Fall movie guide
What’s hot in the cool season’s big-screen lineup
The final quarter of 2019 is loaded up with Martin Scorsese, Robert Eggers, Star Wars, Terminator, Breaking Bad, a happy Hitler and a deranged Joker. Let’s hope at least some of them deliver the goods. I would hate to think Rambo: Last Blood is a harbinger of things to come.
What follows is a list of many, though not all, of the movies playing out the rest of the year. Keep in mind that some of the release dates represent limited theatrical runs for awards consideration. Some of them won’t get a wide release, especially in Chico, until January.
Parasite: This already award-winning effort from director Joon-ho Bong (The Host, Snowpiercer) looks to be social satire at its darkest and finest.
Gemini Man: Here’s one of the season’s big attempts at de-aging a movie star. In this case, it’s Will Smith. The twist here is that a younger Will Smith is hunting the older Will Smith. The big question here is will the movie provide Will Smith his ultimate film fantasy, that being the opportunity to make out with himself?
The Addams Family: This is an animated take on the infamously morose family that looks like it’s visually faithful to the look of the original Charles Addams comic.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie: Do I want a Breaking Bad continuation without Walter White (Bryan Cranston)? I love Better Call Saul, but that’s a prequel where Walter still walks the Earth teaching chemistry class (albeit off screen), unaware of his cancer-ridden, blue meth future. This movie follows Jesse (Aaron Paul) from the moment he escapes captivity after Walter (apparently … most likely) died, and it is a very worthy addition to the franchise.
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot: I saw a couple of scenes for Kevin Smith’s latest View Askewniverse foray at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, and it looks to be a blast. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is my favorite of his comedies, so this is in my wheelhouse.
Jojo Rabbit: Talk about risk taking. This film, set in World War II and directed by Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok), features a boy being mentored by his imaginary friend, an amiable and good spirited Adolf Hitler (also Waititi).
Zombieland: Double Tap: The gang—including Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin—all return for more zombie shenanigans, with Bill Murray doing another cameo.
The Lighthouse: Robert Eggers, director of The Witch—a film I loved so very, very much—returns with a black-and-white thriller starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson as two men having big trouble in a lighthouse. Sorry to be presumptuous, but I have a space reserved on my “best of” list for this movie, and I haven’t seen it yet. “Why’d you spill your beans?”
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil: I just watched the video of Angelina Jolie getting made up for this movie and, I have to admit, she looks kind of hot with fangs. Her evil fairy kind of looks like a vampire. Do I have a thing for vampires? Now that I think of it, I thought Kate Beckinsale was hot as a vampire, too. I think I have a vampire problem. They probably carry every blood-borne disease in the book. Oh, this isn’t good. I’m deleting my Vampire Tinder account profile right now.
Harriet (Nov. 1): Hopefully, with this release, Harriet Tubman (played by Cynthia Erivo) will get the sort of tribute she deserves. Say, whatever happened to the Harriet Tubman $20 bill? Let’s get those into circulation.
Motherless Brooklyn (Nov. 1): Edward Norton directs himself as a private investigator with Tourette Syndrome trying to solve the murder of his buddy Frank (Bruce Willis). Norton hasn’t really done anything of note since Birdman (2015), so hopefully this is the return of a great actor.
Terminator: Dark Fate (Nov. 1): While James Cameron is living in Avatar Land—no, seriously, he lives in that Avatar amusement park in Disney World, feasting on the feral Disney cats for sustenance and speaking Navi to perplexed tourists—he produced this . Allegedly, he never showed up for a day of shooting, but it does have his name on it, and that’s marketing for ya! Tim Miller (Deadpool) directs and Arnold Schwarzenegger plays an aged Terminator with an enlarged prostate who doesn’t eat enough fiber and hates all this newfangled smartphone technology. Linda Hamilton has returned after her royalties for Dante’s Peak ran out.
Doctor Sleep (Nov. 8): This sequel (starring Ewan McGregor) to Stephen King’s The Shining actually references the Stanley Kubrick film a lot, a movie King hates. So, if you’re watching this movie somewhere, and you notice a cascade of Sprite and Dots hitting the movie screen when they recreate Danny Torrance riding his trike in the Overlook Hotel, King just might be the culprit.
Honey Boy (Nov. 8): This year is looking like a bit of a resurgence for Shia LaBeouf, whose odd behavior, which got him ostracized a few years ago, is nothing compared to today’s dummies getting ensnared in the #MeToo movement. Shia wrote the screenplay, too, about his childhood relationship with his own father.
Last Christmas (Nov. 8): Game of Thrones‘ Emilia Clarke plays a woman working as a Santa’s elf in a department store. While it does feature the music of George Michael, the movie does not feature Clarke riding atop a dragon as it blasts yuletide commercialism with a stream of vengeful fire. Opportunity missed.
Midway (Nov. 8): There was a 1976 movie called Midway, based on the infamous Pacific theater battle during World War II, and I saw it with my Uncle Mike when I was a mere pup. It starred Charlton Heston, and it was kind of shitty. At one point, a character—I think it was the one played by Edward Albert—gets shot down during a plane fight, and there’s this quick shot of him all charred and screaming as his plane plummets toward Earth. That moment is still one of the most jarring, unintentionally funny movie moments I’ve experienced in my decades of film viewing. Anyway, they’ve made another Midway, it’s full of stars (Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, Woody Harrelson, etc.), and Charlton Heston is long dead, so maybe it will be better.
Charlie’s Angels (Nov. 15): Look, Kristen Stewart has been making some fine indie films these past few years, but a girl has to get paid sometimes, so here we go.
Ford v Ferrari (Nov. 15): Matt Damon plays legendary car designer Carroll Shelby, and Christian Bale is on hand as driver Ken Miles in this vroom-vroom movie from director James Mangold. Word has it that Bale had four ribs, 10 feet of intestine and the sunny side of his personality removed to look the part. Damon simply put on 15 pounds eating melted Häagen-Dazs, because melted Häagen-Dazs is the fattener of choice among movie stars. That, and lots of pancakes.
The Report (Nov. 15): Good lord, does Adam Driver ever stop to take a breath? He’s in five movies released in the U.S. this year, including that indie movie where he plays the guy with the mask who likes to take his shirt off during randy, telekinetic phone calls. This one costars Annette Bening and is based on real events during a post-9/11 investigation.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Nov. 22): Tom Hanks playing Fred Rogers is about as surprising as Tom Hanks playing Walt Disney.
Dark Waters (Nov. 22): Mark Ruffalo plays a lawyer who defends a city against the DuPont chemical company, which has been poisoning their waters for years. I swear to god, I feel like I’ve already seen 10 different versions of this movie, but this is the first one starring the Hulk.
Frozen II (Nov. 22): Will they come up with a track catchier than “Let it Go” for the sequel? I don’t know, but I’m sure my ears will bleed as they make their attempt. Writer’s honest aside: The previous sentence is a lie to make me look masculine and cool. I am a Disney junkie, and I sing “Let it Go” in the shower and on nature hikes.
21 Bridges (Nov. 22): It’s an NYPD detective story starring Chadwick Boseman, aka Black Panther.
The Irishman (Nov. 27): In a movie that is allegedly 2,056 hours long, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci are de-aged in a Martin Scorsese picture that has the master playing in his most vital gangster sandbox. A Netflix film—I’ll say “Netflix” a lot in this article—vying for Oscars, it will have a limited theatrical release starting in early November and move to streaming three weeks later. This epic story of Irish hitman Frank Sheeran (De Niro) and his involvement with labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino) looks to be an event that would be best viewed on a big screen, with you perched in a chair right next to somebody who is filling the air with the latest, rancid strain of influenza. On second thought, streaming sounds pretty good.
Knives Out (Nov. 27): After pissing off legions of Star Wars fans with his sub-par The Last Jedi (that ill-timed Finn and Rose kiss during the climactic AT-AT showdown still ticks me off), director Rian Johnson returns to a less expensive narrative (before fronting his very own Star Wars trilogy—not excited about that). This Agatha Christie-like mystery/dark comedy starring Daniel Craig and tons more stars is getting good buzz.
Queen & Slim (Nov. 27): A black couple on their first date (Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith) become fugitives after an unfortunate encounter with an overzealous white cop.
Marriage Story (Dec. 6): Netflix strikes again with another high-profile dramatic film effort, this one written/directed by Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) and starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as a deteriorating married couple. Driver is in everything. He’s like the male Kristen Bell!
The Aeronauts (Dec. 6): In 1862, two hot air balloon pilots (Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones) on a scientific expedition are accidentally sucked into a time traveling tunnel.
A Hidden Life (Dec. 13): Terrence Malick, one of the greatest movie directors to ever walk the planet, offers up his latest—a World War II biographical drama about Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian who refused to fight alongside the Nazis. All indications are that this is a return to form for the auteur (The Tree of Life, The Thin Red Line), and ends a late career slump that has included the massive missteps: Song to Song, Knight of Cups and To the Wonder. Next up for the director? He’s currently filming a Jesus movie. Oh, my.
Jumanji: The Next Level (Dec. 13): Not going to lie—this looks really, really funny. Kevin Hart’s avatar is Danny Glover, while Dwayne Johnson’s is Danny DeVito. This all strikes me as a hundred different kinds of brilliant. The trailer has already made me laugh more than most full comedies this year.
Uncut Gems (Dec. 13): Adam Sandler gets serious in this heist film based on a true story. If you are irked that you didn’t hear about this sooner, I fully admit that I SHOULD HAVE TOLD YOU ABOUT IT YESTERDAY!!! (That’s a The Wedding Singer reference right there.)
Bombshell (Dec. 20): We’ve already learned plenty from this movie about sexual harassment in the early days at Fox News, mainly that it doesn’t take much to make Charlize Theron look exactly like Megyn Kelly. Also starring Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie.
Cats (Dec. 20): Yeah, um, this looks seriously messed up. I don’t know how they’ve achieved those cat costumes (digital, body paint, invasive surgery). I just know that I don’t like them. Cuddly and cute has been traded for twisted and demonic.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Dec. 20): After The Last Jedi, a divisive chapter for sure, Disney plays it safe and hands control of Star Wars back to J.J. Abrams, who made the far superior The Force Awakens. I think Rey (Daisy Ridley) has an evil clone, and that’s who we are seeing with the impractical double light saber thing in the preview. Let’s see if I’m right, or if I’m just a loser geek who spends way too much time thinking about shit like this. As a Star Wars fan, I’m more jazzed about the TV shows (including The Mandalorian, premiering on the Disney+ streaming channel on Nov. 12) than the films beyond this year.
The Two Popes (Dec. 20): Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce play the title characters in a comedy/drama chronicling that religiously historical tennis match where two Popes played for the title of “Jesus’ Favorite.” The match went on so long that the two pontiffs wound up spitting up blood, losing toes and, most notably, taking their boss’ name in vain. This not only resulted in Jesus canceling the employee Christmas party, but also the Son of God deeming both of the Popes wimps and not worthy of wearing the funny hats. (Limited theatrical release in late-November; streaming on Netflix from Dec. 20 on.)
Just Mercy (Dec. 25): Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx and Brie Larson star in a film about famed civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson and the appeal case of Walter McMillian, an Alabama man wrongfully convicted of murder. This has the makings of something special.
Little Women (Dec. 25): Director Greta Gerwig follows up her fantastic Lady Bird with the latest adaptation of the classic Louisa May Alcott novel, and it stars the great Saoirse Ronan and new sensation Florence Pugh (one of the year’s best performances in Midsommar). Next up for Gerwig: possibly directing a Barbie movie starring Margot Robbie and co-written by her husband, Noah Baumbach. That’s not a joke … it’s a real project. While I’m enjoying her directorial efforts, I’m hoping Gerwig hasn’t given up on acting. She’s an onscreen presence that is totally unique—and needed.
1917 (Dec. 25): Sam Mendes (American Beauty) directs a World War I movie that might just be an awards season, under-the-radar surprise, judging by the stellar trailer.