Critic David Edelstein previews some of fall's most anticipated films:
Autumn! It's when we talk about things besides Marvel superhero movies (there is one of them, "Thor: Fragglerock" or whatever it's called, and another DC superhero jamboree, "Justice League"). There's a more intriguing Wonder Woman movie, "Professor Marston and the Wonder Women," which dramatizes the feminist superheroine's somewhat kinky origins.
Feminism, if you didn't know, is big box office. You've heard about the fun "Battle of the Sexes" biopic with Emma Stone as Billie Jean King vs. Steve Carell's chauvinist piglet Bobby Riggs. But did you know there's a Tonya Harding mockumentary with Margot Robbie? "I, Tonya" made big news in Toronto and when you see it, you'll forgive Tonya everything. Really. You'll want to hug her and blubber!
But definitely the weirdest female-centric movie is another Toronto hit, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," a mix of sorrowful tragedy and icky violence and broad comedy by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh.
It stars the stupendous Frances McDormand as a woman who puts up accusatory billboards over the unsolved rape-and-murder of her daughter -- no, it doesn't sound like big laughs. But McDonagh homes in on the lawmen's crazy insecurities, and it kind of sort of works.
There's some fairly obvious awards bait in "Roman J. Israel Esq.," dominated first frame to last by Denzel Washington as a rumpled, activist lawyer "on the spectrum," as they say. Washington's amazing -- he has enough tics for 10 Oscar performances.
The New York Film Festival opener this week is Richard Linklater's "Last Flag Flying," a buddy comedy astride a grave -- the grave of a son of a Vietnam vet played by Steve Carell, who recruits two of the men he served with (played by Brian Cranston and Laurence Fishburne) for a less orthodox funeral. It's both fun and tragic -- kind of a theme this autumn.
Like the best film I've seen so this year: "The Florida Project" by Sean Baker, who famously shot his marvelous "Tangerine" on an iPhone. Here, he has real movie cameras and he gets every bit of atmosphere from his setting, a transient motel not far from Disney World, where a little girl and her friends romp, until reality kicks in, and the sky falls.
From my perspective on the fall's movies, though, the sky's the limit.
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