Robert Redford says goodbye with The Old Man & the Gun. Photo by Eric Zachanowich/Twentieth Century Fox

Robert Redford says goodbye with The Old Man & the Gun. Photo by Eric Zachanowich/Twentieth Century Fox

Fall Movie Preview 2018

From Oscar hopefuls to broad comedies, here’s what the season’s film slate has to offer.

You know the summer movie season is over when people start talking about Melissa McCarthy winning an Oscar for a true-life drama and not about her languishing through a much-derided adult puppet comedy.

That’s right—it’s fall. Bring on the earnest biopics about figures as different as Neil Armstrong and Freddie Mercury, and movies about drug addiction and war correspondents. Robert Redford’s acting career ends, Tiffany Haddish’s stardom takes off, and we get a Lady Gaga version of a classic Hollywood tragedy.

Of course there are aliens and supervillains too (mixed in with the Oscar bait). The awards contenders often have their release dates shift around, but here’s a sampling of what the landscape looks like from now until the holiday season.

Sept. 14

The Predator

In a revamp of the Schwarzenegger hit from the 1980s, the Predators visit our planet with bad intentions. The alien creatures look the same, but I’m not sure how you fill Arnold’s boots with Boyd Holbrook (Logan), Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight), and Olivia Munn. The director is Shane Black—whose The Nice Guys proved there’s still life in the action-comedy genre—and Keegan-Michael Key is in the cast, so maybe there’ll be some snappy wisecracks between the disembowlings.

Mandy

Nicolas Cage sinks his teeth into his best crazypants role in years, as a recluse who must take frontier justice against a group of Manson-family-like freaks. The film is drenched in wild colors and exaggerated design, an impressive stunt in insta-cult moviemaking by director Panos Cosmatos (whose father directed Rambo).

A Simple Favor

Straight-laced Anna Kendrick strikes up a friendship with glammed-up Blake Lively, who then vanishes. A little change of pace here for Ghostbusters director Paul Feige, and maybe for the capable Kendrick as well, who co-stars with Crazy Rich Asians lead Henry Golding.

White Boy Rick

Based on a true story, this drama tracks the rise of a 15-year-old Detroit kid (played by newcomer Richie Merritt) in the 1980s, who followed in his father’s criminal footsteps and became a teen drug kingpin. Somehow this looks like something we’ve seen before, but the cast is promising: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Bruce Dern are in the mix.

Sept. 21

The House with a Clock in Its Walls

An orphan boy is taken in by his decidedly eccentric uncle (Jack Black), whose Gothic house has its share of idiosyncrasies. Of course it does: The uncle’s a warlock, and his next-door neighbor (Cate Blanchett) a full-fledged witch. This film is an adaptation of John Bellairs’ children’s book, and it’s the first family-friendly movie directed by the generally nasty Eli Roth (Hostel).

Life Itself

Oscar Isaac and Olivia Wilde play lovers whose journey through life takes a few unpredictable twists and turns—and so far that’s all we can really say about this offbeat-sounding romance. The supporting cast is seasoned, including Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Mandy Patinkin, and Jean Smart. It’s written and directed by Dan Fogelman, lately noted as the creator of TV’s This Is Us.

Fahrenheit 11/9: One assumes Michael Moore will bring his usual delicate touch to his latest documentary, a look at—let me look through the press notes—oh yes, it’s about Donald Trump. If the film changes the mind of a single Trump follower, it will be Moore’s biggest achievement yet.

Sept. 28

Night School

Kevin Hart is studying for his GED and breakout Girls Trip star Tiffany Haddish is his no-nonsense instructor. The setup sounds just a bit labored, but those two can bring the funny, so hopefully they have room to play. Director Malcolm D. Lee isn’t usually mentioned among Hollywood’s most prominent directors, but his hot streak lately includes solid moneymakers Girls Trip, Barbershop: The Next Cut, and The Best Man Holiday.

Smallfoot

What if Bigfoot wondered about us the way we do about him? That’s the premise of an animated tale about a yeti who suspects that humans might actually exist. Banish all thoughts of the abominable snowman from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, because this is a much hipper dude entirely, voiced by Channing Tatum. The vocal cast includes Zendaya, the inescapable James Corden, and a promising actor by the name of LeBron James.

Oct. 5

A Star Is Born: The fourth big-time version of a well-worn tale, in which a music star (Bradley Cooper, making his directing debut) is outpaced by his discovery (Lady Gaga, in her first lead role). The movie will inevitably be a showcase for the particular talents of Ms. Gaga, as she follows in the footsteps of Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand. Early festival reviews have been very approving. Yeah, this one will be around at Oscar time.

The Sisters Brothers

Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly are the title characters, two sibling assassins in the Oregon country in the 1850s—and if that doesn’t already suggest a black-comic undertone to this odd-looking project, consider that the brothers’ last name really is Sisters. The cast includes Jake Gyllenhaal (as a bounty hunter on their trail) and the inspired British actor Riz Ahmed. This is the first English-language film for French director Jacques Audiard, who did the brilliant A Prophet.

Venom

Do things seem a little light in the comic-book department this fall? Meet Venom, with Tom Hardy as a man taken over by his very toothy “symbiote” alter ego. Turns out his higher powers are more fun than he expected. The really important thing is how this character will fit into the overall Marvel universe, most likely as a nemesis for Spider-Man (Topher Grace played Venom in Spider-Man 3).

Oct. 12

First Man

A look at the life of Neil Armstrong, who took one giant leap for mankind by stepping onto the moon in 1969. Ryan Gosling plays Armstrong, rejoining his La La Land director Damien Chazelle. As if we needed more evidence of our current cultural craziness, the movie has been criticized for not depicting the planting of the American flag (elsewhere on full display, by all accounts), which is frankly missing the point because we all know the moon landings were faked anyway. Get with it, sheeple!

The Old Man and the Gun

Robert Redford bids farewell to his acting career with this role as a septuagenarian San Quentin escapee and incorrigible bank robber. We’ll see if it all turns out to be just a little too adorable, but Redford has been in good form lately, and he’s surrounded by a batch of pros: Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, and Tom Waits.

Beautiful Boy

Based on two memoirs by father and son David and Nic Sheff, this film recounts their years-long struggle with Nic’s drug addiction. The movie offers challenging roles for Steve Carell and Call Me by Your Name’s Timothée Chalamet, under the direction of Belgian filmmaker Felix Van Groeningen.

Oct. 19

Can You Ever Forgive Me? It might sound like every movie released in autumn is an “Oscar favorite,” but in this case the word from early festival screenings is extremely high on Melissa McCarthy and her mostly serious performance as a real-life writer who got into trouble forging letters from famous people. The film is directed by Marielle Heller, who did the terrific Diary of a Teenage Girl.

Halloween

It’s been forty years since the first Halloween made horror-movie history, but it looks like babysitter Jamie Lee Curtis isn’t out of the woods just yet. The actress returns for one more go at surviving the holiday, in what will undoubtedly be the final film of the series. Kidding! They’ll be cranking these out until doomsday. Director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) might bring something new to the costume party.

Oct. 26

Johnny English Strikes Again

Goofball Englishman Rowan Atkinson returns to one of his signature roles (his alter ego Mr. Bean is otherwise engaged, apparently) in a spy-spoof sequel. Atkinson’s incompetent anti-007 is joined in this adventure by Emma Thompson and Olga Kurylenko. Expect many pratfalls.

Nov. 2

Bohemian Rhapsody

This biopic about Queen frontman Freddie Mercury has cycled through many actors and directors over the years; in fact, the credited director, Bryan Singer, was fired during production. But any way the wind blows, here it is, and at the very least we’ll see how Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) does in the flamboyant lead role (a very different choice from the previously attached Sacha Baron Cohen).

Suspiria

A remake of Dario Argento’s cult 1977 film, with Dakota Johnson as a new student at a very odd dance company, and Tilda Swinton in a variety of roles. The film is directed by the reliably arty and over-the-top filmmaker Luca Guadignino (I Am Love, Call Me by Your Name), so perhaps it’s not too surprising that the early reviews call the film arty and over the top. (It’s also a marathon—fully an hour longer than Argento’s original.)

Nobody’s Fool

Tiffany Haddish again, this time cutting loose in a comedy written and directed by Tyler Perry. Haddish plays a newly-free ex-con who suspects the man her sister (Tika Sumpter) has been texting with is really catfishing her. The trailers suggest that Haddish really gets to roll in this one.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Disney gives The Nutcracker another twirl, this time in a (mostly) live-action adaptation that emphasizes the darker aspects of the tale, which—let’s face it—always had some pretty weird things going on. Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman co-star.

Boy Erased.

Coming on the heels of The Miseducation of Cameron Post, here’s another story of so-called “gay conversion therapy,” featuring Lucas Hedges (excellent in Manchester by the Sea) as a gay teen sent off to a religious school to change his orientation. Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe play the boy’s parents, and director Joel Edgerton plays the conversion therapist.

Nov. 9

A Private War

A look into the nitty-gritty of being a war correspondent, with Gone Girl star Rosamund Pike as the journalist (or enemy of the people, depending on your perspective) Marie Colvin, who died in a Syrian bomb blast in 2012. Colvin braved battle zones in the Middle East, Africa, and Sri Lanka, where she lost her eyesight in an RPG attack, resulting in her wearing a pirate-like eyepatch.

Overlord

Just what we need to round out the season: a tale of paratroopers in the D-Day invasion, except this version is more like Saving Private Frankenstein. The Allied soldiers are met with a Nazi experiment that transforms men into monsters, a piece of history they didn’t tell you about in school. The cast is led by Wyatt Russell, the product of a birth experiment between Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn.

The Grinch

So the 1960s TV show and the Jim Carrey live-action version weren’t enough? Here’s a feature-length computer animated adaptation of the Dr. Seuss classic about the original war on Christmas, with the Grinch voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch. At least they’ve kept the song: “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch…”

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

The Hollywood movie version of Stieg Larson’s trilogy only got as far as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, so here’s another go—this time with a book written after Larson’s death, but using the same characters. Claire Foy (who played Queen Elizabeth in the TV series The Crown) takes on the role of Lisabeth Salander, who is dragged into another mess, this time personal. The director is Fede Alvarez, who did the sadistic and effective Don’t Breathe.

film@seattleweekly.com

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