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A few fine films for fall 2017

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So I’m a little late with this year’s fall movie preview. What can I say? Things have been busy.

But not so busy that I was unable to take a look at some of the fascinating offerings that this autumn has in store for us. Sure, we’ve already seen what will likely prove to be one of the fall’s biggest box office successes (“IT”). And we’ve seen what will almost certainly be the fall’s most polarizing wide release (my review of “mother!” is actually in this week’s edition).

That said, there’s still plenty of autumn gold for us to experience at the cineplex.

You like comic book movies? There are offerings from both big-deal superhero cinematic universes as well as a sequel to a popular adaptation from a couple of years ago. There are a couple of high-profile sequels – some of beloved classics, others of … let’s just say less beloved not-really classics. There some solid biopics and a few prestige pictures and a handful of genre offerings as well.

Here’s a peek at what’s coming to nearby silver screens over the next couple of months.

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SEPTEMBER

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (Sept. 22)

“Kingsman: The Secret Service” was a happy surprise when it came along in early 2015. The comic book-based action spy thriller gave us an engaging world and some delightfully kinetic action sequences while turning Mr. Darcy into a badass. A proper upper-class British badass, but a badass nonetheless. So it’s no surprise that we’re getting a sequel. Everybody is back – writer/director Matthew Vaughn, stars Colin Firth, Taron Egerton and Mark Strong – while adding some serious heavy hitters in Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry and Jeff Bridges. That’s the cast of an Oscar vehicle, not a comic book action flick. All the pieces are here for this to be a top-notch moviegoing experience. Heck – Elton John is apparently in this movie. If this one can capture the anarchic spirit of the original and strike that same lovely note of over-the-top cartoonishness, it’ll almost certainly be loads of fun.

Battle of the Sexes (Sept. 22)

The legendary 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs was a watershed moment in the history of not only American sports, but in the history of the fight for gender equality. It’s such an obviously cinematic conflict that it’s kind of surprising that we haven’t already seen it get the prestige picture treatment. Better late than never, though – with Emma Stone and Steve Carell starring as King and Riggs, you really couldn’t have asked for a better-suited pairing. The supporting cast is rife with solid performers, while the directors (Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris) and screenwriter (Simon Beaufoy) make up a quality production team. It’s a sports movie and a period piece and a recreation of a legitimately important moment in this country’s recent history. I expect this one to get some dark horse awards buzz going forward.

American Made (Sept. 29)

It wouldn’t be a fall movie preview without a Tom Cruise movie. While 2017 hasn’t been great for Cruise (see “The Mummy”), this one looks like it might have some potential. Based on the true (well, true-ish) story of pilot/drug smuggler/DEA informant Barry Seal, “American Made” features just the sort of likable rogue that Cruise loves to play. Plus, he’s teamed up again with director Doug Liman, whose “Edge of Tomorrow” back in 2014 is almost certainly the best Tom Cruise vehicle of the past decade. It’s not the typical Cruise-as-superhero action movie, either – no Ethan Hunt “Mission: Impossible” nonsense here – and that might play in its favor. It all boils down to whether Cruise can sufficiently tamp down his inherent Cruise-ness and allow a realistic story to be told. If he can, this could potentially turn out to be a surprisingly good movie.

Flatliners (Sept. 29)

Full disclosure: the original 1990 “Flatliners” has a special place in my heart. It was one of the movies in heavy rotation on HBO when my family first got it, so I saw it A LOT. And with that top-shelf Brat Packy cast – Julia Roberts, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt, a lesser Baldwin – playing med students stopping their own hearts to find out what the afterlife looks like, how could I not love it? Nearly three decades later, we’re getting a new one that looks to be really leaning into the darker aspects of the original film without any of the weird campiness that made that movie so watchable. It doesn’t have nearly the star power, either – Ellen Page is the closest they get, although Sutherland apparently reprises his role in the original. Honestly, someone should have probably signed a do not resuscitate order.

(Other notables: “The Lego Ninjago Movie” and “Stronger” – Sept. 22; ‘Til Death Do Us Part – Sept. 29)

OCTOBER

Blade Runner 2049 (Oct. 6)

I’ve been a Philip K. Dick nerd for a long time. And while “Blade Runner” bears only a passing resemblance to its inspirational source material, it still has the grimy, paranoid hallmarks of Dick at his best. And by the looks of things, this sequel does too. You’ve got Ryan Gosling as a new Blade Runner forced to seek out his long-disappeared predecessor (Harrison Ford reprising his role as Rick Deckard). You’ve got a script co-written by “Blade Runner” OG Hampton Fancher and sci-fi superstar Michael Green. And you’ve got Denis Villeneuve as the director; if you can think of a better match for the future-noir vibe of “Blade Runner,” I’d love to hear it. Put it all together and you’ve got a movie that could potentially be a new sci-fi classic. But woe be to them all if it fails to live up to some extremely high expectations.

The Foreigner (Oct. 13)

I hadn’t even heard of this movie before a few weeks ago, but when I learned what the deal was, I was unabashedly intrigued. Jackie Chan stars as a London businessman whose shady past catches up to him and results in the death of his teenage daughter; he then proceeds to go full on Liam Neeson on everyone who stands in his way as he attempts to exact revenge for her senseless death. Yeah – it’s Jackie Chan’s “Taken” and I could not possibly be more hyped for this movie. Oh wait – Pierce Brosnan is the bad guy? Just got more hyped. Look, I freely acknowledge that this movie might be (heck, almost certainly will be) formulaic and cheesy as all get out. I. Do. Not. Care. Jackie Chan is going to put his own particular set of skills on display and I can’t wait.

Geostorm (Oct. 20)

What do you get when the hottest sci-fi screenwriter of the mid-to-late 1990s is inspired to take to the director’s chair after ending a decade’s hiatus with an unnecessary sequel to one of his big hits? You get “Geostorm,” the directorial debut of Dean Devlin, best known for partnering with Roland Emmerich on “Stargate,” “Godzilla” and both “Independence Day” movies. In a near-future world where satellites control the climate, things go wrong – as they do – and only astronaut Gerard Butler can save the day. I can only hope that the movie is as utterly ridiculous as the synopsis makes it out to be; it actually feels like a movie that would have come out in 1996. I’m not sure if that should be taken as a compliment, though that’s definitely how I mean it. If nothing else, I like this one’s unintentional comedy potential.

Jigsaw (Oct. 27)

I’m no snob when it comes to film franchises. There are plenty of “bad” movies that I find delightful. However, I must admit that part of me was glad when 2010’s “Saw 3D” was proclaimed the final movie in that increasingly uninspired series. Alas, you can’t keep a good murderous puppet or whatever down, I guess. “Jigsaw” marks a new entry in the gory horror series, one that claims to be taking the story in a new direction. Frankly, I’ll believe it when I see it. Few franchises have ever managed to be quite so textbook an example of the law of diminishing returns as the “Saw” movies. Maybe I’m wrong and this will be a clever and self-aware reinvigoration of the concept. Or maybe I’ll be the one wishing someone would saw off my foot so that I might escape another boring horror retread.

(Other notables: “The Mountain Between Us” and “My Little Pony: The Movie” – Oct. 6; “Happy Death Day” – Oct. 13; “The Snowman” and “Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween” – Oct. 20; “Suburbicon” – Oct. 27)

NOVEMBER

Thor: Ragnarok (Nov. 3)

Obviously, I’m going to write about the Marvel movie, right? It’s another foray into the spandex-clad revenue stream that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thor is back with his third solo movie, one that finds him forced into gladiatorial combat on a distant world in order to save Asgard. The Hulk features prominently here – always nice to get some Ruffalo action – while Tom Hiddleston turns up as still-best-MCU-villain-ever Loki. Plus we get Cate Blanchett as the big bad and Jeff Goldblum as an Elder of the Universe. All indications are that this movie maintains the usual Marvel balance between action, humor and heart; certainly more so than the last solo Thor offering (perhaps the weakest of Phase 2). As long as it doesn’t buckle under the weighty necessity of carrying water for the overall “Avengers” arc, this one should be a blast.

Murder on the Orient Express (Nov. 10)

It has been a while since we’ve seen a massive adaptation of one of Agatha Christie’s classic mysteries. This is one of the big ones, and it has attracted an all-star team of talent on both sides of the camera. Kenneth Branagh both directs and stars as legendary Christie detective Hercule Poirot, who is tasked with solving a murder that has taken place on the legendary train. The star power of the rest of the cast is frankly astonishing; Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi – it’s a murderer’s row of talent. Plus, the adaptation was done by the aforementioned Michael Green (see “Blade Runner 2049”), so we can expect justice to be done to the novel. It’s a classic mystery that looks lavish and sharp, an apt introduction of Christie to a whole new generation of moviegoers.

Justice League (Nov. 17)

And here we have November’s other superhero offering. The DC cinematic universe hasn’t quite been able to reach the admittedly-high bar set by Marvel; it remains to be seen whether this one will be the one to finally break through. One can only hope that they see the error of their ways with regards to playing catch up and find a way to commit to a pace that will allow for proper narrative and character development. Or, we can watch as they squander the good will built up by their exceptional “Wonder Woman” from earlier this year. Gal Gadot is flat-out phenomenal, I’m still onboard with the Batfleck and I think Jason Momoa might be the one dude in Hollywood who can actually make Aquaman transcend lameness. Still, the behind the scenes chaos – director Zack Snyder giving way to Joss Whedon for reshoots – means that it’s hard to figure just how good (or bad) this one might be.

Death Wish (Nov. 22)

This Eli Roth-helmed remake of the gritty 1974 Charles Bronson vigilante classic is problematic for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I worry how Three Pint Stance author and “Death Wish” connoisseur Tim Bissell is going to react. But secondly, considering the current cultural climate, a movie about Bruce Willis in a hoodie going around and exacting bullet-riddled justice on what I can only assume will be an unending wave of urban gang members seems a bit tone-deaf at best. Not that the story couldn’t make for an engaging and thought-provoking, but Roth isn’t exactly known for nuanced filmmaking. Nor is Willis the greatest at subtlety of performance. I’ll grant that it probably didn’t seem like a bad idea when it was greenlit, but now that we’ve arrived at this point, “Death Wish” kind of feels like an unfortunate misfire.

(Other notables: “A Bad Moms Christmas” Nov. 3; “Daddy’s Home 2” – Nov. 10; “Wonder” – Nov. 17; “Coco” Nov. 22)

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