Movie News & Reviews

The Fall in Film: Highlights of movies slated to open by Thanksgiving

Matt Damon is stranded in “The Martian.”
Matt Damon is stranded in “The Martian.” Aidan Monaghan

Jake Gyllenhaal is already climbing “Everest,” and Robert DeNiro’s started his gig as “The Intern,” but the fall movie season has plenty more in store before Thanksgiving. What’s notable? Significant numbers of movies aimed not at the comic-book reader but at actual adults – most based on true stories or adapted from successful novels (see “Steve Jobs” and “Carol,” etc.). Here’s a list of highlights, in order of their estimated opening dates. Those can change at any time, and not all films are guaranteed to play in Charlotte, but this gives you a sense of the season:

Sept. 30 on IMAX

The Walk Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Philippe Petit, the French tightrope artist who took a high-wire stroll between the World Trade Center towers in 1974, when both he and the buildings were very young. Ben Kingsley plays his mentor. Robert Zemeckis (“Back to the Future”) directed. NOTE: This date is for IMAX theaters only; it will expand to other theaters Oct. 9.

Oct. 2

The Martian Ridley Scott’s new action adventure stars Matt Damon as an American astronaut on Mars – stranded, alone and struggling to stay alive. NASA scientists and his crew mates are among those determined to rescue him. With Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Donald Glover.

Sicario In this drama involving a Mexican drug cartel (the title means “Hit Man”), Emily Blunt plays an FBI agent, and Josh Brolin is the government task-force hotshot who hires her; Benicio Del Toro is their big-time consultant (with a mysterious past). Denis Villeneuve directed.

Oct. 9

Big Stone Gap Ashley Judd stars in Adriana Trigiani’s film based on her book about her country roots in Virginia. Judd plays a self-sufficient spinster who is thrown by the discovery of a family secret. With Patrick Wilson, Whoopi Goldberg and John Benjamin Hickey.

He Named Me Malala Sometimes she’s making speeches and shaking hands with important people. Sometimes she’s at home in Birmingham, England, with her parents and her brothers. The youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai, now 18, miraculously survived after Taliban forces shot her in the head for having the nerve to want to go to school. Today, she may be the most important spokeswoman on the planet for girls’ and women’s education. Davis Guggenheim, who is attracted to big subjects (“An Inconvenient Truth,” “Waiting for ‘Superman’”), directed this documentary portrait.

Pan How did Peter Pan get to Neverland to begin with? Hugh Jackman, starring as the pirate Blackbeard, will show us. This fantasy, directed by Joe Wright, who brought period elegance to “Atonement” and “Pride & Prejudice,” offers itself up as the back story to J. M. Barrie’s 1904 classic children’s story. Garrett Hedlund is Captain Hook, Rooney Mara is Tiger Lily, and Levi Miller is Peter.

Trash In Stephen Daldry’s film, set in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, two poor boys find a wallet in the trash and figure that if the police want to give them a reward, it must be really, really valuable. Martin Sheen and Rooney Mara play American missionaries.

Oct. 14

A Ballerina’s Tale Misty Copeland is the ballerina, the first African-American female principal dancer in American Ballet Theater’s history. Nelson George’s documentary follows her difficulties, which have included negative racial attitudes in the dance world, a highly unsupportive mother and a multiple-stress-fracture injury that could have ended her career.

Oct. 16

Bridge Of Spies Steven Spielberg takes on the Cold War in this espionage thriller, with Tom Hanks as a straight-arrow Brooklyn lawyer caught up in the U-2 spy-plane crisis. Tony-winning British stage actor Mark Rylance is a suspected KGB agent. Ethan and Joel Coen wrote the screenplay with Matt Charman.

Coming Home This is set at the end of the Culturnal Revolution in China, and shows a couple (Gong Li and Chen Daoming) torn apart when he is sent to a labor camp as a political prisoner. Their daughter, who hopes to win the lead in a ballet, is willing to denounce him. The film is the second collaboration in 20 years between director Zhang Yimou and actress Gong Li.

Crimson Peak Mia Wasikowska stars in this Gothic horror story as a young would-be author who has just married Tom Hiddleston and moved into an isolated house. Jessica Chastain, who has always seemed destined for costume drama, plays the new sister-in-law. Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) directed.

Finders Keepers You never know what might turn up at an auction or yard sale. In this documentary, it’s John Wood’s mummified amputated leg – inside a grill in North Carolina. The man who bought the grill sues for custody of the leg, which is enough to drive Wood back to drug addiction. Directed by Bryan Carberry and J. Clay Tweel. At Sundance, Variety called it “as hysterical as it is insightful.” (Look for more on this Oct. 11 from The Observer’s Lawrence Toppman.)

Freeheld Julianne Moore stars as Laurel Hester, the real-life New Jersey police detective who, dying of lung cancer, fought to be able to leave her pension to her domestic partner (played by Ellen Page). Peter Sollett directed from a screenplay by Ron Nyswaner (“Philadelphia”). The cast includes Michael Shannon as Laurel’s sympathetic work partner and Steve Carell as a gay lawyer.

Goosebumps Jack Black plays R. L. Stine, the real-life author of the “Goosebumps” book series (more than 400 million in print). But in this thriller, directed by Rob Letterman, Stine has a secret: All those creepy creatures in his books are real, and they live with him – under his tight control. When a bunch gets loose – including Slappy the Dummy, and a werewolf – human teenagers have to save the day, among them the author’s nearest and dearest (Odeya Rush) and the new boy in town (Dylan Minnette).

Oct. 23

Burnt Bradley Cooper follows “Aloha,” which crashed and burned, with the story of a decadent celebrity chef who crashed and burned – and is now trying to make a three-Michelin-star comeback. The cast includes Sienna Miller, Emma Thompson and Uma Thurman. John Wells (“August: Osage County”) directed.

I Smile Back Sarah Silverman goes dead serious in this dark indie, an addiction drama directed by Adam Salky. Silverman plays a suburban New Jersey wife and mother in trouble – with drugs, alcohol, mental illness (she’s off her meds), compulsive sex and general self-destructiveness. When the film was at Sundance, Variety described her performance as “the kind of warts-and-all, let-it-all-hang-out (body parts, fluids, etc.) turn that awards consultants’ dreams are made of.”

Jem and the Holograms A musical adventure about what happens when a young girl who’s an underground video sensation becomes an international superstar. Fans of the beloved animated series from the ’80s await, nervously. With Aubrey Peeples, Stefanie Scott, Aurora Perrineau, Hayley Kiyoko and Molly Ringwald. Jon M. Chu directed.

The Last Witch Hunter That would be the warrior Kaulder, played by Vin Diesel, who knows that even today, witches live among us. What he doesn’t know is that the Queen Witch (Julie Engelbrecht), whom he slew long ago, has returned to life and would be perfectly happy to wipe out the human race as she gets even with Kaulder. Michael Caine and Elijah Wood also star.

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension The producers say this is the end of the series and all secrets will be revealed. Olivia Taylor Dudley, Ivy George, Dan Gill and Don McManus star. Gregory Plotkin directed.

Rock The Kasbah Bill Murray plays a burned-out, washed-up, wrung-dry rock-music manager who’s reduced to taking his one remaining client (Zooey Deschanel) on a USO tour in Afghanistan. When she leaves him (even stealing his passport), a miracle happens: He discovers a talented young singer and sets out to make her a star on the Afghani equivalent of “American Idol.” Directed by Barry Levinson, doing comedy a long way from Baltimore.

Steve Jobs This is a behind-the-scenes drama directed by Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) and written by Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”). Michael Fassbender stars as Jobs, masterminding major product introductions. With Seth Rogen (as Steve Wozniak), Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels and Katherine Waterston.

Suffragette A lot of stuff burning and blowing up in the streets of pre-World War I London, all so that women can win the vote. Carey Mulligan stars as one of the hard-working foot soldiers in the British suffragist movement, risking everything, including her life, and Meryl Streep is the movement leader Emmeline Pankhurst. Directed by Sarah Gavron from a screenplay by Abi Morgan (“The Iron Lady”).

Oct. 30

Our Brand Is Crisis Calamity Jane to the rescue, in the person of Sandra Bullock. In this drama, a group of American consultants working on a political campaign in Bolivia call on Jane to lead the team, but the initial results are chaotic. With Billy Bob Thornton and Anthony Mackie. David Gordon Green directed, based on Rachel Boynton’s 2005 documentary.

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse A troop of Boy Scouts on a weekend camping trip find their survival skills seriously challenged when a small town is overrun by the undead in Chris Landon’s horror comedy. With Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller and Cloris Leachman.

Truth Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett play Dan Rather and his producer Mary Mapes in this drama about the “60 Minutes” report on President George W. Bush that effectively ended Rather’s career at CBS. James Vanderbilt directed from his screenplay, based on Mapes’ memoir.

Nov. 6

Miss You Already Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette star in Catherine Hardwicke’s drama about best friends and what happens when one of them gets a life-altering diagnosis. Well, it’s been 27 years since “Beaches.” With Dominic Cooper and Paddy Considine.

The Peanuts Movie Looks as if Snoopy the beagle is the character who’s going to have the most fun with computer animation in the big-screen 3-D debut of Charles M. Schulz’s adored “Peanuts” characters. Snoopy is in World War I flying ace mode, with aerial stunts to show off. Meanwhile his hapless young owner, Charlie Brown, goes on a winter quest of his own. Steve Martino directed.

Room Audiences will know what it feels like to live in a windowless 10-foot-by-10-foot space. Maybe something remotely like what Jaycee Lee Dugard — the Californian who was kidnapped at 11, raped repeatedly by her abductor and held captive for 18 years with her children (born of the rapes) — experienced. Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay star as the mother-and-son residents of a tiny shed who got there the same way. Based on Emma Donoghue’s critically acclaimed, best-selling novel, the film follows the characters’ escape and their difficulties with the real world outside. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson. With Joan Allen and William H. Macy.

Spectre Nine years have passed since Daniel Craig took over as James Bond, in “Casino Royale,” and this is his fourth film as 007. The settings are Mexico City, London and Rome. The women with sexy looks and European accents include a criminal’s widow (Monica Bellucci) and an assassin’s daughter (Léa Seydoux). Ralph Fiennes is M; Ben Whishaw is Q; Naomie Harris is Moneypenny; and Christoph Waltz is the villain du jour, who runs a previously secret organization known as Spectre and has a connection to Bond that Bond has never known about.

Spotlight Newspaper journalists as moral heroes? What is this, “All the President’s Men”? Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James play reporters and editors from The Boston Globe who discovered and exposed a citywide conspiracy to cover up priests’ sexual abuse of children. Tom McCarthy directed.

Nov. 13

By The Sea She’s billed as Angelina Jolie Pitt this time, and as director, writer and co-star – with her husband, Brad Pitt – of this 1970s love story set at a quiet seaside resort in France. The spouses play an American couple in a troubled marriage who learn a lot from the people they meet on vacation (like Mélanie Laurent and Niels Arestrup).

Love The Coopers A Christmas Eve get-together. Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Diane Keaton, Anthony Mackie, Amanda Seyfried and Marisa Tomei are among the stars of this four-generation family tale, directed by Jessie Nelson.

My All American Aaron Eckhart and Finn Wittrock star in the story of a football underdog (Wittrock), considered too small to have a top-notch future. He’s finally noticed by legendary University of Texas coach Darrell Royal (Eckhart), but soon faces a much bigger challenge than winning a championship. Based on a true story, and from the writers of “Hoosiers” and “Rudy.”

The 33 “The Chilean Miners” might have been a better title, but 33 was indeed the number of men who were buried alive in 2010 after a 100-year-old gold and copper mine in Chile collapsed. As time passed – two months – people around the globe watched, rescue crews worked carefully and few observers expected a happy ending. Antonio Banderas, James Brolin, Lou Diamond Phillips and Rodrigo Santoro star in this drama, directed by Patricia Riggen, which follows the events above ground and below. Filmed partly in Chile and inside Colombian mines.

Nov. 20

Carol Women in love (with each other) in 1950s New York, via a 1952 Patricia Highsmith novel (“The Price of Salt”). Cate Blanchett is an elegant married woman, and Rooney Mara a young department store clerk with whom she has an affair. Kyle Chandler plays the husband left behind; Sarah Paulson is the best friend. And when the two new lovers go traveling, it turns into a road movie. Directed by Todd Haynes, who previously visited the gay ’50s with “Far From Heaven.”

Criminal Activities There are so many ways to get into trouble with the mob. John Travolta stars in this thriller about a group of old friends who do it by taking advantage of an inside stock tip. With Dan Stevens, Michael Pitt and Christopher Abbott. Jackie Earle Haley directed.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 President Snow (Donald Sutherland) had better watch his back. In this fourth and final “Hunger Games” film, Jennifer Lawrence returns as Katniss Everdeen, now preparing for the final showdown. Francis Lawrence directed a cast that includes Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Sam Claflin, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Jeffrey Wright, Jena Malone and Stanley Tucci. And because this was filmed at the same time as “Part 1,” Philip Seymour Hoffman appears, almost two years after his death, as Plutarch Heavensbee, head gamemaker cum rebel leader.

Secret In Their Eyes Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman and Chiwetel Ejiofor in cold-case territory. A thriller about a young girl’s murder and the FBI investigators who finally get a new lead 13 years later. Written and directed by Billy Ray. The original picture, from Argentina, won the 2010 best foreign-language-film Oscar.

Nov. 25

Creed Rocky Balboa is an old guy now, but he’s still brimming with wisdom for young boxers. This time, the kid (played by Michael B. Jordan) has a secret: His father was Apollo Creed, the long-ago heavyweight champion whose challenge changed Rocky’s life. In what amounts to the seventh “Rocky” movie, training ensues. Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station”) directed.

The Good Dinosaur Disney and Pixar ask the cosmic question: What if a certain asteroid had missed Earth a few million years ago, and dinosaurs had never become extinct? Maybe a nice young Apatosaurus named Arlo (the voice of 13-year-old Raymond Ochoa) would have become friends with a human and learned to confront his fears and get all self-actualized. The voice cast also includes Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Steve Zahn and Sam Elliott.

Legend Ah, the Kray twins, London’s notorious midcentury gangsters and swinging ’60s nightclub owners. Tom Hardy plays them both (and one of them was kind of psychotic) in this crime drama written and directed by Brian Helgeland. With David Thewlis, Emily Browning and Chazz Palminteri.

The Night Before A comedy about three young men who are getting too old to act like debauched jerks at their annual Christmas Eve get-together. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen (in a Star of David holiday sweater) and Anthony Mackie play the friends searching for New York’s biggest, baddest holiday party: the Nutcracka Ball.

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