We’re coming off the biggest second quarter at the domestic box office ever, with the likes of “Jurassic World,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Furious 7,” “Inside Out,” and “Pitch Perfect 2” bilking a record-breaking $3.08bn out of us Joe Public suckers between April and June. In such times of ringing cash registers and dollar symbols spinning in the eyes of studio execs, we’d like to turn our thoughts away from franchises and filthy lucre and toward the excitement of the fall film festival season.
Cynicism aside, it’s a great period for cinephiles, however much it may have become subsumed by early awards-race talk, and spearheading the glut of quality programming are the major fall festivals: the high-profile trio of Venice, Telluride and Toronto followed by the New York and London Film Festivals, rounded off by AFI Fest.
Venice has just announced their opening film, Baltasar Kormakur‘s “Everest” starring Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Emily Watson and Jake Gyllenhaal, and NYFF has already slated Robert Zemeckis‘ “The Walk“ starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon and James Badge Dale as its curtain-raiser.
Venice gets underway September 2nd-12th; Telluride runs Sept 4th-7th; TIFF starts a little later this year from Sept 10th-20th; genre-focused Fantastic Fest goes from Sept 24th -Oct 1st; NYFF runs Sept 26th-Oct 12th; the BFI London Film Festival runs October 7th-18th; and AFI Fest powers the season down from November 5th-12th. Here are 50 films that we’re going to be most looking out for at all these events.
Once linked to David Fincher and Derek Cianfrance, this culinary dramedy about a bad-boy chef planning a comeback penned by “Peaky Blinders” mastermind Steven Knight now comes to the screen thanks to “August: Osage County” helmer John Wells. But a mark-down in director and boring-ass title is made up for with a stellar cast —Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller lead, with Omar Sy, Uma Thurman, Alicia VIkander, Emma Thompson, Jamie Dornan, Lily James, Daniel Bruhl and Matthew Rhys in support. Footage we saw at Cannes looks pleasing, like a kitchen-set “Silver Linings Playbook,” and though we’re not expecting it to be a major Oscar player, TWC will give it a push anyway. An October release means this is a cert for TIFF and possibly Telluride.
“Beasts Of No Nation”
The other title aside from “High Rise” we were most angling to see in Cannes and didn’t, Cary Fukunaga‘s “Beasts of No Nation” starring Idris Elba now looks much more likely for a TIFF premiere. Adapted from the novel of the same name by Uzodinma Iweala, the film details the life of a child soldier in an unnamed African country, and after “Sin Nombre,” “Jane Eyre” and especially season 1 of “True Detective” we couldn’t be more excited to see what Fukunaga has in store, particularly since this is something of a passion project for him. Distributors Netflix will put the film out on its celebrated platform on October 16th, but are said to be actively seeking a TIFF premiere with an eye to launching an awards campaign for the movie after, so all signs are good.
“A Bigger Splash”
This has been the year of Italian filmmakers working in English, but sensibly, “I Am Love” helmer Luca Guadagnino held back the follow-up to his much-praised Tilda Swinton starrer from Cannes in order to get a little distance from new films by Matteo Garrone and Paolo Sorrentino,. The film’s a sexy thriller which reteams the director with Swinton as a filmmaker who with her rock star husband (Matthias Schoenaerts) is visited by an old flame and his daughter (Ralph Fiennes and Dakota Johnson). It’s not the most distinctive premise here (it’s somewhat surprising that Francois Ozon hasn’t already made it), but Guadagnino’s lavish, operatic style is always worthwhile, and watching these four very different actors play off each other should be fascinating, while Fox Searchlight snapping up the rights early bodes well. Given the home advantage, this will surely appear first at Venice.
The highest-profile film yet from “Crazy Heart” and “Out of the Furnace” director Scott Cooper, “Black Mass” has one of the biggest and most exciting casts of the fall, starring Johnny Depp, Johnny Depp’s freaky contact lenses, Kevin Bacon, Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Sienna Miller and Dakota Johnson, in the story of notorious Irish/American Boston crimelord Whitey Bulger. Set for September 18th release and looking to feature Depp’s first genuinely challenging performance in years, it’s virtually certain to get a home at one of the 3 earlier fall festivals, any of which would be a first for Cooper, as ‘Furnace’ played the AFI Fest back in 2013 prior to its December release and “Crazy Heart” premiered at an even more off-the-beaten track small fest. TIFF would certainly seem to make most sense here, though a Telluride sneak is very possible.
“Bridge Of Spies”
Steven Spielberg returns after a three-year absence,, seemingly still in “Lincoln” mode with a based-in fact period political drama with a two-time Oscar winner and parallels to contemporary issues. This time, it’s “Bridge Of Spies” (written by newcomer Matt Charman with a polish by the Coens), which sees Tom Hanks as a Cold War-era lawyer enlisted to defend soviet spy Mark Rylance, and then arrange his swap for a captured U-2 pilot in East Berlin. It’s definitely the director with his serious, awards-y hat on, but hopefully it will turn out to be more “Munich” than “Amistad” —the more recent trailer was definitely more promising than the first. Spielberg doesn’t always go the festival route, but after a surprise “Lincoln” bow at NYFF and with an October release date, this could well return to New York for the midway or closing gala.
“By The Sea”
Angelina Jolie‘s directorial follow-up to the disappointing “Unbroken” sees her abandon epic period filmmaking in order to turn in a more intimate, period relationship drama, apparently closely modelled on the introspective European arthouse dramas of yore, in which she will star alongside husband Brad Pitt. They play a 1970s married couple whose meeting with a younger couple (Melanie Laurent and Melville Poupaud) while holidaying in France spurs them to re-examine the flaws in their relationship. Frankly, the boon of having Pitt and Jolie on your red carpet means they could probably write their own ticket to whichever festival they wished, but with an awards-friendly November release planned and the European setting and influences of the film, Venice would seem very likely. Though Jolie did make “The Tourist” there, so maybe she never wants to return.
Occasionally, a trailer can land that suddenly puts a film you had little hope for onto your radar. So it was with the “Creed” trailer, for a film that on paper seemed like it might be a sellout move from director Ryan Coogler and star Michael B. Jordan, after the indie integrity of their Sundance breakout “Fruitvale Station.” But though it might be a “Rocky” quasi-sequel/spinoff, complete with Sylvester Stallone in support, the footage looks really promising as Jordan plays the aptly named Adonis Creed, son of Rocky’s old rival/friend Apollo. That said, it’s still a studio product with a November 25th release date slated, so TIFF feels like the most likely home if it’s done in time, or a gala slot at NYFF at a pinch.
The first film on this list to boast Tobias Lindholm‘s involvement, here as writer, Thomas Vinterberg‘s “The Commune” is described by the director as “a funny and warm film about the pain of replacing each other. Divorces, stuff like that.” It marks a return to his country of Denmark after this year’s “Far from the Madding Crowd” and to the social and familial focus of his remarkable, divisive “The Hunt.” That film played in competition in Cannes, winning Best Actor for Mads Mikkelsen, while Vinterberg has also competed in Berlin. But fall festivals are an unknown quantity for him, though we’d have to assume that if it’s ready, he might want to go for a European premiere for this film, and that Venice might bite —though we wonder if Lindholm’s “A War” and “The Commune” might be unlikely to both be in the same line up?
On one hand, ‘Crimson Peak’ is an R-Rated horror movie; on the other, much more important hand, it stars Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska and Charlie Hunnam and comes from Guillermo Del Toro. Universal is releasing the period-set Gothic chiller on October 16th in time for Halloween, which means a fall festival Venice/Telluride/TIFF slot is very possible: it’s hard to say which, as the only major fest that Del Toro has a relationship with Cannes, where “Cronos” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” both played. Perhaps the more interesting question will be whether it is regarded as a competition-worthy, “Pan’s Labyrinth”-y addition to a festival lineup (and with that cast and director, it very well could), or whether it gets an Out of Competition gala-type deal, maybe even a Midnight Special (where genre horrors often end up). And there’s always Fantastic Fest?
“The Danish Girl”
An Oscar-winning director directing last year’s Oscar-winning Best Actor in a film about the first recipient of male-to-female gender reassignment surgery? You better believe “The Danish Girl” is being primed for a major assault on the awards race. Tom Hooper‘s film stars Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Mathias Schoenaerts and Ben Whishaw and is described as a complex love triangle story. With the first look at Redmayne as a woman causing quite a stir, this film is almost ridiculously high-profile and has snagged a prime November 27th release. As a result, it might get a prestige slot at any of the fall festivals, though Hooper may wish to replicate the triumphal strategy for “The King’s Speech” and go to Telluride.
After the triumph of “Gravity,” that film’s co-writer Jonas Cuaron (son of Alfonso) has more eyes on him than ever before and is setting up his third directorial feature for a big fall festival bow. This film follows a group of Mexican immigrants trying to cross into the U.S. only to be attacked by a racist vigilante taking the law into his own hands, with Gael Garcia Bernal on one side and Jeffrey Dean Morgan on the other. It sounds like a promising mix of social realism and genre fare, the kind of thing that could mark Cuarón’s arrival as a filmmaker, and he’s got the talent, if his “Gravity” companion short “Aningaaq” was anything to go by. Both that film and its parent premiered at Venice, so that would seem to be the natural home for this, although poppa Alfonso being the jury president could make that tricky. So maybe TIFF will be the answer.
If you’re looking to pick up an Oscar nomination, Jean-Marc Vallee might be your man: in the last two years, the Quebecois helmer helped his “Dallas Buyers Club” stars win two Oscars and then steered “Wild” actresses Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern towards nods. So “Demolition” is definitely one for awards-watchers to keep an eye on. The film, written by newcomer Bryan Sipe, is less high concept than his previous outings and not based in fact, following a young banker grieving from the death of his wife who meets a woman who helps him heal. But an unpromising premise is made up for with a very promising cast, particularly with Jake Gyllenhaal taking the lead —the actor’s on an astonishing run at the moment. Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper and “Mistress America” actress Heather Lind join him. This is another film rumored to be opening TIFF.
A less talked-up movie that has nonetheless piqued our interest, Australian director Jocelyn Moorhouse‘s first film in 18 years stars Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth (plus Hugo Weaving, Sarah Snook, Judy Davis and Kerry Fox) in the story of a woman with a penchant for haute couture who returns to her hometown bent on revenge against those who slighted her years before. It sounds like fun, we love Winslet, Moorhouse has been away far too long (her debut “Proof” was outstanding back in 1991, even if her subsequent couple of features did not quite measure up) and the first look we saw looked appropriately fabulous. The Australian release is pegged to October 1st, so this seems like a very likely TIFF title, where it might attract further distribution deals.
In the history of unlikely filmic bedfellows, somehow genius purveyor of cerebral yet schlocky genre fare Paul Verhoeven directing trademark Greatest Actress In the World Isabelle Huppert in a stalker thriller makes a counterintuitive kind of sense. Apparently she plays the victim of a stalking/rape who turns the table on her attacker and begins to stalk him back. There’s no guarantee the film will be ready to do the fall rounds —it went into preproduction mode in January and is listed as having a loose 2016 release date. But if it does, the film would make a great addition to any lineup, though we’d have to throw our money down on Venice, which was where Verhoeven’s last feature “Black Book” premiered in 2006.
“The Good Dinosaur”
With the Cannes gala for Pete Docter‘s “Inside Out” setting a new bar for premiering feature animations at major festivals (it made many “Best of Cannes” lists, despite being out of competition and from a major studio), it’ll be interesting to see as and where the company’s second film of the year (the first time they’ve ever released two films so close together) lands. With this already having been a stellar year for dinosaurs and for Pixar, the story of an alternate planet Earth where the mass extinction never happened will be a profile boost to whoever gets it. It’s impossible to call which fest that will be, but don’t rule out ones outside the Venice/Telluride/TIFF trinity: the last Pixar film to open at Christmastime was “The Incredibles,” which played the London Film Festival, while a November release date might suggest an AFI premiere.
“The Hateful Eight”
Another scorching property, another “snow western” with a Christmas release and another director whom any festival would give their eyeteeth to get a hold of —we’ll know a little more about where Quentin Tarantino‘s “The Hateful Eight” may play after this weekend’s Comic-Con presentation, where some exclusive footage is due to be shown. He’s got the jump on “The Revenant” in terms of timing, but not by a huge margin. Assuming it’s ready, it’s still a tricky call to work out where it could land. TIFF feels like an outsider choice, although “Reservoir Dogs” and “Four Rooms” played there. Venice somehow feels more possible —though Tarantino has never premiered a film there, he did preside over the jury. But a long shot might also be a secret screening/special slot at NYFF, a coup managed last year with “Gone Girl” and “Inherent Vice.”
Hotly tipped for Cannes, we were hotly disappointed when Ben Wheatley‘s adaptation of JG Ballard‘s book, which stars Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss and James Purefoy among others, didn’t show up on the Croisette, reportedly simply due to not being quite ready. Surely that means it has to be done by the time the fall rolls around, and so the guessing game of which festival will snag this appetizing title for their lineup begins. Wheatley’s “done” Cannes Director’s Fortnight and SXSW before, but has never bowed at any of the fall fests, so technically each are up for grabs, even possibly London, seeing as the film is British. But our gut suggests (or maybe just really, really hopes for) a Venice premiere, since it’s a bit higher profile and this Cronenbergian fable about a tower block in which life starts to devolve sounds like perfect fare for its programming.
“A Hologram For The King”
Tom Hanks seems to be going through a bit of a Dave Eggers phase —he’ll soon star in James Ponsoldt’s adaptation of the writer’s “The Circle,” but first up is this version of an earlier book, reuniting Hanks with his “Cloud Atlas” co-director Tom Tykwer. He plays a desperate American salesman endlessly waiting, Godot-style, for a meeting with a Saudi Arabian billionaire, though Lionsgate having already picked up the rights suggest that this won’t be a purely Beckettian picture and may have some commercial potential. Tykwer can be hit and miss, but he’s a fascinating filmmaker when he’s on form, and a Hanks team-up and great source material, means we’re keen to check this out. Tykwer has a long history at Venice, with “The Princess And The Warrior” and “Three” both screening there, so this seems to be a good bet as such.
“I Saw The Light”
Any other time of year, this biopic of Hank Williams, starring Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen, would be a bigger deal than it now seems, as come November 27th it’s releasing against a slew of heavy-hitters, with big awards track records. But as such, it’s the kind of title that could most benefit from a fall festival slot, with Hiddleston and Olsen both being more than respectable draws. And director Marc Abraham is perhaps not so well-known in that capacity, but as the erstwhile producer of “Children of Men” and the “Robocop” remake, among other things, he’s certainly connected. No festival is off the table entirely, but at this point TIFF feels like the strongest likelihood, or maybe Telluride, which did extremely well for James Mangold‘s “Walk the Line” back in the day.
“In The Heart Of The Sea”
Moving Ron Howard‘s epic adventure tale, based on the real-life events that inspired “Moby Dick,” all the way from its March release to a mid-December, mid-awards season bow was a surprising move from Warners, the film industry equivalent of fighting words. Whether the move is a signal of their intention to plunge the waterlogged film, starring Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Jamie Bell, Ben Whishaw, Tom Holland, Benjamin Walker and Brendan Gleeson, into the fray for Oscars is yet to be seen, but it is the kind of starry big release that might easily get a gala slot at any one of the fall festivals. Does it mean anything that Howard’s last film, his Jay-Z documentary “Made in America” played TIFF (as did “Rush” before that)? Maybe not — either way which festival and what type of slot this gets could well be an indicator of what kind of awards campaign, if any, we’re going to see for it.
A reunion of the “Silver Linings Playbook” dream team, with David O Russell behind the camera and Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, among others, in front of it, “Joy” might seem to have a more overtly comedic approach (it’s co-scripted by Russell and “Bridesmaids” writer Annie Mumulo, and tells the story of the woman who invented the Miracle Mop) may mean it’s less of an awards contender than ‘Playbook’ was. Then again, we hear it’s surprisingly dark, Mumulo was herself nominated for “Bridesmaids,” and Lawrence probably gets handed an award for gargling each evening, so who knows? Either way, that cast would make a mouthwatering addition to any red carpet, and since when Russell does major festivals at all it’s usually TIFF (‘Playbook,’ “I Heart Huckabees“) that would be a smart bet.
“The Last Face”
Eight years after “Into The Wild,” Sean Penn’s back in the directorial chair with “The Last Face,” a romantic drama set in a world that he knows very well, that of international aid workers. Javier Bardem and Charlize Theron (awkwardly, Penn and Theron will be promoting the film soon after she ended their real-life relationship) take the lead roles, with Jared Harris, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Jean Reno also in the cast. His shittiness as a human being aside, Penn’s a pretty good director when he gets around to it, and you can’t argue with the cast he’s put together, though the spectre of duff Angelina Jolie/Clive Owen NGO romance “Beyond Borders” hangs a little heavy over this one. Strongly rumored for Cannes, this could end up at Venice, where it’ll be hoping to pick up U.S. distribution.
What’s better than one Tom Hardy? Two Tom Hardys, which is what we get with this gangland drama, a biopic from “L.A. Confidential” writer and “42” director Brian Helgeland of the legendary Kray twins, who terrorized London in the swinging sixties. Last time they came to the screen, they were played by the twins from Spandau Ballet (in 1990’s “The Krays”), but Hardy and some VFX wizardry is much more enticing, while people like Emily Browning, Christopher Eccleston and “Kingsman” breakout Taron Egerton are in support. Trailers suggest something visually lavish (and a little uneven, but that may just be the marketing), and with a September opening in the UK and an early October date in the US, this should be at TIFF, and maybe an out-of-competition bow in Venice too.
“The Light Between Oceans”
After “Blue Valentine” and “The Place Beyond The Pines,” Derek Cianfrance returns with his first big studio gig, an adaptation of a best-selling novel by M.L. Stedman, about a First World War veteran who returns to Australia to his wife, only to adopt a baby girl who washes up in a lifeboat. The cast suggests that this could be something of an awards player, with Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander in the leads, and Rachel Weisz and “Slow West” breakout Caren Pistorious joining them, while “Harry Potter” and “Gravity” producer David Heyman backed the movie. There’s no release date from Dreamworks/Disney yet, but production rolled last October, so Cianfrance has had plenty of time, and with his last two films hitting TIFF, we bet it’ll end up there, and maybe Telluride before that. The only doubt might be with Fassbender already dominating awards season with “Macbeth” and “steve jobs,” it could actually fare better in 2016.
“Love & Friendship”
As the modern day master of the cinematic comedy-of-manners, it seems sort of inevitable that Whit Stillman would get around to making a Jane Austen movie, given that the writer’s been such an influence on his work. And that time has finally arrived, with “Love & Friendship,” an adaptation of Austen’s little-known novel “Lady Susan,” which stars Kate Beckinsale as a manipulative widow looking for a husband for her and her daughter (Morfydd Clark, a stand out in Carol Morley’s “The Falling” this year). Making the whole thing a pleasing “Last Days of Disco” reunion, Chloe Sevigny’s along too, with Stephen Fry and “Twilight” actor Xavier Samuels also on board, and the material couldn’t be a better fit with Stillman. He wrapped his UK shoot (a first for him) back in March, so the fall festivals shouldn’t be out of the question — after “Damsels In Distress” closed Venice a few years back, an appearance on the Lido is the most obvious option.
One aspect of the now-notorious wrangling surrounding Kenneth Lonergan‘s last film, “Margaret,” was the rumor that it had been offered a TIFF slot, which had been turned down by his producer. Whatever the case, “Margaret” is a good template of what not to do: creative and legal issues saw it limp into theaters six years after its initial release date, with no marketing, and die a box office death. By contrast the gestation of his follow-up has appeared to be a walk in the park — the family drama, which he also wrote, stars Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and the increasingly ubiquitous Kyle Chandler, and tells the story of a plumber who returns to his eponymous hometown to reconnect with his nephew and ex-wife, while family secrets surface. It sounds like Lonergan’s wheelhouse, which we are very much okay with, and, provided it’s ready with a relatively snappy turnaround, TIFF is maybe most likely, though the more boutiquey vibe of Telluride could also appeal to Lonergan.
Ridley Scott’s movies are usually big enough not to need to go the festival route — “Robin Hood” opened Cannes, “A Good Year” was at TIFF and “Matchstick Men” screened at Venice, but they’re the exceptions — but with his latest, “The Martian,” looking like his most promising in a long while, and heading for an awards push with an early October release, we wouldn’t be surprised to see it crop up somewhere. Written by “Cabin In The Woods”’ Drew Goddard, and based on a best-selling novel, it sees Matt Damon as an astronaut stranded on Mars, and Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig and many more among the starry bunch trying to get him back. With the Venice and NYFF opening slots, which would have made most sense, gone, this could yet skip festivals, but a big TIFF gala could still happen too.
With our SXSW reporter very taken with the first footage from Jeff Nichols‘ follow-up to 2012’s “Mud,” our expectations are high for “Midnight Special” which will star Nichols’ regular Michael Shannon, alongside Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton and Adam Driver in a film described as a Carpenter-influenced sci-fi chase. The story of a father trying to get his gifted son to safety while pursued by a shady religious sect and agents of the government, it sounds more firmly genre than Nichols’ other outings to date, but that’s okay by us. It may affect where it lands on the fall festival circuit, though, which is uncharted territory for Nichols whose three films to date went to Berlin, Sundance then Cannes. And so any of Venice/Telluride/TIFF are good bets here, as the film has a November release date set.
With “Love & Mercy” reminding us that the words ‘musician biopic’ don’t have to be dirty ones, we’re even more excited about Don Cheadle’s directorial debut, a longtime passion project that sees the great character actor play, as the title might suggest, jazz legend Miles Davis. Co-starring Ewan McGregor, Michael Stuhlbarg, Keith Stanfield and “Middle of Nowhere” breakout Emayatzy Corinealdi, the film hopefully avoids the trap of so much of the genre by focusing on a particular period — his relationship with Francis Taylor Davis, played by Corinealdi, and will feature a score from another big jazz name, Herbie Hancock. Not every actor is destined to be a director, but Cheadle’s worked with the greats, and says he’s been getting tips from Soderbergh, PTA and Clooney, among others, so we’re expecting big things. Without a distributor lined up, this’ll likely be hoping to land one at TIFF, though Venice could be viable too.
It’s a bit of a long shot to include this Jodie Foster-directed financial thriller here, seeing as it only wrapped in April and 2016 seems as early a release as is planned (oddly there’s a German March 2016 release date mooted but nothing solid stateside as yet). But with a cast including George Clooney, Jack O’Connell and Julia Roberts along with Dominic West and Giancarlo Esposito, among others, it certainly has the star power and clout to get a prime festival berth should it be ready. With that cast it seems less a matter of needing festival exposure to get attention, and more a matter of which one might best launch its awards chances, should TriStar decide to go that way. So again, if it’s ready, expect it at Venice, Telluride or TIFF, with a slight leaning toward Venice, if only because Clooney lives down the road.
“Our Brand Is Crisis”
Quite rightly, Sandra Bullock didn’t rush into picking her next project after the hugely successful (and Oscar-nomination-landing) one-two punch of “The Heat” and “Gravity” — her only movie since has been a voice gig in this week’s animated behemoth “Minions.” The project she ultimately chose was “Our Brand Is Crisis,” a remake of a 2005 documentary about U.S. political consultants working on the Bolivian presidential election. Penned by “Frank” writer Peter Straughan, also starring Scoot McNairy, Billy Bob Thornton, Zoe Kazan and Anthony Mackie, and produced by George Clooney, it also serves as something of a mainstream non-“Your Highness” breakthrough for prolific indie helmer David Gordon Green — drawing comparisons to “Argo,” it could be his first time in the awards game. Curiously, Warner Bros haven’t yet dated the film, but it shot last fall, so we’re definitely expecting it at Venice (where Green’s last two films debuted), Telluride, TIFF or all the above, unless there’s been a problem.
After his doping ‘secret’ was finally exposed, all kinds of filmmakers, including luminaries like J.J. Abrams, started developing Lance Armstrong-related projects, but in the end, it’s this film, written by “Trainspotting” scribe John Hodge, and directed by Stephen Frears, that’s wearing the yellow jumper. Starring Ben Foster as the cyclist, and Chris O’Dowd as the journalist doggedly pursuing him (Jesse Plemons, Lee Pace, Dustin Hoffman, Guillaume Canet and Edward Hogg are also involved), early footage suggests this is well-acted and detailed, but is there much more to say after Alex Gibney’s documentary (which itself didn’t come up with that much new information)? And does the protracted post-production and lack of a U.S. distributor spell trouble? Nevertheless, with the film opening in Europe from September, this should be at Venice (where Frears had a hit with “Philomena”) and/or TIFF.
A red-hot property that we can only imagine fall festivals would basically cage-match to get a hold of, Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s “The Revenant” comes with a weight of expectation, not just in terms of quality, but of where it might figure in the wider awards narrative. The biggest question though, is if it can possibly be ready in time for any of the festival slots, having had an already lengthy shoot run long by months due to bad weather. Featuring a cast including Tom Hardy, Leonardo DiCaprio and Domhnall Gleeson, the 1820s-set film tells the story of Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) who embarks on an epic journey of revenge after he’s left for dead following a bear mauling. But timing issues make it very wishful thinking that the film will make it to a festival at all in advance of its projected December opening, and it all but rules the earlier festivals, like Venice, which was so good for “Birdman,” out of the picture entirely.
“Rock The Kasbah”
It’s famously difficult to land Bill Murray for a movie but less so if you’re Mitch Glazer — the “Scrooged” writer is long-time pals with the reclusive star, and called in favors for the actor to get him in the dreadful “Passion Play” and his upcoming big-screen spin-off of TV show “Magic City.” They’re working together again this fall (though with Barry Levinson directing), for this story about a washed-up rock manager (Murray) who finds a bright new star in wartime Afghanistan. Murray’s joined by Bruce Willis, Danny McBride, Kate Hudson and Zooey Deschanel, and though there’s a bit of a whiff of international pre-sales magnet about it, we’re always intrigued to see what gets Murray’s attention. Open Road will release the film at the end of October, and with a cast like this, TIFF seems like a dead cert.
After making a movie about a mentally ill rock star with a papier mache head into one of the best movies of last year, “Frank” director Lenny Abrahamson has lined up something potentially even tougher for his next trick. Not to be confused with Tommy Wiseau’s finest hour, this is an adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s best-seller, narrated by a young boy who’s lived his entire life with his mother, a captive of a Fritzl-style monster, in a single room. It’s incredibly dark material, but in the book at least, bursting with humanity, and the versatile Abrahamson should be a good match, especially with a terrific cast including Joan Allen, William H. Macy and with a role that could get her the Oscar nod she deserved for “Short Term 12,” Brie Larson. A tough sell that would definitely use some festival buzz, this would work well at Venice, but TIFF is likely too.
“The Secret In Their Eyes”
A remake of a beloved foreign-language movie always has us a little cautious, but there’s plenty to make us hope that this re-do of the 2009 Argentinean Oscar-winner is more “Let Me In” than “Delivery Man.” Following a trio of FBI agents torn apart in a decades-long hunt of the killer of one of their daughters, it’s got meaty roles for an A-list trifecta of Chiwetel Ejiofor (in his first major post-“12 Years A Slave” role), Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts. Billy Ray, who directed the underrated “Shattered Glass” and “Breach,” and picked up an Oscar nod for writing “Captain Phillips,” is in charge too, which is good. Whether it can be more than a generic revenge flick while stripped of the original political context remains to be seen, but it’s likely we’ll have an opportunity to find out at TIFF, the natural home for this.
Although Oliver Stone is these days more revered for the films he used to make than the disappointments of his more recent narrative output (“Savages” and “Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps“), his name here, attached to a controversial, hot potato subject, which attracted a first-rate cast in Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Scott Eastwood, Melissa Leo, Timothy Olyphant, Zachary Quinto, Nicolas Cage and Tom Wilkinson, is probably his most promising project in years. It will have to have undergone a pretty quick turnaround, but not impossibly so, to make the fall festival rounds, though perhaps a later one is more realistic, given the (slightly odd) Christmas Day release date. Stone doesn’t have much form on the fall festival circuit, but given the international nature of his profile and the subject matter, it’s not impossible that it might premiere outside of North America altogether.
With Adam Sandler-starrer “The Cobbler” as a great big blemish on an otherwise strong track record, “The Station Agent” helmer Thomas McCarthy is looking for a comeback, and it could be in the form of “Spotlight,” his fifth film as director. A crusading-journalism drama in the mold of “All The President’s Men,” this sees a terrific cast, including Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci and Billy Crudup, as the Pulitzer-winning Boston Globe team who exposed sex abuse, and its cover up, in the Catholic Church in the city. It’s obviously a hugely important issue, and with a cast like this and most of his previous form, we hope it’ll be gripping as well as worthy. The film’s already rumored to be opening TIFF — even if it doesn’t, expect it there somewhere, and Venice could be viable too.
Now we’re past the revolving casting door and Sony hack, the Aaron Sorkin-penned, Danny Boyle-directed biopic of the turtle-necked Apple founder is closer and we can feel free to just anticipate the thing. With Michael Fassbender in the lead role, and Seth Rogen, Kate Winslet, Katherine Waterston, Sarah Snook, Michael Stuhlbarg and Jeff Daniels as the men and women in his life, it’s certainly starrier than the Ashton Kutcher version, and hopefully won’t fit into the same biopic traps in the same way. Boyle’s style seems rather toned down from early footage, but it looks to be pleasingly resistant to buying into the cult of Jobs, even if it does seem to be a meditation on the same themes as “The Social Network.” Like that film, we’re guessing a NYFF premiere as the closing or midway gala, but don’t rule out TIFF either.
All it needs for something to become a big Oscar player is to end up surfing the zeitgeist, and given the long-overdue recent spotlight on the treatment of women in film, that could mean “Suffragette,” which examines the votes-for-women movement in Britain in the early 20th century through the eyes of a young woman (Carey Mulligan). Further awards attention comes thanks to the presence of a cameo-ing Meryl Streep (Helena Bonham Carter, Meryl Streep, Anne-Marie Duff and Ben Whishaw are also involved), and there’s a good behind-the-camera team thanks to “Brick Lane” director Sarah Gavron and “The Invisible Woman” writer Abi Morgan. The film (the first ever to film in the Houses of Parliament) is confirmed to open the London Film Festival in October, but it’s billed as a ‘European premiere,’ so expect it at TIFF and Telluride first.
Terrence Malick isn’t the only unprolific filmmaker with the first name Terrence to have a movie waiting in the wings: the great British director Terence Davies has a new one in the bag, only his third fiction feature since the dawn of the 21st century (a work rate that’s actually more sluggish than Malick). Four years on from “The Deep Blue Sea,” this is an adaptation of a beloved Scottish novel , about a young woman Chris, growing up at the turn of the century. Davies has often made unconventional casting choices, and continues that here with supermodel Agyness Deyn, who heads up a mostly unknown cast in which the great Peter Mullan is the most recognizable face. Widely tipped for Cannes, this failed to materialize on the Croisette, so Venice will likely step in: if not, TIFF, where “Deep Blue Sea” premiered, certainly will.
“That’s What I’m Talking About”
We’re always anticipating a new film by Richard Linklater, but when it comes as the follow-up to his hugely acclaimed, Oscar-nominated “Boyhood,” and is described as a spiritual sequel to “Dazed & Confused” (perhaps still his best film), you have all of our attention. Backed by Megan Ellison and being distributed by Paramount (btw, reports that the film’s title changed to “Everybody Wants Some” are inaccurate), the film’s set in college in the 1980s, and revolves in part around baseball, the film’s been in development for a while, but finally got going last fall. The cast is mostly unknowns — Kurt Russell’s son Wyatt Russell is probably the most recognizable name involved, though there’s assorted teen TV veterans from the likes of “Glee” and “Teen Wolf” too — but given Linklater’s eye for talent, we look forward to seeing a new generation of potential stars. Again, Paramount haven’t set a date yet, but unless awards season disrupted post-production badly, Telluride or TIFF (or even NYFF) seem very likely.
The Hollywood blacklist of professionals with communist links, or who refused to testify about such, is still Hollywood’s great shame, and one that’s rarely been dealt with in effective fashion on screen (though Martin Ritt’s “The Front” is worth checking out), but “Trumbo,” directed by “Austin Powers” and “Game Change” helmer Jay Roach, looks to be a good attempt, telling the story of “Roman Holiday” and “Spartacus” writer Dalton Trumbo. Bryan Cranston, in his first big post-“Breaking Bad” move, takes the lead, with a strong cast including Diane Lane, Elle Fanning, Helen Mirren, John Goodman, Michael Stuhlbarg and Louis C.K. We all know the Oscars love movies about Hollywood, so it’ll be intriguing to see if new distributor Bleeker Street can get momentum for it, but a big festival launch will help: this is another one rumored to be opening TIFF, so expect it there either way.
With Brian Williams putting newsman trustworthiness back in the headlines again, it seems like the perfect time for “Truth,” the directorial debut of “Zodiac” screenwriter James Vanderbilt, which examines the 2004 controversy when a “60 Minutes” report revealed documents, which may or may not have been forging, criticizing President George W. Bush’s service record in the Air National Guard, leading to the firing of producer Mary Mapes, and tarnishing the career of veteran reporter Dan Rather. It all sounds winningly “The Insider”-esque, and Vanderbilt has some great talent involved, with Robert Redford as Rather, Cate Blanchett as Mapes (on whose book the film is based), and Elisabeth Moss, Dennis Quaid and Bruce Greenwood also involved. The film shot late last year, so unless Redford’s holding back for his own festival (which he rarely does), this seems like a strong bet for Telluride, where distributors Sony Pictures Classics are usually in force.
Harvey Weinstein normally (over)loads up his slate with Oscar potentials, and often it’s at the fall festivals where he picks what his horse will be. Sometimes a “Philomena” emerges as a surprise, sometimes a movie gets “Railway Man”-ed into the spring. As such, it shouldn’t be read too much into that he’s not dated “Tulip Fever,” a long-gestating adaptation of a novel by “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” author Deborah Moggach, yet. Sure, “Mandela” director Justin Chadwick isn’t hugely inspiring, but this has a script by Tom Stoppard, a varied and terrific cast including Dane DeHaan, Alicia Vikander, Christoph Waltz, Judi Dench, Jack O’Connell and, uh, Zack Galafianakis, and footage we saw at Cannes actually looked kind of cool. Causing a fuss on the festival circuit would definitely help its awards case: Venice, as with “Philomena,” might be viable, otherwise TIFF is likely.
Originally slated for a September release but delayed now until March 2016, there’s no telling if John Hillcoat‘s police heist drama will even make it into fall festival lineups — we can’t tell if it connotes a lack of faith in the movie, which stars Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Winslet, Aaron Paul, Teresa Palmer, Gal Gadot, Woody Harrelson, Anthony Mackie and Clifton Collins, Jr (can that be possible with that cast?) or if it’s simply not ready. Either eventuality makes a fall bow less probable, but if it were to happen, Venice would be a good possibility due to Hillcoat’s “The Road” having played there, with a TIFF berth as a chaser. The release shift should probably give us pause, but we’re really looking forward to this one and so are crossing our fingers and hoping the date change is for some other more benign reason.
“Untitled Kelly Reichardt Project”
Great is the love we bear Kelly Reichardt, so even though her current project, which stars Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern Michelle Williams, Rosanna Arquette and Jared Harris, and is based on a series of small-town short stories by Maile Meloy, is as yet untitled, currently listed as in post and loosely pegged to a 2016 release, we’re putting it on here in the hopes we’ll see it earlier. If it were ready, since Reichardt’s last two films, “Night Moves” and “Meek’s Cutoff” went to Venice, you’d have to lay odds the Lido would get this one too, though she is such a festival darling (“Old Joy” was a Sundance film; “Wendy and Lucy” played Cannes) that we’d imagine there’s a little competition for the title. Still, Venice has the form here if the movie is in the can, and if not, then a 2016 festival berth, maybe even Cannes again would not be impossible.
“Untitled Terrence Malick/Austin Music Scene Project”
So we might be in the odd position of getting a festival glimpse of Malick’s next project, the Austin-music-scene-based drama starring Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender and Ryan Gosling, before his last one has actually hit cinemas, with 2015 Berlinale title “Knight of Cups” not getting a release till 2016. With Malick though, nothing is set in stone, especially as, even after the mixed responses to his last two films, there’s not a festival in the world that wouldn’t love to add a Malick premiere to their slate. Assuming he does not hold out for Cannes 2016 (and he does also have his documentary “Voyage of Time” in the pipeline), Venice might be the obvious choice for the music scene drama formerly rumored to be called “Weightless,” since Malick has recent form there with “To The Wonder.”
“Untitled Warren Beatty/Howard Hughes Project”
It’s been a while since we’ve seen anything of Warren Beatty in any capacity, but it looks like his on-again off-again Howard Hughes film might finally be unveiled. Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Lily Collins, Matthew Broderick, Annette Bening, Taissa Farmiga and ex-notorious womanizer Beatty himself as notorious womanizer Hughes, the film is reportedly finished and has been for a while — it was initially a rumored long-shot for Cannes. Apparently the story of a love affair between Hughes and a much younger actress (though that’s still not 100% confirmed), the starry prestige project would certainly be a sought after prize for a North American premiere, but Beatty’s prior relationship with Venice (his last film, “Bulworth” played In Competition, when Beatty also picked up a lifetime achievement Golden Lion), as well as the “You’re so Vain”-style glamor of the Italian festival makes the Lido a more likely berth.
As big fans of Tobias Lindholm, both in his capacity as screenwriter for regular collaborator Thomas Vinterberg and as director of his own projects like “R” and bruising sea-kidnapping tale “A Hijacking,” we’ll line up to see his next film wherever it opens. Again to star his regular lead Pilou Asbaek, it’s the story of a Danish soldier who makes a split seond decision in Afghanistan that sees him accused of a war crime back home. With Lindholm’s profile rising, it’s very likely to snag an enviable festival slot — indeed we were wishlisting it for a prime Cannes sidebar slot at one point. That didn’t come to pass, so we’re now hoping that it will make an appearance at another major European festival, Venice. “A Hijacking” played in the Horizons sidebar there in 2012, so a return with potentially a main competition slot would seem like a nice progression.
Honorable Mentions: Of course, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what to expect, even excluding the films from Cannes and elsewhere that’ll be repeating, and the already-announced “Everest” (opening Venice) and “The Walk” (opening NYFF). John Le Carré comes to the screen again with Susannah Grant’s “Our Kind Of Traitor,” starring Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris and Stellan Skarsgard, while Chilean mining drama “The 33,” with Antonio Banderas, is sure to crop up too.
Helen Mirren and Aaron Paul delve into the issue of drones in Gavin Hood’s “Eye In The Sky,” Ellen Page and Julianne Moore try to get married in the well-timed “Freeheld,” James Franco directs and stars in Hollywood satire “Zeroville,” “Norwegian Wood” helmer Tran Anh Hung returns with a stellar French cast for “Eternite,” the man behind “Borgman” could be back with “Schneider Vs. Bax,” and Christi Puiu’s “Sierra-Nevada” could be ready.
Will Smith is toplining NFL drama “Concussion,” Nicholas Hoult delves into the darker side of the music biz with “Kill Your Friends,” Maggie Smith will probably be Oscar-nominated for “Lady In The Van,” Rooney Mara and Jim Sheridan team for “The Secret Scripture,” Kurt Russell warms up for “The Hateful Eight” with horror Western “Bone Tomahawk,” John Krasinski directs again with “The Hollars,” Woody Harrelson and Aussie director Kieran Darcy-Smith have neo-Western “By Way Of Helena,” Viggo Mortensen is “Captain Fantastic,” and we suppose Joe Wright’s “Pan” could nab a festival slot somewhere.
As far as stuff we’re not expecting to see, we imagine that Drake Doremus will be back at Sundance with sci-fi “Equals,” starring Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult. Similarly, Michael Fassbender/Brendan Gleeson crime flick “Trespass Against Us” will probably wait, as will Ana Lily Amirpour’s “A Girl Who Walks Home…” follow-up “The Bad Batch” with Keanu Reeves and Jim Carrey, and Brady Corbet’s “Childhood Of A Leader.” Meanwhile, Abdellatif Kechiche’s follow-up to the Palme D’Or-winning “Blue Is The Warmest Color,” “Le Blessure,” is probably Cannes-bound.
But we’ve been wrong before. Anything else you’re expecting to see? What are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments.