The 2014 domestic box office is down 6 percent from where it was this time last year, by about half a billion dollars. Sure, the foreign box office is picking up some of the slack, but it still raises the stakes very high for Hollywood this fall season.
This week we will preview the fall releases most likely to bring in big audiences, then next week we’ll look at the less mainstream releases. Here’s hoping the temperature inside the cinema is hotter during the cool months than it has been so far.
Sept. 26: Denzel Washington plays McCall, a man who believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when McCall meets Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can’t stand idly by. He has to help her.
Director Antoine Fuqua and Washington, who worked together on “Training Day,” revive the 1980s British television series. Don’t expect originality, but this looks entertaining.
Oct. 3: On the occasion of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) reports his beautiful wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), has gone missing. Under pressure from the police and a growing media frenzy, Nick’s portrait of a blissful union begins to crumble. Soon his lies, deceits and strange behavior have everyone asking the same dark question: Did Nick Dunne kill his wife?
Gillian Flynn’s pulpy, best-selling novel will not be easy to adapt, but director David Fincher is perfectly suited to this material.
Oct. 17: As the Allies make their final push in the European Theater in April 1945, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Outnumbered and outgunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.
Director David Ayer has made his reputation on gritty, contemporary crime dramas such as “End of Watch.” Here, he brings his action sensibilities to a period war movie with a star-studded cast.
“The Best of Me”
Oct. 17: Based on the best-selling novel by acclaimed author Nicholas Sparks ... and that’s really all you need to know. Two former high school sweethearts find themselves reunited after 20 years when they return to their small town for the funeral of the beloved friend. Fans of Sparks should be happy. Well, once the crying is over, that is.
Oct. 17: A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.
Thanks to an intriguing trailer and early rave reviews, this is one of the most anticipated films of the season.
“The Book of Life”
Oct. 17: This fantasy-adventure tells the legend of Manolo, a conflicted hero and dreamer who sets off on an epic quest through magical, mythical and wondrous worlds in order to rescue his one true love and defend his village.
Built around the Day of the Dead celebration and produced by Guillermo del Toro, this looks distinctive and might be a surprise hit.
Oct. 31: Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Lou Bloom, a driven young man desperate for work who discovers the high-speed world of L.A. crime journalism. Finding a group of freelance camera crews who film crashes, fires, murder and other mayhem, Lou muscles into the cut-throat, dangerous realm of nightcrawling, where each police siren wail equals a possible windfall and victims are converted into dollars and cents.
Gyllenhaal’s manic performance was one of the biggest stories out of the Toronto International Film Festival, and the early buzz is this might one of the year’s best.
Nov. 7: “Interstellar” chronicles the adventures of a group of explorers who make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage. It’s Christopher Nolan with another interesting concept and great cast. Enough said.
“Big Hero 6”
Nov. 7: Robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada learns to harness his genius, thanks to his brilliant brother Tadashi and their like-minded friends: adrenaline junkie Go Go Tamago, neatnik Wasabi, chemistry whiz Honey Lemon and fanboy Fred. When a devastating turn of events catapults them into the midst of a dangerous plot unfolding in the streets of San Fransokyo, Hiro turns to his closest companion — a robot named Baymax — and transforms the group into a band of high-tech heroes determined to solve the mystery.
Nov. 14: Based on the true story of Mark Schultz, an Olympic wrestler whose relationship with sponsor John du Pont and brother Dave Schultz would lead to unlikely circumstances.
Word has it Steve Carell’s performance puts an end to the Best Actor discussion before it even starts. Don’t miss this one.
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1”
Nov. 21: Katniss not only has to save the Districts, she is Hollywood’s best bet to raise overall revenues to respectable levels. But this franchise has its work cut out for it, because “Mockingjay” is by far the worst of the three novels in the series. “Mockingjay Part 1” will undoubtedly earn unprecedented box office dollars, but the filmmakers will have to improve on the book in this case, or the final movie in the series could be a huge disappointment
Jeff Marker is head of the Communication, Media & Journalism Department at the University of North Georgia. His reviews appear weekly in Get Out and on gainesvilletimes/getout.