Fall movie preview

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By Richard Roeper

LET’S SEE, how did we do with our Summer Preview?

Well, I did say Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again seemed like a particularly apt title, and it certainly held true. Here’s wishing, hoping, praying there won’t be a Mamma Mia 3: Gimme, Gimme, Gimme.

Remember Tag, based on the true story of a group of 40ish dudes who played a monthlong game of Tag every year for two decades? I noted, “This feels like one of those movies that could go either way,” and the way it went was down the tubes, out of sight and never to be heard from again.

Until we put together our list of the Worst Movies of 2018.

I was excited about seeing Sorry to Bother You, Hereditary, and Crazy Rich Asians, but I also included The Happytime Murders on my list of most anticipated movies of the summer, and for that I am truly and profoundly sorry.




Now we turn our attention to autumn, which on the movie calendar runs from Labor Day to Thanksgiving. In chronological order, the films I’m most keen to see this fall:

• A SIMPLE FAVOR

The odds against getting your novel published are long.

The odds against Hollywood buying the movie rights to your novel are huge.

The odds against the movie ever getting made are against you.

Even if the movie DOES get made, it’ll probably years or even decades after your work was published.

But not always.

Darcey Bell’s debut thriller A Simple Favor was published in March of 2017. It’s the story of a mommy blogger who picks up her best friend’s son from school one day, at which point the best friend disappears and is believed to be deceased.

The novel was such a hot property the movie rights were actually purchased before it was even published. And now, some 18 months after the book came out, here comes the movie version.

Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) directs, and the cast includes Blake Lively, Anna Kendrick, and Henry Golding, fresh off his star-making turn in Crazy Rich Asians.

• THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN

Here’s an oddity for you: Jonah Hill has more acting nominations (two, for Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street) than Robert Redford (The Sting).

No slight to Hill; he was superb in those films. But it’s ludicrous the Academy has overlooked so many Redford performances, from The Candidate to Jeremiah Johnson, from Three Days of the Condor to All the President’s Men, from The Natural to All Is Lost.

The 82-year-old Redford has said The Old Man and the Gun will be his last film as an actor. It’s based on the true story of a legendary career criminal and escape artist, and one can imagine Redford slipping into such a role with the ease and grace and movie-star charisma he’s exhibited for some six decades on the big screen.

We often hear how this memorable screen presence or that film legend is “The Last Great Movie Star.” Redford isn’t the last one standing, but he’s certainly one of the last of his generation, and one of greatest and sometimes most underappreciated greats of all time.

The supporting cast for The Old Man and the Gun includes Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Donald Glover, Tika Sumpter, Tom Waits, Elisabeth Moss, Keith Carradine, and John David Washington. We don’t know how the film will turn out, but we know Mr. Redford was surrounded by some of the best actors in the world for this last rodeo.

• A STAR IS BORN

Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut is the third remake of the 1937 original, following the 1954 musical starring Judy Garland and James Mason, and the 1976 version with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Cooper also stars as the booze-soaked rocker Jackson Maine, and Lady Gaga plays his discovery/protege/love interest, Ally.

Seems like a curiously safe decision for Cooper to choose such well-traveled material, but I’ve seen this one, and all I’ll say for now is: Cooper’s a pretty darn good singer, and Lady Gaga is a natural actress who performs some of the most beautiful and moving numbers I’ve witnessed on the big screen in quite some time.

• BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE

This looks like good, pulpy, bloody, modern-day drive-in fun.

In the 1960s, seven strangers — each carrying a deep secret — convene at a dilapidated hotel in Lake Tahoe, and over the course of one evening, each will have one last shot at redemption.

The cast includes Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm — and Chris Hemsworth as a cult leader, which is pretty much the same thing he plays when he’s Thor.

• FIRST MAN

We’ve seen countless documentaries and books about Apollo 11, but this is the first big-time Hollywood dramatization of the years of build-up to the moon landing and the mission itself.

And what a team they’ve assembled to tell the story: the director is Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, La La Land), and the cast includes Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, Claire Foy as Janet, Armstrong’s wife, and Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, and Lukas Haas, among others, as Armstrong’s NASA colleagues.

• BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

For years, Sacha Baron Cohen was unofficially attached to the project about the extraordinary life and times of Freddie Mercury and Queen, but Cohen had a falling-out with Queen’s Brian May over the direction of the story and eventually dropped out.

Even after Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) was cast and filming was finally underway, the controversies continued. Director Bryan Singer left the project before it was finished, and Dexter Fletcher took over.

Still, based on early buzz about Malek’s reportedly uncanny performance, hope remains this will be a film worthy of Mercury’s brilliant, troubled, fascinating, memorable life.

• THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS

The idea was for the Coen brothers to do a six-part Netflix original series of tales from the American frontier, but they decided to go with a feature-length film anthology with six chapters.

OK, we’re in.

The great character actor Tim Blake Nelson stars as the title character, and Zoe Kazan, Liam Neeson, and Tom Waits are featured in the various stories, which may or may not be connected.

• WIDOWS

Director Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) told me when he decided to make a feature-film version of a 1983 British series, Chicago was his first and only choice for the setting.

Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl, Sharp Objects) was brought on board to write the screenplay of the story of four widows whose husbands are killed in a failed heist, but McQueen stresses this is much more than a bank robbery movie, with storylines about race, power, politics, corruption, class warfare, and the realities of life in modern-day Chicago.

Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Jon Bernthal and Robert Duvall star.

• RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET

Can’t believe it’s been six years since the original!

I loved the spirit and good humor and brightly colored animation and optimistic messages in Wreck-It Ralph — and I’m excited for the sequel, with returning voices John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman, among others.

This promises to be a pop culture bonanza, with Ralph and company crossing paths with all the Disney princesses and characters from the Star Wars movies, the Pixar films, the world of the Muppets and even the Marvel Universe.

• CREED II

When it comes to playing the same character many times over, Sylvester Stallone is getting into Hugh Jackman/Wolverine territory. With the six Rocky films and now the second Creed movie, Stallone has played Rocky Balboa eight times, as Rocky has gone from longshot underdog to world champion to parent to aging fighter to widower to mentor and father figure to the son of the late Apollo Creed.

Ryan Coogler’s Creed was a terrific film, taking the story into the next generation, with Michael B. Jordan outstanding as Adonis Johnson Creed, and Stallone doing some of his best work ever in the role he created.

Creed II has a corny but fantastically promising premise: Adonis goes up against the son of Ivan Drago, the Russian fighting machine who killed his father in the ring some 30 years ago.

Ooh, I bet the son is a jerk!

One can hear the cheers now: Creed, Creed, Creed, Creed … — Chicago Sun-Times/Andrews McMeel Syndication