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Fall 2015 Preview: The 30 Best Films We’ve Already Seen

Written by on August 25, 2015 

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Now that the summer is cooling down, we’re entering perhaps the best time of year for cinephiles, with a variety of festivals — some of which will hold premieres of our most-anticipated 2015 features — gearing up. 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, and we’ll first take a look at selections whose quality we can attest to. Ranging from a handful of premieres last from fall to acclaimed debuts at Sundance, Cannes, and more, we’ve rounded up 30 titles that will arrive from September to December (in the U.S.) that are all well worth seeking out.

As a note, these (including The Cut) didn’t make the cut, but you can see our reviews at the links: A Walk in the Woods (Sept. 2nd), Coming Home (Sept. 9th), A Brilliant Young Mind (Sept. 11th), The Fool (Sept. 16th), The Cut (Sept. 18th), Racing Extinction (Sept. 18th),  The Green Inferno (Sept. 25th), Knock Knock (Oct. 9th), Meadowland (Oct. 16th), I Smile Back (Oct. 23rd), Love (Oct. 30th), Very Semi-Serious (Nov. 20th), and Youth (Dec. 4th).

There’s also bound to be more releases revealed in the coming months (45 YearsDheepan, and Dark Horse are some of the must-see potential late-year releases), but we stuck only to ones with release dates we could confirm. Check out the 25 below and return in the coming days for the rest of our previews, including our most-anticipated films and the festival premieres we’re most looking forward to.

Time Out of Mind (Oren Moverman; September 9th)

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Finding a link between the shared title of Oren Moverman‘s third feature film, Time Out of Mind, and Bob Dylan’s 1997 album took a little effort. Moverman co-wrote the script for Todd Haynes’ fantastic Dylan saga I’m Not There, and perhaps it was here that the title resonated and, to the writer-director’s mind, could be grafted onto his latest, Richard Gere-led drama. – Zade C. (full review)

Welcome to Leith (Christopher K. Walker and Michael Beach Nichols; September 9th)

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In what could also be described as a horror film, Welcome to Leith is a truly terrifying portrait of a small town of 24 residents that one day receives an unwelcome neighbor: a white supremacist interested in moving his people in to create their own Aryan hamlet. Both Craig Cobb and associate Kynan Dutton, as well as long-time town residents — including mayor Ryan Schock — provide access to filmmakers Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker, who patiently wait for the saga to play out. – John F. (full review)

Goodnight Mommy (Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz; Sept. 11th)

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As its moniker suggests, one never quite knows what to expect when it comes to secret screenings during Fantastic Fest. At times they can be highly-anticipated titles that blow the doors off the venue or they can present films that had little-to-no demand that simply rock. This year was most certainly the latter, as Goodnight Mommy (or Ich Seh Ich Seh) screened, a film I’m thoroughly convinced will be divisive and also one that I imagine will be highly rewatchable. There’s little doubt about the insanity within this chilling Austrian thriller. While the more vague the better, it is a cruel, twisting narrative that too obviously telegraphs some aspects but also keeps a handful of the proceedings mysterious and is all the better for it. – Bill G. (full review)

Respire (Mélanie Laurent; September 11th)

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French actress Mélanie Laurent’s drama Respire (Breathe) is not just the most impressive film so far this year directed by an actor. It also ranks among the most astute recent studies of the emotional minefield that is adolescence. The story of the friendship between two teenage girls — the quiet, thoughtful Charlie and impulsive, outgoing Sarah — is grounded in realism. While Breathe takes a turn toward melodrama in its final moments, even this shift is believable, and feels utterly appropriate. It has not garnered the attention of modern French classic Blue is the Warmest Color, but Breathe is nearly as strong a film, and certainly as memorable. The similarly-themed pictures would, in fact, make a fine double-bill of trois coleurs cinema exploring the highs and lows of teenage wildlife. That’s high praise, but Laurent deserves it. Long one of our most uniquely talented and expressive performers, with Breathe she shows that Mélanie Laurent the filmmaker is capable of the same subtlety Mélanie Laurent the actor has displayed in films like Inglourious Bastards and Beginners. With stars Joséphine Japy (Charlie) and Lou de Laâge (Sarah), Laurent has brought to life two wonderfully realized, startlingly flawed characters on the cusp of adulthood. – Christopher S.

Sleeping with Other People (Leslye Headland; September 11th)

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Every year it seems we sound the death knell of the romantic comedy. They often feel too “big” for a sometimes particular indie scene, and studios aren’t making them anymore in a market built for an international audience not quite as comfortable with (mostly) privileged white people having introspective conversations about what’s in their heart and what not. So let it be said, that the romantic comedy has re-emerged alive and well, thanks in no large part to writer/director Leslye Headland and her film Sleeping with Other People, starring Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie. Working within sub-genre expectations with a sure hand and a bit of a sardonic streak, Headland finds fresh ground to tread in familiar territory, not-so-subtly updating When Harry Met Sally… for a generation a tad more comfortable with oral sex and obsessed with their iPhones. – Dan M. (full review)

Peace Officer (Scott Christopherson and Brad Barber; September 16th)

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Instead of focusing on the largest hot-button issue now, race in relation to policing, directors Brad Barber and Scott Christopherson take a different tact. What truly separates Peace Officer from the average documentary is that it not only takes on a compelling subject matter, but it uses William “Dub” Lawrence as the fascinating linchpin of the entire film. Dub becomes the level-headed investigator for both the police and the victims. Considering it was Dub that approached directors Brad Barber and Scott Christopherson it isn’t surprising they decided to use him as the compelling centerpiece. Lawrence’s history is particularly fascinating. In 1974, he became Sheriff of Davis County, Utah and served the public for years to come. Just a few years later we formed the county’s SWAT unit that would decades later kill his own son-in-law. – John F. (full review)

Sicario (Denis Villeneuve; September 18th)

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With each film, Denis Villeneuve proves his talent for crafting extremely effective visceral spectacles, ensnaring the viewer through expert engineering of mood and action. Yet, with each film, he undermines his achievement by attempting to aggrandize his narratives with weighty undercurrents that are, in fact, desperately vacuous. While Sicario is no exception, unlike the insufferably pretentious Enemy, it delivers a constant, exhilarating stream of elaborate and exquisitely photographed thrills that ends up largely compensating for the would-be profundity. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

Songs From the North (Soon-Mi Yoo; September 18th)

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“Dictatorships are banal” might be the main thesis of Songs from the North, a curious essay film from Soon-Mi Yoo (who contributed a segment to Far from Afghanistan). The cultural vision of North Korea is certainly one that often feels limited here in the United States: CNN specials about horrors under the reign of their three Kims (Il-sung, Jong-il, and Jong-un), oddball visits by Americans like Dennis Rodman, and, now, a standard enemy in films like Red Dawn and Team America: World Police. (This is to say nothing of an especially odd thread running through David Cronenberg’s debut novel, Consumed.) In that regard, Yoo’s film is a necessary correction of how we should view or think about what life is really like in North Korea, even if the work feels somewhat limited by its own necessity. – Peter L. (full review)

The Reflektor Tapes (Kahlil Joseph; September 24th)

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After earning the top honor at the Grammys, Arcade Fire delivered another epic album with the two-part Reflektor and with the release brought a worldwide tour. There to capture it all was the Sundance-winning Kahlil Joseph and the result is the feature-length documentary The Reflektor Tapes. Set to screen across the globe on September 23rd after a TIFF premiere, I got an early look at the film, and while full reviews are under embargo until the official debut, I can tell you it’s a deeply intimate look at the process of creation and touring — one that should please any fan of the band. – Jordan R.

99 Homes (Ramin Bahrani; September 25th)

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Ramin Bahrani made a name for himself with three independent films over the last decade, focusing on humanity’s daily struggles, reinvented foreign lives in America, and a fundamental sense of decency. With 2012’s At Any Price and this year’s 99 Homes, Bahrani has twice returned to the festival that launched his career, presenting the evolution of those themes. Not coincidentally, the worst years of the financial crisis stand between his acclaimed Goodbye, Solo and the tepidly received 2012 picture, and they must have had a profound effect on the direction of Bahrani’s filmography. With a broader canvas, flashier casts, and a more overt penchant for melodrama, At Any Price and 99 Homes single out agriculture and real estate as the catalysts of contemporary American sufferings. – Tommaso T. (full review)

Finders Keepers (Bryan Carberry and J. Clay Tweel; September 25th)

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Based on its premise, one might initially peg Finders Keepers as one of the strangest documentaries of the year, but it soon reveals itself to be one of the most emotional and uplifting. The story centers on John Wood, an amputee who is attempting to reclaim ownership of his mummified leg from Shannon Whisnant, who believes its his property and has dreams of being a reality TV star. Directors Bryan Carberry and J. Clay Tweel root themselves into the community as they explore the perils of addiction and the bond of family, all while tracking this peculiar custody battle of sorts . – Jordan R.

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