Stupid as it sounds, we prejudge movies left and right by the unreliable barometers of our choice. Good trailer? The Amy Adams alien invasion movie “Arrival” has one, yes. So does “La La Land,” the latest from writer-director Damien Chazelle, if you’re seduced by images of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone dancing on air in a fantasy version of Los Angeles.
Good buzz? Certainly Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation” had it coming out of the Sundance Film Festival in January, months before his account of the 1831 slave revolt became intertwined with Parker’s own controversy (a 1999 Penn State rape accusation).
Popular books, adapted for the screen? “Good” being relative, everything from “The Girl on the Train” to “American Pastoral” is making the leap from page to screen this fall.
So we anticipate, and we wait. And we hope they’re all miracles. Here are 10 movies out this fall that might achieve that goal:
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“Sully”: In 2009, the US Airways plane flown by Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger hit a flock of geese, forcing a miraculous emergency landing on the Hudson River in New York City. National hero or, given the character-assassinating investigation that followed, unlucky scapegoat? Check both boxes. Tom Hanks stars; Clint Eastwood directs. Opens Friday (Sept. 9).
“The Magnificent Seven”: The 1960 Western, itself a remake of “The Seven Samurai,” inspired everything from “The Dirty Dozen” to “The Hateful Eight” to, tragically, Adam Sandler’s “Ridiculous 6.” Let’s see if director Antoine “Training Day” Fuqua and a cast headed by Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Vincent D'Onofrio can make it right. Sept. 23.
“The Birth of a Nation”: At Sundance, director and star Nate Parker’s account of the 1831 slave rebellion led by preacher Nat Turner became an immediate Oscar-season awards prospect. The film’s rollout has been clouded by 1999 rape charges made against Parker (he was acquitted; his accuser later killed herself). Fox Searchlight is determined to get moviegoers to refocus on the film, not the off-screen controversy. Oct. 7.
“The Girl on the Train”: With the story moved to America from England, Emily Blunt stars in the film version of the best-selling Paula Hawkins mystery that had everybody calling it “the next ‘Gone Girl.’” Tate Taylor, who made a surprisingly pretty good meal out of “The Help,” directs; Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett and Justin Theroux co-star. Oct. 7.
“American Pastoral”: The life and times of “Swede” Levov, the businessman protagonist of Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, serves as the lens through which we see recent turbulent American history crash down around the characters’ heads. Ewan McGregor stars and directs; Dakota Fanning plays the daughter accused of deadly political activism. Oct. 28.
“Doctor Strange”: Just when you’d had it with the Marvel universe, along comes Benedict Cumberbatch to make you wonder: Can this be a franchise in the making with actual wit and personality? Cumberbatch stars as the neurosurgeon with a difference; Rachel McAdams co-stars as a fellow surgeon who knew Stephen Strange before he turned sorcerer, i.e., stranger and more powerful. Nov. 4.
“Loving”: In 1958 Virginia, an interracial couple tests the American justice system and ends up making American history in writer-director Jeff Nichols’ biopic, well-reviewed in its Cannes Film Festival premiere earlier this year. Even those who found it low-key to a fault admired the performances of Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga. Nov. 4.
“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”: Played by Joe Alwyn, a 19-year-old Iraq War veteran endures harrowing experiences in combat, and disorienting experiences on the homefront, in this screen adaptation of the successful novel. Ang Lee directs; he shot the movie using a super-sharp frame rate that will, he hopes, enhance rather than detract from the drama. Nov. 11.
“Arrival”: Do they come in peace? The question posed by so many alien invasion movies of yore is asked this time by Amy Adams as a linguistics expert recruited by the military to communicate with a fleet of oval spacecraft of uncertain intention. For “Sicario” director Denis Villeneuve, Adams co-stars with Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker. Nov. 11.
“La La Land”: Already touted as an Academy Awards contender, this musical romance starring Ryan Gosling (as a jazz pianist), Emma Stone (as an aspiring actress) and the City of Angels (Los Angeles, playing a highly stylized version of itself) is all over the fall film festival calendar. Regular run opens Dec. 16.