Those in search of a thematic thread in this fall’s film releases – always a dubious exercise – will notice a similarity of titles among Wonder, Wonderstruck and Wonder Wheel. May it be a portent of a wonderful awards season at the movies. If the past is any indicator, the major Oscar winners will be hiding in this list of releases arriving in theaters in the final three months of the calendar year. And if the past is any further indicator, some of these films will change their release date or flee into 2018.
Blade Runner 2049 (Oct. 6) – As a follow-up to his Hollywood arrival with Arrival, Canadian director Denis Villeneuve returns to the sci-fi genre with this high-prolife sequel to the 1982 dystopian epic, as Ryan Gosling goes in search of former blade runner Harrison Ford, missing for the past – uh, make that the future – 30 years.
The Mountain Between Us (Oct. 6) – After surviving a plane crash, two strangers — a photojournalist (Kate Winslet) and a surgeon (Idris Elba) – must band together to overcome the brutal elements on a snow-covered mountain and make it back alive. No, this one is decidedly not based on a true story.
The Foreigner (Oct. 13) — Jackie Chan is nearing Social Security age, which means he has outgrown all those high-energy martial arts movies. Still, he’s not ready to be filmed sitting behind a desk, so he has opted to star as a family man intent on hunting down the London terrorist who killed his daughter. Sounds like a script that Liam Neeson passed on.
Marshall (Oct. 13) – Chadwick Boseman is a versatile actor who is marching through the history books, first as racial barrier breaker Jackie Robinson, then soul singer James Brown and now as a young Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court justice, grappling with one of his first major cases.
Geostorm (Oct. 20) – The world is in jeopardy when a network of weather satellites go on the attack against the Earth. Don’t you hate when that happens? Fortunately, perhaps, Gerard Butler steps up to thwart the theater before a global geostorm does in the planet.
Wonderstruck (Oct. 20) – Yes, the reunion of director Todd Haynes and his actress-muse Julianne Moore (Far From Heaven) is reason enough to be interested, but the Oscar-winning star takes a back seat to two young performers in two parallel tales of a pair of runaway deaf kids, 50 years apart, and their unexpected connection.
Thank You for Your Service (Oct. 27) – Every war spawns a film about soldiers returning stateside and having difficulty fitting in back home. This wants to be the re-adjustment movie for the Iraq War, helmed by first-time director Jason Hall and featuring an eclectic cast including Haley Bennett (The Girl on the Train), Miles Teller (Whiplash) and Amy Schumer (Trainwreck).
Suburbicon (Oct. 27) – George Clooney directs his Ocean’s Eleven buddy Matt Damon in an insurance scam drama, co-written by Clooney from a Coen Brothers draft. Damon and Julianne Moore are a larcenous married couple who may have knocked off her sister for the insurance payoff, and Oscar Isaac is the persistent insurance agent on their trail.
A Bad Moms Christmas (Nov. 3) To prove that anything that makes enough money will spawn a sequel, here come Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell again, again behaving badly and getting some competition from their own moms – Christine Baranski, Susan Sarandon and Cheryl Hines.
Roman J. Israel, Esq. (Nov. 3) – Denzel Washington is the title character, an out-of-date Afro-coiffed, shabbily dressed attorney with Asperger’s syndrome, the gifted researcher in a two-man office. But when his partner dies, Roman must learn to cope with a new trial lawyer, an intolerant Colin Farrell. Directed by Dan Gilroy, more in Nightcrawler mode than Michael Clayton.
Murder on the Orient Express (Nov. 10) – The classic Agatha Christie upscale murder mystery gets a classy remake from Kenneth Branagh, who directs and plays intrepid Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. One of the star-studded cast members is the train passenger killer, but is it Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Willem Dafoe or Penelope Cruz?
Goodbye Christopher Robin (Nov. 10) – If this true-life tale of author A.A. Milne and his inspiration/son C.R. only attracts an audience of those who grew up on the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, it should be a very lucrative little film. Domhnall Gleeson plays Milne and looker Margot Robbie co-stars as his wife, Daphne.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Nov. 10) – Playwright Martin McDonagh made an Oscar-winning transition to filmmaking nine years ago with In Bruges and it appears that he has another winner with this tense tale of a mother (Frances McDormand) who resorts to outdoor advertising in an attempt to goad the local authorities into solving her daughter’s murder.
LBJ (Nov. 3) – Just when we were comfortable with Bryan Cranston as Lyndon Johnson, along comes Woody Harrelson to play him in this Rob Reiner-helmed biopic of the politician’s early days in West Texas up to his ascension to the presidency. Jennifer Jason Leigh gets to affect a Lone Star drawl as the love of his life, Lady Bird.
Justice League (Nov. 17) — Ben Affleck, who reprises his role as Batman, describes this movie as a Magnificent Seven of superheros. He rounds up Wonder Woman (the va-va-voom Gal Gadot), Aquaman, the Flash and Cyborg to – what else? – save the world from a cosmic threat. What, you expected them to go after overdue library book scofflaws?
Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (Nov. 17) – For those of us who haven’t gotten over Annette Bening’s Oscar nomination snub for last year’s 20th Century Women and who think she is simply the best actress working who has not won an Academy Award, here is the movie that will remove her from that category. The word from Toronto is that she is flat-out brilliant as fading actress Gloria Grahame, who contracts a mysterious, life-threatening disease and is taken in to his family’s Liverpool cottage by an adoring fan (Jamie Bell). Adapted from a memoir by Peter Turner, the role that Bell plays.
Wonder (Nov. 17) – Jacob Tremblay, the remarkable child actor of Room, gets another juicy role as Auggie Pullman, a youngster born with facial differences which kept him out of school, now – pardon the expression – facing the challenges of attending fifth grade and the bullying and cruelty of the other students. Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson play his supportive, sensitive parents. Bring Kleenex.
Coco (Nov. 22) – Ever since Bambi and Dumbo, Disney animation has dared tackle the subject of death and made it palatable for youngsters. They double down on that theme in this tale of a 12-year-old Mexican boy, an aspiring singer, who is transported by accident to the Land of the Dead. There he meets his late great-great-grandmother who helps him return to the other side. The film features an all-Latino voice cast, including Benjamin Bratt and Gael Garcia Bernal.
Molly’s Game (Nov. 22) – Jessica Chastain gravitates to roles of strong women (Zero Dark Thirty, Miss Sloane), so she naturally was drawn to this real-life tale of an Olympic-level skier who relocated to Los Angeles to run a very high stakes poker game. Along the way, of course, she drew the attention of the Feds. The story drew the attention of Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who makes his directing debut.
The Current War (Nov. 24) – The title is a pun, since this is not about any of the contemporary wars we are waging, but the war between two brilliant 20th-century inventors – Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) over their dueling electrical systems, at a time when perfecting a sustainable current over long distances was a highly sought innovation.
The Disaster Artist (Dec. 1) – Make way for the Franco brothers – James and Dave – whose idea of an appealing movie is somewhat peculiar. James directs them as rotten tomato filmmaker Tommy Wiseau, while Dave plays his co-star and chronicler, Greg Sestero. The disaster in question is the infamous, nearly unwatchable The Room (not to be confused with the Oscar-winning Room). The Room is said to have a huge cult following for its lack of quality and presumably the Francos are hoping for a similar reaction.
Wonder Wheel (Dec. 1) – Claiming to be indifferent to awards, Woody Allen rarely releases his films at year’s end, but maybe he feels differently about his latest, a vehicle for Kate Winslet and Justin Timberlake. Set in 1950s Coney Island, Brooklyn, where and when the Woodman grew up, it concerns the wife of a carousel operator (Winslet), who falls madly in love with a lifeguard (Timberlake), then competes for him with her husband’s estranged daughter.
All the Money in the World (Dec. 8) – Remember when J. Paul Getty’s 16-year-old grandson was kidnapped in the early 1970s? OK, we don’t either, but that is the jumping-off point for this Ridley Scott-helmed film. Kevin Spacey plays Getty, Michelle Williams is the teen’s mom and Mark Wahlberg is a former CIA agent brought in to solve the case and get the kid back. No fair Googling to see how it ends.
The Shape of Water (Dec. 8) – The Oscar buzz is high for this latest from director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), following its Golden Lion win at the Venice Film Festival. Sally Hawkins is said to be a standout as a worker at a high-security government lab who stumbles upon a highly classified experiment. With featured support from Octavia Spencer and Michael Shannon.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Dec. 15) – If only this really were the last Jedi movie, but Disney knew a cash cow when it bought the franchise from George Lucas, with no end to the series in sight. This one begins where The Force Awakens left off, with an aged, broken and bitter Luke Skywalker intent on terminating the tradition of Jedi warriors, much to the dismay of Rey (Daisy Ridley). Reportedly, director Rian Johnson scrambled to edit in all the usable footage of the late Carrie Fisher, a/k/a Princess Leia. Good, bad or indifferent, this will surely be one of the year’s most commercial films.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Dec. 20) – The target teen market may have no idea about the 1995 antecedent to this action drama about a playing-for-keeps video game, but their parents surely do. A quartet of teens stumble onto the game and get sucked into the jungle in the bodies of Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black and newcomer Karen Gillan. Peril ensues.
Bastards (Dec. 22) – When Glenn Close levels with her sons Ed Helms and Owen Wilson that they are not exactly legitimate, they go in search of their real father(s). Hilarity ensues.
Pitch Perfect 3 (Dec. 22) – In notoriously chauvinistic Hollywood, the success of the 2012 tale of an a cappella girls’ singing group came as a total surprise. Now on its second sequel, and still featuring Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Elizabeth Banks and Hailee Steinfeld, the scene changes to overseas and yet another reunion of the Belles in a U.S.O. competition.
Downsizing (Dec. 22) – Sideways director Alexander Payne has made some terrific films lately (The Descendants, Nebraska) and depending on which reports you believe, he has either extended his win streak with this satirical tale about a guy (Matt Damon) who tries to improve his life by shrinking himself or Payne has lost his mind. Kristen Wiig co-stars as his wife, who also submits to the miniaturization experiment.
The Post (Dec. 22) – That would be The Washington Post, the folks that helped bring down Richard Nixon over the Watergate cover-up. This film takes us back to the newsroom to another grudge match between the D.C. daily and the government over the public of the Pentagon Papers. Meryl Streep plays publisher Katherine Graham – Can you say “Oscar bait”? – and Tom Hanks gets into the skin of irascible managing editor Ben Bradlee. Bringing it to the big screen is that promising director, Steven Spielberg.
The Greatest Showman (Dec. 25) – Wolverine fans will have to adjust to seeing Hugh Jackman as a song-and-dance man in this original movie musical about P.T. Barnum, the circus impresario. Michelle Williams is his wife Charity, Rebecca Ferguson is his mistress Swedish vocalist Jenny Lind, with songs contributed by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Oscar winners for La La Land.
Phantom Thread (Dec. 25) – That may or may not be the title when this film gets released at year’s end, but we do know it is another collaboration between There Will Be Blood director Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis, playing a 1950s London dressmaker. Day-Lewis has declared that this will be his final screen performance, but maybe he will relent like Steven Soderbergh did.