It always happens too quickly. One moment we're munching on popcorn and sucking noisily on sodas while CG humanoid turtles fight onscreen. The next moment half of us are donning our top hats and monocles and swanning off to film festivals to harrumph about the latest obscure Euro arthouse sensation, while the other half settle in for a long few months of sorting out obvious Oscar bait from the films that may actually bait Oscar. The gear change from Summer Tentpole period to Fall Festival/Awards Season is a pretty dramatic one, so we've prepared a little survival kit.
Of the many releases between now and the end of the year, the following twenty are our hot tips. In some cases we really know what we're talking about, because we've already seen the film in question at an earlier festival, but in most we're going on a combination of gut instinct, advance buzz, prior form of the key players and scientific criteria like "how much we like the trailers" and "whether the poster sucks."
Just to clarify, the following are all films that have general, non-festival U.S. release dates between now and December 31st, so you won't see any Venice, Telluride or TIFF titles here unless they also have a firm 2014 release date. And we're roughly starting the count from September, so a quick shout out again to the great, great "Starred Up," review here, which comes out in a pretty fallow time next week—be sure and catch that one if you can. For now though, here, in order of release date, are our 20 most anticipated films of the fall.
“The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby”
Synopsis: Director Ned Benson’s feature debut is the story of the dissolution of a relationship in the aftermath of tragedy, but told from the sometimes competing, sometimes complementary points of view of the two participants (James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain).
What You Need to Know: Here goes: there actually exist three films with this title, subtitled ‘Him,’ ‘Her’ and 'Them.' ‘Him’ and ‘Her' tell the story from McAvoy’s and Chastain’s perspectives respectively, and those were the versions we reviewed glowingly out of TIFF 2013. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in the meantime a third, less impressive version was edited together. ‘Them,’ which we saw in Cannes, will get a wide release, with ‘Him’ and ‘Her’ relegated to limited arthouse distribution. But no matter the version you see, there’s a treat in store in terms of the those performances, and in watching the arrival of a new talent in the shape of Ned Benson.
Release Date: September 12th
Synopsis: The latest film from "Zodiac" director David Fincher follows a husband (played by Ben Affleck) who is accused of murder after his wife (Rosamund Pike) mysteriously vanishes. Tyler Perry plays the high profile lawyer hired to defend Affleck, Neil Patrick Harris is Pike's ex-boyfriend, On The Rise 2014 pick Carrie Coon is his sister and Emily Ratajkowski, best known for her scantily clad role in the "Blurred Lines" video, plays the younger woman Affleck is involved with. Based on the runaway bestseller by Gillian Flynn, who also provided the film's screenplay.
What You Need to Know: It's interesting that, after his indifferently received version of "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," Fincher would once again be wooed by another adaptation of a best-selling novel. Although it's just as easy to see why he would pursue the material – the knotty narrative is surprising and deeply fucked-up, complete with themes of abandonment and entrapment (two of his favorites). It'll be interesting to how the unique structure of the book translates to film, and what exactly Flynn and Fincher changed about the ending.
Release Date: October 3rd (plays New York Film Festival)
Synopsis: A talented and ambitious young jazz drummer (Miles Teller) at a prestigious music academy is pushed to the limits of endurance and beyond by the hard-driving and brutal tactics of a ruthless teacher (JK Simmons) in the sophomore feature from Damien Chazelle, expanded from his 2013 short of the same name.
What You Need to Know: Turning heads at Sundance, which is where we caught up with it, “Whiplash”’s buzz has grown steadily throughout the year, making it one of the few Sundance movies to cause ripples at Cannes and beyond. An unusual take on the obsessive desire for artistic perfection and achievement, it poses serious questions about how far we should be willing to go to exploit our talents and those of others. And it also features another fine performance from Teller who is fast establishing himself as one of the best actors of his generation, and from the great veteran JK Simmons, here closer to his chilling “Oz” form than the cuddly dad of “Juno,” or the comically irascible J Jonah Jameson in the “Spider-man” movies.
Release Date: October 10th
Synopsis: Brad Pitt plays a soldier named Wardaddy who commands a tank called "Fury" during the final days of World War II. Predictably, he and his men (including Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena and Jon Berenthal, run into remaining Nazi forces, in the new film written and directed by "Training Day" scribe David Ayer.
What You Need to Know: While "Fury" does, ostensibly, seem exciting—it's been an age since we had a decent tank movie—and it's a chance for Pitt to return to World War II in gung-ho mode, without the wacky irreverence of "Inglourious Basterds," it's probably good to keep expectations slightly in check. The film was bumped away from its more awards-friendly November release date to a comparatively stark October slot, seemingly without the benefit of a particularly high-profile festival berth either (sorry London Film Festival, no offense meant). Also, the last movie Ayer wrote and directed was the Arnold Schwarzenegger-led Agatha Christie adaptation "Sabotage," which was, in a word, terrible. Still Pitt, tanks and WWII—we are hoping for the best, and you can judge the trailer here.
Release Date: October 17th