Fall Movie Preview: 16 Films to Entertain and Excite

Courtesy of guest film critic, Max Colmenares

The time of year has come where theaters are no longer full of sequels and remakes. When biopics and films from widely-acclaimed directors begin to creep their way into theaters until Christmas, full of more Oscar hopefuls than a Harvey Weinstein house party. This year there’s a lot to look forward to from both American and foreign directors. I’ve compiled a list of 16 films that I’m looking forward to over the next couple of months due to the past works of those involved, whatever promotional material exists, and their positive reviews. I’ve tried to stick to only films that have already had a festival showing, so, as curious as I am to see The Accountant and Doctor Strange, you won’t find them on this list.

American Honey

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Winner of the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes film festival, this film tells the story of a young woman living life on the road accompanied on the way by various other societal outcasts. Director Andre Arnold’s previous film Fish Tank, which also featured rebellious youth, was an early highlighting of the now-famous Michael Fassbender. Focusing on young characters in a setting away from high school is something I always find interesting, especially when it comes from somewhere outside hollywood. The film also stars Shia Labeouf who at the very least has had an interesting career as of late (Nymphomaniac/ randomly hitchhiking around America), so that lends the film a bit of indie street-cred.

If you’re lucky enough to live in New York or L.A., this will already be showing. Hopefully it’ll make its way to the rest of the country sometime soon.

Christine

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Director Antonio Campos has made films about disturbed characters before (Simon Killer), and now has the chance to tell a true, high-profile story about one. The film centers around real-life news anchor Christine Chubbuck, played by Rebecca Hall. If you’re unfamiliar with her story, you can google it, as none of the film’s promotional material has spoiled the ending. Just know that reading about it gives me chills, and this is coming from someone whose reaction to Se7en was “oh, that wasn’t that disturbing.” The film’s follows its protagonist’s transition from reporting on human-interest stories to “if it bleeds, it leads” journalism. Hall looks very similar to her real-life character, which is both impressive and disturbing. Michael C Hall (no relation) is also in this movie in his second film appearance (Cold in July being the first) since Dexter wrapped, and he gets to play Christine’s more “well-adjusted” co-anchor.

This one will be getting an initial release on October 14th and will branch out to more theaters as the year goes on.

Moonlight

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This film chronicles the life of a gay man of color growing up in an environment that was far from friendly to his identity. The film has a narrative that sounds reminiscent of last year’s Steve Jobs in that it focuses on three important periods of time in the development of this main character. How this narrative structure allows us to see the effects of experiences on a character is really interesting, and could work very well to show how growing up black and/or gay can impose a lot of pressure, significantly affecting a person’s development. All three actors portraying the protagonist are getting a ton of praise, and Mahershala Ali will likely be receiving a Best Supporting Actor nomination come January. The film is currently holding a 100 percent on Metacritic, which is nearly unheard of. This is being talked about as one of the highlights of both the Toronto and Telluride film festivals, and that’s been true of many of the best movies of the decade.

Look for this film when it hits theaters October 21st.

The Handmaiden

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This is a period piece set in 1930s Korea and focuses on thieves who plan to deceive a rich heiress and rob her. This is from director Park Chan-Wook, who’s most well known for his 2005 film Oldboy. Having seen that film, knowing only the set up gets my mind racing thinking about what places the plot will go. Additionally, seeing a period piece from a director whose portrayed someone getting killed by a CD is extremely interesting. This film is beloved by critics and is already being praised as one of the best films of the year. If you’re a fan of Park Chan-Wook or South Korean films in general I’d recommend checking this one out.

The Handmaiden will have a limited release on October 21st (Most likely just in New York and LA), but hopefully it find its way to more theaters before year’s end.

Loving

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This film chronicles the details behind the couple responsible for the Loving Vs Virginia Supreme Court case that struck down restrictions on interracial marriage. You’re going to hear about it come Oscar season, but what’s more interesting is that it has been described as simply a film about two people who love each other. What’s more is that it screened at Cannes (a festival I’m not done using as a criteria for excitement), and it’s directed by Mike Nichols whose previous films Mud and Take Shelter had real creative merit even if they weren’t my favorites. I’m generally prone to true stories so long as they don’t get lost in trying to dramatize the narrative too much (see The Imitation Game, Bridge of Spies, Sully). Seeing the humanity in historical figures is very interesting, and this is a really great backdrop for a love story. Nick Kroll plays a serious character in this movie as well. If you’re familiar with his work, that should be pretty funny to you.

Loving is getting a wide release on November 4th.

Arrival

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Director Denis Villeneuve has been releasing a movie every year since 2013’s Prisoners (with Enemy and Sicario filling the time since then). Now he gets to take a stab at science fiction with this work based on a Hugo-Award-winning novella. He’s proven to be able to set up ominous atmosphere like almost no other living director, and that should be very good for this film. The movie centers around a group of scientists’ investigation of a large alien floating object, but, rather than focus on action and CGI, the film sets out to ask existential questions. It’s been nice to see high concept sci-fi begin to take precedence over the CGI-fests that have dominated the genre, and I’m happy when a director has ambitions beyond showing space and aliens in a film. Science fiction is a really great vehicle for asking complex questions, and if this film does that well, I will probably consider it one of the best of the year.

Arrival will have a wide release on November 11th.

Manchester by the Sea

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Director Kenneth Lonergan’s last film, Margaret, was a wonderful look at the ways we don’t intend to be perceived as we are and sometimes aren’t prepared to live with the consequences of our actions. He’s a director who’s proven his ability to make films about complex characters and now he’s gotten another big chance to do it. Casey Affleck stars as a man whose brother (Kyle Chandler) passes away and leaves Casey with sole-custody of his child. This film could boast a Oscar nominated performance from Lucas Hedges who you may know from the background of Wes Anderson’s two previous movies, alongside Kara Hayward (who appeared in Moonrise Kingdom with Hedges). If Margaret was any indicator this won’t be just some puff piece about a man adopting his nephew. It’s a film about responsibility and what you can give to and for the people you love. Or something deep like that–I haven’t seen the movie yet.

This one should be getting a modestly wide release on November 18th.

Nocturnal Animals

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This film stars Amy Adams as a women who receives a disturbing manuscript for a book written by her ex-husband. From what I can gather the film mirrors the story of his book with her struggles and real-world memories, but I haven’t tried to find out more because I want to go into this one as blind as possible. The film stars Michael Shannon, Jake Gyllenhaal, Armie Hammer, Amy Adams, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Michael Sheen, and apparently most of Hollywood. The film’s director, Tom Ford, is also a fashion designer and my god if that doesn’t show in the color pallet of the trailer. It looks to be a non-traditional narrative that will make people uneasy as well as inspired. This movie is putting together so many of my favorite actors with a director who really doesn’t need to make this movie for any reason other than creativity, because he’s probably already as rich as he ever needs to be. The trailer actually gets me giddy with anticipation, and with its proposed narrative structure I cannot wait to see it. It’s already won the Grand Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival and has received many other great reviews.

Nocturnal Animals will have a limited release November 23rd and a wider release on December 9th.

Jackie

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Pablo Lorrain’s last film, The Club, is already my favorite so far this year. Not only did that film get its US release earlier this year, but, in addition to a biopic of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, Lorrain is also releasing this film about the life of Jackie Kennedy immediately following the death of her husband. There isn’t a whole bunch of footage available for this one yet, but Natalie Portman is already a favorite for a best actress nomination, and having seen Lorrain’s last film, she’s certainly in good hands. From the one clip available to the public, it looks like the film is willing to get down on the ground with its main character. I think biopics are a great way to give us a window into history, but they often get bogged down by having to make themselves too emotional and/or formulaic. Having seen Pablo Lorrain’s last film I can say that I would be very surprised if this film made any insincere attempt at uplift. This looks to be a boots-on-the-ground film about a woman whose husband died right in front of her.

Jackie gets a wide release on December 2nd.

La La Land

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In 2014 when I saw Whiplash at the Toronto International Film Festival I was expecting to see an average-quality film about drumming. I figured there would be some perseverance, the character would better himself, fall from grace, and end up proving himself in some final cheesy scene. My expectations were blown out of the water when what I got was a well-choreographed, and expertly shot film about the very nature of perseverance and motivation. Since then, director Damien Chazelle will be on my radar until he pulls a Neill Blomkamp and proves that he shouldn’t be (Chappie was great right?). La La Land has already been praised almost universally by critics, won the audience award at Toronto, and was even recommended by Tom Hanks when he was supposed to be promoting his own Sully at the Telluride Film Festival. The film is a musical about a movie star (Emma Stone) and a songwriter (Ryan Gosling) falling in love and exploring the benefits of creativity. It’s also a love letter to film, and this could be this year’s best picture winner as well as cementing Damien Chazelle as one of this decade’s standout new talents.

La La Land will have a limited release on December 9th, and go wide a week later on December 16th.

The Salesman

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This film was the Winner of Best Screenplay and Actor awards at this year’s Cannes film festival, and from the director of previous best foreign language film A Separation. That film was declared by Roger Ebert to be the best of its year. Iranian director Asghar Farhadi has managed to get himself quite the worldwide following over the past several years, while operating out of a pretty interesting country for film. One of my favorite films from last year, Taxi, showed the great amount of philosophical quandaries going on inside of Iran and has made me more partial to films from that country. I don’t have a whole lot to go on, being largely unfamiliar with Farhadi’s work, but I’m excited to be introduced to it with this film.

The Salesman will get a limited release on December 9th. Hopefully it will be available elsewhere not too long after that.

Silence

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I know I said I was going to stick to movies that had already had a festival showing, but I do not think there is any way I will not see this movie in theaters. It would have to be so bad that I would go to the theater anyway just to see how bad it was. It’s the first film by Martin Scorsese since The Wolf of Wall Street, and it stars Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson, and Adam Driver as priests in Japan. While all of Scorsese’s films aren’t necessarily fantastic, they’re all at least interesting in one way or another, and I will be at the theater watching this movie the first second I get the chance to. This could be his first feature to run longer than 3 hours (Though the Wolf of Wall Street looked like it would run that long at this point in the year), and 3 hours of Scorsese sounds like heaven to me. This movie has already sold itself to me, and I can’t think of any better ways to sell it to you.

Silence is currently looking at a limited release on December 23rd and a wide-release sometime in January.

I, Daniel Blake

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This movie won the Palme D’or for English director Ken Loach at the Cannes film festival this year. One could watch the entire list of Palme D’or winners and learn as much, if not more, about film than one could by watching every best picture winner from the Oscars. Past winners include Pulp Fiction, Barton Fink, The Tree of Life, as well as The Wind That Shakes the Barley (also by Loach). Loach has a lot of experience with depicting the struggles of common people and this is likely to be no exception. The film centers around an unemployed man’s fight with bureaucracy as he tries to remain financially stable following a heart attack. It’s not likely to be breaking any box office records, but a movie doesn’t win the Palme D’or without at least providing something unique. If I have to be completely honest, I wouldn’t be watching this movie based on trailer or director alone, but its award cements is as a part of film cannon and serves as a recommendation that trumps any good rotten tomatoes score, critic review, or great trailer.

The film will be getting a limited release on December 23rd, and will hopefully be making it’s to places outside of New York or LA somewhere soon.

20th Century Women

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From the Director of 2011’s good first feature, Beginners, Mike Mills’ third feature film is a coming of age tale of a young child learning and growing with the presence of several female role-models (and one male one). 20th Century Women recently received very positive reviews at the New York Film Festival, with critic David Ehrlich calling it “the rare movie that’s redeemed by its unchecked nostalgia.” The film focuses a lot of it’s attention on the passage of time and how we often end up places we never expected to. It’s fitting then that it gets to embody a time (1979) that is now, shockingly, nearly 40 years in the past.

Toni Erdmann

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Toni Erdmann tells the story of a middle-aged women who is visited by her father following the death of his dog. This seems like an interesting premise for a short light-hearted comedy, but the film is nearly three hours long and is now considered to be a front-runner for best foreign-language film at the Oscars. The film has received praise at Cannes, Telluride, and Toronto and has received many rave reviews. Indiewire’s review is titled “Here’s the Funniest Nude Scene of All Time — But It’s Not a Comedy” and everything I’ve heard about this film only increases my curiosity. Seeing where this film manages to go with its runtime makes me very excited. Marie Maude’s last work Pina was quite good and I think this film will likely result in some great character moments.

This film will have a limited release on Christmas Day. In all honestly this might be a hard one to track down, but keep a lookout for it in college cinema clubs and the like.

Paterson

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Directed by Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive, and Broken Flowers), this film tells the story of a bus driver, played by Adam Driver, writing poems about what he observes in his life. I’m glad to see that Adam Driver is still doing smaller movies after being in Star Wars. Early clips for the film look to be a perfect character study of someone who dedicates a good amount of his brain power to analyzing the world. Jarmusch is obviously a capable director and Adam Driver is a great actor. Jarmusch is talented in capturing what fascinates someone. Only Lovers Left Alive was a film about what people find interesting across multiple lifetimes, which could make this a very interesting film about what one finds interesting when watching hundreds of lives take place in front of the bus. The trailer looks captivating and The New York Times has called it “a movie for everyone.”

It has a release of some sort on December 28th, hopefully those of us outside of New York and LA will get a chance to see this one sometime in the next six months.

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About The Author: Jay Scott

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