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2017 Fall Movie Preview: 25 Films We're Excited About

With the summer movie season ending with a box office whimper (looking at you, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”), it’s time that we start getting excited about the fall. September through December promises to be its own blockbuster batch of months, albeit with even more of a focus on quote-unquote important films and filmmakers. Below is a list of just 25 of our most anticipated movies of the season, all of which will soon be reviewed on RogerEbert.com, many of them covered during the fall festivals. 

25. "mother!" - Writer/director Darren Aronofsky has almost achieved the status of filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, meaning the type of director who can make passion projects that instantly become movie-going events themselves. That was certainly the case with his previous film, “Noah,” and now with this very mysterious domestic horror film that’s stubbornly titled “mother!” Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ed Harris, Kristen Wiig, Jovan Adepo and others star in this movie that might just be the perfect kick off to the fall season. (September 15) 

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24. "The Lego Ninjago Movie" - Count me as someone who has had a great deal of fun with the Lego approach to making blockbuster animated comedy. What started at “The Lego Movie” now carries over to “Lego: Ninjago,” which promises to offer the high-voltage slapstick but in the world of martial arts. Sign me up, especially if it’s as giddy as the previous Lego short “The Master,” which played before “Storks” last year. Olivia Munn, Justin Theroux, Jackie Chan, Dave Franco, Michael Pena, Kumail Nanjiani, Zach Woods, Abbi Jacobson, Fred Armisen and Kaan Guldur add their voice talents to the film. (September 22) 

23. "The Foreigner" - Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, director Martin Campbell: This is a movie that could go in any direction, given the hit-and-miss action vehicles recently led by the two stars, along with Campbell’s spotty history. But at the same time, perhaps Chan and Brosnan are at the right time in their careers for a gritty revenge movie, a cat-and-mouse game between the two superstars. (October 21)

22. "The Florida Project" - There’s some magic waiting to be revealed with Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project,” his follow-up to the hypnotic, iPhone-shot film “Tangerine.” People who saw the film at Cannes this past May seemed to rave about it even after the festival was over, with praise for newcomer actress Brooklynn Prince and veteran Willem Dafoe. This film is set over the course of a summer, and follows Prince’s six-year-old character in her various adventures. Caleb Landry Jones, Macon Blair, Karren Karagulian and Sandy Kane also star. (October 6) 

21. "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" - As an unabashed super fan of Dwayne Johnson, the idea of doing another “Jumanji” movie doesn’t strike me as any type of Hollywood reboot laziness, but the chance to see the star further flex his comedic muscles. He’s certainly got a very good supporting cast with him, including Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart and Jack Black, who play characters in a video game about the famous board game. Here’s hoping that director Jake Kasdan can tie the movie together as goofy adventure fun for one of the coldest times of the year. (December 20) 

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20. "Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House" - Peter Landesman’s previous film “Concussion” was kind of a wet blanket when it came to films about exposing a problem in the NFL, but I have fairly high hopes for his latest true story: the origin tales of Deep Throat himself, Mark Felt. By the looks of it, Neeson is in stern, intimidating mode like “Taken,” but this time with a whole Watergate scandal to bring to justice. The ensemble cast joining him includes Diane Lane, Michael C. Hall, Maika Monroe, Tom Sizemore, Tony Goldwyn, Bruce Greenwood, Wendi McLendon-Covey and more. (September 29) 

19. "Blade Runner 2049" - Though the original has quite the cult following, I think it’s fair to say that not many people asked for a sequel to “Blade Runner.” However, “Blade Runner 2049” could be seen as a great example of a continuation creating the interest: bring back Harrison Ford, pair him with Ryan Gosling, who rarely does action movies let alone sequels, hire the director of “Sicario” and “Arrival,” throw in cinematography by the great Roger Deakins. Suddenly, “Blade Runner 2049” has the potential to be something else, just like the original back in 1982. Ana De Armas, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Sylvia Hoeks, Carla Juri, Barkhad Abdi and Elarica Johnson also appear. (October 6) 

18. "Downsizing" - The main hook for me with “Downsizing” is watching a tried-and-true director go out of his comfort zone. Science-fiction isn’t exactly the place you’d expect the “Nebraska” director to go with social satire, and yet here he is with an original screenplay (co-written by Jim Taylor) about a man shrinking himself in order to have a better life. One could imagine the quirkiness that other, lesser directors would lose control of with such a concept, but that’s where trust in Payne and his reputation for excellent characters comes in. Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig star in the movie that will include Christoph Waltz, Laura Dern, Jason Sudeikis, Neil Patrick Harris, Margo Martindale, Niece Nash, Udo Kier and Kerri Kenney. (December 22) 

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17. "Coco" - After “Cars 3,” Pixar’s other movie of 2017 is "Coco," about a young musician traveling through the Land of the Dead. The film was given some great hype at the last D23 conference, where its music was teased. Directed by “Toy Story 3”’s Lee Unkrich and co-directed by debut director Adrian Molina, “Coco” is sure to be another visual delight with a very exciting voice cast. That roster includes: Benjamin Brett, Edward James Omos, Gael Garcia Bernal, Chech Marin, Gabriel Iglesias, Alfonso Arau, Sofia Espinosa, Selene Luna and more. (November 22) 

16. "Thor: Ragnarok" - The last “Thor” movie, “Thor: The Dark World,” was duller than dull, and never failed to put me to sleep whenever I watched it again outside my first time seeing it in theaters. Imagine my surprise and then elation when Disney/Marvel decided to counter that by enlisting the bubbly, vibrant Taika Waititi to lend his overall vision to one of the least interesting Avengers. It turns out that’s all you need to make a “Thor” movie seem like it could be the action-comedy of the season. Throwing the likes of Cat Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum and Tessa Thompson into the mix, among other exciting faces, doesn’t hurt either. Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, Jaimie Alexander, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo and Sam Neill also star. (November 3) 

15. "Call Me By Your Name" - Those who left Park City after the Sundance Film Festival this past year often had the same film on their lips: Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me By Your Name,” starring Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet. I didn’t get to see the film myself but I’ve certainly built some large expectations for it, after hearing word about the performances, the direction, and even a monologue by Michael Stuhlbarg. (November 24) 

14. "Molly's Game" - After years of writing award-winning scripts for other directors, writer Aaron Sorkin gets behind the camera for his directorial debut, “Molly’s Game.” It has a great hook in a true story: an Olympic skier (played by Jessica Chastain), who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game, which brought the FBI on her tail and in close contact with the Russian mob. It will certainly be interesting to see how Sorkin visually handles his famous rat-a-tat dialogue rhythms, as an editor and working with actors, for a cast that includes Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Chris O’Dowd, Natalie Krill and more. (November 22) 

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13. "The Work" - I saw this documentary as part of coverage for SXSW 2017, and it’s one that I haven’t stopped thinking about. This intimate movie takes a look at inmates, and volunteers, who enter into a type of group therapy where they are encouraged to find their most vulnerable parts and share them. The results are tremendous, and the film becomes all the more powerful for showing what can happen when people are treated as people, and given them a space to shed their many defensive layers. I can’t wait for more people to see this film. (October 20) 

12. "Lady Bird" - Greta Gerwig returns to the duties of director for the first time since the 2008 Joe Swanberg collaboration “Nights and Weekends” with the film “Lady Bird,” a festival-bound project that she also wrote. After the work she did scripting movies like “Frances Ha” and “Mistress America,” it will be very exciting to see what a Gerwig movie looks like, especially when she's working with the likes of Saoirse Ronan, Danielle Macdonald and Timothee Chalamet. (November 10)

11. "Wonderstruck" - Todd Haynes returns after “Carol” with an extremely curious, narratively ambitious new film, concerning a young boy and a young girl, 50 years ago. Based on the novel by Brian Selznick (who wrote the script for it), this nominee for the Palme d’Or at the most recent Cannes Film Festival stars Millicent Simmonds, Oakes Fegley, Julianne Moore, Cory Michael Smith, James Urbaniak and more. (October 20) 

10. "Last Flag Flying" - Continuing with his interest in the passage of time and relationships between people affected by it, writer/director Richard Linklater takes on the concept of three friends with his original screenplay, “Last Flag Flying.” Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Laurence Fishburne star in the movie about three Vietnam veterans burying one of their sons. Expect an emotional journey of the Linklater speed, calm and collected. (November 3) 

9. "It" - You don’t need to be a fan of Stephen King or even “Stranger Things” to get on board with this new version of “It,” directed by Andy Muschietti from a script co-written by “True Detective” director Cary Fukunaga. The first trailer for this story about young kids and the clown that hunts them was freaky enough, especially given the hints at the make-up work for classic horror clown Pennywise. Can "It" make clowns in movies creepy again? Bill Skarsgard stars in that role, and is joined in the cast by the likes of Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Javier Botet, Jaden Lieberher, Nicholas Hamilton, Megan Charpentier, Wyatt Oleff, Owen Teague, Jack Dylan Grazer and more. (September 8) 

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8. "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" - It has been five years since “In Bruges” writer/director Martin McDonagh stumbled with his overly-Tarantino “Seven Psychopaths,” but there’s a lot of hope for his latest. That curiosity starts with casting the great Frances McDormand, who plays a mother that goes up against her town’s chief of police (Woody Harrelson) and an officer played by Sam Rockwell. Adding to the intrigue are other cast members, like Peter Dinklage, Abbie Cornish, Caleb Landry Jones, John Hawkes and Lucas Hedges. (November 10) 

7. "Battle of the Sexes" - After winning an Oscar for “La La Land” last year, Emma Stone returns to the silver screen playing tennis legend Billie Jean King, opposite the always compelling Steve Carell in this movie directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. We haven’t seen the director duo since 2012’s “Ruby Sparks,” but this true story adaptation by writer Simon Beauty has a lot of comedic potential, especially with Beauoy’s previous ability (“127 Hours”) to wrangle a true story. (September 22) 

6. "The Post" - A new Steven Spielberg movie starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep would be exciting all on its own, but there’s even more at play in this project that’s come together relatively quickly. The cast also includes the likes of Alison Brie, Sarah Paulson, Carrie Coon, Jesse Plemons, Bradley Whitford, Michael Stuhlbarg, Zach Woods, Bruce Greenwood, Tracy Letts and Pat Healy. If that weren’t enough, it will also feature a “Mr. Show” reunion of some sorts with appearances by David Cross and Bob Odenkirk. On top of that, the project offers a timely story, focused on the whistleblowers who brought the Pentagon Papers to light. (December 22) 

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5. "Suburbicon" - There isn’t a new Coen brothers movie this year, but at least there’s a new screenplay as with “Suburbicon,” directed by George Clooney. Clooney worked with his frequent collaborator Grant Heslov on the script originally by Joel and Ethan Coen, about a suburb that is torn apart after a home invasion. Matt Damon, Oscar Isaac and Julianne Moore star in this appropriately strange-looking but ever so enticing new film. (October 27) 

4. "The Shape of Water" - Guillermo Del Toro movies are best left like mystery boxes until you can see everything that's inside, so I haven't ventured to see the trailer for his new film. But I love the casting for this movie, which includes Michael Shannon, Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Jenkins and more. Better yet, it's an original screenplay by Del Toro, co-written with Vanessa Taylor. (December 8) 

3. "Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Film" - Not much is known about the latest film from Paul Thomas Anderson, but it carries quite an importance—if Daniel Day-Lewis is to be believed, this will be his last film as an actor, playing a dressmaker in the 1950s. As a writer/director who has excelled at period pieces and timeless stories taking place within them, there are only high hopes that this movie will join an esteemed filmography, or challenge his wide fanbase. Not for nothing, Anderson also worked as his own cinematographer for the project. Day-Lewis is joined by the likes of Lesley Manville, Camilla Rutherford, Jane Perry and Richard Graham. (December 25) 

2. "The Disaster Artist" - I’ve been excited for this film adaptation of Greg Sestero’s book ever since James Franco came on board, for numerous reasons. Mainly, the idea of Franco channeling his prolific and hit-and-miss directorial qualities to the story of how Tommy Wiseau made “The Room” is all sorts of perfect, never mind that his brother Dave Franco will play Sestero. On top of that, James Franco playing Wiseau could be comedic gold, and in this weird world of ours, maybe even award-worthy. Perhaps “The Disaster Artist” could be Franco’s first great film as a director? The Francos are joined by a cast that includes Zac Efron, Alison Brie, Lizzy Caplan, Bryan Cranston (playing himself), Kristen Bell, Adam Scott, Seth Rogen, Dylan Minnette, Sharon Stone, Josh Hutcherson and more. (December 8) 

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1. "Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi" - This project would be at the top of this list even if it were simply called "Untitled Rian Johnson Project." It has been too long since we've seen the incredibly talented writer/director of "Looper" put something on the silver screen, but as a die-hard Johnson fan I am thrilled he'll be returning in a huge way. The whole "new 'Star Wars' movie" aspect is a great touch too, given that "The Force Awakens" set up a sequel that could carry the dramatic weight of "The Empire Strikes Back" before it. Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Laura Dern, Carrie Fisher, Lupita Nyong'o, Adam Driver and a galaxy of other people star in the film. (December 15) 

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