Every year it happens. There are a handful of films that refuse to do the fall festival circuit and would rather just wait for AFI or, better yet, just be released without any festival exposure. This year I’ve counted 10 films that have the potential to break into the Oscar race, whether it’s in the Best Picture category or even Best Visual Effects (“Zombieland: Double Tap,” “Gemini Man”).
IT: Chapter II (September 6th)
Andy Muschietti is back in under a month’s time with the second and final installment of the 2017 smash hit horror IT. Pennywise the clown returns to the small town of Derry 27 years after first entering the lives of the Losers Club. Howeverthe likes of Finn Wolfhard and Sophia Lillis are now the likes of Bill Hader and Jessica Chastain. A wonderful supporting cast including James McAvoy, James Ransone and Jess Weixler boost the star power for a sequel Muscheitti has promised will up the scares from the original which grossed $700M worldwide and was even good enough to be acknowledged by the book’s writer, the great Stephen King. Oh, and the film clocks in at an Avengers esque 2H 45M, so buckle up.
Gemini Man (October 11th)
Having been away since 2016’s Billy Lynn’s Long Half Time Walk underwhelmed audiences, Life of PI and Brokeback Mountain Helmer Ang Lee, returns with this Will Smith starring action, thriller. Smith, playing over-the-hill hitman Henry Brogan, learns he is the target of a mysterious hitman, only to learn the hitman in question is a younger, cloned version of himself. Score one more for the de-aging technology that appears to be breaking out this year following Captain Marvel, and the upcoming IT:Chapter II and The Irishman. Paramount will hope to (at least) have a box office hit on their hands here, and Will Smith’s box-office attraction will be tested to the max.
Zombieland: Double Tap (October 18th)
Ten years on, and the first film has gained cult film status around the world. Before Emma Stone won her Oscar and before Jesse Eisenberg was nominated of one, they starred as Columbus and Wichita, who, along with Woody Harrelson’s Tallahassee and Abigail Breslin’s Little Rock, battled to survive, kick ass and (for Tallahasse) find Twinkies and… Bill Murray (RIP Bill). Now director Ruben Fleischer has reunited his all-star cast for a final go round on Pacific Playland, with the likes of Rosario Dawson, Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch joining cast. Bill Murray is also (somehow) back in the picture.
Terminator: Dark Fate (October 23rd)
Having promised that star, Mackenzie Davis’ character would ‘scare the s*** out of misogynists’ and with Linda Hamilton and Edward Furlong returning, along with James Cameron in a producing role, there is quiet but rising expectation for Tim Miller’s (Deadpool) attempt at (what is being labelled) the ‘true’ sequel to judgement day. With the franchise on its knees, following a plethora of poorly-received instalment’s, can Dark Fate finally see this age-old franchise return to form?
Doctor Sleep (November 8th)
Nearly 40 years on from Kubrick’s take on Stephen King’s most famous novel, all be it much to King’s dismay, The Haunting of Hill House’s Mike Flanagan re-introduces us to an Older Danny Torrence, played now by Ewan McGregor as his bid to protect those like him, looks to lead him back to the Overlook Hotel, the scene of the scariest night of his life. The supporting cast include Room (2015) star Jacob Tremblay and Mission Impossible’s Rebecca Ferguson.
Queen and Slim (November 27th)
The first trailer for Universal Pictures’ Queen & Slim is here and it looks like a socio-political/African-American version of “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Thelma & Louise.” Universal’s press release describes the film as “a powerful, consciousness-raising love story that confronts the staggering human toll of racism and the life-shattering price of violence.” “Queen & Slim” is the feature directing debut for director Melina Matsoukas (HBO’s “Insecure”). It stars Daniel Kaluuya and rising star Jodie Turner-Smith as the titular characters. Talented writer Lena Waithe (“The Chi”) was given responsibility to adapt the bestselling novel by author James Frey (“A Million Little Pieces”).
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (December 19th)
No doubt the biggest on the list in terms of box-office potential and global appeal. J.J Abrams returns to round out the Skywalker saga once and for all, following the events of Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi. The teaser trailer showed Daisy Ridley’s Rey looking every bit the Jedi Knight she was teased to become at the end of the previous instalment, and Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren looking as torn as ever. However, the biggest news so far concerns the return of the biggest villain of the original trilogy, Ian McDarmid’s Darth Sidious aka The Emperor. His unmistakeable cackle at the end of the teaser sprouted a thousand questions, ones whose answers will have to wait until Christmas. Let’s just hope amid some corners of the internet’s backlash that Disney don’t backtrack on all Johnson did to break the Star Wars mould two years ago.
Cats (December 20th)
You could probably take up a full page previewing one of the most talked about films of the year in Tom Hooper’s (The King’s Speech, Les Miserables) adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most divisive musical. Treated with negativity ever since its announcement, the films trailer didn’t do much to quash it, with Universal’s musical seemingly the only thing twitter can unify behind this year. The attempted to digitally add fur to what really is an all-star cast in the shape of Dame Judie Dench, Ian McKellen, James Corden, Idris Elba, Rebel Wilson, Jason Derulo, Jennifer Hudson, Taylor Swift, and newcomer Francesca Howard, appears to have gone down about as well as throwing water on a cat, as (although not the finished product) the trailer was arguably the spookiest teaser to debut on a day that saw the first look at IT: Chapter II. That being said, the huge publicity surrounding the film should see Universal at least make a hefty box-office, regardless of reviews.
Little Women (December 21st)
Greta Gerwig’s much anticipated follow up to Lady Bird, her adaptation of the famous story of four sisters growing up in post-civil war America, seems to have had quite a tumultuous post-production. Our own Jordan Ruimy posted back in July that a few lucky people had seen a first cut of Sony’s supposed major awards player, and that overall response was good, if for a few complaints about the ‘first half of the films drastically different tone from the second half’. It was also widely believed that the film, boasting Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, Timothee Chalamet and many more, would debut at one of the fall festivals, however that is now highly unlikely. Still scheduled for a very late December release date, it is possible Gerwig and Sony will settle for nothing less than perfection for a Movie still near the top of many Best Picture prediction lists.
1917 (December 25th)
In a Hollywood that has all but shunned artistic freedom for directors this past decade, it must be hard for Mendes to find the right project to satisfy his creative juices. Alas, that’s why his upcoming WWI film “1917” should be a cause for celebration. The film stars Mark Strong, Colin Firth, and Benedict Cumberbatch and will have the luxury of being shot by DP extraordinaire Roger Deakins. However, even more striking, is the fact that [via IndieWire] as confirmed at CinemaCon yesterday, Mendes is attempting to film “1917” as one long take, ala Alejandro Iñárritu’s “Birdman.”