Movie News & Reviews

Serious and seriously entertaining films coming this fall

The Contenders

“Love Is Strange”: Alfred Molina and John Lithgow play a couple of 40 years who finally get married. But when one loses his job, they are forced to sell their New York City apartment and temporarily bunk, apart, with relatives and friends. Sept. 12.

“Tracks”: Reese Witherspoon isn’t the only one hoofing it in a fall film. Mia Wasikowska (“The Kids Are All Right”), here plays an Australian woman who took a 1,700-mile trek across the desert in 1977 and wrote a best-seller about it. Sept. 19 N.Y./L.A.

“The Equalizer”: Denzel Washington plays a quiet home-goods-store employee with secret crime-fighting skills he uses when a young prostitute acquaintance (Chloë Grace Moretz) is beaten up. The film, based on the 1980s TV series, reunites Washington with his “Training Day” director Antoine Fuqua. Sept. 26

“Gone Girl”: The wildly popular Gillian Flynn novel on which this film is based is a beach page-turner, fraught, twisty and delicious. It’s in this category instead of “Summer Prolonged” because David Fincher (“The Social Network”) directed, and Ben Affleck stars, and awards voters pay attention to what they do. Affleck plays a magazine writer turned barkeep and Rosamund Pike the wife who goes missing after they move from New York City to his Mississippi River hometown. (Fincher shot on location in Missouri). Oct. 3

“The Judge”: Robert Downey Jr. plays an ethically dubious defense attorney who must return to his Indiana hometown, and his estranged judge father (Robert Duvall), after his mother dies, and then defend the father on a hit-and-run charge. Sounds contrived, but such things don’t matter when one can see the wired Downey play off the wily Duvall. Oct. 10

“Interstellar”: Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight”) directs Matthew McConaughey, who plays an explorer who ventures into space after water and food run short on Earth. Beyond that, I couldn’t make heads or tails of the film’s trailer. Nov. 7.

“The Theory of Everything”: Eddie Redmayne starts at physicist Stephen Hawking during his Cambridge years. Nov. 7 N.Y./L.A.

“Unbroken”: Angelina Jolie directs this adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s nonfiction best-seller about Olympian turned World War II crash survivor and POW Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell). Joel and Ethan Coen helped write the screenplay. Dec. 25

“American Sniper”: Clint Eastwood directs a beefed-up Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, a real-life Navy SEAL marksman. Eastwood’s December releases (“Million Dollar Baby” and “Gran Torino” among them) always merit attention, and sometimes draw Oscar nominations. Dec. 25 N.Y./L.A

“Big Eyes”: Amy Adams, who has been nominated for five Oscars in eight years without winning, might be going for gold again as artist Margaret Keane, famous for her paintings of human figures with huge peepers. Christoph Waltz is the husband who took credit for her work. Tim Burton directs. Margaret Keane lives in Napa County. Dec. 25 N.Y./L.A.

Summer prolonged

“This Is Where I Leave You”: Jane Fonda plays a matriarch whose kids (Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Adam Driver are three) come home after her husband dies. Sounds “Osage County”-esque, but it won’t be, because Fey does not do histrionics. Sept. 19

“St. Vincent”: Melissa McCarthy plays a single mother who works long hours and puts her 12-year-old son in the care of her drunk, gambling neighbor, Vincent (Bill Murray). Vincent shows the kid a thing or two about life, like a pregnant stripper (the usually very un-stripper-like Naomi Watts). You had me at Bill Murray. Oct. 24.

“Big Hero 6”: This animated film, inspired by a Marvel comic, involves a young robotics prodigy and his robot and a team of unlikely crime fighters. If that sounds too generically Marvel, how’s this? The setting is San Fransokyo, a combination of San Francisco and Tokyo and the greatest portmanteau since Brangelina. Nov. 7.

“Dumb and Dumber To”: Fans of toilet humor always knew there was a chance Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey would return as dipsticks Lloyd and Harry. Here they are, 20 years later. Nov. 14

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1”: Battlefield ace Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) turns reluctant rebel leader in the first film of two based on Suzanne Collins’ third “Games” book. Nov. 21

“Exodus: Gods and Kings”: Ridley Scott (“Gladiator”) returns to sun-and-sandals territory. Christian Bale plays Moses. In 3-D. Dec. 12

“The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies”: Here’s the point where I usually say how ridiculous it is for Peter Jackson to make three giant-sized movies from a 300-page book. But the first two were good, so more power to him. Dec. 17

“Annie”: Quvenzhané Wallis, the young Oscar nominee from “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” plays the famous orphan. Jamie Foxx is the Daddy Warbucks character, here named Stacks, and Cameron Diaz is straggly alleged Annie caretaker Miss Hannigan. Dec. 19

“The Interview”: “This Is the End” creators Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg take on international relations. Rogen plays a television producer who, with the show’s star (James Franco), land an interview with Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Before they leave for North Korea, the CIA recruits them to assassinate the dictator. Dennis Rodman gives this project two giant, rebound-grabbing thumbs down (one assumes). Dec. 25

“Into the Woods”: Meryl Streep witches it up in this adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s fairy-tale musical, directed by Rob Marshall (“Chicago”). Streep and co-stars Johnny Depp (Big Bad Wolf) and Anna Kendrick (Cinderella) already have shown they can sing on screen. Especially Kendrick (“Pitch Perfect”). Dec. 25