Well now that summer has finally ended, taking with it one of the most lackluster movie seasons in recent memory, we have a reason to get excited. Fall has arrived, bringing with it Halloween, pumpkin spice (don’t judge) and a mix of holiday blockbusters and Oscar contenders. Not feeling excited yet? Check out our list of the must-see movies this fall, then start looking for dates to the cinema.
Renee Zellweger makes a major star comeback stepping into the ruby slippers of the mother-of-all comebacks, Judy Garland. We caught Judy at the Toronto International Film Festival, and can attest: Zellweger gives the role her all, and the movie makes for an entertaining, if fanciful, look into the life of an icon. If nothing else, Judy will introduce the majesty of the titular performer’s artistry to a whole new generation.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Speaking of the Toronto Film Festival, we attended the world premiere of the Mr. Rodgers biopic at this year’s festival where it played to an overwhelmingly positive reception. Less a biopic than the story of how Mr. Rodgers’ lessons apply to adult life, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood features Tom Hanks (as Rodgers) at his most likable, and Chris Cooper (as an alcoholic father) at his best.
Pain & Glory
Pedro Almodovar returns with this semiautobiographical story of a drug-addicted gay director struggling with a mid-life crisis. Antonio Banderas gets his best role in years in the lead (he won Best Actor at Cannes), while Penelope Cruz bites into the material as his mother in flashbacks. Count on Pain & Glory snagging an Oscar nod for Best Foreign Language film, along with a strong possibility that Banderas will pick up a long-overdue nod. We can’t wait to check it out later this month.
The movie that won Best Actor and the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and started love-it-or-hate-it fights in Toronto finally opens to the general public. Joaquin Phoenix gives his all in this origin story of the comic book villain, which borrows heavily from Martin Scorsese’s King of Comedy. Orgy of depraved, pointless violence, or meditation on how society creates madmen? One way to decide…
Director Kasi Lemmons (best known as an actress in films like The Silence of the Lambs) takes on directing duties with one of history’s great queer heroes: Harriet Tubman. Tony Award-winner Cynthia Ervio takes on the title role opposite Janelle Monae as Marie Buchanan, Tubman’s closest friend and possibly lesbian lover. We hope the movie indulges in the little-known lesbian history of Ms. Tubman, finally ending her queer erasure with the general public.
Terminator: Dark Fate
We admit it: we thought the Terminator franchise ran out of gas years ago. Dark Fate aims to recharge its dead batteries with the return of series creator James Cameron (who wrote and produced this time out), and that of the real star of the series (sorry, Schwarzenegger) Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. Much in the same way a frenzied performance by Jamie Lee Curtis revived the Halloween series last year, Hamilton could deliver the goods to make this dystopian sci-fi series relevant again.
Call it sick fascination: the much-awaited sequel to the 1980 horror classic The Shining finally arrives this year, based once again on a novel by Stephen King. Ewan McGregor stars as a grown Danny, plagued by memories of his father’s murderous rampage from years before. Doctor Sleep has the potential to expand and evoke the terror of the original, or to end in total disaster.
We get it: another Charlie’s Angeles reboot? Do we really? On the upside, this one stars queer actress Kristen Stewart in the lead, and has the added benefit of feminist director Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect) at the helm. The combination of the two gives us pause, and makes us have hope that this Charlie’s will have a great mix of action, thoughtful drama and campy fun.
Queer director Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, Velvet Goldmine) delivers his most mainstream film to date, one which already has Hollywood buzzing about Oscar possibilities. Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway star in this thriller based on the true story of Robert Bilott, a whistleblower who took on the chemical company DuPont for contaminating the Ohio river—and the population along it—with carcinogens. With the Flint water crisis ongoing, Dark Waters feels well-timed. With Haynes in the director’s chair, we can’t wait to see it.
Anyone wanting to Let It Go Again should mark their calendars for Frozen 2, the anticipated sequel to the 2013 Disney smash. Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell return as Elsa and Anna alongside Jonathan Groff as Kristoff. Rumor has it Elsa will also have a girlfriend this time out, which is good enough for us.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Speaking of love it or hate it fights at the Toronto Film Fest, Portrait of a Lady on Fire ignited (excuse the expression) loud debate over its treatment of women. The film picked up the coveted Queer Palm at Cannes (beating out Pain and Glory) for its lesbian subject matter: an 18th-century painter named Marianne falls for one of her subjects, a rebellious woman who refuses to sit for a painting. Critics and audiences have commented on an emotional sucker punch the movie packs, which should give the brave and curious a reason to watch.
Writer/director Rian Johnson (The Last Jedi, Looper) assembles a remarkable cast that includes Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon and Christoper Plummer for an Agatha Christie-style whodunnit. The cast alone is worth the price of admission, though early reviews from Toronto suggest Johnson’s plotting—and wicked humor—cement the movie as a much-needed classy and fun romp at the multiplex.
Ok, beguiling disaster, or ambitious classic? That’s the question surrounding Cats, the Tom Hooper-directed (Les Miserables) adaptation of the seminal Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. With a cast that includes Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba, Rebel Wilson and—of all people—Jason Derulo, Cats has a pedigree too strong to ignore. That said, early looks at the CGI motion capture felines have us feeling more creeped out than excited. Regardless, we get a Hudson-crooned version of “Memory,” which suggests the movie will have at least one redeeming characteristic.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Oh, don’t act like you’re not aware. The saga of the Skywalker family allegedly comes to an end (we’ll believe that when it happens) in this installment, which finds the young Jedi Rey (Daisy Ridley) in a final confrontation with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and a returned Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). JJ Abrams directs, which doesn’t give us much hope, though the return of McDiarmid, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams and a CGI-resurrected Carrie Fisher have us anticipating another adventure in a galaxy far, far away.
The Addams Family
Charlize Theron, Oscar Isaac, Finn Wolfhard and Bette Midler headline this CGI-animated reboot of a family creepy, spooky, cooky and ookie. In this story, the Addams do battle with a nutty reality TV host (played by Allison Janney) who doesn’t approve of their macabre lifestyle. Sound familiar? If ever a family’s values could take on the Trump era, they would belong to the Addams.