One strange truth about the American moviegoing calendar: the second half truly starts in September, even if that’s only four months left. But within September, October, November, and December you get a whole heap of big movies, some hoping for prestige, some box office dollars, some even both. Now’s the time where studios are showing off their big guns, whether they be crowd-pleasing awards hopefuls or recognizable tentpole properties, while select smaller distributors are throwing their brightest gems into the mix for hopes of end of the year attention. The fall season is basically “Summer: Redux,” but with the promise of flashier performances, period pieces, and a long-gestating James Cameron project.
To sift through this massive heap of movies, some of which we’ve seen at previous festivals like the Toronto Film Festival (click here to read all of our TIFF coverage) or the Venice Film Festival (click here to read all of Glenn Kenny's coverage), we’re going to touch upon just a few we're excited about. As with every time one of these lists is made, there are honorable mentions: Joseph Kahn's "Bodied" (finally coming out on November 2), Ike Barinholtz's "The Oath" (October 12), the documentary about Nadia Murad "On Her Shoulders" (October 19), Damien Chazelle's Neil Armstrong movie "First Man" (October 12), "A Star is Born" (October 2), Tyler Perry's "Nobody's Fool" (November 2) and many, many more. Release dates are subject to change, of course.
Below is a list of our ten most anticipated titles in what promises to be a very busy fall. We'll be covering these films among many more at RogerEbert.com, so be sure to check back for all of our reviews.
I never did finish punishing myself with all three hours of Michael Bay’s “Transformers: The Last Knight,” but I still have room in my heart for a good movie based around sassy sports car Bumblebee. A big part of that has to do with the ever-burgeoning charisma of John Cena, the lighter tone this story is marketing itself with, and the new blood of director Travis Knight. It could prove to be a great refresher for a franchise that took itself way too seriously from the start, but with a character who helped kick off the first “Transformers” movie back in 2007 for a reason. “Bumblebee” stars Hailee Steinfeld, Angela Bassett, Justin Theroux, Pamela Adlon, John Cena, John Ortiz, the voice of Peter Cullen and more. (December 21)
9. “Mortal Engines”
“Mortal Engines” might be the blockbuster underdog of the season, as it arrives as part of the mega-budget battle royale that is mid-December—“Mortal Engines,” “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 3D,” “Alita: Battle Angel,” “Bumblebee,” “Aquaman” and “Holmes & Watson” are all coming out in that two-week span, fighting for holiday moviegoers. So this new venture, which comes with a Peter Jackson co-writing credit as directed by one of his effects guys Christian Rivers, might be left behind if it can’t make a name for itself. I’m very on-board with the premise: a dystopia where cities are on wheels, and fighting for space. Amazing special effects are a given, but another apocalyptic hero's journey sounds like dangerous territory all on its own. “Mortal Engines” stars Caren Pistorius, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Lang, Robert Sheehan, Jihae and more. (December 14)
It’s a bit stunning to think that “12 Years a Slave” came out five years ago, and that we haven’t seen any features from Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen since then. I’m all the more excited, then, to see how he returns to feature filmmaking with this modern tale about corruption and bank heists in Chicago, featuring an incredible cast. And as a Chicagoan who kept his eye out for “Widows” sets throughout the city, I’m very curious as to what landmarks they’ll use. Did they end up using footage they shot at the bowling alley near my old apartment? “Widows” stars Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Jon Berthal, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, and more. (November 16)
This project comes with two heavyweights who make for a dream collaboration: director Karyn Kusama, who freaked out audiences a couple years ago with her dinner party thriller “The Invitation,” and Nicole Kidman, who has become an instant awards favorite for her port. The supporting cast is of great promise as well: Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany, Sebastian Stan, Scoot McNairy, Bradley Whitford. (December 25)
6. “Alita: Battle Angel”
Even before he directed “Avatar” around ten years ago, James Cameron has been talking abut adapting Yukito Kishiro’s manga books for a groundbreaking blockbuster. But as fate will have it, it's Robert Rodriguez who will bring this story to the silver screen, with a rumored 1,500 special effects shots and a main character who is shot in 3D among the movie’s live-action. And for a filmmaker who has made an incredible amount of movies across styles and demographics, this looks to be Rodriguez’s biggest endeavor yet. Here’s hoping that the script by Rodriguez, Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis makes this long-anticipated journey worth it. “Alita: Battle Angel” stars Lana Condor, Jennifer Connelly, Elle LaMont, Eiza Gonzalez, Michelle Rodriguez, Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Mahershala Ali, a whole lot of 0s and 1s and more. (December 21)
A lot of Cannes 2018 movies are going to be fighting for your attention in the upcoming months: Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters,” which won the Palme d’Or, Nadine Labaki’s “Capernaum” which reportedly features great young non-actors, among others. But “Burning” might have the biggest buzz, having wowed audiences in France and done it again at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it grew an even bigger, more immediate following. I don’t know much else about this movie from Lee Chang-dong, other than that it's adapted from a Haruki Marakami short story, and that it features a great performance from Steven Yeun. Also, something about a cat? I look forward to becoming a "Burning" fan myself, hopefully I can make that happen when it plays the Chicago International Film Festival next month. "Burning" stars Ah-In Yoo, Steven Yeun, Jong-seo Jeon, Soo-Kyung Kim, Seung-ho Choi and more. (November 2)
Count me as someone who genuinely dug “The Cloverfield Paradox,” outside of its marketing strategy of a surprise Super Bowl Sunday release. My excitement about the possibilities of the “Cloverfield” franchise are nonetheless stoked for a WWII spin, as seems to be the case with Julius Avery’s gory-looking “Overlord.” From the packaging it looks like a “Call of Duty” game in monster mode, which isn’t the worst premise for a popcorn movie if you can add some sharp humor and brutal action scenes. I suspect the “Cloverfield” connections will be the cherry on top. “Overlord” stars John Magaro, Wyatt Russell, Pilou Asbaek, Bokeem Woodbine, Jovan Adept, Helene Cardona and more. (November 9)
3. “If Beale Street Could Talk”
I was happily not surprised to hear that the next film from “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins could very easily be one of the year’s best, a sentiment that rippled among reviewers after its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (read Brian Tallerico's rave for the movie here). Jenkins’ adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel of the same name, starring KiKi Layne, Stephan James, and Regina King, looks to be another display of his vital artistry. I will not be watching the trailer for this one, but I will be seeing this movie as soon as I can. “If Beale Street Could Talk” stars Layne, James, King, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Michael Beach, Aunjanue Ellis, Brian Tyree Henry and more. (November 30)
I have many vivid memories of seeing Alfonso Cuaron’s most recent films in theaters, laying witness to the gripping cinematography of “Children of Men” and the out-of-this-world experience of “Gravity.” I have no doubt I will be engrossed by his latest film, “Roma,” which had Cuaron acting as his own cinematographer, and telling a more personal story. This is another movie in which I only need the festival buzz (click here to read Brian Tallerico’s four-star review) to confirm that I'll be seeing it on the biggest screen and as soon as I can. “Roma” stars Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Diego Cortina Aubrey, Carlos Peralta and more. (December 14)
Adam McKay’s followup to “The Big Short,” has been kept secret for a long while—it was earlier titled “Backseat,” and aside from a name change and some unofficial photos, not much is known about this Dick Cheney biopic, starring Christian Bale. But the success of “The Big Short,” as the rare movie that both entertained and informed about something as dry as the housing crisis, has me anticipating “Vice” with very high hopes. Not to mention that one of Bale’s very best performances came from working with McKay on “The Big Short,” a collaboration that could very recreate that magic. “Vice” stars Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Bill Pullman, Sam Rockwell, Lily Rabe, Alison Pill, Eddie Marsan, Tyler Perry, Shea Whigham and more. (December 14)