Fall movies mix sure-fire hits with Oscar contenders
The fall movie season used to be the time when you could count on comic-book movies, sequels and remakes to be chased out of the multiplex by more ambitious, adult-oriented fare. But in Hollywood, where it always seems to be summer, the blockbuster has become a year-round fixture.
Even though the first crop of Oscar contenders will start popping up at a theater near you over the next three months, they will still have to compete for your attention against sure-fire box-office juggernauts such as the final chapter in the Hunger Games saga and the latest 007 adventure. There's even a new Rocky movie (sort of).
But for judicious moviegoers, there are also new works by Steven Spielberg, Danny Boyle, Ridley Scott, Denis Villeneuve, Robert Zemeckis and Todd Haynes. There is even a new film from Pixar, one of the few studios that manages to please critics and audiences alike.
Here is a list of movies slated to open through Thanksgiving.
"Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials": After escaping the maze in the first film, Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) and his fellow Gladers must negotiate a dangerous barren landscape in this second installment of the series based on James Dashner's young adult novels.
"Captive": A recovering drug addict (Kate Mara) is held prisoner in her own apartment by a fugitive convict (David Oyelowo).
"Everest": Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes and Jake Gyllenhaal are among the mountain climbers whose attempt to get to the top of Mount Everest in 1996 ended in disaster.
"Black Mass": An unrecognizable Johnny Depp stars as Whitey Bulger, the violent South Boston gangster who became an FBI informant to bring down a rival Mafia family.
"Breathe": The second directorial effort by actress Melanie Laurent ("Inglorious Basterds") about the relationship of two high school girlfriends plays like a cross between a chaste "Blue is the Warmest Color" and "Single White Female."
"Sicario": Director Denis ("Prisoners") Villeneuve's thrilling, provocative look at the moral consequences of the war on drugs centers on an FBI agent (Emily Blunt) assigned to assist a CIA operative (Josh Brolin) and his lawyer consultant (Benicio Del Toro) in a raid against a powerful crime lord based in Juarez, Mexico.
"Pawn Sacrifice": Tobey Maguire stars as the chess prodigy Bobby Fischer, who squared off against the Soviet Union champion (Liev Schreiber) at the height of the Cold War.
"The New Girlfriend": The unpredictable Francois Ozon ("Swimming Pool," "Potiche," "8 Women") returns with this thriller about a woman who learns that the husband of her best friend, who recently passed away, is harboring a big secret.
"Hotel Transylvania 2": Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez and Kevin James return as the voices of the creatures and humans at the monsters-only resort.
"Stonewall": Roland Emmerich ("Independence Day," "Anonymous") directs this drama about the 1969 riots at the Greenwich Village bar that started the gay rights movement.
"The Intern": Robert De Niro stars as a bored 70-year-old retiree who decides to get back in the game by interning at an online fashion site run by Anne Hathaway.
"The Green Inferno": Director Eli ("Hostel") Roth's long-delayed gorefest, about a group of student activists who run afoul of cannibals deep inside the Amazon's rainforests, is an homage to gross-out cult favorites such as 1980's "Cannibal Holocaust."
"The Martian": Matt Damon is an astronaut stranded on Mars, and Kristen Wiig, Jessica Chastain and Chiwetel Ejiofor are among the NASA employees trying to get him home safely in director Ridley Scott's adaptation of Andy Weir's best-selling novel.
"Mississippi Grind": Two friends (Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds) head out on a gambling road trip through the American South.
"London Has Fallen": The unluckiest Secret Service agent (Gerard Butler) in the history of the world must once again protect the president (Aaron Eckhart) from a terrorist attack in this sequel to "Olympus Has Fallen."
"Legend": Tom Hardy pulls double-duty playing twin brothers Reggie and Ron Kray, the notorious gangsters who cut a bloody swath across London in the 1960s.
"The Longest Distance": Venezuelan director Claudia Pinto's film explores the contrast between the city and the countryside and the reconciliation of father and son, mother and daughter across generational divides.
"My All American": A University of Texas football star (Finn Wittrock) relies on the help of his coach (Aaron Eckhart) to confront an unexpected dilemma.
"Big Stone Gap": Adriana Trigiani wrote and directed the film adaptation of her best-selling novel about the lives of a woman (Ashley Judd) and her friends and neighbors (Patrick Wilson, Jane Krakowski, Whoopi Goldberg) in a small town in the Appalachian Mountains.
"Knock Knock": Eli Roth ("Hostel") directs this thriller about a husband and father (Keanu Reeves) spending a weekend at home alone who answers a fateful knock at his door.
"The Walk": Director Robert Zemeckis pushes the limits of 3D technology to deliver a you-are-there perspective in this recounting of the 1974 attempt by French high-wire artist Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to walk a tightrope between the towers of the World Trade Center.
"Steve Jobs": Michael Fassbender plays the controversial genius who founded Apple in this drama adapted from Walter Isaacson's best-selling biography by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin ("The Social Network") and director Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire").
"Pan": Levi Miller is Peter Pan, Hugh Jackman is Blackbeard, Garrett Hedlund is Captain Hook and Rooney Mara is Tiger Lily in this big-budget fantasy that reveals the story leading up to the events in J.M. Barrie's classic novel.
"Goosebumps": Jack Black plays author R.L. Stine in this scary-funny adaptation of his popular children's horror novels.
"Freeheld": After she's diagnosed with cancer, a veteran New Jersey police detective (Julianne Moore) wages a legal battle to be allowed to bequeath her pension to her domestic partner (Ellen Page). Michael Shannon and Steve Carell co-star for director Peter Sollett ("Raising Victor Vargas," "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist").
"Crimson Peak": Director Guillermo del Toro returns to the fantastical horror turf of "Pan's Labyrinth" with this tale about the goings-on inside a creepy house in the mountains where a man (Tom Hiddleston) lives with his sister (Jessica Chastain) and his new bride (Mia Wasikowska).
"Bridge of Spies": Steven Spielberg directs Tom Hanks in this thriller (co-written by Joel and Ethan Coen) about a Brooklyn lawyer assigned by the CIA to negotiate the release of a pilot being held captive by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
"Burnt": A disgraced chef (Bradley Cooper) cleans up his act and tries to recapture his former glory.
"Jem and the Holograms": Aubrey Peeples, Stefanie Scott, Aurora Perrineau and Hayley Kiyoko star in this live-action adaptation of the TV cartoon series about the rise and rise of four sisters who form a girl band.
"Rock the Kasbah": A washed-up rock 'n' roll manager (Bill Murray) takes on a new client: a teenage girl competing in the popular TV show "Afghan Star," Afghanistan's version of "American Idol."
"Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension": AKA The Horror Film Franchise That Wouldn't Go Away.
"The Last Witch Hunter": Vin Diesel stars as mankind's last defense against a tribe of evil witches. No, I'm not making this up.
"Room": Brie Larson ("Short Term 12") stars in this adaptation of Emma Donoghue's novel about the relationship between a mother and the young son kept inside the same room since he was born.
"Suffragette": Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep head the ensemble cast of this drama about the women's rights movement in early 20th century Britain.
"Our Brand is Crisis": Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton star in director David Gordon Green's feature film inspired by the 2005 documentary exploring American political campaign strategists.
"Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse": Three Boy Scouts try to survive the zombie apocalypse. Because Hollywood is running out of ideas to exploit the walking dead genre.
"The Assassin": Hsiao-hsien Hou won the best director prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his first martial arts film, set in ninth-century China.
"The Peanuts Movie": Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy and the rest of Charles M. Schulz's beloved cartoon gang make their 3D debut.
"Spotlight": Mark Ruffalo, Elizabeth McAdams, Michael Keaton and Liev Schreiber star as some of the Boston Globe reporters and editors who successfully investigated the Catholic Church's conspiracy to cover up serial sexual abuse.
"Miss You Already": The lifelong friendship between two inseparable pals (Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette) is tested when one of them receives disastrous news.
"Spectre": Daniel Craig returns as James Bond, and he's bringing his "Skyfall" director Sam Mendes with him.
"Love the Coopers": Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Diane Keaton, Anthony Mackie and Amanda Seyfried are among the members of four generations of a family who reunite to celebrate Christmas together.
"Rings": "Remember the super-creepy horror movie 'The Ring' starring Naomi Watts?" "Sure!" "How about 'The Ring 2,' also starring Naomi Watts?" "Um, not really, no." "OK, well, this is part three, except without Naomi Watts." "Ruh-roh."
"By the Sea": Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (who also wrote and directed) play a married couple who start to drift apart as they travel the French countryside in the 1970s.
"The 33": Patricia Riggen ("Under the Same Moon") directs this drama recounting the harrowing experiences of a group of 33 men who were trapped underground after the collapse of a Chilean mine.
"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2": Civil war finally breaks out in the final chapter of the film series based on Suzanne Collins' novels. More importantly, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) must decide once and for all whether her heart belongs to Peeta (Josh Hutchinson) or Gale (Liam Hemsworth).
"Secret in Their Eyes": Billy Ray ("Shattered Glass," "Breach") directs this Hollywood remake of the Oscar-winning Argentine drama about a pair of FBI agents (Chiwetel Ejiofor and Julia Roberts) who reopen an old unsolved murder case with the help of a lawyer (Nicole Kidman).
"Victor Frankenstein": James McAvoy is the mad scientist with a God complex and Daniel Radcliffe is his loyal assistant, Igor, in this new take on Mary Shelley's classic monster.
"The Good Dinosaur": Pixar Animation's second feature film this year (after "Inside/Out") finds out what would have happened if the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs never hit our planet.
"The Night Before": Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anthony Mackie are three longtime friends who celebrate Christmas Eve every year by heading out on a rampage of R-rated debauchery.
"Creed": Sylvester Stallone relinquishes the creative reins of his most beloved character for the first time. Fruitvale Station writer-director Ryan Coogle takes over and finds out what happens when Rocky Balboa becomes a trainer and mentor to the up-and-coming boxer Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), the son of Balboa's former opponent Apollo Creed.