As the fast-and-furious dudes of summer fade into the distance and the lion sleeps tonight, fall movie time arrives with many titles that will have us talking for the rest of the year and through the awards season. Along with Stitch Fix-curated jackets and the changing leaves (when we get that in North Texas), fall brings a little joy for every movie lover. We’re getting enough blockbusters, tear-jerking dramas, space expeditions, offbeat originals and sequels to make you squeal.

Get the kernels popping

Aside from a couple of superhero epics and indie features, this summer’s quality content was on the light side. Fortunately, there are few high-dollar turkeys in the oven, and it begins with Joker (Oct. 4).

While Warner Bros.’s plan for DC Comics doesn’t make a lick of sense, one thing is for sure: This solo outing featuring the Clown Prince of Gotham (which supposedly has no connection to any previous Batman movie, and isn’t strictly based on any particular comic) looks exciting. I have honestly watched the trailers more times than I care to admit. I think it’s the combination of Joaquin Phoenix playing the Joker and the heavy Martin Scorsese vibe (a dash of Taxi Driver with a pinch of The King of Comedy). The early word is it’s incredible, and I’m willing to bet on its success.

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If you liked Zombieland, you’ll want to catch the sequel, Zombieland: Double Tap. The movie finds the original crew — Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) — in the American Heartand trying to outsmart and outlive evolved zombies and other survivors. Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures. ORG XMIT: Woody Harrelson (Finalized);Jesse Eisenberg (Finalized);Emma Stone (Finalized);Abigail Breslin (Finalized)

Sequels are the movie industry’s bloodline, and audiences are hooked up to the supply. Kicking off the list is a decade-later follow-up to the high energy, Twinkie and flesh chomping comedy Zombieland, now with the apt subtitle of Double Tap (Oct. 18). While it may not have the element of surprise like its 2009 original, the nutty sequel appears to have the gags, pop culture references and infectious characters to keep it alive.

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Jumanji: The Next Level is due out Dec. 13. A team of friends returns to Jumanji to rescue on of their own, but things don’t go as planned. Photo courtesy of Hartbeat Productions.

Additionally, there are Jumanji: The Next Level (Dec. 13) and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Dec. 20). The former is going to be a family affair that is sure to brighten your days leading into the most wonderful time of the year, while the latter is a must-see.

2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi divided fans. But The Rise of Skywalker is the final chapter in the Skywalker saga. From here on out (supposedly), it’s going to be all-new adventures in a galaxy far, far away. Come December you can watch for #NotMyStarWars to surface back online, but you also expect a grand force of wows. These movies are a blast to speculate about. Is Rey the daughter or granddaughter of the Emperor? Does she have an evil clone? Ah! We need answers!

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Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac and John Boyega are among the returning cast for ‘Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.’ (Disney/Lucasfilm/TNS)

Oh, and speaking of Star Wars, Last Jedi director Rian Johnson is on a creative detour from space adventures to explore more original territories. His next project, Knives Out (Nov. 27), is a whodunit akin to an Agatha Christie novel, but with some goofballs and quippy dialogue tossed in. Supported by an all-star cast (including Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans and Daniel Craig), this is a game of Clue that I am ready to solve.

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Knives Out is akin to an Agatha Christie whodunnit propelled by an all-star cast. Photo courtesy of FilmNation Entertainment.

Awards potential

The fall movie season wouldn’t be what it is without all the movies tailored to have Oscar voters salivating. The playbook to win voters’ attention is to make your movie about a beloved or controversial figure from history and have a big star play the part.

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Honey Boy is based on actor Shia LaBeouf’s childhood. The film releases on Nov. 8. Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Natalie Portman, Christian Bale and Tom Hanks (especially Tom Hanks) all have had their hands in the true-story cookie jar. They excel in that territory. So, it’s no wonder why upcoming titles like Lucy in the Sky (Oct. 4), Ford v Ferrari (Nov. 15) and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Nov. 22) look incredible. They have great talent in front and behind the camera, and each of them (based off their trailers and released photos) appear to be pushing the perimeters of the genre.

The one that has me most eager, however, is Honey Boy (Nov. 8). Here’s Shia LaBeouf’s fictionalized account of his troubled, young child star life and his early adult years as he struggled to reconcile with his father (played by LaBeouf, who also wrote the screenplay) and properly face his mental health. Enacted by A Quiet Place‘s Noah Jupe and Manchester by the Sea‘s Lucas Hedges as different ages of the LaBeouf-based actor, this film fascinatingly delves into the ascent to stardom and the subsequent crash-landing into rehab and recovery. Its invitation into LaBeouf’s mind should only have your inner voice telling you, “Just do it!”

Book-to-film adaptations

Don’t be surprised if these movies garner some awards, too. They’re based on existing material, but they have filmmakers who are masters of their craft giving them a cinematic polish on the way from text to screen.

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Ansel Elgort, left, and Ashleigh Cummings in a scene from “The Goldfinch,” in theaters on Sept. 13.

After the excellent 2015 drama Brooklyn, director John Crowley returns with a star-studded adaptation of Donna Tartt’s novel, The Goldfinch. It centers on a tragic story of secrets, lessons and art. With its shots framed by sumptuous cinematographer Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049), who’s arguably the best in the business, The Goldfinch (Sept. 13) has Oscar written all over it.

Also on the horizon are Doctor Sleep (Nov. 8) and Little Women (Dec. 25). Doctor Sleep has me curious not only because it is based on a Stephen King novel, but it is also the sequel to The Shining. What’s even more compelling is it’s a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s revered 1980 adaptation of The Shining. King famously dislikes Kubrick’s take, but somehow filmmaker Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House series) got the blessing of King and Kubrick’s estate. With many shots mirroring Kubrick’s film and all this story’s spooky happenings, we may need a doctor to help us sleep after the film.

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Saoirse Ronan and Timothee Chalamet are Jo and Laurie in Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of “Little Women,” due out on Christmas Day.

Greta Gerwig’s second directorial outing after Lady Bird is another adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel Little Women. The story of the March sisters has been told a few times throughout history, but Gerwig has a talent that could make this latest version the definitive one. Gerwig has a way of profoundly exploring her characters and providing commentary about human behaviors that are perfect for retelling this literary classic. The exceptional trailer and its exciting ensemble (including Saoirse Ronan, Timothée Chalamet and Meryl Streep) easily make this a Christmas gift worth unwrapping.

Low-key highlights

A24 has been on a roll this year with movies that disturb, haunt and give you a lot to chew on. I’m still lost in thought about their films High Life, The Souvenir and The Last Black Man in San Francisco.

Robert Eggers’ next film after the hauntingly good The Witch is The Lighthouse (Oct. 18). It has beautiful black and-white photography shot in a 1.19-to-1 aspect ratio, and it has Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson losing their minds while stuck in the titular establishment. It looks like there’s a squid in it, too. If you’ve seen The Witch, there’s no telling what kind of left-of-center things will unfold.

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Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite, out Oct. 11, explores economic status and an unexpected incident involving two different classes. Photo courtesy of A24.

An odd companion piece to go along with The Lighthouse is Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite (Oct. 11). The film seems to be an exploration of economic status and an unexpected incident involving two different class parties. Considering what Bong Joon-Ho has put out before (Okja, The Host and Snowpiercer), there’s likely going to be a few OMGs sprinkled throughout.

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“Jojo Rabbit” follows a young boy who has an imaginary friend named Hitler.

For a producer to feel queasy about releasing a film titled Jojo Rabbit (Oct. 18), you have my attention. You especially have my attention when your name is Taika Waititi and you directed a movie about a young boy who has an imaginary friend named Hitler. Waititi (director and star of Thor: Ragnarok and What We Do in the Shadows) is about a strange as they come, but he can sure make your sides split. Let a movie upset some people. Who cares? It’s art. If everyone followed the safe path, we would have more movies like Green Book winning Best Picture. (Pow. Pow.)

Also in the works is a nightmare before Christmas called Black Christmas (Dec. 13). It’s a rebirth of the 1974 slasher of the same name about a killer stalking a group of students during their Christmas break. The original film is one of my all-time favorite horror films, so this new take has some pretty big stockings to fill. However, director Sophia Takal (Into the Dark series and 2016’s Always Shine) may have the skills to warrant this film’s retelling. There’s no word (as far as I know) on whether or not this will also be set in the 1970s, or if it will take place during the present day. But the idea of making a scary and interesting remake with cell phones and modern technology is going to be a challenge.

In the queue



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The Netflix movie “Dolemite is My Name” might reboot the career of comedian and actor Eddie Murphy, pictured. The movie drops on the streaming service this fall.

Lately, Netflix has been releasing all its fun features and enjoyable romantic comedies. But now we’re approaching the point where fun is replaced with meaning. Netflix releases like Dolemite is My Name, Marriage Story, The King and The Laundromat all have the potential to make best-of-the-year lists.

Dolemite is My Name (Oct. 4 in theaters, and Oct. 25 on Netflix) looks like a return to comedic and dramatic form for Eddie Murphy. Marriage Story (Nov. 8 in theaters, and Dec. 8 on Netflix), starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, tenderly explores the male and female perspective of love and falling out of love. The King (Oct. 11 in theaters, and Nov. 1 on Netflix) crowns Timothée Chalamet as King Henry V in hopes of catching some Game of Thrones fire. And The Laundromat (Sept. 27 in theaters, and Oct. 18 on Netflix) is filmmaker Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven and Logan Lucky) putting Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas together as a pair of Panama City lawyers caught up in insurance fraud.

But the Netflix movie of the season is Martin Scorsese’s long-awaited The Irishman (Nov. 1 in theaters, and Nov. 27 on Netflix). Apparently, the de-aging technology used to capture Robert De Niro and Al Pacino’s decades-long journey of two associates breaking bad has Scorsese a little nervous. He’s a bit of a perfectionist, and it’s taken a few years to get this film made. Here’s to hoping all the time put in delivers the film Scorsese is after and provides us with the film we deserve.

PRESTON BARTA is a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. Follow him on Twitter at @PrestonBarta.

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