This weekend marks the first time in more than 20 years that Hollywood has completely thrown in the towel and not bothered to release a major movie over Labor Day weekend.
So, in the spirit of our Fall Arts Preview issue, I’m looking ahead to some of the most promising movies coming out during the next three months.
“It” (Sept. 8)
One of horror master Stephen King’s most popular novels — about a group of bullied kids in small-town Maine who team up to take on an evil clown named Pennywise, who’s been killing children for centuries — finally hits the big screen more than 30 years after it was published. Early word is that this is an absolutely terrifying adaptation, though the book’s 1,138-page length means that viewers will have to wait a couple of years to see the actual conclusion, since the filmmakers have split the story into two films.
“Mother!” (Sept. 15)
Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play a happily married couple who find that their tranquil life is turned upside down by the arrival of a creepy, uninvited couple played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer. All four leads have been Oscar winners or nominees, a remarkable casting coup that could make this the acting showdown of the year under the creative hand of writer-director Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan”).
“The Kingsman: The Golden Circle.” (Sept. 22)
Director Matthew Vaughn brought daringly funny new life to the British spy genre with “The Kingsman: The Secret Service,” and this time he has nerd-turned-super-agent Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton) teaming up with an American secret society against an even greater world threat. Adding Jeff Bridges and Channing Tatum to the mix seems a recipe for an even tastier mix of action and comedy.
“Battle of the Sexes.” (Sept. 22)
Emma Stone follows her Oscar-winning turn in “La La Land” by playing tennis legend Billie Jean King in the true-life story of King’s 1973 on-court showdown with former champ and perpetual hustler Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell). Directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton worked wonders with the Best Picture-nominated dramedy “Little Miss Sunshine,” leaving high hopes that this comical take on history will score an ace.
“American Made.” (Sept. 29)
Tom Cruise finally appears to be stretching his talents again after five “Mission: Impossible” movies, the wretched reboot of “The Mummy” and a string of middling sci-fi films. Here, he’s taking on the role of real-life former airline pilot Barry Seal, who became a drug smuggler for the Medellin Cartel in the 1980s before becoming a DEA informant to avoid jail time while nearly bringing down the Reagan White House.
“Blade Runner 2049.” (Oct. 6)
Harrison Ford continues his late-career renaissance by finally making a sequel to the sci-fi classic he made outside the “Star Wars” series. Ryan Gosling plays a new blade runner for the Los Angeles police who embarks on a quest to find Ford’s Rick Deckard, who’s been missing for 30 years, after discovering a secret that could ruin society. Original director Ridley Scott is only onboard as an executive producer here, but the film appears in good hands with director Denis Villeneuve, who proved he has the ability to craft stellar sci-fi with last year’s Best Picture nominee “Arrival.”
“Marshall.” (Oct. 13)
Chadwick Boseman delivered strong performances as Jackie Robinson in “42” and James Brown in “Get On Up,” and he attempts a trifecta of winning portrayals of African-American icons with this film about a key case in Thurgood Marshall’s career prior to becoming the first black justice on the US Supreme Court.
“Suburbicon.” (Oct. 27)
The Coen brothers intended to make this darkly comic crime film even before their commercial breakthrough with 1987’s “Raising Arizona,” but it took their “Burn After Reading” star George Clooney as director to finally bring it to the big screen. Matt Damon plays a husband and father in 1959 suburbia who finds that his town’s idyllic surface is hiding a disturbing underbelly of secrets and violence. The trailer makes this look like an oddball winner.
“Justice League.” (Nov. 17)
Until this year’s terrific “Wonder Woman,” the films based on DC Comics have always taken a more somber approach to its superhero movies than its archrivals at Marvel. It will be interesting to see how this film will compare with the pure pop fun of “The Avengers” films, as “League” brings all of DC’s biggest heroes together when Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are joined by Aquaman and The Flash for this adventure.
“Darkest Hour.” (Nov. 22)
This summer’s hugely successful “Dunkirk” has proven that today’s audiences will still line up for a serious WWII film, which bodes well for this biopic starring Gary Oldman as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. This film follows Churchill as he faced the challenge of rallying England against the Nazis within days of taking office.
THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Gary Oldman
Length: 118 minutes
Directed by: Patrick Hughes
Reynolds plays a disgraced private security ace who is forced to take hitman Jackson from England to testify in the war-crimes trial of a dictator at the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands while dodging assassins out to stop Jackson. Extremely lazy and stupid writing reliant upon a zillion flashbacks to fill plot holes, combined with energetic yet cliched performances by its stars and a tone that veers between attempted comedy and brutality, makes this one of the year’s worst. …Grade: D
Stars: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig
Length: 119 minutes
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
This Southern-fried twist on “Ocean’s 11” – also directed by Soderbergh – follows two brothers played by Tatum and Driver, who decide to rob the vault of the Charlotte Speedway during a NASCAR race, with the help of safecracker Craig and a motley assortment of friends. The heist pays off with great twists and details and the dialogue zings, while the performers invest what heart and dignity into what could have been cliched characters. Grade: B
Stars: Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner
Length: 107 minutes
Directed by: Tyler Sheridan
This unusually thoughtful and serious thriller follows Olsen a Las Vegas FBI agent shipped to a remote Wyoming reservation to investigate the death of a young Native American woman, and the local game tracker (Renner) who helps her navigate both the terrain and its people. Writer-director Sheridan shows viewers a world rarely seen in film, blending the tragically overlooked lives of Native Americans with a fascinating mystery. Grade: A
INGRID GOES WEST
Stars: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr.
Length: 97 minutes
Directed by: Matt Spicer
A wicked satire of our selfie and Instagram-obsessed culture, “Ingrid” features a knockout performance by indie comedy goddess Plaza as a woman who uses a $60,000 inheritance to move to LA and stalk an online celebrity (Olsen) with an equally vacuous existence. Its sharp bite packs an extra punch when it takes a surprisingly moving turn. Grade: A
Stars: Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Length: 100 minutes
Directed by: Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie
Robert Pattinson breaks out of his teen-idol “Twilight” days for good with his riveting performance as a bank robber who will go to any amoral length imaginable to rescue his mentally disabled brother from police custody after a heist gone wrong. But the film is so unrelentingly scuzzy it becomes annoying, leaving the audience no one to root for. Grade: C warm emotion in a fresh twist on romantic dramedies, it’s a winner. Grade: C