After a relatively light summer — both in terms of box office and critical favorites — the fall movie season is here to save us.
As the awards derby heats up (right now, only “Boyhood” and “Grand Budapest Hotel” are likely contenders among films already released), we’ll be treated to a heavy load of cinema from some of our best and most original directors, including Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, Tim Burton, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, and Paul Thomas Anderson.
We’ll also have a few big budget blockbusters — here’s looking at you, “Hunger Games: Mockingjay” — and plenty of festival favorites finally hitting theaters (“Whiplash,” “Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,” “Foxcatcher.”)
To help guide you through the busy season, TheWrap has gone through the upcoming releases to find the very best, so get your tickets early and enjoy the show.
“The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby”
Cast: Jessica Chastain“>Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Viola Davis, William Hurt, Isabelle Huppert, Bill Hader, Jess Weixler, Ciaran Hinds
Director: Ned Benson
Release date: Sept. 12
What’s it about: A young couple, played by Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy, struggle to reconnect in the wake of a family tragedy. Writer-director Ned Benson’s feature debut also stars William Hurt, Viola Davis, Isabelle Huppert and Ciaran Hinds.
Why we’re excited to see it: “Eleanor Rigby” stunned audiences at last year’s Toronto Film Festival when it premiered as two separate movies, one from the perspective of each of the main characters. The new version is more conventional and not as rich as the two-part original (which will be released later in the fall), but performances by Chastain and McAvoy make it a deeply affecting relationship story that deserves attention in any format.
Watch the trailer: Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy Offer 2 Sides of the Same Love Story in ‘Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby’
What it’s about: Four adult siblings and their mother are forced to sit shiva together for a week in their childhood home following the dying wish of their later father. Dysfunction ensues.
Why we’re excited to see it: Shawn Levy has assembled an all star cast led by Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver and Rose Byrne to tell the funny and poignant story that first captured audiences’ attention in Jonathan Tropper’s best-selling novel.
Watch the trailer: Tina Fey Sucker Punches Dax Shepard in ‘This Is Where I Leave You’ Trailer
Cast: Genesis Rodriguez, Haley Joel Osment, Justin Long, Harley Quinn Smith, Michael Parks
Director: Kevin Smith
Release Date: Sept. 19, 2014
What it’s about: A man (Long) gets captured, tortured, and turned into a walrus by a freak (Parks.)
Why we’re excited to see it: A man gets captured, tortured, and turned into a walrus… in a film directed by Kevin Smith.
Cast: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Release Date: Sept. 26
What it’s about: A retired intelligence operative (Denzel Washington) works quietly in a home improvement store…except when he puts his background to work helping victims of crime, injustice and, in this particular case, the Russian mob.
Why we’re excited to see it: Because those of us old enough to remember the 1980s television series on which the film is based fondly recall British actor Edward Woodward as a mysterious guy with serious demons and even-more-serious skills at making bad guys pay. And with Washington clearly having the chops to pull off the silent-but-deadly thing, hopes are high that director Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”) won’t just make the film a barrage of action scenes.
What’s it about: Based on the bestselling novel by Gillian Flynn, “Gone Girl” stars Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, who becomes the prime suspect in the disappearance of his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike) Did he kill her? Is she even dead? So many secrets…
Why we’re excited to see it: It’s David Fincher working in the genre he’s best suited for, working off another pop-hit novel after “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” We’re looking forward to seeing Affleck go dark before “Batman,” and we’re also anxious to see Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry explore new cinematic territory. Fincher has also deviated from the book a little bit, which means there are new twists and turns!
Cast: Miles Teller, JK Simmons
Director: Damien Chazelle
Release date: Oct. 10
What it’s about: An ambitious young drummer’s path to success may be thwarted by an abusive instructor at a prestigious music academy.
Why we’re excited to see it: Miles Teller is one of the most exciting young actors working today, and Damien Chazelle made quite a splash at Sundance with his second feature film, winning both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award, following in the footsteps of recent award season heavy hitters like “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “Fruitvale Station.”
Watch the trailer: Miles Teller Gets ‘Whiplash’ in First Trailer for Sundance Winner
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D Onofrio, Dax Shepard
Director: David Dobkin
Release Date: Oct. 10
What’s it’s about: A lawyer returns to his small-town Midwest home to find his estranged father, the town judge, accused of murder.
Why we’re excited to see it: Robert Downey Jr. as the son and Robert Duvall as the father? That’s a noteworthy acting team indeed – and Vera Farmiga, Vincent D'Onofrio and Billy Bob Thornton (as a character named Dwight Dickham!) don’t hurt, either.
Cast: Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Scott Eastwood
Director: David Ayer
Release Date: Oct. 17, 2014
What it’s about: Allied soldiers pinned behind enemy lines are forced to fight their way out of Nazi territory.
Why we’re excited to see it: Ayer has a unique talent for shooting realistic urban action, but we’re curious to see what he’ll do in a period war flick. And, no, U-571 doesn’t count.
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Tara Holt, Lane Garrison, Peyman Moaadi
Director: Peter Sattler
Release Date: Oct. 17, 2014
What it’s about: Kristen Stewart enlists in the Army, becomes a prison guard at a Guantanamo Bay and gains a new perspective on how her country treats enemy combatants.
Why we’re excited to see it: Sattler’s visually intriguing directorial debut might very well contain a masterful performance from Stewart, who hopes to finally put the “Twilight” franchise behind her. Strong reviews out of Sundance don’t hurt, either.
Watch the trailer: Kristen Stewart Shakes Bella Swan Stigma in First ‘Camp X-Ray’ Trailer
What it’s about: Jake Gyllenhaal stars as an ambitious young man who enters LA’s underground world of freelance crime journalism and gets carried away in the process. Bill Paxton co-stars, while Rene Russo mounts a comeback as Jake’s boss.
Why we’re excited to see it: It’s Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut after he previously wrote “The Bourne Legacy” and Tarsem’s “The Fall.” Gyllenhaal lost a lot of weight to play this creepy character and he probably wouldn’t have gone to those lengths unless he really believed in the project. Plus, did you see the intensity on display in that trailer? Toronto, here we come!
Cast: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Release Date: Oct. 17
What it’s about: Michael Keaton plays a dude who, in his glory days, played a famous superhero (get it??). Now, washed up and a little bit crazed, he’s got to get his life back together and reclaim that fame — via Broadway play.
Why we’re psyched: Keaton is always a delight, and he’s been missed over the last decade. Obviously, he’s winking at that — and his past as Batman — with this role, and that’s incentive enough to see it. The fact that it’s directed by Mexican auteur Inarritu makes it that much more exciting. From the trailers, Norton looks like he’s in the fun mode he revs into for Wes Anderson, too.
Watch the trailer: Michael Keaton‘s Life ‘Smells Like Balls’ in Full ‘Birdman’ Trailer
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Bill Murray, Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd, Terrence Howard
Director: Theodore Melfi
Release date: Oct. 24
What it’s about: A single mom (Melissa McCarthy) recruits her grumpy, retired and often soused neighbor (Bill Murray) to babysit her 12-year-old son, with predictably raucous results.
Why we’re excited to see it: The premise isn’t the most promising, but Murray alone is enough to make any movie worth a look. It’ll be fascinating to see whether he (and director Theodore Melfi) will coax McCarthy into toning down the kind of brash comic hijinks that have made her rich and famous. Here’s hoping they do.
“Big Hero 6”
Cast: Ryan Potter, TJ Miller, Genesis Rodriguez, Maya Rudolph, Alan Tudyk, Marlon Wayans Jr., James Cromwell, Scott Adsit
Director: Don Hall, Chris Williams
Release Date: Nov. 7
What it’s about: An animated film based on a Marvel manga, this is a bit of a departure for Disney (not that risky Marvel movies have proven to be anything but major hits for them). Set in futuristic San Fransokyo, the film tells the story of a young robots wiz who summons together a team of wannabe heroes — including his Stay Puft-like buddy Baymax — to solve a criminal mystery.
Why we’re excited to see it: Again, it’s something new and different, and manga rarely gets the chance to shine in American theaters. Plus, the trailers show off exciting new city and technological designs, bringing the company into a future it has rarely visited. It’ll be interesting to see how the company’s core fans respond to this new sort of movie.
Watch the trailer: Hiro Fights Nanobots and Baymax Pops a Leak in New ‘Big Hero 6’ Trailer
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Wes Bentley, Topher Grace, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, Mackenzie Foy, John Lithgow, David Oyelowo, Matt Damon
Director: Christopher Nolan
Release Date: Nov. 7
What it’s about: No one really knows for sure, but we know it involves Matthew McConaughey traveling to outer space to save the world along with Anne Hathaway, which sounds like an exciting time at the movies. Jessica Chastain plays his daughter and the visual effects look amazing.
Why we’re excited to see it: That’s easy — Christopher Nolan, who is coming off “The Dark Knight” trilogy. The fact that “Interstellar” is a sci-fi movie featuring eye-popping visuals, an all-star cast and wormholes doesn’t hurt.
What it’s about: John du Pont, a socially awkward and possibly schizophrenic member of the wealthy chemical family, becomes determined to help U.S. Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz and his brother/coach Dave Schultz, in a true-life tale of obsession turned tragic.
Why we’re excited to see it: With a career-changing performance from Steve Carell as du Pont and strong, physical work from Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo as the Schultz brothers, “Foxcatcher” won raves at Cannes and reinforced Bennett Miller’s status as a smart, adventurous director who steers clear of cliché and formula.
Watch the trailer: Channing Tatum‘s Ambition Intensifies in New ‘Foxcatcher’ Teaser
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1”
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore
Director: Francis Lawrence
Release Date: Nov. 21, 2014
What it’s about: As if you didn’t already know! After literally bringing down the roof in “Catching Fire,” Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) finally begins the rebellion against Panem’s oddly costumed oppressors.
Why we’re excited to see it: Action. Adventure. Hoffman’s penultimate performance. What’s not to love?
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Katherine Waterston, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Release date: Dec. 12
What it’s about: In 1970s Los Angeles, private investigator/drug enthusiast Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is tasked with solving the disappearance of an ex-girlfriend, meeting all kinds of crazy characters along the way.
Why we’re excited to see it: Paul Thomas Anderson directing a Thomas Pynchon dark comedy starring Joaquin Phoenix. Need we say more?
What it’s about: Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and more fairy tale characters wander into some enchanted woods, cross each other’s paths and do a little singing.
Why we’re excited to see it: Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical won multiple Tony awards for both its original and revival Broadway productions. A big screen adaptation has been a long time coming, and Rob Marshall has assembled a great cast including Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Johnny Depp and new “Late Late Show” host James Corden.
Watch the trailer: ‘Into the Woods’ First Teaser Trailer Shows Meryl Streep’s Witchy Side
What it’s about: A troubled youth turned Olympic sprinter goes through even more extraordinary life events when he enlists in the army, survives a plane crash and 40 days at sea, only to end up in the hands of the enemy, where he’s tortured for years. And it all really happened.
Why we’re excited to see it: Angelina Jolie is behind the camera and rising star Jack O'Connell is in front of it as Louis Zamperini, who survived all that to live to 97 years old. Throw in a script by the Coen brothers and cinematography by Roger Deakins, and this just might be the biggest undeniable can’t-miss of the fall season.
What it’s about: James Franco is a celebrity tabloid TV host, and Seth Rogen is his producer. Their show is dopey, but North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is a fan, and decides to grant the guys an exclusive interview. On their way, they get interrupted by the CIA, who enlist them in a plot to assassinate the North Korean leader.
Why we’re excited to see it: Rogen and buddy Seth Goldberg have proven to be a strong creative team, writing films like “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express” before moving over to directing last year with the hit “This Is The End.” Franco starred in that last feature, and for all his far-out art projects, he knows just how to make fun of himself, which he does best when around Rogen, his BFF since the “Freaks and Geeks” days. It should be fun to see these two cripple international relations.
What it’s about: Art can bring people together, and sometimes, tear them apart… especially when there’s big money involved. Margaret Keane’s paintings of sweet children with gigantic bug eyes became huge hits in the 1950s, but her husband Walter took credit for them, under the guise that they’d make more money that way. Ultimately, they broke up and she revealed the scam, and it took years for the court of public opinion to settle the matter.
Why we’re excited to see it: Tim Burton is directing an original, non-franchise film — and about a misunderstood artist, no less! Amy Adams stunned in “American Hustle” last year, earning her fifth Oscar nomination. She hasn’t won yet — her co-star Christoph Waltz — has two, and early previews make her seem tailor-made for this role.
What it’s about: The drama follows Martin Luther King Jr.’s landmark 1965 voting rights campaign, which is regarded as the peak of the civil rights movement. David Oyelowo stars as MLK, who it appears is finally getting the movie he deserves.
Why we’re excited to see it: Because producers Brad Pitt and Oprah told us to be excited, dammit! Seriously though, former publicist Ava DuVernay is an exciting new voice in filmmaking and she’s using her newfound clout to share an important story that demands to be told. Oyelowo is said to give a standout performance, and we’re eager to see the supporting cast, which includes Tom Wilkinson, Giovanni Ribisi, Tim Roth, Cuba Gooding Jr. Common, Carmen Ejogo, Keith Stanfield and Lady O herself.