Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig shrink themselves, Jennifer Lawrence goes full on Black Swan, and Ryan Gosling is the new Blade Runner in a season of hidden gems and high-stakes productions that range from bold to bizarre to brilliant.
- 1. ‘It’ (Sept. 8th) – Jaeden Lieberher (continuing to establish himself after working
with the likes of Jeff Nichols and Colin Trevorrow) stars as Bill Denbrough, the leader of “The Losers Club” who battles a shape-shifting clown in the summer of ‘89 with his closest friends (one of whom, ‘Stranger Things’’ breakout Finn Wolfhard, should be in familiar territory here). What could be a surprisingly successful Stephen King adaptation, ‘It’ is the horror event that kicks off the fall movie season.
- 2. ‘mother!’ (Sept. 15th) – Darren Aronofsky is back and he brought Jennifer Lawrence with him. Reminiscent of Natalie Portman’s crazed ballerina, her character looks terrorized in the film’s magnificent trailer. What makes this next feature from the director of ‘Requiem for a Dream’ and ‘Black Swan’ so intriguing is Paramount’s marketing has kept all details under wraps except that “A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.” Whatever Aronofsky has up his sleeve, it seems to be mystifying drama with a creepy biblical undercurrent á la ‘Rosemary’s Baby.’
- 3. ‘The Lego Ninjago Movie’ (Sept. 22) – Charlie Bean, one of the latest ‘Lego Movie’ franchise film directors, recently told Entertainment Weekly that “There’s so much Asian cinema that’s in this, from martial-arts movies to ninja films, but it’s also big mechs and robots and anime stuff and monster-movie tropes.” Sounds like another animation adventure gifted this go around with the voices of Dave Franco, Michael Peña, Kumail Nanjiani, Abbi Jacobson and Olivia Munn.
- 4. ‘Battle of the Sexes’ (Sept. 22) – Emma Stone steps off Oscar stage and onto the tennis court for a sports comedy-drama based on Billie Jean King’s popular match against Bobby Riggs in 1973. Steve Carell plays the role of Bobby Riggs in what looks to be a crowd pleasing picture with a great scenario for its themes of gender equality to lean into. Directed by Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton (‘Little Miss Sunshine’).
- 5. ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ (Sept. 22) – It has been three years since Taron Egerton’s Eggsy sent up the spy genre and won over most audiences and critics to
become a surprise hit for Matthew Vaughn and 20th Century Fox. Now it is a franchise with a second installment locked and loaded with more spectacle than the first. This time he’s back with Jeff Bridges and Channing Tatum as American Statesmen agents, Julianne Moore as a criminal mastermind, and Colin Firth suddenly alive and well again. Sequels are usually bigger and more bloated, but ‘Kingsman’ is the type of material that can use excessive lavishness to its advantage.
- 6. ‘Blade Runner 2049’ (Oct. 6) – Denis Villeneuve, one of the most sought-after directors as of late, helms what is easily the most anticipated film of the season and continues the Blade Runner story 35 years after Ridley Scott released it to the world and changed science fiction as we know it. Following up what is arguably the best sci-fi film ever made is no easy feat, but this continuation looks pretty damn good. Cinematographer Roger Deakins should be given an Oscar for his work based on the trailer alone (he’s been nominated 13 times). While scenes in the original were smoky and occupied visually, the latest seems to feature shots that are more open, but with complicated and beautiful compositions nonetheless. With the original writer, Hampton Fancher, on board, maybe this film will stand side-by-side with its predecessor. Not to mention its eclectic cast – Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, and Dave Bautista. Whatever the outcome, it is sure to be another neo-noir cyberpunk epic.
- 7. ‘The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)’ (Netflix, Oct. 13) – Noah Baumbach is simply the best at making real, frustrating and hilarious New York stories (Woody Allen is hit-or-miss at best). This time around, Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler (taking a break from whatever else it was he was doing on Netflix) are brothers who meet their parents (Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson) to celebrate their father’s artistic achievements. A convenient gathering allows the family to speak their mind in each’s time of unique crisis. It also allows Sandler a chance to act – something very few people know he is actually good at. Baumbach’s first Netflix endeavor, one that should give a boost to its original content selection, will hopefully be able to cross over with audiences who have never experienced one of the director’s films.
8. ‘Wonderstruck’ (Oct. 20) – Todd Haynes has already made a masterpiece with ‘Carol.’ Although the lesbian drama was shut out at the Oscars, this follow-up may give the director the recognition he deserves. The uncynical, partially silent film is to the museum as Martin Scorsese’s ‘Hugo’ was to film. The story focuses on two deaf preteens in different time periods who go on separate journeys and learn how to connect with the world around them. Deaf actress Millicent Simmonds is said to give an outstanding
performance alongside Oakes Fegley, Julianne Moore, and Michelle Williams in this Cannes Film Festival premiere.
- 9. ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ (Nov. 3) – The latest offering from the effervescent Marvel Cinematic Universe gives the Thor standalone series a zany and vibrant footing for its final installment. The third film in the trilogy is a cosmic adventure featuring Hulk, Loki, and the arrivals of Tessa Thompson’s Asgardian warrior and Cate Blanchett’s villainous goddess of death, Hela.
10. (Nov. 10) – One of the most exciting films to come this fall is from ‘Seven Psychopaths’ helmer, Martin McDonagh, and Frances McDormand. After her daughter is murdered and no arrests are made months later, she demands the police give her answers by way of three huge billboards alongside the highway of her town. This will be a freewheeling showcase of pent-up rage for McDormand’s fiercely determined character and a wall to wall fantasy parade of cinema’s best badasses from Sam Rockwell to Woody Harrelson to John Hawkes.
- 11. ‘Lady Bird’ (Nov. 10) – Greta Gerwig has been a force in the film industry ever since her arrival. She co-directed ‘Nights and Weekends’ with Joe Swanberg and has co-written two exceptional films (‘Frances Ha’ and ‘Mistress America’) that would have crumbled without her. Now she is the sole writer and director of ‘Lady Bird’ with none other than Saoirse Ronan and Lucas Hedges; both are hot topics right now after their Oscar-nominated roles in ‘Brooklyn’ and ‘Manchester By the Sea,’ respectively. Chronicling a year in the life of a small town Sacramento senior attending a conservative Catholic school with dreams of the city, this film is an A24 picture with an awards season push and a spot on everyone’s radar.
- 12. ‘Coco’ (Nov. 22) – Pixar. The name does not carry the same awe-inspired invention as it did ten years ago when everything it touched turned to gold, but sometimes moviegoers catch a glimpse (‘Finding Dory’) and rarely the stars align for something monumental to be achieved once again (‘Inside Out’). That’s an exhausting reputation to have. Anyways, this year comes ‘Coco,’ their first original release in two years and their last original release for another two. With ‘Toy Story,’ ‘Cars,’ ‘Monsters Inc.,’ ‘The Incredibles,’ and ‘Finding Nemo’ all opened back up with mixed-to-positive results, original content usually catches everyone’s eyes. In the film, Miguel enters the Land of the Dead and embarks on a journey of music with his dog by his side to unlock the mystery of his heritage.
- 13. ‘Call Me By Your Name’ (Nov. 24) – While I thought his sun-drenched rock ‘n roll romance with Tilda Swinton had a lovely location and sure sensuality, I didn’t have a huge reaction to the Luca Guadagnino film. His follow-up seems to be even more of a passionate affair, but the same drifting quality here seems more like a steamy and splendid version of an Olivier Assayas film rather than the meandering I felt in ‘A Bigger Splash.’ It is a dream of intimacy in the summer of 1983 on the Italian Riviera where an American-Italian boy begins an affair with a live-in American man who studies and works in his home. With queer cinema finally taking off and a book to use as a framework, this Sundance Film Festival premiere could be a big hit for the director.
- 14. ‘Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi’ (Dec. 15) – In the latest chapter of the Star Wars saga, audiences will see Finn on a mission with Kelly Marie Tran’s “Rose Tico,” Rey digging deeper into her heritage as she trains with the elusive Luke Skywalker, and a bid farewell to Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia. Benicio del Toro and Laura Dern join the Star Wars family in Rian Johnson’s latest.
- 15. ‘Downsizing’ (Dec. 22) – Alexander Payne is back with an enticing social satire awards contender. Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and his wife, Audrey (Kristen Wiig, only a few roles away from her own awards glory), decide that their lives have gotten out of hand and they would be better off if they literally shrunk themselves. This is a big question mark of the fall movie season as no one really knows the caliber of this Venice Film Festival premiere. What is known is that it is rounded out with a stellar supporting cast: Christoph Waltz, Alec Baldwin, Laura Dern, Hong Chau, Margo Martindale, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Sudeikis, and Bruce Willis.