With less than a month left until the 2017 summer movie season ends - summer 2017 itself officially ends on Friday, September 22, 2017 - it's a good time to look ahead to what's coming in the fall of 2017, specifically with regards to movies in which black actors feature in prominent roles, or movies with a dominant black presence behind the cameras, as what has come to be deemed awards season begins, when studios and indie houses roll out their contenders for the various Hollywood and independent awards events that will take place over the next 1 to 7 months.
Sanaa Lathan in 'American Assassin'
In terms of what we'd classify as "black films" (films that tell stories that are centered primarily around a character of African descent), there are a tiny few; but there are several upcoming films that aren't "black films" but feature black actors in key supporting roles, or just supporting roles, whether key or not. Those are included in the list below as well.
Zendaya in 'The Greatest Showman'
Finally, in consideration of potential awards season contenders - maybe very specifically "black films" or performances by black actors that might be awards season contenders - the list gets even shorter. But for a fuller list of "black films" that I think may be in the running for Oscar 2018 nominations, check out my predictions list here.
For this article, we're looking at what films are scheduled to be released in the USA over the next 4 months, whether they are potential awards contenders or not.
So without further ado, let's dive in. Each title on the list is followed by the release date and trailer where available, as well as a synopsis and what black talent is involved. I also include brief commentary on those that I think have the potential to make some noise on the awards circuit:
1 -- Blade Runner 2049: Scheduled to be released on October 6, 2017. None of the film's leads is black. But Barkhad Abdi, Lennie James and Elarica Johnson all have supporting roles in the film; although how significant their individual narratives will be to the overall story, we don't really know at this time. It means that we likely won't know until the film is released in less than 2 months. Directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, the sequel to Blade Runner (1982), stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, who reprises his role as Rick Deckard. A young blade runner's discovery of a long buried secret leads him on a quest to track down former blade runner, Rick Deckard, who's been missing for thirty years.
2 -- The Mountain Between Us: Idris Elba is having maybe his busiest year, with 4 high-profile films scheduled to be released in 2017, in which he either stars or plays a supporting role: The Dark Tower (Sony), Thor: Ragnarok (Disney/Marvel), Molly's Game (Entertainment One) and the romantic drama The Mountain Between Us for Twentieth Century Fox and producer Chernin Entertainment. Elba stars with Kate Winslet. An adaptation of the best-selling novel by Charles Martin, the story centers on a man and woman, survivors of a plane crash in the wilderness, who fall in love. The film is being directed by Hany Abu-Assad from a script that was initially adapted by Mills Goodloe and Scott Frank. Chris Weitz was tapped for a rewrite. It's a film on the S&A 2018 Oscar predictions list. Fox has set an October 6th, 2017 release for the film - in the thick of awards season - which might be a sign of their expectations for it.
3 -- Marshall: Having already played Jackie Robinson and James Brown, Chadwick Boseman is taking on another real-life icon in a courtroom thriller about Thurgood Marshall. Under the direction of Reginald Hudlin, Boseman stars as the legendary attorney in Marshall, a film that focuses on a case early in the career of the Supreme Court justice. As the nation teeters on the brink of WWII, a nearly bankrupt NAACP sends Marshall to conservative Connecticut to defend a black chauffeur against his wealthy socialite employer in a sexual assault and attempted murder trial that quickly became tabloid fodder. Joining Boseman in front of the camera are Sterling K. Brown as Joseph Spell, the defendant at the center of the above case; Keesha Sharp plays Buster Marshall, Thurgood's wife; and Josh Gad is Samuel Friedman, the young Jewish lawyer who partners with Marshall on the case. Open Road has set an October 13 release date for Marshall - just in time for awards season. It's another title on our 2018 Oscar predictions list.
4 -- Same Kind of Different as Me: An adaptation of the nonfiction bestseller Same Kind of Different as Me: A Modern-Day Slave, An International Art Dealer, And The Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together, by Denver Moore, Ron Hall and Lynn Vincent, it tells the true story of 3 unlikely people who team up to try and solve homelessness in Fort Worth, Texas. A "dangerous," homeless drifter who grew up picking cotton in virtual slavery; an upscale art dealer accustomed to the world of Armani and Chanel; and a gutsy woman with a stubborn dream. Djimon Hounsou replaced Samuel L. Jackson (who was initially attached) to play Denver Moore, while Ron Hall is played Greg Kinnear. Renee Zellweger co-stars in the film adaptation of the book, playing (from the title) "the unlikely woman who bound them together" - Ron Hall's wife, who introduced him to Denver Moore. Same Kind of Different as Me opens in US theaters on October 20, 2017.
5 -- Tyler Perry's Boo 2! A Madea Halloween: Lionsgate has set a release date for Tyler Perry's next film - a sequel to 2016's Boo! A Madea Halloween - for an October 20, 2017 theatrical opening, just in time for Halloween, as was last year's first film which was a hit, grossing $74 million (domestic) on a $20 million budget. It is the 10th film in the Madea series, and the third Madea film (after Madea's Witness Protection and Boo!) not adapted from the stage play. Perry is of course writing, directing and starring in Boo 2!. In terms of story... what more do you need to know? It's a Tyler Perry "Madea" movie!
6 -- The Work: A documentary set inside a single room in Folsom Prison, The Work follows three men from outside as they participate in a four-day group therapy retreat with level-four convicts. Over the four days, each man in the room takes his turn at delving deep into his past, offering a powerful and rare look into a movement of change and redemption that transcends what we think of as rehabilitation. Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous co-directed the film. Indie distribution house The Orchard will release the film on October 20, 2017.
7 -- Jigsaw: Clé Bennett, Keeya King, and Mandela Van Peebles co-star in the upcoming film directed by Michael and Peter Spierig. It is the eighth (and hopefully the last) installment in the Saw franchise, picking up over a decade after the death of the eponymous Jigsaw killer during the investigation of a new succession of murders that fit his modus operandi. The film is scheduled to be released on October 27, 2017 in the United States, by Lionsgate Films. It's a Saw movie. If you've seen any of the previous 7, you know how this works... "Greetings and welcome. I want to play a game."
8 -- Thor: Ragnarok: Tessa Thompson and Idris Elba play supporting roles in the Marvel Studios movie, joining an impressive group of actors including Cate Blanchett (playing the mysterious and powerful new villain Hela), Jeff Goldblum (as the eccentric Grandmaster), Karl Urban as Skurge, and other new faces to the franchise (although Elba as Heimdall has been there since the first film). The pièce de résistance, Tessa Thompson,, will bring the classic hero Valkyrie to life on the big screen! A sequel to 2011's Thor and 2013's Thor: The Dark World and the seventeenth film installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the film is directed by Taika Waititi with a screenplay by Eric Pearson, and is scheduled to be released in the United States on November 3, 2017, in 3D, IMAX and IMAX 3D.
9 -- Roman Israel, Esq.: A film that's on the 2018 Oscar predictions list, the Denzel Washington legal thriller from writer/director Dan Gilroy, sees the actor play a driven, idealistic defense attorney who, through a tumultuous series of events (starting with his partner having a heart attack), finds himself in a crisis as he realizes things about his firm that draw into question his own personal morality, which leads him to take some extreme action. Joining Washington in front of the camera are relative newcomers Ashton Sanders (Moonlight) and Joseph David-Jones (he also appears in Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit), as well as Carmen Ejogo, Colin Farrell, Andrew T. Lee, and Nazneen Contractor. A November 3, 2017 release date is set via Sony / Columbia.
No trailer yet.
10 -- The Star: An upcoming 3D computer-animated Christian comedy film directed by Timothy Reckart and based on the Nativity of Jesus, and of an original pitch by Tom Sheridan, it is written by Carlos Kotkin and Simon Moore, and features an ensemble voice cast that includes many names you'd instantly recognize like Anthony Anderson, Keegan-Michael Key, Tracy Morgan, Tyler Perry, Ving Rhames, Gina Rodriguez, and Oprah Winfrey. The film centers on a donkey, Bo, and his animal friends who become the unsung heroes of the first Christmas. It is set to be released on November 10, 2017 by Columbia Pictures.
11 -- Justice League: Ray Fisher, Joe Morton and Kiersey Clemons all appear in the upcoming superhero film based on the DC Comics superhero team of the same name, distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. Directed by Zack Snyder and written by Chris Terrio, from a story by Snyder and Terrio. Fisher (as Victor Stone / Cyborg), Morton (as Dr. Silas Stone, a scientist at S.T.A.R. Labs and Victor Stone's father), and Clemons (as Iris West) are part of an ensemble cast that includes Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Ciarán Hinds, Amy Adams, Willem Dafoe, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, and J. K. Simmons. In Justice League, Batman and Wonder Woman assemble a team consisting of Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg to face the catastrophic threat of Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons. The film is scheduled to be released on November 17, 2017, in 2D, 3D, and IMAX.
12 -- Wonder: Daveed Diggs has a supporting role in the family comedy-drama film directed by Stephen Chbosky and written by Steve Conrad, based on the 2012 novel of the same name by R.J. Palacio. The film stars Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson as the parents of a young boy struggling to overcome a facial difference, portrayed by Jacob Tremblay. Daveed Diggs plays Mr. Browne, an English teacher at the school with an unconventional approach to teaching literature. The film will be released on November 17, 2017 by Lionsgate.
13 -- Last Flag Flying: Laurence Fishburne and J. Quinton Johnson co-star in the upcoming comedy-drama directed by Richard Linklater, from a screenplay by Linklater and Darryl Ponicsan, based upon the latter's 2005 novel of the same name. It's also considered a sequel to the 1973 Hal Ashby film The Last Detail. Former naval petty officers Billy and Mule are reacquainted with Larry Meadows 34 years after they first escorted him to jail. Bryan Cranston and Steve Carell also star alongside Fishburne and Johnson. The film will have its world premiere at the New York Film Festival on September 28, 2017, before being released on November 3, 2017, by Amazon Studios.
No trailer yet.
14 -- Molly's Game: Another Idris Elba title on this list (the 3rd, along with Thor: Ragnorok and The Mountain Between Us), the crime drama film written and directed by Aaron Sorkin in his directorial debut, is based upon the memoir Molly's Game: From Hollywood's Elite to Wall Street's Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker by Molly Bloom. It stars Jessica Chastain as Bloom, who becomes the target of an FBI investigation following her running of an underground poker empire for Hollywood celebrities, athletes, business tycoons and the Russian mob. Elba plays her criminal defense lawyer, her only true ally throughout the ordeal, especially during the aftermath. He comes to see more to Molly than the vacuous headlines about her extravagant life suggest. Also in the cast are Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Brian d'Arcy James, Chris O'Dowd, Bill Camp, Graham Greene, Claire Rankin, Joe Keery and Jeremy Strong. The film is scheduled to premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and be released in the United States on November 22, 2017 by STX Entertainment.
15 -- Villa Capri: Morgan Freeman and Sheryl Lee Ralph appear in the action comedy film directed and written by Ron Shelton. The film stars Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones as the affable manager of a retirement community and self-proclaimed mayor of Palm Springs who finds his status challenged by a new tenant who is stealing the attention of the local ladies. The two rivals are forced to work together when an unexpected visitor resurfaces and threatens their lives. Rene Russo, Elizabeth Ashley and Sheryl Lee Ralph appear in supporting roles. The film is scheduled for release by Broad Green Pictures on November 22, 2017.
No trailer yet.
16 -- The Shape of Water: Octavia Spencer continues to line up some really intriguing projects. On the heels of the box office smash that has been Hidden Figures, the actress next co-stars in director Guillermo Del Toro's Cold War era movie The Shape of Water, described as a mysterious and magical journey set against the backdrop of 1963 America, with an otherworldly love story at the center of it. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (star Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of silence and isolation. Elisa's life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment. How involved Spencer's Zelda will be in the overall story will be revealed eventually. But it's definitely an intriguing project given what we know of the story, as well as the names attached, notably director Del Toro who rarely disappoints. Rounding out the cast are Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg and Doug Jones. Del Toro is writing, producing and directing The Shape of Water for Fox Searchlight, which is set for a December 8, 2017 release.
17 -- Ferdinand: The upcoming 3D computer-animated comedy film is produced by Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox Animation, and is based on Munro Leaf's children's book The Story of Ferdinand. Carlos Saldanha is directing. Ferdinand is a Spanish Fighting Bull who prefers smelling the flowers and practicing non-violence rather than chasing red cloths held by matadors in arenas. But when disaster comes to him, he is taken to a fighting stadium like every bull in Spain, and Ferdinand needs to decide if he is a fighting bull or a flower smelling, generous bull, in order to earn his freedom. The ensemble voice cast includes Daveed Diggs, Anthony Anderson, Boris Kodjoe, Jerrod Carmichael, Gina Rodriguez, John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Gabriel Iglesias, Bobby Cannavale, David Tennant, Flula Borg, Sally Phillips, Raúl Esparza, Karla Martínez, and Miguel Ángel Silvestre. It is scheduled to be released on December 15, 2017 in 3D and 2D.
18 -- Star Wars: The Last Jedi: John Boyega and Lupita Nyong'o reprise their roles as Finn, a former stormtrooper of the First Order who defected to the Resistance, and Maz Kanata, a pirate and longtime friend of Han Solo and Chewbacca. The space opera is written and directed by Rian Johnson. It is the second film in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, following Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). The film is produced by Lucasfilm and will be distributed by Disney Studios on December 15, 2017.
19 -- Bastards: Ving Rhames, Katt Williams and Retta have supporting roles in the upcoming comedy directed by Lawrence Sher and written by Justin Malen. The film stars Owen Wilson and Ed Helms as 2 brothers who learn that their father did not die when they were young, as they had previously believed, and go on a road trip across America to find him. J. K. Simmons, Terry Bradshaw,June Squibb and Glenn Close also appear in the film which is scheduled to be released on December 22, 2017, by Warner Bros. Pictures.
20 -- Downsizing: Niecy Nash appears in the upcoming science fiction comedy-drama film written and directed by Alexander Payne, and co-written by Jim Taylor. The film, which stars Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig, follows Paul Safranek and his wife, Audrey, who, deciding that their lives have gotten out of hand, decide to voluntarily have themselves shrunk down. Unfortunately for Paul, she backs out at the last minute. The cast also includes Christoph Waltz, Alec Baldwin, Neil Patrick Harris, Maribeth Monroe and Jason Sudeikis. The film will premiere at the 74th Venice Film Festival on August 30, 2017 and be released by Paramount Pictures in the United States on December 22, 2017.
No trailer yet.
21 -- Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle: Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart star in this upcoming 3D action adventure film directed by Jake Kasdan and written by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg and Jeff Pinkner. A sequel to Jumanji (1995), the Johnson and Hart are joined in front of the camera by Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas and Bobby Cannavale, in a film that takes place twenty years after the events of the original 1995 film. When cleaning out a school's basement while serving detention, four teenagers find a vintage video game version of Jumanji and get sucked into its jungle setting. They also become their avatars inside the game and the only way out is to play along and finish it. It is scheduled to be released on December 20, 2017 via Sony Pictures.
22 -- The Greatest Showman: Zendaya and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II play supporting characters in the biographical musical drama directed by Michael Gracey, from a script written by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon. The film tells the real-life story of American showman P. T. Barnum, founder of the circus that became the famous traveling Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Hugh Jackman as P. T. Barnum. Abdul-Mateen, WD Wheeler, a hand-to-hand acrobat partner of Barnum's, and Zendaya is his sister Anne Wheeler, who's also involved in the "greatest show on earth." The film is scheduled to be released by 20th Century Fox on December 25, 2017 in United States and Canada.
23 --9/11: Whoopi Goldberg and Wood Harris co-star in the upcoming film directed by Kevin Gao. Based on Patrick James Carson's award winning play Elevator, the film's cast also includes Charlie Sheen, Gina Gershon, Luis Guzmán and Jacqueline Bisset. On the morning of September 11, 2001, a messenger sings Happy Birthday to You to his daughter; a billionaire argues with his wife in a divorce hearing; a maintenance man begins his day, and a young Russian decides she's breaking up with her sugar daddy. When the first plane hits the World Trade Center, these five elevator passengers find themselves trapped. Forced to band together, they fight against all odds to escape before the imminent and inevitable collapse occurs. The film is scheduled to be released on September 8, 2017 via Atlas Distribution Company.
24 -- American Assassin: Sanaa Lathan co-stars in CBS Films and Lionsgate's adaptation of Vince Flynn's massive bestseller of the same name, which is directed by Michael Cuesta, from a screenplay by Stephen Schiff. Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Nick Wechsler are producing the film which follows the rise of Mitch Rapp (Dylan O'Brien) a CIA black ops recruit under the instruction of Cold War veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). The pair is then enlisted by CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) to investigate a wave of apparently random attacks on both military and civilian targets. Together the three discover a pattern in the violence leading them to a joint mission with a lethal Turkish agent (Shiva Negar) to stop a mysterious operative (Taylor Kitsch) intent on starting a World War in the Middle East. The film is scheduled for a September 15, 2017 release via Lionsgate Films - a company that's showed up on this list quite a bit.
25 -- Kingsman The Golden Circle: Halle Berry plays a supporting role in the action-spy-comedy film directed by Matthew Vaughn, which is a sequel to 2014 film Kingsman: The Secret Service. The series is based on the comic book The Secret Service, created by Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar. The film also stars Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Elton John, Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges, and is scheduled to be released on September 22 in the US.
26 -- Flatliners: Kiersey Clemons (who is also set to appear in Justice League as Iris West) is part of an ensemble cast in this upcoming sc-fi, psychological horror film directed by Niels Arden Oplev and written by Ben Ripley. The film is a sequel to the 1990 film of the same name, and stars Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, Clemons and Kiefer Sutherland (who starred in the original), and follows five young medical students who attempt to conduct experiments that produce near-death experiences. Columbia Pictures will release the film on September 29, 2017 in the United States.
27 -- A Question of Faith: Richard T. Jones, Kim Fields and Gregory Alan Williams star in this indie faith-based drama film directed by Kevan Otto, from a script penned by Ty Manns. When tragedy strikes three families, their destiny forces them on a converging path to discover God's love, grace and mercy as the challenges of their fate could also resurrect their beliefs. Pure Flix will open the film in the USA on September 29, 2017.
28 -- My Little Pony: Taye Diggs, Uzo Aduba and Zoe Saldana are part on an ensemble voice cast of actors who give voice to characters in the upcoming animated musical fantasy film based on the television series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, which was developed as part of the 2010 re-launch of the My Little Pony franchise by Hasbro. The film is directed by Jayson Thiessen and based on a screenplay co-written by Meghan McCarthy. Also starring are Tara Strong, Ashleigh Ball, Andrea Libman, Tabitha St. Germain, and Cathy Weseluck, with guest performances by Emily Blunt, Kristin Chenoweth, Liev Schreiber, Michael Peña, Sia, Diggs, Aduba, and Zoe Saldana. The film is scheduled to be released theatrically on October 6, 2017 in the United States by Lionsgate.
29 - Bad Grandmas: Pam Grier stars alongside the late Florence Henderson, as well as Judge Reinhold and Randall Batinkoff in director Srikant Chellappa's dark comedy (it was previously titled Grandmothers Murder Club). The story follows four church-going Southern old ladies who are conned out of a house by one of their son-in-laws, and end up accidentally killing him. It's Henderson's final film (she died in November 2016). Parade Deck Films and Wow Now Entertainment have paired up to release the "Bad Grandmas" in US theaters starting on October 6, followed by VOD and digital distribution in December.
30 -- Geostorm: Adepero Oduye and Zazie Beetz appear in this upcoming environmental disaster science-fiction action film co-written, produced, and directed by Dean Devlin as his feature debut. The film stars Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Alexandra Lara, Daniel Wu, Eugenio Derbez, Amr Waked, Robert Sheehan, with Ed Harris, and Andy García. The film is about a satellite designer who tries to save the world from a storm of epic proportions caused by malfunctioning climate-controlling satellites. The movie is set to be released by Warner Bros. on October 20, 2017.
That's all I have! If I missed anything that you're aware of, speak up in the comments section below. I should also note that this list will likely grow after notable film festivals like Venice and Toronto end, where distributors typically go hunting for fall season films to acquire. So there's a chance that films scheduled to screen at these festivals may get fall dates in the next couple of months. In addition, there are a few Netflix films specifically that don't have theatrical release dates, but will premiere on the streaming platform this fall, including Will Smith's "Bright," which will be released worldwide on Netflix on December 22, 2017.
Which of these films are you most looking forward to seeing?
Otherwise, enjoy what's left of the summer movie season, and get excited for what's coming in the fall!