This past June, when the state of the world looked as uncertain as it does now, I published a seasonal movie preview that was equal parts hopeful and skeptical: 25 movies that were definitely (maybe) getting released this year. Three months and one nationwide reopening of cinemas later, there are still a handful of question marks. (When will we ever get to see Carey Mulligan’s Promising Young Woman? When, I ask you???)
Which is all to say, putting together a preview of the fall – typically cinema’s most important season, when all the awards-bait movies come to play – is a gamble. Here are my best bets, but don’t hold me to them.
Movies That Are 100% Definitely Coming Out
The Devil All the Time
Although Netflix’s true reckoning may still be on the horizon – so much debt! So many upstart competitors! So many McG movies! – the streaming giant has saved 2020 from being one long rerun. Its wares may vary wildly in quality, but it is still releasing new movies to a hungry public, which is more than the traditional studios can say. As fall approaches, expect the Netflix titles to become (hopefully) more quality-driven, too, like this multigenerational tale of family secrets from director Antonio Campos. With Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson and Eliza Scanlen, the thriller boasts star power and a whiff of Oscar bait-y ambitions. (Sept. 16, Netflix)
Previously scheduled as a midsummer theatrical release – the type of high-temperature horror that drives young audiences into an air-conditioned cinema – this Janelle Monae-starring thriller is now heading direct to VOD. But the combined promise of its time-travel narrative and political conceit is enough to place it high above most other digital offerings this month. (Sept. 18, VOD)
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Aaron Sorkin’s most recent directorial effort, the 2017 poker thriller Molly’s Game, didn’t exactly bring the house down, but maybe the walk-and-talk master will have better luck with this drama, which recounts the trial of seven anti-Vietnam War demonstrators. The cast certainly intrigues, with Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jeremy Strong, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Keaton subjecting themselves to Sorkin’s rat-a-tat dialogue, capital-W witty rejoinders and fiery political monologues. (Oct. 16, Netflix)
Goodness knows what was going on in director Ben Wheatley’s head when he decided to adapt Daphne du Maurier’s novel – and by doing so, remake Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 classic. But you have to admire Wheatley’s damn-the-naysayers determination. And if this new Rebecca is half as head-spinning and shocking as Wheatley’s Kill List, Sightseers and High-Rise – but more enjoyable than Free Fire – it’ll be worth the trouble. (Oct. 21, Netflix)
On the Rocks
Sofia Coppola reunites with her Lost in Translation troublemaker Bill Murray for a father-daughter tale that promises to go down as easy as Suntory whisky. With Murray playing a very Murray-ish New York City gadabout and the immensely likeable Rashida Jones playing his exasperated daughter, Coppola could have a low-key triumph on her hands. (October, Apple TV+)
Movies That Are Probably Coming Out
Wonder Woman 1984
In this era of extreme uncertainty, Warner Bros. is proving itself to be the most bullish studio. The other week, the company sent Tenet to theatres after a summer of playing release-date hopscotch, and now it’s forging ahead with the biggest comic-book movie of the year. Director Patty Jenkins’s sequel to her much-loved 2017 blockbuster jumps ahead half a century to 1984, where the music is synth-y, the fashion is boxy and the super-villains are courtesy of interestingly off-kilter actors (Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal). Take us back! (Oct. 2, in theatres)
Say the title five times in the mirror, and maybe Nia DaCosta’s sequel to the mid-90s horror franchise will actually open in theatres this year. Tony Todd reprises his role as a vengeful spirit who, still tormented over his murder at the hands of racists in the 19th century, preys on anyone who dares to question his urban-legend-fuelled power. (Oct. 16, in theatres)
Death on the Nile
Kenneth Branagh’s moustache, and the man himself, return for another star-studded Poirot murder-mystery. Moving from the Orient Express to Egypt and adding Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Russell Brand and Annette Bening to its list of suspects, the latest instalment in the Agatha Christie Cinematic Universe should be all the more enjoyable for those who spent the past six months stuck inside playing Clue (guilty). (Oct. 23, in theatres)
Scarlett Johansson’s super-spy has had a tough go of it. First, she had to stand by while nearly every other member of the Avengers got their own movie. Second, she – spoiler alert for a year-old movie – died in Endgame. And now her standalone epic, which explores her espionage life pre-Iron Man, got pushed into the unknown wilds of November. Will things go her way this time? All signs point to: maybe. (Nov. 6, in theatres)
No Time to Die
Daniel Craig’s latest (and perhaps last) go-round as 007 was the first big movie to punt itself out of COVID-19′s path when producers pushed its spring release to the fall. Maybe because the film comes saddled with an unfortunately timely title. Or maybe because this movie’s villain, played by Rami Malek, is harbouring some sort of super-virus. That’s just a theory, of course. We’ll be able to find out the truth this November. Probably. (Nov. 20, in theatres)
Pixar’s first film with a Black lead was supposed to come out this summer, like everything else. Here’s hoping that the animated tale, which seems to take a whimsical spin on the afterlife, is able to make it to theatres – if not this November, then some time in the future. Something tells me that this film deserves to be seen on the big screen, and not just Disney+. (Nov. 20, in theatres)
Movies That Should Have Come Out in Canada a While Ago
The Tax Collector
Canadians can crow all they want about how our theatres got Tenet and Unhinged weeks before Americans. But some of this summer’s biggest video-on-demand titles never made their way to our domestic digital spheres at all. Top of the list is this action movie from director David Ayer (Suicide Squad, Fury), in which Shia LaBeouf stars as an enforcer in L.A.’s criminal underworld. By most accounts, the movie is completely terrible and offensive ... but Canadians should have a chance to find out for ourselves just how terrible and offensive it actually is. Fortunately, we finally will when the movie hits our VOD services this month. (Sept. 8, VOD)
Another film that debuted on VOD stateside this August but is taking its sweet time to teleport up north is this drama about the life and times of Nikola Tesla. Ethan Hawke stars as Elon Musk’s favourite historical figure, with director Michael Almereyda giving his biopic a boatload of anachronistic touches that the ahead-of-his-time Tesla would have likely appreciated. (Sept. 22, VOD)
Movies That Are Probably Never Coming Out in Canada
I’ve lost all hope that this Andy Samberg/Cristin Milioti spin on Groundhog Day will ever escape the clutches of U.S. streaming service Hulu’s digital borders. I also assume that most Canadians who want to watch the summer-y rom-com have already figured out a legally questionable way to download it. But it would still be nice if some enterprising Canadian distributor picked the film up.
The horror VOD sensation of the summer generated a wealth of headlines in the U.S. thanks to its film’s supposedly spot-on chills and director Dave Franco’s surprising genre expertise. But last I checked, U.S. distributor IFC sold the rights to a Canadian company, which then sold them to a Canadian streamer, which then told me that they had no idea what I was talking about. Two months after its release, Canadians still cannot rent The Rental.
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