Captain Phillip (out Oct. 11), a based-on-a-true-story tale about a cargo ship taken by Somali pirates, is only one way this season’s moviegoers this fall will be fully, often staggeringly immersed in worlds as varied as slavery-era Louisiana (12 Years a Slave), 1970s Massachusetts conmen (American Hustle) and outer space, among the detritus of a space station torn apart by a storm of debris (Gravity).
Soon, the fall movie season will unofficially commence, the superheroes (mostly) falling from theaters like autumn leaves. After a summer of blockbuster gluttony, Hollywood will, as if penance for its binging, trot out its more serious and ambitious fare. George Clooney – this fall directing (The Monuments Men), producing (August: Osage County) and acting (Gravity) – will put down stakes.
There’s some hope that after a summer heavy with city-destroying tumult and some spectacular flops, that a degree of levity will return to the multiplexes. (That is, until the ever-expanding Oscar horse race commences in earnest.)
Last fall, after all, showed that good, adult-oriented movies could still draw crowds. A varied best-picture field, including Lincoln to Life of Pi, made more than $2 billion at the box office worldwide even before the Academy Awards.
This autumn promises no less a mix of both aspirational filmmaking and mainstream attractions. As if her fans needed notice, Jennifer Lawrence will return not just with Silver Linings Playbook director David O. Russell in American Hustle, but also as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Nov. 22).
There will be sequels, too, including Will Ferrell’s Anchorman: The Legend Continues (Dec. 20), Chris Hemsworth in Thor: the Dark World (Nov. 8) and Peter Jackson’s high-frame rate The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Dec. 13). As the CIA analyst of the best-selling Tom Clancy books, Chris Pine will try to jumpstart a new franchise in Jack Ryan (Dec. 25).
But other types of powerhouses will compete with action spectacle. John Wells’ adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, August: Osage County, features an ensemble cast topped by the tantalizing duo of Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts as mother and daughter.
Here are some highlights of what’s coming up:
Rush (Sept. 27) – Chris Hemsworth stars as Formula One driver James Hunt in Ron Howard’s film.
Baggage Claim (Sept. 27) – Paula Patton plays a flight attendant determined to get engaged before her youngest sister’s wedding. With 30 days to find Mr. Right, she uses her airline connections to “accidentally” meet eligible ex-boyfriends and look for new candidates in this comedy.
Blue Caprice (Sept. 27) – Real-life snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, who terrorized the Washington, D.C., area with a three-week shooting spree in 2002, inspired this drama starring Isaiah Washington and Tequan Richmond.
Runner Runner (Oct. 4) – Crime-drama thriller starring Justin Timberlake as a Princeton grad student who believes he’s been swindled and heads to Costa Rica to confront an online gambling tycoon portrayed by Ben Affleck. There, he’s caught between promises of immense wealth and an FBI sting.
12 Years a Slave (Oct. 18) – Steve McQueen drew from Solomon Northup’s 1853 autobiography about his horrifying odyssey as a free black man kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841. With undiminished dignity, Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Northup as he’s led from plantation to plantation.
The Fifth Estate (Oct. 18) – Benedict Cumberbatch plays WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Diana (Nov. 1) – Naomi Watts stars as Princess Diana during the last two years of her life.
The Best Man Holiday (Nov. 15) – College friends, who were the focus of 1999’s The Best Man, reunite during the Christmas holidays and discover how easily once-forgotten rivalries and romances can reignite. Ensemble includes Terrence Howard, Taye Diggs, Nia Long and Sanaa Lathan.
Oldboy (Nov. 27) – Spike Lee remakes the Korean revenge thriller about a businessman imprisoned in a windowless hotel room for 15 years. He adds five years to the solitary confinement, making it an even 20 for prisoner Josh Brolin and adds Samuel L. Jackson, Sharlto Copley and Elizabeth Olsen to the cast.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (Nov. 29) – Idris Elba plays Nelson Mandela.