Oscars 2018: 20th Century Fox strong slate led by ‘The Papers,’ ‘The Great Showman’ …

Last year, 20th Century Fox had just one film in Oscar contention but it was a biggie: “Hidden Figures,” the true-life story of three African-American women who were a key part of the success of the early space program. This blockbuster made more than $170 million in the US and reaped three Oscar bids, including Best Picture.

This year, the studio could well hit Oscar paydirt again with two more true stories: the P.T. Barnum musical biopic “The Great Showman” starring Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams; and “The Papers,” Steven Spielberg‘s docudrama about the 1971 decision by Washington Post publisher Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) to trust her editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) and publish a classified dossier on the escalating American involvement in the Vietnam conflict.

Jackman also headline this winter’s well-received “Logan,” the 10th installment in the “X-Men” series. That marked his final appearance as the mutant Wolverine after first playing the part 17 years ago. Critics were particularly taken with the featured performance of Patrick Stewart as X-Men founder Charles Xavier.

An all-star cast has boarded this fall’s remake of “Murder on the Orient Express,” with Kenneth Branagh doing double duty as both director and Agatha Christie‘s famed detective Hercule Poirot. The 1974 original reaped six Oscar bids, including one for Albert Finney as the crime-solving Belgian. In this version, Oscar champ Penelope Cruz takes on the role that won Ingrid Bergman her third Oscar: a missionary traveling on a luxurious train implicated in the murder that Poirot is investigating.

Oscar winner Kate Winslet (“The Reader) and two-time SAG Award champ Idris Elba headline October’s “The Mountain Between Us” as a journalist and doctor who must work together to survive a plane crash in the mountains of Utah. This marks the first English language film for Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad, who also works in the Netherlands; he has contended twice before for the Foreign-Language Oscar with the Dutch entry “Paradise Now” (2005) and the Palestinian entry “Omar” (2013).

This summer’s “War of the Planet of the Apes” is the final entry in the trilogy that rebooted this franchise that dates back to 1968. Critics have lavished praised on the first two films in the series, particularly on the motion capture performance of Andy Serkis as Caesar, the leader of the apes.

And four-time Oscar nominee Ridley Scott returned to the franchise that first made his name back in 1979 with the spring release “Alien: Covenant,” which could well contend in several technical categories.

Below, detailed listings of each of these Oscar contenders, including release dates, creative types, cast lists, running times, plot summaries,  and receptions both critical and commercial.

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“Alien: Covenant” (20th Century Fox) – May 19
Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: John Logan, Dante Harper, Jack Paglen, Michael Green (based on characters created by Dan O’Bannon)
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bichir, Jussie Smollett, Amy Seimetz, Callie Hernandez, Alex England, Carmen Ejogo, James Franco
Running Time: 122 minutes

Summary: Ridley Scott returns to the franchise that made him famous with this story of a colony ship crew who discover an uncharted paradise, with a threat beyond their wildest nightmares.

Reception: Rotten Tomatoes – 71; MetaCritic – 65
Box Office: US – $73 million; Rest of World – $155 million

“The Greatest Showman” (20th Century Fox)  – December 25
Director: Michael Gracey
Writers: Jenny Bicks, Bill Condon
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Diahann Carroll

Summary: This biographical drama from first-time director Michael Gracey stars Hugh Jackman at American showman P.T. Barnum, founder of the famous Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

“Logan” (20th Century Fox) – March 3
Director: James Mangold
Writers: Scott Frank, James Mangold, and Michael Green (based on “X-Men” characters)
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Richard E. Grant, Eriq La Salle, Elise Neal, Quincy Fouse
Running Time: 137 minutes

Summary: James Mangold’s latest installment in the X-Men franchise finds Logan (Hugh Jackman) in the near future caring for an ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart) in a hide out at the Mexican border. Their lives are upended by the arrival of a young mutant (Dafne Keen) being pursued by dark forces.

Reception: Rotten Tomatoes – 93; MetaCritic – 77
Box Office: US – $226 million; Rest of World – $390 million

“The Mountain Between Us” (20th Century Fox) – October 6
Director: Hany Abu-Assad
Writers: J. Mills Goodloe and Chris Weitz (based on the 2011 novel by Charles Martin)
Cast: Idris Elba, Kate Winslet, Dermot Mulroney

Summary: In Hany Abu-Assad’s romantic thriller, a pair of plane crash survivors are forced to trust each other to find safety atop a mountain.

“Murder on the Orient Express” (20th Century Fox) – November 10
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writer: Michael Green (based on the novel by Agatha Christie)
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, Olivia Colman, Derek Jacobi

Summary: Adapted from Agatha Christie’s classic page-turner, this period mystery stars Kenneth Branagh as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, who investigates the murder of a wealthy American on the Orient Express. Branagh also directs.

“The Papers” (20th Century Fox) – December 18
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Liz Hannah, Hosh Singer
Cast: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Alison Brie, Carrie Coon, David Cross, Bruce Greenwood, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, Jesse Plemons, Matthew Rhys, Michael Stuhlbarg, Bradley Whitford, and Zach Woods.

Summary: In 1971, Washington Post publisher Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) decide to publish the “Pentagon Papers,” a series of documents prepared for the Department of Defense about the US involvement in Vietnam after WWII.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” (20th Century Fox) – July 14
Director: Matt Reeves
Writers: Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves
Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Amiah Miller, Karin Konoval, Judy Greer, Terry Notary

Summary: Two years after “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” Caesar (Serkis) and his apes are engaged in a war against Earth’s surviving humans. As the apes start suffering heavy losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts in order to face the Colonel (Harrelson).

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