2017 Fall Movie Preview
Fall movie season always comes as a relief no matter how good any given summer has been. Last year was one of the weakest summer seasons I can remember in regards to blockbusters and this year has been one of the best. But in both cases its nice to know that as the temperature drops and kids go back to school the movies that get released in theaters, for the most part, are going for more than just popcorn entertainment. We’ll still get a few of those of course but as Hollywood turns its attention towards awards season the creative forces behind the films become more esteemed. More than that there is just a better variety of the types of movies coming out. It would be nice if the industry could spread these movies out throughout the calendar year to help avoid blockbuster fatigue but until that happens lets just be glad that the best time of the year for film is upon us after a typically vacant August has come to an end.
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Another nice thing about fall movie season is we don’t know exactly which movie to look forward to. There are a few obvious titles that stand out at first glance but every year there are surprises that come out of nowhere. September marks fall festival season where we get our first hints at what to look out for between the Toronto International, Telluride, and Venice film festivals. Not all of those have happened yet but I’m going to do my best to point out the movies coming out over the next four months that are worth keeping an eye out for.
It – September 8th
The original adaptation of Stephen King’s novel has to be one of the most notable made for TV movies ever produced. I know it scared me half to death as a kid. A creepy clown that goes around murdering the kids that are the only ones that can see it. Haunted my dreams. Upon re-watch years later it doesn’t quite hold up too well but this Hollywood version by the director of ‘Mama’ looks like its amping up the creepiness factor. I was more interested before director Cary Fukunaga (‘Beasts of No Nation’) dropped out but the trailers have people hyped for… it. Early buzz is strong and it looks like they’re already gearing up for a sequel so they must be confident in what they have here.
American Assassin – September 15th
The last few years have made me and I’m sure many others wonder why Michael Keaton fell off the map for so long after the late 90’s. But for whatever reason that is, since hes been back in the forefront after ‘Birdman’ a few years ago hes been better than ever. He was great in Best Picture winning ‘Spotlight’ and as the villain “The Vulture” in this summer’s ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming. Even in a movie that wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, ‘The Founder’, he was great in the leading role. Here he is again as a Cold War veteran that takes a new recruit under his wing in this spy thriller. Trailers can be deceiving but I liked what I saw from this one. Dylan O’Brien (‘The Maze Runner’) plays the new recruit and Friday Night Lights’ Taylor Kitsch shows up as he tries yet again to gain any relevance after being so great in that TV show.
Mother! – September 15th
Darren Arronofsky is one of my favorite directors, I even liked ‘Noah’, so any time he comes out with a new film I’m going to be excited to see it. It certainly doesn’t hurt that this one looks like he’s going back to the style of my favorite movie of his ‘Black Swan’. Jennifer Lawrence plays wife to Javier Bardem and it looks like some psychological horror occurs once Michelle Pfeifer and Ed Harris come to stay at their house. There isn’t much more known about the plot of the movie but the trailer alone induced some anxiety in me when I saw it in front of ‘Dunkirk’ last month. If the cast, director, and trailer didn’t sell it enough keep an eye out next week for reviews following its premiere at TIFF.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle – September 22nd
The first Kingsman movie came a little bit out of nowhere to do pretty well in February 2015. It turned out to be a fun R rated spy thriller. Matthew Vaughn returned to adapt another one of Mark Millar’s comic books after they successfully teamed up to make ‘Kick-Ass’ in 2010. ‘The Secret Service’ definitely had a similar vibe and everyone is coming back for the sequel. Expectations are higher as Eggsy comes over to the US to discover The Statesmen after the British headquarters is blown up. The trailer makes it look like more of the same (which is a good thing in this case) with some new characters including one played by Channing Tatum. The weakest part of the first film (Samuel L. Jackson’s villain) is gone so I think I may end up liking ‘The Golden Circle’ more than the original.
Battle of the Sexes – September 22nd
The 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs should be familiar with sports fans. This depiction sees Emma Stone, coming off her Best Actress win for ‘La La Land’, and Steve Carell star as those characters respectively. The inclusion of Carell and the fact that the directors of ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ are behind it makes me think it’ll be a light hearted crowd pleaser which could limit its Oscar buzz since the Academy tends to be a bit more dull and stuffy. But at the same time Carell has taken more serious roles lately such as ‘Foxcatcher’ so maybe I’ll be surprised. Theres a lot to get into with this story and I’m hopeful it will be able to tell it in its entirety while also playing to the directors’ strengths. Stone has to be a contender to be nominated once again, the Academy seems to love her.
American Made – September 29th
I didn’t see director Doug Liman’s last film ‘The Wall’ (no, not that terrible Matt Damon vehicle ‘The Great Wall’) but the last movie of his that I did see made my top five best movies of 2014 list. ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ was a blast. Blending great action with creativity and plenty of laughs and I’m getting some similar feelings from watching the ‘American Made’ trailer. This movie also stars Tom Cruise as a charismatic leading man. This time as a TWA pilot who gets recruited to go under cover for the CIA in Central America. There are already 46 reviews for the film on Rotten Tomatoes, which seems odd for a movie not being released for another four weeks, but its sitting a very respectable 87%. I never thought the guy that made ‘Jumper’ would make it to my list of directors who I anxiously await their next film but thats where we’re at.
Blade Runner 2049 – October 6th
The original ‘Blade Runner’ is known as one of the best science fiction movies ever made by a lot of people. I happen to disagree with that assessment, I respect the movie for what it is but it didn’t capture me the way I expected, but nevertheless Harrison Ford is back for the sequel 35 years later. Despite not loving the original I’m still excited for this one. Its got one of my favorite directors calling the shots (Denis Villeneuve), one of my favorite actors in the lead (Ryan Gosling), and the best cinematographer in the business behind the camera (Roger Deakins). All three of their talents plus Ford are shown off in the great trailers that have come out. It looks great visually and I trust that Villeneuve will come up with an engaging story to go along with it.
Happy Death Day – October 13th
If you’re only going to see one horror movie this fall (other than ‘It’) I’d suggest to make it this instead of ‘Jigsaw’ yet another ‘Saw’ sequel that comes out a week or two later. That series has been run into the ground by now, just because they took a couple years off and changed the naming convention isn’t going to alter that fact. I highly doubt ‘Happy Death Day’ is going to reinvent the wheel either but it looks like it could be a fun take on the ‘Groundhog Day’ formula. ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ used it to great success in the action/sci-fi genre, horror seems like it could work as well. In this case we’ll follow a young woman as she re-lives the final day of her life over and over again until presumably she can figure out who her killer is and stop it. The trailer sold it well, hopefully it follows through on that promise.
The Snowman – October 20th
“A boy finds his missing mother’s pink scarf wrapped around the neck of a sinister-looking snowman. Detective Harry Hole is called in to investigate and begins to suspect it’s the work of a serial killer.” Solid premise right? Then you watch the trailer and find out that the detective is played by one of the best working actors, Michael Fassbender, who tends to pick good projects. (Forget about ‘Assassin’s Creed’…) Rebecca Ferguson, JK Simmons, and Val Kilmer show up as well. Tomas Alfredson directs the action which gives me hope that it won’t be paint by numbers. ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ is a movie I didn’t particularly like but I respect the film making behind it and its nice to look at. So is ‘Let the Right One In’ which is one of my favorite movies of all time. Hopefully this trends towards the latter but either way it should be worth checking out.
Suburbicon – October 27th
When I saw the trailer for ‘Surburbicon’ a couple weeks ago I wasn’t sure what I was about to see. I hadn’t heard of the movie beforehand but saw that Matt Damon was starring. Afterwards it immediately jumped towards the top of my most anticipated fall movies. The trailer was intriguing but it was more the fact that George Clooney is directing a script written by the Coen Brothers and its starring Damon, Oscar Isaac, and Julianne Moore. They’re telling the story of a family living in a ‘Truman Show’-esque idyllic community in 1959 that turns out to have a dark side. Clooney can be hit or miss as a director but this material seems right up his alley. Plus maybe the Coen’s will rub off on him since hes worked with them several times.
Thor: Ragnarok – November 3rd
I’m way more excited for a Thor movie than I ever thought I would be. The first two are in the bottom three of my Marvel Cinematic Universe rankings and I feel like they haven’t portrayed the epic nature of Asgard enough. But bring in director Taika Waititi (‘What We Do in the Shadows’, ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’), Cate Blanchett as badass looking villain Hela, and Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk – all of a sudden its my second most anticipated movie of the fall. Seemingly borringing heavily from the ‘Planet Hulk’ comic book story and bringing a comedic edge to the franchise, the trailers promise an epic but fun time at the movies a la ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. Rumors that the movie will be Marvel’s shortest film to date at just over an hour and a half are encouraging as well. Get in, give fans something to get excited about, get out. Could lead to more re-watches as well.
Murder on the Orient Express – November 10th
Based on the detective novel written by Agatha Christie, this is a whodunnit where someone is murdered on a train moving through Europe and detective Hercule Poirot must figure out who did it before the train arrives to its destination or the killer strikes again. Poirot is played by Kenneth Branagh, who also directs. If a ‘Clue’-like murder mystery isn’t intriguing enough the passengers are played by formidable cast. Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Penelope Cruz, Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, and Michelle Pfeiffer among others. The trailer didn’t give off Oscar hopes but it could play to a wider audience. Theres nothing wrong with a fun yarn with some hammy performances and plot twists.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – November 10th
If you haven’t seen director Martin McDonagh’s first two films ‘In Bruges’ and ‘Seven Psychopaths’ you should make that a priority. Hes a highly acclaimed playwright who carried that success over to the silver screen and his next movie looks to continue that tradition. Frances McDormand stars as a grieving mother after her daughter is murdered who puts up, as the title suggests, three billboards outside of Ebbing, Missouri to torment the police. The trailer gives off some Coen Brother vibes and I’m sure having McDormand in the leading role helps in that regard. Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, and Peter Dinklage co-star in what could be this year’s ‘Hell or High Water’. It looks like it starts off low key and builds towards a crazy ending.
Justice League – November 17th
Heres one that I’m not excited for but its big enough that it had to be included here. I loved ‘Wonder Woman’ but despite her showing up all over the promotion for the movie it looks much closer to ‘Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice’ to me, a movie that I hated despite having the two biggest superheroes in the world in the same movie at the same time for the first time ever. The poster looks dumb, the trailer looks incoherent, and it all feels thrown together without much thought. I hope to be proven wrong but the fact that a tragedy in Zack Snyder’s family forced Joss Whedon to step into the director’s chair late in production doesn’t bode well. It can be hard to mesh two distinctly different directorial styles, especially when there isn’t a lot of time to do it. I’m a Marvel fan but would still love to see Warner Brothers turn things around. They just haven’t given me much confidence that they can do so.
Coco – November 22nd
Pixar’s first movie of 2017 was mediocre sequel ‘Cars 3’ and it didn’t even make them much money. But all of the movies in that series are at the bottom of my Pixar movie rankings. Those movies, and a few others, aside Pixar has a great track record for original animated films. Two years ago they gave us ‘Inside Out’ which was one of the best review movies of that year and won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. ‘Coco’ appears to be more along those lines than say, ‘The Good Dinosaur’, the other movie they released in 2015. Before watching the trailer I was reminded of ‘The Book of Life’ from a few years back with a Mexican Day of the Dead vibe but I think it’ll be much better than that. The story follows a little boy on his quest to become an accomplished musician and the visuals explode on screen once he crosses over to the Land of the Dead. They might as well start engraving the Academy Award for animated movie right now.
Molly’s Game – November 22nd
Jessica Chastain is one of my favorite actresses and she always seems to find herself in good to great movies around this time of year. Here she plays the titular Molly, an Olympic class skier who runs an exclusive high stakes poker game with celebrities and other people in high places. After being arrested by the FBI she has to fight for her freedom in court. Its a pretty cool concept for a film and also stars Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Chris O’Dowd, and Michael Cera. But the real draw here is that its not only written by Aaron Sorkin (‘Moneyball’, ‘Steve Jobs’, ‘The Social Network’) but its his directorial debut. He must think its pretty good if hes decided to finally take a crack at one of his scripts himself and the studio must agree giving it such a primo release date. Maybe Chastain can finally earn that Oscar shes been flirting with for the past five years or so.
Darkest Hour – November 22nd
As I’m writing this the first reviews are coming out of the Telluride Film Festival for this and unsurprisingly they are very positive. This seemed like an awards play from the moment it was first announced with Gary Oldman playing Winston Churchill in his first days as Prime Minister of Great Britain. He looks unrecognizable in the role under great hair and makeup effects and it sounds like hes the obvious front runner to win Best Actor at the Oscars at the moment. Director Joe Wright has participated in awards season before with 2007’s ‘Atonement’ and while his last film ‘Pan’ was… panned, his movies are always visually distinct and inspired – even one as terrible as ‘Pan’. I’m excited to see Ben Mendelsohn here as well but it seems like mostly a one man show. I’m here for it.
The Disaster Artist – December 1st
The idea for this movie is so crazy it just might work. Take what is considered to be the worst movie ever made, ‘The Room’, and adapt the book that detailed the making of the would be film. While ‘The Room’ is laughably bad from beginning to end, thats exactly why people love it and there are ironic screenings of it all the time. Of course it would take a comedic mind to come up with this idea so it should be no surprise that James Franco and Seth Rogan are behind it. Franco directs and stars as Tommy Wiseeau, his brother Dave plays Greg Sestero, and Zac Efron and Allison Brie are also in the cast. I don’t know if a movie openly mocking a ‘so good its bad’ movie can be as funny as the ‘so good its bad’ movie itself but its such an unusual concept that I’m willing to give it a shot.
The Shape of Water – December 8th
Guillermo Del Toro’s latest has already screened for critics at the Venice Film Festival to pretty much unanimous praise. I’ve heard things such as “his best since Pan’s Labyrinth” which is great news for me because I love that movie. I liked ‘Crimson Peak’ from 2015 which was a nice rebound after a complete misfire with 2013’s ‘Pacific Rim’ but nothing he’s done so far has come close to that 2006 classic. He’s great with creature design which hes back to here. Doug Jones plays a creature being experimented on by the government and a mute woman (Sally Hawkins) comes to discover and interact with him. Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, and Octavia Spencer are also starring in the film.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – December 15th
Do I even need to write anything here? The next installment in the biggest film franchise around follows up the third highest grossing movie of all time by bringing back Luke Skywalker. ‘The Force Awakens’ introduced us to great new characters such as Rey, Finn, BB-8, Poe Dameron, and Kylo Ren. They’re all back along with the last performance from the late Carrie Fisher. The man taking over for JJ Abrams as director is one of my favorites, Rian Johnson. He also wrote the film which is a ton of faith being put into one man by Disney. But he deserves it. I’ve loved all of his first three films – ‘Brick’, ‘The Brothers Bloom’, and ‘Looper. He brings great character work, world building, and creativity to the table. But that and the great trailer don’t really matter. Everyone and their mother will be rushing to theaters to see this when it comes out no matter who was responsible for it or what the lead up to it looked like. And who can blame them.
Downsizing – December 22nd
A sci-fi satire about a married couple who literally shrink themselves to join a miniature community might not sound like awards material but that appears to be the case with Alexander Payne’s latest film. The man behind ‘The Descendants’, ‘Nebraska’, and ‘Sideways’ latest movie is earning rave reviews out of Venice. The cast is solid with Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig as the leads with Christoph Waltz, Alec Baldwin, and Laura Dern among the supporting characters. Payne is reliable when it comes to quirky movies that are usually better than one would expect going in. Damon looks to have a big fall season between this and ‘Suburbicon’. I think he might be this generation’s Tom Hanks.
The Post – December 22nd
If I had to make a guess as to what movie is going to win the Oscar for Best Picture come early next year, this would be it. It comes out at the end of the year, it stars Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, and its directed by Steven Spielberg. Its a journalism drama (I’m assuming) in the vein of ‘Spotlight’, which just won the Academy Award’s top prize two years ago, about The Washington Post’s challenge to the federal government for the right to publish the pentagon papers in 1971. All the ingredients are there. Not just for an awards contender but for a great movie. The pedigree is there for all involved. Spielberg has a breakaway, lets just hope he doesn’t travel before executing this slam dunk.
Phantom Thread – December 27th
Very little is known about the plot for Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film. In fact the title isn’t even official yet. Daniel Day Lewis is the lead and it has something to do with the fashion world in the 1950’s. It will be Lewis’ final movie role before he enters his (second) retirement. This is the team that brought us 2007’s ‘There Will Be Blood’, a film that happens to be my favorite movie ever made. And that a lot makes this my most anticipated movie of the fall. PTA is the best director of his and maybe any generation. Every movie hes ever made is great as far as I’m concerned from his debut ‘Hard Eight’ all the way up to 2015’s ‘Inherent Vice’. He’s batting 1.000. Lets hope that continues and we have another all-timer on our hands to close out the year.
What movies are you looking forward to?
An auxiliary member of the MMAJA, Bob used to run the baseball blog 'The Oriole Report' before transitioning to podcasting about movies, TV, Video Games, and MMA. 'The Redbox Report' movie podcast was started in 2013 followed by 'The Redbelt Report' MMA podcast in 2016. In 2018 they were merged into 'Phelan to Communicate', a podcast that can be found on iTunes and a blog that can be found at http://PhelanToCommunicate.wordpress.com. Bob has also written for Konsume.com and BaltimoreSportsReport.com and delivers mail for a living in Baltimore County. Follow him on Twitter @PhelanToTweet.