The movie theater experience will never die, but at this moment, it’s in a fragile place. While there are dozens of films planned for traditional theatrical release this fall, most are floating in a wait-and-see holding pattern. Scheduled release dates and entire promotional campaigns could go out the window.
Case in point: “No Time to Die,” the final Daniel Craig 007 thriller was pushed back from its original date last spring and is now scheduled for release Oct. 8.
There are rumors of other films getting delayed or possibly released on streaming services. I’m a lifelong advocate of seeing movies on the big screen in a theater, but if you don’t feel safe, watch them at home. The social experience of watching movies together will always be something we’ll want, though we may have to scale back once again.
For now, film buffs can be optimistic because movie theaters and streaming services have a wealth of great options on deck this fall. Here are 10 of the most promising.
Halloween Kills: Oct. 15
The Gist: Turns out Michael Myers didn’t burn to death three years ago.
Why It Could Rock: The same cast and filmmaking team that made the 2018 “Halloween” an acclaimed blockbuster is back. Anthony Michael Hall has a juicy supporting role.
Unless: The novelty of bringing back Myers and Laurie Strode has finally run dry. If this one doesn’t connect, that’s bad news for the already completed “Halloween Ends” next year.
The Last Duel: Oct. 15
The Gist: A burly Ridley Scott period epic, starring Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Ben Affleck.
Why It Could Rock: Damon and Affleck co-wrote the screenplay, their first writing collaboration since “Good Will Hunting.” Scott is in his element and newcomer Jodie Comer has a breakout role.
Unless: The appeal of the three hunky leads is diminished when with their grody haircuts. Will this seem too antiquated in comparison to Scott’s hipper, forthcoming “House of Gucci”?
Dune: Oct. 22
The Gist: Paul Atreides has to deal with puberty, peer pressure, girls and…becoming Muad’Dib!
Why It Could Rock: The brilliant Denis Villeneuve is directing. He made the impossible-to-succeed “Blade Runner 2049” a masterpiece. The cast is a dream and it looks phenomenal.
Unless: Frank Herbert’s complex novel continues to stump screenwriters and audiences. A genius like David Lynch couldn’t crack it in 1984. Is 155 minutes enough time to tell this story?
Eternals: Nov. 5
The Gist: Aliens are here to protect Earth…just not from Thanos or anything important.
Why It Could Rock: Director Chloe Zhao, the second female director to win an Oscar (“Nomadland”), is a visionary and the cast is promising. The Marvel brand remains red hot.
Unless: Zhao’s experience as an indie director is overwhelmed by such an enormous assignment. Will “Shang-Chi” make this feel like an afterthought?
Ghostbusters: Afterlife: Nov. 19
The Gist: Here is the “Ghostbusters III” we always wanted (my apologies to Kristin Wiig).
Why It Could Rock: A killer cast and a reverence for the original automatically make it erase the controversial and not-funny-enough 2016 remake. Paul Rudd and Bill Murray are in this!
Unless: Having the son of the original film’s director helming this poses a risk; Jason Reitman makes small, character-driven comedies, not giant FX-fueled popcorn movies.
Top Gun: Maverick: Nov- NOPE! Delayed until Summer 2022
The Gist: Tom Cruise, big jets, sunsets, ‘80s synth-pop, shirtless hunks, volleyball—it’s got it all.
Why It Could Rock: Early word is that it’s a visual feast and faithful to the original. It may hit the nostalgia sweet spot in the way “Bad Boys For Life” did last year. Never bet against Cruise.
Unless: The smarminess of the project oozes off the screen. Top Gun was 30 years ago. Will this be worth the wait or another “Independence Day: Resurgence”? Will the plot even matter?
House of Gucci: Nov. 24
The Gist: The sordid tale of the 1995 Gucci murder, directed by Ridley Scott.
Why It Could Rock: Adam Driver, Lady Gaga, and Jared Leto headline the ensemble cast. The story is delicious and true crime is having a big moment in pop culture.
Unless: Scott’s “All the Money in the World” covered thematically similar material and nearly no one saw it. If “The Last Duel” tanks, it might also hurt this one’s momentum.
West Side Story: Dec. 10
The Gist: Steven Spielberg’s take on the classic Bernstein and Sondheim musical.
Why It Could Rock: Well, here is the man who made “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Jaws,” “E.T.,” “Jurassic Park,” “Saving Private Ryan” tackling an iconic remake…
Unless: The blend of filmmaker and material is as awkward as it looks. The 1961 film adaptation is a masterpiece. A Rita Moreno cameo isn’t enough. Will it be better than “Cats”?
The Matrix: Resurrections: Dec. 22
The Gist: Turns out there are more Neo and Trinity stories to be told!
Why It Could Rock: Keanu Reeves is the key ingredient, as his John Wick franchise shows he’s not getting too old for action movies. A welcome return for a prestigious franchise.
Unless: Lana Wachowski solo-directing this without her sister Lily for the first time might pose a problem. Also—the Wachowski brand has come up short (two words: “Jupiter Ascending”).
Don’t Look Up: Theaters: Dec 10; Netflix: Dec. 24
The Gist: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence star in Adam McKay’s dark sci-fi comedy.
Why It Could Rock: A wild ensemble cast with everyone from Meryl Streep to Tyler Perry. McKay’s acerbic touch makes it a must-see. The Netflix premiere guarantees an audience.
Unless: The Netflix premiere could place this in “The Irishman” and “Roma” territory, a.k.a “Movies People Have Access to but Never Watch.”