Breaking the movie release calendar into seasons is a somewhat archaic and outmoded notion, since very little changes over the course of a year. We may believe that summer is the season of lowbrow popcorn fare and autumn is the time for high-tone awards bait, but the fact is that brainless, brand-name, movie-like product dominates the multiplexes all year round. The fall 2018 movie release schedule is no different: Rest assured that you've got plenty of remakes (A Star Is Born and Suspiria), superhero schlock (Venom and Aquaman), desperate reboots (the umpteenth attempts to revive the Predator and Halloween franchises), and unnecessary sequels (Johnny English Strikes Again, for the love of God) to kill the lonely hours. Dig deeper, though, and we find a number of offerings that have at least the potential to be cinematic gems.
Promising young filmmakers releasing a highly anticipated follow-up movie is the running theme of this list, and we start with Yann Demange, who follows his electrifying thriller '71 with this story of the real-life teenage crime lord Richard Wershe Jr. Matthew McConaughey plays the role of Richard's mullet-sporting father, while the supporting cast is rounded out by Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bruce Dern and Piper Laurie.
A seasoned writer and director with nearly 50 years of experience, French auteur Jacques Audiard is hardly a newbie, but he ambles into new cinematic territory with his English-language western The Sisters Brothers. This follow-up to Audiard's Palme d'Or-winning Dheepan stars Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly as bounty hunter brothers chasing a gold prospector.
This biopic about astronaut Neil Armstrong has awards musk sprayed all over it. It is Damien Chazelle's first movie since he won the Best Director Oscar for La La Land, and that film's Oscar-nominated lead actor Ryan Gosling stars as the taciturn Armstrong. I was not a fan of La La Land, but Chazelle clearly has talent, so one hopes his tactile intensity will serve this material well.
Another biopic, only this time about the decidedly less heroic figure of Lee Israel, a down-and-out writer who started forging, stealing and selling letters from dead celebrities in the early 1990s. Melissa McCarthy forgoes her usual slapstick silliness to play Israel, while drunk best friend specialist Richard E. Grant plays her drunk best friend.
Sorry, fanboys and fangirls, this has nothing to do with Joss Whedon's space western TV show Firefly. Instead, it's a moody thriller from Locke writer-director Steven Knight about a fishing boat captain (Matthew McConaughey, finally realizing his full potential as a film noir patsy) roped into a murder scheme by his blonde femme fatale of an ex-wife (Anne Hathaway).
Once the pitiless chronicler of contemporary working-class England, 75-year-old master Mike Leigh follows up his 2014 triumph Mr. Turner with another costume drama. This time Leigh tells the story of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre that occurred in his hometown of Manchester, an event that saw British soldiers attack a crowd of peaceful protesters. It sounds depressing as hell and I can't wait.
Five years after delivering his Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen wades into Michael Mann waters with his follow-up film, a stylized crime thriller based on a 1980s television series. It sure looks and sounds like high-gloss trash, but it's best to trust the talent involved, including McQueen, Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn and star Viola Davis.
As much as I loved Dogtooth and The Lobster, the singularly airless and sadistic cinema of Yorgos Lanthimos was left exposed when placed in a comparatively conventional idiom in last year's The Killing of a Sacred Deer. That said, I'm still extremely excited about Lanthimos' first historical drama, starring Olivia Colman as 18th-century British monarch Queen Anne.
In a possible repeat of two years ago, it seems increasingly likely that this season's Oscar race could come down to the latest from La La Land director Damien Chazelle and this James Baldwin adaptation by Moonlight director Barry Jenkins. Whatever happens, just keep Faye Dunaway away from the ceremony.
Fingers crossed that the second time's the charm for It Follows director David Robert Mitchell's follow-up, which made my list of the most anticipated films of the summer before getting shuttled off to December. Andrew Garfield stars as a sun-dazed stoner trying to solve the disappearance of his neighbor.