Note: There are 26 films in the on-air version of this story — but here are three favorites.
Hollywood hauled out Apes, Transformers, and X-Men and still had a humdrum summer at the box office. For the first time in years, no summer blockbuster's managed to crack the $300 million barrier at the North American box office. In fact, until Guardians of the Galaxy came along, the film industry was looking at its lowest attendance figures in more than a decade.
Still, hope springs eternal, and with nearly 100 pictures lined up for the fall, there are bound to be a few that get pulses racing again.
Intriguingly, none of them — not even one — qualifies as a straight-up superhero movie. There is a black comedy about an actor who once played a superhero, and who is now so down on his luck he's fantasizing about a return to stardom ... on stage. That's Alejandro G. Inarritu's Birdman, with former Batman Michael Keaton suffering an elaborately visualized breakdown in the title role. Critics have been raving since the film's Venice Film Fest premiere earlier this week.
They've also had affirmative things to say about Rosewater, the film that first-time writer/director Jon Stewart took a leave of absence from The Daily Show to shepherd to the screen. Rosewater tracks the tough ordeal Iranian journalist (and Daily Show guest) Maziar Bahari was put through in an Iranian prison after authorities there decided his work for foreign news organizations amounted to spying.
And if the Middle East doesn't darken your mood, director Christopher Nolan may manage it in Interstellar, a vision of a future where humankind is rapidly running out of food, and the world's best minds are convinced that their task is not to save the earth, but to find a way to escape it.
Cheery stuff — and all hitting theaters before Thanksgiving, after which the awards contenders come out to play: Broadway musicals, biblical epics, hobbits. The sun'll come out tomorrow, dontcha know.