In the Dark with Melanie Dishman: Fall 2014 movie preview

In the Dark with Melanie Dishman: Fall 2014 movie preview

Coming off one of the worst summer movie seasons in recent history, there is a lot riding on what’s in the pipeline for this fall. With a few exceptions like “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” nothing seemed to please audiences enough to send any movie over the elusive $300 million mark — a first in over 10 years. “Spider-Man 2” surprisingly failed to sizzle, but there were no fatal implosions like last year’s “The Lone Ranger.” Anyone seen Armie Hammer lately?

In fact, August, usually the dumping ground for so-so movies, actually saved the day with the late release of the aforementioned “Guardians” and “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” reboot, which audiences took to like a free trip to the concession stand. And they boosted profits enough to save the day for some studios.

It’s hard to stay ahead of the curve in predicting what audiences want, but the glut of comic book superhero sequels and remakes of better films might have reached some kind of tipping point, although with big tent pole summer movies already slated for 2015 and 2016 that feature more of the same, it might take awhile for this trend to catch up to itself. One thing is for sure, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” scheduled for release next summer will be an exception and is poised to be the biggest earner in summer history. So what’s on tap for the next few months that might lure you back into theaters?

September usually starts with a whimper and ends with a bang, which studios try to sustain through October going into the end-of-the-year holiday months. A quick overview reveals no change in strategy but there are some highlights:

“A Walk Among the Tombstones” looks like a carbon copy to the “Taken” movies for Liam Neeson — at first glance. Look again and this is dark thriller based on the novel about a washed up police officer (Neeson) turned rogue private eye. Dan Stevenson, recently of “Downton Abbey,” co-stars as a calculating drug dealer. There is already buzz about sequels. Opens Sept. 19

The young adult audience can mark the calendar for the release of “The Maze Runner,” a quasi “Hunger Games” futuristic action movie based on a trilogy of novels by James Dashner that will deny comparisons to those movies but happily reap the box office profits from that important YA crowd now that the Suzanne Collins franchise is wrapping up this November. Opening Sept. 19

If only the James Brown biopic “Get on Up” starring Chadwick Boseman had been slated for a later release instead of mid-summer, I think it would have performed much better. There’s no confirmation, but it might have been moved to avoid competing with “Jimi: All is By My Side,” a late-in-his-career treatment about rocker Jimi Hendrix, starring Andre Benjamin of the pop duo OutKast. Word is he captures Hendrix to an uncanny degree. Opening Sept. 26

“The Equalizer” returns in a new incarnation when Denzel Washington takes on the role of the TV vigilante in this updated feature that deals with Russian mobsters and human trafficking. Opening Sept. 26.

October opens with one of the most anticipated movies of the season when “Gone Girl” premieres. Based on Gillian Flynn’s huge bestseller about a missing wife and her increasingly suspicious husband, book fans should be forewarned that some of the plot has been sacrificed for the sake of the screen treatment directed by David Fincher. Ben Affleck and British actress Rosamund Pike star. Opening Oct. 3.

Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall will be telling it to “The Judge” this fall starring as an estranged father who is a small town judge and his son, a slick big city lawyer, who ends up defending him in a sticky legal matter. Opening Oct. 10.

This year’s big Sundance Film Festival winner was “Whiplash” about a young drummer (Miles Teller) and his sadistic conductor (J.K. Simmons). For the part, Teller had to learn an incredibly difficult jazz drum solo that would make Buddy Rich proud. There is already Oscar buzz for both of these actors in what has to be one of the most original movies of the season. Opening Oct. 10.

Dark comedy is tricky, but trust that writer/director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Babel,” “21 Grams”) has created something unique with “Birdman.” In a bit of interesting casting, Michael Keaton stars as an actor best known for playing the titular superhero. Now he’s written a play about the experience but getting it mounted has caused him to have a nervous breakdown. Batman fans might recall Keaton took a couple of turns as that superhero before turning it over to Val Kilmer in the ’90s. A great supporting cast features Edward Norton, Emma Stone and Zach Galifianakis. Opening Oct. 17.