Summer is officially over. I know, I know, you might still have some grilling to do, or the kids haven’t yet gone back to school; even scientists will tell you, technically, autumn doesn’t begin for a few more weeks. But the days are already getting shorter, the weather is beginning to cool, and movies are in transition from blockbuster season to a seemingly endless awards one.
But that last bit should be happy tidings for moviegoers. Fall is a chance to recharge and cleanse the palate with some more adult-oriented fare while still enjoying big holiday entertainment for the whole family. Hollywood is gearing up to release what it considers to be its heavy-hitting dramas, starting with September’s major film festivals in Venice, Toronto, and New York. Yet looking ahead, you’ll find a variety of enticing projects for every type of moviegoing taste. So without further ado, let’s preview what tricks and treats 2019 has left for us at the movies.
It Chapter Two
Halloween comes a little early with this sequel to the highest grossing horror movie ever. Adapting the other half of Stephen King’s magnum opus about collective childhoods and the troubled adults they damage, It Chapter Two jumps to the present day where the Losers’ Club is comprised of strangers forced to remember traumas better left forgotten 27 years later. With a cast led by the likes of Jessica Chastain as Beverly Marsh, James McAvoy as Bill Denbrough, and Bill Hader as Richie Tozier, the Losers must continue their multi-generational battle against Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård) in epic fashion.
Reportedly spanning a sizable 165-minute running time, It Chapter Two is passion project for director Andy Muschietti, who is gladly taking his time in presenting Derry with its supernatural reckoning. It’s a movie Muschietti and his sister, producer Barbara Muschietti, have been planning since before the original’s release and it is easily one of the most anticipated movies of the year. We talked in detail with Andy about the film right here.
In a movie that will undoubtedly resonate with the world right now, John Crowley’s The Goldfinch appears to be an affecting human drama about the grief left behind in the wake of sudden violence. The film is the story of Theodore Decker (first Oakes Fegley and then Ansel Elgort), a young man who loses his mother in a terrorist bombing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The attack is fictional, but the consequences were quite real and raw in Donna Tartt’s novel, which is the basis of this film adaptation that also stars Nicole Kidman, Sarah Paulson, and Finn Wolfhard. The first film director John Crowley has made since the criminally underrated Brooklyn (2015), it is one to keep an eye on.
Often movies about Wall Street too eagerly show young women, be they exotic dancers, escorts, or partygoers, being eagerly exploited by finance bros. It’s nice to then have a film that’s ready to turn the tables on white collar crooks. Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, who created the very underrated Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Hustlers adapts a true story about strippers who picked the pockets of Wall Street elite. And with a cast that includes Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Lili Reinhart, Cardi B, Keke Palmer, Julia Stiles, and Lizzo, this will hopefully be able to make it rain.
3 From Hell
There are some who would call Rob Zombie a genius, and we won’t lie that The Devil’s Rejects (2005) is brilliant. Yet there is some apprehension that after a number of less impressive films in the 14 years that followed, Zombie has chosen to continue a story that ended with all three of its central serial killers going out in a blaze of glory. 3 From Hell asks… what if they didn’t?
In the surprise trilogy closer of Rejects and House of 1000 Corpses (2003), Zombie picks up the narrative of Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), Baby Firefly (Sheri Moon Zombie), and Otis Firefly (Bill Moseley). Miraculously surviving being shot dozens of time, the triumvirate has lived on as Charles Manson-inspired celebrity serial killers in prison… until they escape and start killing again. This exploitation horror movie is only being released as a Fathom Events special presentation on 900 screens between Sept. 16 and Sept. 18.
The last decade has seen a renaissance of hard-hitting science fiction, but 2019 looks to bring an intriguing nightcap via Ad Astra. It’s a mysterious project from writer-director James Gray. Cryptically about an astronaut (Brad Pitt) who must travel to the furthest reaches of our solar system in order to find answers about his father (Tommy Lee Jones), there is a lot of mystery shrouding the effort. However, given that Gray’s last movie also dealt with the beauty and punishing cost of exploration with The Lost City of Z, returning to that theme in a science fiction follow-up is too appealing an offer not to board.
Rambo: Last Blood
When Sylvester Stallone first played John Rambo in First Blood, it was as a gritty anti-hero and veteran used and abused by the U.S. government in Vietnam. It was an anti-war story. That didn’t last given Stallone’s Rambo would go on to re-fight and win ‘Nam in his first sequel, and then team with those heroic Afghan warlords in Rambo III. Both films have aged… into something. But that hasn’t caused Stallone to retire to the bandana, although that is supposedly what will happen in Rambo: Last Blood. Marking Stallone’s fifth time up to bat as the legendary character, Last Blood is being marketed as an elegiac, Western-style sendoff for a hero who finally goes home. Think Logan. Will it succeed? We’ll know soon enough!
Better break out the good china and white tablecloths, because Downton Abbey is back, and they’re bringing the Queen of England with them! In a cinematic continuation of the loved—in some circles—PBS and ITV series about upstairs and downstairs melodrama, the Crawley family is back and the stakes have never been higher with the Queen of England en route for an afternoon luncheon at their regal English estate. It’s such a momentous occasion that butlers are coming out of retirement, early 20th century decorum is turning draconian, and surely Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess will be working on her cutting putdowns. Brace thyself.
The Death of Dick Long
From Daniel Scheinert, director of Swiss Army Man, and A24 comes this intriguing new dramedy/possible horror movie? Yeah, it doesn’t appear to be easy to categorize, but that might be the charm of The Death of Dick Long, a film set in small town Alabama where the cryptic death of a friend leads to all sorts of hijinks. And given the film wears Tarantino references on its sleeve, we have to assume that Dick will not be the only one going into that long goodnight.
Judy Garland is still a beloved icon for her fans. Having passed away 50 years ago, she remains treasured by each generation for her effervescent performance and singing in The Wizard of Oz (1939). She also starred in a slew of other classics, but the new biopic Judy is more interested in the later period of her life. On the precipice of her final downward spiral, Judy (Rene Zellweger) is middle-aged, regretful but still a star. The film likewise features Jessie Buckley, star of the incredibly underrated Wild Rose.
One of the most debated movies of the year kicks October off with a nice big smile. Warner Bros. and director Todd Phillips (The Hangover) reimagine comicdom’s greatest villain by way of Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. Wearing its Scorsese influences on its sleeve, Joker is the rare superhero movie that’s as comfortable playing at prestigious film festivals as it is at comic cons. Indeed, tongues are already wagging. Yet what seems to have everyone in agreement is just how good Joaquin Phoenix is as the titular homicidal clown. There hasn’t been this kind of excitement for a comic book movie performance since, well, Heath Ledger put on a happy face in The Dark Knight.
A Batman-free origin story of the Clown Prince of Crime, Joker imagines its eponymous villain as Arthur Fleck, a would-be nice guy who at middle-age cannot figure out why he is always finishing last. Enjoying a relationship with his mother (Frances Conroy) that would give Freud a field day, Arthur eventually snaps in the face of societal decay in 1980s New York Gotham City. And now, he just wants to put a smile on your face, even if it kills you.
Lucy in the Sky
Noah Hawley is one of the most challenging and rewarding showrunners on television. Having taken advantage of “peak television” to produce hard-hitting dramas that often revel in unreliable narrators and the kind of knotty storytelling you used to only find in the movies, Hawley is making his big screen debut as a director on Lucy in the Sky. It’s a cryptic premise about an astronaut (Natalie Portman) who returns to Earth seriously depressed by the mundanity of everyday life after experiencing a cosmic event. There is more than meets the eye here, and as its cast includes Portman, Jon Hamm, Dan Stevens, Zazie Beetz, and Nick Offerman, we are excited to unlock its mysteries soon.
Pain and Glory
Writer-director Pedro Almodóvar’s first film with Antonio Banderas since the hypnotic The Skin We Live In, Pain and Glory comes with a lot of buzz about being the best work Banderas has ever done, which is saying something. In the film, he plays a film director named Salvador Mallo whose life is falling apart in middle-age. At the end of his rope, Salvador begins recollecting on old acquaintances, real and possibly imagined. The film also reunites Amodóvar with his Volver muse Penélope Cruz for a project that looks decidedly wistful and intriguing.
Once upon a time, Will Smith was the biggest movie star on the planet. When he appeared in an action movie in his 20s, it was going to be a big deal. And it might be again in Ang Lee’s trippy shoot ‘em up. Directed by one of the great filmmakers of our time, Gemini Man pits Will Smith against Will Smith with the miracle of CGI de-aging technology. Hence in the film, middle-aged Henry Brogan (Smith) encounters his exact double in Junior, a 25-year-old clone of Henry also played by Smith. Set at odds by a villainous Clive Owen, the two do battle in a story first hatched by Game of Thrones’ David Benioff. The talent around the film, which also includes Mary Elizabeth Winstead, hopefully foretells a sci-fi thriller of more cutting edge stuff.
The Addams Family
Charles Addams’ New Yorker cartoons about a ghastly family have proven as un-killable as, well, little Pugsley Addams whenever he falls into another of sister Wednesday’s murder traps. It’s been an amusing 1960s TV series, a wickedly entertaining pair of ‘90s movies that launched the career of Christina Ricci, and a slew of other comics, TV, and film projects. The latest is an animated film from MGM that looks like it may lean a little too heavily on pop culture references and celebrity casting, but that casting is admittedly on point with Charlize Theron as Morticia, Oscar Isaac as Gomez, Chloe Grace Moretz as Wednesday, Finn Wolfhard as Pugsley, and Nick Kroll as Uncle Fester. Here’s hoping The Addams Family (2019) can find their snap in the timeless material.
Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite has been heralded as a masterpiece by nearly every critic whose watched it. After making some of the finest genre-bending cult classics of this decade, the Korean filmmaker has elevated his social satire into a picture he describes as a “tragi-comedy.” It also won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and is a coveted must-see at TIFF and the New York Film Festival later this fall.
Parasite begins as a potential comedy about one struggling family at the bottom of society latching itself, piece by piece, to the oblivious affluence of upper-middle class. It begins by the impoverished children pretending they don’t know each other as they become tutors for the richer family, but as with any story of haves and have-nots, there are apparently some grim twists when it becomes inescapable that those class lines can never truly blur. Considered by many to be the best film the director of Snowpiercer and Okja has ever made, we can’t wait to see it with our own eyes.
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot
Kevin Smith has made a “reboot” of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back by essentially remaking that 2001 movie for an allegedly new generation. Well played, Kev. The story of Jay and Silent Bob’s (still blessedly Jason Mewes and Smith) road trip to Hollywood in order to stop a dark and gritty reboot of their earlier movie, Reboot is also about parentage as Jay learns he is a father to a young woman named Millie (Harley Quinn Smith). The film is likewise a chance for Smith to load up on cameos of familiar faces, both new and old, including Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Joey Lauren Addams, Rosario Dawson, Shannon Elizabeth, Jason Lee, Melissa Benoist, Val Kilmer, Justin Long, Chris Hemsworth, and more. We’ll have to wait to see if this reunion is filled with new creative energy or just nostalgia, but until then…snoochie boochies.
Zombieland: Double Tap
Ten years is a long time. Most had given up on a sequel to 2009’s delightfully odd Zombieland. But perhaps the filmmakers were just waiting until every lead in the cast earned an Oscar nomination (or win in Emma Stone’s case)? It certainly makes for catchy marketing as the now A-listers are still competing for Zombie Kill of the Week.
The sequel finds Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, and Abigail Breslin up to their old tricks, this time crashing at the White House for the winter. But hijinks threaten to turn into high drama as Breslin’s Little Rock sets off on her own and they begin meeting new and tenacious survivors. With the whole creative team in front of, and behind, the camera back, now’s a good time to start working on your cardio.
After writing and directing one of the seminal horror movies of the decade, Robert Eggers (The Witch) returns to New England folklore for his sophomore effort, though with a decidedly more recent, nautical vibe. Set at the turn of the 20th century the movie finds two lighthouse keepers spending their winter in grim weather and even grimmer company.
The toast of Cannes, The Lighthouse features performances by Robert Pattinson as Ephraim Winslow and Willem Dafoe as his elder, Thomas Wake. Its black-and-white vision evokes German Expressionist classics as much as tales of yore, as does the hinted Lovecraftian horror that waits for the men just offshore and below the surface.
Taika Waititi is a director as well known for his risk-taking as his idiosyncratic sense of humor, but he appears downright giddy about walking the line between hilarity and bad taste with his next effort, Jojo Rabbit. After all, it is Waititi under the tiny moustache and swastika as a rascally Adolf Hitler. An imaginary version of Hitler, to be clear.
In his latest writing and directing effort, Waititi, who is of Māori and Russian Jewish descent, plays the imagined BFF of a little boy named Jojo (Roman Griffith Davis), a lonely child growing up in Nazi Germany. With no real friends, he creates a good-hearted one in the visage of the Führer. It’s a wacky premise made all the more intriguing with its supporting cast that includes Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
For the first time since Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life in 2003, someone has convinced Angelina Jolie to do a sequel. Such is the power of Disney and their endless remakes. Thus enters Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, a sequel about Jolie’s supervillain-turned-questionable-heroine in the 2014 revisionist take on Sleeping Beauty. Apparently she’s about to revert to her evil ways though as Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) is eager to marry her prince (Harris Dickinson). Yet Prince Phillip’s family might be of nefarious stock their own with Michelle Pfeiffer’s Queen Ingrith offering a new threat to Maleficent’s power. There is also Chiwetel Ejiofor doing his House Mouse duty, but hopefully this all-new story will be better than the studio’s other listless live-action remakes from 2019.
The Current War
Before there was Google versus Apple, or Steve Jobs versus Bill Gates, the original tech war was fought over the electric lightbulb between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse—with Nikola Tesla as the spoiler on the fringes who was likely smarter than anyone else alive. Their battle shaped the 20th century to come, giving us the invention that literally took away the darkness of night. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s movie about the trio has been a long time coming. After the Weinstein Company collapsed for very good reasons, The Current War unfortunately got lost in the fallout. Now the movie is finally getting its release by 101 Studios, and with a talented cast that includes Benedict Cumberbatch as Edison, Michael Shannon as Westinghouse, and Nicholas Hoult as Tesla. While its reception was decidedly mixed at TIFF in 2017, we’ll keep an open mind given the electrifying subject matter.
Terminator: Dark Fate
The Terminator franchise has seen some rough patches as of late. Despite being borne out of two of the greatest action movies, James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), there hasn’t been a good movie in the series since Linda Hamilton stepped away from playing Sarah Connor. Which is what makes Dark Fate so interesting. For the first time in nearly 30 years, Hamilton returns to the franchise to square off against a new cybernetic villain (Gabriel Luna). With director Tim Miller (Deadpool) helming the reunion, a returning Arnold Schwarzenegger, and interesting new talent like Mackenzie Davis joining their ranks, maybe this time the future is brighter.
Read our discussion about the upcoming movie with Miller, Hamilton, Schwarzenegger, and more right here.
Harriet Tubman is supposed to be on our 20-dollar bills next year, but as with anything dealing with people of color, the current presidential administration couldn’t find the time to do its job. That doesn’t mean she can’t be on the big screen now. In a biopic about slavery that is blessedly not about white liberators ending it, Harriet gives a cinematic account of Harriet Tubman’s fight to lead slaves to freedom via the underground railroad she herself escaped on. The film is directed by Luke Cage’s Kassi Lemmons and features Tony winner Cynthia Erivo as Harriet. The film is also stacked with a cast that features Leslie Odom Jr., Janelle Monáe, and Joe Alwyn.
November 1 (limited), November 27 (Netflix)
Robert De Niro has been trying to bring the controversial mob book, I Heard You Paint Houses, to the screen for about a decade, a road that has led him to a reunion with Martin Scorsese. The legendary pair’s first movie together since Casino in 1995, The Irishman is a reunion of much of the Goodfellas/Raging Bull team, including Joe Pesci. And as a sign of the changing times… it’s debuting on Netflix.
Robert De Niro plays Frank Sheeran, a union official who apparently claimed that he personally offed his buddy Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). It’s an American crime epic that spans decades, offering Scorsese’s unique lens on the gray area between some organized labor and organized crime—and how Sheeran allegedly eased the friction between the two with bullets.
Somehow Warner Bros. and writer-director Mike Flanagan convinced Stephen King to let them make a sequel to not only his novel The Shining, but specifically to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining… an adaptation he notoriously detests. How’s that for spooky? Flanagan is one of the great horror directors of his generation—previously helming the superb King adaptation Gerald’s Game and Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House—and now he is taking on the challenge of adapting King’s sequel to his most personal novel, as well as a sequel to one of the greatest horror films of all time.
In Doctor Sleep, we find Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) as a middle-aged man struggling, like his dad and grandpappy before him, with alcoholism. That and the knowledge he still has the psychic gift of “shining.” It’s the latter habit that attracts the attention of a creepy cult led by Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat, a woman older than she looks. And she has designs on a new shining child too.
Despite being best known as the Mother of Dragons, Emilia Clarke seems like a natural for the lighthearted bubbliness one usually associates with romantic comedies. Unfortunately for Ms. Clarke, romantic comedies are a rarity in modern Hollywood. But Last Christmas is poised to change that. Directed by comic maestro Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, A Simple Favor) and co-written by no less than Emma Thompson—an actor whose overlooked writing credits include definitive adaptations of Pride & Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility—Last Christmas follows Clarke as Kate, an aimless young woman working in a year-round Christmas store.
A love story about Clarke’s Kate and the Good Samaritan she meets named Tom (Henry Golding), the pair embark on a Yuletide romance that is supposed to have a major twist… one that the trailer might give away. Nevertheless, Golding is himself fresh off one of the best rom-coms in ages after Crazy Rich Asians last year, and he joins this project alongside Michelle Yeoh and Thompson herself, promising a sweet holiday treat.
Director Roland Emmerich attempts to go historical with a World War II epic that looks to be more battle-driven than the similarly themed Michael Bay movie, Pearl Harbor, yet remains just as glossy. With an all-star cast that includes Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Eckhart, Dennis Quaid, Luke Evans, Mandy Moore, Keean Johnson, Ed Skrein, Darren Criss, Nick Jonas, and more, we wish them all luck that this is better than Emmerich’s last American war epic, The Patriot.
A film we saw back at Sundance, Honey Boy is absolutely a game-changing film for actor Shia LaBeouf. Loosely based on his own life, Honey Boy is a raw portal into his own complicated thoughts about growing up in show business and with a mercurial father. In the film, LaBeouf essentially plays his old man as James, the father of Otis (Noah Jupe,) a fictional child actor on an unnamed 1990s sitcom. That lad grows up (played by Lucas Hedges in his adult years) into an alcoholic by the time he’s a movie star in 2005, but Otis cannot bring himself to blame his father. LaBeouf plays that papa in a nigh unrecognizable performance that feels as much about exorcizing demons as it does creating an astonishingly personal piece of art that is beautifully essayed by director Alma Har’el. You can read our full review here.
Ford v Ferrari
In 1966, the idea of an American made car beating European engineering at the 24 Hours of Le Mans seemed incredulous. It still does. Yet this grease-and-bolts Cinderella story really occurred, and is the subject of an old-fashioned Hollywood epic—one of the last from a pre-Disney 20th Century Fox. Directed by James Mangold (Logan) the film stars Christian Bale and Matt Damon as the stateside driver and engineer gutsy enough to accept Ford’s offer to beat Ferrari at their own game. We’re more than ready to ride shotgun on that road trip.
The Charlie’s Angels franchise has seen highs and lows. Once a definite product of 1970s television culture, it also became a definite product of early 2000s blockbuster culture when it launched two films, at least one of which was quite charming for its time. An ill-advised television reboot in 2011 aside, it makes sense for Sony Pictures to bring the saga of three angelic women kicking ass back to the screen for a more modern sensibility. Helming that is Elizabeth Banks who both directs and appears in the film as Bosley, an apparent relative of previous Bosleys who include no less than Bill Murray and Bernie Mac. Indeed, Charlie’s Angels (2019) seems to posit the idea that it’s all canon, and the Angels are now international.
The trio we’re following in this one are Sabina Wilson (Kristen Stewart), Jane Kano (Ella Ballinska), and Elena (Naomi Scott). Actually, the film is in part about the recruitment of the latter, as she is responsible for the creation of a MacGuffin… but the real point is to update this fantasy for a more empowering and less leering version of badassery. Angels assemble.
Another winner we saw out of Sundance, The Lodge is chilling in multiple ways as the directors of Goodnight Mommy, Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, craft a haunted tale about a cold that can freeze the blood in your veins… but still not reach the horror that might already reside there. After a horrible tragedy takes the life of a beloved mother, children Aidan (Jaedan Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh) are not thrilled that in less than a year, their father has left them with his new girlfriend Grace (Riley Keough) for a week in the frozen wilderness. Grace can relate to the children’s plight having survived her own childhood trauma growing up in a cult, but when the three arise one morning to find they have no electricity and no food, finger-pointing turns into paranoia. Could there be a supernatural presence afoot, and are old demons taking on a ghostly form? It’s bleak stuff that we highly recommend. You can read our full review here.
This Amazon Studios original was one of the most talked about films at Sundance and is generating Oscar buzz around both Adam Driver and Annette Bening, as they play real-life Senate staffer Daniel Jones and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein. Set just after the end of the Bush administration, Jones was assigned by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to look into the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation program instituted after the horrors of 9/11. In other words, it examined and would bring to light how the United States government tortured prisoners and “enemy combatants” during the War on Terror from 2001 to 2006. However, the film is as much about the struggle to bring that report to the public in the face of monumental opposition–including by the Obama White House–and exacting political pressure. It is going to be a major awards contender.
When Frozen came out in 2013, it signaled a new revival for Walt Disney Animation Studios and harkened back to the Broadway styled magic of their best renaissance movies in the 1990s. It also offered new types of Disney princesses that six years later—a literal childhood—still enchants wee ones whenever the names “Elsa and Anna” are uttered. Hence Frozen II arrives with the fanfare of a generational touchstone, as Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) travel north of Arendelle and into an autumn-bound land wherein answers to Elsa’s past (and perhaps their parents’ fate?) reside. The whole cast of transcendent talent is back, as are directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, and Oscar-winning songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Better be ready to hum tunes from this one until well after 2020.
The kind of old-school dramatic thriller that used to be part and parcel for Hollywood, there is something refreshingly retro about 21 Bridges. It’s a police thriller where one detective attempts to stop the escape of a criminal crew who murdered eight cops. Chadwick Boseman makes quite the dashing detective, indeed, as he closes down all 21 bridges and tunnels into Manhattan to thwart their escape. But we doubt that will be enough in this action throwback that was produced by the Russo Brothers.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Tom Hanks is Mister Rogers. That’s it. That’s the movie. It might be a tall order to surpass last year’s heartwarming documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, but Hanks is always compelling to watch, and the fact it’s directed by Marielle Heller—the filmmaker behind last year’s fantastic Can You Ever Forgive Me?—has us happy to put on a cozy sweater and swing by the neighborhood.
Rian Johnson has wanted to make an Agatha Christie-inspired murder mystery since before 2012’s Looper and prior to a little film called The Last Jedi coming his way. Now after making what some of us think is the best Star Wars movie of this century, he is returning to the idea of an old-fashioned whodunit. Knives Out looks both retro and refreshingly different, and early buzz has us wondering who is the deadliest among the movie’s killer cast, including Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Colette, Ana de Armas, Lakeith Stanfield, Michael Shannon, Christopher Plummer, and Daniel Craig.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Céline Sciamma’s highly anticipated Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a provocative story about art, desire, and everything in between. Set in Brittany at the end of the 18th century, the film centers on Marianne (Noémie Merlant), an artist who takes an illicit commission to secretly paint a portrait of Héloise (Adèle Haenel). Héloise’s wealthy family wishes her to marry and needs a portrait in order to entice suitors, however Héloise has no wish to be married, period. So Marianne introduces herself as a maid and potential friend to along the coast where her subject likes to take her morning walks, all while quietly surveying her new friend’s face for portraiture. But as she finds herself becoming attracted to Héloise, things start getting… complicated. Roundly hailed as one of the best movies of 2019 by all who’ve seen it, it is one to keep an eye on.
Jumanji: The Next Level
Before its release, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle looked like it had potential to be a charming throwback to ‘80s body-swapping comedies. But we doubt even Dwayne Johnson was ready for it to be so warmly received that it had better legs than The Last Jedi, knocking it out of #1 spot at the box office for all of January 2018. Now the revived franchise returns along with a winning cast that includes Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, and Jack Black. But this time Johnson and Hart are essentially new characters, playing video game avatars of grandfatherly Danny DeVito and Danny Glover instead of teenagers. Yeah, we’re already smiling.
Blumhouse Productions has remade Black Christmas. While not the first production company to do so, hopefully they’ll be the most successful at updating that 1974 cult classic which many would argue inspired Halloween (1978). It probably helps the remake is actually set in ’74 as well, following the same infamous narrative about a group of college students being stalked by a stranger during Christmas break. This new take on Black Christmas is co-written and directed by Sophia Takal, and stars Imogen Poots, Brittany O’Grady, and Cary Elwes.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Easily the most anticipated movie—excuse me, event—of the holiday season, all eyes are on The Rise of Skywalker, the alleged final chapter of the “Skywalker Saga.” In other words, it end the story of all Star Wars movies released to date, as well as follow-up the installment that divided the fanbase, The Last Jedi.
Disney and Lucasfilm are pulling out the big blasters, bringing J.J. Abrams back to the saga after successfully reviving it in The Force Awakens and he’s bringing back an old school classicalism to the way it’s filmed. It is in this context that Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), and the eternally conflicted Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) will find out where they all finally stand in the true balance of the Force.
Go on… admit it. You’re morbidly curious, aren’t you? As a film that might be a testament to the maxim of “just because you can does not mean you should,” Cats is Tom Hooper and Universal Pictures’ lavish adaptation of the famed Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. And while performers on stage spent decades dressing as cats to quote T.S. Eliot’s witticisms about felines, the all-star cast of the movie have been computer animated into cat-human hybrids. It’s gaudy, arguably grotesque, but also goddamn intriguing. During these perilously formulaic times, a studio would invest in this?! Plus, the dance choreography should be nifty. Yeah, we know what curiosity did to the cat, but we’d be lying if we didn’t admit we want to see exactly why someone thought this would be a good idea.
Roger Ailes passed away in 2017, but it’s safe to say we are very much living in the world he helped build. As the mastermind behind Fox News, which he ran from its inception and until he was forced to resign due to allegations of sexual misconduct, Ailes created cable news as we understand it, as well as the misinformation apparatus that still controls whatever the current President of the United States is thinking when he’s tweeting in the morning. This film from director Jay Roach (Trumbo, Game Change) recounts the women who put their careers on the line to expose Ailes and the toxic male culture he groomed at Fox News.
The cast includes Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson, Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly, Margot Robbie as Kayla Pospisil, Alice Eve as Ainsley Earhardt, Allison Janney as Susan Estrich, Ashley Greene as Abby Huntsman, Malcolm McDowell as Rupert Murdoch, and John Lithgow as Ailes. It’s safe to say this is not going to win any fans at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or its favorite news network.
Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is one of the formative novels in American literature, living on as one generation of young women passes it down to the next. While the lives of the March sisters have been adapted masterfully to the screen before, but the fact that Greta Gerwig chose the book as her follow-up to Lady Bird creates instant intrigue.
Apparently by focusing more on the second volume of the novel (originally published under the title Good Wives), Gerwig zeroes in on the forward-thinking of a book about young women navigating a professional world they weren’t expected to enter. Still the tale of four impoverished sisters in New England growing up during the Civil War, Gerwig’s Little Women also comes with an astounding cast, including Saoirse Ronan, Meryl Streep, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, and Timothée Chalamet.
Director Sam Mendes has crafted the most intense-looking war film since, well, Dunkirk (2017). Appearing to be cut from similar cloth, Mendes goes back more than a century to the bloodiest year of the First World War to present a pressure-cooker of a premise: two young British soldiers (George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) must cross enemy lines to warn fellow Tommies of an ambush during the Third Battle of Ypres. If they fail to get there in time, 1,600 men, including the brother of Chapman’s Blake, will die. It’s a gruesome depiction of trench warfare that Mendes co-wrote alongside Krysty Wilson-Cairns (Penny Dreadful). The movie also stars Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Richard Madden, and Andrew Scott. This will surely add some adrenaline (and despair?) to your holiday season.
Spies in Disguise
Blue Sky Productions has made an animated film where Will Smith plays the voice of a James Bond-like character. While Blue Sky movies can be hit or miss, it could be an amusing premise for wee ones who have had enough of Star Wars or Jumanji. The movie also stars the voices of Karen Gillan, Tom Holland, Rachel Brosnahan, and Ben Mendelsohn.
A Hidden Life
Writer-director Terrence Malick’s latest movie will likely divide audiences and critics, as it’s already begun to do after Cannes. However, this more often than not tends to be the case with latter-day Malick, and A Hidden Life certainly features a premise far more compelling than anything he’s worked on as of late. Based on the true story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian Catholic who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II on moral grounds, the film goes behind the veil of the Third Reich to find the face of moral clarity in amoral times that left many feeling ambiguous and tempted into apathy. Could Malick be drawing any parallels to today? The film also marks the final performances of Bruno Ganz and Michael Nyqvist.
A real delightful horror-comedy we caught back in Sundance, we are still waiting on a U.S. release date for this wicked good-time. Starring Lupita Nyong’o as likely the best kindergarten teacher you’ve ever seen, she takes her class to a petting zoo… that is then overrun with zombies. There are dismemberments, disembowlments, and one particularly nasty creation by Josh Gad now in his anti-Olaf stages as he plays a vain children’s entertainer, but the standout is how bubbly it all is whenever Nyong’o picks up a ukulele. You can read our full review here.
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