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50 Films to See This Fall

Written by on August 22, 2019 

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)

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