Movies I Wanna See Most: Fall 2018

The fall/winter movie season is always one of those times of the year where it seems there's so much to do and so little time. I've always attempted to find a balance between big-budget and indie fare rather than dismiss the blockbusters and only adore the smaller, more intimate movies and vice versa. That doesn't mean I'm necessarily more excited for Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 than I am something like Suspiria, but rather that I'm interested in both for very different reasons. While neither of those titles will be on my list I would place each of them just outside my top fifteen along with the likes of the sure-to-be juggernaut of this holiday season, Marry Poppins Returns, and the likely to be overlooked The Hate U Give from director George Tillman Jr. Elsewhere, there is your typical festival fodder like Beautiful Boy, The Favourite, Boy Erased, and Mary Queen of Scots that I'm certainly interested in seeing, but not necessarily overly excited for as I feel as if I kind of know what I'll be getting myself into with each of these (except for maybe the Yorgos Lanthimos experience), but am more than happy to take a chance and spend some time with them as any given movie could come out of nowhere and blow you away; if attempting to watch as many new releases as I do each year has taught me anything it is this.

There are two movies in particular that I had a difficult time grappling with whether they should go on my list and furthermore, where they should go on my list if I were to include them, but ultimately they didn't make it and I'm still not sure if that was the right choice or not. First is Jonah Hill's directorial debut, mid90s, which tells the story of a thirteen-year-old in 90s-era LA who spends his summer navigating between his troubled home life and a group of new friends that he meets at a Motor Avenue skate shop. I think Hill will probably have a rather distinct voice and good handle on conveying his own screenplay given the sheer amount and vast variety of creative people he's worked with, but the subject matter isn't something so near and dear to my heart that I find myself aching to see it. And then there is the first film from writer/director Alfonso Cuarón since Gravity earned him a Best Director Oscar five years ago. Cuarón's two hour and fifteen-minute opus that chronicles a year in the life of a middle-class family in Mexico City in the early 1970s wuill have its festival run, but is set to largely premiere to a wide audience on Netflix in mid-December. This may be the smarter route financially, but the anticipation of such an event and/or return can't help but to feel a little undercut by the knowledge that in my region of the country it's unlikely I'll be able to experience Roma on the big screen. All of that said, you won't find the likes of Bumblebee, The Mortal Engines, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, or that new Robin Hood movie on my list, but like I said, I'm by no means opposed to unabashed blockbusters as is evidenced in my number ten pick...

15. Creed II - There is both much to be excited and much to be pessimistic about when it comes to Creed II. This sequel to the 2015 Ryan Coogler-directed film that continued the story of former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa as he served as a trainer to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend Apollo Creed, is a sequel MGM and Warner Bros. wanted to move forward with despite Coogler's obligation to Marvel and Black Panther. The other aspect that is somewhat concerning is the fact Sylvester Stallone penned the script for this thing. It's a nice thought the writer/director/star of the original Rocky film has such a heavy hand in continuing the arc of characters born out of his original franchise, but given the plot details we know thus far it seems reasonable to worry this might be a re-hash of what has come before rather than Jordan's Adonis and his family unit making the franchise their own. 11/21

14. Welcome to Marwen - Director Robert Zemeckis has always been an innovator whether it be in experimental techniques (Who Framed Roger Rabbit), experimental productions (Cast Away), or experimental technology (The Polar Express), not to mention this is the guy who made the Back to the Future Trilogy and Forrest Gump, so when the filmmaker decides he's going to use Steve Carell to tell the story of Mark Hogancamp, a real-life artist, through a mix of live-action and animated sequences, there is an automatic need to see how the director will further the technique he utilized to great success on that 1988 film. Welcome to Marwen follows Hogancamp who suffered brain damage after being assaulted by five men in 2000 and reinvents himself in dioramas as a World War II hero backed by a cadre of female commandos. With a supporting cast that includes Eiza González, Diane Kruger, Leslie Mann, Gwendoline Christie, and Janelle Monáe here's to hoping this Holiday release and awards hopeful lives up to all the promise and appeal it is packing. 12/21

13. Alita: Battle Angel - It's kind of hard to think that Alita: Battle Angel won't make a lasting an impression on pop culture. Prior to beginning work on Avatar, James Cameron (Terminator, T2: Judgement Day, Titanic) was close to directing this adaptation of the graphic novel series "Battle Angel Alita" by Yukito Kishiro that revolves around an amnesiac female cyborg who is rescued from a scrapyard by a doctor, rebuilt, and then set on a path of hunting down vicious criminals in the 26th century. Cameron is still involved as a producer and co-writer on the project while Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Desperado) has taken over directing. Rodriguez falls into that school of directors who are always looking to push boundaries and it looks as if Rodriguez may very well have his first hit in ten plus years on his hands not to mention a new franchise. This thing looks spectacular as the blend of real photography and motion capture effects is flawless, the action is staged in a very visceral fashion, and the story, while coming with shades of Ghost in the Shell and no doubt other material I'm not aware of, feels engaging largely due to this connection the titular character has with an item from the past and the fact it may indicate what the future holds. 12/21

12. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - While Sony is currently allowing Marvel Studios to "borrow" their live-action Spider-Man rights Sony Pictures Animation has taken to furthering the Spider-verse with this animated adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis' run of Spider-Man comics that sees Miles Morales, a young African-American man, take up the mantle of Spider-Man. Featuring The Get Down and DOPE's Shameik Moore as the voice of Morales, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse will follow the newly minted Spidey as he attempts to juggle his high school life with his status as a superhero in the classic Spider-Man mold. The narrative prospects, style of the animation, and all-around visual prowess of the film have been consistently raised with each new piece of marketing since the campaign kicked off nearly a year ago. Not since something like 300 have I been so immediately enamored with the look of a movie and so willing to see it based on little more than what is hinted at visually. While Sony is taking advantage of the web-slinger in every way they can, one can only hope they keep remembering to put as much innovation into each project as has seemingly been done here. 12/14

11. Bad Times at the El Royale - With a cast featuring Chris Hemsworth, Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, and Nick Offerman Drew Goddard's Bad Times at the El Royale will likely be worth seeing for the cast alone. While I wasn't as big a fan of Cabin in the Woods (which Goddard directed and co-wrote with Joss Whedon) as the rave reviews might have suggested it's clear Goddard has a knack for writing scenarios in which groups of people present themselves as one thing, but tend to have their true personalities arise sooner than later that shift the dynamic dramatically which looks to be where Bad Times at the El Royale will really succeed. Both trailers for the film so far have also used music effectively not only suggesting what the audience should be feeling at any given moment, but more importantly in conveying the mood and tone of the images we're seeing; hopefully this is a cue taken from the completed film. Whether it be solely for the cast or the potential this premise holds when paired with Goddard's screenplay-considered me excited for each of those things and hopeful they all come together seamlessly. 10/12

10. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - This sequel, said to be the second film in a planned five film franchise, picks up where the first film concluded by following-up the reveal that Colin Farrell's Percival Graves was actually the powerful dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald as played by Johnny Depp. The titular Grindelwald was captured by the Magical Congress of the United States of America with the help of our hero, Eddie Redmayne's Newt Scamander, but Grindelwald has since escaped custody and set about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda to raise pure-blood wizards to rule over all non-magical beings. With The Crimes of Grindelwald, returning director David Yates (who also helmed the fifth, sixth, and both parts of the seventh Harry Potter films) and sole screenwriter and creator of this wizarding world, J.K. Rowling, we pick-up with a young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) as he enlists former student Scamander to help thwart Grindelwald’s plans unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. 11/16

9. Holmes and Watson - Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly re-team for the first time in over a decade for a humorous take on Arthur Conan Doyle's classic mysteries featuring Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. With Ferrell as Holmes and Reilly as Watson, the two will surely provide plenty of laughs given the simple fact they are hilarious together, but while we are just over three months away from the release date there has been no trailer and hardly a peep of a poster besides this thing (seems official enough, but I thought a trailer would follow an official poster release and it hasn't as of today). And while the combo of Ferrell ad Reilly is enough to have me excited the other drawback to the film outside of the fact Sony seems to be hiding it for some reason is the fact this is the first time the duo won't be joined by writer/director Adam McKay (Talladega Nights, Step Brothers). Instead, writer/director Etan Cohen is behind this collaboration and while Cohen has solid writing credits such as Tropic Thunder and Men in Black 3 his directorial debut was the underwhelming Ferrell/Kevin Hart-starrer Get Hard. That said, Cohen didn't write that flick, but has taken double duty on Holmes and Watson as he is the sole screenwriter as well as being at the helm. Though I can't help but be excited by the pairing let's hope Cohen rewards my optimism. 12/21

8. Halloween - This titled exactly-the-same, forty-year-later sequel is said to pick up in real time after the events of the first film, disregarding all subsequent films, and follows the residents of Haddonfield on another horrifying Halloween night as Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode faces her greatest fears when Michael Myers escapes the asylum where he’s been locked up since his first killing spree. Naturally, Strode has attempted to move on with her life and seemingly has as this movie will feature Judy Greer as Laurie's daughter, Karen, as well as Andi Matichak (Orange is the New Black) as her granddaughter. Where the narrative will go outside the "one final confrontation" remains to be seen, but given the screenplay was penned by new franchise director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Stronger) along with Danny McBride (yes, that Danny McBride) there is a fair amount of curiosity here as well. There will undoubtedly be a lot of influence from the original film at play here and I'm anxious to see how Green decided to balance that with his and McBride's interpretation. 10/19

7. Wildlife - Though this is Paul Dano's directorial debut this thing wreaks of awards season fodder as it is set in the sixties, is a family drama, and stars the likes Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal. While all of this may contribute to some audiences being immensely drawn to the material with the grounded, cold reality of the story (the film is based on Richard Ford's 1990 novel of the same name) no doubt being a detractor for others I have to say I'm all in for this one. Gyllenhaal is one of the most exciting and intriguing actors working today; even when his projects seem typical or predictable a la last year's Stronger they still turn out more effective and his performances more compelling than anticipated. Wildlife premiered at Sundance earlier this year and has slowly been gaining steam ever since with much of the praise being heaped upon Carey Mulligan's performance as a woman whose marriage is falling apart and who, in the midst of dealing with this and raising her teenage son (The Visit's Ed Oxenbould) finds another, older man. 10/19

6. Bohemian Rhapsody - The feature film version of Queen's story has had a hell of a development history as well as multiple production troubles most of which derive from original director Bryan Singer (X-Men, The Usual Susapects) being fired from the gig due to tensions with his star, Rami Malek, and his apparent lack of regard for punctuality. Eddie the Eagle director Dexter Fletcher was brought into complete the film, but it has since been finalized that Singer will in fact be the credited director on the picture. It's been a weird road, no doubt, and as much as I would have loved to have seen the Freddie Mercury-centric film that Sacha Baron Cohen wanted to make Bohemian Rhapsody will have to do. I'm all in on any kind of music biopic, that's a given, but I have to wonder how much of this will indeed be focused on Mercury and how much of it will put equal stock in the remaining band members given they were seemingly given their way when Cohen stepped away from the project. Regardless, what comes to pass-whether it be a masterpiece or a dumpster fire-is certain to hold a fair amount of intrigue through its release. 11/2

5. Aquaman - I've been more of a fan of the DCEU (or whatever it's being referred to as now) than I haven't as I thoroughly relished in the behemoths that were Man of Steel and Batman V Superman as well as appreciating the ambition with which Wonder Woman tried to rise above its required standards, but once the studio started over-meddling such as was the case with both Suicide Squad and last fall's Justice League it became apparent there was no real direction the studio had in mind or were dedicated to other than turning a profit and catering to whatever it seemed fans wanted in order to accomplish that. If one thing is for sure though, it's that nothing is for sure-not even Batman, apparently. What has worked for Marvel Studios was never and is never going to work for the DCEU. Marvel has its brand and has defined that brand-what Warner Bros. and DC need to figure out is what their brand is and how they want to define it. With Aquaman, it seems they might be attempting to course-correct in the best way they know how as things certainly seem to be lighter and brighter in James Wan's (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring, Furious 7) take on the character, but per the first trailer for the film this solo outing is more in line with Wonder Woman than anything else they've produced which makes sense, but here's to hoping Jason Momoa has the charisma if not the zeitgeist his super friend had leading into the release of his movie. 12/21

4. If Beale Street Could Talk - James Balwin's 1974 novel is a love story set in Harlem in the early 1970's and follows Fonny (Stephan James of SELMA and who played Jesse Owens in Race) and Tish (KiKi Layne who will also star in the upcoming Rupert Wyatt thriller, Captive State, alongside John Goodman and Vera Farmiga). Fonny and Tish are in love with this beauty providing some layer of protection from the harsh reality of their family lives as well as the outside world. That is, until Fonny is falsely accused of rape. This follow-up to Best Picture-winner Moonlight and sophomore effort from Barry Jenkins is sure to make waves this fall given it is the first time any Baldwin work has been adapted into an English-language film; something that Jenkins has acknowledged was difficult. The film's first trailer features stunning imagery via cinematographer James Laxton that is is largely effective as it is clear Jenkins is going for the emotional gut-punch to reel you in as his characters look directly into the camera, the expressions on their faces conveying a multitude of thoughts and feelings while their lips quiver as if on the edge of letting it all come out, with the camera cutting to black just before they have a chance to do so. Needless to say, my anticipation for this new work from Jenkins is obviously through the roof. 11/30

3. First Man - Damien Chazelle follows up his Best Directing win for La La Land with a film based on James R. Hansen's book that chronicles the story of NASA’s mission to land a man on the moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong between the years of 1961 and 1969. Re-teaming with Ryan Gosling who fills the role of Armstrong along with Emmy-winning The Crown actress Claire Foy playing Armstrong’s wife, Janet the remainder of the cast is filled out with the likes of Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Patrick Fugit, Ciaran Hinds, Ethan Embry, Shea Whigham, Corey Stoll, and Pablo Schreiber with Chazelle is working from an adapted screenplay by Oscar-winning Spotlight and The Post co-writer Josh Singer. So, it's not hard to see why First Man is one of the more anticipated features of the fall and a likely front-runner for many of this year's biggest awards if the film turns out to be as good as any one of its credentials would suggest. Like Hansen's book the film is said to be a visceral, first-person account that explores the sacrifices and cost of one of the most dangerous missions in history which, given we all know what happens, feels like the way to go. I can't wait. 10/12

2. Widows - The latest from director Steve McQueen (Shame, 12 Years a Slave) and follow-up to his Best Picture-winner is major. Elizabeth Debicki, Daniel Kaluuya, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Jon Bernthal, Michelle Rodriguez, Carrie Coon, André Holland, Jacki Weaver, Viola Davis, and Liam Neeson make-up what might be the best and biggest cast of the year in a story based on the 1983 ITV series of the same name. The screenplay was written by McQueen and Gone Girl and Sharp Objects scribe Gillian Flynn which only adds more reason to be excited about the movie to a movie that already has plenty of reasons to be excited about it. What might be most interesting about the film though, is that while this certainly looks like an epic crime drama it isn't necessarily another heavy drama by way of McQueen's previous features. The film chronicles four widows, including Davis, Rodriguez, Debicki, and Cynthia Erivo, of four deceased armed robbers who were killed in a failed heist attempt and whose wives must step up to finish the job and settle their husband's debts. 11/16

1. A Star is Born - If you looked at my Top 10 of 2017 article then you'll know I'm a big Lady Gaga fan and so it goes without saying that I'm fairly excited to see her big screen debut in a feature especially when that feature is the third remake of the 1937 film of the same name. A Star is Born was first re-made in 1954 starring Judy Garland and James Mason and then again in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. This latest incarnation of the story deals in a country star helping a young singer find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral. This will not only mark Gaga's AKA Stefani Germanotta's feature debut in a starring role though, but it will also serve as her co-star, Bradley Cooper's, directorial debut. The screenplay has been reformatted for what I'm presuming is a modern day if not just a slightly different take on the material. If Cooper's particular brand of passion and commitment bleed into his filmmaking as much as it typically does his performance work I can only imagine the heights this one might reach. 10/5

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