The leaves are turning and soon branches will be bare, signaling the fall and holiday seasons when Hollywood starts lighting up the multiplexes with the good stuff it’s been saving up for trophy time. Better start buying those advance tickets for the award-winning wannabes, fans. They’re rolling soon in theaters near you. Here are a few that might be worthy contenders.
“My Little Pony: The Movie” is an animated musical fantasy based on a children’s TV series inspired by Hasbro’s “My Little Pony” toy line. Emily Blunt, Michael Pena, Liev Schreiber, Zoe Saldana and Oklahoma’s own Kristin Chenoweth are just some of the stars giving voice to the colorful equestrian characters and other creatures in this story from director Jayson Thiessen about the “Mane 6,” who embark on a journey to thwart a dark force that threatens Ponyville.
Three decades after the events of the first film, young LAPD blade runner Officer K (Ryan Gosling) uncovers a secret that could trigger chaos in an already damaged society in “Blade Runner 2049.” K’s discovery sends him on a search for Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who’s been missing for 30 years, in this futuristic thriller inspired by the Philip K. Dick novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” and written for the screen by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green. Director Denis Villeneuve steps in for Ridley Scott, who helmed 1982’s “Blade Runner.”
Here’s a corker of a tagline for a movie celebrating Friday the 13th: Get Up. Live Your Day. Get Killed. Again. In “Happy Death Day,” a teenage girl, trying to enjoy her birthday, soon realizes that this might be her last one, unless she can figure out who her killer is. She must relive the day over and over, dying in a different way each time, until she solves her own murder. Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard and Ruby Modine star in this horror thriller from director Christopher Landon and screenwriter Scott Lobdell.
When a top-cop detective investigates the disappearance of a victim on the first snow of winter, he fears an elusive serial killer may be active again in “The Snowman,” a film by Tomas Alfredson (“Let the Right One In,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”). With the help of a brilliant recruit, the cop must connect decades-old cold cases to the brutal new one if he hopes to outwit this unthinkable evil before the snow flies again. Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer and J.K. Simmons star.
“Thank You for Your Service” is a phrase a lot of returning combat veterans hear, whether they come home in one piece or missing large pieces of their physical or psychological being — or both. This American biographical war drama written and helmed by Jason Hall in his directorial debut, based on the nonfiction book of the same name by David Finkel, is a film about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depicting United States soldiers who try to adjust to civilian life after returning from Iraq. Miles Teller, Haley Bennett, Joe Cole, Amy Schumer, Beulah Koale and Scott Haze star.
The jagged-edged gore-fest buzzes on with “Jigsaw,” the eighth installment in the “Saw” franchise fired up by James Wan and Leigh Whannell in 2004. Directed by Michael and Peter Spierig, written by Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger and starring Mandela Van Peebles, Laura Vandervoort and Brittany Allen among others, this chapter in the “Saw” series picks up over a decade after the death of the eponymous Jigsaw killer during the investigation of a new succession of murders that fit his modus operandi. “Saw 3D” was originally deemed the series’ final installment, before Lionsgate Films commissioned the production of “Jigsaw,” determined to keep the moneymaking tool shop up and running.
The Marvel Comics Universe pits two of its baddest heroes against one another in director Taika Waititi’s “Thor: Ragnarok,” when an imprisoned Thor finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial duke-out with his former ally, The Hulk. Thor must fight for survival in a race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization. Chris Hemsworth is Thor, and Mark Ruffalo is Bruce Banner, or the big green temperamental Hulk, depending on his mood.
Director and co-writer Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” is intended as part drama, with mystery and horror thrown into the mix, about a charismatic surgeon (Colin Farrell) forced to make an unthinkable sacrifice after his life starts to fall apart, when the behavior of a teenage boy he has taken under his wing turns sinister. Nicole Kidman and Alicia Silverstone co-star in this screenplay from Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou.
Kenneth Branagh directs and stars as the intrepid sleuth Hercule Poirot in the fifth filmed version of Agatha Christie’s classic mystery novel “Murder on the Orient Express.” Passengers are being bumped off one by one and Poirot is racing to unmask the killer before another homicide occurs. Michael Green’s screenplay also stars Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench and Penelope Cruz.
Based on The New York Times best-seller by R.J. Palacio, “Wonder” tells the story of August Pullman, a boy with facial differences who enters fifth grade, attending a mainstream elementary school for the first time. Director Stephen Chbosky interprets it all through the talents of screenwriters Jack Thorne and Steve Conrad, and the performances of Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay.
Roll call will find some essential “Justice League” supermembers absent from this particular teaming of DC Comics heroes. From pre-release publicity, hard-core baby boomer fans might wonder, where is Green Lantern? Green Arrow? Martian Manhunter? Hawkman? Atom? Black Canary? And so on. Well, the complainers would be openly dating themselves. Things have changed since the 1960s Justice League of America was born. But at least we finally have a live-action version of the JLA after all those lousy animated depictions. Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) are ready for action here. Henry Cavill also returns as Surperman, although it’s not clear if it’s in flashback, since he was supposedly killed in 2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” the film that got this whole new franchise flying. 2016’s all-star supervillain “Suicide Squad” sidetrack, starring Will Smith, written/directed by David Ayer, and this year’s “Wonder Woman” (director, Patty Jenkins) only gave it a bigger boost. Zack Snyder, who directed “Batman v Superman,” returns to helm this fourth installment in the series.
Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt), despite his family’s mysterious age-old ban on music. Desperate to realize his ambition, Miguel teams up with trickster Hector (voice of Gael Garcia Bernal) on a surreal journey through the Land of the Dead in Disney/Pixar’s animated adventure, “Coco,” directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina.
After venturing into a larger world in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015), Rey (Daisy Ridley) resumes her journey with Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (aka “Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi”). Written and directed by Rian Johnson, the second film in the “Star Wars” sequel trilogy also features Carrie Fisher in her final screen role, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie and Andy Serkis in returning roles. New cast members include Benicio del Toro, Laura Dern and Kelly Marie Tran. As with all installments in this endless space opera, it will probably be the movie event of the holiday season. It seems The Force will always be with us.
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is a sequel to the 1995 action-fantasy film “Jumanji,” which starred Robin Williams in a story of people becoming trapped in a magical board game complete with dangers they can escape only by finishing the game. In this 2017 continuation starring Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas and Bobby Cannavale, four teenagers discover an old video game console and are literally drawn into the game’s jungle setting, becoming the adult avatars they choose. They must deal with the dangers of their new environment — and change the way they think of themselves — or they’ll be stuck in the game forever, to be played by others ceaselessly. Jake Kasdan directs from a script by Chris McKenna and Jeff Pinkner. The film is dedicated to the memory of Williams.
“Downsizing” is a sci-fi social satire from co-writer (with Jim Taylor) and director Alexander Payne in which a kindly occupational therapist (Matt Damon) realizes he would have a better life if he were to shrink himself to four inches tall so that he can help save the planet and afford a nice lifestyle at the same time. Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Jason Sudeikis and Ngoc Lan Tran co-star.
In “Pitch Perfect 3,” the female a cappella world champs known as the Bellas reunite one more time for a last singing competition at an overseas USO tour, but face a group who uses both instruments and voices. Written by Kay Cannon and directed by Trish Sie, this comedy once again stars Anna Kendrick and a host of vocal angels in what promises to be a burst of devilishly mirthful and musical merriment.