Fall Movie Preview

Birth of a Nation (October 7th)

Nate Parker’s directorial debut premiered to raves at Sundance earlier this year, was purchased by Fox Searchlight for a record $17.5 million, and almost immediately became the subject of heated debate. At the time, in the heat of yet another lily-white Oscars season, the discussion was largely about the film’s status as an instant front-runner, a placating reminder that next year would be better. Putting aside the problematic nature of that idea (So giving another slavery movie a few trophies in 2017 makes two straight years with no black acting nominees totally irrelevant?), the film soon ran up against other, far more disturbing obstacles. Parker’s alleged rape of a Penn State classmate in 1999, as well as her later suicide, have once again drawn attention to the recurring debate over the artist versus the art, and whether one can truly be appreciated without the other. Combined with mixed critical buzz and a very gray marketing campaign, the outlook here is uncertain, but sure to be interesting. – John DiLillo

 

Arrival (November 4th)
Contrary to what you might be thinking if you’ve been following the Presidential election, aliens haven’t landed on earth yet—but what happens when they do, and when they’re not exactly the peaceful green men you’ve imagined? Arrival seeks to answer that question, staring Amy Adams as a government linguist who’s hired to translate communications from a mysterious fleet of alien beings and hopefully prevent a global war. It’s not an action movie—despite the aliens and the supporting casting of two-dollar Bourne Jeremy Renner—but a slow-burn meditation on language and what makes us human, one that’s finally giving the unfairly underrated Amy Adams the kind of lead role she deserves. – Kate Fueyo

 

Doctor Strange (November 4th)
Say what you will about Marvel, but the studio doesn’t hesitate to take risks. It would be very easy for the Disney-owned studio to sit back, release an Iron Man or a Spider-Man movie every few years, and rake in the billions. Instead, they’ve chosen to release films starring a talking raccoon, a man who can talk to ants, and now Sinister director Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange. Based on a relatively lesser-known corner of the Marvel universe, Strange is new territory for the rapidly expanding superhero genre. It’s a kung fu-tinged look at an arrogant surgeon turned sorcerer, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, and it looks like a kaleidoscopic knockout after going on ten years of relatively samey Marvel visuals. The cast is phenomenal: Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, and Rachel McAdams look to be scene-stealers. And the villain, played by Mads Mikkelsen of Hannibal fame, could be the one that breaks the franchise’s trend of bland, underdeveloped bad guys. Oh, and the movie’s set at least partially in Greenwich Village, where Strange has his headquarters, so there’s that. – JD

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (November 18th)
Buzz for this one should be through the roof. It’s a blockbuster continuation of the defining saga of our generation. It comes directly from J.K. Rowling herself. It’s set in 1920s New York and features an incredibly fun-sounding quest to track down a suitcase of escaped magical creatures. It stars recent Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne and is directed by David Yates, the steady hand of the last four Potters. So why is no one talking about it? Maybe it’s the series of underwhelming trailers, which are all fine but don’t really make an impression, but more likely it’s the fact that Harry Potter never really went away. It’s only been five years since Deathly Hallows Part 2 was released, and it’s only been two months since bookstores went crazy again for a script continuation billed as “The Eighth Story.” Most likely Fantastic Beasts will be a big hit (It apparently stars Ron Perlman as a goblin nightclub owner, so what’s not to love?), but a Force Awakens-style cultural behemoth doesn’t seem to be on the way. Regardless, the trailers have hinted at an interesting wizard/muggle conflict, unprecedented for the series, and Colin Farrell appears to be reprising his role from Minority Report, so our curiosity is certainly piqued. – JD

Manchester By the Sea (November 18th)
If you’ve never heard the name Kenneth Lonergan, you should get familiar with it now, because come November 4th you can brag that you knew about a master before he was cool. Like his previous opus, the tragically-underseen Margaret, Manchester by the Sea takes a painfully real look at tragedy—you feel the pain of Lonergan’s heroes, including Manchester’s Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), because they feel less like a character in a movie than your next-door neighbor, your friend, or even yourself. By all accounts, Manchester isn’t a light afternoon at the movies (the plot deals with surprise death and parental abandonment), or a short one (it’s a domestic drama with the running time of a Christopher Nolan movie). But nearly every lucky person who’s seen it, whether at Sundance or Toronto, says that it’s one that stays with you for weeks and months after you leave the theater. (If nothing else, Michelle Williams and Casey Affleck
are locks for acting wins, so your Oscar pool will thank you.) – KF

The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, Walt Disney Animation Studios, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist.

Moana (November 23rd)
At this point in 2016, you’re either maintaining a healthy Hamilton obsession or desperately hoping that your friends who have one would shut up already. (I say this out of affection for the biggest Hamilton fan I know, my fifty-seven year old father.) But everybody loves Disney movies, and this one doesn’t need music from Lin-Manuel Miranda to look great. The company already packed a punch with the surprisingly complex oppression fable Zootopia in March, and they look to be right on track to repeating the magic with Moana, the story of a girl “chosen by the sea” who teams up with a demigod to find a fabled island. Featuring The Rock himself as the voice of demigod Maui and newcomer Auli’i Cravalho as the title character, plus rising comedy
star Jemaine Clement and fellow Hamilton alum Phillipa Soo, Moana is shaping up to be the kind of cheerful, moving Thanksgiving release that everybody can bring leftovers to. (And come on—even if you’re tired of Founding Fathers, the Miranda-penned music in the trailer will make even your skeptic heart soar.) – KF

Allied (November 23rd)
…and then there’s that other Thanksgiving release, one that will make your grandmother who still has a subscription to In Touch whisper gossip about Brad Pitt’s breakup during the previews. But Allied has a lot more to make it intriguing than celebrity divorce drama—directed by Robert Zemeckis, the man who brought us Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, and Flight, it’s a classic tale of romance and espionage, a James Bond take-on with the real emotional stakes of World War II. Pitt and Inception’s Marion Cotillard star as a couple who fall in love on the North African front, him an American intelligence officer and her a French resistance fighter, only to return to London, and start wondering if their spouse isn’t quite who they seem. Don’t let that reductive “based on a true story” tagline fool you—if Allied can revive the genre from its
forties peak, it might become one of the first sweeping romances to hit the multiplex in a
long, long time. – KF

 

La La Land (December 9th)
Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash was the rare awards season darling that actually deserved the love that was lavished upon it, a visceral musical drama that pulsed with the rhythm of the jazz drumming its main character worked so hard to perfect. Chazelle’s follow-up looks both equally excellent and astonishingly different. A swoony musical set in Los Angeles, the film follows a club pianist (Ryan Gosling, so unexpectedly hilarious in this year’s sorely underseen The Nice Guys) and the aspiring actress he loves (Emma Stone, already attracting Best Actress attention). The trailers looks hazily beautiful, and the original music is incredibly good. If all goes well, Stone could end up appearing in the two best musicals of 2016 (She cameoed in Popstar. Go watch Popstar), and we could be looking at a new classic. – JD

The Founder (December 16th)
The continuation of the Michael Keaton renaissance is one of the two best things about last year’s Spotlight (The other is that it beat Alejandro G. Iñarritu’s spectacularly overblown The Revenant to Best Picture), and it looks to continue in this fall’s fast food biopic. Keaton plays Ray Kroc, the borderline con man who put McDonald’s on the map. Keaton has always been a chameleon, but this role looks like it plays easily to his classic strengths; Kroc is a sleazy charmer who throws everyone around him under the bus in pursuit of fame and fortune. By the time December rolls around, that kind of character may be running the country, making this a pretty timely story. Director John Lee Hancock could be a strange fit for this kind of sharp satire (He previously turned in treacly fare like The Blind Side and Saving Mr. Banks), but hopefully writer Robert Siegel, former head editor of The Onion, can reign in those impulses. Trailers have showcased a visual panache not on display in Hancock’s prior features, so The Founder could end up something special. – JD

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (December 16th)
If you’re one of the four people on the planet Earth who still refuses to like Star Wars, the next few years may be a little difficult for you. The Force Awakens, the first new film released under Disney’s ownership, soared into the cultural landscape last December to the tune of two billion dollars, and now the franchise is primed to release a blockbuster a year until 2346. There’s been some confusion as to the nature of this new Star Wars; some more casual audience members are actively perturbed that Rey, Finn, and BB-8 are nowhere to be seen. It is our civic duty to explain to these poor lost souls that Rogue One is a prequel, not a continuation, telling the story of the rebel squadron who stole the plans to the first Death Star in the weeks and days leading up to the events of the classic original film. Directed by Gareth Edwards, whose Godzilla reboot gave us some incredibly effective and well-scaled spectacle, Rogue One features yet another impeccable, admirably diverse cast (Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, the great Donnie Yen, and Ben Mendelsohn, to name a few), some utterly astonishing visuals, and the promise of a Star Wars film that widens the franchise’s scope rather than compressing it. Not even some unsavory murmurings about production problems and reshoots can diminish our excitement for this film. Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII will no doubt be brilliant next year, but does it have Darth Vader? No. No it doesn’t. – JD

Passengers (December 21st)
Despite its simple synopsis and pithy title, Passengers has a lot to live up to—can a single film use two of the decade’s biggest movie stars to prove that the idea of movie stars itself isn’t dead? Featuring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence as passengers on a hundred and twenty year space voyage who find themselves awoken from hypersleep ninety years early, Passengers looks like a Gravity-esque test of whether the charisma of two people can carry an audience through space. If nothing else, seeing the film will unravel a mystery, because in contrast to a year of trailers that
seemed to spoil the entire film, the one for Passengers reveals almost nothing. And don’t count on looking at the source material for a clue, because the film is something that’s become rare as a unicorn in Hollywood—a blockbuster based entirely around an original idea. No doubt the casting of Pratt and Lawrence means the film will make gangbusters regardless, but the moviegoing public will be in for a treat if Passengers is as good as its trailer makes it look. – KF

 

A Monster Calls (December 23rd)
In a cinematic year that includes a baffling amount of “boy/girl and their X” movies (see Pete’s Dragon, The BFG, and even The Jungle Book), A Monster Calls continues the trend, only this one is absolutely determined to make you cry. When a boy’s mother (Rogue One’s Felicity Jones) is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he vents his anger into drawing a gigantic tree monster, which comes to life in all its Liam Neeson-voiced glory. A cancer weepie might not seem like the ideal Christmas present, but considering that even the trailer had me tearing up a little, I’m excited regardless. Plus, A Monster Calls looks to be another big, sweeping, original idea of a film, this one exploring the limits and power of storytelling in the face of grief—the exact kind of big ideas and big themes I go to the movies to see in the first place. – KF

Silence (December 23)
Martin Scorsese’s latest film follows Catholic missionaries (Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield) who are arrested for promoting and practicing their religion in 17th century Japan. Details are sparse about the Goodfellas director’s latest feature film, his first since The Wolf of Wall Street, but my hunch is this one will get many, many Academy Award nominations. And with a screenplay by Jay Cocks (Gangs of New York and Age of Innocence) I have high expectations.

– Charles Dickstein
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About The Author

Charlie Woodrow is a computer science student and amateur screenwriter. When he's not programming or writing he's probably watching movies.

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