Time-bending thrillers and sci-fi blockbusters, musical remakes and horror-icon redos, award-courting dramas and A-list comedies — yes, there still is a fall movie season
By David Fear
Remember back in January — a lifetime ago, we know — when we were looking at the moviegoing landscape of 2020 and smiling? It all looked bright and lovely, and we were so looking forward to seeing so many potentially great films in theaters, laughing and sobbing next our fellow audience members. And we knew that, come the fall, we’d have the usual prestigious fare coming out of the festival circuit courtesy of Venice, Telluride and Toronto. Some important movies, some self-important movies, and a lot of high-fiber goodness. But, you know, business as usual. Like we said, it was a lifetime ago.
The good news is that, despite a number of high-profile titles being punted to 2021, this year’s fall movie season isn’t nearly as gutted as the summer was, and while we dread the likely surge that lies ahead in the colder months, we’re forging ahead with a sense of unbridled optimism. The following preview highlights 40 movies scheduled to come out in the U.S., in one form or another, from now until the end of December. To say that “dates may be subject to change” is putting it lightly. Some will make it to theaters near you, assuming theaters are even open near you (and listen, if you do go, please be extremely careful and cautious). Others you’ll get to (and have to) enjoy from the makeshift multiplex that was once your living room. But god willing and the metaphorical creek don’t rise, we are looking at a season filled with comedies, dramas, thrillers, Oscar hopefuls, summer leftovers and late-breaking superhero movies, highly anticipated sequels, A-list ensemble pieces, indie gems and a few seriously unclassifiable films over the next four months. Look, if Tenet can finally get released, virtually anything can happen, right?
'Tenet' (Sep. 3)
Finally, the single most anticipated movie of 2020 hits theaters … assuming you feel comfortable hitting theaters once more. Christopher Nolan’s big-budget, big-screen-only, brain-twisting thriller revolves around a protagonist known as “The Protagonist” (John David Washington, looking mighty dapper in those tailored suits), a seedy fixer (Robert Pattinson, looking like he’s in need of a shower), a Ukrainian billionaire (Kenneth Brannagh, looking as if he’s completely forgotten about Artemis Fowl), and a need to prevent World War III. Oh, right — and the ability to invert time, which leads to action sequences featuring bullets going back in to guns, reverse car chases, fight sequences with thugs backflipping forward, etc. Nolan is one of the few name-brand filmmakers working at this level of blockbusterdom but can still get a blank check from a studio to blow your mind with original material — he’s basically his own genre — so whether you love his wonky spectacles or loathe them, his movies are events. Of course we’re going to see this. Eventually.
'I’m Thinking of Ending Things' (Sep. 4)
A new film from writer-director Charlie Kaufman comes with a certain set of expectations — and we can confirm that his skewed, singular adaptation of Iain Reid’s novel, about a woman (Wild Rose‘s Jessie Buckley) who accompanies her boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) to visit his parents (David Thewlis, Toni Collette) at their farm, not only meets said expectations but exceeds them several times over. The preceding sentence only gives you the bare-bones set-up of what turns into a sometimes ridiculous, often nightmarish narrative involving memory, identity, the fragility of relationships, ice-cream franchises, high-school musical productions and a lot, lot more. Welcome back, sir. We’ve missed you.
'Mulan' (Sep. 4)
Disney continues its quest to turn its most popular animated classics into live-action movies with this redo of 1998’s tale of a young Chinese woman (Yifei Liu) who wants to save her elderly, ex-war-hero dad from going once more unto the breach. So she pretends to be a gentleman and takes his place, experiencing adventure and romance as she defends the realm from a warlord and a witch. You can expect cover versions of “Reflection” and “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” to show up on the soundtrack, but director Niki Caro (Whale Rider) is putting the emphasis on action here, and appears to have upped the wuxia-epic factor by 10. The supporting cast is to die for: Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Gong Li, Tzi Ma, Rosalind Chao, the legendary Pei-Pei Cheng.
'Antebellum' (Sep. 18)
What’s the connection between Veronica (Janelle Monae), an academic/author giving a seminar on her new book, and Eden (also Monae), a slave on what appears to be a Civil War-era plantation complete with cotton fields and Confederate soldiers? That’s the mystery at the center of Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz’s horror movie, which is sure to spark a lot of conversation and plays with a lot of racially charged imagery. Let’s just say the filmmakers have a lot of contemporary issues on their mind.
'Blackbird' (Sep. 18)
It really isn’t an awards season without at least one film centered around A-list actors and terminal illness — so thanks, we guess, for this English-language remake of a 2014 Danish drama about a mother who gathers her family together for one last group hug. Susan Sarandon plays the matriarch who’s suffering from ALS and wants to die with dignity; Sam Neill is her husband, Kate Winslet and Mia Wasikowska are her grown children, and The Office‘s Rainn Wilson is her son-in-law. Roger Michell (Notting Hill, Changing Lanes, Hyde Park on Hudson, My Cousin Rachel — he’s done it all!) is the director, and we’re assuming Kleenex is involved as a sponsor of some sort.
'The Nest' (Sep. 18)
Remember Martha Marcy May Marlene, that extremely unsettling movie about cult life that formally introduced the world to Elizabeth Olsen? Filmmaker Sean Durkin returns with his long-awaited sophomore film, which is a lot less creepy and way more concise in terms of titles. A British financial hotshot (Jude Law, in full career-renaissance mode) living in the U.S. during the go-go 1980s decides to uproot his family and return to England. He nabs a posh job in London and an even posher mansion in the countryside — and also puts a heavy strain on his already fraught relationship with his wife (Carrie Coon). Think The Shining mixed with Scenes From a Marriage, and you’re halfway there.
'The Boys in the Band' (Sep. 30)
Mart Crowley’s 1968 play has become a time capsule of pre-Stonewall gay life; the 1970 movie by William Friedkin remains controversial even as its depiction of self-hating homosexuals has now drifted into camp. When Ryan Murphy helped revive the play on Broadway in 2018, it was partially a 50th anniversary celebration of a landmark work and partially a look back at how far the LGBTQ community has come. Now Murphy, director Joe Mantello and a who’s-who-of-out-Hollywood cast — Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Andrew Rannells — are bringing the production to your homes, courtesy of Netflix. They’re also keeping the period-piece aspect, which means some groovy late ’60s fashions, a K-Tel worthy soundtrack and, given the way this administration has attempted to turn back the clock on gay rights, a still-pertinent, righteous sense of rage.
'Dick Johnson Is Dead' (Oct. 2)
Or rather, Dick Johnson is slowly succumbing to dementia and dying — so Kirsten Johnson (Cameraperson) does what any good daughter would do and makes a film about him, complete with her dad mock-shuffling off this mortal coil a half dozen times. This may be the most lighthearted, uplifting movie about death ever concocted, as well as an extreme act of charity, catharsis and pure, unbridled filial love. Come for the sight of an old man getting “stabbed” in the jugular vein; stay for the Pierre et Gilles-like heavenly scenarios involving tap dancers, confetti and an exasperated Christ.
'On the Rocks' (Oct.)
Laura (Rashida Jones) has a great relationship with her husband (Marlon Wayans) — or does she? Her spouse seems to be working late at the office a lot recently, and she has a nagging sense that his attention may be wandering elsewhere in the romance department. Enter Felix (Bill Murray), her martini-swigging playboy of a pops and someone who knows a thing or two about illicit trysts. He insists they start following the possible adulterer, and quicker than you can say “perhaps this amateur sleuthing may help these blood relations repair their own emotional damage,” the two starts scouring New York City for clues. Honestly, who doesn’t want to see Bill Murray act like a tender, loving cad of a dad, especially if he’s also reuniting with Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation)? Unless his character starts producing landmark pop albums or directing surreal epics about the Vietnam war, we’re going to assume that both Coppola and Jones are not specifically drawing on their own relationships with their respective larger-than-life fathers.
'Wonder Woman 1984' (Oct. 2)
It goes without saying that director Patty Jenkins’ contribution to D.C. Comics film universe has been the highlight of the franchise, and that Gal Gadot’s portrayal of the Amazonian princess-turned-Justice Leaguer absolutely nails the character’s strength, resilience and moral fortitude. In other words: We are actually looking forward to the further adventures of the superheroine with the bullet-deflecting bracelets and lasso of truth. This time out, Jenkins drops Diana Prince right in the middle of the Reagan era, as Wonder Woman battles her arch-nemesis from the comics, Cheetah (Kristen Wiig); the diabolical supervillain Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal); and the evil known as shoulder pads. A spry Chris Pine is back as well, which — given his character was last seen in the trenches of WWI — will hopefully be accompanied by an elaborate explanation.
'The Forty-Year Old Version' (Oct. 9)
Write what you know, they always say — so that’s what playwright/director/producer/actor Radha Blank did for her debut feature, mining years of frustration bouncing around the New York City theater scene and diving into her own personal issues regarding that number in the title. Just for good measure, she also throws in a hot DJ/record producer (Oswin Benjamin), who helps Blank’s semi-autobiographical screen counterpart find her inner freestyler. A sleeper hit out of Sundance and a smart pick-up for Netflix, it’s a great introduction to a modern Renaissance woman.
'Possessor' (Oct. 9)
Or, the Loneliness of the Long-Distance Remote-Controlled Assassin. In some distant future, professional killers like Tasya (Andrea Riseborough) can jack their conscience into hapless citizens and use them as hosts — all the better to carry out hits. Her boss (Jennifer Jason Leigh) assigns her to inhabit a young tech guy (Christopher Abbott) in order to knock off his rich father-in-law. And then things get weird(er). Director Brandon Cronenberg’s genre pastiche is a lovely cross between the grotty, gross B-movie action flicks of the late 1980s and the sort of surreal, WTF whatsits you’d expect from the family name.
'Time' (Oct. 9)
After her husband went to jail for bank robbery, Fox Rich began keeping a black-and-white video diary. Her son was four; she was also pregnant with twins. Over the next two decades, Rich would raise her kids to be outstanding young men, become a bestselling author, lecture groups about the art of the memoir and establish herself as a prison-reform activist. She would also work tirelessly to get her spouse freed from a life sentence. A stream-of-consciousness trip through one woman’s story, Garrett Bradley’s doc assembles both her own footage and Rich’s home movies to craft an intimate, inimitable look at the toll that the mass-incarceration epidemic takes on everyone involved. The title’s numerous meanings — the passage of time, doing time, time waits for no one — quickly make themselves apparent. It may be one of the single best documentaries you see this year.
'Candyman' (Oct. 16)
Say his name five times while looking in a mirror, and, well, you know what happens next … and it’ll likely involve a hook and a lot of bees. The 1992 cult-classic horror movie about an urban legend — revolving around a murdered slave with a tendency to come back from the grave — gets the remake/reboot treatment, courtesy of producer Jordan Peele and director Nia DaCosta (Little Woods). Watchmen star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is a photographer who starts delving into the myth of you-know-who, and soon finds that he may have not only summoned the homicidal ghost; he might also be channeling him. If the film is half as intense as this trailer, you may want to consult a physician before viewing.
'Martin Eden' (Oct. 16)
Jack London’s 1909 novel about a working-class hero who becomes a celebrated writer (why, yes, there is a touch of autobiography in this, now that you mention it!) is retold as a tale of an Italian sailor (Luca Marinelli) who saves the life of an upper-crust gentleman. He then gains entry to the world of the rich and aristocratic, which starts him on a pilgrim’s progress involving class, literature, success failure and a lot more. A staple on the film festival circuit back when film festivals were an actual thing (!), director Pietro Marcello’s politicized take on the story plays like the sort glorious, rich export you would have seen in arthouses during the ’70s — it’s a time trip in more ways than one.
'The Trial of the Chicago 7' (Oct. 16)
After things went south during the 1968 Democratic Convention, seven men were charged with conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intent of inciting riots; an eighth man, the Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale, was hauled into court as well, despite having no connection to the accused. The trial turned into a circus, as well as a key stand-off between the radical left and the federal government. Writer-director Aaron Sorkin plays this clash for all its worth, as he dresses up a number of movie stars in groovy period duds and gives them some choice dialogue about freedom, democracy and justice to throw at each other. There will likely be a lot of chatter around Sacha Baron Cohen, hamming it up as Abbie Hoffman, come Oscar time; ditto Frank Langella as Judge Julius Hoffman (no relation). Succession‘s Jeremy Strong, Watchmen‘s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Kelvin Harrison Jr. are all along for the wild ride as well.
'Rebecca' (Oct. 21)
Ben Wheatley (Sightseers, Kill List) helms the latest feature-length adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s Gothic novel — the first was by some guy named Hitchcock — in which a young woman (Lily James) is swept off her feet by the dashing aristocrat/widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer). Soon, wedding bells are ringing, and our heroine and her true love head back to his vast family estate known as Manderlay. There’s just one catch: The ghost of Maxim’s late wife seems to cast an extremely large shadow over the place, which doesn’t make the second Mrs. de Winter feel that welcome. And then there’s the estate’s housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Kristen Scott Thomas), who seems to have some secrets of her own….
'Death on the Nile' (Oct. 23)
You can’t keep a good detective down, folks — which is why, when a love triangle involving socialites leads to murder during a trip to Cairo, Hercule Poirot puts his vacation on hold so he can sniff out the killer. Fans of Kenneth Branagh’s interpretation of Agatha Christie’s legendary Belgian sleuth in his 2017 take on Murder on the Orient Express should be delighted to see him grow that monstrous mustache once more. Everyone else can simply luxuriate in seeing folks like Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Annette Bening, Letitia Wright and Russell Brand in vintage 1930s garments, and see if they can figure out whodunnit before the gentleman with the outrageous accent does.
Everyone knows the story of how Orson Welles cemented his reputation as a genius by directing Citizen Kane at the tender age of 25. David Fincher — no slouch himself when it comes to beloved-auteur bona fides — would like to shed a bit more light on the story of how the man who co-wrote the groundbreaking film, Herman J. Mankiewicz, fits into the bigger picture. Gary Oldman plays the beleaguered screenwriter, while The Souvenir‘s Tom Burke plays Welles, Game of Thrones‘ Charles Dance is media titan William Randolph Hearst and Amanda Seyfried is actor Marion Davies, whose reputation took a nosedive after it was suggested she inspired the character of Kane’s second wife. The fact that Fincher (working off a script written by his dad, Jack Fincher) is involved makes us think this will be more than just “Raising Kane”: The Movie.
'Sound of Metal' (Nov.)
Riz Ahmed (Rogue One) is a drummer and ex-addict in a noise-rock duo who’s content to eke out a modest living with his singer/girlfriend (Olivia Cooke). Then he slowly starts to lose his hearing, and is forced to negotiate life after deafness. The feature debut from Darius Marder ingeniously uses sound, or the lack thereof, to create an immersive experience for the audience — but it’s this character study’s observational powers, notably once the character settles into a halfway house within the deaf community, that really sell the drama.
'Black Widow' (Nov. 6)
Yes, Marvel finally made good on its promise to give Scarlett Johansson’s avenger her own solo film set before the events of Endgame, as well as answering the question: So, like, what’s the deal with Natasha’s family? Meet the rest of the Romanoffs: Dad (Stranger Things‘ David Harbour), a.k.a. Russia’s premier superhero the Red Guardian; her mom, Melina (Rachael Weisz); and her equally deadly sister, Yelena (Florence Pugh). They’ve got to band together in order to keep Natasha safe from a mean-looking gent known as the Taskmaster, who has a direct connection to her past. Cate Shoreland directs what we’re guessing is Black Widow’s final MCU appearance; no word on whether any of her workplace colleagues show up but we’re expecting a cameo or two nonetheless.
'Ammonite' (Nov. 13)
Behold, the A-list, prestige-heavy historical romance you’ve been craving this season. Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) toils away by the English seaside, searching for fossils that will end up in British museums and be credited to other — read: male — paleontologists. Enter Charlotte Murchison (Saorise Ronan), the meek wife of a visiting scientist who insists she join Anning on her daily rounds “so she can take the air.” The women slowly bond over their findings. They also discover that their feelings run deeper than the simple pleasure of each other’s company. If you caught 2017’s God’s Own Country, you could tell that actor-turned-filmmaker Francis Lee had a knack for turning “forbidden” love stories into something raw, earthy and lyrical. This follow-up confirms he’s a major talent. And chances are good we’ll be talking about the sequence involving the characters’ exploration of, ah, carnal knowledge for years to come.
'Deep Water' (Nov. 13)
He (Ben Affleck) is the husband stuck in a loveless marriage but who isn’t willing to get a divorce. She (Ana De Armas) is the wife who sees a number of men on the side — that’s part of the arrangement that keeps them together. Then a lot of corpses start popping up, and you wonder if the body count isn’t the collateral damage of this rather unholy union. There are a number of folks who will gravitate towards this adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s book just to see everyone’s favorite pandemic celebrity couple (do they have a nickname yet? Ben-ana?). But personally, we’ll see anything that uses the Talented Mr. Ripley author’s writing as source material, not to mention it’s the return of Adrian Lyne (Fatal Attraction, Jacob’s Ladder) from director’s jail after 18 years and any film starring both Tracy Letts and Lil Rey Howery has earned our dollar.
'Happiest Season' (Nov. 20)
They’ve been together for a while, so Abby (Kristen Stewart) is ready to pop the question to her soulmate, Harper (Mackenzie Davis). She figures that the best time to do it is during their Thanksgiving weekend away…only Harper hasn’t quite come out to her ultra-conservative parents, which may complicate things a teeny, tiny bit. Cowriter-director Clea DuVall brings the holiday rom-dramedy you maybe didn’t know you needed (or have possibly been waiting for your whole life), and this stacked supporting cast is just ridiculous: Dan Levy, Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Victor Garber, Mary Steenburgen, Ana Gasteyer.
'Hillbilly Elegy' (Fall)
A film based on J.D. Vance’s memoir about how his Appalachian roots shaped his ideas about class, labor and the American Dream was inevitable — it’s too rich a text not to turn into a movie. Ron Howard directs the story of how the author (played by Super 8‘s Gabriel Basso) goes from modest Ohio kid to Yale graduate, all while dealing with his family’s legacy of poverty and their hard-knocks, backwoods past. Glenn Close is the gun-toting grandmother who shapes his value system; Amy Adams is his mercurial mother.
'No Time to Die' (Nov. 20)
It seems like only yesterday that Daniel Craig strode out of the sea in blue swimming trunks, slipped on a tuxedo and reinvented James Bond for the modern era — how time flies when you’re watching a completely revitalized 50-year-plus franchise. This latest Bond adventure is said to be Craig’s last time playing the iconic role, and it would seem that he’s going out swinging — and shooting, jumping, chasing, etc. The spy who’s loved and lost finds himself pulled back into her majesty’s secret service one more time, and ends up in the middle of a nefarious scheme involving Spectre‘s Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux), a new 007 (Lashana Lynch), a Cuban agent (Ana de Armas) and a good old-fashioned megalomaniac (Rami Malek). Whether this new nemesis is connected to a vintage Bond bad guy remains to be seen — though there may be some clever wordplay in the title that gives credence to that rumor — but we do know that the idea of bringing Cary Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation) to direct is a very inspired choice.
'Soul' (Nov. 20)
The good news: A music teacher named Joe (voiced by Jamie Foxx) has just nabbed a spot in the band of a popular singer at a local jazz club. The bad news: He falls down an open manhole right after that, and his soul finds itself in “the Great Before,” a limbo-like place where new spirits are prepped to enter the physical world. If Joe can help out one such neophyte anima, then he may have a second chance at life. If not, well … it’s the Great Gig in the Sky for him. Pixar’s big bid for animation supremacy this fall looks absolutely gorgeous, and seems to be aiming for the same heartstring-plucking melody it used to make Coco and Inside Out such tissue-heavy viewings. We’re in.
'Zappa' (Nov. 27th)
Fun fact: Alex Winter, a.k.a. Bill from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, has long been a Frank Zappa superfan. (Though really, are there any other kinds of Zappa fans?) Now, after four years of trawling through the family archives, he’s finally made what he hopes is one true portrait of the late, great musician. You will learn way more about the man who gave the world Weasels Ripped My Flesh and other great long-playing freakouts then you could possibly imagine — though God willing, it won’t demonstrate what the “Tower of Power” is from the song “Bobby Brown Goes Down” — as well as, per the director, why he should be considered one of the great composers of the 20th century. Let the great freakout commence.
'Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom' (Fall)
We were already chomping at the bit to see George C. Wolfe’s take on August Wilson’s play about a tempestuous recording session with blues singer Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) and her band. The fact that it will now hit Netflix with the distinction of being Chadwick Boseman’s final film — he’s the trumpeter player Levee, and if you know the play, you know what a great role it is — both heightens the anticipation and adds an air of mournfulness to the proceedings. It will now double as a tribute to the extraordinary talent, gone way, way too soon.
'The Prom' (Dec.)
Ryan Murphy — who really does seem intent on cornering the market for adapting Broadway plays for Netflix this season — directs this star-studded take on the popular musical about two theatrical divas (Meryl Streep and James Corden) stinging from their recent flop, Eleanor: The Eleanor Roosevelt Story! Desperate to rehabilitate their images, they find out about Emma Nolan (Jo Ellen Pellman), a young Indiana high-school student who isn’t allowed to attend her prom with a same-sex date. Voila! Along with a young actor (Andre Rannells) and a veteran showgirl (Nicole Kidman), these thespians hit the road with a song in their heart and, hopefully, good P.R. in their future.
'The Empty Man' (Dec. 4)
Based on Cullen Bunn and Vanessa R. Del Rey’s graphic novel, this horror movie tracks a cop (James Badge Dale) on the trail of a missing girl. So far, so very by-the-book dark police thriller — but did we mention that, per the press release, there’s also “a secretive group attempting to summon a terrifying supernatural entity?” There’s also a character listed in the credits who’s actually named “the Empty Man,” so yes, you have our attention. The Kissing Booth‘s Joel Courtney, Stephen Root and Marin Ireland costar.
'Nomadland' (Dec. 4)
As card-carrying fans of 2017’s The Rider, we’re completely on board with filmmaker Chloé Zhao getting the level-up treatment — she’s helming the big Marvel blockbuster The Eternals, set for early 2021, and she’s written and directed this movie loosely based on the nonfiction book of the same name about older workers wandering the country in search of jobs. Frances McDormand plays an unemployed woman who, in the wake of the 2008 economic collapse, travels by van throughout the Western states, encountering joy and sorrow along the way. It has all the earmarks of a gritty, gutting, modern version of The Grapes of Wrath.
'Free Guy' (Dec 11)
Let’s say you were playing a violent Grand Theft Auto mission and found yourself thinking: What’s it like to be one of the ordinary citizens walking down the street during all that carnage-filled gameplay? Lucky for you, this Ryan Reynolds comedy has the answer. Then once and future Deadpool stars as a bank teller who slowly comes to the realization that he’s living in an RPG — and that he may have the ability to go from faceless supporting nobody who gets endlessly shot, run over, etc. to Player Number One. Taika Waititi, Lil Rey Howery and Killing Eve‘s Jodie Comer costar. Night at the Museum director Shawn Levy is behind the camera, which may or may not mean anything to you.
'Coming 2 America' (Dec. 18)
Prince Akeem is back! The sequel we’ve been waiting for — and honestly thought would never happen — is finally here, with Eddie Murphy reprising his role as the African royal who relocates to the borough of Queens. He’s about to become the king of his country when he finds out about a long-lost son (Jermaine Fowler) living in New York. Quicker than you can ask “what is that, velvet?”, Akeem and his right-hand man Semmi (Arsenio Hall) return to the country that’s so free, one can throw glass on the streets. Given what director Craig Brewer and Murphy did with 2019’s Dolemite Is My Name, this should be hilarious. All we ask is that Eddie play at least two other roles, and one of them is the singer of Sexual Chocolate.
'Dune' (Dec. 18)
He who controls the spice … controls the universe! Frank Herbert’s science-fiction epic is once again adapted for the big screen, this time courtesy of Blade Runner 2049 filmmaker Denis Villeneuve. Timothée Chalamet is Paul Atreides, the hero who will go from House of Atreides royalty to Fremen-worshipped messiah to freedom fighter for the survival of the desert planet Arrakis. (That sentence either made you very excited or extremely confused.) A whole mess of other famous faces, including [deep breath] Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson, Javier Bardem, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Stellan Skarsgård, Jason Momoa, Charlotte Rampling, Dave Bautista and more, will either aid him in his quest or stand in his way. There will be sand worms. This is going to be huge.
'The Father' (Dec. 18)
Novelist and playwright Florian Zeller adapts his critically acclaimed 2012 play for the screen, in which an elderly man (Anthony Hopkins) and his daughter (Olivia Colman) struggle to deal with his rapidly escalating dementia. On the page, this might sound like the type of overly sentimental, Oscar-courting celebrity drama you desperately try to avoid during the Bataan death march that is an awards season. What the actors do with this material — and the fact that the story is largely told from the title character’s unreliable, unstable perspective — makes a huge difference. Hopkins, especially, is absolutely devastating.
'West Side Story' (Dec. 18)
Because when you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way, from your first cigarette to your last dying day. Or, as we’ve been referring to this redo of the classic Broadway-musical riff on Romeo and Juliet: Spielberg Does Sondheim! The filmmaker takes on the not-at-all-daunting task of reinterpreting the story of star-crossed lovers Tony (Ansel Elgort — yeah, we know) and Maria (Rachel Zegler) for a new generation. His relationship with the play goes back a long ways (“[The original cast album] was the first piece of popular music our family ever let into the home,” says the son of a concert pianist), so expect a lot of reverence. And as he’s pointed out, the themes of immigrants, prejudice and the American dream are still as vital as ever. Bonus: No less than Tony Kushner (Angels in America) wrote the screenplay for this new take, and New York City Ballet wunderkind Justin Peck is handling the choreography. You may begin snapping your fingers in unison…now.
'News of the World' (Dec. 25)
We’ve already seen Tom Hanks lead a crew of WWII seamen through treacherous, Nazi-filled waters in Greyhound this year; now we get an equally conflicted but more paternal version of America’s Dad ™ in this Western about a man traveling the plains, reading newspapers aloud to townfolk for 10 cents a pop. He soon finds himself the guardian of a girl (Helena Zengel) who’d been kidnapped and raised by Native Americans, and is asked to return her to her family. Along the way and despite a language barrier — the young woman speaks no English — the two slowly bond. It sounds like a kinder, gentler version of The Searchers minus the Freudian baggage. Still, our hopes are high, given that the last time Hanks teamed up with director Paul Greengrass, we got the extraordinary Captain Phillips.
'The Truffle Hunters' (Dec. 25)
Some of them have been doing this well into the 80s; other have logged in a little less then 10 years. But all of these Italian men — and their dogs; they’re always with their trusted canine friends — have dedicated their lives to going deep into the woods and finding the rarest of rare white Alba truffles to sell to food brokers and restaurateurs. “Delightful” is an overused word, but it’s the best way to sum up Gregory Kershaw and Michael Dweck’s look at the sometimes competitive, sometimes contentious, always cantankerous world of truffle hunters, gatherers and brokers. A formally beautiful and perfectly observed piece of nonfiction.
'The Midnight Sky' (Fall)
Not everyone can get George Clooney to direct and star in an adaptation of their first published novel — so kudos to Lily-Brooks Dalton, whose 2016 book Good Morning, Midnight is the basis for this sci-fi movie about a scientist stationed in the Arctic who awaits an impending, and likely earth-destroying catastrophe. He can’t save humanity, but he may be able to keep several astronauts returning from a deep-space flight from being added to the death tally. Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Kyle Chandler and Demián Bichir costar.