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Superheroes, slashers and a star is born (again): 40 movies to watch for this fall

Welcome to autumn, when studios large and small traditionally roll out the quality pictures and indies don’t feel the relentless competition of summer blockbusters (“Sorry to Bother You,” “Blindspotting” and “Eighth Grade” notwithstanding). Until December, that is, which might as well be a second blockbuster season.

Here are 40 buzzy and not-so-buzzy movies coming out between now and the end of the year. Release dates are, as always, subject to change, especially in Austin, which tends to get some films a few weeks after major markets.

Some of these may be great, some may be terrible; we’ll eventually find out.

Sept. 21

“The House With a Clock in Its Walls.” Torture porn savant Eli Roth (“Hostel”) attempts a PG (no, really) picture in this adaptation of the 1973 John Bellairs’ juvenile horror novel about an orphaned lad whose new home contains witches, warlocks and a potentially dangerous clock. With Jack Black, Cate Blanchett and Kyle MacLachlan.

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“Life Itself.” “This is Us” creator Dan Fogelman writes and directs what looks like an extreme experiment in emotional manipulation, complete with death, being in love, being out of love, lots of chatter about how life is confusing but we’re all connected, and grim revelations about characters’ pasts. With Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde and Antonio Banderas.

“The Children Act.” Academy Award winner Emma Thompson stars as Fiona Maye, a British judge who becomes involved in the case of a 17-year-old boy with leukemia who must receive a blood transfusion, which goes against the beliefs of his Jehovah’s Witness parents. Based on the Ian McEwan novel. (Someday, all British higher-end pictures will be based on Ian McEwan novels, just you wait.)

“Colette.” Man alive, Keira Knightley is playing legendary French writer Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette. Some have never completely forgiven Knightley for her turn in the feature film “Pride and Prejudice,” so it’s going to be interesting to see if critical knives come out for this. With, for some reason, Dominic West as Henry Gauthier-Villars, under whose pen name, “Willy,” Colette’s earliest work was published.

“Smallfoot” features the voices of Channing Tatum, James Corden and Zendaya. Contributed by Warner Brothers

Sept. 28

“Smallfoot.” Channing Tatum, James Corden and Zendaya star in this animated tale about a young yeti who discovers a mythical creature called a human. The yeti community finds this VERY strange and exciting and disturbing.

Sissy Spacek and Robert Redford star in “The Old Man & the Gun.” Contributed by Eric Zachanowich /Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Oct. 5

“The Old Man & the Gun.” Texas writer-director David Lowery directs 82-year-old Robert Redford (in allegedly his final film role) as Forrest Tucker, a 70-year-old who escaped from San Quentin and proceeded to commit a whole mess of crimes (this seems in keeping with Redford’s fondness for playing folks about a decade younger than his current age). Casey Affleck is detective John Hunt, who becomes fascinated with our escapee; Sissy Spacek is the lady who loves Tucker.

“Venom.” Tom Hardy stars as Eddie Brock, a reporter who becomes host to an alien parasite that gives him superhuman powers and a serious amoral streak. This is technically a “Spider-Man” spinoff but continues to feel awfully weird as a Sony picture now that Spidey is back in the fold at Disney/Marvel.

“A Star Is Born.” It sounds like a “Saturday Night Live” sketch, but, no, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper star in the umpteenth (OK, fourth) version of this movie. Here, Ms. Gaga is a singer-songwriter; Bradley Cooper (who also directs) is her singer-songwriter mentor. Funny, he doesn’t look like Kris Kristofferson (or James Mason or Fredric March, for that matter).

Lukas Haas, Ryan Gosling and Corey Stoll star in “First Man.” Contributed by Daniel McFadden

Oct. 12

“Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween.” A not-all-that-scary Halloween adventure/comedy based on R.L. Stine’s insanely popular book series.

“First Man.” No, it’s not a musical, but it’d be a lot weirder if it were. Damien “La La Land” Chazelle chronicles the life and career of one Neil A. Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. Ryan Gosling is Armstrong, Jason Clarke is Ed White, Corey Stoll is Buzz Aldrin and Kyle Chandler is Deke Slayton. It is long past time Chandler played a man named Deke.

“Bad Times at the El Royale.”Man, does this look like a movie from 1995 or what? Writer-director Drew Goddard unleashes a colorful cast of characters, played by Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm and Chris Hemsworth, at the El Royale hotel. Will our merry and not-so-merry band of strangers deal with their respective secrets, or will everything just go completely to pieces?

“Beautiful Boy.” Lord, this looks like a tear-jerker. Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet star in this true story of a father’s quest to rescue his son from meth and homelessness. Based on the memoirs of David Sheff and his son Nic Sheff. To be honest, as much as I loved his heel turn in “The Way Way Back” and his weirdness in “Foxcatcher,” I miss Carell as a smart comic presence, but this could be quite powerful.

Michael Myers returns in “Halloween.” Contributed by Ryan Green

Oct. 19

“The Oath.” Ike Barinholtz, Tiffany Haddish, John Cho and Carrie Brownstein star in this black-ish Thanksgiving comedy about the president making folks sign a loyalty oath. It is supposed to be lunatic and madcap and a whole mess of fun, but I do not blame anyone for just not being in the mood.

“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” It is always fascinating when a comic actor goes Full Drama. Melissa McCarthy has been in semi-dramatic roles before (remember “St. Vincent”? Anyone? Anyone?), but here she plays Lee Israel, a writer of soft celebrity bios who has fallen on hard times when she gets into rare book sales, then missive forgery. With Richard E. Grant and Jane Curtain.

“Halloween.” I never thought I would be saying this, but this looks pretty decent. Thank the gods of cinematic serial murder that director David Gordon Green decided to not make this a reboot but rather a sequel with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) in full Sarah Connor-in-“T2” mode.

“Serenity.” With its Hitchcock-via-Lifetime Movie of the Week premise, this looks both awesome and hilarious and possibly awesomely hilarious. Matthew McConaughey is Anne Hathaway’s ex-husband, a fishing boat captain whom Hathaway asks to get rid of her present husband (Jason Clarke). This is going to be a blast.

“The Hate U Give.” Angie Thomas’ best-seller becomes a film about Starr Carter, a gal with a foot in the world of her struggling black neighborhood and a foot in the world of her largely white prep school. With Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Lamar Johnson and Issa Rae.

Tika Sumpter (from left), Whoopi Goldberg and Tiffany Haddish in “Nobody’s Fool.” CONTRIBUTED

Nov. 2

“Nobody’s Fool.” Tiffany Haddish, Tika Sumpter, Omari Hardwick and former Austinite Mehcad Brooks star in the new Tyler Perry joint about a woman (Haddish) trying to get her life back on track with the help(?) of her square sister (Sumpter). Comedy will allegedly ensue.

“Suspiria.” This remake of Dario Argento’s groundbreaking 1977 horror film stars Dakota Johnson as a ballet dancer in Berlin around whom death starts happening. Horror fans are somewhat mortified about a remake at all, but, hey, it could work.

“Bohemian Rhapsody.” Rami Malek (“Mr. Robot”) and some intense-looking fake teeth star as the superhumanly charismatic Freddie Mercury in this biopic of the band Queen. The trailer is a blast, but the flick has already caught some heat for perhaps downplaying Mercury’s sexuality. And there’s that whole thing about director Bryan Singer being fired with two weeks left of principal photography.

From left, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Rami Malek and Joe Mazzello star in “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Contributed by Twentieth Century Fox

“Boy Erased.” Lucas Hedges stars as a Baptist preacher’s son who is outed and must face the possibility of so-called gay conversation therapy. His parents are played by Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman. Written and directed by Joel Edgerton.

“The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.” This somewhat head-scratching release is a live-action combination of E. T. A. Hoffmann’s “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” and Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Nutcracker.” The trailer makes it a little unclear if it’s for all ages or will be PG-13 or what. Starring Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Eugenio Derbez, Matthew Macfadyen and probably a lot of people in mouse masks. Merry Christmas!

Nov. 9

“Peterloo.” British film legend Mike Leigh addresses the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, wherein hundreds of protesters were killed and injured in Manchester when a pro-democracy rally was attacked by British government forces. A grim chapter in British history that is all but unknown in America.

“Overlord.” In this war/horror picture produced by J.J. Abrams, American paratroopers drop into occupied France only to discover a Nazi lab and the results of its terrifying supernatural experiments.

“The Girl in the Spider’s Web.” Claire Foy (“The Crown”) takes over as Lisbeth Salander in a somewhat-sequel-of-sorts to David Fincher’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” Directed by Fede Alvarez of “Don’t Breathe” fame.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” continues the “Harry Potter” prequel series. Contributed by Warner Brothers

Nov. 16

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.” This franchise continues to go full “Star Wars” with the second movie in what has become a prequel series. Decades before Harry Potter headed to Hogwarts, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) try to stop dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) from unleashing the same sort of wizard supremacy that, well, Voldemort was really into. David Yates directs from a screenplay by J. K. Rowling.

“Widows.” Deep breath: Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) turns the British TV series of the same name (written by “Prime Suspect” scribe Lynda La Plante) into a film that he and Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”) wrote. Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo star in this thriller about women who have little in common save their criminal (and dead) husbands. With Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Daniel Kaluuya, Lukas Haas and Brian Tyree Henry. Man, that is some cast.

“A Private War.” Based on Marie Brenner’s 2012 Vanity Fair article “Marie Colvin’s Private War,” Rosamund Pike stars as fearless, eye-patched war correspondent Colvin. While covering a lot of her life, this film apparently focuses on her and war photographer Paul Conroy (Jamie Dornan) on an incredibly dangerous mission in the Syrian city of Homs.

Hugh Jackman stars in “The Front Runner.” Contributed by Sony Pictures

Nov. 21

“The Front Runner.” Oh, Gary Hart. Once a respected senator considered the odds-on favorite for the 1988 Democratic nomination, Hart’s relationship with Donna Rice, to whom he was not married, was the canary in the coal mine for all the zipper-based political journalism that came after. And that was 30 years ago. Jason Reitman directs Hugh Jackman as Hart, Vera Farmiga as his wife.

“Robin Hood.” Hollywood never, ever tires of trying to make Robin Hood happen. This time around, Otto Bathurst directs Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn and Eve Hewson in yet another spin on Robin of Loxley (played by Egerton). Expect bows that fire at machine-gun speed and lots of flipping in the air.

“Creed II.” Yes, the rumors are true. Michael B. Jordan is, once again, Adonis Creed, and this time he is fighting Viktor Drago, son of Ivan “If he dies, he dies” Drago. (Spoiler: He died. Drago killed Creed’s dad, Apollo, in “Rocky IV.”)

“Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2.” Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) leaves video games and explores the wide, wide world of the internet, the sum total of online humanity’s hopes, fears and interests. He’s joined by Vanellope von Schweetz (voice of Sarah Silverman) as they encounter all sort of netizens, including Yesss (voice of Taraji P. Henson), the embodiment of the buzzy, tubey site “BuzzzTube.”

“Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2” goes beyond video games to explore the entire internet. Contributed by Disney

Dec. 7

“Mary Queen of Scots.” The British royalty catfight to end all British royalty catfights. Saoirse Ronan IS Mary! Margot Robbie IS Elizabeth I. Unless they take some very serious liberties with the story, pretty sure I know how this one ends.

“Under the Silver Lake.” This looks like a lot of fun. David Robert Mitchell, director of the popular quasi-John Carpenter flick “It Follows,” goes full comedy L.A. neo-noir. Andrew Garfield plays a somewhat doltish fellow who, while looking for a gorgeous neighbor who has gone missing, wanders into a wild conspiracy.

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is an animated tale about a Spider-Man in an alternate universe. Contributed by Sony Pictures

Dec. 14

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Comics nerds from all over are probably a little too excited for this CGI-animated picture, which focuses on a black, Latino Brooklyn teenager named Miles Morales, the Spider-Man of an alternate universe, who meets Peter Parker, the Spider-Man that most folks know. Shameik Moore is Miles, Hailee Steinfeld is Gwen Stacy, Jake Johnson is Peter Parker, Liev Schreiber is the Kingpin. A black, comics nerd pal of mine from New York said he almost burst into tears at the scene in the trailer wherein Miles dives off a skyscraper in classic superhero fashion and screams “BROOKLYN!” Representation means something, folks.

Dec. 19

“Mary Poppins Returns.” Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) visits the grown-up Michael and Jane Banks (Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer) as their family suffers a loss. Kites will be flown, birds will be fed, and Lin-Manuel Miranda will play a chimney sweep.

“Aquaman” is the latest in the DC Comics franchise. Contributed by Warner Brothers

Dec. 21

“Aquaman.” Jason Momoa stars as the titular character, aka Arthur Curry, half-human ruler of Atlantis and member of the Justice League. DC Comics movies have mostly been critical nightmares, under-lit and over-dramatic in equal measure. We’ll see how this one goes.

“Bumblebee.” Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr. and John Ortiz star in this 1987-set origin story for one of the most popular characters in the “Transformers” franchise.

“Holmes & Watson.” Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are Sherlock and John. The release date has been pushed back twice; make of that what you will.

“Alita: Battle Angel.” Finally, the Robert Rodriguez-directed, James Cameron-produced, Austin-shot, CGI-heavy, incredibly expensive adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s legendary manga “Gunnm” comes to the big screen. A memory-free cyborg is found by a kindly scientist who tries to shield her from a violent past that is catching up with her. With Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali and Jackie Earle Haley.

Rosa Salazar stars in “Alita: Battle Angel.” Contributed by Twentieth Century Fox

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