Autumn used to usher in serious, thoughtful movies for adults, but blockbusters are still coming our way.
By Noah Gittell
Autumn used to usher in serious, thoughtful movies for adults, but blockbusters are still coming our way. In the final few months of 2015, we will see a new “Star Wars” movie, the final installment of the “Hunger Games” story, and a crowd-pleasing reboot of the Rocky franchise (“Creed”). But Hollywood hasn’t abandoned adults completely; the studios still want to win Oscars and are offering up a slate of issue movies, biopics, and historical dramas for those few of us who couldn’t wait for the summer to end.
Here’s a quick primer on fall’s most enticing films.
1 “Black Mass” (September 18)
Johnny Depp returns to serious acting as Boston gangster Whitey Bulger in this action drama. Director Scott Frank (“Crazy Heart”) has attracted a top-notch cast that includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Peter Sarsgard, and Dakota Johnson, but the hope of an all-time great performance by Depp is what elevates a story we’ve seen before – Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Departed” was loosely based on Bulger – into a can’t-miss movie.
2 “The Martian” (October 2)
Occupying the same fall slot recently held by space-epics like “Interstellar” and “Gravity,” “The Martian” features Matt Damon as an astronaut who gets left behind on a manned mission to the red planet. While his crewmates pull a U-turn to save him, the solitary astronaut figures out how to survive on a planet unfit for life. Marketed as a popcorn thriller, the talent involved should raise expectations: Ridley Scott (“Bladerunner,” “Gladiator”) directs a talented and diverse cast including, Chiwetl Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, and Jessica Chastain.
3 “Steve Jobs” (October 9)
Apparently, this is the year in which we try to make sense of what the Apple CEO meant to us. Earlier this month, Alex Gibney released his documentary “Steve Jobs: Man in the Machine,” painting the corporate guru as a narcissistic tyrant. “Steve Jobs” is a fictionalized story, but it will get more attention thanks to its Oscar-caliber pedigree. Aaron Sorkin wrote the script, Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting”, “Slumdog Millionaire”) directs, and the cast includes Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, and Michael Fassbender as the title character.
4 “Suffragette” (October 23)
Three generations of spectacular actresses – Meryl Streep, Helena Bonham Carter, and Carey Mulligan – headline this historical drama about the early events of the feminist movements, when activists fighting for voting rights were threatened by a violent and oppressive state. Hollywood has been under attack from social critics of late for its lack of opportunity for women both behind and in front of the camera; this film by director Sarah Gavron seems like both a top-notch piece of historical entertainment and a strong political statement.
5 “By the Sea” (November 13)
Angelina Jolie’s directorial efforts have not been well-received by critics or the public so far (last year’s “Unbroken” was a major disappointment to most), but her newest is certainly intriguing. Jolie directs herself and real-life husband Brad Pitt in the story of a marriage coming apart at the seams over a weekend away. No one has seen the film yet, but the trailer looks intense, and the interplay between the stars’ personal lives and the story onscreen is too tantalizing to resist.
6 “Macbeth” (December 4)
The bard never goes out of style, of course, but this adaptation of the Scottish play starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard has the potential to be the coolest, sexiest Shakespeare to date. The film got raves upon its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival over the summer.
7 “The Hateful Eight” (December 25)
A new Tarantino movie is always a special event, and while this one loses a little of its luster being QT’s second western in a row (after 2012’s “Django Unchained”), it remains a “can’t-miss” for movie buffs of every stripe. The ensemble piece finds Tarantino once again pulling some old names out of obscurity for major roles: Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh play major roles, as do old Tarantino stalwarts Michael Madsen and Tim Roth.
8 “Concussion” (December 25)
This hard-hitting drama attacks America’s most popular institution: the National Football League. Based on the provocative book “League of Denial,” the film by Peter Landesman (“Parkland”) follows Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith), a Nigerian-born physician who uncovers damning evidence about the impact of professional football on the players’ brains, and runs into an institution as corrupt and menacing as the mafia when he tries to expose the truth.