The Goldfinch (Sept. 13)
We’ll lead things off with this one, an adaptation of Donna Tartt’s 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. It stars Ansel Elgort as a young man who survived a terrorist attack at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a boy; the fallout from that event follows him well into adulthood. It’s got a phenomenal cast – Jeffrey Wright, Nicole Kidman, Luke Wilson and Sarah Paulsen join Elgort – but hasn’t generated quite the level of buzz you might expect for a film with this kind of pedigree. Still, it’s a solid start to the fall season.
Ad Astra (Sept. 20)
It’s a big year for Brad Pitt, who follows up his exceptional and subversive work in “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” with this film, a much more traditional movie star-type role, a big-budget sci-fi epic, albeit one with a little more meat than you might normally get. Pitt stars as an astronaut who is tasked with traveling to the very outer reaches of known space in an effort to retrieve the father (played by Tommy Lee Jones) he believed dead, but who turns out to be not only alive, but potentially dangerous on a massive scale. Think a less-convoluted “Interstellar.”
Downton Abbey (Sept. 20)
Confession time: I have never watched an episode of “Downton Abbey.” I’ve seen snippets here and there – and I know a lot of fans – but I myself have never experienced it. So I have to defer to people who know better than I do when it comes to this one, but the folks I’ve spoken with all seem quite enthusiastic for this one. The show’s beloved characters are coming back for this story, which apparently involves the king and queen coming to Downton Abbey, which … great? What I can say is that this is one of the fall’s most eagerly-anticipated offerings.
Rambo: Last Blood (Sept. 20)
Is it REALLY the last blood? Because Sylvester Stallone looks all jacked up on human growth hormone and ready to exact some knife-wielding justice, along with a healthy helping of shooting dudes with arrows. In the fifth (!) installment of the franchise, Stallone once again plays Vietnam veteran John Rambo, tasked with rescuing somebody – in this case, the daughter of a friend – from the clutches of bad guys via tough guy muttering and inexplicable explosions. Sly really digs playing this sort of character, so you’ll forgive me if I take the promise made by this movie’s subtitle with a grain of salt.
Judy (Sept. 27)
Based on the musical “End of the Rainbow,” this biopic features Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland. It’s the year 1968, 30 years after “The Wizard of Oz” and just a year before Garland’s death; she’s playing a serious of sold-out shows in London, where she meets the man who will become husband number five. By all accounts, it’s a tour de force performance from Zellweger, who is an early favorite to garner her fourth Oscar nomination (and first since she won Best Supporting Actress in 2003) and is considered by many critics to be the frontrunner for Best Actress.
(Other September releases: Hustlers (Sept. 13); Monos (Sept. 13); Abominable (Sept. 27))
Joker (Oct. 4)
This film promises to be one of the most polarizing offerings of the fall, if not the entire year. It’s ostensibly a DCEU movie, an origin story for the titular Batman villain. But in the hands of Joaquin Phoenix, the character has apparently become something different and challenging in some pretty bleak ways, though an origin story seems an odd fit. Director Todd Phillips – who also co-wrote the script with Scott Silver – seems to have tapped into something unsavory and off-putting with this film, which is winning major festival prizes and positioning itself as a significant awards season contender.
Lucy in the Sky (Oct. 4)
Noah Hawley is best known for his work on high-end TV shows like “Fargo” and “Legion,” but he makes his feature directorial debut with this one, a story about an astronaut whose world falls into chaos when she returns from space and begins an affair with a fellow astronaut. Loosely based on the true story of Lisa Nowak (you might vaguely remember her as the one who drove cross-country wearing diapers), the film stars Natalie Portman atop a stellar cast – Jon Hamm, Dan Stevens, Ellen Burstyn and a number of others round out a talented ensemble. You have to love space drama.
Gemini Man (Oct. 11)
Early trailers for this movie make it seem like it is absolutely bonkers. Will Smith stars as a grizzled assassin who is trying to escape the only man who can take him down – himself. Specifically, a younger clone of himself. Smith does double-duty, getting digitally de-aged to play his younger self. This movie sounds ridiculous, but, I mean, Ang Lee is directing. Say what you will, but Ang Lee is no slouch behind the camera. Clive Owen is here as well. Benedict Wong and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, too. With an idea this silly being brought to fruition by a crew this talented, anything could happen.
The Addams Family (Oct. 11)
Frankly, it’s kind of astonishing that it has taken Hollywood so long to revisit this macabre and funny family. They’re getting the animated treatment this time, courtesy of the team that brought you the foul-mouthed delight that was “Sausage Party.” All the beloved characters are doing all the hilariously creepy things they’ve been doing since cartoonist Charles Addams first brought them to life, only in animated form. It’s a killer cast – Oscar Isaacs and Charlize Theron lead the way, with Chloe Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, Bette Midler, Allison Janney and more lending their vocal talents.
The Lighthouse (Oct. 18)
Everything I’ve heard about this movie makes me want to see it, even as every word leaves me even more confused with regards to what it’s even supposed to be. Director Robert Eggers follows up his critically-acclaimed “The Witch” with this film; Robert Pattinson and Willem Defoe star as lighthouse keepers on an isolated island. Some have called it a dark period comedy. Others call it a psychosexual drama dealing with cracked psyches. I’ve seen it called a “Beckett-style dive into guilt and shame” and “at times, kind of a takeoff on “Aquaman.” And it’s in black and white. This can’t arrive soon enough.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (Oct. 18)
And here, we have a perfect illustration of the unnecessary sequel. 2014’s “Maleficent” was fine, but nothing particularly memorable. However, it did make a ton of cash at the box office, and so here we are, five years later, getting another movie featuring characters from “Sleeping Beauty” that ranges even farther away from the source material. Angelina Jolie is vamping and camping it up as the titular mistress of evil, while folks like Elle Fanning and Michelle Pfeiffer are along for the ride as well. I’m not sure who asked for this, but if it was you, well … congratulations, I guess.
Zombieland: Double Tap (Oct. 18)
And this is where I show myself to be a hypocrite. There’s no need for a sequel to “Zombieland” – that movie is a decade old and it tied itself up perfectly satisfactorily. And yet, I’m looking forward to this sequel, with the major players from the first film – Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin – returning for a story that is about the zombies evolving or something? This one feels like it has real stinker potential; recapturing the subversive tone of the first film could be tough in a world that has had 10 years to get good and sick of zombies.
(Other October releases: Pain and Glory (Oct. 4); The Current War (Oct. 4); Parasite (Oct. 11); Jexi (Oct. 11); Mister America (Oct. 11); Jojo Rabbit (Oct. 18); Frankie (Oct. 25); Black and Blue (Oct. 25))
Motherless Brooklyn (Nov. 1)
Another literary adaptation, this one long germinating. Based on Jonathan Lethem’s 1999 novel of the same name, “Motherless Brooklyn: is a full-on auteur flex by Edward Norton, who not only stars in the film, but wrote, directed and produced it as well. It’s a period piece, set in the 1950s, that sees Norton as a private detective with Tourette’s trying to solve the murder of his mentor. It’s an absolutely stacked ensemble too, running deep with talent. These sorts of passion projects can be hit or miss, and with a noted weirdo like Norton steering the ship, who knows? Consider me cautiously optimistic.
Terminator: Dark Fate (Nov. 1)
One of the joys of film franchises hopelessly entangled in time-travel paradoxes is that you can just step in and say “You know what? All that other stuff doesn’t count.” That’s the case here; it’s basically a sequel AND a reboot, moving back to 1991’s “Terminator 2” as a jumping off point and ignoring the franchise’s other installments. It’s 27 years after “T2” and Skynet is at it again, sending Terminators to kill important people before they’re important. Linda Hamilton returns as Sarah Connor, and Arnold is back as you-know-who. Here’s hoping they recapture what made the series fun in the first place.
Doctor Sleep (Nov. 8)
I’m really excited to see this movie, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. “Doctor Sleep” is King’s sequel to “The Shining,” revisiting young Danny Torrance, now all grown up and played by Ewan McGregor. Danny’s an adult, but he’s still dealing with the aftermath of his childhood experience at the Overlook Hotel. But here’s the thing – by all appearances, this film is going to try to work both as a film version of King’s novel AND as a sequel of sorts to the Kubrick film, which King notoriously hates. If director Mike Flanagan can pull it off, it’ll be pretty impressive.
Charlie’s Angels (Nov. 15)
Did we need another “Charlie’s Angels” movie? Almost certainly not. This particular piece of IP would seem to have given all that it had to give, and yet here we’ve got another big-screen interpretation of the sexy-lady-spy series; Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska star. In this one, the whole Angels deal is a global enterprise, with multiple teams undertaking multiple missions or whatever. I’m expecting pretty standard action fare, but with Elizabeth Banks serving as both director and writer, at least the possibility exists for something a little more substantial. And hey – Patrick Stewart is here!
Ford v Ferrari (Nov. 15)
This is another one that’s an early favorite for some awards season love. Directed by James Mangold, “Ford v Ferrari” tells the story of automotive designer Carroll Shelby (played by Christian Bale) and driver Ken Miles (played by Matt Damon) as they assemble a team to try and build a car from the wheels up that can beat Ferrari at the legendary Le Mans auto race in France in 1966. It’s based on a true story and is generating a ton of buzz across the board, with plenty of attention going to both the two leads and the film itself.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Nov. 22)
This might be the movie I’m most looking forward to seeing out of this whole bunch. This biopic stars Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers, the nicest man to ever become a star in the history of television. The film is directed by Marielle Heller; the framing device seems to be based on the experience of the Esquire writer who wrote a profile on Mr. Rogers back in the day (Matthew Rhys plays the journalist). But make no mistake – this is very much a movie star turn for Tom Hanks, perhaps the closest thing we have to a modern-day Jimmy Stewart.
Frozen 2 (Nov. 22)
You’ve probably heard of “Frozen,” one of the most successful animated movies ever. Obviously, it was only a matter of time before the powers that be at Disney revisited these characters and this world that they created. The top-notch vocal cast – led by Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel – is back, along with some welcome new additions. It takes place three years after the events of the first film and Elsa hears a voice calling her and yadda yadda yadda the movie makes a billion dollars. Expect a sweet story with killer songs and at least one earworm that becomes omnipresent for months.
(Other November releases: Waves (Nov. 1); Harriet (Nov. 1); Honey Boy (Nov. 8); Last Christmas (Nov. 8); The Report (Nov. 15); The Good Liar (Nov. 15); The Lodge (Nov. 15); Dark Waters (Nov. 22))