Awards season is just around the corner, which means we’re about to get deluged with biopics. Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood) and Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland (Judy) lead a parade of awards-grubbers into theaters and onto video-on-demand platforms this autumn. Of course, we’ll still get the incessant sequels and reboots, including objectively unnecessary follow-ups to Maleficent and Zombieland, as well as the latest installments in the moth-eaten Rambo and Terminator franchises. All that and we haven’t even mentioned the unleaded nightmare fuel that is the trailer for Cats. Thankfully, Sacramento-based film critic Daniel Barnes is here to make sense of the release schedule by picking his 10 most anticipated films of the fall.
Ad Astra (Sept. 20)
Writer-director James Gray follows The Lost City of Z with another story about an obsessive journey into uncharted territory. Brad Pitt stars in Ad Astra as an astronaut searching for his missing father (Tommy Lee Jones) in the farthest reaches of the solar system. It’s a rare opportunity for indie darling Gray (The Immigrant) to realize one of his visions on an immense scale.
The Irishman (Sept. 27)
The shots of Robert De Niro CGI-scrubbed to appear several decades younger look like Grand Theft Auto cut scenes. Still, it can’t hurt to trust director Martin Scorsese to make it work. This time, the master reunites De Niro and Joe Pesci, while also working with Al Pacino for the first time on this Netflix production. Director Noah Baumbach also debuts his Marriage Story on Netflix in September.
Lucy in the Sky (Oct. 4)
More auteurs in space, as Fargo and Legion creator Noah Hawley makes his feature directorial debut with this psychological drama. Natalie Portman plays an astronaut who begins to lose her grip on reality after returning to Earth. Hawley created some of the most ambitious and compelling television of the last decade, so it’s exciting to see how he handles the larger canvas.
Pain and Glory (Oct. 4)
Pedro Almodóvar directs Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz in a film about anything. That’s enough to get me excited about Pain and Glory, even if Almodóvar’s last two efforts (Julieta and I’m So Excited!) slightly underwhelmed. Banderas stars here as an aging director reminiscing about his life and career.
Parasite (Oct. 11)
South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s “family tragicomedy” took home the Palme d’Or this year at the Cannes Film Festival. More importantly, it looks like a return to Memories of Murder form for Joon-ho (Snowpiercer, The Host) after the mixed bag of Okja.
The Lighthouse (Oct. 18)
A black-and-white two-hander set on a New England island in the 1890s might not hold broad box office appeal. But since Robert Eggers directed The Witch, I’m prepared to follow his muse off a cliff. The Lighthouse stars Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson as isolated lighthouse keepers succumbing to their nightmares.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Dec. 20)
J.J. Abrams returns to direct Episode IX after Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi bitterly divided the fan base. Honestly, I’m not even all that fired up for this latest piece of Star Wars movie product. However, a lack of firm release dates for upcoming films from directors like Todd Haynes, Steven Soderbergh, Armando Iannucci and Trey Edward Shults opened a spot. That said, I’m still rooting for The Rise of Skywalker. Just don’t screw it up… again.
Little Women (Dec. 25)
Although writer-director Greta Gerwig adapted Little Women from the 1868 novel by Louisa May Alcott, it looks more like a period piece remake of Lady Bird. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Saoirse Ronan once again stars for Gerwig as an ambitious and class-conscious young woman with a crush on Timothée Chalamet, and a quirky family to boot. Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Laura Dern and Meryl Streep round out an excellent cast.
1917 (Dec. 25)
Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk became a critical and commercial success in 2017, earning numerous nominations and awards, so the knockoffs naturally follow. On the surface, director Sam Mendes’ 1917 seems like an attempt to bring Dunkirk-style intensity to a World War I film. The story concerns a couple of fresh-faced soldiers (George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) racing to call off a disastrous charge.
Uncut Gems (Dec. 25)
Director brothers Benny and Josh Safdie made one of the best films of 2017 with Good Time, so I’m naturally excited to see what comes next. This NYC-set crime film also offers a change-of-pace part for Adam Sandler, which is always refreshing. The eclectic cast of Uncut Gems also includes Idina Menzel, Julia Fox, LaKeith Stanfield, Kevin Garnett and The Weekend.