We thought about giving this story a catchy headline like “Ten Movies You Must See Before You Die This Fall,” but then if you took that too literally you wouldn’t be around to see how we did – which of our picks ended up getting Oscar love, which would clean-up at the box office, and which were destined for an eternity of cult adoration.
There are some big trends of note in the many, many, many films on the docket for the fall. Women continue to get a bigger piece of the filmmaking pie, even if the guys are still hogging the lion’s share. But directors such as Angelina Jolie (“First They Killed My Father”), Dee Rees (“Mudbound”) and Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”) have been generating lots of buzz for their work at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals lately.
Sequels continue to grab Hollywood’s attention and production dollars though this year there are a few twists, including the return of original cast members to some from far in the past – Harrison Ford to “Blade Runner 2049,” Kiefer Sutherland to “Flatliners” – and the least likely second chapter to 1973’s Jack Nicholson-starring comedy “The Last Detail” via “Last Flag Flying” which sees director Richard Linklater picking up the story more than 40 years later.
Bio-pics, too, continue to grab a ton of screen space with features coming this fall on Queen Victoria (Dame Judi Dench in the title role of “Victoria & Abdul”), President Lyndon Baines Johnson (Woody Harrelson in the title role of director Rob Reiner’s “LBJ”), Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch as the inventor in “The Current War”), and entertainment impresario and circus magnate P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman as Barnum in the original musical “The Greatest Showman”).
Some are slam-dunk commercial hits, including The Mandatory Fall Comic Book Blockbusters (Marvel’s “Thor: Ragnorak” and DC’s “Justice League” which offers up not only Ben Affleck’s Batman and Henry Cavill’s Superman but brings along Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and introduces Jason Momoa as Aquaman), as well as the latest in the Star Wars saga, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” which picks up the tale where “The Force Awakens” left off.
So what are we excited to see? Glad you asked …
“Battle Of The Sexes” (Sept. 22): Emma Stone, fresh off her best actress Oscar for “La La Land” might be back in the hunt with this true-life story of the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, played by Steve Carrell. Given the two leads and the co-directing team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, whose previous work includes the quirky comedy “Little Miss Sunshine,” expect this to be more than just your by-the-numbers true-life tale.
“Blade Runner 2049” (Oct. 6): Ryan Gosling stars as a blade-runner – a bounty hunter of sorts – who discovers a dangerous secret that sets him off on a quest to find Rick Deckard, Harrison Ford reprising his role from the original. Ridley Scott who directed that 1982 classic hands this one off to Denis Velleneuve who proved in “Arrival” he knows his way around a futuristic story, which gives us hope that it will be please, please, please be good.
“Only The Brave” (Oct. 20): This one almost feels too sad to bear, sort of like “The Perfect Storm” was back when that film came out, but we’ll trust a cast that includes Josh Brolin, Jeff Bridges and Miles Teller to find a way to inspire us even as the true-life events of Yarnell Hill Fire that claimed the lives of 19 of the Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighting team, including Seal Beach native Kevin Woyjeck, unfold on screen.
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Nov. 10): Martin McDonough, who won an Oscar for his screenplay for “In Bruges,” returns with another dark comedy, this one starring the always terrific Frances McDormand as a woman so angered by the law’s half-hearted investigation of her daughter’s death that she paints exactly what it says in the title to take on the police chief, played by Woody Harrelson. Sam Rockwell and Peter Dinklage only make this cast more appealing.
“Darkest Hour” (Nov. 22): Gary Oldman seems like the kind of actor who should already have an Oscar but in fact he’s only ever been nominated once. You won’t risk much betting on a nomination and maybe even a win for this film in which Oldman plays Winston Churchill as Hitler’s forces near Britain. The early reviews and praises are uniformly effusive for the work he does here.
“The Disaster Artist” (Dec. 1): How do you make a good movie about one that’s widely viewed as one of the worst ever made? That’s the challenge of this film in which James Franco plays Tommy Wiseau, director and star of “The Room,” a movie so bad it became a cult fave and midnight movie overnight. Based on the book by Wiseau’s costar, who is played by Dave Franco, the film also stars Seth Rogen.
“The Shape of Water” (Dec. 8): Director Guillermo del Toro gets back to the more surreally fantastic side with this big-hearted monster movie in which a janitor played by Sally Hawkins – in what critics are saying is an awards-worthy performance – falls in love with the strange fish-like man she discovers in the Cold War-era lab she cleans at night. The cast also includes Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer, Oscar nominee Michael Shannon and Doug Jones, who played the Pale Man in Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth,” as the creature in the lab.
“Downsizing” (Dec. 22): Director Alexander Payne returns with a quirky sci-fi comedy in which Matt Damon and Kristin Wiig play a married couple who, weary of their stressed-out lives, decide to take advantage of a new technology to fight overpopulation and volunteer to be shrunk down to just 5 inches tall. Payne reunited with his longtime co-writer Jim Taylor — Oscar winners for their screenplay for “Sideways” for a film that also includes Oscar winner Chrisoph Waltz in its cast.
“The Post” (Dec. 22): Steven Spielberg directs the true-life story of the Washington Post’s controversial and dangerous at the time decision to publish the classified Pentagon Papers in 1971. Tom Hanks stars as Post editor Ben Bradlee, and Meryl Streep plays publisher Katherine Graham, in what’s sure to be one of the big prestige movies of the season, and second this fall (after the Liam Neeson-starring “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House”) to focus on the power of the press amid presidential scandal.
Untitled Paul Anderson Film (Dec. 25): Director Paul Thomas Anderson teams up again with Daniel Day-Lewis, his leading man from “There Will Be Blood,” for a film set in the fashion world of 1950s London with Day-Lewis as a designer to royalty and other posh people. Anderson’s films are almost always fascinating work and the fact that Day-Lewis says this is his final film role make this a must-see.
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