2018 Fall Film Preview


As the hottest days of McAllen’s six-month summer slog upwards toward the Labor Day crest, soon to start the tediously slow decline in temperature that will bring a bearable autumn day, ironically, sometime around Dia de los Muertos. Then, there will be that first sudden cool front that annually catches everyone unprepared and, though it hovers maybe around 60 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 hours, residents dress as if they were competing in the Iditarod.

I am reminded of Harper Lee’s description of Maycomb in the summer: “Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.”

Since my daytime office has a broken air conditioner and my afternoon commute is 50 minutes on a boiling highway with the western sun on the driver’s side, I am often immersed in that sticky Texas heat, but I’ve never felt much like a powdered teacake. I lack that genteel grace that separates true ladies from sweaty, hulking bag monsters frightening children when they run from their car, fully-clothed, and jump straight into the neighborhood swimming pool.

However remote I feel from the fall scenes in movies that take place in faraway places like Chicago or Brooklyn or Philadelphia with leaves on the ground and pretty cardigans and eating lunch on a park bench, there is something about the season that, like Tom Hanks’s character says in “You’ve Got Mail,” makes you want to go out and buy school supplies.

I’m due for a new film journal soon and a new pack of my favorite pens: Pilot Precise V5 Rolling Ball, Extra Fine, black ink. Luckily, there are some juicy upcoming films in the next few months to occupy the quill and scroll.

Mandy (Sept. 14): The blood-soaked revenge thriller by Panos Cosmatos (“Beyond the Black Rainbow”) stars Nicolas Cage as Red Miller, whose titular girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough) is kidnapped by a sadistic biker cult made up of both humans and demons. The saturated colors and Benjamin Loeb’s camerawork showcase Cage’s well-honed intensity at its most unhinged, so this should be one crazy ride.

The Old Man and the Gun (Sept. 28): Earlier this month, Robert Redford stated that he will retire after promoting his last film, based on the true story of 70-year-old San Quentin inmate Forrest Tucker who busts out of prison and goes on a heist run while being pursued by two much-younger detectives (John David Washington and Casey Affleck). If indeed this is his finale after six decades in films, writer-director David Lowery is definitely the man to encapsulate the iconic actor’s rugged individuality and rakish charm.

A Star is Born (Oct. 5): Every time I watch the trailer, I get more excited for the third reincarnation of the archetypal story of fame and artistry and creative demons. From the 1937 original with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, to Judy Garland and James Mason in 1954, Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson in 1976, and Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in 2018, the bittersweet tale of two artists (sometimes actors, other times singers) who meet and fall in love at the rise and descent of their careers is perhaps most relatable because it never gets old, and the entertainment machine keeps grinding away.

Halloween (Oct. 19): How badly do we need Jamie Lee Curtis back in action roles? With Linda Hamilton returning as Sarah Conner in the upcoming “Terminator” reboot and women everywhere hoping Sigourney Weaver reprises her role as Ellen Ripley either of Ridley Scott’s next two “Alien” prequels leading up to the 1979 storyline, the time is ripe for 60-year-old Curtis to introduce a new generation to her no-nonsense brand of American-woman ass-kicking as Laurie Strode takes on Michael Myers one last (?) time. She did her own stunts, including the famous helicopter scene, on “True Lies” — let’s get her to do more of that!

Mid90s (Oct. 19): Jonah Hill wrote and directed this comedy about a teenage skateboarder’s summer in Los Angeles in, well, you guess the time period. I have been so impressed by the performances of young actors in 2018, from Millicent Simmonds in “A Quiet Place” to Milly Shapiro in “Hereditary,” Kiersey Clemons in “Hearts Beat Loud” to Elsie Fisher in “Eighth Grade” and Thomasin McKenzie in “Leave No Trace.” The lead performance by Sunny Suljic, who was also in Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot and The House with a Clock in Its Walls looks to continue this winning streak.

Bohemian Rhapsody (Nov. 2): The long-delayed, oft-recast biopic of iconic rock band Queen’s evolution on and off-stage will finally hit theaters, and those early trailers are magical. Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury? Yes, please, but look at the rest: Joe Mazzello, Aiden Gillen, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers! Judging from the trailers, we will see the band at least through Live Aid, so be ready for some raucous energy mixed with extraordinary vocals and a showmanship that no front man since has been able to match.

Suspiria (Nov. 2): Haven’t seen Dario Argento’s 1977 original about a German dance academy in with sinister plans for its ballerinas? Get on that now. Then, watch the remake directed by Luca Guadagnino (“Call Me By Your Name”) with Dakota Johnson (“Fifty Shades” trilogy), Mia Goth (“The Cure for Wellness”), and the immortal Tilda Swinton as the school’s artistic director. With a Thom Yorke-composed score and fantastic art direction and cinematography, the dancers’ grip on reality is tested as they fall deeper into the void.

Widows (Nov. 16): Based on the 1980s British miniseries written by Lynda La Plante, Steve McQueen returns to the big screen after five years to direct Viola Davis, Carrie Coon, Elizabeth Debicki, and Michelle Rodriguez as four wives whose husbands are killed in a heist gone wrong, and now there are many ruthless people who want the stolen money back but hadn’t counted on the women to take matters into their own hands. Daniel Kaluuya, Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson, Jon Bernthal, and Robert Duvall make up the stellar supporting cast of what may be the most riveting female-centric thriller of the year.

Mary, Queen of Scots (Dec. 7) and Mary Poppins Returns (Dec. 19): Battle of the Marys begins soon, and its Scotland versus England. Saoirse Ronan looks fierce as Mary Stuart, who plots to overthrow her cousin, Elizabeth I, and both shrewd, intelligent, ambitious rulers will not suffer the other to live. History at its most dastardly! Fast-forward a few centuries and everyone’s favorite British nanny returns to set things right again for the Banks children, now all grown up but not without heartache. I’m excited to see 93-year-old Dick Van Dyke return as Mr. Dawes, Jr. (son of the bank president who “died laughing” at the end of the 1964 film), though it would have been surreal to see him as Bert the kindly chimneysweep as long as he retained that hilariously awful Cockney accent.

Mortal Engines (Dec. 14): OK, this is technically winter, but I’m keeping it all the same semester. In his debut feature, Christian Rivers, who has worked in the art and visual effects departments on Peter Jackson’s films going all the way back to 1992’s hysterically disgusting “Dead Alive” (the one with the bloody ear in the custard!) gets to helm the adaptation of Philip Reeve’s book, adapted by Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens. After a global war, cities now teeter on massive wheeled structures that hunt and consume smaller towns for their resources. The Weta-designed cities and apocalyptic landscapes bring Reeve’s steampunk-inspired world to vibrant life, and this should be one of the epics of the holiday season.