DRAMA

Director Angelina Jolie brings to the screen the Loung Ung memoir about her horrific life as a child during the Khmer Rouge's devastation of Cambodia in "First They Killed My Father" (Sept. 15). The film played to raves at the Telluride Film Festival. On the 22nd, Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jeff Baumann, a reluctant hero after losing his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing, in "Stronger." The film is based on Baumann's memoirs.

Liam Neeson is the title character in "Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House" (Sept. 29), which tells the story of the informer known as "Deep Throat" who helped bring down President Nixon during Watergate. Kate Winslet and Idris Elba, the sole survivors of a plane crash on a remote, snow-capped mountain, try to descend to safety in "The Mountain Between Us" (Oct. 6).

Andy Serkis, best known for his extraordinary work as a CGI actor in "The Lord of the Rings" and "Planet of the Apes" movies, directs Andrew Garfield in "Breathe" (Oct. 13), which is based on the true story of a polio victim who tried to better the lives of fellow victims of the devastating disease. Also on the 13th, "Marshall" stars biopic specialist Chadwick Boseman (Jackie Robinson in "42," James Brown in "Get On Up,") as the young Thurgood Marshall in the midst of a racially heated court case early in the legal career of the first African-American Supreme Court justice.

Favorable early buzz surrounds "Wonderstruck" (Oct. 20), the latest film from the always original Todd Haynes. Two different stories are intertwined, with Millicent Simmons as a deaf girl in New York City of 1927 (this section is filmed as a black-and-white silent movie) exploring a psychic link with a boy (Oakes Fegley) grieving the loss of his mother in New York City 50 years later. Also on the 20th, Miles Teller joins the Granite Mountain Hotshots in "Only the Brave," a tribute to the Arizona firefighters who suffered 19 casualties four years ago.

Teller returns Oct. 27 in "Thank You For Your Service," which is based on the true story of soldiers returning from Iraq with PTSD who are greeted with indifference or worse. The similarly themed "Last Flag Flying" (Nov. 3) stars Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne as Vietnam veterans reunited to honor the son of one of the trio who was killed in Iraq. Fishburne played a young soldier in the iconic Vietnam-era film "Apocalypse Now."

THRILLER-HORROR-SCIFI

This three-headed monster of a category begins showing its stuff today with "It," based on the Stephen King story about a demonic spirit physically manifested by an evil clown that terrorizes a small Maine town. On the 15th, Jennifer Lawrence plays a woman terrified by the home invaders her husband (Javier Bardem) seems to welcome in director Darren Aronofsky's "mother."

"Flatliners," the star-making 1990 film about young med students pushing the line between life and death, gets a reboot Sept. 29 with Ellen Page among the leads. "Blade Runner," the 1982 Ridley Scott classic about a detective (Harrison Ford) pursuing aliens in a bleak futuristic society, has been oft imitated but never duplicated. On Oct. 13, director Denis Villeneuve (2016's excellent "Arrival") updates the movie in "Blade Runner 2049," starring Ryan Gosling, with Ford also on board.

Jessica Rothenberg's college student repeatedly relives the day of her death as she tries to determine the killer in "Happy Death Day" (Oct. 13), which is like a spinoff of "Groundhog Day" without Bill Murray or the laughs. Michael Fassbinder is a Norwegian detective on the trail of a killer who strikes on the first snowfall of winter in "The Snowman" (Oct. 20).

"Jigsaw," the eighth installment of the gorefest "Saw" series, returns on Oct. 27.

ACTION

A young man seeking revenge against terrorists (Dylan O'Brien) learns the ropes from Michael Keaton's veteran spy in "American Assassin" (Sept. 29). Colin Firth was apparently left for dead in 2015's "Kingsman: The Secret Service," but a money-making film can resuscitate even the flatlined, and Firth returns with Taron Egerton Sept. 22 in the spy thriller "Kingsman: The Golden Circle." Also on the 29th, Tom Cruise is a pilot who informs for the CIA while flying drugs for the Medellin cartel in "American Made," which is based on a true story.

In "The Foreigner" (Oct. 13), jolly Jackie Chan moves on to Charles Bronson-Liam Nesson territory as an immigrant who goes outside the law to pursue the terrorists who killed his daughter in a London attack. Maybe he should team up with the kid from "American Assassin."

Two superhero franchise flicks arrive this fall, beginning Nov. 3 with "Thor: Ragnarok" in which Chris Hemsworth's Thor takes on Cate Blanchette's Hela the Goddess of Death without either his trademark hammer or signature flowing locks. Wonder Woman (there she is again) was the best thing about 2016's muddled "Batman vs. Superman," and maybe a larger role in "Justice League" (Nov. 17) will help make that film a success. Major rewrites and reshoots, however, are indicators of a troubled film.

COMEDY

"Tyler Perry's Boo 2! A Madea Halloween" (Oct. 20) signals the arrival of the ghost and goblin season. "The Bad Moms" of last year's film get their comeuppance when their moms, played by Susan Sarandon, Christine Baranski and Cheryl Hinds, show up in "A Bad Moms Christmas" (Nov. 3).

A mother's pursuit of her daughter's killer doesn't seem like the stuff of comedy, but the world of playwright and movie writer-director Martin McDonagh is a darkly funny one. "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" (Nov. 3) is attracting enthusiastic early buzz, as is Frances McDormand as the revenge-filled mom.

"Murder on the Orient Express" (Nov. 10), a rebooting of the 1974 film based on Agatha Christie's 1934 novel, includes Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe and Kenneth Branagh (who also directs), among an all-star cast. Also on Nov. 10, rivals Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are confronted by the arrival of their dads, played by John Lithgow and Mel Gibson, in "Daddy's Home 2," a sequel to the original of two years. Two years from now, look for "Daddy's Home with the Bad Moms" in a theater near you.

ANIMATION

"The Lego Movie" and "The Batman Lego" movie were hilarious: will "The Lego Ninjago Movie" (Sept. 22) make three a charm?

"Coco" Nov. 22), the latest from Pixar, finds a young lad transported accidentally to the Land of the Dead in a film based around the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos. An all-Latino cast, including Benjamin Bratt and Gael Garcia Bernal, handles the voices.


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