If it feels like the latter half of this year has been light on tentpole releases, that's because it has. Only three of the top 20 (so far) grossing movies of 2018 were released in the last two months, and none are what you'd traditionally refer to as blockbusters. The Nun is the latest in the Conjuring franchise, Crazy Rich Asians is a romantic "dramedy," and The Meg is a big dumb shark movie about a big dumb shark.
So this is an unusual fall movie preview in that that trend seems unlikely to change, for the remaining months of 2018 aren't exactly brimming with blockbusters, either. For the first time in years, there are no Star Wars or MCU* movies hitting theaters in November or December. There are two new Disney releases, and a new film set in the Harry Potter universe but not featuring any characters named Harry, Hermione, or Ron.
I've therefore included in this preview a few titles that might otherwise have slipped through the cracks, because you're going to need something to take your mind off the tragic farce of modern American life. Plan your viewing accordingly, and remember to vote in November.
A Star Is Born (October 5)
Mike and the Mechanics once proclaimed "every generation hates the one before." The extended version of that song also explains why every generation gets another version of this movie, this one starring Bradley Cooper (as a character based on Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder...?) and Lady Gaga. Early WOM is good, so expect the backlash to follow roughly two days after wide release.
Venom (October 5)
I "asterisked" my comment about MCU movies because — while this is a joint venture between Sony and Marvel Studios — it doesn't take place in the Marvel Cinematic *or* "shared Spider-Man" universes. The rating was recently set at PG-13 instead of R, meaning your hopes of a Logan/Deadpool/freaky-tongued alien symbiote team-up have likely been dashed.
First Man (October 12)
Forget the scientific and technical hurdles that NASA had to overcome, the skill and bravery of Neil Armstrong and the rest of the Apollo 11 crew, or what the moon landing represented to millions of Americans; we just want to make sure Ryan Gosling doesn't take a knee in front of the flag Buzz Aldrin plants on the moon.
The Hate U Give (October 19)
This Black Lives Matter-inspired film is a story with heartbreaking relevance to our times. It remains to be seen if George Tillman, Jr. has sufficiently recovered from the soul-deadening experience of directing The Longest Ride enough to tell it.
Halloween (October 19)
This is apparently intended as a straight prequel to the John Carpenter original, meaning you're in luck if you've always had trouble keeping the character's messy 40-year character history clear in your mind, though I for one am furious about the exclusion of Silver Shamrock Novelties from the franchise canon.
Burning (October 26)
The South Korean mystery competed for the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival and is also the country's official Foreign Language Entry for the 91st Academy Awards. If that wasn't enough, it's based on a short story by the great Haruki Murukami. In short, you should definitely check it out.
Bohemian Rhapsody (November 2)
Sacha Baron Cohen, who was originally slated to play Freddie Mercury, reportedly left production following disagreements with remaining Queen members about the story's approach (the latter favoring a more wholesome version). As a longtime Queen fan, I'm hoping for the best, but this is looking a lot like boilerplate biopic. Time to watch Live at Wembley again.
Suspiria (November 2)
I still have a hard time believing anyone remade Dario Argento's horror classic, much less that it was Luca Guadagnino, following on the heels of the critically acclaimed Call Me By Your Name. Color me very curious to see how it's received, and if Dakota Johnson can cleanse herself of the stench of the Fifty Shades franchise.
The Girl In The Spider's Web (November 9)
With three actors portraying the character over five movies (The Queen's Claire Foy gets the nod this time around), Lisbeth Salander is fast becoming the Jack Ryan of the female revenge action genre. Should be worthwhile to see what Fede (Evil Dead, Don't Breathe) Álvarez brings to the table, especially since Spider's Web isn't based on any of Steig Larsson's clunky original works.
The Front Runner (November 9)
Remember when politicians could fool around on their wives and get away with it? Seems like forever ago, doesn't it? I guess this dramatization of Gary Hart's fall from grace can be viewed as a lighter-hearted yin to Chappaquiddick's yang. Don't be surprised to see Hugh Jackman getting his second Oscar nod as well.
Widows (November 16)
Steve McQueen follows up his Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave with a heist flick (co-written by McQueen and Gone Girl's Gillian Flynn) about four women stepping in to finish up the armed robbery that killed their husbands. I'll be there to see Viola Davis rob all the things, and so should you.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (November 16)
Fantastic Beasts was the lowest (domestic) grossing Potterverse film, but it still made enough to convince Warner Bros. to flog Johnny Depp's fading charisma once again. Gird your loins for more CGI slog as the characters bravely grapple with irrelevance.
Creed II (November 21)
The first Creed was the best Rocky movie in almost 40 years, so of course they had to go further up the franchise's ass and make his opponent this time around the son of the guy who killed his dad (in Rocky IV). It'll still probably be worth watching for Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson alone.
Ralph Breaks the Internet (November 21)
Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanelope (Sarah Silverman) return, apparently accompanied by every Disney princess. Considering what other events have been described as "breaking the internet," I'm a little hesitant to see what Ralph actually does here.
If Beale Street Could Talk (November 30)
Barry Jenkins isn't resting on his Moonlight laurels, directing and writing this adaptation of a James Baldwin novel about a woman trying to clear the name of her wrongly-convicted husband.
Anna and the Apocalypse (November 30)
I don't care how tired you are of zombies, or musicals, or Christmas. I predict this movie, which premiered to great reviews over a year ago at Fantastic Fest, will unseat It's A Wonderful Life as our go-to holiday classic.
Okay, maybe not. I bet it's still better than Love Actually.
Aquaman (December 14)
In a year front-loaded with Avengers and Black Panthers and Ant-Man...s, the DC Universe's sole entry into the 2018 superhero race is one that looks like it'll be the most fun since Wonder Woman. After moping around with emo Superman and surlier-than-usual Batman, Jason Momoa's Aqua-Bro might — might — be help nudge the DCEU into better times.
What's that? Zack Snyder's still in charge? Forget everything I said.
Mortal Engines (December 14)
Peter Jackson, he of Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fame, has been trying to get this off the ground for almost ten years. Given his track record, I'm sure this adaption will show a healthy amount of visual restraint and avoid turning into a 4.5-hour CGI bloatfest.
Wait, there are *four* original novels? In that case, look for the 14th installment in the Mortal Engines series to be released in 2068.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (December 14)
Like Venom above, this is another Sony/Marvel team-up with no connection to previous franchises. It's also animated, and is the first (albeit animated) appearance of Miles Morales as Spider-Man. The animation looks tight and the casting (including Mahershala Ali and Liev Schreiber) is intriguing, but that title is "Turn Off the Dark" levels of try hard.
Mary Poppins Returns (December 19)
Emily Blunt takes over the role made famous by Julie Andrews. She's joined by Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda, who'll be seriously leveraging the universal love everybody has for the guy, and Dick Van Dyke, because it's time for entirely new generations to experience the worst British accent since Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
Holmes & Watson (December 21)
COLUMBIA EXEC 1: [snorts rail] "Okay! I've got it!"
COLUMBIA EXEC 2: "Tell me."
COLUMBIA EXEC 1: "Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson...only they're dumb assholes!"
COLUMBIA EXEC 2: [climbs off hooker] "I love it! Get Farrell and...the frizzy-haired guy!"
RECEPTIONIST: "Sir, Harvey Weinstein was just acquitted."
COLUMBIA EXECS: "WOOOOOO!"
Bumblebee (December 21)
This Transformers take on the X-Men: Origins idea differs in one key element: this actually looks...not bad? Ad with a director other than Michael Bay behind the camera (Kubo and the Two Strings' Travis Knight), maybe we'll spend less time lingering over Hailee Steinfeld's hindquarters.
On the Basis of Sex (December 25)
The Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg may be the only Supreme Court justice to get both a biography (last year's RBG) and a biopic (starring Felicity Jones). Let's hope they have to make another one in 20 years, when she's still on the Court.
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Destroyer (December 25)
This story of an undercover LA cop forced to reckon with her tragic past stars Nicole Kidman and is directed by Karyn Kusama of The Invitation fame. That's good! It's also written by the guys responsible for Ride Along and R.I.P.D. That's...not good. Hopefully Kusama and a cast including Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany, and Scoot McNairy will make this a feel-good Christmas movie for the ages.
Serenity ( originally scheduled for October 19, 2018, pushed back to January 25, 2019)
Oscar winners Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway share a past in this neo-noir set in the Caribbean. One reason I'm more than mildly interested in what sounds like a Body Heat remake is the fact it's directed by Steven Knight, whose debut was one of the best movies of 2013; Locke. Another is that McConaughey plays a fishing boat captain, and you know what that means.