Fall movie preview: 10 of the buzziest films coming out this season

From the stage to outer space, this season's films will take audiences on a ride.

A Star is Born, Widows and Bohemian Rhapsody are just a few of the big titles

Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. (20th Century Fox)

White Boy Rick (Sept. 14)

Matthew McConaughey stars as single dad and criminal gun dealer Rick Wershe in 1980s Detroit, at the height of the crack epidemic. In exchange for keeping his dad out of jail, his son Rick Jr. becomes an undercover drug informant for the FBI — at 14 years old — but ends up sliding into the drug underworld and becoming a kingpin himself, eventually landing in prison. Based on a true story, the film delves into the ravages of poverty, crime, drugs, racial divides and a crumbling city — themes that are still painfully relevant today. So far, reviews are mixed, with some critics arguing the screenwriters failed to create an emotional connection with Rick or fully flesh out the secondary characters, and others arguing the film whitewashes the Wershes' real story.  Jennifer Van Evra

A Star is Born (Oct. 5)

Already considered by some as this year's Oscar frontrunner, A Star is Born is a classic Hollywood story that has a good chance at racking up some first-time nominations for stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. This marks the third remake of A Star is Born: the original came out in 1937, a Judy Garland musical version was put out in 1954 and a rock version was released in 1976 starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. In the 2018 version, a film that's been years in the making and at one point had Beyoncé attached as the star, Cooper tries his hand at directing for the first time while also playing the film's male protagonist, Jackson Maine, a country-rock star whose career is slowing down due to a growing drinking problem. One night, Maine meets Gaga's Ally, a struggling artist who clearly has the talent but not the means to make it big. It's a love story that's been told many times over the years, but Cooper truly shines here, as a director and actor, making this film an intimate look at the downside of fame and addiction. Could this be Cooper's first directing nomination, and Gaga's first acting nod? So far all signs are pointing to yes. — Melody Lau

First Man (Oct. 12)

The story of travelling to the moon is well-trodden territory for Hollywood, so it came as a surprise when director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, La La Land) chose to follow up the two music-themed films and an Oscar win with a biopic of Neil Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling). Chazelle uses every trick in his arsenal to bring audiences into the Apollo space program, including several nerve-wracking flight sequences that make good use of a steady cam, and, during the moon landing, breathtaking IMAX. But First Man is as much a character study as it is a jet-fuelled space exploration, and the story of the real human cost it took to get to the moon is as important as Armstrong's historic steps. There are no green screen CGI theatrics here, making that one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind feel all the more authentic. — Jesse Kinos-Goodin

Beautiful Boy (Oct. 12)

For years, the opioid epidemic has topped headlines and has been the subject of fiery debate across North America, but in Beautiful Boy, the crisis gets a heartbreakingly human face. Based on a true story, Steve Carrell plays David Sheff, a father who struggles to save his son Nic (Timothée Chalamet) from the unrelenting grasp of a methamphetamine addiction. (Sheff later penned the bestselling memoir Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction, and his son Nic wrote the bestseller Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines, both of which inspired the film.) Tracing Nic's descent and David's vain attempts to save him, as well as David's determination to figure out where they went wrong, the film provides a sobering look at what millions of families are suffering every day. "It's demonstrating to people who have been through this hell that they aren't alone," wrote Variety reviewer Owen Gleiberman. "Every last thing the movie shows us about addiction, and the effect it can have upon those who are trying to save an addict from himself, is entirely authentic. There's no cut corners or fake sentimental beats, no bullshit uplift factor." — JVE

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Oct. 19)

Melissa McCarthy steps away from her goofier comic roles for Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which follows a failing biographer named Lee Israel who can't keep up on the rent, so begins forging letters by famous writers and selling them, privately priding herself on the acclaim they receive. Based on a true story and directed by Marielle Heller (Diary of a Teenage Girl), the film also features legendary British actor Richard E. Grant who plays Israel's close friend and co-conspirator. McCarthy's character is at times difficult and infuriating, and at others times touching and sympathetic — and it's that range that has many critics calling it the best performance of McCarthy's career. — JVE

Bohemian Rhapsody (Oct 24)

The life of legendary Queen frontman Freddie Mercury gets the high-profile biopic treatment with Bohemian Rhapsody, and the pressure of playing the iconic role weighed heavily on actor Rami Malek. "It's not lost on me that this could go terribly wrong," he told the New York Times. "It could be detrimental to one's career should this not go the right way." More than 10 years in the making, the film — which cycled through multiple directors and at one time had Sacha Baron Cohen playing Mercury — documents the band's rise to fame, Mercury's inimitable magnetism and his unconventional flare, as well as the battle with AIDS that ultimately took his life. — JVE

Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Nov. 16)

Originally conceived as a six-part Netflix series, the latest film from indie legends the Coen brothers returns to one of the pair's favourite eras — the Wild West — with a quirky series of tall tales featuring James Franco, Liam Neeson, Zoe Kazan, Tim Blake Nelson, Tom Waits and more. So what's the connection between the various yarns? Don't look too deeply. "The stories were written over a period of 25 years. We would write these short stories and not really know what to do with them and put them in a drawer," Joel Coen told reporters at the Venice Film Festival. "Then we decided to make them all together." The film's colourful characters run the gamut from a sweet singing cowboy who turns comically violent to a failed traveling showman who only has one "freak" on offer, but the episodes do have one key element in common: they all have to do with the act of dying. — JVE

Widows (Nov. 16)

Director Steve McQueen has covered some weighty topics in his career: the 1981 Irish hunger strike (Hunger), sex addiction (Shame) and the slave trade (12 Years a Slave). For his latest, however, he turns to lighter fare (relatively speaking) and tackles the heist film, featuring the powerhouse cast of Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Michelle Rodriguez, Robert Duvall, Daniel Kaluuya, Colin Farrell and more. Widows, which is based on an old British TV series, looks at what happens when four career criminals die, leaving their wives to clean up the mess. With a script written by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), you can be sure that includes enough twists and turns to leave the audience gasping (which was literally the case when it screened at the Toronto International Film Festival). McQueen has developed a style that effectively plunges the depths of human misery, and he's become known for his beautiful long takes. It's fascinating to see how he puts his touch on a more typical Hollywood blockbuster genre — one that has increasingly become dependant on a rapid-fire editing technique in order to propel the movie forward. McQueen reminds us that it's just as effective to sit and soak in a scene for a while instead. — JKG

Green Book (Nov. 21)

The Negro Motorist Green Book was an annual guide printed in the United States that helped African Americans navigate the roads in the Jim Crow south, listing such things as restaurants, garages and hotels that wouldn't discriminate against them. The new film, Green Book, explores this premise, telling the real-life story of celebrated black musician Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) as he tours the American South, assisted by his driver/bodyguard Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen). The script was written by Lip's son, Nick Vallelonga, as well as Peter Farrelly, who also directs. Farrelly, as part of the Farrelly brothers, is best known for his gross-out romantic comedies, such as There's Something About Mary and Shallow Hal, but he's also proven himself skilful at the lighthearted and lovable road trip story, as in Dumb and Dumber and Kingpin. Both of those stories, at their heart, are ultimately about our undying instinct to bond, despite our differences. Farrelly's light touch just might be what a story of this heft needs, as it recently picked up the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, a reliable indicator that we will be hearing more about it during Oscar season. — JKG

Creed II (Nov. 21)

"I was afraid I couldn't live up to these expectations," Adonis Creed says in the trailer to the upcoming Creed II, although actor Michael B. Jordan certainly seems up the task. It's the sequel to Creed, the spin-off from the Rocky series, which itself has gone through six different iterations. It's fair to say that no one has been able to squeeze more life out an idea than Sylvester Stallone, who won a best picture Oscar award for his first portrayal of the great American underdog way back in 1976, and was nominated for best supporting actor for Creed in 2015. Creed II revolves around Adonis, son of Apollo Creed, who was one of Rocky's greatest friends and opponents. Naturally, Adonis has a lot to live up to and the pressure is on, as his next big fight is against the son of Ivan Drago, the man who killed his father in a boxing match 30 years earlier. All the familiar Rocky tropes are here, including an athlete facing self-doubt, family troubles and a grizzled old trainer who won't quit, but now with the added bonus of daddy issues! Even if Superman doesn't work out for Michael B. Jordan, take comfort in knowing that he'll always have the the Rocky Extended Universe. — JKG


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