The fall/winter movie season is upon us and with a healthy glut of entertainment headed our direction, it’s time to pick out the films that will thrill us, open our eyes, and give us an excuse to bail on Christmas get-togethers featuring Drunk Uncle Gary. Ranging from awards bait, big-budget sequels, and innovative indies, these 12 films should leave viewers with plenty to watch in the ever-darkening days ahead.
Widows (November 16th)
Armed with the greatest ensemble of 2018, Widows was already one of my most anticipated features, and then that trailer came out and removed all doubt. Steve McQueen has excelled at all the genres he’s dabbled in thus far, with Viola Davis in tow (and Cynthia Erivo and Elizabeth Debicki and Colin Farrell and Liam Neeson and…), this effort should be no different. Davis takes the lead in a thriller where four women aim to finish the heist that killed all of their husbands. It’s been referred to as the female Heat, but Widows could very well do what Heat never could and win best picture of the year.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (November 16th)
Netflix promised that Joel and Ethan Coen’s latest would be an anthology series, flash forward several months, and the streaming company is now pushing the Western as a feature-length film for some serious prestige next February. Regardless of what form The Ballad of Buster Scruggs took anything new from the Coen brothers deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible. Especially if early word about the film holds true that the film will marry the nihilism of No Country for Old Men with the slapstick bluster of Burn After Reading.
Creed II (November 23rd)
Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan surprised audiences when Creed took the languishing Rocky franchise and reinvigorated it to the tune of $173 million. Sequels are inherently less creative in nature–thus the Son of Apollo vs. Son of Drago–yet Jordan’s intensity and newfound status as a movie star should be more than enough to paper over the fears of audiences concerned about the absence of Coogler.
The Favourite (November 23rd)
Yorgos Lanthimos’ last several films (Dogtooth, The Lobster, Killing of a Sacred Deer) have been far from what most pundits would call Oscar fare, but the auteur behind much-stilted unpleasantness has now set his sights on the Crown; Queen Anne’s, to be precise. The quaint, quiet manor ruled by Queen Anne (played by Olivia Colman) and her counselor Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) is upended when a former-aristocrat-turned servant (Emma Stone) turns the castle into a bizarre and brutal love triangle.
If Beale Street Could Talk (December 14th)
In his first film since winning the Best Picture Oscar for Moonlight, Barry Jenkins is adapting the first English-language feature of a James Baldwin novel. If Beale Street Could Talk centers around a young woman (KiKi Layne) whose fiance Fonny (Stephan James) has been imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Tish faces a world of obstacles in attempting to clear Fonny’s name before the birth of their child, even in her own home. Jenkins gift for blending ecstasy, pain, and melancholy is sure to result in one of this fall’s most powerful stories.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (December 14, 2018)
There have already been too many Spider-man movies in the last ten years and it appears that Sony, in a playful wink, is acknowledging that by making the latest Spidey film a multiverse with dozens of Spider-people (and pigs!) to play the friendly, neighborhood protector. Here, Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) takes a backseat to Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) as they try to stop Wilson Fisk’s supercollider from ripping apart Earth as we know it.
The Mule (December 14, 2018)
This is the second time that Clint Eastwood has come out of acting retirement to star as the eponymous drug mule in the upcoming thriller. With the relative impressive supporting cast of Bradley Cooper, Michael Pena, and Dianne Wiest, and a darker subject, The Mule should prove closer to Gran Torino than Trouble with the Curve. The plot could very well prove inflammatory, but if Eastwood keeps the action hued closer to a character-study than political commentary, audiences should be in for something good.
Vice (December 28th)
Human chameleon Christian Bale has done it all. He’s played Batman, shed a ridiculous amount of weight for The Machinist, put even more back on for American Hustle, and now he’ll be playing the most powerful vice president in U.S. history. Adam McKay, hot off of The Big Short, has the comedic chops to capture the surreal nature of Dick Cheney covert power grab while acknowledging the global reverberations that his takeover caused. And if the trailers are any indication, Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell might just walk away as the secret MVPs of Vice.
Destroyer (December 28th)
The Invitation was a solid return for Karyn Kusama. Hoping to build upon that momentum, Nicole Kidman jumped onboard her next film as a detective seeking to make amends for her time working an undercover assignment. What we’ve seen so far looks intense, and, if The Invitation is any indicator, we’re due for a thrilling conclusion. Early word suggests that this might be the best performance of Nicole Kidman’s career. Given her prolific filmography, that’s quite the compliment.
Release dates pending:
High Life (2019)
Blockbusters about space exploration have been optimistic in nature, these films exhibiting mankind’s ever-present belief that we can always rebuild. Claire Denis’ has decidedly taken an antithetical approach to space. A father (Robert Pattinson) and his daughter struggle to survive in isolation in deep space. Their predicament the result of an experiment where criminals become subjects of a human reproduction experiment. They soon find themselves facing the end faster than they imagined after a cosmic storm hits the ship.
Ad Astra (January 2019)
While James Gray’s elegant period pieces (The Immigrant, The Lost City of Z) took place on the metaphorical frontier, his next film will be more literal-minded in that definition. Brad Pitt plays an astronaut who travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father. Though there’s been no trailer or footage for the film yet, Ad Astra is sure to be one of cinephiles’ most sought-after films in early 2019.
The Irishman (2019)
Getting the band back together with Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel is more than enough for The Irishman to be a draw. That it’s also the passion project that Martin Scorsese spent decades bringing to life elevates this Netflix Original from curio to must-watch. Many reports have been published about the escalating cost of production, but given the talent involved, and the push for Netflix to break into the Oscar race with The Irishman, whatever the result will be should be fascinating.