“About Ray” (September 18)
Elle Fanning has long been on the cusp of a major breakout role, thanks to her steadily evolving oeuvre (that Fanning is the second sister to seamlessly translate from child star to adult actress shouldn’t surprise, it seems to be their M.O.) and a filmography marked by director-driven offerings. In Gaby Dellal’s TIFF premiere, the younger Fanning plays Ray, a teenager in the midst of transitioning to better suit his gender identity. Although his close-knit family — including Naomi Watts and Susan Sarandon — approach the situation with love and respect, things get complicated when Ray’s estranged father (Tate Donovan) becomes involved (and recent comments from the film’s director have reflected an uncomfortable disconnect between the material and her take on it). The film’s first trailer struck an odd tone between honest drama and raucous family-centric comedy, though the talent involved is more than heartening and Fanning’s dedication to the role seems singular. This one has real potential, and we’re anxious to see how it delivers this season.
“Black Mass” (September 18)
Johnny Depp has spent the better part of the last decade taming his adult sensibilities for family-friendly Disney audiences, and the few times he’s catered to serious-minded moviegoers — “The Tourist” (2010), “Transcendence” (2014) — the results have been truly disastrous. Fortunately, Scott Cooper’s “Black Mass” looks to be the Depp comeback vehicle we’ve been desperately waiting for. With a receding hairline, a gravely Boston accent and a pair of ghostly eyes, Depp seems downright sinister in the role of James “Whitey” Bulger, the notorious Boston gangster who became an FBI informant from the ’70s to the early ’90s in order to eliminate criminal competition. Adding further anticipation for the film is its acclaimed source material — the book of the same name by Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth — its Venice Film Festival world premiere date, and an ensemble cast that includes Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard and more. Writer-director Cooper has nailed a violent, brooding atmosphere before in “Out of the Furnace,” and this drama should play to those strengths while offering Depp another chance to blow us away.
“Everest” (September 25)
Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur continues to make his move into American cinema — he recently directed “2 Guns” and a remake of his own “Contraband” — and “Everest” poses a major undertaking for the filmmaker, his very own mountain to climb. Packed with a top-tier cast, including Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Keira Knightley and Josh Brolin, and a heart-stopping premise, the Venice opener has the potential to thrill and chill audiences, but it remains to be seen how much genuine emotion and true human drama Kormákur can include in the mix. With a festival pedigree behind it, cinephiles ready to deride it as another 3D spectacle may want to give it another look. Of course, it can be that too, but if there’s something deeper there, it’s worth exploring.
“Stonewall” (September 25)
Roland Emmerich’s latest has already stirred up quite a bit of controversy in the wake of its first trailer release, a small slice of marketing that made it clear that the historically rooted film may not be as grounded in fact as its viewership are hungry for. Still, the team behind the film promises that their fact-based feature comes from a place of love and respect for the participants in the Stonewall Riots. It’s hard to judge that sentiment from a trailer alone, but the film will soon show on the fall festival circuit, including TIFF, before getting an official release this season. If nothing else, it shows Emmerich’s continued dedication to breaking away from the world-busting action features that have so dominated his career, even if the final result could stand a hefty dose of veracity.
“The Walk” (September 30, limited; October 9, wide)
“Freeheld” (October 2)
“Legend” (October 2)
“The Martian” (October 2)
You’ve seen Matt Damon stranded on a planet before. You’ve seen Jessica Chastain stranded on Earth before. You’ve seen Ridley Scott grapple with near-future worlds featuring robots and aliens. But “The Martian” is promising to be something altogether different. Based on the best-selling self-published novel by Andy Weir, the sci-fi feature stars Damon as an astronaut left behind during a dangerous mission on Mars. The film is said to match the novel’s unique tone: It embraces a bleak situation with levity and infuses rigorous science with a casual first-person feel. Over the past couple years, Ridley quietly assembled an all-star crew — Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Donald Glover and Chiwetel Ejiofor — to play Damon’s devoted fellow earthlings determined to rescue him from solitary confinement on Mars.
“Steve Jobs” (October 9)
Danny Boyle’s portrait of America’s tortured genius is arguably the most highly-anticipated film of 2015. The sharp-witted Aaron Sorkin penned the script, which follows Jobs, played by Michael Fassbender, through Apple’s initial product launches and behind the scenes of the digital revolution. Broken up into three 30-minute scenes, the film concludes with the 1998 launch of the iMac. The trailer showcases stark and stunning cinematography as it sets up the epic events that would change technology forevermore. Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen and Katherine Waterston also star.
“Bridge of Spies” (October 16)
Few Hollywood pairings are as enticing as Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Whether collaborating behind the scenes as producers (“Band of Brothers”) or at the forefront of projects as director and actor (“Saving Private Ryan,” “Catch Me If You Can”), the duo have been a consistent high mark of cinema and television for over two decades now. Cold War thriller “Bridge of Spies” finds the two reuniting for the first time since “The Terminal” to tell the true story of James Donovan, a Brooklyn lawyer who gets entangled with the CIA in order to negotiate the release of a captured American U-2 pilot. With Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan and Alan Alda in supporting roles, Spielberg’s longtime DP Janusz Kaminski back behind the camera and the Coen Brothers helping out on the screenplay, “Bridge of Spies” has almost too much amazing talent to be true. Color us very, very excited.
“Crimson Peak” (October 16)
“Room” (October 16)
Brie Larson took the indie world by storm in 2013 with her acclaimed, Gotham Award-winning performance in “Short Term 12,” and she looks to do it again this fall thanks to her lead role in the highly anticipated “Room.” Adapted by Emma Donoghue from her bestselling novel of the same name, the drama centers around a mother and her five-year-old son (newcomer Jacob Tremblay) who have been living in captivity in a small room for a number of years. Fans have long thought the book was impossible to translate to the big screen, but director Lenny Abrahamson, who last showed an assured vision behind the camera in “Frank,” reached out to Donoghue directly to convince her of the novel’s cinematic possibilities. As fans of the book already know, the finished result should be a powerhouse drama about the bonds between mother and son.
“Truth” (October 16)
“Truth” has got to be one of the biggest question marks of the fall season. The cast is undeniably strong, with Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford in the leads and Dennis Quaid, Elisabeth Moss, Topher Grace and Bruce Greenwood in support, but the drama is the directing debut of action-oriented screenwriter James Vanderbilt (“White House Down,” “The Amazing Spider-Man” franchise) and not a single trailer has been released, even though the film is less than a month away from screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. Still, Vanderbilt wrote the script for David Fincher’s dense “Zodiac,” which brought a frightening intensity to a journalistic investigation, something that should bode well for this story about CBS news anchor Dan Rather and the controversial Killian documents scandal. Considering both Redford and Blanchett have been at the height of their powers lately (see “All is Lost” and “Carol”), the chance to see them opposite one another can’t be missed.
“Suffragette” (October 23)
Featuring a stacked cast of female talent in front of and behind the camera, Sarah Gavron’s “Suffragette” promises to provide a lightly fictionalized look at the beginning of the feminist movement in the UK. Starring Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Romola Garai, the girl power vibe in this one is strong, just as it should be. Penned by “Shame” and “The Iron Lady” scribe Abi Morgan, the film will likely thread together the personal and the political to provide a fuller look at the battles waged in the early part of the suffragette movement by unstoppable women who fought to be heard.
“The Wonders” (October 30)
Alice Rohrwacher’s latest walked away from Cannes with a Grand Jury Prize, a Palme d’Or nomination and plenty of lavished (and very well-deserved) praise. Loosely based on the filmmaker’s own life, “The Wonders” stars Rohrwacher’s own sister Alba (who recently stunned audiences with her turn in the jarring “Hungry Hearts”) as a version of the pair’s own mother. The family-centric drama is mostly concerned with telling an intimate family story, but Rohrwacher’s eye for details and lush lensing should also make it a feast for the eyes, as well as the heart.
“Our Brand is Crisis” (October 30)
Indie darling David Gordon Green has dipped his toe in star-packed fare before, but the results have been widely mixed, with “Pineapple Express” sparking to audiences while both “The Sitter” and “Your Highness” fell mostly flat. Despite Green’s own interest in broader comedies, he looks to be finally marrying his earlier dramatic sensibilities with pointed humor in “Our Brand is Crisis.” Based on the documentary of the same name, Green’s latest centers on political campaign maneuvering in South America, as headed up by Sandra Bullock as fixer “Calamity” Jane Bodine. A strong supporting cast, including Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie and Zoe Kazan, further up the film’s cred, giving Green a fresh chance to shine in the studio space.
“Trumbo” (November 6)
“Spotlight” (November 6)
Looking to rebound after the critically maligned comedy “The Cobbler” earlier this year, writer-director Thomas McCarthy is in good hands with a star-studded ensemble and a plot ripped from one of the biggest headlines of all time. Starring Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery and Stanley Tucci, the drama tells the riveting true story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe team that investigated allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church. Their year-long search for the truth uncovered a cover-up at the highest level of Boston’s religious, legal and government establishments and ignited a wave of controversy and revelations around the world. McCarthy, best known for small human dramas and strong character work, paints his biggest canvas yet on this ambitious drama, and his incredible cast is too promising to miss in action.
“By the Sea” (November 13)
“Secret in Their Eyes” (November 20)
“Creed” (November 25)
Nearly everyone in the indie community was waiting with anticipation to hear what project Ryan Coogler would take on after the staggering success of “Fruitvale Station.” When it was announced he’d be directing “Creed,” a spin-off of the “Rocky” franchise centered around Apollo Creed’s son, it turned quite a few heads. However, the project slowly started coming together, with “Fruitvale” breakout Michael B. Jordan stepping into the lead role opposite Sylvester Stallone and a dramatically talented supporting cast, including Tessa Thompson and Phylicia Rashad. When the stunning first trailer dropped, it was clear this was a sports movie to get very, very excited about. In what looks to be a continuation of the “Rocky” universe but a revitalization of the aesthetic approach to the series (Coogler is going more grounded than ever for a look at sports and urban life), “Creed” should have no problem becoming the heavyweight of 2015 boxing dramas.
“The Danish Girl” (November 27)
Poised to be a perfect combination of rising star power — from current it girl Alicia Vikander to newly minted Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne — and fascinating historical drama, Tom Hooper’s “The Danish Girl” seems guaranteed to set the awards circuit alight this season. At its heart, the film promises to be a classic love story, but its timely nature should also set it apart as a tale still relevant to today’s world. Complete with a Alexandre Desplat score, the art-infused feature will likely look and sound stellar, but we’re banking on this one to give us sterling performances that should carry over well into 2016.
“I Saw the Light” (November 27)
Tom Hiddleston may have rocketed into the Hollywood stratosphere thanks to his indelible turns in the Marvel universe, but the actor has true chops and appears to finally be able to show them off to a wider audience thanks to his upped recognizablity and a meaty role in Marc Abraham’s Hank Williams biopic. With Elizabeth Olsen by his side as Williams’ wife Audrey Mae, the film will probably find plenty of time to pile on the romance and classic jams. If nothing else, Hiddleston in a cowboy hat is certainly something new. Bring on the country twang.
“In the Heart of the Sea” (December 11)
Going head to head with “Star Wars” would be a David and Goliath-type box office battle for any title, yet that somehow is only fitting for Ron Howard’s epic “In the Heart of the Sea.” Starring Chris Hemsworth (his second collaboration with Howard after “Rush”), Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Ben Whishaw and Brendan Gleeson, the historical disaster film recounts the story that inspired Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” During an 1820 voyage, the whaleship Essex is sunk by a large bull sperm whale, forcing the crew to survive on the open ocean for 90 days and fight the untamed beast. The last time Howard brought stranded adventurers to the big screen, it was the miraculous “Apollo 13,” and we’re certainly hoping he’s able to scale those dramatic heights for this harrowing drama about the resiliency of the human spirit.
“The Hateful Eight” (December 25)
“Joy” (December 25)
In keeping with David O. Russell’s interest in left-of-center characters, “Joy” is the untold story of the inventor of the Miracle Mop. Jennifer Lawrence plays Joy Mangano, a single mother of three who hustles to achieve the American Dream. Though she starts out with the intention of providing for her children, Joy eventually succeeds in building an empire. She encounters betrayal and ill will along the way; in the end, she has only her sheer will and fierce imagination to thank for her rollicking accomplishments. It’s a classic rags-to-riches story, and, of course, it also stars Bradley Cooper.
“Snowden” (December 25)
“The Revenant” (December 25)
We’ve all heard the reports by now that the conditions on “The Revenant” set were “a living hell.” From long shoot days in the brutal cold to disagreements that led to defections to a budget that doubled to accommodate so many schedule changes, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s unrelenting methods tested the sanity of his crew. But, in true Inarritu fashion, the director promises the strife will be worthwhile. Judging from the trailer, he’s yet again right on the money. Longtime collaborator and Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki delivers breathtaking frames in the wilderness suffused with natural light. The Western revenge story, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a 19th century frontiersman, looks to be a thrilling experience told with the precision and beauty that only Inarritu and Lubezki are capable of.