Matt Damon returns to space, CGI Snoopy, the return of James Bond and a new Star Wars film? It’s time to bid dinos, fast cars, super heros and rappers adios, as the big guns of the summer are changing hands. Between now and Christmas, here are 11 reasons you’ll be at the movies on opening day:
THE VISIT (opens Sept. 11)
The Gist: Kathryn Hahn stars in this horror tale of two kids enduring a terrifying visit at their grandparent’s house.
Why It Could Rock: It’s an M. Night Shyamalan found-footage horror movie, his return to small, fear-inducing filmmaking. This is the curiosity item of the year.
Unless: The trailer is both unsettling and odd. Will it lapse into unintentional comedy, like many of his recent horror films?
BLACK MASS (opens Sept. 18)
The Gist: Johnny Depp stars as the scary, vile gangster who inspired Jack Nicholson’s character in The Departed.
Why It Could Rock: After drowning in whimsy, Depp returns with a deadly serious, immersive performance that might be his best.
Unless: Will this be as unpleasant as the man it’s portraying?
THE WALK (opens Oct. 2)
The Gist: Robert Zemeckis’ tells the true story of the man who walked between the Twin Towers on a wire.
Why It Could Rock: Zemeckis is one of our great visual artists, coming off a previous adult-minded triumph, Flight.
Unless: Will the high wire scene be the only one that soars? Can Gordon-Levitt nail his character’s accent?
STEVE JOBS (opens Oct. 9)
The Gist: Danny Boyles’ take on the Apple founder’s story, starring Michael Fassbender.
Why It Could Rock: A great ensemble cast and a filmmaker with a sharp visual approach. This will undoubtedly be better than the recent Ashton Kutcher movie.
Unless: Boyle over-directs when the screenplay doesn’t work. Was Fassbender really the best replacement for original star Christian Bale?
BRIDGE OF SPIES (opens Oct. 16)
The Gist: Steven Spielberg’s World War II spy thriller, starring Tom Hanks
Why It Could Rock: The Spielberg/Hanks team-ups can’t miss.
Unless: Oh wait, they did The Terminal. Never mind.
THE PEANUTS MOVIE (opens Nov. 6)
The Gist: Charles M Schultz Peanuts gang gets their first CGI-rendered animated film.
Why It Could Rock: Devoid of hip updating and crass, trendy touches (like the recent Alvin and the Chipmunks and Garfield movies), this one goes for the heart and the funny bone.
Unless: Kids turns their noses to it, in the same way the smart and sweet Frankenweenie bored them.
SPECTRE (opens Nov. 6)
The Gist: The Skyfall director/actor team Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig return to the world of 007.
Why It Could Rock: Once again, a classy, no-nonsense, character-driven approach to James Bond that connects the new generation of fans and longtime fans of the series.
Unless: We know it’s serious but will it still be fun?
THE MARTIAN (opens Nov. 25)
The Gist: Ridley Scott’s adaptation of the beloved sci-fi novel, starring Matt Damon as an astronaut stuck on the red planet.
Why It Could Rock: The screenplay is faithful to the source, Scott is in his element and the supporting cast includes Jessica Chastain and Kristen Wiig. It’s this year’s Interstellar.
Unless: Last year, Scott’s take on Moses supposedly couldn’t miss but did. He’s one of our greatest living filmmakers but his work is extremely divisive.
IN THE HEART OF THE SEA (opens Dec. 11)
The Gist: Ron Howard’s sea adventure on the story that inspired Moby Dick.
Why It Could Rock: Word of mouth is so strong, the early spring release was pushed all the way back to Oscar season.
Unless: Did the onslaught of late 2014/early 2015 trailers already peak our interest? Blackhat and Howard’s own Rush proved that star Chris Hemsworth has a hard time opening non-Thor movies.
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (opens Dec. 18)
The Gist: A Long Time Ago, In a Galaxy, Far, Far Away…
Why It Could Rock: Director/co-screenwriter J.J. Abrams loves Star Wars, and it’s always shown. Is there anyone with a pulse who doesn’t want to see this, right now?
Unless: There’s no way it can live up to decades of hype and speculation.
SNOWDEN (opens Dec. 25)
The Gist: Oliver Stone’s take on the Edward Snowden tale, starring Joseph Gorden-Levitt and Shailene Woodley.
Why It Could Rock: No one mixes politics and entertainment better (and with more controversial results) than Stone.
Unless: Like W., audiences decide they hate it, don’t want to watch it and that the film lies… without even seeing it first.
Photo of Star Wars–The Force Awakens: Movieweb.com