As summer cools down, we’re entering perhaps the best time of year for cinephiles, with a variety of festivals presenting the premieres of some of our most-anticipated 2019 features. As we do each year, after highlighting the best films offered thus far, we’ve set out to provide a comprehensive preview of the fall titles that should be on your radar.
Featuring 50 films, the below feature includes both the best films we’ve already seen (with full reviews where available) and the anticipated films with (mostly) confirmed release dates that are coming over the next four months. A good amount will premiere over the next few weeks at Telluride, Venice, TIFF, and NYFF, so check back for our reviews.
See our list below, and return soon for the second part of our preview: the festival premieres with no release dates and/or U.S. distribution we’re most looking forward to.
Ms. Purple (Justin Chon; Sept. 6)
In Los Angeles, a brother and sister are brought back together as their father slips away. Such is the crux of Ms. Purple, the sophomore feature from writer/director Justin Chon, who was at Sundance in 2017 with his debut Gook. Kasie (an incredible Tiffany Chu) moonlights as a hostess at a karaoke bar, in which she serves at the whim of male clients. It is demeaning work, something she tries to wash away in the mornings. – Dan M. (full review)
Monos (Alejandro Landes; Sept. 13)
There’s a preternatural feel to the opening sequences of Monos, the brutal, unflinching third film from Colombian-Ecuadorian filmmaker Alejandro Landes (Cocalero, Porfirio). As if we’re floating through clouds at the edge of the world, we witness a group of children, blindfolded, playing soccer, the fear instilled that a misaimed kick could send the ball hurling into the unknown oblivion below. With information patiently, sparingly doled out–even up until the final moments–we learn this tight-knit clan is, in fact, a rebel group in the mountains of Latin America, sporadically visited by a commander but mostly given orders through a radio. Left to their own devices, the two most crucial responsibilities they are given are to care for a cow named Shakira and oversee a kidnapped American engineer, only referred to as Doctora (Julianne Nicholson). – Jordan R. (full review)
Ad Astra (James Gray; Sept. 20)
Considering my sky-high anticipation for James Gray’s space drama Ad Astra, I’ve avoided all trailers thus far, but the buzz has been strong for this Brad Pitt-led story. Also starring Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Donald Sutherland and Jamie Kennedy, the film follows our lead as astronaut Roy McBride who sets out on a mission to find his missing father and, of course, discover more mysteries of our vast solar system. Hopefully shaping up to be a singular entry into the fall season, we imagine Gray’s film may not connect with those expecting another The Martian or Interstellar or Gravity–and it’ll be all the better for it. – Jordan R.
Between Two Ferns (Scott Aukerman; Sept. 20)
One may wonder just how the Zach Galifianakis web series Between Two Ferns could be expanded into a feature film, but in the hands of Scott Aukerman, our fears are kept at bay. Netflix is keeping the surely massive of cast cameos a tight-lipped secret, thankfully, so we expect many surprises are in store come this September. “We shot it like an actual documentary, where we built a public-access station and we shot at it. And if something came up where one of the actors would improvise something, we would then get with our production designers and production team and go shoot that scene that just came up in the improvising. So it was really a fun, cool way to do a movie,” Aukerman recently told Vulture. – Jordan R.
Diego Maradona (Asif Kapadia; Sept. 20)
Professional football (or soccer, if it pleases) has never really lent its wonders to the big screen. Lacking the glitz of North America’s more popular team sports or even the staggering, gladiatorial heroism of something like boxing, when it comes to cinematic myth making the so-called beautiful game has always, for one reason or another, faltered. The new documentary Diego Maradona attempts and at times succeeds in addressing that situation by zooming in on the tumultuous years that the Argentinian footballer Diego Maradona–still believed by many to be the greatest ever to play the game–spent at Napoli, an Italian football club based in the city of Naples. – Rory O. (full review)
The Death of Dick Long (Daniel Scheinert; Sept. 27)
When the directing duo known as DANIELS brought Swiss Army Man to Sundance in 2016 they took audiences aback with their peculiarly original vision, involving fart-propelled, jet-skiing corpses and boner compasses. Daniel Scheinert, one-half of the directing team, has now returned with The Death of Dick Long, a more naturalistic but also funnier (and more disturbing) follow-up. A butt rock epic built on bad decisions with plenty of affectation for its idiotic characters, the deeply dark comedy does for small-town Alabama what Fargo did for Minnesota. – Jordan R. (full review)
In the Shadow of the Moon (Jim Mickle; Sept. 27)
With his last film being released in 2014, we’ve been waiting some time for Jim Mickle to return after Cold in July and now he’s back, reteaming with Michael C. Hall. Set for a Netflix release, In the Shadow of the Moon follows a police offer (Boyd Holbrook) on his way to becoming a detective as he tracks down a serial killer. As the synopsis reads, “When the killer’s crimes begin to defy all scientific explanation, Locke’s obsession with finding the truth threatens to destroy his career, his family, and possibly his sanity.” Initially reported to include some sci-fi elements, we’re looking forward to Mickle and company delivering another hard-boiled genre outing. – Jordan R.
First Love (Takashi Miike; Sept. 27)
The last film legendary Japanese ultra-violence auteur Takashi Miike brought to Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight (Yakuza Apocalypse, 2015) featured a character that was essentially a person in a felt frog costume that looked like it’d gone through the wash a few too many times. The being had a knack for martial arts and, like some acid-trip Sesame Street version of the four horsemen, was said to signal the coming apocalypse. So to note that First Love, Miike’s latest deliriously violent mob film, which opened this week in that same renowned sidebar, is the more sober of the two is to perhaps not say a whole lot. – Rory O. (full review)
The Laundromat (Steven Soderbergh; Sept. 27 in theaters and Oct. 18 on Netflix)
Does Steven Soderbergh have two great films in him this year? After High Flying Bird, he’s reteamed with Netflix for the Panama Papers drama The Laundromat. With the wildly varied cast of Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, Jeffrey Wright, Matthias Schoenaerts, David Schwimmer, Alex Pettyfer, James Cromwell, Sharon Stone, Will Forte, we can’t wait to see what tone this takes and we’ll find out soon when it premieres at Venice. – Jordan R.
Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodóvar; Oct. 4)
Pedro Almodóvar, the punk chronicler of post-Francoist Spain, turns inwards for his 21st feature Pain and Glory, which arrives in competition at Cannes as a summation of his storied career, a quasi-self-portrait of an artist as an older man. Even for Almodóvar, this is an especially personal work, anchored by the director’s on-off muse Antonio Banderas in perhaps his greatest performance and sweeps through the Spanish maestro’s recurrent themes: high melodrama and kitsch comedy, piety and carnal lust, sex and death, human pain and transcendent glory. – Ed F. (full review)
Memory: The Origins of Alien (Alexandre O. Philippe; Oct. 4)
Four decades after its release, it’s become etched in cinema history that Ridley Scott’s Alien was a landmark achievement in not only the science-fiction genre, but horror as well, and specifically the feat of nightmarish imagery that now exists in the deepest corridors of our collective conscious. As the compelling new documentary MEMORY—The Origins of Alien explores, the space odyssey “didn’t come out a vacuum.” Rather, it was an immensely collaborative effort that drew on paintings, novels, films, mythology, current events, and centuries-old sociological and ideological issues to conjure such a masterpiece. – Jordan R. (full review)
Lucy in the Sky (Noah Hawley; Oct. 4)
After an adventurous 2018 with her sci-fi odyssey Annihilation and ambitious pop star drama Vox Lux, Natalie Portman is leading Lucy in the Sky, a drama which follows her character as an astronaut whose life unravels when she returns from a mission. Coming from Noah Hawley, it will mark his directorial debut and we’re curious to see how his experience creating Fargo and Legion translates to the big screen. Fox Searchlight seems to lack some confidence in the film after a release date only recently set and late TIFF addition announcement, but hopefully it’s a strong double feature with Ad Astra. – Jordan R.
Dolemite is My Name (Craig Brewer; Oct. 4 in theaters and Oct. 25 on Netflix)
While Netflix has some fairly high-profile releases this fall, as seen on this page, they will also be bringing much more to festivals. One title that brings anticipation is Dolemite Is My Name, from Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan director Craig Brewer, which is premiering at TIFF. Led by Eddie Murphy as a comedian who attempts a comeback by taking the persona of the much more fly Dolemite, the film features the epic cast of Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Kodi Smit-Mcphee, Snoop Dogg, Ron Cephas Jones, Barry Shabaka Henley, Tip ‘TI’ Harris, Luenell, Tasha Smith, and Wesley Snipes. – Jordan R.
The King (David Michod; Oct. 11 in theaters and Nov. 1 on Netflix)
Timothée Chalamet is getting medieval. The Call Me By Your Name star is leading David Michôd’s The King, which includes the impressive supporting cast of Robert Pattinson, Sean Harris, Ben Mendelsohn, and Lily-Rose Depp. Based off the Shakespeare play Henry V, and adapted for the screen by both Michôd and Joel Edgerton, who will also star in the film, Chalamet plays Henry V in the titular role and will follow his involuntary rise to power after the death of his brother–all while facing military conflict with France. Michôd’s last Netflix collaboration, War Machine, didn’t go down so well, but hopefully better things are in store for this one when it premieres at Venice. – Jordan R.
Parasite (Bong Joon-ho; Oct 11)
Basements are a recurring motif in the cinema of Bong Joon-ho. From the tunnels running below the apartment building of Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000), to the torture chambers in Memories of Murder (2003) and Okja (2017), to the monster’s lair in The Host (2006), these underground spaces are where society keeps its most sordid secrets locked up and out of sight, only to have them resurface with a vengeance. Bong greatly expands the subterranean metaphor in Parasite, which looks at the culture of underground living in Seoul–a literal lower class forced by economic necessity to live in basements or semi-basements–to deliver a withering assessment of the social stratification in his native South Korea. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)
In My Room (Ulrich Köhler; Oct. 11)
At what point do vaguely-related surface movements form into something resembling a wave? The idea of a so-called “Berlin School” has been doing the rounds for quite a while. However, the creative output of that group of filmmakers in the last few years has been nothing short of astonishing. Christian Petzold led the way with Barbara (2012) and Phoenix (2014) but nothing could have prepared us for Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann rocking Cannes or Valeska Grisebach’s Western doing the same last year. Petzold’s Transit divided audiences (we thought it was great) in Berlin in February and now we encounter this strange, intimate, little science-fiction film. – Rory O. (full review)
Mister America (Eric Notarnicola; Oct. 11)
Along with starring in one of the year’s biggest films, Us, and releasing a new, surprisingly tender album, Tim Heidecker is heading into the fall with his own leading role. Mister America expands one of the most beloved universes in media, the On Cinema universe, as we follow Heidecker’s political journey to unseat a San Bernardino District Attorney who led a charge against him for selling fatal e-cigarettes at an EDM festival. Also starring, of course, Gregg Turkington, we hope they are preparing their awards season speeches now. – Jordan R.
Gemini Man (Ang Lee; Oct. 11)
Ang Lee has proven time and time again that his work cannot be so easily categorized. From directing a Jane Austen period picture (Sense and Sensibility) to a masterpiece of wuxia cinema (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) to crafting one of the most heart wrenching romantic dramas of the early 2000s with Brokeback Mountain to pushing technology with his last few projects, the director has never shied away the unknown. This defiance of being pigeonholed into one particular type of film is on full display with Gemini Man, which finds the director working in 120 frames per second and 3D. In Ang Lee’s second foray into action and science-fiction since his ill-fated Hulk film, Will Smith plays an elite assassin who discovers that an operative who can counter his every move and is trying to eliminate him is a younger clone version of himself. – Margaret R.
Les Misérables (Ladj Ly; Oct. 18)
The new film Les Misérables may take only passing glances to Victor Hugo’s text but it does boast a synopsis worthy of the sheer exuberance of that title. Hugo wrote his classic novel in the early-to-mid 19th century, but this film couldn’t be more wired-in to contemporary Paris if it tried. In it, we see the fuse of gang warfare lit when a young man, named Issa (Issa Perica), steals a lion cub from a traveling circus. Issa is a black kid in Saint-Denis, a buzzing multi-cultural suburb in the north of the French capital. The circus owners are Gypsy travelers. The most seemingly reasonable community leader is an ex-con turned Muslim Brotherhood sage named Salah (Almamy Kanoute), who runs the local kebab shop. The unofficial mayor of the block (Steve Tientcheu) wears not a shirt and tie but a jersey of the French national team with “Le Maire” on the back. The Javert to his Jean Val-Jean is a racist cop who at one point shouts “I am the law.” Almost everyone hopes to see the cub returned so as to bring things back to their delicate equilibrium. The whiff of rebellion might linger–along with Salah’s rotating lamb meat–but we are a far, far shot from crew-cut Anne Hathaway and talk-singing Hugh Jackman. – Rory O. (full review)
Synonyms (Nadiv Lapid; Oct. 25)
Relocation becomes dislocation in director Nadav Lapid’s intense, beguiling Synonyms. Winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, the story follows a young Israeli man who moves to Paris in the hope of shedding his past and remolding his identity, yet instead finds his sense of self chipped away at. This is an unsettling film about nationality and how society shapes people in a way that is difficult to entirely shake off. – Rory O. (full review)
The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers; Oct. 18)
For all its finely considered dread, the reason Robert Eggers’ ungulate-deifying debut The Witch made such a cultural mark had far more to do with its sense of mischief. Sure, puritan religious life is fine, Eggers seemed to say, but have you ever tried living deliciously? His second feature, The Lighthouse, brilliantly confirms that taste for devilry and narrative subterfuge. It’s a ghost story drenched in gritty, saltwater-flecked period accuracy and anchored in cautionary maritime fables, but one with a boozy, amorous, and darkly comic edge that made me think of everything from The Birds to Ben Wheatley’s similarly trippy A Field in England. Needless to say, it rules. – Rory O. (full review)
By The Grace of God (François Ozon; Oct. 18)
French director François Ozon has delivered one of the best films of his eclectic career with By the Grace of God, a drama whose seriousness and sincerity marks a tonal shift for a filmmaker typically famous for sexual and sensual provocation. Instead, this chronicle of a real-life grassroots campaign to out Catholic priests who committed and covered up of historic sexual abuse is unsensational and methodical, immaculately written through a script that radically tells three different stories that slide seamlessly together. – Ed F. (full review)
Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi; Oct. 18)
In between his family-friendly Thor adventures (and a secretive new project), Taika Waititi is letting his darkly humorous side shine. For his next directorial effort, Jojo Rabbit, he plays none other than Adolf Hitler in what Fox Searchlight’s marketing describes as an “anti-hate satire.” Set for a world premiere at TIFF, the film follows a boy who idolizes the Nazi party and dreams up his imaginary version of Hitler. While we don’t expect a Chaplin-esque classic, we imagine Waititi has found the heart, humor, and horror in such a story. – Jordan R.
The Kill Team (Dan Krauss; Oct. 25)
Adapted from his 2013 documentary of the same title, Dan Krauss’ The Kill Team is an alarming look at the culture of toxic masculinity, turning a documentary about a family’s struggle in the military justice system into a white knuckle war thriller. Nat Wolff stars as Andrew Briggmann, inspired by the real story of Adam Winfield (chronicled in the documentary), an 18-year-old kid sent to Afghanistan where soldiers had a hard time seeing exactly what the point of their deployment was while working a checkpoint. When their commanding officer, a believer in hearts and minds, is blown up by a landmine right in front of his command they’re sent a charmingly charismatic killer Sergeant Deeks (chillingly played by Alexander Skarsgård) who primes his young team, including Briggmann, with the precision of a child molester, building trust, prying on his victims, and employing them to keep their mouths shut. – John F. (full review)
Light From Light (Paul Harrill; Nov. 1)
If the jump scares and horror set pieces of Paranormal Activity or The Conjuring franchises were exchanged for an authentic reckoning of the tangled emotions the departed may leave behind, you have something close to Light From Light. There’s a palpable tension to this story of paranormal investigating, but rather than injecting the expected terror, the film’s power lies in never seeing ghost hunting depicted so grounded and character-driven before. This is the kind of film where the minutiae of insurance policies are discussed before any haunting may begin. Those going into Paul Harrill’s second feature looking for frights will be rewarded with something more substantial: an experience rich with atmosphere and humanity, and drama ultimately more enlightening than the cheap thrills that pervade the dime-a-dozen ghost stories we’ve seen before. – Jordan R. (full review)
Waves (Trey Edward Shults; Nov. 1)
A surprise addition to the fall release calendar (and A24’s packed slate) is the latest film from Krisha and It Comes at Night director Trey Edward Shults. Set for a TIFF premiere (and perhaps an early Telluride bow beforehand), Waves is a South Florida-set drama starring Sterling K. Brown, Lucas Hedges, Calvin Harrison Jr., and Alexa Demie. Not much is known about this story of a suburban African-American family, but with score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, as well as Shults looking to bounce back from his disappointing horror feature, it’s shaping up to be a one-of-a-kind experience. – Jordan R.
Burden (Andrew Heckler; Nov. 1)
There’s a clear desire to dig into the complexities of prejudice in Burden, written and directed by Andrew Heckler and based on the true story of Mike Burden. The ambition throughout is admirable, though the execution wavers a bit in spots. Garrett Hedlund stars as the titular character, a Ku Klux Klansman living in South Carolina. He puts in work as a repo man for Tom Griffin (Tom Wilkinson), a KKK leader and supremely evil person. Mike’s doing his best to come back from years of military service overseas, mumbling through his sentences and walking with a handful of limps and ticks. It’s a whole lot of performance from Hedlund, whose choices stay consistent and ultimately build themselves into the narrative. – Dan M. (full review)
Motherless Brooklyn (Edward Norton; Nov. 1)
It’s been nearly two decades since Edward Norton first got behind the camera, for his 2000 directorial debut Keeping the Faith, but this fall his long-gestating passion project will finally be brought to screens. Norton has been trying to do his take on Jonathan Lethem’s novel Motherless Brooklyn even before his last film got off the ground and it will now get a strong festival bow, playing at TIFF, NYFF, and likely Telluride. Starring Norton, Willem Dafoe, Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Leslie Mann, Bobby Cannavale, Fisher Stevens, and Cherry Jones, the story follows a private investigator with Tourette syndrome who works to solve the mystery of his mentor’s murder. Rather than being set in the 1990s as the novel, the crime story is now reimagined to the 1950s, and with a new Thom Yorke song, we’re looking forward to seeing Norton’s approach. – Jordan R.
The Irishman (Martin Scorsese; Nov. 1 in theaters and Nov. 27 on Netflix)
No film this fall brings more anticipation than Martin Scorsese’s crime epic The Irishman, which unites Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran, Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa, as well as Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin, Bobby Cannavale, and Ray Romano. Having recently finished the book it’s based on, Charles Brandt’s I Heard You Paint Houses, I’m intrigued at how Scorsese and Steven Zaillian extract the heart of his expansive, harrowing, and occasionally humorous story. – Jordan R.
Harriet (Kasi Lemmons; Nov. 1)
Although she was celebrated on stage, Cynthia Erivo finally made a major splash on the big screen last fall with Widows and stealing the show in the underseen Bad Times at the El Royale. This year, she returns with a major lead performance as Harriet Tubman in a new dram directed by Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou, Talk to Me), who co-wrote the script with Gregory Allen Howard (Ali, Remember the Titans). Featuring a cast including Leslie Odom Jr., Janelle Monáe, Joe Alwyn, Jennifer Nettles, and Clarke Peters, expect this to be a highlight of the fall festival circuit and beyond. – Jordan R.
Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach; Nov. 6 in theaters and Dec. 6 on Netflix)
Noah Baumbach’s last film The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) was one of his most accomplished and now he’s back with Netflix for Marriage Story, starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as a couple whose relationship is falling apart. Set for a festival tour that includes Venice, Telluride, TIFF, and NYFF, it’s shaping up to be one of the fall’s most anticipated films. The supporting cast of Laura Dern, Alan Alda, and Ray Liotta, as well as a reunion with cinematographer Robbie Ryan, only make it more enticing. – Jordan R.
Honey Boy (Alma Har’el; Nov. 8)
Following sci-fi sound effects over the opening credits on a black screen, Honey Boy begins with a hard cut on the face of Lucas Hedges as he’s pulled back on a harness on the 2005 set of a blockbuster. A clear nod to the Transformers franchise, we then rapidly run through multiple on-set experiences that blend into an alcohol-induced car accident. This opening, however, is not an indication of where we’re headed. Written by Shia LaBeouf, Honey Boy could have easily been a satire of his much-publicized last decade, with his headline-making performance act and legal troubles. To the film’s benefit, LaBeouf and director Alma Har’el rather go much more in-depth (and farther back), taking a deep-rooted look into the actor’s traumatic childhood. Whether intentionally intended or not, this earnest endeavor does wonders to enact sympathy and overturn any negative public perception of his outbursts, even if it can feel more like self-therapy than a fully-formed film. – Jordan R. (full review)
Crown Vic (Joel Souza; Nov. 15)
Had Training Day been made today it would have to contend with the changing role of policing in the age of the body camera and the armchair lawyer with a tiny broadcast studio in his pocket. For old school cops like Officer Ray Mandel, who operate in a gray area, its part of the job he laments the most. He’s not interested in de-escalation, although he tows the party line up until the moment when he no longer can–playing by the book might just get you killed. – John F. (full review)
Ford v. Ferrari (James Mangold; Nov. 15)
After spending much of the past decade enmeshed in the world of superheroes, director James Mangold’s next film finds him going back half-a-century to capture a key moment in automotive history. Ford v Ferrari is set during 1966’s 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France, with Christian Bale taking the role of British racer Ken Miles and Matt Damon playing American car designer Carroll Shelby as they hoped their Ford model would stand up in a world dominated by Ferrari. – Jordan R.
The Lodge (Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala; Nov. 15)
Comparisons to Ari Aster’s Hereditary are legitimate from pretty much the opening scene of The Lodge, Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’s follow-up to Goodnight Mommy that mixes fanatic Christianity and a snowbound setting for a slow-burning freakshow. Fortunately, despite these many similarities, The Lodge successfully deviates by its chilling finale into something all its own. – Jake H. (full review)
Midnight Family (Luke Lorentzen; Nov. 15)
The startling fact that there are only 45 official ambulances amongst Mexico City’s 9 million-plus population sets the intense, harrowing stage for Midnight Family. Following one family that runs their own operation, Luke Lorentzen takes an intimate look at the dedication required for such a task with a keen eye on the economic toll. With patients not requiring to pay, even if they may have died if not for this medical help, it creates a complicated situation when asking for the bill–and that’s only if they can beat out all the other private ambulances racing towards the scene of an accident. While one wishes this portrait was a little more fleshed out, the snapshot we get certainly sends a jolt, particularly in an unforgettable scene involving familial neglect. – Jordan R.
The Report (Scott Z. Burns; Nov. 15)
With it now being over a decade since the Bush-Cheney era, our perspective on the recent history is greater, which means it is time for filmmakers to have a stronger focus on mining the territory of post-9/11 political debacles. While Adam McKay’s Vice divided in its useful insight (or lack thereof), Scott Z. Burns takes a strictly procedural route in the thrilling, sharply written The Report. A student of the Steven Soderbergh school of filmmaking, it has the propulsive slickness of that director’s best films, without ever feeling derivative. – Jordan R. (full review)
The Hottest August (Brett Story; Nov. 15)
Where better than New York City to make a structuralist film? Cities are iterative, their street grids diagrams of theme and variation, and New York most of all—with its streets and avenues named for numbers and letters and states and cities and presidents and Revolutionary War generals spanning an archipelago, intersecting at a million little data points at which to measure class, race, culture, history, architecture and infrastructure. And time, too—from this human density emerge daily and seasonal rituals, a set of biorhythms, reliable as the earth’s, against which to mark gradual shifts and momentary fashions. Summer is for lounging on fire escapes, always, and, today, for Mister Softee. Yesterday it was shaved ice. Tomorrow, who knows? – Mark A. (full review)
Varda by Agnès (Agnès Varda; Nov. 22)
Life can seldom offer us neat endings. Cinema sometimes can, and there is something nicely fitting to the notion that Agnès Varda, the seventh art’s great celebrator of all things gleaned, would leave audiences–newcomers and devotees alike–with so much to take from her final film, as Varda par Agnès has ultimately proved to be. It is a swan song but not a melancholy tune, more a joyous celebratory coda to the director’s life and work, a film that feels purpose-built to dispel any notions of solemnity around her passing. – Rory O. (full review)
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Marielle Heller; Nov. 22)
Although we were firmly in the minority when it comes to Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (along with the Academy), audiences clearly felt differently, leading to last year’s biggest documentary hit. It makes the proposition of an awards season biopic, featuring the perfectly-cast Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers, an easy sell and consider our attention piqued when it comes from Marielle Heller, who last helmed the excellent Can You Ever Forgive Me? and The Diary of a Teenage Girl. The promising drama tells the story of acclaimed journalist, Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), who embarks on an Esquire profile piece with Rogers that will change his life. – Jordan R.
Knives Out (Rian Johnson; Nov. 27)
After helming one of the most compelling films in the Star Wars series, before he jumps back into the franchise with his new trilogy, Rian Johnson was thankfully provided the time to deliver a new original film and it’s one of our most-anticipated of the fall. Starring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Lakeith Stanfield, Michael Shannon, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, and Christopher Plummer, the first trailer wasn’t a knock-out, but here’s hoping for a Brothers Bloom-esque hard sell . – Jordan R.
Queen & Slim (Melina Matsoukas; Nov. 27)
After quite a major last few years with Get Out, Black Panther, Widows, and Sicario, Daniel Kaluuya is back this fall, leading Queen & Slim, scripted by Lena Waithe and marking Melina Matsoukas’ directorial debut. The Bonnie & Clyde-esque story follows a man (Kaluuya) and woman (newcomer Jodie Turner-Smith) on a first date who get stopped by a cop and kill him in self-defense, then go on the run. With Waithe also producing, she reteams with Matsoukas after directing some episodes of Master of None. Matsoukas–who also helmed some of the biggest music videos of the last few years for Beyoncé, Rihanna, and more–seems well-equipped to deliver one of the stand-outs of the fall. – Jordan R.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma; Dec. 6)
Héloïse bursts into the frame with her shoulders to the camera. She wears a long dress; it billows gently as she walks outside her house in 18th century Brittany and then flaps furiously as the walk turns into a run, her gracious figure thrust toward the cliffs and the ocean rumbling below–until the run stops, and in the time that lasts a hairsbreadth she turns her head back to the camera, smiles. It is the first time the luminous face of Adéle Haenel graces the screen in Céline Sciamma’s devastatingly beautiful Portrait of a Lady on Fire. And in a movie in which turning your head to look back acquires accrues a deeper, tragic meaning, it is a character-defining scene that thrums with the same spell-binding beauty of Denis Lavant’s last dance in Claire Denis’ Beau Travail. – Leonardo G. (full review)
In Fabric (Peter Strickland; Dec. 6)
In Fabric is a film that’s wholly retro, and not just in how writer/director (and emerging remix artist) Peter Strickland embraces ’70s Euro-horror tropes (and even judging by one commercial glimpsed on a television; a little bit of vaporwave). Rather, the director longs for a time before Amazon decimated the retail industry, one when a person’s hopes and desires hinged on a trip to that one certain shop. – Ethan V. (full review)
A Hidden Life (Terrence Malick; Dec. 13)
When Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl) glances skyward and calls for God to show him a sign, to guide him, what does he hear? The rumbling of a thunderstorm hovering atop the Alps surrounding his bucolic hometown of St Radegund; the sound of the wind caressing the wheat fields around the village; the voice of his wife Fani (Valerie Pachner) and their three little girls. And then, once World War II breaks out and jettisons him in a dim-light world of military prisons and court tribunals, it’s the sound of broken limbs and bodies thudding on floors; the echo of air raid sirens; the loud bang of gunshots. In a body of work infused with the question of faith, mankind’s distance and proximity to God has never felt as pressing a concern as it does in A Hidden Life, a period piece homing in on the real-life story of a man who refused to enlist for the Nazis, and paid the ultimate price for his defiance. – Rory O. (full review)
Uncut Gems (Josh and Benny Safdie; Dec. 13)
Following up their terrific Good Time (our #1 film of 2017), the brothers Safdie continue to evolve as filmmakers, working with larger budgets and talent while, we expect, maintaining the emotional honesty that has been a cornerstone of their films since The Pleasure of Being Robbed. Reteaming with A24, Uncut Gems is a crime drama starring Adam Sandler as a diamond district store owner whose life is turned upside down following a heist. With an impressive supporting cast including Judd Hirsch, Idina Menzel, Lakeith Stanfield, Eric Bogosian, as well as Kevin Garnett and The Weeknd in their first feature film roles, the Darius Khondji-shot Uncut Gems sounds like another must-see from two of the most exciting filmmakers working in American cinema today. – John F.
1917 (Sam Mendes; Dec. 25)
After spending nearly all of the decade dedicated to the world of Bond, Sam Mendes will close things out with a war film, his first since Jarhead. As the title suggests, 1917 will take on a different era, exploring the journey of soldiers in World War I. Starring George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Madden, and Andrew Scott, the Roger Deakins-shot film is rumored to be presented in one long take. – Jordan R.
Just Mercy (Destin Daniel Cretton; Dec. 25)
After his break-out directorial debut Short Term 12, which featured some of the greatest early performances from today’s top stars, director Destin Daniel Cretton took a bit of a hit with The Glass Castle but he’s back in a big way. Before joining the Marvel universe with his Shang-Chi film, he’s helmed the biographical drama Just Mercy, which stars Michael B. Jordan as attorney Bryan Stevenson who represented Walter McMillian, a man in jail for murder who is out to prove his innocence. Set for a TIFF world premiere, it hopefully has the same emotional power of the director’s first film. – Jordan R.
Little Women (Greta Gerwig; Dec. 25)
Following her acclaimed solo directorial debut Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig has jumped into studio filmmaking with a new adaptation of Little Women. Starring in this take on the Louisa May Alcott novel is Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Timothée Chalamet, Florence Pugh, Meryl Streep, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, James Norton, Louis Garrel, Bob Odenkirk, Chris Cooper, and Abby Quinn. Following the delightful trailer–which clearly has Gerwig’s touch–we’re curious if this will land at a festival before launching wide on Christmas Day. – Jordan R.
Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu; Dec. 27)
From Escape from Alcatraz to Cool Hand Luke to The Shawshank Redemption, cinema is rich with not only prison films focused on the plight of the prisoner, but also depicting wardens in an evil light. Clemency, winner of the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival, flips the script in both ways, both turning the spotlight on a warden and painting her in an empathetic, complicated light. Led by Alfre Woodard, she gives a riveting, emotional performance as the Bernadine Williams, a woman who is stuck between the demands of her grueling job and a disintegrating marriage, and can’t give her all to both. – Jordan R. (full review)
Even with a packed slate of 50 anticipated films, there’s much more to look forward to. We’ll soon share a list of our most-anticipated festival premieres that currently don’t have a U.S. release date (from Olivier Assayas’ Wasp Network to Benedict Andrews’ Seberg to Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow), and there are also some unknowns that haven’t surfaced on any festival lineup yet, such as Todd Haynes’ Dry Run, Dee Rees’ The Last Thing He Wanted, and Benh Zeitlin’s Wendy.
We are also holding out that one of our Sundance favorites, Hala, will launch when Apple+ goes live this fall. Netflix will also hopefully release Mati Diop’s Atlantics before the end of the year, but as is accustomed, we may only know a few days before it drops. A handful of films we liked to varying degrees also just missed the cut, including Chained for Life (9/11), Freaks (9/13), The Sound of Silence (9/13), Where’s My Roy Cohn? (9/20), The Day Shall Come (9/27), Greener Grass (10/18), Frankie (10/25), and Little Joe (12/6).
We also have a number of potentially promising studio offerings that we’ll have to see how they shake out, notably Roger Deakins’ first film of the year The Goldfinch (9/13), Hustlers (9/13), Joker (10/4), The Aeronauts (12/6), Bombshell (12/20), and J.J. Abrams’ return to Star Wars with The Rise of Skywalker (12/20). And a few more horror/fantasy films we’re eager to check out, including It: Chapter 2 (9/6), Rob Zombie’s 3 From Hell (9/13), the Maika Monroe-led Villains (9/20), Paradise Hills (11/1), Doctor Sleep (11/8), and Black Christmas (12/13).
What films are you most looking forward to this fall?
Continue Reading: Our 20 Most-Anticipated 2019 Fall Festival Premieres