The bubble gum of summer has lost its flavor, which means the fall movie season is brightly packaged, ready to be consumed. This allegedly means more serious films and fewer remakes and sequels, but let’s just say that this year’s slate looks rather familiar.
Still, there may be a few Oscar contenders and prestige pictures mixed into the bunch. Biopics, heart-tugging true stories and a long-simmering “Blade Runner” sequel are in the offing.
Disaster flicks and superhero movies are also lined up, including another outing for Wonder Woman, who will probably be pressed into service every six months now.
Will one of these movies be honored to have its title read out for the Best Picture award at the Oscars next year? Only to have the real winner announced moments later after a colossal envelope screw-up? We can hope.
In any case, here’s a look at the big titles (but by no means all the releases) from here to Thanksgiving. As usual, opening dates can and will shift.
“American Assassin” — “There’s a nuke in play.” It sounds like everything but the kitchen sink is in play in this cheerfully titled action thriller, in which anti-terrorist expert Michael Keaton trains aspiring assassin Dylan O’Brien. Complication: An ex-good guy nicknamed Ghost (Taylor Kitsch) is still — you guessed it — in play.
“mother!” — Curiosity is high for the new movie from the director of “Black Swan” and “Noah,” Darren Aronofsky, and it’s being marketed very mysteriously — apparently you don’t want to know too much about this one going in, except for its disdain for capital letters. It has Jennifer Lawrence being somehow menaced in her house by enigmatic visitors. The co-stars include Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and the much-missed Michelle Pfeiffer.
“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” — A sequel to the 2014 movie about a discreet gentlemen’s spy service, this time with a twist that sounds promising: The veddy British hero (Taron Egerton) must adapt his ways to the American counterpart agency, embodied by Jeff Bridges and Channing Tatum. Returning to the U.K. side of the force are Colin Firth and Mark Strong; same for director Matthew Vaughn.
“Flatliners” — Apparently we were due for a remake of the 1990 surprise hit: Kiefer Sutherland returns in some capacity, but otherwise the crew is led by Ellen Page, Diego Luna and Kiersey Clemons. You will recall the plot has some nervy medical students experimenting with stopping each other’s hearts (in the medical sense, not the romantic) in order to glimpse what exists on the other side of life. Prediction: Lots of white light.
“American Made” — Tom Cruise goes aloft in this comedy-drama about real-life bizarro character Barry Seal, a pilot who did various unsavory drug-running missions for the CIA in the 1980s. The satirical tone here feels a little like “Catch-22” by way of “American Hustle,” and director Doug Liman worked well with Cruise in “Edge of Tomorrow.” Co-stars are Domhnall Gleeson and Sarah Wright.
“Victoria and Abdul” — Judi Dench returns to the role of Queen Victoria (the story of “Mrs. Brown” is actually alluded to here), now very aged but still capable of being charmed by a bright young man (Ali Fazal) from India. We are told this is a true story, so we’ll give director Stephen Frears the benefit of the doubt on this latest offering of royal-family-mania.
“Blade Runner 2049” — Surely one of the year’s most anticipated films: A sequel to the 1981 sci-fi classic. Harrison Ford figures in the action again, joined by new blade runner Ryan Gosling and what we assume is a visual extravaganza. Taking over the directing reins is Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”); the cast includes Jared Leto and Robin Wright.
“The Mountain Between Us” — A small plane crashes in the Rockies; two strangers survive. Unfortunately, they are way, way up in the snow. This survival tale would be worth seeing for its stars alone — Kate Winslet and Idris Elba — and it’s a fine set-up for an outdoor adventure flick.
“My Little Pony: The Movie” — I’m sure there is a plot involved — let’s hope a nuke is not in play — but the basic thing is that this is an animated version of the toy collection, with Emily Blunt and Kristin Chenoweth lending their voices.
“Marshall” — Dramatization of a defining case in the young life of future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. The civil-rights story is a compelling one, and Chadwick Boseman gave inventive, quite different performances as two previous heroes of the same era: Jackie Robinson and James Brown.
“The Foreigner” — One of the most popular movie stars in world history has his first big Hollywood vehicle in a while: Jackie Chan plays a bereaved father who will do anything to track down his daughter’s killers. Sounds like just a touch of “Taken” in the mix. Pierce Brosnan co-stars.
“Goodbye Christopher Robin” — A biopic about A.A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson), the author of the Winnie the Pooh stories — stories that were inspired by Milne’s son, Christopher Robin. Margot Robbie co-stars. No word yet on whether they’ll use the Kenny Loggins song (that’s a joke for fans of ’70s soft rock).
“Happy Death Day” — “Groundhog Day” meets the slasher film: College student Jessica Roth finds herself re-living the same day — the day of her murder — which gives her a chance to identify the murderer.
“Tyler Perry’s Boo! 2: A Madea Halloween” — Tyler Perry’s drag creation Madea is back for more Halloween hijinks, and (like its 2016 predecessor) should end up with a bagful of trick-or-treat money.
“Geostorm” — Another chance to blow up the world for “Independence Day” producer Dean Devlin, as extreme climate events crash down upon the Earth. Who can rescue us? Well, Gerard Butler has already saved the White House and London — how about that guy?
“Only the Brave” — True story of a devastating 2013 forest fire that claimed the lives of a group of men fighting it. This one’s got a strong cast: Josh Brolin, Jeff Bridges and Miles Teller — and director Joseph Kosinki’s “Oblivion” was a rather good sci-fi film.
“The Snowman” — This frosty murder mystery is based on the work of best-selling Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo, and features Michael Fassbender as Nesbo’s unorthodox detective, Harry Hole. Rebecca Ferguson and Val Kilmer are also in the cast.
“Jigsaw” — If the title sounds familiar, it’s because Jigsaw is the name of the killer in the “Saw” movie series. Every time he tries to quit, they keep pulling him back in — so it looks like that bloody franchise is back on track.
“Thank You for Your Service” — Three soldiers return from Iraq, haunted by what they saw. Miles Teller is the central figure here, in what looks like his meatiest part since “Whiplash,” and director Jason Hall previously wrote “American Sniper.”
“Suburbicon” — Murder comes to the ‘burbs, but the tone is strictly black comedy in director George Clooney’s hands (remember, he did “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” that oddest of American comedies). Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac make for a tantalizing cast.
“Thor: Ragnarok” — Thor (Chris Hemsworth) will need his mighty hammer, because the goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett) is up to mischief. Happily, Thor gets help from the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and — well, a bunch of the Avengers are listed in the cast, so we’ll see who turns up. Blanchett is camping it up in the trailer, and director Taika Waititi is a funny man (please see “What We Do in the Shadows” if you haven’t yet), so this one could lean toward humor.
“A Bad Moms Christmas” — Everyone loved the first “Bad Moms” movie, except me, so here’s the hurried-up sequel. Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn return as raucous mothers, except now it’s Christmas, so they’re drunk on egg nog instead of the tears of their neglected children.
“Daddy’s Home 2” — Sequel to the funny 2015 pairing of sensitive stepdad Will Ferrell and brutish father Mark Wahlberg, this time adding their own dads (John Lithgow and Mel Gibson) to the family dynamic. Ferrell and Wahlberg work well together, but the wild card is Gibson, in what sounds like perfect casting — if he starts biting the heads off pigeons, you know the film is clicking.
“Murder on the Orient Express” — The classic Agatha Christie whodunit, as super-sleuth Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh, who also directed) tries to deduce the murderer during a train ride. As with the hit 1974 film adaptation, this one’s got a boffo cast: Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench and Willem Dafoe among them. It will be interesting to see who gets credited as Branagh’s mustache wrangler.
“Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri” — A new one from the maker of “In Bruges,” Martin McDonaugh, which alone ought to make this quasi-murder-mystery a must-see. It reportedly gives juicy roles to Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, and Woody Harrelson and McDonaugh’s taste for edgy humor sounds ideal for that cast.
“Justice League” — The DC Comics world tries to build off the goodwill of the “Wonder Woman” movie by bringing Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) back — with pals Batman and Superman — to fight evil in a group. We can expect more of Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and the Flash (Ezra Miller), and maybe a little actual fun, too; rumor has it that “Batman v. Superman” director Zack Snyder lightened up this time.
“Wonder” — A disfigured boy (“Room” star Jacob Tremblay) enters school for the first time, and parents Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson wait to see whether he’ll be accepted by the other kids. This heartwarmer might bring more Oscar attention to Tremblay, not to mention the makeup department.
“Coco” — The big Pixar film of the season, an animated play on the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead, when ghosts return to mix with the living. In this reversal, a little boy visits the colorful afterlife, where he’s alien to the locals — an illegal alien, you might say (one suspects Pixar will not let the metaphor go unnoticed).
“Molly’s Game” — Jessica Chastain stars in a true story of an illicit gambling queen and the empire she built, a much more dangerous game than roulette. The interest here is that this is the first feature directed by Aaron Sorkin, whose voluminous word-slinging includes “The Social Network” and “The West Wing.”
“Death Wish” — What would Thanksgiving be without a violent tale of a vigilante killer? Yes, this is indeed a remake of the ’70s Charles Bronson picture, which brought revenge back into public favor after years of official disapproval.
“Darkest Hour” — Some prognosticators are already wrapping up the Best Actor Oscar for Gary Oldman, who plays Winston Churchill in this account of the early days of the war (if you’ve seen “Dunkirk,” well, that movie’s a huge spoiler here). Don’t bet against the predictions: Oldman is way overdue, and playing a historical character under mounds of makeup is a good recipe for awards success.