After a miserable summer at the multiplex and proclamations around the ‘net that this is “the end of movies as we know it,” we approached fall with hesitation.
Good news? After some heavy analysis, we can say that film is going to be fine. At least for the next few months.
Accordingly, we’ve identified 13 Movies You Actually Need to See This Fall.
It’s not just weepy Oscar-bait, either: there are comedies, sci-fis and one flick so bad it’s already considered a classic.
But we’re gonna hedge our bets: for each movie pick, we’re offering one non-film alternative. A book. An album. A TV show that’s probably on Netflix.
Our little way of telling Hollywood it needs to get its act together.
The pitch: “The Tom Hanks-iest Tom Hanks movie ever.”
The fine print: In this Clint Eastwood-directed biop, Hanks stars as the gloriously mustachioed Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who landed a US Airways jet into the Hudson River back in 2009, saving hundreds of lives in the process. “Untold story” or not, America’s most relatable leading man seems right at home here — he’s smart, steady, soft-spoken — and a bit perplexed by adulation (“I don’t feel like a hero”).
The alternative: A hero in her own right, comedian Tig Notaro takes a funny, fictionalized look at her own health issues in Amazon’s One Mississippi (9/9)
Blair Witch (9/16)
The pitch: “Remember that one good found-footage movie? Let’s do it again.”
The fine print: You’re right to be skeptical, but this secretly filmed sequel to the found footage forebear — originally entitled The Woods — has reviewers going nuts. Plus, director Adam Wingard already reinvented the tired home-invasion trope to create the awesome You’re Next. No reason he can’t work his dark magic again.
The alternative: Speaking of secrets … watch the new season of American Horror Story (9/14), for which every trailer so far has been a fake-out.
My Blind Brother (9/23)
The pitch: “Two brothers compete for the same woman. Twist: The asshole brother is blind.”
The fine print: A sort of Parks and Recreation reunion for stars Adam Scott, Jenny Slate and Nick Kroll, this somewhat dark rom-com mines laughs from uncomfortable spaces — mainly infidelity and disabilities. Bonus: It’ll be a same-day VOD release, so you can watch from home.
The alternative: Relive your awkward younger years with Beach Slang’s A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings, an album chock full of angsty, heart-on-sleeve indie/punk anthems (9/23).
The pitch: “Zach Galifianakis and Kristen Wiig plan a robbery.”
The fine print: Based on one of the largest cash robberies of all-time, this promising new heist flick from director Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) has an oddball Fargo/Baskets vibe and an A-plus comedy cast: beyond Galifianakis and Wiig, the movie stars Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.
The alternative: Side with the good guys. Netflix’s badass superhero series Luke Cage debuts its entire first season. Consider it the “Wu-Tang-ification of the Marvel Universe.” (9/30)
The Greasy Strangler (10/7)
The pitch: “Maniac stalks the streets of Los Angeles. He’s super oily.”
The fine print: Some of the peeps behind cult classics like Deathgasm, Kill List and Cooties (all worthy midnight films, mind you) have made a film combining disco fandom, romantic obsession and literally greasy mad men. Variety’s review: “An exercise in juvenile scatology that's almost awesomely pure in its numbing, repetitious determination to annoy.”
The alternative: Genre fans may prefer HBO’s updated take on the dystopic Westworld, from The Dark Knight co-writer Jonathan Nolan (10/2).
The Accountant (10/14)
The pitch: “A Beautiful Mind, but violent. With Batman.”
The fine print: A “forensic accountant” (Ben Affleck) who’s made his career working with money launderers, terrorists and assassins goes legit and uncovers financial chicanery at a robotics company. Math and gunplay ensue. The twist (Affleck’s character is autistic) and A-plus supporting cast (Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons) bode well for this unusual fall thriller.
The alternative: Go dumb, at least for laughs. Comic genius Christopher Guest (Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman) debuts his latest, self-explanatory mockumentary Mascots on Netflix (debuts 10/13).
American Pastoral (10/21)
The pitch: “Something about the fight for ‘the real America’ on the eve of the elections.”
The fine print: Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut tackles American ideals, the ‘60s and violent radical thought in this long-gestating adaptation of Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
The alternative: Forget the past and look to our future socio-political-technological troubles with the new season of the sci-fi anthology Black Mirror on Netflix (also debuting 10/21).
The pitch: “Like The Ring, but more so.”
The fine print: You need at least one cheesy horror film for Halloween, right? Updated for a new generation, this sequel replaces the VHS tape of the original (“watch and you’ll die in seven days”) with a more Web-based evil.
The alternative: You’ll need to go to Japan — or find a streaming site of a dubiously legal nature — and watch the recently released, bats**t insane sequel The Ring Vs. The Grudge, in which the two evil, faceless girls with stringy long hair square off. No U.S. release date announced as of yet.
Doctor Strange (11/4)
The pitch: “It’s a Marvel movie we haven’t done yet.”
The fine print: Growing up, we thought Dr. Strange was one of the coolest and most underutilized characters in the Marvel Universe. Here, Benedict Cumberbatch stars as the movie’s titular character, a horrifically injured doctor who retrains himself in the mystic arts. We dig the film’s M.C. Escher/Inception-esque aesthetic.
The alternative: Speaking of franchises going to bold new places, Call of Duty gets a sequel. In space.
The pitch: “We haven’t had a Close Encounters or Contact in a while.”
The fine print: Before he tackles Blade Runner 2, director and budding auteur Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario) take a more cerebral approach to an alien invasion — more linguistics, less shooting. The reviews? Universal praise.
The alternative: Why, it’s another movie … opening the same weekend! Director Ang Lee tackles the politically tinged Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, based on the scathingly funny and irreverent 2012 book.
Manchester by the Sea (11/18)
The pitch: “So … after all the crap, we need an Oscar-worthy film.”
The fine print: The “I’m not crying, you’re crying” movie of the year. Casey Affleck stars a janitor in Quincy, Massachusetts, who unexpectedly becomes the caretaker of his nephew after a family death. Brace for poignant ruminations on fatherhood and heavy, heavy New England accents.
The alternative: Dig into the epic, slightly meta new novel Moonglow by Michael Chabon (The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay), which details a grandfather’s deathbed confession to a character named ... Michael Chabon.(11/18)
Bad Santa 2 (11/25)
The pitch: “Let’s celebrate the holiest time of year with jokes about spousal abuse, little people and masturbation.”
The fine print: The alcoholic mall Santa/petty crook (Billy Bob Thornton) returns, with a couple of new players: Kathy Bates is the caustic mom and Mark Waters (Mean Girls) takes over as director.
The alternative: Catch up on Netflix’s just-released second season of Lovesick, aka the somewhat politically incorrect and very funny British comedy that used to be called Scrotal Recall.