Keep it reel

40 films to watch for this fall

Welcome to autumn, when studios large and small roll out what cynics might call “Oscar bait” and others might call “movies for actual adults” (and still others, probably younger than 8 years old, might call “boring”).

Until Dec. 16, that is, when roughly everyone will go see the new “Star Wars” movie, the second in two years. This is the new normal, people — a Star Wars movie every year. And look for a few other sci-fi movies packed into the Christmas season, perhaps piggy-backing on “Rogue One.”

Here are 40 buzzy and not-so-buzzy movies coming out between now and the end of the year. Release dates are, as always, subject to change, especially in Austin, which tends to get some films a few weeks after major markets.


'Blair Witch' is a sequel to 1999’s 'The Blair Witch Project.' Photo by Chris Helcermanas-Benge/Lionsgate

Sept. 9

“Sully.” Tom Hanks stars as Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the gent who landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River in 2009 after the aircraft was disabled by striking a flock of geese as it was climbing out of New York's LaGuardia Airport. All of the 155 passengers and crew aboard survived. Directed by Clint Eastwood.

“Transpecos.” Our critic loved this South by Southwest winner, a complex drama by Austin director Greg Kwedar about three Border Patrol agents and a car one of them deems suspicious.

Sept. 16

“Snowden.” Oliver Stone directing a movie about NSA whistleblower/current Russia resident Edward Snowden has a certain a priori roundness about it, like “water is wet.” Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as the man himself. With Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson and, apparently, Nicolas Cage.

“Blair Witch.” I saw the first “The Blair Witch Project” the first night I lived in Dallas, in August 1999. Completely new city, massive culture shock, so, hey, go to a horror movie. Scared the crap out of me. The found footage genre is mighty tired, but I will rep hard for the original. No idea what Adam “You’re Next” Wingard will do here, but it is a direct sequel to the original. Did anyone like the first sequel?

“Bridget Jones’s Baby.” She’s back! And bigger than ever! (I will show myself out.) Our heroine cannot decide between her ex (Colin Firth) and Patrick Dempsey, which is just perfect when you think about it. Also, she is pregnant and unsure of the father.

Sept. 23

“The Magnificent Seven.” Antoine “Training Day” Fuqua’s remake of the 1960 Western, itself a reimagining of the 1954 Akira Kurasawa classic, sports ferocious gun battles, Chris Pratt as the gambling comic relief and Denzel Washington as the crew-assembling bounty hunter.

“Storks.” Nicholas “Muppets” Stoller directs this animated tale of storks who must rethink their jobs after they get out of the baby-delivery business. Listen for Jennifer Aniston, Kelsey Grammer, Andy Samberg and Danny “Machete” Trejo.

“The Queen of Katwe.” The return of Lupita Nyong’o in the flesh (we last saw her as Maz Kanata in “The Force Awakens”) has her playing the mother of Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi. Based on a true story and co-starring David Oyelowo.

Sept. 30

“Deepwater Horizon.” “Friday Night Lights” maestro Peter Berg helms this dramatization of the disaster that led to BP coughing up a record fine. Based on the New York Times’ article “Deepwater Horizon’s Final Hours” and starring Mark Wahlberg as real-life hero Mike Williams.

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.” Adapted from Ransom Riggs’ young adult smash, Tim Burton directs Eva Green in the Professor X role as the headmistress of a school for the superhumanly gifted.

“Masterminds.” “Napoleon Dynamite” director Jared Hess wrangles Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis in this heist film based on the 1997 Loomis Fargo Robbery.


Nate Parker plays Nat Turner in 'The Birth of a Nation.' Photo by Fox Searchlight Pictures

“The Birth of a Nation.” The story of this Sundance sensation, which tells the story of Nat Turner’s slave revolt, became much more complicated after it became commonly known that director Nate Parker had been acquitted of a rape, and his screenwriter convicted of one, a conviction that was later overturned; the woman involved committed suicide in 2012.

“The Girl on the Train.” It was only a matter of time before Paula Hawkins’ bestselling thriller hit the big screen. Tate “The Help” Taylor directs Emily Blunt as Rachel, who may or may not have seen a brutal crime.

“Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life.” James Patterson’s hit 2011 young-adult book (now that I think about it, does Patterson have non-hits?) gets the film treatment from Steve “Next Friday” Carr (also known as Steve “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” Carr). It is the most accurate film title ever written.

“Voyage of Time.” Terrence Malick versus everything. No, really. This documentary examines the birth and death of the known universe. Look for two versions: a 40-minute IMAX version narrated by Brad Pitt and a 35mm, 90-minute version narrated by Cate Blanchett. We may have reached peak Malick here.

Oct. 14

“The Accountant.” One has to stand up and salute the nerve to call a thriller “The Accountant.” Ben Affleck plays an antisocial math whiz who work as a forensic accountant for organized crime. J.K. Simmons stars as the Treasury agent who wants to take him down.

“American Honey.” Dallas native and one-time Texas State student Sasha Lane makes her debut in British director Andrea Arnold’s road movie about a teenager who joins a traveling magazine sales crew. Shia Labeouf plays another crew member. Our critic in Cannes saw it and was not into it.

Oct. 21

“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.” Even though in author Lee Childs’ insanely entertaining books Jack Reacher is about 6 feet, 5 inches and 250 pounds, I guess enough people saw and enjoyed Tom Cruise as li’l Reacher that a sequel was in order. Do yourself a favor: Read the books. They’re a blast.

“Keeping Up With the Joneses.” Jon Hamm and Gal Godot move in next to a rather trim looking Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher. Guess which couple turns out to be spies. You get one guess. No, not Zach and Isla.

Oct. 28

“Inferno.” The third in the Dan Brown series, following “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels & Demons,” wherein Tom Hanks again plays Dr. Robert Langdon and Ron Howard directs him once again (likely) giving a whole lot of exposition about vast conspiracies.

“Rings.” The third film in the Ring cycle directly following “The Ring Two.” Consider yourself warned.


Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake) in 'Trolls.' Photo by Contributed by DreamWorks Animation

Nov. 4

“Trolls.” Yes, it’s a movie based on Troll dolls. Starring Justin Timberlake. In 2016. Which, now that I think about it, seems par for the course for this flesh-eating bacteria of a year.

“Doctor Strange.” The next chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe stars Benedict “Sherlock” Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange, an arrogant surgeon who becomes a Master of the Mystic Arts. There was a bit of drama over Tilda Swinton cast as the Ancient One, given that she is not Asian. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Baron Mordo (who may or may not be a bad guy; he is in the comics), and Mads Mikkelsen plays the super-obscure baddie Kaecilius. Real talk: This looks like a lot of fun.

“Moonlight.” Barry Jenkins writes and directs this adaptation of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.” Starring Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Janelle Monáe and Mahershala Ali, the film is the first in-house production from indie powerhouse A24.

“Bleed for This.” Miles Teller stars in this true story of boxer Vinny Paz, who made a comeback after a spinal injury. Given Teller’s punchable vibe, this seems like a good fit.

Nov. 11

“Loving.” Austinite Jeff Nichols directs Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as Richard and Mildred Loving, the plaintiffs in the landmark 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which essentially decriminalized interracial marriage.

“Almost Christmas.” Kimberly Elise, Mo’Nique, Nicole Ari Parker, Gabrielle Union, Jessie Usher, Danny Glover, Omar Epps and Romany Malco (whew!) star in this Christmas picture about a dysfunctional family.

“Arrival.” Based on the multiple-award-winning short story “Story of Your Life” by the brilliant science fiction author Ted Chiang, “Arrival” stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker as scientists who must figure out what deeply mysterious aliens want from us before the Earth flips out.

Nov. 18

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell and Katherine Waterston star in this “Harry Potter” spinoff (complete with screenplay by J.K. Rowling, her first) about Newt Scamander (Redmayne) and his wizarding adventures in the U.S. in the 1920s.

Nov. 23

“Bad Santa 2.” A good 13 years after the first go-around, Billy Bob Thornton returns as the titular character. He is joined by Christina Hendricks and Kathy Bates.

“Allied.” Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard star as World War II spies who fall for each other. But which one may or may not be a traitor? Robert Zemeckis directs this lush period piece that sounds an awful lot like “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”

“Moana.” Disney’s 56th animated feature film introduces Auli’i Cravalho as Moana and features Dwayne Johnson as Maui the demi-god in an adventure set in ancient Polynesia. The film’s songs were co-written by Lin-Manuel Miranda of “Hamilton” fame.


Stormtroopers appear in a scene from 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.' Photo by Jonathan Olley/Lucasfilm-Disney

Dec. 2

“Kidnap.” This thriller starring Halle Berry as a woman who must find her kidnapped son has been sitting around since 2015 due to Relativity Media’s financial drama.

Dec. 9

“Office Christmas Party.” Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jillian Bell, Courtney B. Vance, Kate McKinnon and Jennifer Aniston star. I will give you exactly one guess as to what this movie is about.

“The Bye Bye Man.” Three students investigate a supernatural creature that may be causing people throughout history to kill and kill and kill some more.

“Nocturnal Animals.” The second feature from Austin-born, fashion-designer-turned-film-director Tom Ford stars Amy Adams as a woman increasingly convinced that her ex-husband’s novel is an act of revenge. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as the ex. Expect some glowering.

Dec. 16

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” Opening 363 days after “The Force Awakens” is this Star Wars anthology story about the Rebel mission to steal the Death Star plans. Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna and Forest Whitaker; even “Force Awakens” agnostics think this one looks dope.

“Collateral Beauty.” Will Smith joins Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley and Helen Mirren is this story of a man whose friends and colleagues come to his aid after a tragedy. Expect the spirit of Christmas.

Dec. 21

“Passengers.” “Imitation Game” director Morton Tyldum tells the story of two deep-space astronauts (Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence) who awaken from cryogenic sleep decades before their starship reaches its destination.

“The Space Between Us.” This one has been pushed a few times, a science-fiction romance about the first human born on Mars making his first trip to Earth. With Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, Gary Oldman and Carla Gugino. ’Tis the season.

Read more movie news, views and reviews at the Austin Movie Blog.