The fun thing about movies opening between now and early next year is the wild blend of choices. Yes, the kind of popcorn movies we flock to in the summer time are here: Justice League, Thor: Ragnarok and My Little Pony all seemed destined for blockbuster status. Less so are sequels no one asked for, like Jigsaw, A Bad Mom’s Christmas and, so help me, Tyler Perry’s Boo 2: A Madea Halloween. Some contenders seem puzzling, like Pixar’s Coco, which looks an awful lot like the failed Day of the Dead-themed The Book of Life from three years ago. Then there’s the Bruce Willis-starring Death Wish remake, which presents a queasy question: in light of recent events, does anyone want to a flick where a white guy goes on a killing spree and shoots every urban criminal who angers him?
Thankfully, there are truly promising works in store, like Rob Reiner’s Woody Harrelson-starring LBJ, Steven Spielberg’s Tom Hanks/Meryl Streep-led The Papers, George Clooney’s Matt Damon-starring/Coen Brothers-authored dark comedy Suburbicon and Paul Thomas Anderson’s currently-untitled drama, starring Daniel Day Lewis in what he says will be his final film performance (!). Here are a dozen others that I can’t wait to see.
MOTHER! (Sept. 18)
The Gist: Writer/director Darren Aronofsky’s Rosemary’s Baby-like horror yarn, stars Jennifer Lawrence.
Why It Could Rock: Aronofsky, free of the big budget Noah, is in his element, making a small, no-holds-barred thriller along the lines of his Black Swan. Lawrence is fearless and the cast is excellent.
On The Other Hand: If it’s so great, why is Paramount releasing it in September? Wouldn’t the December Oscar season or even October be a better fit?
BATTLE OF THE SEXES (Opens Sept. 22)
The Gist: A comedy about the 1973 Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Briggs tennis match.
Why It Could Rock: Steve Carrell, an inspired choice as Briggs, reuniting with his Little Miss Sunshine directors and joined by a post-Oscar Emma Stone as King.
On The Other Hand: The last comedy about tennis was Wimbledon, which didn’t fly.
AMERICAN MADE (Opens Sept. 24)
The Gist: Tom Cruise plays Barry Seal, a pilot who flew for the CIA during the 1970s.
Why It Could Rock: Cruise is playing an unsympathetic rascal, in a true story helmed by his Edge of Tomorrow director Doug Limon. The trailer has a real kick and Cruise hasn’t let loose like this since Tropic Thunder.
On The Other Hand: Filmed years ago under the abandoned title Mena, this may not be enough to make Cruise’s fans forget The Mummy.
HAPPY DEATH DAY (Opens Oct. 13)
The Gist: Groundhog Day-inspired teen horror movie, set on a college campus.
Why It Could Rock: Looks a lot more fun than Jigsaw, the competing Halloween flick. Producer Jason Blum knows how to make gore-lite, scare-heavy, quality horror flicks.
On The Other Hand: If Harold Ramis and Bill Murray sue the studio for plagiarism and the film is shelved, no one will blame them. Seriously, this looks just like Groundhog Day!
BLADE RUNNER 2049 (Opens Oct. 16)
The Gist: Thirty five years later, we get the sequel we’ve always dreamed of.
Why It Could Rock: Ridley Scott produces, brilliant visual storyteller Denis Villeneuve (of Arrival, Sicario and Prisoners) directs and Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling and Jared Leto stars.
On The Other Hand: The talent is impressive but the bar is set impossibly high. If this doesn’t reach Mad Max: Fury Road levels of greatness, sci-fi fans will turn on it one quickly.
WONDERSTRUCK (Oct. 20)
The Gist: An ambitious drama, involving two children in two different decades with a unique connection.
Why It Could Rock: Word is it’s even better than director Todd Haynes’ recent Carol and is another masterpiece. From the novel by Brian Selznick, the brilliant author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
On The Other Hand: Even with Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams in the cast, Haynes’ movies always have a hard time finding an audience.
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (Opens Nov. 10)
The Gist: Agatha Christie’s classic mystery novel is now a Kenneth Branangh-directed event.
Why It Could Rock: Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer and Penelope Cruz star. Branagh made Dead Again and knows a thing or two about making a scary, classy suspense ride.
On The Other Hand: Branagh cast himself as Hercule Poirot and sports an ungainly mustache. If his performance doesn’t work, it could weigh down the film.
THE DISASTER ARTIST (Opens Dec. 1)
The Gist: James Franco directs and stars in this true story about the making of The Room, quite possibly the worst film ever made by human beings.
Why It Could Rock: Test audiences love it and fans of the The Room are all abuzz.
On The Other Hand: If audiences are unfamiliar with The Room and could care less about its filmmaker Tommy Wisseau, the movie could be in trouble. This may be too much of an L.A.-centric in-joke to break out.
WONDER WHEEL (Dec. 1st)
The Gist: A lifeguard (Justin Timberlake) gains an admirer (Kate Winslet) in this Woody Allen comedy.
Why It Could Rock: Allen lovingly recreates Coney Island and showcases a reportedly splendid Winslet turn. Allen’s on-again-off-again streak may hit a Match Point breakout level with this one.
On The Other Hand: After Cafe Society, Allen’s fans may not care about yet another homage to the early 20th century.
ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD (Dec. 8)
The Gist: Ridley Scott directs this true crime drama about the kidnapping of the son of the world’s richest man in 1973.
Why It Could Rock: It stars Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Spacey and Michelle Williams and, unlike Battle of the Sexes (the other 1973-set holiday movie), few recall how this one ends.
On The Other Hand: When Scott makes small films like this, they either wind up under-appreciated masterpieces like Matchstick Men or embarrassments like A Good Year.
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (Opens Dec. 15)
The Gist: Some girl named Rey meets some guy named Luke. It’s a sci-fi movie, or something…
Why It Could Rock: The Force looks very strong with this one.
On The Other Hand: If these movies continue to remake the plotline of the original trilogy, then Episodes 7-9 may wind up as unloved as Episodes 1-3.
DOWNSIZING (Opens Dec. 22)
The Gist: Matt Damon stars as a man who agrees to be scientifically miniaturized and live in a small world.
Why It Could Rock: It’s Innerspace meets The Truman Show! Writer/director Alexander Payne’s character-driven comedies (such as Election and The Descendants) are reliably top notch.
On The Other Hand: If it’s too weird or not funny enough, audiences may settle for Daddy’s Home 2.
Photo from Battle of the Sexes: IMDB