Following summers of superheroes, aliens, action, adventure, special effects and over-the-top comedies, fall is a quieter time at the movies. After Labor Day, there’s room for serious drama, thoughtful scripts, more thoroughly realized characters and introspective performances. Smaller films, artistically ambitious projects, even challenging subjects can find space at the cineplex.
Movies scheduled to open between Friday and late November include the deep crime drama, “The Drop,” featuring a great performance by the late James Gandolfini; and Oscar nominee Robert Downey Jr. and Oscar winners Robert Duvall and Billy Bob Thornton in the comedy-drama “The Judge.”
Director Christopher Nolan, best known for his artful “Batman” trilogy, may have an early Oscar contender with “Interstellar.” The film’s stellar cast includes Oscar winners Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Ellen Burstyn and Michael Caine and Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain.
There may also be much interest in “Rosewater,” a drama written and directed by comedian Jon Stewart. The film is based on journalist Mazir Bahari’s memoir about his captivity in a brutal Iranian prison.
The following films are Red’s choices of the upcoming films most likely to be among the fall movie season’s best. Films are arranged according to opening dates. Dates are subject to change and may vary from city to city.
Red picks for fall movies
THE DROP— Oscar-nominated director Michaël R. Roskam helms this crime drama from a screenplay by Dennis Lehane (“Mystic River”). Tom Hardy plays a nondescript Brooklyn bartender who works with his bitter cousin, Marv, former owner of the bar. Marv was reduced to bar manager after he lost ownership of the bar to the Chechen mob. The late James Gandolfini co-stars as the unscrupulous Marv, one of his finest performances. Opening Sept. 12 in New Orleans. TBA in Baton Rouge.
PRIDE— An unlikely alliance develops in 1984 after Britain’s National Union of Mineworkers goes on strike, raising the ire of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. A group of gay and lesbian activists in London decides to raise money to support the striking workers’ families. Rebuffed by the national union, the group carries on by delivering its donation in person to a small mining village in Wales. The cast includes Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West and Paddy Considine. Opening in limited release.
THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU— Mixing comedy and drama, “This is Where I Leave You” follows four world-weary adult siblings as they return home for their father’s funeral. Based on the best-selling novel by Jonathan Tropper, the film features Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver and Rose Byrne.
THE EQUALIZER— Oscar winner Denzel Washington stars as McCall, a man who believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and found a new, quiet life. But then he meets Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young woman under the brutal heels of Russian gangsters. Compelled to help, McCall leaves retirement and applies his unique skills to saving Teri.
THE BOXTROLLS — From the makers of “Coraline” and “ParaNorman,” this animated film introduces audiences to the Boxtrolls, a community of mischievous creatures who live in a cavernous home beneath the streets of a town called Cheesebridge. The Boxtrolls lovingly raised an orphaned human boy named Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright). When the town’s villain, Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley), plots to destroy the Boxtrolls, Eggs ventures above ground, meets the feisty Winnie (Elle Fanning) and, together, they devise a plan to save the Boxtrolls.
GONE GIRL— David Fincher (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Fight Club”) directs this adaptation of the bestseller by Gillian Flynn. Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), on the occasion of his fifth wedding anniversary, reports that his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), is missing. Pressed by police and the media, Nick’s image of a blissful marriage crumbles.
THE JUDGE— Oscar nominee Robert Downey Jr. stars as a big city lawyer who returns to his hometown, where his estranged father, a judge, is suspected of murder. Billed as a comedy-drama, the film also features Vera Farmiga, Oscar winner Robert Duvall, Vincent D’Onofrio and Oscar winner Billy Bob Thornton. David Dobkin (“Wedding Crashers”) directs.
MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN— Teenagers and their parents deal with the many ways that the Internet has changed their lives. Video games, anorexia, infidelity, lust for fame and the abundance of illicit material on the Internet come into play. Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air,” “Juno”) directs Kaitlyn Dever, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ansel Elgort and Jennifer Garner in this mix of comedy and drama.
FURY— Brad Pitt, star of Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 World War II drama, “Inglourious Basterds,” returns to the front as tough army sergeant Wardaddy. In April 1945, the Allies are making their final push against the Nazis. Wardaddy leads his five-man tank crew on a heroic strike against the heart of Germany. Logan Lerman and Shia LaBeouf co-star.
BIRDMAN— This dark comedy directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu features Michael Keaton as a has-been actor who’s famous for portraying a superhero. Keaton’s character is simultaneously struggling to stage a Broadway play, battle his ego and save his family, his career and himself. The strong cast features Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Zach Galifianakis. Opening Oct. 17 in limited release.
ST. VINCENT— Melissa McCarthy’s Maggie, a single mother, moves into a new home in Brooklyn with her 12-year-old son, Oliver. During her long hours at work, she entrusts Oliver with their new neighbor, Bill Murray’s Vincent. Vincent takes Oliver with him as he makes his daily stops. These include a race track, a local bar and a strip club. Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd and Terrence Howard co-star. Opening in limited release.
ROSEWATER— Comedian Jon Stewart directed and wrote the screenplay for this drama about a journalist who’s held in a brutal Iranian prison for more than 100 days. Based on Mazir Bahari’s memoir, “Then They Came for Me.” Featuring Gael García Bernal, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Golshifteh Farahani.
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING— Academy Award winner James Marsh (“Man on Wire”) helms a romantic drama starring Eddie Redmayne (“Les Misérables”) as the famous physicist Stephen Hawking, author of “A Brief History of Time.” The movie is set in the 1960s, when Hawking is a student at Cambridge University and falls in love with art student Jane Wilde. Her memoir, “Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen,” inspired the film. Opening in limited release.
INTERSTELLAR— Christopher Nolan (the “Batman” trilogy, “Inception”) directs an all-star cast in a science-fiction story about explorers who use a newly discovered wormhole to surpass limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances. The cast features Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn and Michael Caine.
Also opening this fall
DOLPHIN TALE 2 — This sequel to the 2011 family film “Dolphin Tale” continues the story of Winter, the dolphin whose recovery thanks to a prosthetic tail made her a symbol of hope. The principal cast from the first film, including Harry Connick Jr., Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd, returns to the sequel.
NO GOOD DEED — Terri (Taraji P. Henson), a devoted wife and mother of two, is living an ideal suburban life in Atlanta. But then Colin (Idris Elba), a charming and dangerous escaped convict, shows up at her door asking for help. Terri soon learns that no good deed goes unpunished.
THE SKELETON TWINS— Just when estranged twins Maggie (Kristen Wiig) and Milo (Bill Hader) think they’re at the end of their ropes, an unexpected reunion forces them to confront why their lives went so wrong. As the twins reconnect, they realize the key to fixing their lives may just lie in repairing their relationship. Luke Wilson co-stars. Opens in limited release.
THE MAZE RUNNER— In this action-mystery filmed in Baton Rouge and Jackson, Thomas wakes up trapped in a massive maze with a group of other boys. He has no memory of the outside world other than strange dreams about a mysterious organization known as W.C.K.D. Only by piecing together fragments of his past with clues he discovers in the maze can Thomas hope to learn his true purpose and a way to escape.
A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES— Based on Lawrence Block’s bestselling series of mystery novels, “A Walk Among the Tombstones” stars Liam Neeson as Matt Scudder, an ex-NYPD cop who works as an unlicensed private investigator. Scudder reluctantly agrees to help a heroin trafficker (Dan Stevens) hunt down the men who kidnapped and brutally murdered his wife.
TUSK— The new film from writer-director Kevin Smith (“Clerks,” “Chasing Amy,” “Jersey Girl”) is a horror story about a man who’s captured by a maniac. After being tortured, physically and mentally, the captive turns into a walrus. Featuring Justin Long, Genesis Rodriguez and Haley Joel Osment. Opening in limited release.
HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS— British comic actor Simon Pegg stars as Hector, an eccentric, bored psychiatrist. He tells his girlfriend, Clara, played by Rosamund Pike, that he feels like a fraud. So Hector begins a global quest to discover the secret of true happiness, with comic results. Also featuring Toni Collette, Stellan Skarsgård, Jean Reno and Christopher Plummer.
ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY— Eleven-year-old Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) experiences the worst day of his life. And his mother (Jennifer Garner), father (Steve Carell), brother (Dylan Minnette) and sister (Kerris Dorsey) all experience the worst day of their lives.
KILL THE MESSENGER—Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker,” “The Bourne Legacy” ) leads the all-star cast in this dramatic thriller based on journalist Gary Webb’s investigation into the origins of the crack epidemic. Renner’s co-stars include Rosemarie DeWitt, Ray Liotta, Tim Blake Nelson, Barry Pepper, Oliver Platt and Michael Sheen. Opening in limited release.
THE BOOK OF LIFE—Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Hellboy”) produced this animated comedy about Manolo, a young man who is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart.
DRACULA UNTOLD— Luke Evans (“Fast & Furious 6,” “Immortals”) stars in this origins story about the mortal man who became the immortal vampire Dracula. Following in the revisionist footsteps of last year’s “Oz the Great and Powerful” and Broadway’s “Wicked,” “Dracula Untold” is an action-adventure prequel to Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.”
THE BEST OF ME— Based on the bestselling novel by Nicholas Sparks, the New Orleans-shot drama-romance “The Best of Me” tells a story about former high school sweethearts who reunite after 20 years apart. A funeral for a friend in their hometown prompts the reunion. Featuring Liana Liberato, Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden.
LAGGIES— A woman trapped in a permanent state of adolescence tells her fiancé that she’s entered a retreat. She’s actually hanging out with friends. Chloë Grace Moretz, Keira Knightley, Sam Rockwell star.
JOHN WICK— Keanu Reeves plays an ex-hit man who leaves retirement to track down the gangsters who took everything from him. Sounds familiar, but the studio promises “a fresh and stylized take on the assassin genre.” Opening in limited release.
OUIJA— The new film from LSU creative writing graduate Juliet Snowden and her partner in life and horror movie screenplays, Stiles White, features a group of friends who awaken the dark powers of an ancient spirit board. White makes his directorial debut with the low-budget “Ouija.”
BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP— Nicole Kidman plays a woman who can remember nothing because of a traumatic accident in her past. But when terrifying new truths emerge, she is forced her to question everyone around her. Mark Strong and Colin Firth co-star.
NIGHTCRAWLER— Jake Gyllenhaal plays the young, desperate for employment Lou Bloom. He discovers the world of crime journalism, aka night crawling. Rene Russo co-stars as the Los Angeles TV news veteran who becomes Bloom’s mentor. Bill Paxton co-stars.
Also opening in October
REVENGE OF THE GREEN DRAGONS— Immigrant brothers Sonny (Justin Chon) and Steven (Kevin Wu) escape poverty in 1980s New York by joining Chinatown gang the Green Dragons. The brothers rise up the ranks but then an ill-fated love affair pits them against each other.
BIG HERO 6— An animated action-comedy-adventure about a robotics prodigy who must transform his closest companion — Baymax the robot — and a group of friends into high-tech heroes. Voice talent includes Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr. and Genesis Rodriguez.
DUMB AND DUMBER TO— A reunion 20 years in the making, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels return to their roles as Lloyd and Harry in the sequel to their 1994 comedy hit “Dumb and Dumber.”
BEYOND THE LIGHTS— Noni, the music world’s new music superstar, is buckling from the pressures of fame. The romance she starts with Kaz, a young cop, upsets those around the two lovers. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Danny Glover, Minnie Driver and Nate Parker star.