Fall is here, and the climate is changing. No, I’m not talking about the outdoors — we’ve got a few months left of 80- to 90-degree weather. I’m talking about the climate of film: out with the summer blockbusters and in with the Oscar bait and film-festival favorites. For those of you wondering what exactly there is to look forward to, here’s a preview of some buzz-generating projects that I think are worth highlighting.
“Doctor Strange” (Nov. 4)
Director: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams
“Doctor Strange” is the Marvel universe’s introduction to the world of magic, featuring the origin story of everyone’s favorite Sorcerer Supreme: Doctor Strange. After a tragic car accident leaves famed neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) without the use of his hands, he travels the world looking for a cure to his life-altering affliction. What Strange discovers is that there are realms of reality beyond our own, and what lurks within them may not all be benevolent.
Leave it to Marvel to drop what could be considered a summer blockbuster smack-dab in the middle of the fall. Jokes aside, “Doctor Strange” looks to be a promising blend of mind-bending visuals, horror and the action for which fans have come to know Marvel. Also, when two of your leads have names like Benedict Cumberbatch and Chiwetel Ejiofor, how can you fail?
“Hacksaw Ridge” (Nov. 4)
Director: Mel Gibson
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Teresa Palmer
“Hacksaw Ridge” is Mel Gibson’s big directorial return. An amazing story of courage, the movie follows the true story of Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), a U.S. Army medic and pacifist who saved 75 of his fellow soldiers without ever picking up a weapon.
First, let’s address the elephant in the room: Mel Gibson. Following the controversy of his racist, homophobic, xenophobic and sexist tirade in 2010, Gibson was blacklisted from Hollywood and filmmaking in general. While many would prefer not to see him work again, there is an argument to be made otherwise. Gibson is an incredibly talented filmmaker — many of those who have seen “Braveheart” and the severely underrated “Apocalypto” will attest to that. If you can look beyond the artist to appreciate the art, do so, because “Hacksaw Ridge” is shaping up to be a potential Oscar contender.
“Arrival” (Nov. 11)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Alien spacecraft have arrived and menacingly loom over earth. No one’s quite sure where they’re from or what they want. “Arrival” centers on a linguist (Amy Adams) who is in charge of answering these questions and deescalating what is becoming a threat to humanity.
I’ll be up front: I’m a sucker for cerebral sci-fi a la “2001 A Space Odyssey” or “Blade Runner.” Not so coincidentally, “Arrival” director Denis Villeneuve is reuniting with cinematographer Roger Deakins from last year’s “Sicario” to take on the upcoming “Blade Runner” sequel. “Arrival” has already been met with critical acclaim. Audiences should be sure not to miss Villeneuve’s second major feature.
“La La Land” (Dec. 2)
Director: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, J.K. Simmons
The tail of two up-and-comers, one a jazz musician (Ryan Gosling) and the other an actress (Emma Stone), who find love in Los Angeles in their pursuits for success. An original musical, “La La Land” is already shaping up to be a crowd-pleaser. The film won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival, and Emma Stone won Best Actress for her role at the Venice Film Festival.
“La La Land” is writer/director Damien Chazelle’s third feature film and a follow-up to 2014’s “Whiplash,” my personal favorite movie of that year. What’s more, I can’t remember the time I saw an original musical in theaters and actually enjoyed it. Mark my words, people will be raving about this movie when it drops in December.
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (Dec. 16)
Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn
War is on the horizon. The empire has nearly assembled the Death Star, a super weapon with terrifying capabilities. Taking place between “Star Wars Episode III” and “Star Wars Episode IV,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is the first “Star Wars” spinoff film. “Rogue One” tells the tale of the ragtag rebels who steal the plans of the Death Star. These schematics are the key to the Death Star’s destruction in “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” further tying the franchise together.
As the first “Star Wars” spinoff under the Disney umbrella, this film has a lot riding on it. Gareth Edwards, who directed the 2014 “Godzilla,” is tasked with transporting audiences back into the time period of the origin trilogy. Will it be a massive success? Will this be the first misstep in the revitalized “Star Wars” universe? I don’t have the answers, but regardless, may the force be with this movie always.