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Fall 2019 Preview

It’s unfathomable to think that summer is already over, but as the kids get back on the bus, and nights become longer and cooler, it means that fall is right around the corner. With this change in the season, it also signifies a shift in the movie world, where Oscar contenders and blockbusters alike mingle together to craft an exciting and exhilarating slate of productions the look to entertain and engage. Here are few of my most anticipated films being released during the upcoming season.

It: Chapter 2 (September 5)

When it was released two years ago, IT took the cinematic world by storm. Capturing the very essence of what made Stephen King’s expansive novel so terrifying, it featured great performances by a young cast (Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Jaeden Martell, Chosen Jacobs) and a phenomenal and memorable modern movie monster in Bill Skarsgard’s frightening Pennywise.

Now that expectations are high, there is no way for IT: CHAPTER 2 to take audiences by surprise. Ingratiating new cast members that include Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy and the amazing Bill Hader who are playing the Loser’s Club as adults, it will weave the story of kids and their grown-up counteparts, and how they battle Pennywise in hopes of saving the Town of Dairy and its vulnerable inhabitants.

With a running time that clocks in a just under three hours, IT: CHAPTER 2 will not only test the nerves of its audience, but their patience as well. Anyone who has read the source material (or watched the mini-series from 1990) knows how dense the story is, and will understand that, perhaps, this daunting length may be warranted. It is a gamble, however, as it far exceeds genre norms. With the promise of a plethora of scares, oceans of blood, and plenty of Pennywise, it has all of the elements required in order to become a blockbuster, just as its predecessor was.

Joker (October 4)

After Heath Ledger’s tragic passing in 2008, I honestly believed that we would never witness another iteration of the Joker on the big screen. Standing as one of the great villainous performances in the history of cinema, he was a seething ball of malignant intensity that helped shape THE DARK KNIGHT into the comic-book film in which all others are now compared.

To my surprise, however, the Joker reemerged in 2016 in David Ayer’s hollow and disappointing SUICIDE SQUAD. Played with a feverish fury by Jared Leto (whose off-screen antics were far more intriguing than anything that ended up on the screen), Ayer’s disjointed and under-utilized storyline did a disservice to Leto and the character. While there is still a Leto-led vehicle in the works, this is certainly not the most promising production featuring the killer clown. Starring Joaquin Phoenix and co-written and directed by Todd Phillips (OLD SCHOOL, THE HANGOVER) JOKER is easily my most anticipated film of the year.

Based on an entirely new story that ignores the established Batman canon, Phillips explored how a mild mannered comedian become a deranged and psychotic murderer. Even within the Batman world, Joker is a complex and complicated entity, and the psychology of his descent into madness is one of the more thought-provoking conversations in the comic realm. Though Phillips is most well known for his outlandish comedies, Phoenix is easily one of the best actors of this (or any) generation, and I have a strong belief that he is going to be in the Oscar conversation within a matter of months. Though it was unfathomable to think of anyone approaching the brilliance of Ledger, the potential of Phoenix is there, and my expectations could not possibly be higher.

Doctor Sleep (November 8)

If you are surprised to find two Stephen King adaptations on this list, trust me when I say, I am too. This shouldn’t be construed as a knock on Mr. King, as I am a huge and ardent fan of his written work. When it comes to films based on his books, however, there are many more disappointments than stand outs.

While King himself infamously detested Stanley Kubrick’s production of THE SHINING, the majority of film fanatics (myself included) consider it a masterpiece, and easily one of the best films the genre has ever seen. The horror classic starring Jack Nicholson was released in 1980, and now, three decades later, we will finally get to see a sequel.

Based on the excellent novel by Mr. King, DOCTOR SLEEP finds a tortured Danny Torrence (Ewan McGregor) still living with the demons of what unfolded at the Overlook Hotel when he was a child. When he meets a young girl who appears to have the same powers as his, he feels the need to protect her against evil forces who will stop at nothing in order to exploit her abilities, and use them for their own nefarious purposes.

Writer/director Mike Flanagan is no stranger to horror, standing at the helm of OCULUS, HUSH, and the Netflix smash-hit series, THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE. He has also served as writer/director for another Stephen King adaptation, GERALD’S GAME. That film, with a limited cast, and minimalist setting was absolutely fantastic, and if Flanagan can seamlessly find a way to transform King’s DOCTOR SLEEP for page to screen, it may achieve the potential and expectations that come from following THE SHINING.

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood (November 22)

As discussed in my review of ROCKO’S MODERN LIFE: STATIC CLING that you’ll find in this very issue, the embrace of anything nostalgic has become a cultural movement. And, thanks to last year’s endearing and illuminating documentary WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR, Mr. Rogers is as beloved now as he had ever been. This can also be chalked up to a new generation of kids growing up with the spin-off animated series DANIEL TIGER’S NEIGHBORHOOD, but regardless of who deserves the credit, the soft-spoken Rogers and his puppet pals stand alongside Bob Ross as a beacon of joy and pleasantness from a bygone era. They are entities guaranteed to make the viewer feel sufficiently satisfied, comforted and happy whenever they grace the screen.

In Marielle Heller’s A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, the iconic Fred Rogers is portrayed by the equally legendary Tom Hanks. The film focuses on the relationship that was built between the king of PBS and journalist Lloyd Vogel (THE AMERICANS’ Matthew Rhys) who set out to discover what made Mr. Rogers tick, and if he is truly the embodiment of the character he portrayed on his beloved children’s program.

It hardly seems a gamble to throw Hanks into any role, but at the same time, Rogers was such a unique and singularly revolutionary individual, that asking audiences to believe that the most recognizable man in Hollywood is Mr. Rogers isn’t as safe of a bet as it may seem on paper. Because Morgan Neville’s doc was so good, and we were provided with such an intimate and thorough portrait of a pioneer, I truly wonder how much more insightful a biopic can possibly be. If anyone can do it, however, it’s probably Hanks, and it’s doubtful that he would tackle the role unless he knew there was something special that he was capable of projecting.

Brian Miller