Fall arts 2014: Movies 

click to enlarge Gone Girl
  • Gone Girl is about a woman (Rosamund Pike) whose mysterious disappearance looks to be the work of her husband (Ben Affleck).
As summer winds down, moviegoers will see fewer superheroes, monsters and gross-out comedies and more grown-up films, many about personal journeys of discovery. However, there also will be journeys of self-discovery with gross-out humor and superheroes. Welcome to the fall movie season. (Opening dates are subject to change.)


As Above/So Below

“Quarantine” and “Devil” director John Erick Dowdle tells a spooky-looking story of a group of young archaeologists exploring lost catacombs beneath the streets of Paris. The main drawback is that it’s presented in the tired, worn-out “found footage” style of “The Blair Witch Project.” We hope substance will triumph over style. Rated R


The Skeleton Twins

Former “Saturday Night Live” stars Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader played husband and wife in “Adventureland” and now play twin siblings, Maggie and Milo, who are reunited when Milo attempts suicide. Featured at the San Francisco International Film Festival, Craig Johnson’s movie is, of course, very funny, but also surprisingly poignant and with breathtaking performances. Luke Wilson and Ty Burrell co-star. Rated R


Take Me to The River

Marin-based director Martin Shore helms the documentary, a hit at South by Southwest, about multiple generations of award-winning Memphis and Mississippi Delta musicians, following them as they record a new album and try to reimagine the racial and generational collaboration of Memphis in its heyday. Terrence Howard, William Bell, Snoop Dogg, Mavis Staples and Charlie Musselwhite are among many performers making appearances in the film. Not rated


This Is Where I Leave You

The eagerly anticipated film adaptation of Jonathan Tropper’s 2009 best-seller hits the screen, with Jason Bateman and Tina Fey playing Jewish siblings who return home to sit shiva after their father dies. Tropper has said he wrote the protagonist’s character (whose name was changed from Foxman to Altman for the film) with Bateman in mind. Jane Fonda plays the matriarch. Corey Stoll and Adam Driver round out the family unit. Rated R



Following his highly disturbing “Red State,” writer-director Kevin Smith (“Clerks,” “Dogma”) digs further into dark territory for this gruesome-looking horror film. A podcaster (Justin Long) travels to Canada to interview an old sailor (Michael Parks), but soon finds himself prisoner and subject to bizarre tortures. Apparently, it has something to do with walruses. Genesis Rodriguez and Haley Joel Osment co-star. Rated R


The Equalizer

Denzel Washington teams again with director Antoine Fuqua, whose “Training Day” won Washington a best actor Oscar. In this film based on a 1980s TV series (which starred Edward Woodward), Washington plays Robert McCall, an ex-black ops agent living a quiet life in Boston. He helps a young girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) and thus incurs the wrath of the Russian mob. Not yet rated


Hector and the Search for Happiness

The very funny Simon Pegg (“Shaun of the Dead”) plays a character with a huge heart. He’s a psychiatrist who realizes he knows nothing about his patients’ happiness and so goes on a global trek to learn more about the subject. Directed by Peter Chelsom and co-starring Rosamund Pike, this looks like a feel-good movie with a few laughs. Rated R


The BoxTrolls

Possibly among the season’s most promising offerings for kids, this part stop-motion animated movie in the spirit of “Coraline” and “ParaNorman” is based on a novel by Alan Snow. It tells the story of a young boy raised by feared (but kind) monsters who collect and reuse garbage. Ben Kingsley lends his voice to an evil exterminator character. Simon Pegg, Elle Fanning, Toni Collette, Jared Harris and Nick Frost also provide voices. Rated PG


The Two Faces of January

Featured at the San Francisco International Film Festival and based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, this terrific, atmospheric tale of treachery and murder in the early 1960s stars Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst as a seemingly normal American couple vacationing in Greece. A tour guide played by Oscar Isaac becomes inadvertently entangled in their troubles. Oscar-nominated screenwriter Hossein Amini (“The Wings of the Dove,” “Drive”) makes his feature directing debut. Rated PG-13


Gone Girl

Perhaps the most highly anticipated movie of the fall, David Fincher’s filmed version of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel is about a woman (Rosamund Pike) whose mysterious disappearance looks to be the work of her husband (Ben Affleck). No one today is better than Fincher at steely, fearless crime filmmaking, with the ability to tease and taunt, but without cowering from the darkness. Let’s hopefully Fincher and the material are a good fit. Rated R.


The Judge

Still one of today’s finest actors, Robert Downey Jr. sets aside his “Iron Man” armor for a more human role, as a lawyer who reluctantly returns home for his mother’s funeral. There, he finds his father, a former judge (Robert Duvall), in hot water with the law. Director David Dobkin (“Wedding Crashers”) is best known for lightweight comedies but this may be the test to see if he’s ready for the heavyweights. Not yet rated


The Book of Life

Another of this fall’s animated features comes from producer Guillermo del Toro. It’s a kind of cosmic love story, a love triangle in which the pure of heart Manolo (voiced by Diego Luna) must journey through different worlds to win the heart of his love, Maria (Zoe Saldana). Channing Tatum voices the other lover. Jorge R. Gutierrez directs in what looks like a decidedly anti-Disney style. Rated PG


Kill the Messenger

Jeremy Renner plays late San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb, who published a controversial story in 1996 about the connection between the CIA, the Nicaraguan Contras, and the sale of crack cocaine in Los Angeles. Michael Cuesta (“L.I.E.”) directs this feature film version of a tense, incredible true journalism story. Michael Sheen, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ray Liotta co-star. Rated R



Writer-director Damien Chazelle expanded his own short film into this feature-length drama about a jazz drummer (Miles Teller) who dreams of being one of the greats, but who clashes with a sadistic music teacher (J.K. Simmons). Both actors have received glowing notices for their performances, and this has all the markings of an indie breakout. Rated R



Oscar-nominated Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Babel,” “Biutiful”) directs the great Michael Keaton in what could be his best role in ages. He plays an actor famous for playing a comic book hero, Birdman (Keaton, of course, played Batman). When he decides to act in a Broadway play, it leads to a massive identity crisis. Emma Stone co-stars. Rated R.



Lynn Shelton (“Your Sister’s Sister”), a member of the so-called Mumblecore movement, ought to apply her touch for realistic human behavior to this comedy about the perpetually adolescent Megan (Keira Knightley), who hides out with teen Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz) for a week to avoid answering a marriage proposal, and instead becomes drawn to Annika’s father (Sam Rockwell). Rated R


Before I Go to Sleep

The short-term memory loss motif has been used in many movies (notably “Memento” and “Finding Nemo”), but this one has a good angle. A woman (Nicole Kidman) wakes up each day with no memory. She has a husband (Colin Firth) and a doctor (Mark Strong), who explain things to her, but she quickly realizes that there may be more to the story. Rowan Joffe, son of Roland Joffe, directs, from a novel by S.J. Watson. Rated R


Big Hero 6

Walt Disney’s 54th animated feature is a computer-generated story set in the fictitious city of San Fransokyo. A boy (voiced by Ryan Potter) and his balloon robot Baymax discover a criminal plot and assemble a crime-fighting team to get to the bottom of it. Chris Williams (“Bolt”) and Don Hall (“Winnie the Pooh”) direct, taking their inspiration from the Marvel comic book. Not yet rated



Few directors inspire excitement quite like Christopher Nolan of “Memento,” “The Dark Knight” and “Inception” fame. This movie, starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway, is about a group of astronauts who travel great distances through a wormhole in space. Knowing more than that would likely ruin whatever awe-inspiring surprises are in store. Not yet rated


Sept. 5: “The Notebook”

Sept. 12: “The Drop,” “Dolphin Tale 2,” “No Good Deed,” “Search Party”

Sept. 19: “The Maze Runner,” “A Walk among the Tombstones,” “Tracks”

Oct. 3: “Annabelle,” “The Good Lie”

Oct. 10: “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” “One Chance”

Oct. 17: “The Best of Me,” “Dracula Untold,” “Nightcrawler”

Nov. 7: “Jessabelle”

Nov. 14: “Dumb and Dumber To,” “The Theory of Everything”


About The Author

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson has written about movies for the San Francisco Examiner since 2000, in addition to many other publications and websites. He holds a master's degree in cinema, and has appeared as an expert on film festival panels, television, and radio. He is a founding member of the San Francisco Film Critics... more
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