This summer movie season seemed to sadden most movie lovers, as noted in a story I wrote here last week. Fortunately we are entering a time of year I like to call “good movie season,” otherwise known as “fall” or “autumn” in certain circles. While every season has goods to offer, the fall tends to be a time when Hollywood dumps the prestige stuff, so it’s fresh in critical minds before top ten lists are submitted for the year.
There’s no shortage of movies to look forward to this fall- with films from proven auteurs, fan favorites, to up and comers, this season should provide us with a serious enough dose of filmic bliss to move us past the clinical depression of the summer movies. Here are just ten of the ones I am looking forward to.
The newest film from British director Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank, Wuthering Heights) debuted to rapturous approval at Cannes earlier this summer. It’s the first film Arnold has shot stateside, and as such it seems to be an exciting departure for her. Starring Shia Lebouf, Riley Keough, newcomer Sasha Lane and a big cast of largely unknowns, it follows the debauched and dangerous adventures of a group of scuzzy young people traveling around the Midwest selling magazine subscriptions. The trailer feels like a straight shot of dopamine, like a heartland version of Spring Breakers. It also runs at two hours and forty three minutes. This seems like it could either be one of the year’s best, or if that’s not your idea of a good time, one of the year’s worst. Either way, it will start a lot of conversations when it opens on September 30th.
Quebecois director Denis Villeneuve has made some of this decade’s most visually and dramatically stirring works, with Prisoners, Enemy, and last year’s Sicario all under his belt. He seems poised to continue his trend through the rest of the 10’s, with Blade Runner 2 set to debut in 2018, and Arrival set to…arrive this November. Not a sequel to a very forgettable Charlie Sheen flick, Arrival stars Amy Adams as a linguistic expert hired to communicate with an alien colony that lands on Earth. Since they don’t come out guns blazing, she is expected to find a way to communicate with them, in order to determine whether or not they are a threat to mankind. It looks pretty stunning, and the fact that Bradford Young (Pariah, Selma) is behind the camera makes up for the fact that Villeneuve’s usual ride or die DOP Roger Deakins isn’t back this time. At this point, Villeneuve seems like the type of director who may not make amazing movies every time, but will always make ones that are unmissable. This one is no exception.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Newcomer Joe Alwyn stars as the titular character in Ang Lee’s newest movie, about a group of marines home from Iraq in the early 00’s on a victory tour, who are honored at a halftime show during a Dallas Cowboys home game. Also starring the lately always great Kristen Stewart, Vin Diesel, and where-have-you-beens like Steve Martin and Chris Tucker, this one looks very promising. Based on a novel, this fictional work seems to fit in well with the rest of Lee’s work. The Taiwanese director has proven himself one of our greatest translators of Americana; telling stories that get at the layers of pain and longing that lay hidden just under the surface of American mythologies (Brokeback Mountain, The Ice Storm).
Let’s all forget that Blair Witch 2: Book Of Shadows ever happened and just assume that this is the first sequel to the seminal 1999 horror classic The Blair Witch Project. Revealed as the sequel earlier this summer at Comic Con (it had been developed under fake name The Woods), it’s part of an interesting new trend. We’re already in the age of the surprise album drop- we’re still coming into that of the surprise movie drop. This one returns to the original’s found footage roots, seeming to perfectly adopt its visual style (perhaps the most influential in American film of the last twenty years). What gives me hope that this could rise above your average (and usually disappointing) horror sequel is that Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, the directing/writing team behind indie horror flicks You’re Next and The Guest, are holding the reins on this one. Genre flicks are the sandbox they love to play in, so I can’t think of anyone better suited to helm this sequel. It opens September 16th, just in time for the leaves to start changing.
Kelly Reichardt (Night Movies, Meek’s Cutoff) makes northwest set movies about American outsiders with best laid plans trying to see them through. Though like all best laid plans, they tend to fall apart, leaving the characters with dwindling options, but new doors that open as a result of the fallout. Her newest, Certain Women, seems perfectly in line. The IMDB description is as follows: “The lives of three women intersect in small town America, where each is imperfectly blazing a trail.” Starring Laura Dern, Michelle Williams and Kristen Stewart and based on a series of short stories, this is Reichard’t first movie in five projects that wasn’t written or co-written by her creative partner Jonathan Raymond. Reichardt herself will be blazing a trail of sorts too.
This horror film from Polish director Marcin Wrona debuted at last year’s Fantastic fest to…um…fantastic reviews. IMDB describes it as a “clever take on the Jewish legend of the dybbuk,” a nightmarish piece of folklore that other not so good horror movies have tried to ape for content. I’m personally trying to know as little about it before I go in, as it seems right up my alley. All I know is, Jewish wedding, echoes of Polanski, demonic possession. I’m in.
With three films alone on this list, it seems to be the fall of Kristen Stewart. The former teen girl projection machine has come into her own as a master of dramatic deadpan, and she was nowhere more magnetic and revelatory than in last years Clouds Of Sils Maria, one of my favorite movies of 2015. Here she reunites with that film’s director, Frenchman Olivier Assayas for a bonkers sounding story about a personal shopper (Stewart) for a celebrity who may also have the psychic ability to communicate with her deceased twin brother. This might be a shitshow, and reviews out of Cannes were decidedly mixed. But at this point anything Assayas touches is sure to be at least gorgeously made, and he seems interested in continuing to integrate elements of psychic meta-textual mystery into his films, part of what made Clouds so haunting . It also co-stars Anders Danielsen Lie (Reprise, Oslo August 31st), one of my favorite young actors. It opens October 28th. We’ll see how it goes.
The Light Between Oceans
This is the most imminent film on the list, as it is set to debut at Venice Film Festival and open stateside on September 2nd. The latest from Derek Cianfrance (The Place Beyond The Pines, Blue Valentine) stars Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander as a couple who raise a baby they rescue from an adrift rowboat, only to run into trouble years later when they seem to meet the baby’s real mother, played by Rachel Weisz. The Australian set drama sounds fairly oscar ready. The Place Beyond The Pines was one of my favorite movies of 2013, so I’ve been eagerly anticipating this film since it first showed up on IMDB two years ago. However, its release so early in the fall season (when it’s still technically summer) has me a little worried it might not be very good. Hopefully Cianfrance’s strength with actors, a stunning cast and a gorgeous seaside setting will be enough to carry this movie.
The Magnificent Seven
Antoine Fuqua will forever be known as “the director of Training Day.” He caught lightning in a bottle with a David Ayer script and a peak Denzel Washington performance. He hasn’t delivered a film of that caliber since, and he may never again. But as long as he links himself to Denzel as he did in The Equalizer and he’s doing again in this remake of the 1960 and 1954 films, the results are guaranteed to at least be full of Denzelishness. Starring a diverse cast including Chris Pratt, Byung Hun Lee, Manuel Garcia Rulfo, and reuniting Denzel with his Training Day co-star Ethan Hawke, it seems like it’s going to be a really good time. The trailer boasts fiery hip hop and Denzel doing the thing where he rides on the side of his horse for cover and shoots over the top of it. Seeing the updating of the cast from all white guys is a great justification for a remake. I hope this one delivers, and maybe gets a new generation of young people turned onto westerns.
Voyage Of Time
Terrence Malick tries his hands at the documentary format for the first time, but if we’re being real he hasn’t shown much of a recent interest in scripts anyway, with his films taking an almost total visual language. This film boasts itself to be no less than “an examination of the birth and death of the known universe,” as per IMDB. The trailer looks absolutely, breathtakingly, stunning- like the best ever nature documentary you could possibly see at the Natural History Museum’s IMAX theatre. Make sure you see it on the biggest screen possible, when it opens October 7th.
Other big ones to look forward to: Goat (9/23), Loving (11/4), The Birth Of A Nation (10/4), Christine (10/14), Moonlight (10/21), Snowden (9/14), Manchester By The Sea (11/18)