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18 films for fall 2018: A Fall Movie Preview

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Labor Day has come and gone, so the time has arrived for us to offer up our annual Fall Movie Preview.

2018 doesn’t have quite the luster that some past years have had – at least in terms of sheer box office appeal. There are movies that will make plenty of money, of course, but there aren’t really any of the big franchise tentpoles that we’ve seen in year’s past. There’s no MCU offering, no “Star Wars” movie.

And that’s OK.

There are some big-budget extravaganzas and some franchise sequels, as well as some original works and even a few early Oscar possibilities. Comedy and drama, sci-fi and fantasy, horror flicks and family fare – there’s something for everyone this fall.

Check it out.

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SEPTEMBER

The Predator (Sept. 14)

What’s this? Another movie featuring Predators? Sign me up. Shane Black directs this newest installment in the series – either the fourth or the sixth (if you count the two “Alien vs. Predator” outings) – from a script that he co-wrote with Fred Dekker. Timeline wise, we’re after “Predator 2” and before 2010’s “Predators.” This one features an inadvertent call to bring the Predators back to Earth to do total Predator things. With a cast that includes young Jacob Tremblay, Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn and more, it certainly has the horses to be a solid sci-fi experience. Black has a longstanding relationship with the series – he was actually in the first one – so chances are he’ll do right by this one. All told, this could reinvigorate a franchise that has been spinning its wheels in recent years.

The House with a Clock in its Walls (Sept. 14)

So … Eli Roth is going to do a PG fantasy adventure. Yeah. It’s happening. The torture porn impresario is pivoting to family-friendliness, directing this movie, adapted by Eric Kripke from the 1973 John Bellairs novel of the same name. It’s a weird fit that is so weird that it almost makes sense; it’s not like the Amblin Entertainment family fare of the 1980s was lacking in scares. This one is the story of a young boy whose uncle is living in a house whose walls contain a clock that is somehow connected to the impending end of the world. Said uncle is played by Jack Black; other stars include Cate Blanchett and Kyle MacLachlan. This movie could be a throwback to the adventurous family fare of 30 years ago - particularly if Roth’s skill set translates.

A Simple Favor (Sept. 14)

I’ll admit to being fairly intrigued here. Paul Feig has made his name through broad comedy – are we ready to experience his sensibility filtered through a more dramatic lens? That’s what we’ve got here, a thriller adapted by Jessica Sharzer from Darcey Bell’s novel of the same name and starring Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick. Kendrick plays a small-town blogger whose best friend (Lively) disappears under mysterious circumstances. Henry Golding plays Lively’s character’s husband, who almost certainly did something shady but probably not murder unless maybe he did. Yeah – that’s the joy of movies like this. They’ve become formulaic, but have also become actively anti-formula. What does that mean? It means that this film likely won’t be as predictable as it might seem at first glance. Expect lurid, pulpy fun – precisely what you want from this kind of movie.

The Sisters Brothers (Sept. 21)

I had never heard of this movie before seeing a trailer; I was instantly intrigued. John C. Reilly and Jude Law star as the titular brothers – Eli Sisters and Charlie Sisters, respectively. It’s a dark comic Western, which sounds like something I would very much like to see. French director Jacques Audiard works from a screenplay that he co-wrote with Thomas Bidegain, adapting the Patrick deWitt novel of the same name. Set during the California gold rush, “The Sisters Brothers” is the tale of two legendary hitmen – brothers – in pursuit of a man who allegedly stole from their employer. Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed are both here as well. This one promises to be equal parts quirky and bleak, the kind of movie where you never really know what to expect. Should be fun.

Night School (Sept. 28)

Look – it almost doesn’t matter if this movie is actually good. This comedy, which stars Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, will almost certainly be a commercial hit. Both comedians are proven box office attractions; they’ll draw. The story, such as it is, involves Hart losing his job and finding himself in need of obtaining his GED, with Haddish as the teacher of his night school class. The trailers look broad and goofy, but both actors have a knack for bringing that kind of comedy to life. The supporting players – folks like Rob Riggle, Ben Schwartz and Taran Killam – are great. Director Malcolm D. Lee is a good fit. However, one questions the strength of a script with half-a-dozen named screenwriters. Still, Hart, Haddish and company should be able to make this into an entertaining outing at the very least.

(Other September releases: White Boy Rick (Sept. 14); Mandy (Sept. 14); Life Itself (Sept. 21); Hell Fest (Sept. 28); Smallfoot (Sept. 28).)

OCTOBER

A Star is Born (Oct. 5)

This might be the movie with the widest range of possibilities of any we’ll see this fall. Bradley Cooper makes his directorial debut with this one, a remake of the 1976 Barbara Streisand classic. In this version, Lady Gaga fills the Streisand role while Cooper goes in front of the camera in the Kris Kristofferson slot. The potential for this is sky high – it could be an awards contender if everyone is firing on all cylinders. However, if this is some half-baked vanity project, we might get something transcendently bad. I’m leaning toward greatness – I’m actually pretty certain this movie will be really good - but I honestly don’t know which outcome I would prefer. It’s tough to improve on a classic, but it has been 40 years – maybe it’s time for this star to be reborn.

Venom (Oct. 5)

Fans of Marvel comics in the mid-1990s had a lot of love for this particular character; there are doubtless plenty of fanboys anxious to see everybody’s favorite alien symbiote on the big screen (Editor’s note: I will happily recount Venom’s origin story as it began in “Secret Wars” #8, wherein Spider-Man gets a new costume and sets it all in motion, to anyone who asks). The fact that they got Tom Hardy to play Eddie Brock, the titular Venom’s human alter ego, adds a whole new level of excitement – he’s a fantastic pick for the part. Add in the understanding that Sony intends for “Venom” to be at least MCU-adjacent, and we’re off to the races. Ideally, we’ll get the same combination of hissing malevolence and dark humor that made the comic book Venom such an enduring antiheroic figure.

First Man (Oct. 12)

Damien Chazelle’s feature films have been built around music – “Whiplash” and “La La Land” both received massive critical acclaim. The only music in his latest, however, is the music of the spheres. “First Man” sees Chazelle partnering again with Ryan Gosling, who stars as Neil Armstrong in this adaptation of the James R. Hansen biography of the same name. Basically, it’s about the race to land on the moon and the men who were willing to sacrifice it all to get there. Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll – it’s a dynamite cast. The film looks to be a stunning period piece; think a spiritual sequel to “The Right Stuff.” Every early reaction thus far seems to point to another awards-season darling; this’ll give Chazelle and Gosling a shot at collecting some more hardware.

Bad Times at the El Royale (Oct. 12)

The pedigree on this movie is pretty spectacular. You’ve got J. J. Abrams protégé Drew Goddard at the helm as director and writer; his only other directorial credit is the exceptional “The Cabin in the Woods,” though his writing credits – both film and TV – are much more extensive. The cast is robust to say the least; Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, Chris Hemsworth, Nick Offerman and Jon Hamm are just some of the prominent names involved in this mysterious film. Seven strangers meet at a rundown hotel, all carrying secrets and all hoping for a shot at redemption. I don’t really know much beyond that … and I don’t need to. Goddard has earned the benefit of the doubt; he has written for some of the smartest shows on TV and earned accolades for his screenplays. It’ll be good.

The Oath (Oct. 12)

This movie marks Ike Barinholtz’s directorial debut, working from a script he penned. It’s a comedy that revolves around an America in which the government has demanded its citizens sign something called “The Patriot’s Oath” by the day after Thanksgiving. What Barinholtz – who also stars – gives us is a cranked-to-11 awkward Thanksgiving, with every familial political disagreement amplified. It’s a great cast – Tiffany Haddish, Jon Cho, Carrie Brownstein and many more join Barinholtz in a film that will offer plenty of lowbrow laughs to go along with its fairly high concept. Barinholtz is a funny, talented dude, but we’ll have to wait and see if that translates behind the camera. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of middle ground here; “The Oath” will either be good or really, REALLY not good – there’s nothing in between.

Halloween (Oct. 19)

Here’s another one that I’m going to go ahead and be jazzed about. David Gordon Green directs this film, the eleventh overall in the “Halloween” franchise, from a script co-written with Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride. It’s a sequel to the 1978 original that disregards all the nonsensical convoluted continuity established by the subsequent films. It’s 40 years later and Jamie Lee Curtis is back as Laurie Strode and confronts Michael Myers once again. This one comes with the blessing of “Halloween” godfather John Carpenter, who serves as an executive producer. Carpenter wasn’t thrilled with the Rob Zombie-led efforts in the franchise, but appears to approve of what Green and company do. Look – it’s a “Halloween” movie close to Halloween; even the worst-case scenario will play out fairly well. And it could be a whole lot more than that.

Johnny English Strikes Again (Oct.26)

Yeah. There’s another one of these. I’m as surprised as you are. British comedy legend Rowan Atkinson is back as the titular Johnny English, as gawky and awkward a secret agent as ever tried to seduce a lady spy. This makes number three. I’m not going to bother figuring out what the plot is – no one cares. This will be another poorly conceived series of parodic riffs on James Bond-ian tropes and other spy thriller clichés. I love Atkinson as much as the next comedy nerd, but the reality is that the shtick has been wearing thin for some time now.

(Other October releases: Roma (Oct. 5); Beautiful Boy (Oct. 12); Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (Oct. 12); Wildlife (Oct. 19); The Hate U Give (Oct. 19); Suspiria (Oct. 26).)

NOVEMBER

Bohemian Rhapsody (Nov. 2)

This biopic has been a long time coming. Telling the story of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury was always going to be a challenge, but every single image that we’ve seen thus far indicates that Rami Malek (star of “Mr. Robot”) certainly captures the essence of the enigmatic singer. The focus of the narrative will be Mercury’s life up through the band’s iconic appearance at 1985’s Live Aid concert. However, the production was marked by some significant issues – in fact, director Bryan Singer was removed from the chair after a period of numerous absences and clashes with cast and crew, with Dexter Fletcher replacing him. The behind-the-scenes problems don’t bode particularly well, but we’ll just have to cross our fingers that the strength of the story – along with Malek’s performance – will be enough to carry the day.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (Nov. 2)

I’m sure that someone somewhere is enthusiastic about this movie. Like, there are probably people out there who really wanted a gritty reboot of the holiday ballet that you go to with your parents every Christmas. I don’t know who they are and I worry about them, but they probably exist. So it is with “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” drawing inspiration from the short story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” that itself served as the inspiration for the ballet. Keira Knightley stars as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Morgan Freeman is here as Drosselmeyer, but the truth is that it doesn’t matter who is in this movie. The combination of name recognition and the Disney publicity machine means that this one will probably be making stacks of cash all the way through Christmas.

The Grinch (Nov. 9)

Full disclosure: I’m skeptical of this movie. Like, REALLY skeptical. I just don’t think we need any more Grinch. The original animated special remains a holiday classic, while the 2000 Jim Carrey movie seemed unnecessary in its own right, though it does appear to have grown on people in the years since. There’s just no need for more. The folks at Illumination Studios continue to play catch up in the animation game; despite their efforts, this movie isn’t going to get them there. Getting Benedict Cumberbatch to star is an undeniably great move; you can tell from the trailers that he’s a good fit. But the whole thing just reeks of pointlessness. I’m sure it will be a perfectly acceptable piece of children’s entertainment, but one questions the studio’s ability to stay true to the soul of the original.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (Nov. 16)

The universe created by J.K. Rowling keeps on expanding as the Harry Potter-prequel “Fantastic Beasts” series gets its second installment. Expect more of the same – Eddie Redmayne is back as magical animal expert Newt Scamander, who is enlisted by a young Albus Dumbledore (played by Jude Law) to thwart the evil efforts of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). Much of the cast of the first film has returned – Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol and many more. Rowling wrote the screenplay and David Yates marks his sixth Wizarding World directorial outing (the last four “Harry Potter” films and the two “Fantastic Beasts” movies); it’s the continuation of a saga intended to consist of at least three films (though considering the box office success, we can likely expect more). Expect this to be one of the fall’s biggest films.

Creed II (Nov. 21)

I was always going to like “Creed” – it starred Michael B. Jordan, was written and directed by Ryan Coogler and featured a franchise that I’ve loved for decades. And it’s no surprise that we get a sequel. Jordan is back as Adonis Creed, trying to balance his burgeoning boxing success with his personal life, Rocky Balboa is by his side. But there’s only one thing that matters about this movie – Apollo Creed’s son is going to fight Ivan Drago’s son and I never knew I wanted this until it was put in front of me but now I want it BAD. Young director Steven Caple Jr. takes the reins, while the screenplay is co-written by Sylvester Stallone; Coogler is back as executive producer. It probably won’t be as great as the first one, but I expect big things nevertheless.

Robin Hood (Nov. 21)

Another Robin Hood movie? Sure! Why not? It’s not like the last couple of efforts have been all that successful; take another shot. This time, the iconic outlaw gets what I can only assume will be a gritty makeover. Taran Egerton stars as the titular Hood, doing the whole “steal from the rich, give to the poor” deal for … reasons. Jamie Foxx is onboard as Little John, while there will undoubtedly be an engaging assortment of Merry Men. My best guess is that it will be edgy, feature numerous physics-defying action sequences and not make a ton of narrative sense. That said, Egerton is charming and the trailers certainly look good. It might not be a good movie per se, but I’ll bet that, if nothing else, “Robin Hood” will be fun.

(Other November releases: The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Nov. 9); Widows (Nov. 16); Welcome to Marwen (Nov. 21); Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 (Nov. 21); The Frontrunner (Nov. 21).)

Last modified on Wednesday, 05 September 2018 10:37

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