Fall movies: We have 28 reasons to be stoked for what’s headed to theaters – The Mercury News

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The summer movie season proved skeptics wrong. Turns out folks did want to go back to theaters after all, especially to see blockbusters.
Although the U.S. box office totals lagged behind summer 2019 numbers, there were enough huge hits — “Top Gun: Maverick” ($663 million), “Jurassic World: Dominion” ($372 million), “Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” ($411 million) — to suggest that people will venture out to see sequels and superhero movies.
But will the trend continue this fall, when the meatier releases leading up to holiday/awards season land in cineplexes?
If not, it won’t be because Hollywood didn’t give it a good shot. Cinephiles this fall are are in for juicy treats, with the arrival of Steven Spielberg’s most personal film yet — “The Fabelmans” — as well as two intriguing Harry Styles dramas, numerous period pieces and mysteries, a look at the two New York Times journalists uncovering the evil that Hollywood men can do and ushering in the #MeToo era, and a sequel to East Bay native Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther.”
In all, it’s quite a harvest. But of course the COVID landscape could always change and the Cineplex scene, as always, remains fluid. But here are some of the most notable scheduled fall releases set to land in theaters and on streaming platforms from now till the week before Thanksgiving.
Release dates are subject to change.
Stars: Regina Hall, Sterling K. Brown
Release date: Sept. 2 in theaters and on Peacock
Why we’re pumped: The heavenly pairing of Hall and Brown makes us want to see this satire about a wife-husband team attempting to get a scandal-tarnished Southern Baptist megachurch back in the public’s favor.

Stars: Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Ruth Wilson, Harris Dickinson, David Oyelowo, Reece Shearsmith
Release date: Sept. 16 in theaters
Why we’re pumped: One killer of a play sets the stage for a murderous movie adaptation in this 1950s London-set whodunit with Oscar winner and Daly City native Sam Rockwell as a seen-it-all detective doing the sleuthing alongside his able assistant (Ronan). Fans of Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” — or Agatha Christie novels — should take note.
Stars: Viola Davis, John Boyega, Lashana Lynch, Thuso Mbedu
Release date: Sept. 16 in theaters
Why we’re pumped: We’ll follow Viola Davis anywhere she travels on film. In this historical epic based on true events, white colonizers get their comeuppance at the hands of a most formidable challenger in the Kingdom of Dahomey — general Nanisca (Davis). She’s leading a group of 19th-century women warriors. All hail, Viola!

Stars: Harry Styles, Florence Pugh, Olivia Wilde, Chris Pine, Gemma Chan
Release date: Sept. 23 in theaters
Why we’re pumped: Olivia Wilde’s follow-up to her directorial smash debut — 2019’s clever and funny “Booksmart” — couldn’t be more boldly different. The seductive trailer places a sexy ‘50s-era couple (Styles and Pugh) in the sunny nightmare of a Stepford-like suburban community. It looks like a surreal, highly stylized neo-noir, and another coup for its director.

Stars: Ana de Armas, Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Xavier Samuel, Julianne Nicholson
Release date: Sept. 28 on Netflix
Why we’re pumped: An NC-17 rating and a trailer that angered some while enticing others make this one of the season’s most intriguing and talked-about titles. With renegade Andrew Dominik directing and the source material being Joyce Carol Oates’ interpretation of the Norma Jean/Marilyn legend, prepare for a non-traditional take on the screen siren. As Monroe, de Armas looks more than just convincing.

Stars: Better Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy
Release date: Sept. 30 on Disney+
Why we’re pumped: If Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Iceman (Val Kilmer) can reunite 30-something years later, why can’t those bumbling Sanderson sisters/witches — Winifred (Midler), Sarah (Parker) and Mary (Najimy) — conjure up more mayhem 29 years afterwards. Here, the 17th-century trio are brought to modern-day Salem and three high school students must toil to stop them.
Stars: Billy Eichner, Luke MacFarlane, Brock Ciarlelli, Ts Madison, Bowen Yang
Release date: Sept. 30 in theaters
Why we’re pumped: Opposites attract in Nicholas Stoller’s gay rom-com — billed as one of the first ever from a major studio (Universal) that’s made up of a mostly LGBTQ+ cast. The trailer looks hilarious and the chemistry between Eichner and Hallmark Channel heartthrob MacFarlane seems extra spicy. We’re putting our rainbow flag out for this one.
Stars: Zac Efron, Russell Crowe, Jake Picking, Kyle Allen
Release date: Sept. 30 in select theaters and on Apple TV+
Why we’re pumped: The patriotic gesture of bringing beer overseas to American troops in Vietnam turns into a profound eye-opening experience for Chickie Donohue (Zac Efron) in director Peter Farrelly’s follow-up to his 2018 “Green Book,” an Oscar winner. Speaking of the Academy Awards, Apple TV+ took home the top prize this year with its lovely “CODA.” Could lightning strike twice for that streamer?  It’s facing stiff competition. Livermore native Kyle Allen costars in this truth-based story.
Stars: Britt Rentschler, Michael Tennant, JJ Nolan, Graham Outerbridge, Charlotte Ubben, Alex Klein
Release date: Oct. 7 in theaters
Why we’re pumped: This crowd-pleasing blend of social commentary and ribald comedy skewers (never cruelly) wealthy wine country pretensiousness, and does so hilariously. Seeking to add some spice to their life, a couple (Tennant and Rentschler) hang out with obscenely rich folk near Windsor. It’s frothy and funny, and has collected awards along the festival circuit.
Stars: Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, Taylor Swift, Anya Taylor-Joy, John David Washington, Rami Malek, Zoe Saldana
Release date: Oct. 7 in theaters
Why we’re pumped: You’ve got to hand it to David O. Russell. The “American Hustle” filmmaker knows how to attract an eclectic, kick-butt cast. He’s outdone himself with this quirky ‘30s-era mystery — rich with precise period detail — centering on a trio of friends who become suspects in a murder.

Stars: Charlbi Dean Kriek, Harris Dickinson, Woody Harrelson, Dolly De Leon
Release date: Oct. 7 in theaters
Why we’re pumped: Oh, the affluent. They make such ever-ready targets. Wry and acerbic Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund (“The Square,” “Force Majeure”)  strands a group of whiny and vapid 1 percenters on an island after their yacht sinks. We’re onboard for this teardown of the rich.
Stars: Danielle Deadwyler, Jalyn Hall, Frankie Faison, Whoopi Goldberg
Release date: Oct. 14 in theaters
Why we’re pumped: Powerhouse director Chinonye Chukwu recounts the abhorrent 1955 lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi from the perspective of his mother, Mamie Till Mobley. “Till” chronicles her demand for justice while struggling with her grief and anger over an unjust system.

Stars: Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong
Release date: Oct. 14  in theaters
Why we’re pumped: It’s been 16 years since the acclaimed “Little Children” filmmaker Todd Field directed and co-wrote a movie. He returns with this classical music biopic on the life and career of musician/composer Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett). The trippy trailer promises it won’t be the same-old/same-old biopic. But will more than just classical music buffs show up?
Stars: Tang Wei, Park Hae-il
Release date: Oct. 14 in select theaters
Why we’re pumped: South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook knows how to rattle the subconscious more effectively than almost any other director working today. The director of “The Handmaiden” and “Oldboy” wowed Cannes with this mystery in which a detective’s encounter with an enigmatic widow takes him to unexpected destinations. We’re there.
Stars: Jonathan Majors, Glen Powell, Christina Jackson, Joe Jonas
Release date: Nov. 23 (recently pushed back from original Oct. 14 release).
Why we’re pumped: Who doesn’t need an old-fashioned, based-on-a-true-story drama about two heroic Navy fighter pilots (Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell) and their courageous actions during the Korean War? Director J.D. Dillard provides and puts two major stars in the cockpits.

Stars: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Maxime Bouttier, Lucas Bravo
Release date: Oct. 21 in theaters
Why we’re pumped: It looks and sounds so rom-com predictable — two exes (Roberts and Clooney) are forced to set aside their squabbling ways so they can convince their daughter that she shouldn’t walk down the aisle in Bali. But who cares? The trailer is hilarious and Clooney and Roberts fire off those liners with such zeal. This is a rom-com reunion for Clooney and Roberts and we don’t want to miss it.
Stars: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Barry Keoghan, Kerry Condon
Release date: Oct. 21 in theaters
Why we’re pumped: Get set to belt back a Guinness or two before watching distinctive risk-taker Martin McDonagh’s latest, a reunion with his “In Bruges” team (Farrell and Gleeson) for another sure-to-be dark, hilarious and violent shocker. The disintegration of a friendship triggers all sorts of bad behavior, and we can’t wait to be a fly on the wall.
Stars: Paul Mescal, Francesca Corio
Release date: Oct. 21 in New York and Los Angeles, and expanding from there.
Why we’re pumped: In this reflective, semi-autobiographical indie, a daughter recalls both vividly and rather hazily the vacation she spent with her father (Paul Mescal) in Turkey. Director/writer Charlotte Wells has been collecting raves for her debut. Sounds perfect for the arthouse crowd.
Stars: Harry Styles, Emma Corrin, David Dawson, Linus Roache, Gina McKee, Rupert Everett
Release date: Oct. 21 in select theaters; streams Nov. 4 on Amazon Prime
Why we’re pumped: In one of the most anticipated literary adaptations of the season, Harry Styles plays the titular policeman who is irrevocably drawn to two individuals, a teacher (Corrin) and a museum curator (Dawson). Adapted from Bethan Roberts’ time-shifting novel, “Policeman” reflects changing attitudes of ‘50s to ‘90s Britain with Roache, McKee and Everett playing the characters 40 years later. With director Michael Grandage’s background in theater, this one could well net some serious acting awards.

Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Shahi, Pierce Brosnan, Noah Centineo
Release date: Oct. 21 in theaters
Why we’re pumped: Anti-hero films don’t always save the day (consider that “Morbius” strikeout with Jared Leto), but if there’s one actor who could win us over playing a cool bad guy it would be Dwayne Johnson. His Black Adam flexes his nefarious superpowers after being entombed for some 5,000 years. In the process hopefully he’ll spark more interest in the DC Comics Universe.

Stars: Elizabeth Banks, Sigourney Weaver, Chris Messina, Kate Mara
Release date: Oct. 28 in theaters
Why we’re pumped: Early in the year, before the Supreme Court dismantled Roe V. Wade, Phyllis Nagy’s rousing dramatization about a ‘60s-era Chicago housewife (Banks) who turns into an abortionist debuted at Sundance Film Festival. Since January, “Call Jane” has only grown in stature and relevance; Sigourney Weaver is stellar as a committed advocate and leader of a secret circle to help women with unplanned pregnancies.
Stars: Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Strong
Release date: Oct. 28 in theaters
Why we’re pumped: In this rather reflective cinematic season, director James Gray hops in to draw partially on his own experiences for a coming-of-age story about an unruly boy in ‘80s Queens who discovers that prejudice resides in the hearts of those around him.
Release date: Nov. 4  in theaters; streams starting Nov. 23 on Amazon Prime
Why we’re pumped: In a season where most films focus on more somber subjects, what a pleasant surprise to see Ryan White’s documentary arrive to lift the spirits and make our hearts swell. His documentary follows a rover called Opportunity — “Oppy” for short” — that journeyed to Mars on a 90-day mission. But the ‘bot defied all odds and wound up on the Red Planet for 15 years.
Stars: Michelle Williams, Julia Butters, Gabriel LaBelle, Seth Rogen, Paul Dano
Release date: Nov. 11 in limited release; opens wide Nov. 23
Why we’re pumped: In filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s most personal film yet, he puts a fictionalized spin on his own experiences from ages 7 to 18. The story centers on Sammy Fabelman and his formative years in Arizona where he develops a love for movies while uncovering some unexpected truths. It sounds destined for Oscars and was written by Spielberg and his frequent collaborator, the prized playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner.
Stars: Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett
Release date: Nov. 11 in theaters
Why we’re pumped: The legacy of Chadwick Boseman, who died in 2020, will always live on in Oakland-born filmmaker Ryan Coogler’s version of Marvel’s Wakanda. Many details remain hush-hush about what the next chapter for this franchise will be after the death of King T’Challa will bring. We do know there are new characters, more elaborate and rich Afrofuturistic imagery and costume designs and even an undersea nation. Oh, yeah, and there’s that kick-ass cast of strong Black female characters. We’re there.

Stars: Hugh Jackman, Vanessa Kirby, Laura Dern, Zen McGrath, Anthony Hopkins
Release date: Nov. 18 in theaters
Why we’re pumped: In this adaptation of the second in a stage-play trilogy (the first being “The Father”) written by director Florian Zeller, a father (Hugh Jackman) juggling a new family is reunited with his troubled son from a previous marriage. Zeller’s “The Father” scored Anthony Hopkins a deserved Oscar. Could this one land one for the versatile Jackman as well?
Stars: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Fiennes, Nicholas Hoult
Release date: Nov. 18 in theaters
Why we’re pumped: We seem to have quite the appetite for movies and series about restaurants and star chefs. Consider FX’s extra-savory “The Bear” and those countless cooking shows. But this dark comedy appears to be serving something bloody scary. A well-heeled couple (Taylor-Joy and Hoult) beeline to a remote island so they can dine at a hoity-toity restaurant run by a strange chef (Fiennes). Doubt anyone will be taking a doggie bag home.
Stars: Zoe Kazan, Carey Mulligan, Samantha Morton, Andre Braugher
Release date: Nov. 18 in theaters
Why we’re pumped: Two New York Times journalists (Mulligan and Kazan) collaborate and uncover a shocking case that reverberates throughout the world, about a series of sexual assaults in Hollywood perpetrated by a man in power and the coverup that led to a new movement.
Contact Randy Myers at [email protected]
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