Fall movie season: Time for the good stuff

Bill Murray, Steve Carell and others highlight upcoming fall releases.

Fall is a festive season, if the weather cooperates and the art direction is right. It's festive in other ways, too, unrelated to falling leaves and russet tones.

Autumn can mean movies of serious value — awards value, end-of-year "best" list value, value-value. The good stuff.

Much of the good stuff is heralded by major annual film festivals, among them Telluride (already come and gone), Toronto (Sept. 4-14) and New York (Sept. 26-Oct. 12). A small handful of titles first screened this May at Cannes, notably Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher," are making their way to theaters before Thanksgiving. And it wouldn't be another movie season without the latest young-adult dystopian future coming-of-age movie. Voila: "The Maze Runner."

Here are 10 to consider in the coming weeks. Release dates can change, so be warned.

"The Maze Runner," Sept. 19. In the post-apocalyptic near-future, the Glade is bordered by the Maze, and the boys hellbent on escape are thrown into disarray by the arrival of a girl who may be "the last one ever." This is the first of author James Dashner's trilogy; if young audiences embrace the film version, we'll have two more arriving in short order.

"This Is Where I Leave You," Sept. 19. Premiering at the Toronto festival, this ensemble comedy features Tina Fey, Jason Bateman and a sterling supporting crew in the adaptation of Jonathan Tropper's book about adult siblings reuniting, awkwardly, following their father's death.

"Gone Girl," Oct. 3. Gillian Flynn's widely devoured best-selling mystery, about a disappearance, a shadowy marriage and the omnivorous media machine, was made for the movies. David Fincher's film version stars Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike; judging from the trailer, director Fincher's insidious facility for simmering dread and unease, put to good use in "Seven," "Zodiac" and "The Social Network," will be something to behold here. "Gone Girl" opens the New York Film Festival in late September.

"Birdman," Oct. 17. A movie star (Michael Keaton) made famous playing a masked superhero tries to get his life in order as he opens a play on Broadway. Subtitled "The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance," Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's fantasia slayed audiences in Venice and Telluride and heralds a comeback (though he never really left) for the mercurial, dazzlingly talented Keaton.

"Whiplash," Oct. 10. Launched in early 2014 at the Sundance Film Festival, writer-director Damien Chazelle's jazz-soaked movie deals with a promising young drummer (Miles Teller) attending a prestigious Manhattan music school ruled by an outlandishly tyrannical instructor (J.K. Simmons). I've seen it; it's really good; if you haven't seen Chazelle's previous feature, "Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench," seek it out.

"Fury," Oct. 17. Brad Pitt stars as Wardaddy, a U.S. Army sergeant commanding the Sherman tank of the title in the final months of World War II. Reportedly bloody in the extreme, writer-director David Ayer's drama co-stars Shia LaBeouf and Michael Pena.

"St. Vincent," Oct. 24. Premiering in Toronto, this comedy stars Bill Murray as the unreliable, undeniable mentor-neighbor of a child of divorce. Co-starring Naomi Watts and Melissa McCarthy, the film marks the feature directorial debut of Theodore Melfi, who wrote the script. Here's hoping it's everything Murray deserves and more.

"The Theory of Everything," Nov. 7. Going by the trailer, the courtship of young physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife, Jane (Felicity Jones), is the season's classy biopic to beat, however true or false it turns out to be.

"Interstellar," Nov. 7. Travel down the wormhole with director Christopher Nolan, in this sci-fi thriller featuring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine and Casey Affleck. Nolan gave us "Inception," among others, so the actors should have some decent visual effects as scene partners.

"Foxcatcher," Nov. 14. No effects here, beyond some clever makeup: An unrecognizable Steve Carell portrays billionaire wrestling enthusiast John du Pont, who saw the U.S. Olympic wrestling team as America's last hope for greatness. What happened next? It's a true-crime story co-starring Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo, directed by "Capote" and "Moneyball" ace Bennett Miller, who won the directing prize this year at Cannes.

mjphillips@tribune.com

 

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