You can almost set your calendar by the characters making the jump from printed page to movie screens: summer is the season of comic book crusaders invading the cineplex, and fall is the time for your favorite literary heroes to take center stage. This season we’re treated with historical fiction, mid-century drama, and a recast of everyone’s favorite Swede, Lisbeth Salander.
Paul Dano, working from a script he co-wrote with his girlfriend Zoe Kazan, makes his directorial debut in this adaptation of Richard Ford’s heartbreaking novel about a family coming apart in 1960s Great Falls, Montana. When Jerry Brinson (Jake Gyllenhaal) loses his job as a golf pro, he heads to the mountains to fight wildfires. After years of being uprooted by Jerry’s half-baked plans, Jeanette Brinson (Carey Mulligan) is more than frustrated -- she’s ready to contemplate the unthinkable. Newcomer Ed Oxenbould earns high marks for his portrayal of the Brinsons’ teenage son, Joe, but critics have declared this to be Mulligan’s film all the way -- she’s a surefire Oscar contender in the role of a woman whose rage and desperation can no longer be contained.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web
Stockholm is only a short flight from London, but Claire Foy will be a world away from her breakout role as Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown when she dons the body piercings and combat boots of Sweden’s most badass computer hacker: Lisbeth Salander. The girl with the dragon tattoo was last portrayed on American movie screens by Rooney Mara, but Foy (who’s currently starring alongside Ryan Gosling in First Man) promises to bring her own unique combination of fragility and ferocity to the character. Swedish crime reporter David Langercrantz took charge of the Millennium series after Stieg Larrson’s untimely death, delivering a twisty tale of Russian cybercriminals, US intelligence agencies, and female vengeance that feels perfectly suited to the times.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Barry Jenkins took Hollywood by storm in 2016, winning Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay Oscars for Moonlight, his second feature film. But his is hardly an overnight success story. After wowing critics with Medicine for Melancholy (2008), Jenkins struggled for years to get projects made. Eventually he decamped to Europe, where he wrote the screenplays for Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, a gorgeous, wistful portrait of love and injustice in early 1970s Harlem based on James Baldwin’s novel of the same name. Judging by the early reviews, Jenkins has struck gold once again, and the film arrives at a moment when Baldwin’s idiosyncratic perspective on black life in America feels more essential than ever.
Mary Queen of Scots
Based on John Guy’s biography of Mary Stuart, this historical drama stars Saiorse Ronan as the titular Scottish royal and Margot Robbie as her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. The rivalry between the two nobles--Mary’s Catholic supporters thought she belonged on the English throne; Elizabeth was suspicious of her cousin’s French connections--has been dramatized countless times, but with two of Hollywood’s hottest young actresses and a script by the creator of the American edition of House of Cards, this promises to be the definitive version for decades to come. Naysayers are already objecting to historical inaccuracies in the trailer, but with costumes this fabulous and looks this fierce, it’s best to just sit back and enjoy the spectacle -- you can always read the book to find out what really happened.
Netflix, December 21
If you saw A Quiet Place and still freak out every time a floorboard creaks, you might want to avoid this post-apocalyptic horror movie that transforms the sense of sight from a gift into a curse. But with an ingenious premise, an all-star cast including Sandra Bullock, John Malkovich, and Sarah Paulson, and an Oscar-winning director, turning a blind eye will be easier said than done. The best bet is to read Josh Malerman’s novel beforehand -- just know that you’ll be entering a world so terrifying and dangerous that it makes sense for a woman and two young children to raft down a river blindfolded. What they don’t see can’t hurt them -- or so they hope.