Culture

5 Reasons to Cheer the Fall Movie Season's Arrival

Even the most pessimistic Hollywood watcher knows those box office blues won’t last forever.

Yes, the summer’s ticket tally proved calamitous to industry bean counters. Help is on the way, though. The fall season packs not just Oscar-bait fare but populist titles that feel like summer blockbusters.

Think “The Last Jedi,” “Justice League” and “Thor: Ragnarok.”

Each should inject life into the moribund box office. The following five films offer something less sure, but certainly just as intriguing. Maybe more.

“Downsizing”

Few directors have a stronger track record than Alexander Payne. The auteur behind “Sideways” and “The Descendants” returns with a sci-fi tale teeming with potent themes. Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig star as a couple who literally shrink themselves to simplify their lives.

It’s rare for an Oscar favorite to embrace science fiction without reservation. And the early reviews suggest the film’s social awareness doesn’t overwhelm the narrative. Phew. We need another Hollywood lecture like a fresh star-studded PSA.

“The Disaster Artist”

Pop culture holds a special place for the worst of the worst, and the 2003 clunker “The Room” more than qualifies. So how could we not anticipate James Franco playing the film’s star and creator, Tommy Wiseau, one of the worst actors of the modern age?

The subject matter couldn’t be more absurd. Will the film dig deeper, or simply mock the oh, so mockable?

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

The title alone is clunky and pretentious, qualities that could sink its box office appeal. See the great but little seen “Martha Marcy May Marlene” for a fine example of just that.

This raucous story still could leave a mark. The cast is glorious (Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, John Hawkes, Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage and Nick Searcy) and the director previously gave us “In Bruges” (Martin McDonagh).

The tale of a grieving mom trying to find her daughter’s killer could veer off into a number of directions, including an attack on law enforcement based on the trailer alone. We’ll see. The film has too many irresistible elements to shake off.

“Darkest Hour”

We’ve already seen one Winston Churchill biopic this year. And we collectively yawned. Not again.

The great Gary Oldman looks dazzling and unrecognizable as the British leader who helped the Allies crush the Axis powers during World War II. It’s the stuff Oscar campaigns are made of, from the historical heft to an actor channeling all of his gifts for one just cause.

Cannot. Wait.

“Murder on the Orient Express”

Let’s start with the obvious. Kenneth Branagh’s mustache is so large, so distracting it could sink the entire project. If it doesn’t, it might be a chance to see some old-fashioned storytelling on the big screen again.

Agatha Christie’s classic yarn gets an all-star cast, including Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench and Daisy Ridley. It’s a whodunit on a train, a throwback to a time before movies embraced a half-dozen plot twists per film and flash cuts galore.