Friday, August 28, 2015

My Top 10 Most Anticipated Movies of the Fall Season


With the big fall festivals like Venice, Telluride and Toronto soon to be underway (and Awards season to follow soon after), I wanted to offer up my thoughts on my 10 most anticipated movies to be released in this last third of 2015. For me personally, anticipation for a movie is built off some combination of these factors:

a) I like the actors/cast
b) I’m a fan of the directors' work(and, sometimes, occasionally the writers')
c) The subject matter is intriguing to me
d) The trailer peaked my interest

Though there are certainly a few titles coming out in the next few months that tick some of those boxes, I’m also finding that there are few films that I’m wholly anticipating without any skepticism (at least more so than in previous years). While my perception of the offerings this yearwill change drastically as these films start screening and a consensus starts to form around them, here are the ten titles that as of now, on paper, intrigue me the most, listed alphabetically.

Black Mass-
Director - Scott Cooper 
Cast- Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Kevin Bacon, Dakota Johnson, ect.

Premise: A biopic of James “Whitey” Bulger (Depp) a notorious organized crime boss in Boston who served the FBI as an informant. 

Why I’m Intrigued: The third trailer for the film was very solid and the supporting cast is formidable. The subject matter has cinematic potential and this has the potential to be a return to form for Depp.

Why I’m Skeptical: Cooper’s previous features, Crazy Heart and Out of the Furnace, indicates a competent but not great director who benefits from having impressive ensembles. Also, between the look and the voice of the character, I’m still not entirely sold on Depp as the right casting choice for Bulger.

Bridge of Spies-
Director - Steven Spielberg (Screenplay by Joel and Ethan Coen) 
Cast- Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, Alan Alda ect.

Premise: A Cold War thriller based on the 1960 U-2 incident.

Why I’m Intrigued: Spielberg’s last film, Lincoln, was rather unexpectedly my favorite film of that year and this one finds him in similar historical territory. The Cold War setting is an interesting historical backdrop.

Why I’m Skeptical: As much as I loved Lincoln, Tony Kushner’s script deserves a lot of the credit for that and Spielberg can be hit or miss with this type of prestige drama. Though the Coen brothers are great writers and inspired choices for this type of material, the same was said for Unbroken last year, so who knows?

Director - Ryan Coogler 
Cast- Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, ect.

Premise: The son of Apollo Creed seeks to be trained by Rocky Ballboa. 

Why I’m Intrigued: After Coogler’s first feature Fruitvale Station (also starring Jordan), I couldn’t wait to see what he’d do next. The announcement that his follow-up would be a Rocky feature struck me at first glance as an indie talent selling out big time. However, after the impressive first trailer, Coogler seems to be trying to reinvigorate this tired franchise and harken back to the scrappier roots of the 1976 original. 

Why I’m Skeptical: It’s very possible that what we saw was just a very nicely put together trailer, and I suppose this could end up being a fairly routine boxing picture.

The Hateful Eight-
Director - Quentin Tarantino 
Cast- Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bruce Dern, ect.

Premise: Eight strangers are stranded in a stagecoach stopover during a blizzard. 

Why I’m Intrigued: I don’t automatically flock to whatever Tarantino does, but of his more recent output, Inglourious Basterds was my favorite film of that year and, though it had it’s flaws, I thought Django Unchained was also a triumph. The Western facade of The Hateful Eight suggests a common DNA with Django, but the bottle episode premise to me is more suggestive of his first feature, Reservoir Dogs

Why I’m Skeptical: While I’m hoping the stripped down narrative abates some of Tarantino’s more indulgent sensibilities, there’s also the possibility that this is minor Tarantino and won’t resonate as his more ambitious outings. 

Director - David O. Russell 
Cast- Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, ect.

Premise: A biopic of Joy Mangano (Lawrence), a single mother and entrepreneur who builds her own business empire. 

Why I’m Intrigued: Following a string of modern classics with The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, Russell is on one hell of a hot streak. After a secondary lead performance in Silver Linings and a smaller supporting turn in Hustle, it’s nice to see Russell put his muse Lawrence front and center this time, especially given his knack for crafting strong female characters. 

Why I’m Skeptical: While it’s hard for me to complain about Russell casting actors as good as Lawrence, Cooper and De Niro, their appearances in his movies might soon start to have diminishing returns. Russell’s gifts as an actors director shouldn’t exclusively extend to such a small handful of actors. 

The Martian-
Director - Ridley Scott (Screenplay by Drew Goddard)
Cast- Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Mara, ect.

Premise: An Astronaut (Damon) becomes stranded on Mars after a failed mission and is forced to survive in the harsh and inhospitable climate. 

Why I’m Intrigued: Damon is a reliably strong leading man and the supporting cast is just as impressive. Goddard showed a knack for inventive genre filmmaking with The Cabin in the Woods and Scott has the craftsmanship to make this type of science fiction sing on screen.

Why I’m Skeptical: Many of the same qualities that look good on paper for this film (great ensemble, good screenwriter) were also true of previous Scott misfires The Counselor and Prometheus.

The Revenant-
Director - Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Cast- Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, ect.

Premise: A fur trapper (DiCaprio) is mauled by a bear and left to die by his men. He is forced to survive in the harsh wilderness. 

Why I’m Intrigued: After last year’s Birdman, Iñárritu has shown himself to be a truly visionary director. The central role will give DiCaprio a lot to chew on as an actor.

Why I’m Skeptical: Even in his best work, Iñárritu has a tendency towards pretension. There have also been reports of a turbulent production, which can often be a bad sign. 

Director - Denis Villeneuve
Cast- Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro, ect.

Premise: An FBI agent (Blunt) joins a task force tracking down a Mexican drug kingpin. 

Why I’m Intrigued: I was very impressed with Villeneuve’s film Prisoners two years back. I’ve heard good things about the film overall and particular praise for the performances by del Toro and the frequently underrated Blunt. Also, the great Roger Deakins, who was DP for Prisoners, is back again for this one.

Why I’m Skeptical: Not all of the reviews out of Cannes for the film were positive, with suggestions the direction is a lot stronger than the script.

Director - Thomas McCarthy
Cast- Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Stanley Tucci, ect.

Premise: Follows the investigation of the Massachusetts Catholic sex abuse scandal by the Boston Globe “spotlight” team. 

Why I’m Intrigued: This is a compelling true story and I’m a fan of movies centered on investigative journalism (All the President’s Men, Zodiac, ect.). The ensemble is deep with great actors.

Why I’m Skeptical: Director Thomas McCarthy is coming off of the first critically panned film of his career with The Cobbler, but he looks to be in better territory here. 

Steve Jobs-
Director - Danny Boyle (Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin)
Cast- Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, ect.

Premise: A portrait of the life and career of Steve Jobs told through the behind the scenes of three apple product launches. 

Why I’m Intrigued: Sorkin did amazing work on The Social Network and he looks to be in that mode again here. Boyle is one of the best directors of his generation and this looks to be a wonderful showcase for the talents of Michael Fassbender.

Why I’m Skeptical: Honestly, not really skeptical for this one at all. This is easily my most anticipated film of the year. Although I was slightly disappointed when David Fincher (my favorite director) and Christian Bale (one of my favorite actors) left the project at various points in its troubled production, Boyle and Fassbender aren’t exactly slouch replacements, though. 

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