It’s an action-packed Fall in cinema this year. Literally so, as a great number of releases over the coming months are action films, from Jackie Chan avenging his daughter’s death, to Gerard Butler battling clouds, to plastic Lego toys fighting evil, to the return of Blade Runner.
Beyond that, there’s the usual glut of horror films launching both before and after Halloween, including psychological horrors that play with our perception of reality, to insidious thrillers that get under the audience’s skin, to the return of the Saw franchise, which defined a generation of “torture porn” horror films.
If you’re looking for something a little gentler, or less deathly, there’s also the expected Oscar bait, from heroic everyday struggles (Jason Gyllenhaal as a Boston Marathon bombing survivor) to landmark equality wins (Emma Stone as tennis champ Billie Jean King) to civil rights leaders (Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall). Plenty to keep Academy voters occupied this fall.
As for everyone else? Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok and Disney’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Also, should Joss Whedon somehow make it watchable, DC’s Justice League. Oh, and a beautiful new Pixar entry, to boot. Basically, this fall has everything covered. Let’s jump in.
Call Me By Your Name arrives November 24
Mother! — Jennifer Lawrence is the titular mother whose idyllic life with her author husband (Javier Bardem) spins wildly out of control when a man (Ed Harris) and his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) show up at their door. Darron Aronofsky’s film has split some audiences — it was both cheered and booed when it debuted at the Venice Film Festival amid a shroud of secrecy — but critics agree this horror-cum-thriller-cum-black-comedy is a masterful, if out there, piece of filmmaking. (9/15)
Brad’s Status — While some have complained it’s another example of white male whining, critics generally agree that Mike White’s dramedy about a father (Ben Stiller) accompanying his son (Austin Abrams) on a tour of East Coast colleges and having a crisis of confidence after meeting highly successful former friends is bittersweet, humorous, and effective. (9/15)
Rebel in the Rye — “Superficial,” “cliche,” “basic.” Just some of the words used to describe Danny Strong’s biopic about J.D. Salinger’s life leading up to the publication of The Catcher in the Rye. Maybe catch something else this weekend instead. (9/15)
Kingsman: The Golden Circle — A surprising hit, Kingsman proved not only that a violent, over the top action spy comedy could be a big box office success, but also that Colin Firth is totally believable as a badass secret agent. Taron Egerton returns as the titular Kingsman agent, while Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum and even Elton John pop up in this sequel. (9/22)
Battle of the Sexes — In 1973, tennis world champion and feminist and lesbian icon Billie Jean King stunned the world when she bested chauvinist and ex- world champion Bobby Riggs in a tennis match. Emma Stone and Steve Carell are King and Riggs in a biopic that follows King’s struggle to come to terms with her sexuality and the pressure she felt to prove that women’s tennis stood on equal footing with the men’s game. (9/22)
The Lego Ninjago Movie — If Lego has proven anything, it’s that audiences will gladly pay to see their plasticized animated comedies — thanks in part to excellent scripts and breathtaking visuals. Now, the world’s largest toy company is bringing their Ninjago action toys to the big screen. If it’s anything like The Lego Batman Movie, expect great things. (9/22)
Friend Request — Perhaps one of the clumsiest metaphors ever put to film, this slasher horror has a popular college student watch most of her social group get killed after befriending an unknown “loser” on Facebook. We get it, don’t add strangers on Facebook. Next. (9/22)
Victoria and Abdul — Dame Judi Dench steps back into the shoes of Queen Victoria 20 years after her Oscar-nominated turn in Mrs. Brown. Stephen Frears’ biopic sees the British monarch befriend her Indian servant Abdul Karim (Aliz Fazal), and the slight scandal this caused in society at the time. If showy period dramedies are your thing, get your ticket now. (9/22)
Stronger — Critics agree that this true-life story of Jeff Bauman, a man who lost his legs during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and had to learn how to adjust to his new life, is powerful and uplifting. Based on Bauman’s autobiography and with a powerful performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, dxpect this to do well come awards season. (9/22)
The Tiger Hunter — Danny Pudi is a fish out of water as an Indian engineer in the ’70s who relocates to America and finds himself struggling to balance his cultural heritage with his new surroundings. Lena Khan’s film looks to be a touching and effective dramedy, if a little by-the-book. (9/22)
Flatliners — A sequel to the 1990 film of the same name, Ellen Page, Diego Luna and three other medical students choose to stop their hearts for minutes at a time to see if they can experience the afterlife, but with disastrous consequences. Niels Arden Oplev takes over from Joel Schumacher as director, with Kiefer Sutherland reprising his role from the original cult horror. (9/29)
American Made — Tom Cruise abandons his good guy image to become Barry Seal, the former pilot who in the ’80s became a drug smuggler for a Colombian cartel and then an informant for the U.S. government. Cruise’s energetic performance will likely distract from director Doug Liman’s (Bourne Identity) fast-and-loose handling of the source material. (9/29)
Super Dark Times — Director Kevin Phillips’ debut feature is receiving a lot of praise. Two teenage boys in an Upstate New York suburb are driven apart by a traumatic accident, with their grief spiralling out of control as they try to process it. Critics are lauding this thriller as one of the best of the year. (9/29)
Lucky — Ninety-year-old Harry Dean Stanton gives a career-defining performance as a man who has outlived everyone he knows and ventures on a journey of self-exploration in his humdrum desert town. Expect an Oscar-nomination for Stanton. (9/29)
The Florida Project — It seems writer-director Sean Baker can do no wrong. Lauded for 2015’s Tangerine, shot entirely on an iPhone, Baker returns with another critical smash with the story of six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her friends as they navigate summer break. Meanwhile, the adults, including Willem Dafoe as the owner of the motel in which Moonee and her mother (Bria Vinaite) live, struggle with the realities of life. (10/6)
Blade Runner 2049 — It’s taken 35 years, but we’re finally getting a sequel to Ridley Scott’s landmark sci-fi film. Arrival director Denis Villeneuve steps into the director’s chair and Ryan Gosling leads as a blade runner in 2049 California, determined to track down Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard, who vanished 30 years prior. Expectations are high. Robin Wright, Jared Leto and Dave Bautista also star. (10/6)
The Snowman — You know what’s not threatening? A snowman. They’re fun balls of snow crafted by children, dotted with stones and designed to delight. Unless, of course, they’re the calling card for an increasingly twisted serial killer who’s toying with a detective (Michael Fassbender) determined to catch them. Such is the case in this film, based on Jo Nesbø’s crime novel. Michael Keaton’s Jack Frost this isn’t. (10/13)
The Foreigner — Jackie Chan returns to both a leading role and his action roots, but don’t expect a comedy. Instead, this is a thriller directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) about a businessman whose daughter is killed in a terrorist attack in London. Determined to find her killers, he wages war on a former IRA member turned government official (Pierce Brosnan) who might hold the information he needs. It looks bleak, action-packed, and gritty. We’re sold. (10/13)
Marshall — In 1967, Thurgood Marshall became America’s first African-American Supreme Court Justice, crowning a lengthy career that saw him successfully argue dozens of times before the court, as well as fight for civil rights and desegregation. In this biopic, Chadwick Boseman (Marvel’s current Black Panther) steps into the title role as a young Marshall takes on one of his first cases. Josh Gad, Keesha Sharp, Kate Hudson and Dan Stevens also star. (10/13)
Reel Affirmations — Washington, D.C.’s International LGBTQ Film Festival kicks off with two buzzed-about films on the festival circuit: Jennifer Reeder’s Chicago-set Signature Move, a timely drama centering on the romance and familial struggles between a Pakistani and a Mexican-American woman, and Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country. Dubbed as a “Yorkshire Brokeback Mountain,” it centers around a romance between a young farmer and a Romanian migrant worker. Other highlights include Jenee LaMarque’s The Feels, a rom-com set at a lesbian bachelorette party; Trudie Styler’s Freakshow, the James St. James tale, starring Bette Midler, and My Friend Dahmer, Marc Meyers’ drama chronicling the serial killer’s childhood. Visit thedccenter.org/reelaffirmations. (10/19-21)
Wonderstruck — Todd Haynes (Carol) directs an adaptation of Brian Selznick’s best-selling novel about two children in two different time periods both venturing out on separate quests. Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams star in a film that critics say brings to life the wonders of childhood for grownup audiences. (10/20)
The Mountain Between Us — Possibly many viewers’ worst nightmare, as two strangers (Idris Elba and Kate Winslet) survive a plane crash in a remote mountain range in Utah and must fight to survive. We don’t know what’s worse: the constant threat of death, or having to continue making polite small talk with a stranger for days longer than anticipated. (10/20)
Geostorm — An “environmental disaster sci-fi action” film that looks more like unintentional comedy, Gerard Butler stars in a film where humanity has developed satellites that can control the planet’s climate. Unsurprisingly, the system fails, producing disastrous global storms. Cue the CGI, the action music, and the cheesy dialogue, as Butler races to shut the satellite down. Not that anyone will actually buy a ticket to learn if they’re successful or not. (10/20)
Same Kind of Different as Me — The Guardian‘s Stuart Heritage described the trailer as “the worst, most offensive thing I have ever seen.” Paramount made and then dropped this Renée Zellweger, Greg Kinnear and Djimon Hounsou-starring film, only for the dubious Pure Flix Entertainment — a Christian faith distributor with anti-LGBTQ connections — to release it instead. Spend your dollars elsewhere. (10/20)
Jigsaw — The Saw reboot/sequel no one asked for, but we’re all going to get. If torture porn is your thing, then this is for you. But then again, so is therapy. (10/27)
All I See Is You — Blake Lively is a woman who regains her sight after being blinded in childhood, only to start to notice things about her husband (Jason Clarke) that previously evaded her. Marc Forster’s film is a slow burn, as the husband tries to cover his numerous deceptions, though critics seem split on its overall effectiveness. (10/27)
Thor: Ragnarok — Conspicuously absent from 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns in his third standalone film to find himself trapped in gladiatorial combat with Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), a battle he must somehow win without his trademark hammer in order to make it back home in time to stop an impending apocalypse, courtesy of Hela (Cate Blanchett), the goddess of death. Hemsworth may have lost his long hair (and he’s all the more handsome for it), but he’s gained Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, and Karl Urban as co-stars in the process. Not a bad trade. (11/3)
A Bad Moms Christmas — Releasing just after Halloween and weeks before Thanksgiving, we have a Christmas-themed sequel to 2016’s surprisingly entertaining Bad Moms. Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn return as the rule-breaking moms who refuse to be “perfect,” only this time they’re terrorized by their own mothers (Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon) visiting for the holidays. If it can smooth over some of the cracks of the first film, it could be good, if early, festive fun. (11/3)
The Killing of a Sacred Deer — A weird, psychological horror from Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster). Colin Farrell is Steven Murphy, a successful surgeon with a perfect wife (Nicole Kidman) and family. But his strange friendship with a teenage boy turns disastrous when the teen demands a sacrifice, or else terrible events will occur in the Murphy household. One reviewer called it “fucking brilliant,” but others have been a little more reserved in their praise. (11/3)
Daddy’s Home 2 — Daddy should have gone for cigarettes and never come back. The addition of John Lithgow and Mel Gibson will not make this sequel any better than the first. (11/10)
Wonder — Based on R.J. Palacio’s 2012 bestseller, Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson star in a comedy-drama about a boy with facial differences attending a mainstream elementary school for the first time. The film was pushed back from release earlier this year — but not to make alterations or fix problems. According to reports, it was so well received during press screenings that Lionsgate hope it will be even more successful releasing in November. (11/17)
Justice League — DC Comics will try to prove that Wonder Woman wasn’t a fluke and they can actually make good films. Joss Whedon made alterations to the screenplay and handled post-production and reshoots, after Zack Snyder (Batman v Superman) had to leave the film. That bodes well, as Whedon’s handling of Marvel’s Avengers franchise catapulted their cinematic universe into the stratosphere. Here’s hoping he can do the League similar honors. (11/17)
Coco — Pixar’s newest film looks astonishing. It follows 12-year-old Miguel as he travels into the Land of the Dead to unpick the truth behind a century-old family secret. Based heavily on Mexico’s Día de los Muertos holiday, it will hopefully offer more of the charm, humor and emotion that characterizes Pixar’s best offerings. Plus, the animation would seem to be among the best to ever come out of the studio. (11/24)
Murder on the Orient Express — Stylish, sumptuous visuals? Check. Starry cast, including Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Penélope Cruz, and Judi Dench? Check. A suitably moustached Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh, who also directs)? Check. We can’t wait for this new take on Agatha Christie murder mystery classic, about thirteen strangers stranded on a train and a killer in their midst. (11/24)
Darkest Hour — Given the Academy’s love for period British dramas, this could be a strong contender at next year’s Oscars. Gary Oldman is unrecognizable as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who steps into the office as World War II grips Europe in 1940. Expect numerous rousing scenes as Churchill rallies a nation to push back against Hitler and Germany’s advancement. (11/24)
Call Me by Your Name — Oliver (Armie Hammer) is an academic who comes to stay at a family’s villa in 1980s Italy. There, he strikes up a bond with 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet), one that changes both men’s lives as their desire for one another takes over. Luca Guadagnino directs the coming-of-age tale, based on the book by André Aciman, and critics are falling head-over-heels for its intellectual eroticism. Could it be this year’s Moonlight? (11/24)
Polaroid — The Ring meets Final Destination meets yet another pointless teen slasher flick, this time with a cursed Polaroid camera bringing a grisly end to anyone captured by it, and the race against time to try and stop death in its tracks. Maybe just use a smartphone camera instead? (12/1)
The Disaster Artist — Unashamedly niche in its subject matter, but definitely broad in its appeal, James Franco both directs and stars in this comedy-drama biopic about the making of Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 cult film The Room, widely considered one of the worst films ever made. Franco is Wiseau, with his brother Dave Franco as line producer and co-star Greg Sestero. Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Melanie Griffith and more are on the cast list, but expect even more cameos. Critics are absolutely loving it. (12/1)
Star Wars: The Last Jedi — No other film has more riding on its shoulders this year. Not only does The Last Jedi have to prove that the Star Wars franchise still has legs and that its plot can carry forward into a third film in 2019, it must also show that the success of this franchise isn’t just based in nostalgia for the original films. In addition, it must serve as the late Carrie Fisher’s final film — and deal with Leia’s presumed death. And on top of all of that, it has to replicate the massive financial success of 2015’s Force Awakens. Disney has bills to pay, after all. (12/15)
Ferdinand — It’s inconceivable that any film would want to go up against Star Wars this weekend, but here we are. Based on Munro Leaf’s children’s book about a bull that would rather smell flowers than compete in bullfights, it looks like the usual generic animated family fare that Dreamworks/20th Century Fox/Warner/Sony Pictures churn out when they’re looking for a quick buck. (Also see: The Cars franchise from Pixar.) (12/15)
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle — No thanks. We’ll watch the 1995 original instead. (12/22)
Pitch Perfect 3 — Much as Pitch Perfect 2 wasn’t as good as Pitch Perfect, expect this second sequel to have even less of the original’s wit and charm. Still, it should make for good holiday fun, as Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, and Brittany Snow return for more a capella fun. (12/22)
Downsizing — The solution to humanity’s overpopulation problem? Shrink people down to just five inches tall. That’s the life husband and wife Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig choose in Oscar-winner Alexander Payne’s comedy drama, opting to live in an idyllic miniaturized community. Obviously, not everything is perfect, and critics are somewhat split over whether the ensuing dilemmas and realizations are worth watching. (12/22)
The Greatest Showman — P.T. Barnum gave the world what would become the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, dubbed “The Greatest Show on Earth.” This musical drama puts Hugh Jackman in the title role as Barnum, portraying him as a visionary showman who launched a revolutionary touring circus. Surrounded by Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, and oodles of razzle-dazzle and period style, it’ll be easy to forget that those same circuses also ushered in a century of animal rights issues, forcing tigers, elephants and more to perform unnatural tricks across America. Perhaps just stay in and watch something on Netflix instead. (12/29)
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