Fall saw the release of movies that whet the appetite for those yet to come. The comedy drama “Battle of the Sexes” dealt with the widely publicized tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. In “Stronger,” Jake Gyllenhaal portrayed Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing. In other movies based on true stories, “Victoria & Abdul” revealed the touching relationship between an aged monarch and a young servant and Tom Cruise played a pilot who worked with both the CIA and drug cartels, taking enormous risks for huge profits (“American Made”).
In fictional movies, a killer clown terrified a group of young boys and an entire community in “It” and “Blade Runner 2049” offered a new spin on a classic motion picture. Martial arts star Jackie Chan showed his dramatic ability as a father desperate for answers after his daughter is killed in a bombing (“The Foreigner”) and Kate Winslet and Idris Elba attempted to survive a plane crash on a bitter cold mountain (“The Mountain Between Us”).
November and December releases offer classic mystery, a tale of stubborn determination, the assembling of a champion team of crime stoppers, a nostalgic look at 1950s Brooklyn, the bond between a shy young woman and an aquatic creature, a kidnapping that made headlines worldwide, a musical celebration of an inventive impresario, the emotional journey of a once-heroic warrior, a look back at a significant stand for freedom of the press and the story of the worst movie ever made. Here’s a preview of these ten films, which will make their debuts in late 2017, along with their release dates.
Murder on the Orient Express (Nov. 10)
Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel was adapted into a movie in 1974 with an all-star cast. Kenneth Branagh both directs this new adaptation and stars as the eccentric Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. What begins as a train trip through Europe on the lavish Orient Express becomes a race against time to solve a murder. When Poirot interrogates all passengers and searches for clues, he discovers that more than a dozen of the passengers have a mysterious connection to the victim and any one of them could be the perpetrator. The cast includes Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Michael Pena, Judi Dench, Leslie Odom Jr., Tom Bateman, Lucy Boynton, Sir Derek Jacobi, Josh Gad, Penelope Cruz, Sergei Polunin and Willem Dafoe.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Nov. 10)
After months have passed without an arrest in her daughter’s murder case, Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand of “Fargo”) paints three enormous signs leading into her town with a controversial message attacking the complacency of the police chief, William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), and the local police force. When his second-in-command, Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), a mama’s boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and the police escalates. McDormand turns in an Oscar-worthy performance in this commentary on bureaucracy, revenge, fury and gender-inflected battle of wills.
Justice League (Nov. 17)
Warner Brothers Pictures tried to base a movie on DC Comics’ Justice League several years ago but the project was canned in 2008. Now the superheroes of the Justice League share the screen with a much lighter tone than “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” The film takes place months after the events in “Dawn of Justice.” Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But, notwithstanding the powers of this unprecedented league of heroes, it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions. The cast includes Ben Affleck (Batman), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Jason Momoa (Aquaman), Ezra Miller (The Flash) and Ray Fisher (Cyborg). J.K. Simmons reprises his role as Commissioner Gordon.
Wonder Wheel (Dec. 1)
Having set recent films in glamorous locales such as Hollywood, Rome and the French Riviera, Brooklyn-born director Woody Allen has returned to his roots by the sand, surf and sights of Coney Island. The lives of four characters intertwine amid the hustle and bustle of the seaside amusement park in the 1950s — Ginny (Kate Winslet), an emotionally volatile former actress now working as a waitress in a clam house; Humpty (Jim Belushi), Ginny’s rough-around-the-edges carousel operator husband; Mickey (Justin Timberlake), a handsome young lifeguard who dreams of becoming a playwright; and Carolina (Juno Temple), Humpty’s long-estranged daughter, who is now hiding out from gangsters at her father’s apartment. Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro captures the look of mid-20th-century Coney Island, with its beach, boardwalk and iconic amusement rides.
The Shape of Water (Dec. 8)
Mute, isolated Elisa (Sally Hawkins) works as a cleaning lady in a hidden, high-security government laboratory in 1962 Baltimore. Her life changes forever when she discovers the lab’s classified secret — a mysterious, scaled creature from South America that lives in a water tank. As Elisa develops a unique bond with her new friend, she soon learns that its fate and very survival lie in the hands of a hostile government agent and a marine biologist. Directed by Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”), “The Shape of Water” is a Cold War-era fairy tale with elements of “Creature From the Black Lagoon” and “E.T.” Most of the characters are isolated in one way or another. Elisa bonds with the creature because she sees in him a kindred spirit; both are silent misfits. The film promises to be one of the most unusual of the holiday season, with a cast that includes Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer and Doug Jones.
All the Money in the World (Dec. 8)
In July, 1973, John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer), then 16, was kidnapped in Rome. A ransom note demanded $17 million. This movie portrays the desperate attempt by his devoted mother, Gail (Michelle Williams), to convince his reluctant billionaire grandfather (Kevin Spacey) to pay the ransom. Getty Sr. insists that if he does, his 14 other grandchildren will have prices on their heads. With her son’s captors becoming increasingly volatile and brutal and his life in the balance, Gail and Getty’s advisor, Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), become unlikely allies in the race against time to persuade the old man. Ridley Scott (“Alien: Covenant”) directs.
The Disaster Artist (Dec. 8)
In 2003, Tommy Wiseau wrote, directed, produced and starred in “The Room,” a feature film so terrible and inept that it developed a cult following. It was even described as the “Citizen Kane of bad movies.” James Franco stars as Wiseau and Franco’s brother Dave plays Wiseau’s co-star, Greg Sestero, whose 2013 memoir is the basis of “The Disaster Artist.” With elements of the buddy film, this behind-the-scenes look at the making of that infamous movie illustrates the dedication of Wiseau to break into an industry with a dauntingly high bar to newcomers. Like “Ed Wood,” a movie about another director who shot dubious feature films on a shoestring with less-than-stellar talent, “The Disaster Artist” is an up-close look at the obstacles and pitfalls facing independent filmmakers, viewed through a seriocomic lens.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Dec. 15)
At the end of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Rey (Daisy Ridley) stood atop a hill on a windswept island, holding out a long-lost light saber to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), a man she knew only as a legend. Luke’s dreams are less hopeful now and tinged with regret. At his core, the farm boy-turned-warrior-turned recluse would like to reconnect with his heroic youth. While “The Force Awakens” had plot elements similar to the original “Star Wars,” “The Last Jedi” follows patterns from “The Empire Strikes Back.” A young, aspiring Jedi goes off to find an old master, the First Order is beating the Resistance into submission, and a group of good guys embarks on a mission to an exotic locale — the casino metropolis of Canto Bight on the planet of Cantonica. Ex-Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) reluctantly leads that part of the quest and befriends Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), a Resistance mechanic. Finn is a hero to people like Rose, who fight for the Resistance because the First Order has destroyed their homes. New characters include DJ (Benicio Del Toro), a “slicer” (a futuristic term for hacker), and the Praetorians, a variation on the Imperial Guards from “Return of the Jedi.” A new addition to the “Star Wars” galactic menagerie, the Porgs, are cute, birdlike creatures that provide comic relief. Returning characters include Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher).
The Post (Dec. 22)
In June of 1971, The New York Times, The Washington Post and the nation’s major newspapers took a brave stand for freedom of speech and reported on the Pentagon Papers, the massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned four decades and four U.S. presidencies. At the time, The Post’s owner, Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep), was still finding her footing as the country’s first female newspaper publisher, and Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), the paper’s volatile, driven editor, was trying to enhance the stature of the struggling, local paper. The two formed an unlikely team, forced by the evidence to come together and make the bold decision to support The New York Times and fight the Nixon Administration’s unprecedented attempt to restrict the First Amendment.
The Greatest Showman (Dec. 25)
Inspired by the imagination of the legendary P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman), this original musical, with a contemporary score by “La La Land” composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, celebrates the birth of modern show business by a visionary promoter who rose from modest beginnings to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation. Because of the complexity of creating an entirely new musical motion picture, director Michael Gracey had a ten-week rehearsal period. Michelle Williams co-stars as Barnum’s wife, Charity, and Zendaya plays a trapeze artist who falls in love with Barnum’s business partner, Philip Carlyle (Zac Efron). Also in the cast are Rebecca Ferguson (Swedish Nightingale Jenny Lind) and Gayle Rankin (Queen Victoria).
Other November releases include “Thor: Ragnarok,” in which Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is imprisoned on the other side of the universe without his mighty hammer; “Lady Bird,” a conflict between a young woman (Saoirse Ronan) and her strong-willed mother (Laurie Metcalf) struggling to keep the family afloat after the title character’s father loses his job; and “Wonder,” about a boy (Jacob Tremblay) born with a facial deformity who’s on the verge of entering a mainstream school.
December brings the comedy “Just Getting Started,” about a romantic triangle among senior citizens (Morgan Freeman, Tommy Lee Jones, Rene Russo); “Gotti,” in which John Travolta portrays the title mobster who led the most powerful crime organization in North America; “Bright,” an action thriller set in an alternate present day about two cops (Will Smith, Joel Edgerton) from very different backgrounds; and “Molly’s Game,” the true story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade.
By Dennis Seuling