After a disastrous August, the movies are back! Or, um, they should be in a month or two.
While September and the first half of October are rather barren in terms of big releases that might lure a healthy number of moviegoers back to the multiplex post-Top Gun: Maverick, the rest of the year looks almost too busy: Awards contenders, adult-geared comedies, comic-book blockbusters, and one long-awaited sequel that just might upend the entire game (Avatar: The Way of Water, which we’ll learn more about closer to Winter Movie Preview time).
Here are your 15 best fall movie bets from now through U.S. Thanksgiving, for every type of audience – and for every type of screen.
SHINY AWARDS BAIT
After cycling through a number of release dates (I originally listed this title as one of my most anticipated 2021 releases), director Andrew Dominik’s Marilyn Monroe drama starring Ana de Armas will finally be released this fall. And with the dreaded/coveted NC-17 rating, to boot. Expect an entire cottage industry of outrage, and praise, to be lavished on the adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’s novel after its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival in a few weeks. (Netflix, Sept. 23)
James Gray, one of today’s best working filmmakers, has ventured into the jungle (The Lost City of Z) and the far reaches of outer space (Ad Astra), but with Armageddon Time, he’s more or less going home. An intimate New York tale akin to his work on The Yards, We Own the Night and Two Lovers, Gray’s latest appears to mine his personal family history even more than his early-years filmography, with a reported detour into the nascent days of Trumpism. Anthony Hopkins, Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong star in this tale of a Jewish family fighting to survive in a hostile and stifling social environment. (In theatres, Oct. 28)
Director Todd Field hasn’t made a film in 16 long years … but that last film was Little Children, a devastating drama that confirmed the filmmaker (and sometimes actor) as a major talent after his debut, 2001′s In the Bedroom. Whatever Field has been doing in the interim, all eyes are on his new film, TÁR, which stars Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár, considered to be the greatest living composer. (In theatres, Oct. 7)
Any new Steven Spielberg film is an event, but The Fabelmans is something special even for the master of commercial Hollywood cinema. A lightly fictionalized take on his own Arizona upbringing, The Fabelmans might just be the director’s most personal project to date (between this and Gray’s Armageddon Time, we’re one Jewish family bildungsroman away from a trend). Naturally, Spielberg has assembled a stellar cast to help tell this close-to-home tale, including Seth Rogen, Michelle Williams, Paul Dano and Gabriel LaBelle as the young Spielberg facsimile named Sammy Fabelman. (In theatres, Nov. 11 (limited) / In theatres, Nov. 23 (wide))
Can Hollywood make a movie interrogating the worst aspects of Hollywood? Maria Schrader’s docudrama She Said wouldn’t be the first time that the industry looked inside of itself for catharsis, but the film is the most potentially uncomfortable meta-project in some time, given that it chronicles the first sparks of the #MeToo movement, specifically The New York Times’ investigation into Harvey Weinstein. Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan star as the reporters who broke the story, with Weinstein himself reportedly only glimpsed and never seen. (In theatres, Nov. 18)
During the Judd Apatow boom of the mid-aughts, comedy regularly topped the box-office charts. Today, there’s not a single theatrical comedy franchise going, no matter how hard people try to make Wedding Crashers 2 happen. Enter Billy Eichner, the breakout comic television actor (Parks and Recreation, Difficult People, Billy on the Street) who is aiming to bring comedy back to the big screen. With the directorial help of Apatow associate Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek), Bros stars Eichner as a gay man searching for love, with the film making history as the first major studio project to have an almost entirely queer principal cast, including those actors cast in heterosexual roles. (In theatres, Sept. 30)
The Greatest Beer Run Ever
After the success of Green Book proved that filmmaker Peter Farrelly could both (a) operate without the collaboration of his brother Bobby and (b) tackle subject matter that didn’t involve bodily fluids, the surprise Oscar savant is back with The Greatest Beer Run Ever. Half buddy comedy, half war-torn drama, the film adapts the real-life story of a U.S. Marine Corps vet (Zac Efron) who takes up a dare to sneak into Vietnam to track down his buddies stuck in combat with warm messages from home. Russell Crowe and Bill Murray co-star. (Apple TV+, Sept. 30)
Ticket to Paradise
Julia Roberts and George Clooney in a big-screen rom-com? No, this isn’t some stealth Ocean’s reboot, nor is it an artifact delivered to 2022 theatres via time machine: Ticket to Paradise is a real-deal movie-star event, the likes of which haven’t been seen in years. Roberts and Clooney star as a long-divorced couple forced to reunite for their daughter’s tropical destination wedding, resulting in all sorts of charming hijinks. I’m sure we all know how the movie ends already, but just think of the gleaming teeth and perfect cheekbones we’ll be treated to in the meantime. (In theatres, Oct. 21)
SEXY PEOPLE DOING MYSTERIOUSLY SEXY THINGS
Don’t Worry Darling
So far, conversation surrounding director Olivia Wilde’s follow-up to Booksmart seems to revolve around her leading man/real-life paramour Harry Styles. Oh, and that time she was served custody papers while on stage presenting footage from the film at CinemaCon. But there’s every reason to think the actual film itself will be just as intriguing/headline-grabbing, with a Twilight Zone-y premise (suburban housewives in the 1950s suspect their secret-agency husbands are up to no good) and a cast that includes Florence Pugh, Chris Pine, Gemma Chan and, yes, some fellow named Harry. (In theatres, Sept. 23)
Even after watching the trailer several times, I’m still not sure what David O. Russell’s Amsterdam is about, exactly. What is for certain: Taking place in the 1930s, the film follows three friends who get mixed up in some sort of shady business. The most important point: Those three friends are played by John David Washington, Christian Bale and Margot Robbie, with some impressive backup provided by supporting players Mike Myers, Chris Rock, Michael Shannon, Anya Taylor-Joy, Robert De Niro, and Taylor Swift, among others. Let’s see if the film can survive a press tour in which its stars accurately convey its plot, and delicately answer questions regarding Russell’s not-especially-warm on-set history with his actors. (In theatres, Oct. 7)
After nearly out-smirking Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick, it seems that rising star Glen Powell can do whatever he dang well pleases. But following the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it line of Hollywood thinking, Powell’s next film feels awfully familiar. In Devotion, the actor stars as a hotshot (check) pilot in the U.S. Navy (check) who becomes one of the world’s most celebrated wingmen (check check check). At least this time, Powell’s film is a period piece, taking place during the Korean War, and the actor is joined not by a veteran movie star but a fellow rising player, Jonathan Majors (who is about to become a central part of the Marvel Studios machine thanks to his role as the villain Kang the Conqueror). (In theatres, Nov. 23)
Horror is the most reliable of multiplex draws, yet mainstream studios seem to have weirdly spent the past year scared to death of releasing anything halfway frightening. There’s good hope to believe that Barbarian will change the gory course, as director Zach Cregger’s film about an Airbnb listing that isn’t as it seems is generating a healthy amount of bloody buzz. (In theatres, Sept. 9)
If you think that the Michael Myers saga will actually end with this entry from John Carpenter superfans David Gordon Green and Danny McBride, then I have some land in Haddonfield to sell you. But perhaps this alleged final chapter will be better received than Green and McBride’s last go-round, Halloween Kills, and then we can finally let scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis rest in peace. Not exactly promising: the fact that this film will debut in theatres and on U.S. streamer Peacock the same day … though because Canada is Peacock-less, we’ll all have to go to the cinema to see exactly how many people Michael will stab. (In theatres, Oct. 14)
What, just because it’s no longer the summer you think you can avoid superhero movies? Not so fast, my multiverse-fearing friend. After what feels like years of rumours and hype, Dwayne Johnson’s DC Comics passion project Black Adam is finally here. Billed as a darker superhero tale (you know, unlike every other Justice League movie), Black Adam will either turn fortunes around inside the seemingly always unstable DC cinematic universe, or just prove that Johnson can charm audiences with the limpest of material. The very future of studio Warner Bros. seems to be at stake here, so fun times ahead. (In theatres, Oct. 21)
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
If Marvel Studios only released the excellent, highly effective teaser for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and left it at that, I’d be willing to call it a win. But the film itself promises to deliver all sorts of emotional highs, given that it acts as both the sequel to one of Marvel’s most beloved franchises, and as a tribute to the talents of its late star, Chadwick Boseman. The exact plot of Wakanda Forever is fuzzy at the moment – we know that Namor, Marvel’s precursor to Aquaman, is the villain, played by Tenoch Huerta – but I retain a high amount of confidence given that Ryan Coogler returns as director, as have cast members Angela Bassett, Winston Duke, Letitia Wright, Martin Freeman and Lupita Nyong’o. If any 2022 title represents a true challenger to Top Gun: Maverick for the box-office throne, it is this cinematic kingdom. (In theatres, Nov. 11)
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