Strained metaphor time: Think of Hollywood’s yearly release cycle as a wobbly stool. The two legs that appear to be the same length do most of the heavy lifting; those are the summertime tentpole action flicks and wintertime prestige dramas. Then instead of putting the interests of the sitter (you, the moviegoer) first, the carpenter (Hollywood) uses whatever material is left to hobble together two crappy, uneven planks whose purpose is solely structural; those are the weirdo movies that come out late winter and early fall.
So as we emerge from the brain-hardening sensory overload of the summer superhero glut, the studios are now back to tenderizing our sensibilities ahead of award season with an odd mix of palate cleansers and early Oscar hopefuls. Things are about to get weird.
Kicking things off is The Boxtrolls (9.26), an early contender for Best Animated Feature … which isn’t saying much for a category that feels increasingly like “Best By Default.” Adam Sandler returns to drama in Men, Women, & Children (10.1), and hopefully he’ll fucking stay there because he can be great and we really don’t want to see a Grown Ups 3. David Fincher’s Gone Girl (10.3) is the last glimpse of Ben Affleck’s potential before he destroys that momentum (again) in Kent v. Wayne. As the threat of Batfleck looms, our most beloved Dark Knight actor Michael Keaton returns to form in superhero satire Birdman (10.7), and Robert Downey, Jr. gets back to his pre-Stark roles in The Judge (10.10). Rounding out the season is Christopher Nolan’s mysterious Interstellar (11.7), Jon Stewart’s directorial debut Rosewater (11.7), and Benedict Cumberbatch’s potentially riveting portrayal of persecuted genius Alan Turing in The Imitation Game (11.21).
According to the trailer for Dolphin Tale 2 (9.12), “We don’t know if dolphins can make friends. But we think they can. And that’s not a bad thing.” What is a bad thing, however, is the fact that a human being actually thought that sentence made any kind of sense. Moving on. Liam Neeson strikes what may be a perfect balance between the dramatic roles that made him a household name and the dime-a-dozen grizzled action flicks that got him working again in A Walk Among the Tombstones (9.19). After the success of Red State, Kevin Smith is leaving the Askewniverse even farther behind in favor of horror with Tusk (9.19). Jimi: All Is by My Side (9.26), the controversial Jimi Hendrix biopic that features none of his music and adds an entirely fictional domestic abuse subplot, might be a disaster, but the directorial debut of 12 Years a Slave writer John Ridley and the inspired casting of Andre Benjamin has us curious. Just by his very presence, Denzel Washington makes bad movies good and good movies great, so we still recommend seeing The Equalizer (9.26) even if it’s total dogshit. Terry Gilliam is hit or miss these days, but we’re stoked for his team-up with Christoph Waltz in Zero Theorem (9.19). As evidence that the world can always be a tad more psychotic, we present Nic Cage in the de-Cameronized, big budget adaptation of evangelical post-rapture saga Left Behind. (10.3) And finally, Michael Bay sullies a preexisting IP that no one cares about in Ouija (10.24).