Fall Movie Preview 2017: Oscar Movies, ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Star Wars’ – Rolling Stone
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Fall Movie Preview 2017: Bring On the Oscar Movies, ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Star Wars’

From the studio’s Academy Award hopefuls to superhero blockbusters, a ‘Blade Runner’ sequel to a brand new ‘Star Wars’

They’ll be damn near 130 films opening between now and the end of the year. This preview doesn’t cover all of them – rather, we just cut the fat and went right to the 30 movies with the best chance of not stinking up the multiplex. We’re pretty sure that nothing will make more money – and be more of a blast – than Stars Wars: The Last Jedi. And then what? Questions remain:

–Is anything opening this fall serious competition for summer’s Dunkirk as Best Picture? Maybe The Post, Downsizing, The Shape of Water, Darkest Hour, Call Me by Your Name? Maybe not.

–Can Justice League somehow not suck?

–Will Meryl Streep (The Post) and a pre-retirement Daniel Day Lewis (starring in the currently untitled Paul Thomas Anderson movie about a London tailor) win their fourth acting awards and make Oscar history?

–Can Jackie Chan (The Foreigner) still kick ass at 63?

–Will James Franco (The Disaster Artist) move his career up a notch by playing a millennial version of Ed Wood?

–Can four great performances exist in one single movie (see Last Flag Flying)?

–Is Call Me By Your Name‘s Timothée Chalamet the young acting find of the year?

–Can the breakthrough director of fall actually not be a dude?

–What will happen when Pixar and Mexico get it on in Coco?

–Is #OscarsSoWhite making a disturbing comeback?

For answers to these questions and more surprises (Adam Sandler will have critics cheering – no, really), here are our picks for which fall movies most likely to shake things up.

‘mother!’ (Sep. 15th)

The fall movie season kicks off with a mesmerizing mindbender from writer-director Darren Aronofsky, who wrote this cinematic provocation in a fever over a long weekend. The sizzle is still on it – and you’ve never seen Jennifer Lawrence like this. The Hunger Games star and Javier Bardem, both on fire, play a husband and wife involved in acts of creation (he’s an author with a worshipful cult; she will bear his child) and desecration (Mother Earth is involved). Then another couple (Ed Harris and an Oscar-worthy Michelle Pfeiffer) invade their space. All hell breaks loose, and that’s just for starters. Like Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan, this psychological thriller plumbs the violence of the mind with hallucinatory brilliance. You won’t know what hit you.

‘Battle of the Sexes’ (Sep. 22nd)

Emma Stone and Steve Carell dive right into the awards race by bringing 1973 sports history to life. The Oscar-winning actress is Billie Jean King, the tennis star who takes on male chauvinism in the person of Wimbledon triple-winner Bobbie Riggs (Carell) – a clownish blowhard who thinks women belong in the kitchen or the bedroom. Their exhibition match drew a TV audience of 90 million. Working from a script by Simon Beaufoy, co-directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton (Little Miss Sunshine) allow yesterday’s sexism, i.e. women are paid less and bullied more, resonate powerfully for today. 

‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ (Sep. 22nd)

Who needs Bond when we have the Kingsman franchise? This hugely entertaining sequel to Matthew Vaughn‘s surprise 2015 smash reunites street-kid spy Eggsy (Taron Egerton) with Harry (Colin Firth), the Bond-ish mentor who only seemed to die in the first movie. (That’s Hollywood for you, folks). Kingsman is the name of a swank tailoring shop on Saville Row that fronts for the British agents. Or at least, it was: When things go boom, the spies need to rely on Statesman, a spy group headed by Jeff Bridges. The evil Golden Circle, led by Julianne Moore as a psycho with a nonstop smile, aims to take both organizations down. Fat chance. And don’t get us started on Channing Tatum as an electric-lasso wielding cowboy.

‘Blade Runner 2049’ (Oct. 6th)

Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) directs this long-awaited sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic that sci-fi fanatics never, ever tire of arguing about. Is Harrison Ford’s former blade runner Rick Deckard a human or a replicant? We may find out for sure as Ryan Gosling joins the cast as LAPD Officer K, a new blade runner who meets up with the former cop in a future LA where, Villeneuve says, “the climate has gone berserk – the ocean, the rain, the snow is all toxic.” Is that significant? Is the world at risk? As Deckard says in the trailer: “Too many questions.” 

‘The Florida Project’ (Oct. 6th)

After shooting his last indie sensation, Tangerine, on tricked-up iPhones, filmmaker Sean Baker goes widescreen 35mm for his follow-up – but his focus on outsiders stays thrillingly intimate. Set on the outskirts of Orlando’s Disney World, this funny and fierce film follows two six-year-old girls, Moonie (Brooklynn Kimberly Prince) and Jancey (Valeria Cotto), as they find defiant joy amid the broken dreams of grownups. Moonie’s mother (Bria Vinaite) is an ex-stripper who sells herself to pay the rent on their room at the ironically named Magic Castle Motel, run by put-upon manager named Bobby (Willem Dafoe, in a performance that deserves major award attention).

‘The Foreigner’ (Oct. 13th)

Martial-arts icon Jackie Chan is 63. Too old to kick ass? Like hell. In Martin Campbell’s revenge thriller, Chan plays Quan, a father avenging the murder of his teen daughter in a London bombing organized by terrorists. The despairing dad, who has a secret past, demands payback, much to the annoyance of a government official (Pierce Brosnan) who underestimates Quan at his peril. Yes, Chan can’t move quite the way he used to, but age has deepened his acting prowess, making this that rare action thriller that doesn’t hide the face of pain.

‘The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)’ (Oct. 13th)

Who says Adam Sandler can’t get respect? He can here. In Noah Baumbach’s comedy-drama, Sandler plays the neglected son (Ben Stiller plays the favored one) of a semi-famous New York scultptor (a fine, flinty Dustin Hoffman). In his best performance since Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2002 Punch-Drunk Love, the comedian shows there’s a real actor behind the clown act he’s turned into a successful industry. So bravo to Sandler and a funny, touching and vital film that gets the details right. 

‘Wonderstruck’ (Oct. 20th)

If Todd Haynes isn’t a sterling model for making art by following your heart as a filmmaker, we don’t know who is. Based on the 2011 illustrated novel by Brian Selznick (who wrote the screenplay), Wonderstruck tells two like-minded stories: one about a young deaf girl, Rose (Millicent Simmonds), in 1927 New Jersey; the other about a young deaf boy, Ben (Oakes Fegley), in 1977 Minnesota. Delicate business is being transacted here and Haynes, the director of films as diverse as Far From Heaven and Carol, proves he’s just the visual master to do it. 

‘Suburbicon’ (Oct. 27th)

George Clooney directs and cowrites (with the Coen brothers) this stinging satire of suburban America in the 1950s, when folks looked white-bread friendly while raising hell with the black family that lives next door. Matt Damon stars as a dad who’s victimized by home invasion. His wife (Julianne Moore) dies; her sister (Moore again) moves in to care his son. That’s when an insurance investigator (Oscar Isaac, brilliant) starts turning over rocks and Clooney puts the screws to vintage social rot still alive and toxic in the Trump era. You’ll laugh till it hurts. 

‘Last Flag Flying’ (Nov. 3rd)

Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, and Laurence Fishburne all hit acting peaks in Richard Linklater’s look at three military buddies still trying to heal psychic wounds three decades after they served together in Nam. The trio are forced to reunite after years apart, however, when Carell’s son dies while fighting in Iraq. It’s the mission of these middle-aged men to bring the boy home for burial. The Boyhood director’s latest is a triumph that also features stellar newcomer J. Quinton Johnson (Everybody Wants Some!!) as a young marine. 

‘Roman Israel, Esq.’ (Nov. 3rd)

Just when you think #OscarsSoWhite is be making a disturbing comeback after last year’s Academy diversity push, along comes Denzel Washington to the rescue. In the title role of Roman J. Israel, Esq, written and directed by Dan Gilroy, Washington plays a liberal lawyer at odds with the ethical failings of his firm. Considering how Gilroy brought out bizarrely brilliant new things in Jake Gyllenhaal in 2014’s Nightcrawler, you can expect to see Washington springing surprises.

‘Thor: Ragnarok’ (Nov. 3rd)

Tired of the long blond hair and that damn hammer? You’ll be pleased to know that star Chris Hemsworth is shorn of both in the third stand-alone Thor feature. Director Taika Waititi had a mission to put the fun back into the franchise with the Asgardian’s fellow Avenger The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) back in the mix, along with bad guy/occasional ally/Thor’s brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Their mission? Stop the new villain, Hela the Goddess of Death, from destroying the galaxy. With two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett in the role, they’re going to have their hands full.

‘Lady Bird’ (Nov. 10th)

Is it possible that the breakthrough director of fall will not be dude? Yes – and her name is Greta Gerwig. The 34-year-old actress has co-written films with Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha, Mistress America) and co-directed the indie movie Nights and Weekends with Joe Swanberg. But she’s out there solo with this luminous, beautiful story of a Sacramento high school senior named Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) who wants to go to college in New York. The NorCal native/writer/director gets the details right, from sharply funny dialogue and not-a-false–note direction to knockout performances from Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts as Lady Bird’s parents, as well as Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet as the complicated boys in her life. It’s a dream of a debut.

‘Murder on the Orient Express’ (Nov. 10th)

In 1974, Sidney Lumet directed a film version of
Agatha Christie’s 1934 mystery in which Albert Finney played famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, who’s trying to solve a murder on a long-distance train
filled with all-star suspects. (How “all-star,” you ask? How about Sean Connery, Vanessa
Redgrave, Anthony Perkins, Lauren Bacall and Ingrid Bergman, who won an Oscar for it). Now Kenneth Branagh steps in as director and
dons the Poirot mustache to put his own spin on the classic whodunit. Among those looking guilty as
hell on this express ride to homicide: Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Willem
Dafoe and Dame Judi Dench. Choose your poison.

‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ (Nov. 10th)

For those who believe Frances McDormand (Fargo, Olive Kitteridge) can do
anything, here’s more proof. Anglo-Irish playwright-turned-filmmaker Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) wrote the lead role expressly for the Oscar-winning actress, who plays Mildred Hayes, the  mother of a murdered teen daughter who takes action against the
lazy police in her hometown. How, you ask? By using three
billboards to advertise the local law-enforcement officers’ incompetence. Expect fireworks.

‘Justice League’ (Nov. 17th)

If you hated Batman v Superman – we’re told there are a few who didn’t – you’re
probably thinking this sequel-cum-DC-superhero team-up will suck. Personally, we’re reserving judgement, plus director Zack Snyder has apparently blown away
a lot of gloom by easing up on the internal angst of the Caped Crusader
(Ben Affleck). Not only that, he and his cowriters (including Joss Whedon) have beefed up roles for Ezra Miller as the Flash, Jason
Momoa as Aquaman and 2017’s box-office miracle worker Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. 

‘Mudbound’ (Nov. 17th)

Director Dee Rees (Pariah) has crafted an extraordinary tale of racial
disparity in the Mississippi Delta farm country before and after World
War II. The story contrasts the intertwined lives of a white couple, the
McAllans (Carey Mulligan and Jason Clarke), with a family of black
sharecroppers led by Mary J. Blige, Rob Morgan and Straight Outta Compton‘s Jason Mitchell. Rees handles the complex material with finesse
and fire (she’s a consummate artist), especially the PTSD that afflicts
soldiers on both sides of the color line. Mitchell is superb and
R&B queen Blige is magnificent. It’s a
prodigious feat of filmmaking.

‘Coco’ (Nov. 22nd)

Set
around the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, the latest Pixar film film – directed by Lee
Unkrich (Toy Story 3) –focuses on Miguel (voiced by Anthony
Gonzalez), a 12-year-old wannabe singer who finds himself in the land of
dead. Don’t even think you know what you’ll expect to find there. Among the
all-Latino voice cast is Benjamin Bratt as Miguel’s dead musical hero
and Gael Garcia Bernal as his friend Hector. But it’s the visuals
here that are built to astonish.