Fall Movie Preview: Exclusive looks at the season's blockbusters and Oscar contenders
Sicario, Sept. 18
Sicario stars Emily Blunt as Kate Macer, an FBI agent drafted into a shady anti-drug-cartel task force run by a cagey cowboy of an elite government agent (Josh Brolin) and a Mexican national (Benicio Del Toro) whose intentions — and allegiances — are unclear. (The title, pronounced See-CAR-ee-oh, is the Spanish word for hitman.) Ultimately, everything Kate thinks she knows about her world, her government, and herself will be ripped away.
Everest, Sept. 18
Baltasar Kormákur didn’t flinch at the prospect of filming an adaptation of the 1996 tragedy that took the lives of eight climbers atop Mount Everest. He and his team tackled treacherous altitudes, avalanche warnings, and a five-week soundstage shoot where 100-mile-per-hour blowers pelted salt at the actors. “I decided, okay, I’m going to do everything I can—put the actors in the most difficult environment anyone will allow me to," he says.
Black Mass, Sept. 18
You aren't the only one freaked out by this image of Johnny Depp. When the actor stepped onto the set of the biopic of notorious Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, the resemblance spooked, well, sorta everyone. “A lot of our crew were from South Boston and many of them knew Whitey,” says director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart). “They said it was like a ghost coming back.”
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, Sept. 18
This fall’s Maze Runner follow-up, The Scorch Trials, sees Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) guiding his group through a sandy wasteland called the Scorch while navigating a new set of life-threatening obstacles. There will be plenty of running, but the sci-fi sequel will take on a more adult tone. “Thomas is more mature and a little unsure of himself,” director Wes Ball says. “I think Dylan really ate it up.”
The Intern, Sept. 25
Anne Hathaway plays Jules Ostin, a fashion-website founder striving to balance the demands of her daughter, inattentive husband (Anders Holm), and co-workers (Adam Devine, Andrew Rannells.) “She’s juggling a million things,” says Hathaway. “Then something wonderful happens. The last person she thinks can help her comes into her life.” That would be widower Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro), a retiree-turned-intern who becomes an unexpected support system.
The Martian, Oct. 2
Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is abandoned on Mars when his crew mistakenly concludes he has died during a storm that forces them to evacuate. Watney is left with no way to communicate, not nearly enough food to survive beyond a few weeks, and nothing to keep him company except endless miles of desolate red terrain. It’s a nightmare scenario, but The Martian — much like the best-selling Andy Weir novel it’s adapted from — tiptoes the line between sci-fi thriller and laugh-out-loud adventure saga. “It feels like it held on to what everybody loved about the book,” Damon says. “At the end of the day it’s just a really entertaining story.”
Legend, Oct. 2
Tom Hardy stars as infamous 1960s London gangsters, and twin brothers, Ronald and Reginald Kray. Writer-director Brian Helgeland (42) initially met with Hardy about playing only Reggie (right), whose relationship with his wife, Frances (Emily Browning), is the emotional heart of the film. Hardy was more interested in Ron (left), who was gay and more extroverted than his twin, if also psychotically violent. “From the time Tom sat down, all he was talking about was Ron," says Helgeland. At the end, Tom said, ‘I’ll give you Reggie if you give me Ron.’ ”
Steve Jobs, Oct. 9
Steve Jobs is an Aaron Sorkin-scripted chronicle of a real-life tech giant, but The Social Network 2 it is not. “It’s not about the invention of the Macintosh the way The Social Network was about the invention of Facebook,” Sorkin says. “It’s about this very complicated man trying to do something very difficult.”
Pan, Oct. 9
The Pan depicted in Joe Wright’s new action-adventure origin story — played by 12-year-old newcomer Levi Miller — won’t be all sweetness and light, especially when facing off against Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) or befriending future foe James Hook (Garrett Hedlund). “Peter has a tendency to claim other people’s ideas as his own when they work, and claim they weren’t his when they don’t,” Wright says. “So as a director, I identify with him a lot.”
Goosebumps, Oct. 16
Guided by R.L. Stine’s directive to make it “scary, but fun scary,” the film stars Jack Black as a fictional version of Stine, whose imaginary monsters are released from his manuscripts by an inquisitive neighbor (Dylan Minnette).
Truth, Oct. 16
CBS News became news itself in 2004 when documents used by 60 Minutes to show that then president George W. Bush’s National Guard service was a sham were suspected to be forgeries. Anchor Dan Rather was disgraced and producer Mary Mapes was fired, but this drama — directed by screenwriter James Vanderbilt (Zodiac) and starring Oscar winners Robert Redford as Rather and Cate Blanchett as Mapes — is an attempt to set the record straight.
Beast of No Nation, Oct. 16
Based on the novel by Uzodinma Iweala, Beasts of No Nation is the first feature film to be released by Netflix. Written and directed by Cary Fukunaga, who directed the first season of HBO’s True Detective, the film follows Agu (Abraham Attah), a boy living in an unidentified African country who is orphaned and then recruited into a rebel army by the battalion’s commandant (Idris Elba).
Bridge of Spies, Oct. 16
The true Cold War tale about how American lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks) negotiated the exchange of Russian spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) for an American U-2 pilot imprisoned on Soviet soil marks Steven Spielberg’s 29th feature film as a director (and his fourth with Hanks), but the master isn’t showing any signs of waning enthusiasm. “Watching him create a shot, he looks like the young boy who discovered film for the first time,” says Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone).
Crimson Peak, Oct. 16
Guillermo del Toro’s new gothic thriller unfolds inside a haunted mansion on a barren mountaintop in the north of England. “I wanted the house to feel like an enchanted castle from a fairy tale,” del Toro says. “Quite a sinister one.” Trapped inside the decaying estate, Edith (Mia Wasikowska) is visited by ghosts, and she soon begins to suspect that her new husband (Tom Hiddleston) and his scheming sister (Jessica Chastain) are harboring dark secrets about their past.
Suffragette, Oct. 23
Set around 1912, Suffragette stars Carey Mulligan (The Great Gatsby) as Maud, a working-class woman who finds herself unexpectedly engaged in the cause, and Meryl Streep as the real-life Emmeline Pankhurst, head of the Women’s Social and Political Union. “We wanted to make a film that felt connected to today,” director Sarah Gavron says.
Jem and the Holograms, Oct. 23
Based on the neon-pop ’80s animated TV series, this live-action update stars Aubrey Peeples (ABC’s Nashville) as a young singer-songwriter who skyrockets to fame via the Internet. With encouragement from her aunt (Molly Ringwald), and with her three sisters at her side, Jem hotfoots it to the big time only to discover that the head of her record company (Juliette Lewis) expects her to become something she's not.
Our Brand is Crisis, Oct. 30
Sandra Bullock stars in this drama as political consultant “Calamity” Jane Bodine, who is “basically a female Karl Rove,” Bullock says. “She’s brilliant at the devious side of politics.” Anthony Mackie (Avengers: Age of Ultron) and Ann Dowd (St. Vincent) costar as consultants who lure Bodine out of retirement; Billy Bob Thornton plays a rival campaign strategist. “It’s all about the win for them, and probably not for the right reasons,” says Bullock.
Spectre, Nov. 6
Director Sam Mendes can only see Skyfall in terms of unfinished business. “Bond has been rebooted at the end of the movie,” Mendes says. “This is only the beginning of the story ... You’re sort of telling the story backwards of how Bond became Bond.” Enter Christoph Waltz as Oberhauser, mastermind of the titular shadowy criminal syndicate. Describing himself to Bond as “the author of all your pain,” Oberhauser wields a mysterious connection to the superspy’s past and imperils 007’s love interest (Léa Seydoux). “A lot of the film is a celebration of what it is to be Bond,” Daniel Craig says.
Spotlight, Nov. 6
When the Boston Globe reported on a series of child sex-abuse allegations in the Catholic Church in 2002, the investigation blew open a cover-up spanning decades and earned the paper a Pulitzer — and now, a movie. “I consider it one of the great investigative journalistic moments of this century,” says writer-director Tom McCarthy (The Visitor). “It’s a story that people need to hear."
The Peanuts Movie, Nov. 6
When an institution like Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip gets the big-screen treatment, audiences tend to resist. Director Steve Martino (Ice Age: Continental Drift), at least, knew it was coming. “Fans were going to hear ‘computer animation’ and ‘Pea- nuts,’ and have their guns loaded,” he says. Still he forged on undeterred, and with the help of Schulz’s sons Craig and Bryan, both writers on the film, the production went to great lengths to re-create the feel of the original strip, even digitizing the artist’s drawings of rain and Pigpen’s dirt cloud.
Trumbo, Nov. 6
Dalton Trumbo, the writer of Roman Holiday and Spartacus and the man who effectively broke the anti-Communist Hollywood blacklist of the 1950s, could be reduced to a series of idiosyncrasies. Because Trumbo was a generously mustachioed chain-smoker who often wrote in the bathtub, Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) feared his performance could easily slip into caricature. “I told Trumbo’s daughters that I had no intention of doing an impersonation of him,” Cranston says. “But his mannerisms were so striking that I ended up sounding more like him than I intended.”
By the Sea, Nov. 13
Angelina Jolie Pitt also wrote and directed this film about an estranged married couple struggling with grief. Filming took place in Malta last August, with the quiet island of Goza standing in for seaside France. “We watch this couple go off the track and we wait to see if it gets more unhealthy, or if they will recover,” she says. “I think too often people go through very painful transformative experiences and they don’t stay together. They abandon each other.” The reverse was true for the newly wedded stars — “It wasn't easy for either of us," she says, "but when we walked away, we were closer than we had been.”
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2, Nov. 20
In the final installment of The Hunger Games, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) takes her fight to areas of Panem’s seat of power that have never appeared on screen. The 3-D hologram used by Katniss and her rebel allies to plan their path to President Snow’s mansion may feel a little... French. “Anyone who really knows Paris will find quadrants of the map that look very familiar,” director Lawrence says. The wide avenues and well-defined arrondissements won’t help Katniss much, though. “The route is severely booby-trapped.”
Carol, Nov. 20
As Carol, Cate Blanchett has never been a more elusive object of desire. And that’s felt deepest by the young shopgirl Therese (Rooney Mara), who falls madly in love with Carol in 1950s New York City and embarks on an eventful road trip with her across the country. Carol is based on Patricia Highsmith’s landmark 1953 lesbian-romance paperback The Price of Salt, touted as “the novel of a love society forbids.” “I first read it years ago, when I was filming my small part in a different Highsmith film, The Talented Mr. Ripley,” Blanchett says. “It was revelatory."
Creed, Nov. 25
This rather the long-in-the-works Rocky spin-off focuses on Apollo Creed’s pugilist son, Adonis (Michael B. Jordan). Director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) first got the idea for the project back in film school, in part as a way to connect with his father. “My dad was a real big Rocky fan,” Coogler says. “He was getting older and got sick and I was trying to process it. I tried to get through it with this idea for his hero.”
The Night Before, Nov. 25
Director Jonathan Levine reteams with his 50/50 actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen (and adds Anthony Mackie to the squad) for this tale about pals who have spent every Christmas Eve together since childhood. Now, they’re getting just one more before adult responsibilities pull them apart.(Rogen’s character is becoming a dad and Mackie’s is becoming a football star.) Levine got the idea from his own history of holiday troublemaking: “New York on Christmas — if you go out after dark — is a very strange, mysterious, and fun place.”
The Good Dinosaur, Nov. 25
Director Peter Sohn explains that Arlo’s wide eyes and enormous feet help emphasize his youthful innocence as he struggles to make his way through the wilderness to find his way home. “His big issue is that he’s afraid of everything, and he isn’t capable,” he says.
I Saw the Light, Nov. 27
This Hank Williams (Tom Hiddleston) biopic covers the country-music legend’s rise, his volatile relationship with his wife (Elizabeth Olsen), and his struggles with substance abuse and spina bifida—all before his death at 29. “He was really the first rock star — and the first rock star to go down like that,” says writer-director Marc Abraham (Flash of Genius).
The Danish Girl, Nov. 27
Based on David Ebershoff’s historical novel and directed by Oscar winner Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), the movie stars Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) as Lili Elbe, who was born male in Denmark in 1882 and transitioned to female in the 1920s with the support of her wife, artist Gerda Wegener (Ex Machina’s Alicia Vikander). Elbe is widely considered the first person to have undergone gender-confirmation surgery. “When I first read the script, I wept three times,” Hooper says. “I was moved by the power of love as an agent of transformation, even when the world was against it.”
In the Heart of the Sea, Dec. 11
For Ron Howard’s new, based-on-real-events historical epic, Chris Hemsworth plays 19th-century seaman Owen Chase, first mate of whaling ship The Essex. Based on the story that inspired Moby Dick, the movie details how the crew of the Essex attempted to survive the elements and lack of food in tiny, lifeboat-size vessels after one of the very creatures they were hunting destroyed their craft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Sisters, Dec. 18
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler play — what else — sisters who throw one last blowout after discovering their parents plan to sell the family home. “[My character] kind of loses her mind as the party goes on,” Poehler says. “I got to break through ceilings and watch trees smash through houses and drunkenly mouth off to a cop. It’s fantasy camp for a 40-something-year-old woman.”
Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Dec. 18
Remember how we eventually learned that “Darth” is not a first name, but a kind of title? It appears the surname “Ren” of the new Star Wars villain is something similar. “He is a character who came to the name Kylo Ren when he joined a group called the Knights of Ren,” director J.J. Abrams says. “He is not your prototypical mustache-twirling bad guy. He is a little bit more complex than that, and it was a great joy to work with Adam Driver on this role, because he threw himself into it in a deep and remarkable way.”
Joy, Dec. 25
Jennifer Lawrence was working on the Hunger Games when she received a call at 4 a.m. from director David O. Russell: “He said, ‘Do you want to play the part of the woman who invented The Miracle Mop?’ ” Russell, who’s last three films have all been nominated for Best Picture, was intrigued by the idea of doing a film larger in scope: an epic journey examing one woman’s life from age 10 to age 40, as she grows up, gets married, has children, and becomes an entrepreneur and matriarch. “It’s a woman’s soul over many decades of her life and how she changes,” he says.
The Hateful Eight, Dec. 25
Quentin Tarantino’s locked-room Western features a killer collection of genre types that includes a captured outlaw (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a former Union officer (Samuel L. Jackson), and Kurt Russell’s brutish bounty hunter, John Ruth. “He’s like a bull and the whole movie is the china shop,” says Russell. “But the character who looks the meanest is perhaps the only one who’s actually not.”
The Revenant, Dec. 25
The Revenant, is based on the true story of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), a 19th-century hunter and fur trapper who was attacked by a bear and left for dead by his comrades (Tom Hardy and Domhnall Gleeson), only to will himself across hundreds of miles of winter terrain to safety — and redemption. “Those guys were real men,” director Alejandro G. Iñárritu says. “Not p---ies like us.”
Point Break, Dec. 25
Edgar Ramírez (Zero Dark Thirty) plays Bodhi, the character originated by Patrick Swayze, and the leader of the film’s antiheroic thieves, while Luke Bracey (The Best of Me) is Johnny Utah, the agent tasked with taking them down. At one point, director Ericson Core had his two stars perched over Angel Falls in Venezuela, more than 3,200 feet above the ground. “When you’re standing up that high over the world you realize this isn’t just like making any other movie,” says Ramírez.