This fall at the movies, danger is the watchword

Why does Matt Damon keep getting lost in space? Is he just an idiot?

Why does Matt Damon keep getting stranded in outer space? Is he just hapless? In "Interstellar," Damon beckoned Matthew McConaughey to come check out his icy planet through the wormhole, though his true purpose in sending out an intergalactic Evite eventually became clear.

Anyway, that was last fall. This fall, Damon's pretty much the whole show in "The Martian," director Ridley Scott's adaptation of the Andy Weir novel about an astronaut left for dead on the red planet. It's a problem-solving exercise, and early word on "The Martian" suggests there's room in the moviegoing universe for more than one "Gravity"-type showcase for an A-list star, working more or less solo, playing someone yearning to return to the blue planet we call home.

Our 10-to-watch list ends before Thanksgiving comes. Therefore, these fall season highlights (fingers crossed!) don't include the end-of-year holiday releases, among them "Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens" and "The Hateful Eight."

But the fall film festival season has already begun, first with Telluride, Colo., moving on to Venice, Italy, then Toronto and then regional efforts such as our own Chicago International Film Festival in October. This means we're about to see 100 or more films carrying high hopes, awards-season expectations and a star turn or two designed to impress. Release dates subject to change.

Away we go.

"Everest," Sept. 18. Based loosely on a terrifying 1996 Mount Everest climbing expedition, director Baltasar Kormakur's retelling boasts a strong ensemble featuring Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin and Keira Knightley. It premieres at the Venice film festival.

"Black Mass," Sept. 18. Johnny Depp plays Boston mob kingpin Whitey Bulger, and two questions arise from this project: Will we get something more than the usual romanticized underworld in this portrait of a fearsome gangster? And can Depp remind us, forcefully, that there's more to his technique these days than finding the right hair and contacts?

"The Walk," Sept. 30. The recent and exquisite documentary "Man on Wire" gave us French wire walker Philippe Petit and his staggering act of public trespassing. In 1974 he strung a wire between the two World Trade Center towers and walked across. Now, director Robert Zemeckis teams with star Joseph Gordon-Levitt for their version. In 3-D.

"The Martian," Oct. 2. Matt Damon, stuck on Mars, trying to get home. The Andy Weir novel is told by way of the stranded astronaut's log entries; early word on director Ridley Scott's procedural is very encouraging.

 

"Steve Jobs," Oct. 9. Michael Fassbender stars as the tech visionary who made us all his slaves. Aaron Sorkin's script is being directed by Danny Boyle: verbal fireworks joined, presumably, by equally showy visuals. Too much? Just right? Any insight? We'll see.

"Bridge of Spies," Oct. 16. Working with a script rewritten by the Coen brothers, director Steven Spielberg takes on a Cold War-era true (-ish) story starring Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance.

"Rock the Kasbah," Oct. 23. We know that Bill Murray is fully capable of toplining a comedy. Can director Barry Levinson, who gave us one of the great American movies of the '80s ("Diner"), regain his comic mojo with this tale of a run-down music promoter taking a teenage vocalist all the way to Kabul for a shot at the reality-TV series "Afghan Star"?

"Spectre," Nov. 6. Bond is back. Daniel Craig re-teams with "Skyfall" director Sam Mendes for an exploration of 007's tormented soul. Plus there will be shooting and running and explosions and globe-trotting.

"Trumbo," Nov. 6. Blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, whose credited work included the 1960 gladiator classic "Spartacus," affords Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad") the chance to leave the meth behind and remind audiences he can play other roles. The trailer suggests a little overcooking, a certain amount of ham, but you know how trailers are.

"The 33," Nov. 13. A handily disastrous bookend to "Everest," director Patricia Riggen's docudrama deals with the 2010 Chilean mining crisis, in which 33 workers were trapped underground for more than two months. Antonio Banderas stars as "Super Mario" Sepulveda, who became the lifeline between the men and their rescuers.

mjphillips@tribpub.com

Twitter @phillipstribune

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