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The Globe guide to the 2017 fall movie season

Film

2017 fall movie preview

Cate Blanchett as Hela in Thor: Ragnarok.

Barry Hertz presents a guide to four months' worth of Oscar bait, prestige dramas and even a few blockbusters in waiting

If you are reading this, congratulations are in order – you survived the summer movie season. Typically, this would be nothing to crow about. Yet with handful of late-arriving exceptions (why did it take you so long to enter our lives, Logan Lucky, Atomic Blonde, War for the Planet of the Apes and Dunkirk?), the past four months have been an endurance test for moviegoers.

One day, historians will look back on the summer of 2017 and wonder what, besides the smell of filthy lucre, could have possibly persuaded otherwise rational men and women to produce such monstrosities as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Baywatch, King Arthur and Alien: Covenant (and that was just the May releases).

Fortunately, the fall movie season offers its own reboot: four months of awards bait, prestige dramas, and movies divorced of any cross-platform corporate synergry. (Well, there are still a few of those movies, too.) To help you forget about the cruel, cruel summer, The Globe and Mail presents its guide to all the films that might keep you warm this fall. (Release dates subject to change.)

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OSCAR BAIT

Prestige pics engineered to attract Academy Awards attention

Michael Stuhlbarg, Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name.

Battle of the Sexes

The court is unusually crowded this fall, with two high-profile tennis films eager to serve audiences: the self-explanatory Borg/McEnroe, which opens the Toronto International Film Festival and this new dramedy from Little Miss Sunshine co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, which also plays the fest. While Borg/McEnroe has the appeal (if that's the right word) of Shia LaBeouf, Battle of the Sexes has Oscar bona fides in its corner, with Emma Stone playing feminist icon Billie Jean King and Steve Carell taking on chauvinistic showboat Bobby Riggs. Don't dwell too long on the awkward fact that Stone played Carell's daughter in Crazy, Stupid, Love. (Sept. 22)

Stronger

If you can believe it, 2017 once promised three separate movies focused on the Boston Marathon bombing. But then Peter Berg's Patriots Day combined two projects into one, and the other half of the story is picked up here by director David Gordon Green. Leaving the cops-and-terrorists angle to Mark Wahlberg and Co., Stronger focuses on one man, real-life survivor Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal), who lost his legs in the blast. Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany plays Bauman's girlfriend Erin Hurley, though (spoiler alert for real life) the pair split earlier this year, which means the love story could prove a marketing challenge. Good luck, Stronger PR team. (Sept. 22)

Victoria and Abdul

Judi Dench plays … wait, you had me at Judi Dench plays someone, anyone. But if you must know more: Dench plays Queen Victoria (for the second time, after 1997's Mrs Brown) in this biographical film pivoting on her relationship with Indian servant Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal). Stephen Frears's drama doesn't scream Oscar, because that wouldn't be very royal, but it does infer the notion rather delicately. (Sept. 29)

Breathe

Erstwhile CGI monkey man Andy Serkis drops the performance-capture routine to step behind the camera for this period romance. It's based on the real-life relationship of Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield) and Diana Blacker (Claire Foy), as the former becomes paralyzed after contracting polio. (If you're keeping track, that's two fall films focusing on women caring for their struggling partners. So far.) The drama is technically Serkis's directorial debut, although he shot a non-Disney reboot of Jungle Book before Breathe. Serkis's take on Rudyard Kipling will come out in October, 2018, by which point we'll all have forgotten about that Jon Favreau iteration, I'm sure. (Oct. 13)

Wonderstruck

The reaction was mixed when Todd Haynes's latest made its debut at Cannes, but it would be unwise to discount the Carol director so quickly. Here, Haynes spins a decades-spanning tale of youth and romance, and brings frequent collaborator Julianne Moore along for the myth-making. (Oct. 20)

Last Flag Flying

A quasi-sequel to Hal Ashby's 1973 classic The Last Detail, Richard Linklater's new dramedy adapts Darryl Ponicsan's novel to tell the tale of three middle-aged friends who reconnect due to a death in one of the men's families. Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Laurence Fishburne star/launch their latest Oscar campaigns. (Nov. 3)

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Roman J. Israel, Esq.

The latest update on this Denzel Washington vehicle is that it added a "J." to its title. Perhaps to give it that much more gravitas? We'll see when the Dan Gilroy ( Nightcrawler) flick hits screens, though at least the logline – "a driven defense attorney finds himself in a crisis that leads to extreme action" – provides a hint of legal thrills in the vein of Michael Clayton, another lawyer movie that felt the need to use its hero's name as its title. (Nov. 3)

Goodbye Christopher Robin

Oh, bother – one look at the tear-jerking trailer for this A.A. Milne biopic and you will surely want to drown your sorrows in a bucket full of honey. Or maybe that's just the Eeyore in me. Regardless, expect awards chatter around the performances of Domhnall Gleeson as Milne and Margot Robbie as his wife, Daphne. (Nov. 10)

Wonder

Not to be confused with Todd Haynes' Wonderstruck – or Wonder Woman, or the forthcoming Wonder Wheel, or the new Professor Marston & the Wonder Women; listen, you're all smart people, you'll get it – Wonder is director Stephen Chbosky's Mask-esque biopic about August Pullman, a young boy with facial differences who takes tentative steps into the outside world. The drama casts everyone's favourite tiny Canadian, Jacob Tremblay, as August, and Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson as his parents. Oh, and just to ensure your heart will break into a 100,000 pieces, Mandy Patinkin plays August's kindly teacher. Bring Kleenex and accept your fate as a tear-stained wreck. (Nov. 17)

The Disaster Artist

Tommy Wiseau's so-bad-it's-actually-bad cult film The Room is not for everyone. James Franco is also an acquired taste. Combining the two elements seems like an idea born out of malice, but the buzz on this comedy, which casts Franco as Wiseau, has been shockingly strong since a working cut debuted at the South By Southwest festival. Franco, never one to back away from a challenge, also directs, and brings along famous family members (brother Dave Franco, sister-in-law Alison Brie) and friends (Seth Rogen, Paul Scheer) along for the ride. (December)

Wonder Wheel

Another year, another Woody Allen film that could go any which way. But as a sidebar to the anticipated, though necessary, think-pieces on Allen's personal history, expect a few unexpected conversations about Jim Belushi, who apparently gives a captivating turn as a schlub who loses his wife (Kate Winslet) to a younger man (Justin Timberlake). Combine this with the critical goodwill he's earned in the Twin Peaks revival and this could be the Year of Belushi, a YearLushi, one might say. It certainly wouldn't be the strangest thing to happen in 2017. (Dec. 1)

The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro dives back into Pan's Labyrinth territory with this twisty Cold War-era fairy tale about a lonely woman's romance with what can only be described as a mer-man. Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones (del Toro's go-to guy for playing amphibious heroes) play the starfish-crossed lovers, while professional villain Michael Shannon is the Bible thumper determined to tear them apart. (Dec. 8)

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Call Me by Your Name

One movie always comes out of the Sundance Film Festival with the collective goodwill of every single critic who made it to the top of Park City, Utah. This year, that honour belongs to Call Me by Your Name, writer James Ivory's adaptation of André Aciman's coming-of-age novel. Set in Italy in the eighties, director Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash) follows the intensifying relationship between the teenage Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and older academic Oliver (Armie Hammer). Although some of Sundance's buzzier titles die on the mountain, expect this one to come down with the fury of an avalanche. (Dec. 8)

Darkest Hour

As demonstrated by America's fondness for volcanoes and asteroids, sometimes a year at the movies is just not complete until you have two movies on the same subject. This year, the unlikely repeat offender is Winston Churchill, who got the biopic treatment this spring via the Brian Cox-starring Churchill and will again dominate the screen with this Gary Oldman drama. This is good news for Churchill aficionados, who could only be disappointed by the wan script and ludicrous direction that drowned out Cox's performance. After all, if you're going through hell, keep going. (Dec. 8)

Downsizing

Alexander Payne's latest might best be described as Ant-Man meets The Descendants. Or Honey, I Shrunk My Neuroses. Either way, the director's latest dark comedy is bound to captivate far more than those awful stabs at humour, as it focuses on a couple (Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig) who decide to shrink themselves in an overcrowded world. That is, until one half of the couple backs out. Hilarity, and lots of pained awkwardness and midlife lessons, surely ensue. (Dec. 22)

The Current War

It's okay, you can admit it: A movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch playing Thomas Edison sounds like something he may have already made before. Wasn't it called The Fifth Estate Game or something? But the staid idea gets far more electric (pun most certainly intended) when you add in Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse. (Dec. 22)

The Post

Steven Spielberg promises the unstoppable prestige film of the winter with this drama covering the Washington Post's publishing of the Pentagon Papers. Meryl Streep stars as Post publisher Kay Graham, Tom Hanks plays editor Ben Bradlee and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences might as well drop any pretenses and hand over its little golden men right now. Last week, the film changed its title from The Papers, perhaps to avoid alienating the much-coveted millennial market who have no use for tangible products? Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see how the Post itself will cover the production, 41 years after it got the big-screen treatment in All the President's Men. (Dec. 22)

The Greatest Showman

Poor Hugh Jackman. The man has been pigeonholed into so many Wolverine adventures, where he is sliced, diced and generally abused, when all the actor clearly wants to do is sing and dance his way to the Oscar podium. He might get a chance here, with this extravagant P.T. Barnum musical. Judging by the trailer, the film seems to be repositioning Barnum as the wokest showman in history, but at least Jackman seems happy. (Dec. 25)

Phantom Thread

The first time Daniel Day-Lewis teamed up with Paul Thomas Anderson, audiences got There Will Be Blood. The pair's second collaboration in Phantom Thread was apparently so intense that Day-Lewis appears to be giving up acting for good. At least we'll have this drama, set in London's fashion world of the fifties, as his curtain call. (Dec. 25)

MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

Mainstream movies aimed at adults

Rebecca Ferguson in The Snowman.

mother!

Director Darren Aronofsky and studio Paramount have been deliberately coy about revealing just what this film is about. But we do know that it stars Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer and a very creepy-looking Ed Harris (is there any other kind, though?) in a tale of house-guests-gone-wrong. Or maybe it's something entirely different. Either way, it looks as twisted as any other Aronofsky project. (Sept. 15)

American Made

Not that he needs the public's sympathy, but this hasn't been a great stretch for Tom Cruise. Universal Studios made him the poster boy for its ambitious "Dark Universe" series of monster films, yet Cruise's The Mummy barely cracked $80-million (U.S.) in North America (a frightening figure for a presumed tent pole, let alone a Cruise movie). Just before that, his Jack Reacher sequel torpedoed any hopes for that franchise, too. Perhaps American Made will turn things around, as it unites the star with Doug Liman, the director of Edge of Tomorrow (or, Live Die Repeat, as it's been rechristend in its home-entertainment life), the best Cruise movie in years. In the pair's new collaboration, Cruise plays Barry Seal, a real-life pilot who got mixed up in the drug-smuggling world of the 1980s. (Sept. 29)

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House

If the name "Mark Felt" doesn't scream familiarity, then perhaps you better know him as Deep Throat. In this perfectly timed Watergate biopic, Liam Neeson plays the FBI agent who became the most famous anonymous source in history. Think of it as Taken, but instead of a missing daughter, Neeson is fighting for the safety of American democracy. (Oct. 13)

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Before you watch the trailer for this new Martin McDonagh ( Seven Psychopaths) exercise in vulgarity, grab a bar of soap, because Frances McDormand has never had a chance to be this foul-mouthed in her entire career. Here, she plays a grieving mother who wages a hostile campaign against her town's police department, who she believes bungled her daughter's murder case. Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage and Sam Rockwell co-star in what's set to be the season's darkest, filthiest comedy. (Oct. 13)

The Snowman

Michael Fassbender takes a break from playing killing machines ( Prometheus, Assassin's Creed) to hunting them in this adaptation of Jo Nesbo's bestselling novel. Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg and a long-lost Val Kilmer join the twisted fun. (Oct. 20)

Suburbicon

If this tale of murder and secrets in 1950s America looks like a long-lost Coen Brothers movie, well … you're right. Joel and Ethan Coen originally wrote the screenplay more than three decades ago, right after the release of their breakthrough Blood Simple. Now, frequent Coen collaborator George Clooney has dusted off the script to direct, enlisting Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac to star. (Oct. 27)

Molly's Game

"You know how many witches they burned in Salem?" "No, how many?" "None. They didn't burn witches in Salem. They hanged them." If that rat-a-tat exchange from the Molly's Game trailer – speedy, perhaps unnecessary but delivered with such blind confidence that it doesn't matter – seems rather Sorkin-esque, it's because this is an Aaron Sorkin project. Perhaps the most Sorkin-esque project ever, in fact, as the tale of one woman's rise through the poker underworld marks the screenwriter's directorial debut. Jessica Chastain, who starred in last year's Sorkin-esque Miss Sloane, gets the real thing this time around, as do Idris Elba, Kevin Costner and Michael Cera. (Nov. 22)

HMM, SOUNDS FAMILIAR

Reboots, remakes and revisits

John Boyega in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

It

This isn't the first adaptation of Stephen King's mega-novel – that honour belongs to Netflix's Stranger Things. Kidding. Well, sort of. But the comparisons between the two projects are impossible to ignore, so it will be fascinating to see how director Andres Muschietti (Mama) brings fresh blood to King's favoured material of small towns and big terror, now so familiar to audiences across generations. Bill Skarsgard (Atomic Blonde, your new nightmares) stars as the titular evil, a demon clown that forever tainted the legacy of Bozo and his makeup-caked contemporaries. (Sept. 8)

Flatliners

The only film that can legitimately be brought back from the dead, Flatliners 2.0 picks up where the original Joel Schumacher horror film left off, with a bunch of foolish grad students stopping their hearts to journey to the "other side." This new movie is less a remake and more a sequel, since original heart-stopper Kiefer Sutherland shows up to teach new idiots played by Ellen Page, Nina Dobrev and Diego Luna how to properly execute a near-death experience. (Sept. 29)

Blade Runner 2049

Easily one of the most anticipated films of the year, this Denis Villeneuve film picks up three decades after the events of Ridley Scott's sci-fi classic. Android hunter and maybe-android-himself Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a recluse, LAPD officer K (Ryan Gosling) is on his tail, and Jared Leto is busy making trouble for everyone in a future that doesn't look quite as dystopic as it did back in 1982. Expect twists aplenty and lots of mumbly, grumpy line readings from Ford, but hopefully not a dozen different "director's cuts," each more definitive than the last, in the years to come. (Oct. 6)

Murder on the Orient Express

The fourth adaptation of Agatha Christie's 1934 novel, this version differentiates itself by combining the disparate talents of Willem Dafoe, Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp, Leslie Odom Jr., and Kenneth Branagh, who directs as well as stars as hero Hercule Poirot, "the greatest detective in the world." Perhaps he can solve the mystery of why there's an incongrous Imagine Dragons song on the trailer's soundtrack. (Nov. 3)

A Bad Moms Christmas

Grammar be damned: The so-called worst mothers in America are back, only a year and a half after their first outing. Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell return, with Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon playing their, presumably even badder, moms. (Nov. 3)

Thor: Ragnarok

The Thor movies have always stuck out from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and not in a good way. For stories involving Norse gods and magic hammers and rainbow bridges, Kenneth Branagh's Thor and Alan Taylor's Thor: The Dark World were too self-serious and plodding. Fortunately, it looks like Thor: Ragnarok has embraced its world's natural wackiness by hiring comedy director Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople, What We Do in the Shadows). Mark Ruffalo also joins the hopeful fun as the Hulk, who teams up with the God of Thunder to defeat the God of Death (Cate Blanchett, easily the highest-calibre actress the MCU has ever employed). (Nov. 3)

Daddy's Home 2

Last year's Hacksaw Ridge paved the way for Mel Gibson's Hollywood comeback and now Will Ferrell is laying down further inroads. Here, Gibson plays the gruff father-in-law to Ferrell's ultra-sensitive type, while macho-man Mark Wahlberg returns to play the foil to … listen, if you saw the first movie, you can probably predict the PG-rated comedy beats to come. On the bright side, the always delightful John Lithgow is here to balance out Gibson's presence. (Nov. 10)

Justice League

As Warner Bros. continues to figure out a way forward for its DC Comics brand – two new Joker-centric films, a new Batman film that may or may not involve Ben Affleck – it is heavily pushing its answer to Disney/Marvel's Avengers series. At least Warner has the goodwill of this summer's Wonder Woman to help with the franchise's momentum – it's no accident that Gal Gadot is front and centre of Justice League's marketing so far. (Nov. 17)

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Don't worry: No one is resurrecting Robin Williams via horrifying CGI. At least, that seems to be the plan with this semi-sequel to the original action-comedy, which is more an opportunity to again pair the very big Dwayne Johnson with the very tiny Kevin Hart. (Dec. 20)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Perhaps you've heard about this little film? Well, it's just a small, independent production about religious folks fighting for their beliefs against an oppressive government regime. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and a droid or two round out the cast, while Rian Johnson takes over directing duties from some guy named J.J Abrams. (Dec. 15)

Pitch Perfect 3

Love, aca-tually: The most unlikely of franchises stretches its vocal cords for a third go-round, with Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and Anna Camp returning as the Barden Bellas, who single-handedly revived nationwide interest in a cappella music (it's a thing, trust me). Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins reprise their roles as the Bellas' No. 1 fans/enemies. (Dec. 22)


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