The summer season is over, and it was a good one at the multiplex. Domestic box office was up — more than $4.6 million, according to Box Office Mojo.
But now that the flurry of big-budget spectacles is over, it’s time to settle in for quieter times at the movies. Many stars are on deck for passion projects or more serious fare.
Speaking of familiar faces, we’ll even get a visit from a certain Wizard and two infamous star-crossed lovers.
Here’s what’s opening in the next few months (release dates subject to change):
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“Riddick” — Reviving the franchise of Vin Diesel vehicles that started with “Pitch Black” in 2000 seems like a good idea — to somebody out there. Here, after being left for dead, Riddick (Diesel) finds himself battling an alien race of predators. Or as we call them, film critics.
“The Family” — Director Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element,” “Transporter”) directs this comedy/crime drama about a notorious mafia family who is relocated to France under the witness protection program. They fit into their new surroundings about as seamlessly as a pit bull at a cat show. The film boasts a strong cast that includes Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones and Michelle Pfeiffer.
“Insidious: Chapter 2” — The Lambert family returns, and they’re still haunted by a mysterious presence that dangerously connects them to the spirit world. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne are back.
“Battle of the Year” — Americans compete in an international dance competition. Think of this as “Step Up” meets “Pitch Perfect.”
“Prisoners” — Hugh Jackman stars as a father who takes matters into his own hands when his young daughter and her friend go missing. Another top-notch cast that also includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis and Melissa Leo.
“The Wizard of Oz” — To celebrate the beloved film’s 75th anniversary, Warner Bros. is re-releasing the movie for one week in IMAX theaters, to be shown in 3-D.
“Baggage Claim” — Pledging to keep herself from being the oldest in her family never to wed, a woman embarks on a 30-day, 30,000-mile expedition to find a fiance. Now that’s determination! Starring Paula Patton, Taye Diggs and Djimon Hounsou.
“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2” — More clouds. More meat sauce. Based on the popular children’s books.
“Don Jon” — Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s writing/directing debut was a Sundance Film Festival hit, about a New Jersey guy (Gordon-Levitt) who develops unrealistic expectations after watching too much porn and struggles to find happiness with his potential true love.
“Rush” — Ron Howard directs this biopic about Austrian Formula 1 driver Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) and the 1976 crash that almost claimed his life. Just weeks after the accident, he got behind the wheel again to challenge his British rival, James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth). This is German-bred Bruhl’s first high-profile role in an English-speaking film (he was previously in “Goodbye Lenin!” and “Inglourious Basterds”).
“Enough Said” — A divorced woman (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) who decides to pursue the man she’s interested in learns he’s her new friend’s ex-husband. Also starring the late James Gandolfini and Toni Collette.
“Gravity” — This looks to be “Open Water” in space, as a medical engineer (Sandra Bullock) and an astronaut (George Clooney) work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space. A who’s-who list of actresses were once attached or considered to star, including Angelina Jolie (twice) and Natalie Portman. This marks the first directing project for Alfonso Cuaron since 2006’s stellar “Children of Men.”
“Runner Runner” — When a poor college student (Justin Timberlake) loses everything in an online poker game, he hunts down the man (Ben Affleck) he thinks cheated him. Timberlake finally found his footing as an actor in “The Social Network,” but has since stumbled. Maybe this will put him back on track.
“Captain Phillips” — The true story of Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in 200 years. This is getting major Oscar buzz and could likely be Hanks’ ticket to a possible third best-actor Oscar.
“Machete Kills” — Because the world just wasn’t complete without a sequel to Robert Rodriguez’s silly and hyper-violent “Machete,” here comes Danny Treho again as the vigilante with a penchant for sharp objects. Here, the U.S. government recruits him to battle his way through Mexico to take down an arms dealer. The original was surprisingly topical; maybe this will be, too. Or not.
“Romeo and Juliet” — William Shakespeare’s classic tragic love story gets a modern update with Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”) and newcomer Douglas Booth as the star-crossed lovers.
“Carrie” — Just in time for Halloween comes an update of Steven King’s classic novel, this time with Chloe Grace Moretz (“Kick-Ass,” “Let Me In”) in the titular role, a shy girl with telekinetic powers who unleashes terror on her small town after being pushed too far at senior prom. It’ll be interesting to see if this holds up to Brian De Palma’s classic 1976 version, though the casting is inspired here with Moretz as Carrie and Julianne Moore as her loony momma. Also, the film could be topical given today’s social stance against bullying.
“Escape Plan” — Aging action stars unite! Again! Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger star in this actioner about a security authority who finds himself incarcerated in a prison he designed.
“The Counselor” — Ridley Scott directs this adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel about a lawyer (Brad Pitt) who finds himself in over his head when he gets involved in drug trafficking. Also starring Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem. This also could be serious Oscar fodder come springtime.
“Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa” — Johnny Knoxville dons heavy makeup to play 86-year-old Irving Zisman in a series of skits designed to fool innocent people for comedy’s sake. I wonder who will get more tired: the bad grandpa or the audience?
“Ender’s Game” — Based on the book that takes place 70 years after a horrific alien war on Earth, where an unusually gifted child is sent to an advanced military school in space to prepare for a future invasion. Way to be pro-active there.
“Last Vegas” — Three 60-something friends take a break from their mundane lives to throw a bachelor party in Las Vegas for their last remaining single pal. Starring Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline, this has already been dubbed “the geriatric ‘Hangover.’” Hey, I’m just the messenger.