She came, she saw, she made them all move. Wielding as much power as a massive labor strike over the fall film schedule, Taylor Swift announced the October 13th release of her concert film Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, and within days The Exorcist: Believer had been exorcised from its sought-after Friday the 13th release date.
The horror sequel will now open a week earlier, while the Meg Ryan-David Duchovny rom-com What Happens Later, also originally scheduled for Eras weekend, will now open in November. The distributors don’t want that T Swift smoke, avoiding going toe-to-toe with what is shaping up to be the behemoth box office release of the fall.
The cinema landscape would have looked mighty different were it not for the WGA and SAG strikes, which have stretched on for months, halting production and silencing striking actors, who are prohibited by their union from promoting major movie titles. Boutique studios Neon and A24 are among producers who have worked out an equitable deal with unions, so don’t be surprised if you see cast members of A24’s upcoming Dick the Musical, or Neon’s Ferrari out on the red carpet.
But the major studios, rather than negotiate with unions and reopen the press and promo floodgates, chose to postpone many of their prospective autumn hits like Dune 2, delayed from November to April 2024, and superhero spinoff Kraven the Hunter, delayed from October to August 2024.
Come to think of it, maybe the reschedules weren’t really about the strikes and fickle film execs at all, and the whole fall release shakeup is simply studios running scared from Swift.
Please note, all dates are subject to change at a studio’s whim.
My Animal — Radiating dark-wave cool, this supernatural horror-romance from cinematographer-turned-director Jacqueline Castel stars Bobbi Salvör Menuez as a young outcast in a remote Far North town concealing a monstrous family curse from her new figure skater girlfriend, played by Bodies Bodies Bodies star Amandla Stenberg. Teeming with repressed lycanthropes and icy secret rendezvous, the film — scripted by Boy Harsher vocalist Jae Matthews, with score by bandmate Augustus Muller — appears to evoke the eerie, noir-ish atmosphere of Kathryn Bigelow’s cult-classic vampire romance Near Dark, which, in our book, is never a bad thing. (9/15, via digital and at select Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas as part of Fantastic Fest)
Cassandro — Gael García Bernal and Looking heartthrob Raúl Castillo form a forbidden romantic pairing in this colorful dramatic chronicle starring Bernal as real-life luchador extraordinaire Cassandro the Exótico, with Latin music superstar Bad Bunny in a supporting role. The wrestler’s cagey moves and flamboyant showmanship made him an unabashedly queer legend in his sport. (9/15)
A Haunting in Venice — Despite studio marketing attempts to rebrand a straightforward murder-mystery as a supernatural thriller, Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Hallowe’en Party marks the actor-director’s third go-round helming a Hercule Poirot whodunnit. The film departs from Branagh’s formula of adapting/remaking titles that already had been filmed with glorious, Oscar-winning success, and instead takes on a less familiar Christie mystery, playing up the novel’s ghost story leanings. The film also plays up humor amidst the haunted house chills, with a cast that includes newly-minted Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh as a famed medium, and Tina Fey as the Christie-ish author determined to discredit her, with Poirot’s help, of course. (9/15)
Expend4bles — They put a “4” in the title so audiences know this is the fourth one of these. Otherwise, how would we know? No doubt there are Expend4bles cast members who have lost count of how many they’ve made in this franchise built around Sly Stallone and whichever of his ’80s/90s action-movie cronies feels like suiting up to sling guns and wisecracks from one explosive mission to the next. Director Scott Waugh, a former stuntman, adds a handful of action heroes of more recent vintage — Tony Jaa, 50 Cent, and, um, Megan Fox — to the mix with stalwarts Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, and Randy Couture in hopes of keeping the missiles cruising, at least, presumably, until they can pump out an Expendable5. (9/22)
Saw X — What are we still doing in the clutches of Jigsaw killer John Kramer? More to the point, how is he still alive to torture victims in his Goldbergian contraptions six sequels after he was killed off in Saw III? Well, the events of this Mexico-set revival apparently take place between the first Saw and the second, clearing the way for the indefatigable Tobin Bell to reprise his signature role, as Jigsaw turns the screws, literally, on some unfortunate souls who wronged him. (9/29)
The Creator — Rogue One director Gareth Edwards marshals this stunningly rendered futuristic sci-fi thriller, with John David Washington and Gemma Chan as rebels in a war between humans and A.I. forces bent on erasing mankind. Whatever new world is wrought from the conflict should look fantastic in IMAX. (9/29)
Dicks: The Musical — Based on the gleefully foul-mouthed stage musical Fucking Identical Twins, this offbeat musical-comedy follows two un-identical businessmen who learn that they’re long-lost identical twins, then plot to Parent Trap their divorced mom and dad into reuniting. The musical’s creators Aaron Jackson and Josh Sharp evince limited appeal as leading men, so good for them that the film is directed by Larry Charles (Borat), and features the powerhouse supporting cast of Megan Mullally, Megan the Stallion, Nick Offerman, Bowen Yang, and Nathan Lane. (9/29)
Strange Way of Life — Pedro Almodóvar’s self-described queer Western, the Spanish auteur’s second English-language film, pairs Pedro Pascal and Ethan Hawke as reuniting gunslingers hashing out the past in Almodóvar’s colorfully melodramatic, and noticeably chic style (thanks in part to fashion house producing partner, Yves Saint Laurent). Before its release in theaters, D.C. audiences can catch the 31-minute short at the 2023 AFI Latin American Film Festival. (10/6)
Foe — In a near-future where mankind is launching plans to live among the stars, Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal are a married couple on earth tested to see if they’ll have a chance to step into the future, or be left behind. If they were testing for onscreen chemistry in this cerebral sci-fi — based on the eponymous novel by Iain Reid, who co-wrote the script with director Garth Davis (Lion) — Ronan and Mescal would pass with flying colors. (10/6)
Cat Person — A darkly twisted take on modern dating, spun from a New Yorker short story by Kristen Roupenian, Cat Person probes the mounting paranoia of college coed Margot (Emilia Jones) as she tries to pin down the truth about her new guy Robert (Nicholas Braun), who presents conflicting versions of himself online versus IRL. If several seasons of Nev Schulman’s Catfish have taught us anything, this won’t end well for Margot. (10/6)
The Exorcist: Believer — It’s been 50 years since William Friedkin first scared the bejeezus out of movie audiences with his adaptation of The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty’s chilling bestseller about a demon-possessed 12-year-old girl. The original’s horror-flick rep is by now untouchable, so expectations are measured for this sixth(!) film in the franchise, and first of a planned trilogy by recent Halloween/Ends/Kills trilogy auteur David Gordon Green. We just hope this frightfest about two demon-possessed girls is worthy of bringing back Exorcist OG Ellen Burstyn, who’s evaded these sequels for decades, but finally reprises her role as Chris McNeil, the believer those girls’ parents turn to when the pea-soup hits the fan. (10/6)
Totally Killer — Nahnatchka Khan (Always Be My Baby) directs this totally awesome, time-traveling slasher-comedy that follows Gen Z high schooler Kiernan Shipka back in time to the ’80s to solve the mean girls mystery of the Sweet Sixteen Killer. (10/6)
Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour — Taylor Swift live onscreen, two stories tall, performing her phenomenally successful Eras Tour appears poised to unleash Taylor’s version of the fall box office, which could be a boost for every other film at the multiplex, or could suck up every bit of audience oxygen à la Barbenheimer. The $40 million-and-counting in pre-sales since the film’s exclusive release in AMC and Cinemark theaters was announced is a strong sign Swift won’t be shaking off her reputation as a hitmaker. (10/13)
Killers of the Flower Moon — Martin Scorsese brings out his two big guns, DiCaprio and De Niro, as adversaries in a murderous struggle over power, oil, and the tribal land of the Osage in Oklahoma. The true revelation in Scorsese’s powerful 1920s-set saga might be the performance of Lily Gladstone as Osage woman Mollie, who falls for white man Ernest Burkhart (DiCaprio) yet remains a leader in her people’s resistance to this murderous land grab. (10/20)
Nyad — We simply don’t see enough of Jodie Foster onscreen these days, so let’s relish her role here as Bonnie Stoll, uber-supportive best friend and business partner (and more?) of record-breaking long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad, portrayed by Annette Bening in this sports drama co-directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, the Oscar-winning team behind climbing documentary Free Solo. (10/20)
Priscilla — Portraying the King in Sofia Coppola’s lush-looking adaptation of the Priscilla Presley memoir Elvis and Me, Jacob Elordi (of Euphoria fame) towers over petite Cailee Spaeny in the title role. The size difference lends visual emphasis to the filmmaker’s feminist take on the teenage bride, who met the rock ‘n’ roll superstar at a party when she was 14 and he was 24, and was scooped up into a fairy tale romance that went down in history. The film won’t feature the singer’s catalog, instead opting for music by Coppola’s husband Thomas Mars and his French synth-pop band Phoenix to support this Priscilla Presley-approved portrait of her life with the artist. (10/27)
Five Nights at Freddy’s — A Halloweentime horror set inside a Chuck E. Cheese-style fun palace where the sinister animatronic characters, including franchise namesake Freddy Fazbear, might be the reason “some kids went missing” back in the ’80s. Starring Josh Hutcherson as the security guard whose night shift turns into a nightmare, this video game adaptation from director Emma Tammi looks like a blast. (10/27)
The Killer — David Fincher directing Michael Fassbender in a neo-noir thriller about a ruthlessly efficient contract killer. Say no more. Except this: Se7en screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker wrote the script based on a series of French graphic novels, and Tilda Swinton appears as another ruthless assassin, so there likely will be no fall thriller cooler than The Killer. (10/27)
Rustin — It’s way past time for a cinematic exploration of the life and world-shaping influence of the late Bayard Rustin, long one of the unsung leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, and, as an out gay man who helped organize the landmark 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, one still vilified by homophobes for being himself. Then again, perhaps now is the right time for a film about Rustin, because now we have acclaimed director George C. Wolfe, and writers Dustin Lance Black and Julian Breece to tell the story, with the always superb Colman Domingo already garnering Oscar buzz for his galvanizing portrayal of this beacon for freedom. (11/3)
Quiz Lady — Awkwafina and Sandra Oh, playing against type, respectively, as a straight-laced accountant and her wackadoo big sis, hit the road for this comedy, from director Jessica Yu, following the siblings’ quest for cash to save a kidnapped dog. They set their sights on a TV quiz show, with a host played by Will Ferrell, and plenty of hijinks ensue, at least in the trailer, which is genuinely funny and suggests that Oh might just run away with the movie. (11/3)
What Happens Later — Romantic comedy fans can cheer the return of Meg Ryan, one of the sweethearts of the genre, in this snowy tale, based on a play, about exes stuck in an airport with each other overnight. Those of us who have generally preferred Julia, Sandra, or Sanaa in rom-coms might be more intrigued by the fact that Ryan directs this one — her second feature following 2015 coming-of-age drama Ithaca, which you definitely saw — and that David Duchovny, who gave by far the most appealing performance in this year’s Eddie Murphy-Julia Louis-Dreyfus comedy You People, co-stars as Ryan’s ex. (11/3)
The Marvels — Hoping to fly even higher, further, and faster than 2019 hit Captain Marvel, starring Oscar-winner Brie Larson as super-powered fighter pilot Carol Danvers, Marvel has teamed Danvers up with two other marvelous superheroines for this 33rd feature in the MCU. Iman Vellani is Ms. Marvel a.k.a. teen mutant Kamala Khan, spun off from her Disney+ series, and Teyonah Parris is Monica Rambeau, an astronaut whose energy manipulating powers were established on another Disney+ show, WandaVision. Both join Danvers, Samuel L. Jackson as old reliable Nick Fury or his alien simulation, and deceptively adorable feline Goose for a deep space adventure with a lot to prove in these tough times for superhero cinema. (11/10)
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes — Just when we thought we were out, they try to pull us back into Panem with a prequel unreeling the tumultuous rise of tyrannical Coriolanus Snow. Played by Donald Sutherland in previous film installments, Snow is portrayed as a young man by Tom Blyth, with Rachel Zegler as a brave tribute from District 12 who connects with the future villain, but apparently doesn’t alter his course towards eventually terrorizing Katniss and friends. Director Francis Lawrence helms his fourth Hunger Games, adding Peter Dinklage, Jason Schwartzman, Josh Andrés Rivera, Euphoria‘s Hunter Schafer, and Viola Davis to the lineup. (11/17)
Trolls Band Together — Did Justin Timberlake and company reunite N’Sync just for a Trolls movie? Signs all point to yes that JT’s former bandmates do join him and returning costar Anna Kendrick on the sure-to-be sing-able soundtrack to this third computer-animated comedy about those tuft-headed trolls, which also adds to the cast Troye Sivan, Eric André, Kid Cudi, Daveed Diggs, Camila Cabello, Amy Schumer, Andrew Rannells, Zosia Mamet, and RuPaul. (11/17)
Napoleon — Ridley Scott’s epic take on the emperor’s rise comes heralded by the lofty tagline, “He came from nothing. He conquered everything.” Sounds like a celebration of one of history’s biggest assholes, and most important leaders — but with Scott’s mercurial Gladiator ruler Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon, Mission: Impossible femme fatale Vanessa Kirby as Josephine, and six impressively-scaled battle sequences on tap, this promises to be an explosive depiction of how to win friends and influence people, despot-style. (11/22)
Maestro — Reportedly, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg both had a shot at directing this drama chronicling the real-life love story of composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein and wife Felicia Montealegre, but ultimately the two film titans teamed as producers and offered the job and title role to A Star Is Born Oscar-winner Bradley Cooper. The actor-director has taken it on the chin for the prosthetic nose he wears for the part, accused of exaggerating Bernstein’s features to stereotypically “ethnic” effect. The Bernstein family seemingly has taken no offense. More alarming might be that Bernstein’s reality as a bisexual man has been presented in the film’s promos only as an aberration that he’s caught in the act of committing by his wife. We’ll trust that with all that talent on board, including Carey Mulligan as Felicia, every facet of the Maestro’s life will be treated with honesty and nuance. (11/22)
Wish — In Disney’s enchanting new animated musical fantasy, mystical King Magnifico (Chris Pine) grants a magical wish that transforms the life of his humble subject Asha (Oscar-winner Ariana DeBose). Disney will wish upon a star that the trove of new original songs by Julia Michaels and Benjamin Rice can help entice family audiences into theaters, and produce a hit on the order of “Let It Go” or “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” (11/22)
Saltburn — Filmmakers always find fun in sending mysterious lads of modest means into fire pits of the fabulously wealthy, and writer-director Emerald Fennell, fresh off an Oscar win for 2020 thriller Promising Young Woman, looks to be no exception. Barry Keoghan gives off ripples of Tom Ripley as an Oxford student who gets lost in the temptations that abound at Saltburn, the palatial estate owned by the peculiar family of his handsome classmate, played the busy Jacob Elordi. (11/24)
The Bikeriders — Tom Hardy offers his best Wild One-era Brando impression as leader of a 1960s biker gang in writer-director Jeff Nichols’ crime drama based on true events. Jodie Comer is biker babe Kathy, who narrates the rise and fall of the Vandals, which includes her badass hubby Benny, played by erstwhile Elvis, Austin Butler, finally dropping his Presley impression to depict this drug-running easy rider. (12/1)
Poor Things — We’ve come to expect from The Favourite filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos fisheyed portraits of mad misfits and carnally voracious eccentrics, and this Frankenstein fantasy starring Emma Stone as Bella Baxter, a dead Victorian revived by scientist Willem Dafoe, certainly fits the bill. Glowing critical response following festival screenings hints Lanthimos, Stone, and Mark Ruffalo, in a turn as Bella’s lawyer lover, might dance their way into awards circles for this offbeat odyssey, based on the book by Alasdair Gray. (12/8)
Wonka — Intended as a prequel to Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, that harrowing 1971 psychological thriller about the world’s most whimsical kidnapper and his cruel, dancing minions, Wonka stars Timothée Chalamet in a tale of Roald Dahl’s mythical candymaker when he was still an impetuous dreamer battling a comical candy cartel to open his first chocolate shop. Paddington director Paul King seems an inspired choice for what looks like either a wondrous undiscovered chapter in a beloved story, or, based on glimpses of Hugh Grant as an Oompa Loompa, complete whimsy overload. (12/15)
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom — Jason Momoa’s first solo lap as superhero Arthur Curry, dude-bro King of Atlantis, in DC’s visually lavish but otherwise spiritless 2018 Aquaman, remains, improbably, the DCEU’s top-grossing entry at the worldwide box office (to the tune of $1.1 billion). So, even after several delays, a viral (failed) campaign to remove controversial co-star Amber Heard, and no apparent studio investment in Aquaman beyond this installment (Momoa is already rumored to be on tap for a new role in James Gunn’s revamped DCU as antihero Lobo), there might still be a massive audience eager to dive with director James Wan back into these choppy waters. (12/22)
All of Us Strangers — Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott star as neighbors who hook up in this mind-bending fantasy from Weekend writer-director Andrew Haigh, loosely based on Taichi Yamada’s 1987 novel Strangers. We’re sure legions of highbrow queer cinephiles will be pining to see this pairing for the most lowbrow reasons, and we support them. (12/22)
Ferrari — Heat-meister Michael Mann returns to the director’s chair for his first feature since the 2015 misfire Blackhat, and it looks like a thrill ride of a biopic about legendary automaker Enzo Ferrari, portrayed by House of Gucci star Adam Driver, who, at this rate, could announce he’s next playing Dolce and Gabbana in a biopic, and we wouldn’t be a bit surprised. For this one, Oscar-winner Penélope Cruz is garnering epic praise for her fierce turn as Laura Ferrari, Enzo’s wife of 55 years. (12/25)
The Color Purple — An R&B idol with real blues chops, Fantasia Barrino feels aptly cast to embody the struggles of Miss Celie, heroine of Alice Walker’s landmark novel, and this adaptation of the stage musical, which was based on Walker’s book and also draws from Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film version. Aiming for that sweet spot between bold re-do and soul-stirring nostalgia, director Blitz Bazawule and producers Oprah Winfrey, Spielberg, and Quincy Jones steadied their aim with a stacked cast in addition to Barrino, who made her Broadway debut 15 years ago stepping in as Celie in the original stage production. She’s joined by another Purple vet, Danielle Brooks, who slayed the role of Sofia in the Broadway revival, along with Little Mermaid Halle Bailey, Colman Domingo, Corey Hawkins, Louis Gossett, Jr., David Alan Grier, Ciara, H.E.R., and Taraji P. Henson as Celie’s rival-turned-liberator Shug Avery. (12/25)
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