It’s hard to tell that autumn is almost upon us, what with consistent 80- and 90-degree days and Angelenos everywhere on the move in search of air-conditioned respite. Hollywood loves to use this stretch from September to October to begin scattering Oscar hopefuls in theaters in hopes of gaining critical traction before the big holiday juggernauts invade.
This year, horror, fantasy, neo-noir and kiddie-comedy options provide broad counterprogramming to the more serious — and seriously good — fare available from big studios and indie distributors alike, making for an especially festive fall at the movies. With so many films to choose from opening during the next eight weeks, we've picked a dozen films worthy of a trip to the multiplex before the post-Halloween holiday crunch commences.
The Oscar Bait
White Boy Rick (Sept. 14)
Based on an unlikely but true story, this gritty crime drama set in 1980s Detroit stars newcomer Richie Merritt as Richard Wershe Jr., a young street hustler who managed to become an FBI informant and a drug kingpin at the height of the crack epidemic — at only 15 years old. Matthew McConaughey plays the dysfunctional blue-collar father who struggles to protect him amid a top-notch cast that includes Bruce Dern, Piper Laurie, Jonathan Majors, Brian Tyree Henry and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Yann Demange directs from a script by Andy Weiss, Logan Miller and Noah Miller, co-produced by Darren Aronofsky. (Watch the trailer here.)
Fahrenheit 11/9 (Sept. 21)
Controversial yet entertaining documentary filmmaker Michael Moore flips the numbers on his eye-opening 9/11 documentary to focus on Donald Trump and the jarring political and socioeconomic impact of his election victory. Exploring “how the hell we got here, and how the hell we’re going to get out of it,” Moore interviews politicians and everyday people across America to get their opinion on Trump, Trumpism and the incredibly polarized climate that has us arguing about ethics, race, segregation, core values, gerrymandering and so much more with family at Thanksgiving dinner. The film’s release is timed to arrive prior to the midterm elections. Inform yourself and vote! (Watch the trailer here.)
A Star Is Born (Oct. 5)
Actor Bradley Cooper swings for the fences his first time in the director’s chair, co-writing and starring in a contemporary take on the classic cinematic love story that originated in 1937 and has been remade twice since. Cooper plays hard-drinking country singer Jackson Maine, who falls for an unknown struggling artist (Lady Gaga, in her first big-screen lead role) and steers her to stardom while he struggles. Featuring live performances of original songs filmed in front of audiences at such festival venues as Coachella, Stagecoach and Glastonbury, Cooper sings with gusto and Gaga gets to show her dramatic mettle, belting it out with a voice that will shake the theater. (Watch the trailer here.)
Beautiful Boy (Oct. 12)
There's a father-son relationship/fall-from-grace theme running through some of the better fall entries based on a true story this year. In Beautiful Boy, Steve Carell flexes his dramatic chops as a concerned dad standing helplessly by as his son, played by Call Me by Your Name sensation Timothée Chalamet, struggles with a meth addiction. Sourcing both father David Sheff and son Nic Sheff’s independent memoirs, the powerful film charts the complicated emotional journey required to not only challenge the disease of addiction but salvage the broken pieces of a ruined family. Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan and Timothy Hutton bolster the cast of the film, directed by Felix Van Groeningen. (Watch the trailer here.)
The Hate U Give (Oct. 19)
This compelling adaptation of Angie Thomas’ best-selling young-adult novel follows Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) as an upbeat African-American teen who deftly balances life at the mostly white, upper-class prep school she attends and in the lower-class urban neighborhood in which she lives. When her childhood friend is killed by a white cop during a routine traffic stop, her world is thrown into chaos and she must make a choice to find her true voice. Directed by George Tillman Jr., the film co-stars Common, Russell Hornsby, Regina Hall, Issa Rae and Anthony Mackie. (Watch the trailer here.)
Actor Jonah Hill skates into unexpected territory with his feature directing debut about young L.A. skateboarders in the early ’90s. The coming-of-age comedy-drama follows 13-year-old Stevie (boarder/actor Sunny Suljic) as he navigates the freedom and free-falls that come with riding that magical wooden plank on wheels. Stevie also toils under the rule of an abusive older brother (Lucas Hedges) alongside other domestic and urban troubles. Hill remains behind the camera for his promising debut. (Watch the trailer here.)
The Popcorn Flicks
The Nun (Sept. 7)
Fans of The Conjuring franchise can gleefully shudder once again with this jump-scare scream fest from the mind of James Wan. That creepy nun from the painting in The Conjuring 2 comes to life again in a prequel that follows a suicide at a cloistered abbey in the mountains of Romania. When a young priest (Demian Bichir) and a novitiate (Taissa Farmiga, younger sister of Conjuring star Vera Farmiga) investigate the death, they uncover a holy secret and a demonic nun with malevolent supernatural powers. Corin Hardy directs from a story by Wan and Gary Dauberman that sees Bonnie Aarons reprising her nightmarish title character. (Watch the trailer here.)
The House With a Clock in its Walls (Sept. 21)
John Bellairs' gothic 1973 children’s novel featuring wonderfully creepy Edward Gorey illustrations is now a surprisingly whimsical Eli Roth movie starring Jack Black, Cate Blanchett and Kyle MacLachlan. Owen Vaccaro plays the young, orphaned Lewis who moves in with his mysterious uncle Barnavelt (Black) — a good-natured warlock in a house full of magic and mystery. Somewhere within its walls is a ticking clock constructed by a sinister couple pulling our world ever closer to the end of days, and Lewis must team up with his uncle and good witch Florence Zimmerman (Blanchett) to stop it. Working a Harry Potter vibe with Tim Burton–inspired production design, director Roth bypasses his usual horrors for a more ’80s Amblin movie feel this time around. (Watch the trailer here.)
Smallfoot (Sept. 28)
Full of fun and feel-good moments, the CGI-animated Smallfoot adequately fills the big-screen animation void for kids of all ages as a clever bit of seasonal counterprogramming. Turning perceptions about-face, this story of friendship and adventure is told from the point of view of a yeti (voiced by Channing Tatum) who discovers a world of humans beyond his snowy village and yearns to make contact. Directed by Karey Kirkpatrick and executive produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie), the film also features the vocal talents of James Corden, Zendaya, Common, LeBron James, Danny DeVito, Gina Rodriguez and new L.A. Laker LeBron James. (Watch the trailer here.)
Venom (Oct. 5)
Marvel Comics’ sinister symbiote gets his own movie this fall, with Tom Hardy benefiting from the enhanced capabilities of the dark outer-space entity. Hardy plays Eddie Brock, a down-on-his luck journalist who investigates the Life Foundation, which is doing questionable top-secret experimentation on people in a quest to produce an evolved human-hybrid life form. Demanding fans will be watching closely to see if the story hews closer to the comic-book source material and if the movie can pull off Venom without the presence of his nemesis, some guy named Spider-Man. Ruben Fleischer directs the big-budget entry, which also stars Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed. (Watch the trailer here.)
Bad Times at the El Royale (Oct. 5)
Celebrated The Cabin in the Woods director Drew Goddard brings his twisted storytelling sensibilities to a hard-boiled piece that feels like a welcome return to the wave of gritty ’90s neo-noir ensemble flicks that came in the wake of Pulp Fiction. Set in the ’60s, in a sleepy Lake Tahoe motel straddling the line between Nevada and California, questionable characters Chris Hemsworth, Jon Hamm, Nick Offerman, Cailee Spaeny, Cynthia Erivo, Lewis Pullman, Dakota Johnson and Jeff Bridges cross paths and converge on a rainy night in search of revenge and redemption. (Watch the trailer here.)
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Halloween (Oct. 19)
Legendary scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis is back as Laurie Strode in a brand-new chapter of the long-running Halloween franchise that eschews all past sequels and picks up right where the John Carpenter original left off — well, four decades after it. Ready to confront Michael Myers again — the relentless, indefatigable boogeyman brother (the returning Nick Castle) who tried to kill Laurie on Halloween night — Curtis is armed with an unexpected script by Danny McBride and his Pineapple Express pal, director David Gordon Green. Expect more screams than laughs in this one. Timed for release on the 40th anniversary of the slasher game-changer, this highly anticipated project has the added street cred of Carpenter himself, who is executive producing and contributing a new score featuring his iconic Halloween theme. (Watch the trailer here.)
David Weiner is a Rondo Award–winning writer who was executive editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and senior editor at ETonline before that. For fun he runs the genre pop culture site ItCameFromBlog and spends too much money on eBay trying to reclaim pieces of his childhood.