Fall movie preview: True stories set the pace

Tom Long
The Detroit News

Fall is when things get real in the film world.

Oh, sure, there will be blockbuster fantasies. These days there are always blockbuster fantasies, and November will see the conclusion of one of the biggest fantasy franchises in recent history with the release of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part Two,” starring Jennifer Lawrence.

Then December will likely top that with the rebirth of arguably the biggest fantasy franchise ever. It’s probably safe to say more than a few people will show up for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

But surrounding these box office behemoths will be a plethora of films based on real world events and people, and many of these are hoping to contend for the countless awards handed out at the end of each movie year.

Jake Gyllenhaal will lead an expedition up “Everest,” Johnny Depp will play an infamous gangster in “Black Mass.” Joseph Gordon-Levitt will play the ultimate high-wire daredevil in “The Walk” in October, then return as the world’s highest-profile whistle-blower in “Snowden.”

Tobey Maguire will portray chess genius Bobby Fischer in “Pawn Sacrifice,” Tom Hardy will play twin gangsters in “Legend,” and “Stonewall” will capture the beginnings of the gay rights movement. Jennifer Lawrence returns in December with “Joy,” the story of a self-made millionaire, and Michael Fassbender takes on Apple icon “Steve Jobs” in October. “Spotlight” turns the spotlight on the reporting team that exposed child abuse in Boston’s Catholic churches.

Doubtlessly, some films will work better than others, but overall, the trend during awards season is more grounded. Save the superheroes for summer; fall is the time for real heroes.

(All dates are subject to change; nyr stands for not yet rated)

Sept. 11

“Learning to Drive” (R) Ben Kingsley plays a Sikh driving instructor teaching newly single Patricia Clarkson how to navigate the streets of New York.

“The Perfect Guy” (PG-13) Michael Ealy, Sanaa Lathan and Morris Chestnut star in this romantic thriller about a guy who seems too good to be true – because he is.

“The Visit” (PG-13) Director M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense”) follows a brother and sister who go to visit their grandparents, who turn out to be into creepy M. Night Shyamalan stuff.

Sept. 18

“Black Mass” (R) Johnny Depp stars as infamous Boston gangster Whitey Bulger, who worked with the FBI to destroy the Italian mob. Co-stars Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson and half of Hollywood.

“About Ray” (nyr) Elle Fanning stars as a teen girl who decides to transition to male, with Naomi Watts as her mother and Susan Sarandon as her lesbian grandmother.

“Captive” (PG-13) David Oyelowo, Kate Mara and Michael K. Williams star in this true story of a woman held hostage in her own apartment.

“Everest” (PG-13) Based on a true story, an expedition climbing Mt. Everest fights for survival. With Jake Gyllenhaal, John Hawkes, Sam Worthington, Robin Wright, Josh Brolin and more.

“Grandma” (R) Lily Tomlin stars as a grandmother scrambling to find cash for her granddaughter and rattling skeletons from her past.

“Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” (PG-13) In this sequel, the Gladers search for clues about a mysterious organization known as — get this — WCKD.

Sept. 25

“The Intern” (PG-13) Robert De Niro plays a 70-year-old who gets bored with retirement, so he takes an internship at a fashion site run by Anne Hathaway.

“Hotel Transylvania 2” (PG) Vampire Drac (Adam Sandler) worries that his half-human grandson isn’t enough of a bloodsucker, so he puts him through monster boot camp.

“Pawn Sacrifice” (PG-13) Tobey Maguire plays chess legend Bobby Fischer, daring to take on Soviet chess champions at the height of the Cold War.

“Sicario” (R) Emily Blunt stars as an idealistic FBI agent who joins an elite task force in the war against drugs. Also stars Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro.

“Stonewall” (R) A drama about the 1969 Stonewall gay rights riots in New York City starring Jeremy Irvine, Jonny Beauchamp, Caleb Landry Jones and Ron Perlman.

“Goodnight Mommy” (R) Twin boys play a game of make believe that blurs the line between nightmare and reality while their mother recovers from cosmetic surgery. All of which is pretty vague.

Oct. 2

“The Martian” (nyr) Matt Damon plays an astronaut mistakenly abandoned on Mars and trying to survive. Directed by Ridley Scott and co-starring Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig and Jeff Daniels.

“Legend” (R) Tom Hardy plays notorious twin gangsters in this based-on-a-true story crime thriller that also stars Emily Browning and David Thewlis.

“Mississippi Grind” (R) Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn play professional gamblers who take a road trip to New Orleans for a high stakes poker game.

Oct. 9

“The Walk” (PG) Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the real-life tightrope walker who walked the top span of the World Trade Center towers. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, co-starring Ben Kingsley. Don’t look down.

“He Named Me Malala” (PG-13) This documentary from Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth”) tells the story of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning young Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban for advocating girls’ education.

“Pan” (PG) Hugh Jackman, Rooney Mara and Garrett Hedlund star in director Joe Wright’s new take on the classic “Peter Pan.”

“Steve Jobs” (nyr) Michael Fassbender plays the pioneering founder of Apple. Directed by Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”), written by Aaron Sorkin, co-starring Seth Rogen, Kate Winslet and Jeff Daniels.

“Freeheld” (PG-13) The true story of a cop (Julianne Moore) diagnosed with cancer who wants to leave her pension to her domestic partner (Ellen Page). Also stars Michael Shannon and Steve Carell.

Oct. 16

“Bridge of Spies” (PG-13) Steven Spielberg directs Tom Hanks in this true story of a Brooklyn lawyer thrust into Cold War negotiations for a pilot’s release. Co-written by the Coen brothers. That’s a lot of Oscar credibility.

“Crimson Peak” (R) A young woman (Mia Wasikowska) falls in love and is swept away to a haunted mansion. Also stars Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain and Charlie Hunnam, directed by Guillermo del Toro.

“Goosebumps” (PG) A young boy moves next door to horror author R.L. Stine (Jack Black) and discovers all the monsters he writes about are real.

Oct. 23

“Burnt” (nyr) Bradley Cooper stars as a chef with bad habits who wants to earn a three-star Michelin rating.

“Jem and the Holograms” (PG) A small town girl becomes a global superstar, thanks to a viral video sensation and she and her sisters take to the road.

“The Last Witch Hunter” (nyr) Vin Diesel would be the titular character, an immortal who does indeed hunt witches, who are apparently everywhere. With Elijah Wood and Michael Caine.

“Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” (nyr) As usual, nobody knows what this is about and it stars unknowns, but at least it’s supposed to be the final chapter in the franchise.

“Rock the Kasbah” (nyr) Bill Murray plays a has-been rock manager who discovers an amazing singer in an Afghan cave and conspires with a bunch of misfits — Kate Hudson, Bruce Willis, Danny McBride — to make him a star.

Oct. 30

“Our Brand is Crisis” (nyr) Billy Bob Thornton stars as a political consultant who brings in maverick consultant Sandra Bullock to help get an unpopular Bolivian president re-elected. Based on true events.

“Room” (R) Brie Larson stars as a mother raising a 5-year-old boy in a 10-by-10-foot space. With Joan Allen and William H. Macy. This could be the one for Larson.

“Suffragette” (PG-13) Carey Mulligan stars in the story of women who fought for equality in early 20th century Great Britain. Meryl Strep also pops up for a bit. Oscar bait, obviously.

“Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” (R ) Three scouts and a cocktail waitress have to save their town when zombies start popping up. With Tye Sheridan and Patrick Schwarzenegger.

Nov. 6

“Spectre” (nyr) Daniel Craig returns as James Bond, this time unearthing a vast conspiracy known as SPECTRE. Tangled in it all are Monica Belluci, Lea Seydoux and bad guy Christoph Waltz.

“Brooklyn” (PG-13) Saoirse Ronan stars as a young Irish immigrant in 1950s Brooklyn, who has to decide between her exciting new life and her ties back home.

“Carol” (R) Alluring married woman Cate Blanchett falls in love with sales girl Rooney Mara during the ’50s, disrupting both their lives. More Oscar bait.

“Miss You Already” (PG-13) Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore play lifetime friends who have always shared everything, but then one of them is hit with life-altering news.

“The Peanuts Movie” (G) Crass opportunism or a natural progression? We’ll soon find out when Charlie Brown and the gang hit the big screen in 3-D.

“Spotlight” (R) Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber and Stanley Tucci are the news team that exposed clergy child abuse in Boston.

“Trumbo” (R) Bryan Cranston plays the successful 1940s screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, whose career crashed when he and other Hollywood figures were blacklisted for the political beliefs.

Nov. 13

“The 33” (PG-13) The true story of 33 miners in Chile who were buried alive when a 100-year-old gold and copper mine collapsed in 2010. With Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, James Brolin and Lou Diamond Phillips.

“By the Sea” (R) Written, directed and produced by Angelina Jolie, she plays the wife of writer Brad Pitt as they arrive at a tranquil seashore town hoping to fix their marriage.

“Love the Coopers” (nyr) Four generations of extended family come together for Christmas Eve and tussle and bond as families do. With Olivia Wilde, Diane Keaton, Alan Arkin, Amanda Seyfried, tons of people.

“My All American” (PG) From the writer of “Hoosiers” and “Rudy” comes this story of a small football player (Finn Witrock) who pushes his way to big success before hitting a roadblock.

“Rings” (nyr) Essentially “Ring 3,” that spooky video tape comes back to haunt Aimee Teagarden and Johnny Galecki.

Nov. 20

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2” (PG-13) The should-be-epic conclusion to the franchise when Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) comes bowing straight at the Capitol. One of the year’s biggest, obviously.

“Secret in their Eyes” (PG-13) Hotshot FBI agents Chiwetell Ejiofor and Julia Roberts team up with DA Nicole Kidman to catch the killer of a 13-year-old girl.

Nov. 25

“Creed” (nyr) Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) trains the son (Michael B. Jordan) of his old rival, Apollo Creed, to become a fighter. Might sound corny, but it’s directed by Ryan Coogler, who directed Jordan in the impressive “Fruitvale Station.”

“The Good Dinosaur” (nyr) Pixar’s second film of the year imagines what would have happened if an asteroid hadn’t made dinosaurs extinct and follows the relationship between a kindly dinosaur and a human.

“The Night Before” (nyr) Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anthony Mackie go looking for a raunchy Christmas Eve party. With Lizzy Caplan, Michael Shannon (!) and Mindy Kaling.

“Victor Frankenstein” (PG-13) James McAvoy is the radical doctor, Daniel Radcliffe is his protégé, and I think we all know how things work out. Or don’t.

Dec. 4

“Krampus” (nyr) Adam Scott, Toni Collette and Allison Tolman star in this film about a demon that punishes naughty people around Christmastime.

Dec. 11

“In the Heart of the Sea” (PG-13) Ron Howard directs the maritime disaster story that inspired “Moby Dick.” Starring Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker and Cillian Murphy.

“Youth” (nyr) Two old friends — Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel — reflect on their lives in show business while vacationing in the Swiss Alps. From director Paolo Sorrentino.

Dec. 18

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (nyr) Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill reunite in a galaxy far, far away with newcomers Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o and many more for interstellar antics.

“Sisters” (R) Tina Fey and Amy Poehler play sisters who throw one last big party at their parents’ house before it gets sold.

Dec. 23

“Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip” (nyr) The chipmunks think Dave (Jason Lee) is going to propose and then dump them, so they have to thwart his plans.

Dec. 25

“The Hateful Eight” (R) A motley mix of western characters take refuge from a blizzard in Quentin Tarantino’s latest, starring Kurt Russell, Channing Tatum, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins and, of course, Samuel L. Jackson.

“Concussion” (PG-13) Will Smith stars as the doctor who first discovers the severity of concussions on football players. With Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Albert Brooks.

“Joy” (nyr) Jennifer Lawrence stars in the true story of a woman who invented a mop and made a million. Directed by David O. Russell, who guided Lawrence to an Oscar with “Silver Linings Playbook.”

“Daddy’s Home” (nyr) Will Ferrell is a mild-mannered stepfather whose life is upended when his kids’ real father (Mark Wahlberg) shows up.

“Point Break” (nyr) This remake of the Reeves-Swayze classic again has a young FBI agent (Luke Bracey) infiltrating a group of adrenaline junkie criminals led this time by Edgar Ramirez.

“Snowden” (nyr) Oliver Stone directs Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the famed whistle-blower. With Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Tom Wilkinson and Timothy Olyphant.