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Critic's Fall Film Picks

Awards season is right around the corner, and the fall film lineup is looking promising.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. September 19, 2018
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This year’s fall film lineup features an array of genres, stellar casting and daring directors. From controversial documentaries to familial conflicts to chilling thrillers, it looks like a kaleidoscope of kickoffs for awards season. The following could be hidden gems based on merit rather than numbers.



In the 1980s, Ricky Wershe Jr. became an FBI informant and drug kingpin. At any age it would have been a tough juggle, but Ricky was just 14 years old. Matthew McConaughey plays his dad, who’s caught between a rock and a hard place. Set in Detroit, the story is about despair, family values and hope for a better life. Richie Merritt, in the title role, is receiving rave reviews in this — his first performance. Directed by Yann Demange. Now in theaters.


The pairing of Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly could be a casting coup in this Western about cowboy contract killers. During the gold rush, the brothers are tasked to track down a shady scientist (Riz Ahmed) who can magically make gold appear in riverbeds. Back stabbing, brotherly love and twists at every turn may spark a “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” type of following. Also starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Directed by Jacques Audiard. Now in theaters.


The tagline for Michael Moore’s new documentary is, “Tyrant. Liar. Racist. A Hole in One.” In Moore’s own words this film asks, “When are people going to get off the couch and rise up?” Clearly, he’s referring to Trump, but he also casts equal blame on Obama, Clinton and The New York Times for corruption in politics. And warns that when money rules, we lose. The film is basically a call to action. It’s also a cautionary tale rife with references to Parkland, Flint, Mich., and New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We can always expect Moore to be prolific and controversial but rumor has it that this is his best work, ever...”a triumph.” Now in theaters.


Cinematic legend Robert Redford stars as Forrest Tucker, who escaped from San Quentin at age 70. Hot on his trail, as Tucker is back at it robbing banks, is detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck), who has respect for his methodology. Sissy Spacek is also impressed and taken in by Tucker’s charm. Tucker obviously enjoys the work. Over the course of his life, he robbed 17 banks, went to prison 17 times and managed 17 successful escapes. Looks as though Redford is perfectly cast. Directed by David Lowery.
In theaters Nov. 28.


Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn star as a married couple dealing with infertility in this darkish comedy. Who or what is to blame? There’s a lot to go around — jobs, age, even Gloria Steinem. To make matters worse, their 25-year-old niece moves in with them. Will she end up donating an egg? This film seems like it could be the perfect vehicle for Giamatti and Hahn to strut their stuff. Directed by Tamara Jenkins. In theaters Oct. 5.


In Paul Dano’s directorial debut, a couple’s marriage is disintegrating as their teenage son quietly processes the pain. When the husband (Jake Gyllenhaal) goes off to fight a Montana wildfire, his wife (Carey Mulligan), begins having an affair, which she barely tries to conceal from her son (Ed Oxenbould). The son is put through the wringer by both his mother and father with devastating results. Sounds as though it’s right up Dano’s introspective alley. In theaters Oct. 19.


Danish director Gustav Moller scored two wins at Sundance this year with this high-octane, twisty thriller. When a police dispatcher receives a disturbing call from a woman who has been kidnapped, he’s frantic. For 85 excruciating minutes he desperately tries to save her life. A pair of mysteries play out between captive and dispatcher that promises to take the audience off guard. For the most part, the camera is focused on the policeman’s face, at a single location, in real time. And although the action never plays out on screen, the film is rumored to be enormously riveting. In theaters Oct. 19.


Joel Edgerton directs, scripts and stars in this true story about gay-conversion therapy. Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe portray Baptist parents whose son (Lucas Hedges) is discovered to be gay at age 19. Rather than painting “a nihilistic story,” Edgerton tells a story “full of redemption” about well-meaning parents and their son. The compelling subject matter and excellent casting could draw a wide and diverse audience. In theaters Nov. 2.


When a robbery goes wrong, four women suddenly become widows. Not only have they lost their husbands, they now have a debt to pay. Seems they owe $2 million that was stolen from a political campaign. When one of the women (Viola Davis) discovers a plan for a $5 million burglary made before her husband’s death, the gals unite and get down to business. Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen creates a savvy caper flick full of action while also delving into sexism, racism, police shootings and politics against the backdrop of Chicago’s South Side. It’s a female-driven cast, but some heavy male A-listers get involved including Liam Neeson and Colin Farrell — just for starters. In theaters Nov. 16.


When a Japanese family of thieves take in an abused little girl, they train her in the art of shoplifting. Japan’s socioeconomic system has forced working families to supplement their income just to survive. Even grandma’s a con artist. But the film also celebrates the family unit and the responsibility of parenting. Director Hirokazu Kore-eda won the Palme d’or at Cannes this year for this sometimes sweet story about hard love and loyalty. In theaters Nov. 23.


All dates are subject to change.


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