Fall movie lull precedes the big films of the holiday season

Lashana Lynch and Thuso Mbedu in The Woman King (Entertainment One)

As summer fades into fall, there is a lull at movie theaters around the country.

Early September has always been sort of a wasteland for the movie business as families begin to adjust to the new school year and lives get busier.

Usually a lot of small movies are released as well as films for which studios have little faith. Late September into October a few prestige-type film often make a bow, but the movie business really doesn’t begin cooking again until just before Thanksgiving when the holiday season means bigger audiences and better releases throughout December.

This year the release slate seems a bit lighter than usual even for the premium movie-going juncture between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. A lot of that has to do with the film pipeline that was slowed by the coronavirus pandemic as well as the corresponding crunch on special effects houses that fell behind when the world was put on pause. That along with some financial restructuring at prominent studios like Warner Bros., which bumped two super-hero movies “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” and “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” to next year, has reduced the number of tent pole movies available in theaters this year. That breathing room might be good.

Either way, here is a preview of some of the top movies we have to look forward to during the fourth quarter.

The Woman King (Sept. 16)

Viloa Davis looks stunning in the trailer as a warrior who leads the Agojie, an all-female group of fighters who defend the African Kingdom of Dahomey from outside enemies during the British Colonial Period of the 1800s. Davis seems to be a sure bet for another Oscar nod for this film directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, who headed up the Netflix action film “The Old Guard” as well as “Love and Basketball” and “Beyond the Lights.”

Don’t Worry Darling (Sept. 23 )

Olivia Wilde directs and co-stars in this prestige sci-fi flick as the follow-up to her critically acclaimed teen comedy “Booksmart.” The movie has garnered headlines lately but not exactly the type the studio or the director wants. With star Florence Pugh only doing limited press for the film, which co-stars Wilde and her latest boy toy Harry Styles, who replaced Shia Labeouf in the lead male role. Evidently Wilde and Pugh didn’t get along very well on set. Wilde also had trouble with Labeouf. She recently said in a Vanity Faire interview that she fired Labeouf. However, his story is that he left project when other members of the cast did not want to spend the appropriate time rehearsing the material. Labeouf has publicly called for an apology or correction by Wilde. Despite this drama, the trailer for the film, which also stars Chris Pine, was interesting.

The Good House (Sept. 30)

Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kleine co-star in this romantic comedy, adapted from Ann Leary’s titular bestseller from 2013 about a boozy realtor Weaver who falls back in love with her former flame Kleine in an idyllic North Shore Boston setting. Seems like a perfect fall pairing to me. Kleine has been one of my favorites since the 1980s for his turns in “Silverado” and “A Fish Called Wanda.” He and Weaver were great together in “Dave,” and I’m hoping this pairing will be just as fun.

Halloween Ends (Oct. 14)

Will this truly be the end of the saga of Michael Myers? Probably not, but it is the final film in David Gordon Green’s three-part re-imagining of the aftermath of the 1978 John Carpenter classic. I sat through the others so I might as well go the distance. Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie Strode, who has spent 40-plus years plagued by Myers’ mayhem. This time, though, it seems she’s the hunter rather than the prey.

Black Adam (Oct. 21)

Originally announced nearly a decade ago, “Black Adam” finally makes it to theaters with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson starring as the comic-book villain, who is now classified as an anti-hero. Black Adam originated as the polar opposite of the 1940s’ comic-book hero Captain Marvel, now known as Shazam, but in more recent years, Black Adam became a featured character. Black Adam, while not necessarily evil in the new take, is ruthless, and he doesn’t mind killing as a means to his end. This movie not only introduces Black Adam to the big screen but also several members of the Justice Society of America — Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo). The JSA was the original super-hero team, debuting in All-Star Comics No. 3 in 1940. The better known and more popular Justice League of America was an update of the JSA in 1960. Could this be the hit the DC Cinematic Universe has been looking for?

Banshees of Inisherin (Oct. 23)

Director Martin McDonagh first impressed audiences with his cult-hit, black comedy “In Bruges.” He reunites with the stars of that film Brendan Gleason and Colin Farrell for “The Banshees of Inisherin.” They play men who are feuding with each other for a reason that is not exactly clear from the trailer. The film appears to be another black comedy, but I could be wrong about that. Either way, I’m in for whatever the director of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” has in mind.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Nov. 11)

Director Ryan Coogler has the daunting task of making a super-hero sequel without the super-hero at the center of the original film. The untimely death of Chadwick Boseman left Marvel in a perplexing situation. Boseman was so beloved as the character that studio boss Kevin Feige opted not to recast the role but rather show the ramifications not only of the death of a hero but also a king. A Black Panther, which is a legacy mantle handed down to a new champion each generation, does appear in the trailer, but which character will take on the role? The Sub-Mariner, one of Marvel’s first two super heroes along with the original Human Torch who debuted in Marvel Mystery Comics No. 1 in 1939, is reimagined as the film’s antagonist. Rumors are that key Marvel villain Dr. Doom might make his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in this film.

Devotion (Nov. 23)

Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country, and Loki) stars as an African-American pilot serving in the Korean War despite the racial tension back home and in the Air Force. Glen Powell (Top Gun: Maverick) co-stars as his wingman in this inspirational war story, directed by J.D. Dillard. The film about friendship and bravery against conflict within and without is getting early Oscar buzz.

Avatar: The Way of Water (Dec. 16)

Children have been born and made it to junior high since James Cameron’s “Avatar” first played on the big screen and shattered box-office records left and right. The fantasy epic stands as the highest grossing film of all time, and its sequel “Avatar: The Way of Water” is expected to be one of the top-grossing films of this year. The big question is did Cameron let the series sit too long while waiting for technology to catch up with his story for fans to maintain a high interest level. The trailer is visually stunning, but will the story live up to the original? We will know a lot more by Christmas.

New in Local Theaters

Gigi and Nate (PG-13) 1 hr. 54 min. (trailer)
Malco Razorback, Malco Towne

Honk for Jesus (R) 1 hr. 43 min. (trailer)
Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle, Skylight

Classic Corner – Jaws (3D)

Really, there is never a bad time to watch “Jaws?” It’s just a great movie that still holds up really well today.

Who doesn’t relate to Roy Scheider’s Martin Brody who is asked to confront his greatest fear — water — to stop a monstrous shark that is terrorizing a village dependent upon its beaches being full of tourists on the Fourth of July weekend?

And who hasn’t encountered a smart-aleck, know-it-all like Richard Dreyfuss’ Matt Hooper, a marine biologist, who loves lording his expertise over every situation?

Robert Shaw’s Quint is a highly capable bully who is almost as intimidating as the shark, and Murray Hamilton’s Mayor Larry Vaughn is the expedient fool who pours gasoline on the fire without even realizing he’s putting everyone in danger.

There are too many classic scenes and lines in the movie to rehash here, but watching the drunken Quint revisit the true story of the USS “Indianapolis” for Hooper and Brody is a chilling masterpiece. For my money, it’s as effective of a scene that has ever been committed to film.

This week, though, you’ll be able to see the 1975, Steven Spielberg-directed classic that helped coin the phrase “summer blockbuster” for the first time in 3D with its re-release. It’s playing at the AMC Fiesta Square and Malco Razorback IMAX theaters.

Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn

After growing up with the original “Star Trek” series in syndication, it is the “real” Star Trek to me. I was in first grade when the show began airing every afternoon at 4 p.m., and until “Star Wars” came out in the summer of 1977, “Star Trek” was the greatest piece of entertainment my little mind could imagine. It was cowboys in space. I mean who wouldn’t want a phaser or a communicator. Gene Roddenberry’s family should still be getting kick-back payments from Apple for the iPhone.

I have appreciation for some of the other Trek shows and characters, but Trek will always be William Shatner as Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spork and DeForest Kelly as Bones to me in my heart. There is no substitute.

One of the greatest movie-going disappointments of my life remains “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” I have tried to like that movie since it opened in December of 1979, but it’s just boring.

However, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” remains an exciting space adventure, and for my money the best Trek film to date.

Riffing off the 1967 episode “Space Seed,” Ricardo Montalban reprises his role as the genetically engineered super-man Khan, who is seeking revenge against Kirk and his crew for stranding him and his people on a nearly uninhabitable planet.

When Khan escapes the planet, he raids the Space Station Regula One, steals the top-secret device called Project Genesis, gains control of another Federation starship, and schemes for revenge against his old enemy Kirk with the threat of a universal Armageddon.

The movie is playing Sunday at 4 p.m. Monday at 7 p.m. at the Maclo Razorback Cinema thanks to Fathom Events. The showing includes a special introduction by Turner Classic Movies.