This week, IndieWire is rolling out our annual fall preview, including the very best indie movies coming out this year, all the awards contenders you need to know about, and even some blockbuster fare that will please the most discerning viewers. Check back every day for a new look at the best the season has to offer. Be sure to check out our list of indie gems and festival favorites to see this season, too.
“A Simple Favor” (September 14)
Paul Feig has spent much of this decade directing films written by and starring women (“Bridesmaids,” “The Heat,” “Ghostbuters”). Yet “A Simple Favor,” his latest example, hinges on more danger and intrigue than his signature comedies. Oscar and Tony nominee Anna Kendrick (“Up in the Air,” “High Society”) portrays Stephanie, a “mommy blogger” who idolizes, then befriends fellow parent Emily (Blake Lively), her glamorous, nonchalant opposite. Emily goes MIA after asking Stephanie to retrieve her son from school. Police locate what they think is Emily’s body, but sleuthing Stephanie has doubts. Rounding out the cast are Linda Cardellini, Jean Smart, Andrew Rannells, and Henry Golding — the male lead in “Crazy Rich Asians” —as Emily’s concerned spouse. Fox 2000 bought the film rights to Darcey Bell’s eponymous debut novel before it hit shelves in March 2017; Lionsgate later picked up the project. Screenwriter Jessica Sharzer knows how to startle an audience: she was a longtime executive producer on “American Horror Story.” —JM
“The Predator” (September 14)
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If it bleeds, we can make a movie about it. Or movies, rather — Shane Black, who appeared in the original film, is on the other side of the camera in the series’ fourth main entry, which introduces us to the concept of Ultra Predators. We’ve little info to go on thus far, but one imagines they’re just what they sound like: bigger, deadlier, and even more adept hunters than their normal-sized counterparts. Arnold is nowhere to be found, which is a shame, but even he wasn’t enough to make the last “Terminator” worthwhile — maybe new blood is just what this series needs. -MN
“Venom” (October 5)
We are Venom, and we are unrepentant in our excitement for yet another movie in which it’s impossible to understand what the hell Tom Hardy’s saying. The silliness on display in the trailer — “eyes, lungs, pancreas; so many snacks, so little time” — has proven divisive, but fans of Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis know he was always a little over the top. (Ditto anyone who played the “Maximum Carnage” video game way back when.) An optimist would say that a movie starring Hardy, Riz Ahmed, and Michelle Williams will be worth seeing for the ensemble alone — even if Tom Holland isn’t part of it (for now). -MN
“Bad Times at the El Royale” (October 12)
Criminals, a cult leader, and a clergyman are among the septet seeking lodging and a hideout in the second directed feature from Drew Goddard. The celebrated film and TV writer (an Oscar nominee for “The Martian”), set his “The Cabin in the Woods” follow-up near Lake Tahoe during a fateful 1960s night. The alter-egos of Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson, Chris Hemsworth, Cynthia Erivo, Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart”) and more schlep their literal/figurative baggage to the taxidermied El Royale hotel and its young concierge (Lewis Pullman, “Battle of the Sexes”). Both Goddard and co-executive producer Jeremy Latcham (“The Avengers”) are repeat Hemsworth collaborators, hence how they convinced the Aussie tentpole anchor to go against type as Flower Child clan chief Billy Lee. “Atonement” and “Anna Karenina” cinematographer Seamus McGarvey lit the curious proceedings, while “Up” Oscar victor Michael Giacchino provided the throwback score. —JM
“Halloween” (October 19)
Family is forever, and so, apparently, is this franchise. At least the latest entry comes from the unexpected pairing of Danny Gordon Green and Danny McBride, who co-wrote the script together; it doesn’t hurt that Jamie Lee Curtis is returning to once again claim her mantle as the original scream queen. Green, whose impossible-to-pin-down filmography ranges from “George Washington” and “All the Real Girls” to “Pineapple Express” and “Our Brand Is Crisis,” is said to have received the blessing of John Carpenter himself; if that’s the case, who are we to question? -MN
“Overlord” (October 26)
In addition to inspiring more prestige pictures than anyone else in history, the Nazis have also had a curious impact on sci-fi and fantasy. “Overlord” is the latest movie to use their ghastly experiments as the basis of a speculative plot, and an impressive cast — Jovan Adepo (“The Leftovers,” “Fences”), Wyatt Russell (“Everybody Wants Some!!”), Pilou Asbæk (“A War,” “Game of Thrones”) — belies the potential silliness. J.J. Abrams produced this behind-enemy-lines thriller, which is to say that there’s more than just enemies behind that line. You’ll have to catch it opening weekend to see if those rumors that it’s part of the Clover-verse prove out, and if so, how? -MN
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