This fall is just packed with movie goodness. A lot of the year's most ambitious films are coming out in the next four months. Including huge space epics, massive franchise pictures... and Marvel's first post-Avengers movie without Iron Man in it. Here's our prognosis for 20 upcoming science fiction and fantasy movies.
And before anyone asks, there's no U.S. release date for Snowpiercer. Or Only Lovers Left Alive. Or Under the Skin. Or the long-awaited Knights of Badassdom. We'll keep you posted!
Top image: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
Riddick (Sept. 6)
The alien anti-hero with the see-in-the-dark eyes is back, and just like in Pitch Black he's stranded on a planet where everything is trying to kill him. Unlike in Pitch Black, he's got a ton of bounty hunters on his tail as well.
Prognosis: This looks like pure action-movie goodness, and very much a return to the Riddick we loved in the first movie. We visited the set, and the love of mayhem just burst from every corner.
Hell Baby (Sept. 6)
Rob Corddry stars in this horror comedy about a man who moves into a haunted New Orleans house, after which his pregnant wife starts acting extremely violent.
Prognosis: It's already out on VOD and early reviews suggest it is "ridiculously crude and mean-spirited" and more like a connection of random skits than a movie. Also, better than Scary Movie, but not by much.
Insidious, Chapter 2 (Sept. 13)
Did the WTF ending of the first Insidious leave you confused? Director James Wan is back to show what happens next. How on Earth can this family survive after what happened the first time around?
Prognosis: Wan blew us away (and rocked the box office) with The Conjuring, so we're excited to see what might be his last foray into horror. Wan promises Insidious 2 takes it to "a whole other crazy disturbing level." Fingers crossed.
The Colony (Sept. 20)
After a disastrous ice age caused by our attempts to fix global warming, the last survivors of humanity live in a handful of bases. And to make matters worse, there are zombies.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (Sept. 27)
The first Cloudy was one of our favorite movies of 2009, and a really exciting surprise. This time around, the food machine is creating food-animal hybrids, like Tacodiles and Flamangoes.
Prognosis: Original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller are not back, because they're doing the LEGO movie instead. Nor is this based on the second book in the Cloudy series. The sneak peek we saw at Comic-Con did not seem to excite anybody.
Gravity (Oct. 4)
Alfonso Cuarón owned our brains with the incredible film-making in Children of Men. And now he's back at last, with space epic in which Sandra Bullock and George Clooney must survive alone, after a catastrophe, and all they have is each other.
Prognosis: This movie will rule. Everything we've seen of it, including a huge chunk at Cinema-Con, has blown us away, and there's pretty much no way this won't be one of our favorite films of the year.
Bad Milo! (Oct. 4)
Ken Marino plays a guy who's stuck in a stressful job, suffering from horrible stomach pains. Until it turns out there's an evil demon living inside his intestines, and it sneaks out and attacks the people who are stressing him out.
Prognosis: It looks like crazy fun, and has a very retro-1980s vibe. Here's hoping it's this year's horror-comedy breakout.
Nothing Left to Fear (Oct. 4)
Anne Heche stars in a horror movie produced by Slash from Guns N' Roses. In which a pastor moves to the town of Stull, Kansas, which turns out to be one of the seven gates of Hell. And demonic shit is afoot, man.
Prognosis: Slash has been doing a ton of interviews in which he says that he loves old-school 1970s horror films, where more was left to the imagination, and he hopes to recapture that with this film. So you never know, right?
Carrie (Oct. 18)
Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don't Cry) remakes the classic horror film based on a Stephen King novel, with Chloe Grace Moretz taking the Sissie Spacek role. And Julianne Moore as the psycho mom.
Prognosis: Incredibly high hopes for this one. It looks like it'll be fantastic, although can they live up to the De Palma version?
Haunter (Oct. 18)
Vincenzo Natali (Splice) is back with this horror film about a family that moves into a haunted house. Abigail Breslin plays a girl who died in 1986 and is stuck as a ghost, trying to save a living girl from suffering the same fate.
Prognosis: Even in a month crammed with horror movies, this sounds like something pretty unique, and the idea of a ghost girl trying to save a living girl sounds really neat. Plus we're eager to see more from Natali, after Splice.
Escape Plan (Oct. 18)
Sylvester Stallone is an escape expert who gets locked in the most high-tech escape-proof prison of all time, and it turns out to be an evil conspiracy. Good thing he's locked in with the Terminator.
Prognosis: We're suckers for high-tech superprison movies, and old-school action heroes. Let's hope there's lots of outsmarting computers and crawling under lasers.
Not quite science fiction or fantasy: In Zero Charisma (Oct. 11), a Dungeons & Dragons dungeon-master faces a personal crisis. In Machete Kills (Oct. 11), Lady Gaga is an assassin or something. In The Counselor (Oct. 25), Ridley Scott reunites with his Prometheus star Michael Fassbender for a movie written by Cormac McCarthy.
Ender's Game (Nov. 1)
Orson Scott Card's beloved, award-winning novel about a war with alien insect creatures becomes a huge movie, with Ben Kingsley and Harrison Ford in major supporting roles. This is a dark fable about how far people are willing to go to win a war, and it ought to be disturbing and thrilling.
Prognosis: Everything we've seen so far about this movie promises an insane attention to detail and dedication to capturing every corner of the futuristic wartime setting. And the space battle scenes look just breathtaking. The main question that remains is, will this film do justice to the dark heart of the book?
About Time (Nov. 1)
Richard Curtis not only wrote a lot of the best bits in Blackadder, he also wrote one of the best Doctor Who stories of the Matt Smith era, with "Vincent and the Doctor." Now he's writing and directing a time-travel comedy film in which a young man can jump through his own timeline and try to fix things — but should he?
Thor: the Dark World (Nov. 8)
Not only is Thor back in this second Asgardian adventure, but so is Tom Hiddleston's Loki. Also, Natalie Portman's Jane Foster is actually visiting Asgard, and former Doctor Who star Christopher Eccleston is a dark elf.
Prognosis: It would be hard to replace Kenneth Branagh as director of this vaguely Shakespearean high fantasy series — but choosing a veteran Game of Thrones director, Alan Taylor, feels like a masterstroke. And apparently recent reshoots were all about beefing up Loki's screen time. So here's hoping for a Game of Thrones-esque saga with tons of Loki.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Nov. 22)
The first Hunger Games movie was a bit of a miracle: a bleak, intense film that fully captured the inner life of Suzanne Collins' novel about teens killing each other on television in a dystopian future. Now just a year later, the second book is being adapted for film.
Prognosis: The first trailers have looked good, and Jennifer Lawrence is still note-perfect as Katniss. And we're excited to get more of Donald Sutherland as President Snow. But this is a tricky book to adapt for film, because the political maneuverings get more complicated. And it's an open question whether director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend) can fill Gary Ross' shoes, especially given such a short turnaround time.
Frozen (Nov. 27)
Disney's latest animated feature is a loose adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, starring Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel and Jonathan Groff. A girl goes on a perilous journey across the tundra to save her sister from an icy curse, facing trolls and snowmen along the way.
Prognosis: This project has been in the pipeline for a long time, and seems to have gone through a lot of turmoil. Most encouraging sign: Jennifer Lee, co-writer of Wreck-It Ralph, worked on this script and then became the film's co-director at the last minute. If this film has even a fraction of Ralph's appeal, that would be a very good thing.
Not quite science fiction or fantasy: With Oldboy (Nov. 27), Spike Lee remakes the classic Korean film about a man kept locked up for 20 years.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Dec. 13)
The second part of Peter Jackson's epic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy classic — and this time, we're dealing with the dragon smaug, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch!
Prognosis: This could be the first movie where you feel the brunt of Jackson's decision to split the Hobbit adaptation into three films, instead of two. We're guessing that the first film, An Unexpected Journey, was much the same as it would have been if the Hobbit had stayed a duology. So fingers crossed that Jackson proves he has enough story to carry three films.
Her (Dec. 18)
Spike Jonze's first full-length movie since Where the Wild Things Are seems like it'll be a return to the weird grown-up territory of films like Adaptation and Being John Malkovich. Joaquin Phoenix is a guy who falls in love with the Siri-like operating system of his phone, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.
Prognosis: The first trailer looked suitably weird and fascinating — but is this movie arriving too late? Have we already had all of the "falling in love with Siri" humor and weirdness we needed? Let's hope it actually delves into topics like the nature of consciousness, and how technology is shaping our relationships with other people.
Walking With Dinosaurs (Dec. 20)
The beloved BBC miniseries is finally becoming a huge CG movie, after having already been a traveling arena show. I guess this movie is ditching the "nature documentary" format of the BBC series for something more story-based — according to the trailer and some synopses, it's about a small underdog dinosaur struggling to prove himself and lead the whole herd to a new home.
Prognosis: It looks cute, although it doesn't look like the dinosaurs have feathers in the trailer. It could be the a decent movie you can park your kids in front of, and get them interested in paleontology.
47 Ronin (Dec. 25)
This lonnnnng-delayed supernatural action movie, directed by Carl Rinsch (who also did the short film The Gift) is finally getting released in the death slot, on Christmas.
Prognosis: It's Keanu Reeves as a samurai. Yay?
Not quite science fiction or fantasy: In Saving Mr. Banks (Dec. 13) we witness the miracle of Walt Disney convincing author P.L. Travers to let him make Mary Poppins. In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Dec. 25), Ben Stiller plays a guy who escapes into daydreams and then finds a real-life adventure.