Metro Weekly

Fall Arts Preview: The best (and worst) upcoming films

Our definitive list of upcoming films that you need to know about

Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange

Fall is a time of change, when superheroes, ghostbusters and regal blue tangs are tossed out of movie theatres (and onto Blu-Ray for those all-critical holiday sales), while more serious, Oscar-worthy fare is majestically ushered in. Among the notables are a return to the big screen by Warren Beatty, who hasn’t directed a movie since 1998’s woebegotten Bulworth. Beatty, fittingly enough, portrays the reclusive and eccentric Howard Hughes in Rules Don’t Apply, a star-studded blockbuster that, if it’s as good as it looks, should be a major highlight of the season. The other significant film to keep an eye on is Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation, which, with its freedom-from-slavery driven narrative, will have special resonance in Washington, as the new National Museum of African-American History and Culture opens on the Mall just two weeks before Birth‘s release.

Still, bits of escapism manage to wheedle their way into autumn’s cinematic landscape — peculiar children, fantastic beasts, and a time-and-space bending superhero are but three we eagerly anticipate. Oh, and then there’s this little franchise set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away that seems utterly hellbent on dominating the holiday box office from here to eternity.

Shall we dig in?

Magnificent Seven

Magnificent Seven

September

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years — The Fab Four are back in our lives, in a Ron Howard-helmed documentary about their touring years, from the Cavern Club in ’62 to their last ever full concert, in San Francisco in ’66. Hulu co-produced the documentary and it’ll be available to stream on Sept. 17, two days after hitting theaters. (9/15)

Bridget Jones’s Baby — It’s a sequel no one really asked for to a sequel that no one particularly liked. It comes twelve years after the original. And it features eerily similar themes to that first film. That’s why it’s such a welcome surprise that Bridget Jones’s Baby has been generally liked by critics. Predictable? Sure. Overly familiar plot? Definitely. Another fantastic performance from Renée Zellweger, supported by a cast that includes Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey and Emma Thompson, and with a great blend of humor, charm, and warmth? You’d better believe it. (9/16)

Blair Witch — The original Blair Witch Project was a low-budget phenomenon, inspiring a raft of me-too horror films that all sought to steal its found-footage success. Seventeen years later we have another sequel (let’s all forget that Blair Witch 2 was a thing), following James Donahue and his friends into Maryland’s Black Hills to find out what happened to his sister, Heather. Expect jump scares, supernatural horror, and mediocrity — if early reviews are anything to go by. (9/16)

Snowden — Never one to shy from controversial political issues, Oliver Stone and co-writer Kieran Fitzgerald tackle the story of Edward Snowden. Whether national traitor or modern-day hero, when Snowden leaked information regarding the NSA’s massive surveillance programs and then subsequently fled the country, he all but ensured a political thriller would be made about him — starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, no less. Whether it’s any good is apparently debatable. (9/16)

Miss Stevens — Lily Rabe (American Horror Story) finally gets a star vehicle in Julia Hart’s dramedy, as a teacher who chaperones her students to a weekend-long drama competition. Variety called Hart’s film “somewhat pat,” but Rabe has drawn acclaim for her performance, as she wrestles with her feelings for one of her students (Timothée Chalamet). (9/16)

The Good Neighbor — Two teens (Logan Miller and Keir Gilchrist) decide to prank their elderly neighbor Harold (James Caan), by tricking him into thinking his house is haunted and watching the reaction on hidden cameras. It stops being funny when Harold’s reactions suggest something much darker is afoot. It’s Rear Window for a Paranormal Activity age. (9/16)

The Magnificent Seven — The air is dense with testosterone in this post-Civil War adaptation of Seven Samurai. A town under siege recruits seven outlaws — including Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D’Onofrio — to protect them. It’s pretty apparent that these “bad” guys will end up being good, but it should be good popcorn-consuming action regardless. (9/23)

Storks — A stork company that delivers babies switches to delivering packages, but accidentally produces one more baby girl. It’s up to the company’s top delivery stork (Andy Samberg) to find the child a home, before his boss discovers the… you know what, this looks like it’s going to be profoundly mediocre, so let’s just move onto the next one. (9/23)

Queen of Katwe — In a rare moment of diversity for Hollywood, Disney’s biographical sports drama follows the true story of Phiona Mutesi (Madina Malwanga), who grew up under immense hardship in Uganda and transpired to be a chess prodigy after joining an outreach program. David Oyelowo and Academy Award-winner Lupita Nyong’o also star. Mira Nair directs. (9/23)

The Dressmaker — Kate Winslet is a femme fatale who returns to her backwater Australian hometown to care for her ailing mother (Judy Davis), while exacting revenge on those who drove her to originally leave. Reviews have been mixed, but Jocelyn Moorhouse’s film and Winslet’s wardrobe are both gorgeous. Liam Hemsworth and Hugo Weaving also star in this ’50s-set Aussie dramedy. (9/23)

Goat — A no-holds-barred drama about the extreme torture and humiliation some fraternity pledges are subjected to. Brad (Ben Schnetzer) is a freshman hoping to secure a place at his brother’s (Nick Jonas) fraternity. What follows is an extreme test of both his limits and their relationship, as he and other pledges are forced to survive “Hell Week.” James Franco also stars in a film that’s sure to generate a lot of discussion, and has already produced positive reviews for Schnetzer and Jonas’ performances. (9/23)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children — Less Alice in Wonderland, more Edward Scissorhands is what we can apparently expect from Tim Burton’s latest effort, which adapts a popular young adult novel about children with special abilities who live in Miss Peregrine’s (Eva Green) titular orphanage. Jake (Asa Butterfield) is the new resident who helps defend the children against an ominous force, led by Samuel L. Jackson, intent on killing them. It looks dark. Really dark, in places. We’re onboard, Tim. (9/30)

Deepwater Horizon — It was only a matter of time before Hollywood cashed in on the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Early reviews suggest Peter Berg has crafted a tense thriller, with Mark Wahlberg starring as an engineer who fights to help get others to safety during the initial carnage. BP is apparently (and rightfully) crucified for chasing profits over safety, so if there’s any BP execs reading this, you might want to catch Miss Peregrine instead. (9/30)

Masterminds — A comedic retelling of the “hillbilly heist,” the 1997 Loomis Fargo Robbery. Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, and Owen Wilson are the hapless robbers who steal $17 million, with Kate McKinnon as a clueless spouse and Leslie Jones as the FBI agent tasked with bringing them to justice. If anything, it’s going to be brutal viewing for the original culprits — they’re portrayed as criminally incompetent. (9/30)

Denial — Oscar-bait alert! Rachel Weisz is Deborah E. Lipstadt, an American historian sued for libel in 1996 by British writer David Irving for characterizing him as a Holocaust denier. British law required that Lipstadt prove the Holocaust actually happened. She prevailed, Irving was shamed, Lipstadt wrote a book, it became this film. The Academy Award submission is likely already sitting somewhere, waiting to be sent. (9/30)

October

The Birth of a Nation — Nate Parker’s film about Nat Turner’s rise from slave to preacher to rebellion-leader is being buzzed about for a number of reasons, not least because Fox Searchlight bought the rights at Sundance for a record $17.5 million. Critics have praised Parker’s direction and portrayal of Turner, who was transformed after he witnessed the brutality of life for fellow slaves. Parker himself is controversial, for reasons we won’t print here but are easily searchable and justifiably cause for attention. However, that shouldn’t detract from the importance of the film’s narrative, the brutality and accuracy of its depiction of life for slaves at the time, and the timeliness of its central themes — particularly in an America where white nationalism and racial tensions continue to rise, thanks in part to a certain business mogul turned presidential candidate. (10/7)

The Girl on the Train — Paula Hawkins’ novel, which topped bestseller lists, was described as the next Gone Girl when it was released in 2015. And for good reason, as the psychological thriller shares similar themes, including a disappearing woman and buckets of mystery. Emily Blunt is Rachel Watson, who witnesses something shocking while on her morning commute and quickly becomes entangled in a situation that threatens her life and those around her. Haley Bennett, Luke Evans, Justin Theroux, Rebecca Ferguson, and Allison Janney also star. (10/7)

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life — James Patterson’s wildly successful children’s graphic novel gets the film treatment, as Rafe Khatchadorian (Griffin Chuck) conspires with fellow pupils to break every rule in his totalitarian new school. It’s dripping with style — and Lauren Graham, a month before we get new Gilmore Girls in our lives. (10/7)

Underworld: Blood Wars — Fun fact: This will be the fifth entry in the Underworld series, about vampires hunting werewolves. Less fun fact: The highest-rated film so far (the first) has just 31 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Depressing fact: There’s a sixth film and a TV show planned. Someone fire Kate Beckinsale’s agent so she stops starring in this crap and does something better. (10/14)

The Accountant — Ben Affleck is a mathematics savant who uses his job as a small-town CPA to cover for his side career as a forensic accountant for criminal organizations. When he takes on a legitimate client to get the feds off his back, he uncovers more than just a financial discrepancy in the company’s books. No word on whether watching Gavin O’Connor’s film will make doing your year-end taxes any easier. (10/14)

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back — If there’s one thing America has been demanding, it’s a sequel to 2012 crime thriller Jack Reacher. What’s that? They haven’t? Oh. Well, Tom Cruise is back as the titular character anyway. (10/21)

Ouija: Origin of Evil — Another example of “terrible horror film makes an extreme amount of money on its paltry budget, so they made a sequel.” But wait, this is different! It’s a prequel to a terrible horror film. (10/21)

Boo! A Madea Halloween — If you like Tyler Perry and his Madea character, you’ll probably like this horror comedy, which sees Madea and her friends trying to evade killers, zombies and ghosts while stopping her great-niece from attending a party. (10/21)

Inferno — Tom Hanks stars in a third film based on another of Dan Brown’s dreadful novels. We assume he and Ron Howard are just cashing a (substantial) check by this point. (10/28)

Rings — The most ridiculous part of this film, which is the third in the Ring horror franchise, is that anyone even has a VHS player to watch the original tape on. (10/28)

November

Doctor Strange — Disney prepares to further line its pockets with Marvel’s newest franchise, about a gifted neurosurgeon who uncovers a world of sorcery and ultimately becomes Earth’s protector against magical and mystical threats. Benedict Cumberbatch is the titular doctor, Tilda Swinton is the Ancient One who tutors him (causing controversy, as the character in the comic books is Asian male), Rachel McAdams is a former colleague, and Chiwetel Ejiofor is the big bad. Given DC’s critical drubbings this year, Marvel will be hoping for another winner to further expand the gulf between the two studios’ superhero efforts. (11/4)

Trolls — Are Troll dolls even remotely relevant any longer? Did Dreamworks really need to buy the brand to create a film about them, when they could have easily just used generic trolls? Will this peppy, animated film featuring the voices of Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick be any good? Did Justin write the film’s song, “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”, to try and emulate the success of Pharrell’s Despicable Me anthem “Happy”? Who knows. (11/4)

Loving — By most accounts, Jeff Nichols’ film about the couple behind the landmark Loving v. Virginia ruling is a fine film, if a little gentle. Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred Loving (Ruth Negga) were an interracial couple in 1958, a time when Virginia had no time (legally or socially) for such things. Jailed and then banished to D.C., they sued the state and won their right to love in 1967. Edgerton and Negga are apparently contenders for awards season. (11/4)

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk — Ang Lee helms an adaptation of Ben Fountain’s novel, about a war hero sent on a “victory tour” after returning home from an intense battle in Iraq which killed members of his squad. Billy Flynn (Joe Alwyn) quickly becomes disenfranchised after learning he will be redeployed and experiencing the public’s attitudes towards supposed war heroes, given they’ve never seen the realities of war. Kristen Stewart, Vin Diesel, Garrett Hedlund, Chris Tucker, and Steve Martin also star. (11/11)

Almost Christmas — Not really, there’s about six weeks until the title of this comedy about a family getting together in the wake of a matriarch’s death becomes accurate. Mo’Nique, Danny Glover, Omar Epps, Kimberly Elise, and Romany Malco star. (11/11)

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them — Though J.K. Rowling penned all seven Harry Potter novels, she has yet to write any of the films based in her wizarding universe. That changes with Fantastic Beasts, a prequel to the Potter timeline, which follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), author of a novel on dangerous creatures, who unwittingly unleashes a number of beasts on America’s wizarding and muggle community in the 1920s. Warner Bros. is hoping to create a trilogy of films and, given continued demand for all things Potter, they’ll likely succeed. (11/18)

Manchester by the Sea — Kenneth Lonergan’s drama has received critical acclaim since it debuted at Sundance earlier this year. Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) returns to his hometown after being made legal guardian of his nephew, and is forced to deal with his ex-wife (Michelle Williams) and the North Shore community. Affleck and Williams are drawing particular praise for their performances. (11/18)

Moana — Disney’s latest animated feature is set in the ancient South Pacific and follows Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), who sets sail in search of a fabled island and ends up teaming with Maui (Dwayne Johnson), a legendary demi-god. It’s a full-fledged musical, which puts great expectations on Disney after the success of Frozen and its megahit “Let It Go.” Need a little reassurance? Hamilton‘s Lin-Manuel Miranda co-wrote the songs. (11/23)

Allied — Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard are American and French spies who fall in love and marry during a mission in Casablanca to kill a German official. Robert Zemeckis directs the World War II thriller, which is apparently based on a true story. (11/23)

Rules Don’t Apply — Warren Beatty writes, directs, produces, and stars as Howard Hughes, the eccentric entrepreneur, who prevents two employees — young actress Marla (Lily Collins) and businessman Frank (Alden Ehrenreich) — from starting a romantic relationship. Set in late ’50s Hollywood, the film is dripping with both style and co-stars Annette Bening, Matthew Broderick, Alec Baldwin, Candice Bergen, and Martin Sheen, to name just a few. (11/23)

Bad Santa 2 — Thirteen years after the amusing — but hardly outstanding — first film, Billy Bob Thornton reprises his role as a gruff Santa impersonator in order to rob a charity on Christmas Eve. Happy holidays! (11/25)

Lion — Saroo Brierley (Dev Patel) is an Indian-born Australian businessman who starts to remember flashes of his early life: he got on a train, was separated from his family, and eventually adopted by his Australian parents (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). Using Google Earth, he traces his memories of certain locations, in an attempt to find his birth family. Garth Davis’ film is based on a true story, and seems crafted to deliver the emotional storytelling Academy voters love. Rooney Mara also stars. (11/25)

December

La La Land — Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) writes and directs a romantic musical dramedy starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Mia (Stone) is an aspiring actress, Sebastian (Gosling) a jazz musician. They meet and fall in love, but their separate dreams threaten to pull them apart. Critically acclaimed, The Guardian called it a “sun-drenched musical masterpiece.” (12/2)

Kidnap — It looks utterly ludicrous, but Halle Berry’s latest reminder that she won an Oscar once and has mostly coasted since has an opening scene that is sure to curdle the blood of any parent in the audience, as she watches her young son get dragged into a car and driven off by kidnappers. Naturally, rather than contact the police, she takes the Liam Neeson route of hurting dozens of others in order to get her son back. (12/2)

Office Christmas PartyHangover meets the holidays, as a host of great comedic actors (Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, T.J. Miller, Olivia Munn, Rob Corddry, Vanessa Bayer and more) throw a final office Christmas party for reasons we couldn’t care less about. It looks dumb and fun and we’re totally onboard. (12/9)

Rogue One: A Star Wars StoryStar Wars dominated the holiday box office last year and it will probably do it again this year, with the first stand-alone Star Wars Anthology film. Set after Episode III, it follows a group of rebels who attempt to steal plans for the Death Star. Felicity Jones stars as Jyn Erso, who’s recruited to the Rebel Alliance to undertake the mission. (12/16)

Collateral Beauty — Will Smith loses a child and, struggling in the aftermath, pens letters to the concepts of Death, Love, and Time. Suprise! Three people, claiming to be Death (Helen Mirren), Love (Keira Knightley), and Time (Jacob Latimore), show up and try to convince him to move on. Are they real? Were they hired by his friends? We’ve no idea, but Kate Winslet, Edward Norton and Michael Peña are also here for this confusing drama. (12/16)

Assassin’s Creed — Films based on established video game franchises are never awful. Well, except for Lara Croft, Mortal Kombat, Final Fantasy, Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Hitman, Prince of Persia, Need for Speed, Ratchet & Clank, Angry Birds, Warcraft and pretty much every game-based film ever. It doesn’t help that this film, about a man reliving his ancestor’s past as a member of an ancient order of assassins and starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, and Jeremy Irons, looks dreadful. (12/21)

Sing — Apparently not terrible, which is surprising, as Illumination Entertainment’s (Despicable Me) animated film about anthropomorphic animals hosting a singing contest looked pretty one-note from the previews. (12/21)

Passengers — Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence wake up early from hibernation pods on a transport spaceship. The only problem? The other 5,000 people are all still asleep, and they’re 90 years from their destination. What are two beautiful people do do? (We can guess the answer, and we’re already booking our tickets.) (12/23)

Why Him? — The tropes are strong in this film. Bryan Cranston and Megan Mullally visit their daughter, Zoey Deutch, and meet her new boyfriend, James Franco. Father and boyfriend compete. Comedy ensues? (12/25)

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.