It’s that time of year I always look forward to: leaves crunching on the sidewalk, sweater weather, shadowy evenings, and — just maybe — a glut of good movies at the multiplexes. Here are some of the most anticipated titles coming up this season, sorted by categories; please note that all release dates are tentative and as changeable as Mister Rogers’ cardigans.
Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Goldfinch,” which had a textured sprawl to it that should theoretically transfer well to the movies, comes to the big screen Sept. 13, starring Ansel Elgort as the troubled young man at its center; Nicole Kidman, Luke Wilson and Jeffrey Wright co-star. Edward Norton directs and stars in “Motherless Brooklyn,” an adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s novel about a private investigator in 1950s New York, opening Nov. 1.
Ian McKellen plays a con artist and Helen Mirren a wealthy widow — ooh, I’m in line already, aren’t you? — in the screen adaptation of Nicholas Searle’s bestselling novel “The Good Liar,” coming Nov. 15. And those whose nightmares have long been haunted by “The Shining” should brace themselves: Stephen King’s follow-up novel “Doctor Sleep,” about grown-up Danny Torrance (yes, the REDRUM kid), comes to screens Nov. 8, with Ewan McGregor starring.
The True Stories
Both period drama and celebration of a heroine whose name not enough people know, “Harriet” (Nov. 1), directed by Kasi Lemmons, stars Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery in the South and subsequently freed hundreds of others through the Underground Railroad. “Official Secrets” (Sept. 13) tells the story of whistleblower Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley), who leaked information to the British press about an illegal spy operation that influenced the invasion of Iraq.
Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers — that sounds about right, doesn’t it? A famous nice guy disappears into another one in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (Nov. 22), director Marielle Heller’s follow-up to “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Renée Zellweger becomes Judy Garland in “Judy” (Sept. 27), about the legendary singer in the twilight of her too-short life.
Matt Damon and Christian Bale team up to make a Ford car that could outrace a Ferrari — based on a real-life rivalry culminating in a 1966 race — in “Ford v Ferrari” (Nov. 15). “Dark Waters” (Nov. 22), directed by the talented Todd Haynes (“Carol,” “Far from Heaven“), stars Mark Ruffalo as an environmental defense attorney who takes on the vast chemical firm DuPont; Anne Hathaway co-stars. And have you ever thought that Annette Bening looked like Dianne Feinstein? Me neither, but nonetheless Bening’s playing the senator in “The Report” (Nov. 15), a based-on-fact drama about a post-9/11 Senate investigation, also starring Adam Driver and Jon Hamm.
The Sequels and Franchises
If you think I can get through this story without squeeing a bit about the “Downton Abbey” movie (coming Sept. 20), you do not know me very well. OH MY GOD THE COSTUMES. OK, I feel better now; let’s carry on. The Batman/DC Comics universe continues with “Joker” (Oct. 4), with Joaquin Phoenix slipping into the deranged clown makeup worn by the late Heath Ledger (“The Dark Knight”) and Jared Leto (“Suicide Squad”); Robert De Niro co-stars. Arnold Schwarzenegger is Terminating again in “Terminator: Dark Fate” (Nov. 1), alongside Linda Hamilton, and the “Zombieland” crew — Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin — reunites, a decade later, for “Zombieland: Double Tap,” which I assume isn’t about tap-dancing (Oct. 18). Also returning: The “Charlie’s Angels” concept, in a franchise reboot starring Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska and Elizabeth Banks as Bosley (Nov. 15).
If the names Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven mean anything to you — or your kids — note that Disney’s “Frozen II” arrives just in time for Thanksgiving break, on Nov. 22. And based on the trailer — in which Angelina Jolie and her cheekbones thunder “THERE WILL BE NO WEDDING,” Michelle Pfeiffer wields a crossbow and Chiwetel Ejiofor shows up — “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” (Oct. 18) just might be as much fun as its title.
In this 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing year, “Ad Astra” (Sept. 20) seems well timed; in it, Brad Pitt plays an astronaut who travels into space to solve the mystery of his father (Tommy Lee Jones), who vanished on a space voyage long ago. Also in the space vein: “Lucy in the Sky” (Oct. 4), with Natalie Portman as an astronaut desperate for another space mission as she struggles with life on Earth.
Pedro Almodóvar once again teams with frequent muses Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz for “Pain and Glory” (Oct. 25), in which an aging filmmaker looks back on key events in his life. And filmmaker Ira Sachs, whose recent films “Love Is Strange” and “Little Men” were both moving, nuanced portraits of families, returns with “Frankie” (Nov. 15), in which Isabelle Huppert plays the matriarch of a multigenerational family gathering for a vacation in a Portuguese resort town.
What, I ask you, is the holiday season without a movie scripted by Emma Thompson and centered on a George Michael song? In “Last Christmas” (Nov. 8), a romantic comedy directed by Paul Feig (“Spy,” “Bridesmaids”), a disaster-prone young woman (Emilia Clarke) who works in a Christmas shop meets a charming young man (Henry Golding, of “Crazy Rich Asians”). Or if you like your comedy saturated with murder mystery, “Knives Out” (Nov. 27) looks potentially diverting; it’s sort of a game of Clue in which a patriarch of an eccentric family drops dead, and Daniel Craig has to show up and sort things out. (As I wish he would in my life.) Also on hand are Christopher Plummer, Jamie Lee Curtis and Chris Evans; Rian Johnson (“Looper,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) directs. And for those who prefer their comedy of the animated variety, “The Addams Family” arrives in time for Halloween (Oct. 11, to be exact), featuring the voices of Charlize Theron, Oscar Isaac, Chloë Grace Moretz and Nick Kroll.
The Loud Ones
Need a movie with some big-screen action? The sci-fi thriller “Gemini Man,” in development hell for more than two decades with a string of directors and stars attached, is finally arriving on screen Oct. 11, directed by Ang Lee and starring Will Smith as a government assassin facing off against a cloned younger version of himself. “Midway” (Nov. 8), directed by loud-movie specialist Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” “White House Down”), depicts the Battle of Midway in 1942, with Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Dennis Quaid and Woody Harrelson. And “Black and Blue” (Oct. 25) is an action thriller featuring Oscar nominee Naomie Harris (“Moonlight”) as a rookie cop who learns that a murder was committed by corrupt police officers.
And, Speaking of Shadowy Evenings
Seattle’s most delicious fall film tradition continues this season: the 42nd annual film noir series at Seattle Art Museum. This year’s edition kicks off Sept. 26 with the 1944 Philip Marlowe noir “Murder, My Sweet,” and continues for eight more subsequent Thursdays (skipping Thanksgiving), ending Dec. 5 with David Lynch’s twisty, brilliant modern noir “Mulholland Drive.” Series tickets are $78 ($71 for SAM or film-organization partner members) and available through seattleartmuseum.org or 206-654-3210.