White Girl - Sept. 2
With nods to cult classics like “Kids”, the film festival buzzed White Girl is definitely trying hard. Writer-director Elizabeth Wood’s debut has shocked art house audiences with a Snapchat portrait of young female sexuality. The film stars 19-year-old Morgan Saylor (last seen and reviled as Brody’s annoying daughter on “Homeland”), a college coed who falls down the sewer hole of a drug-fueled, sex-crazed summer in New York City. It’s a fun and fearless movie that tends to go for shock value over storytelling, but proves that Wood is a filmmaker to watch — she’s rumored to be the leading candidate for Marvel’s first female starring superhero movie — Ms. Marvel.
Sully - Sept. 9
Say what you will about Clint Eastwood (I’d do it behind his back) and his senile “Pussy Generation” rants, but the old guy still knows how to make popcorn movies that make you think. “Sully” is a biopic based on the autobiography “Highest Duty” co-written by Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, the white-haired, white knuckle pilot who performed the "Miracle on the Hudson" water landing of US Airways Flight 1549 back in 2009. America’s favorite uncle and ubiquitous Oscar-contender, Tom Hanks, plays the title character in what looks like a character examination wrapped in a nail-biting thriller instead of the stereotypical hero-worship biography.
Snowden - Sept. 16
Edward Snowden’s life has played out like an Oliver Stone movie so it’s only fitting that his biopic would be directed by America’s #1 conspiracy theorist. The two-time Oscar winning director likes to stir the pot and this star-studded political spy thriller with Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing Snowden is sure to turn up the heat, especially given it’s release during a contentious presidential election season that has audiences asking themselves whether the WikiLeaks whistleblower is an American hero or Commie traitor.
Blair Witch - Sept. 16
The original “Blair Witch Project” became a phenomenon because we didn’t know what we were watching. Was it real? Fake? Did we piss ourselves because we were scared or from the shaky camera? The found footage sensation ushered in its own movie genre, but the franchise flamed out after we were in on the con and realized that it was nothing more than a schlocky b-horror movie. Now, 17 years later we were surprised again when a horror film originally titled as "The Woods” was unveiled at Comic-Con as the "Blair Witch Project" sequel no one knew was happening. Directed by Adam Wingard (who made the highly underrated “The Guest” — check it out on Netflix), “Blair Witch” centers on a group of college students led by who venture into the Black Hills Forest in Maryland to uncover the legend of the infamous witch and the disappearance of one of the first film's characters.
The Magnificent Seven - Sept. 23
The Magnificent Seven is a remake of a remake (“Exhibit ZZZ” in our case that Hollywood is guilty of running out of ideas) and on paper, this shoot em up western based on the original Seven Samurai classic should be a can't’ miss. It has Denzel Washington looking like a stone cold killer in all-black, Chris Pratt flashing his trademark shit-eating grin and it’s co-written by Nic Pizzolatto of “True Detective” fame (is that a good thing still?). If that weren’t enough you’ve got Ethan Hawke reuniting with Denzel and their “Training Day” director Antione Fuqua and and the always awesome Peter Sarsgaard as the film's villain, so maybe lightening can strike twice.
The Birth of a Nation - Oct. 7
This Sundance Grand Jury Prize Winning biopic about Nat Turner, the man who famously led a slave rebellion in 1831, has a backstory worthy of a movie itself. Nate Parker couldn’t find any challenging roles as a young African male actor so he created his own opportunities: writing, directing and starring in the title role of this DIY movie that was eventually bought for a record $17.5 million (the largest deal at Sundance to date), making it an instant Oscar favorite. Turner’s fairy tale took a dark turn recently when the social media spotlight looked into his troubled past that included rape charges against him and "Birth of a Nation” co-writer Jean Celestin, who were roommates at Penn State. The stranger than fiction plot took an even more tragic turn when it was revealed that the alleged rape victim committed suicide a few years ago. Turner has since expressed his remorse over the situation, while still denying the rape charges (Celestin was convicted, but was later acquitted), but regardless it will be interesting to see if an incendiary movie that includes a brutal rape scene will be overshadowed by the filmmaker himself.
The Accountant - Oct. 14
“The Accountant” looks like Ben Affleck’s answer to BFF Matt Damon’s “Bourne” franchise. Affleck plays an introverted mathematics savant who is as good with a gun as he is a spreadsheet. Using a small-town CPA office as a cover, he makes his living as a freelance accountant for dangerous criminal organizations. Affleck the actor has always been a hit-and-mostly miss, so it remains to be seen if he can truly transition back into a film-carrying star. After Batman, the jury is still out.
Keeping Up with the Joneses - Oct. 21
The only thing Hollywood loves more than rehashing old ideas is mixing-and-matching ones that worked. This action-comedy is about an ordinary suburban couple (Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher) who uncover that their perfect new neighbors (John Hamm and Gal Gadot) are government secret agents. If it sounds like a cross between “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” and “Neighbors” you’re probably right, but then again, both hit movies scored with audiences so the bar is high.
Dr. Strange - Nov. 4
Marvel’s latest superhero movie centers on the mystical “Dr. Strange” played by Benedict Cumberbatch. While Cumberbatch’s casting is on point, there was major fanboy WTF backlash when Tilda Swinton was cast to play one of the film’s other leads, Strange’s teacher, The Ancient One. Aside from that, it will be interesting to see how far Marvel breaks from the “basic” superhero movie formula but the supernatural elements and mind-bending special effects of the first two trailers has us incredibly excited. If past "off-kilter" Marvel films, like Guardians of the Galaxy, are any indication, this one should be an incredible thrill ride.
The Arrival - Nov. 11
Director Denis Villeneuve (“Sicario”) is one of the most exciting directors working today and word is that “The Arrival” is his best movie yet. The sci-fi drama starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner has a familiar plot — an elite team of humans tries to figure out a way to communicate with an alien landing party, but Villeneuve is an out-of-the-box talent who spins genre on its head with stunning visuals and tricky turns, so expect the unexpected.