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39 Must-See New Movies to See This Fall Season

From select theatrical releases to VOD and virtual cinema offerings, this season promises to be different in many ways. One thing that hasn't changed: a wide selection of the best 2020 has to offer.

“A Call to Spy” (October 2, select theaters and on demand)

Women rule the upcoming IFC Films release “A Call to Spy,” a World War II espionage thriller from Oscar-nominated director Lydia Dean Pilcher. Not only is the narrative centered on Winston Churchill’s female recruits thrust into a bold mission, but the production team is also dominated by women throughout. The film kicks off at the beginning of WWII, with a diverse group of female spies ranging from a Muslim pacifist to a wooden-legged American, sent to do sabotage and build a resistance against the Nazi regime in France. Director Lydia Dean Pilcher is an Academy Award nominee for 2014’s “Cutie and the Boxer,” which she produced. —RL

“Save Yourselves!” (October 2, select theaters; October 6, VOD)

If you’re sick of hearing how every film is “timely” or “prophetic” during these strange times, we beg you: give the comedic stylings of the exceedingly timely and prophetic “Save Yourselves!” a chance. At least you’ll have something to laugh about, if only for 93 zippy minutes. Alex Huston Fischer and Eleanor Wilson’s crowd-pleasing sci-fi comedy doesn’t stick the landing, but man, is it a fun ride.

Convinced — and rightly so — that their relatable obsessions with their phones and their laptops and the dueling ease and evil of the internet at large is keeping them from being better people (and a better couple), Su (Sunita Mani) and Jack (John Reynolds) cook up a plan to save themselves. They’ll turn their phones off, albeit temporarily, to head out on a week-long trip to upstate New York in hopes of growing closer, healing their broken brains, and reconnecting with something (anything) that doesn’t have a power cord attached to it. It’s all fun and games (and, yes, boredom) until the twosome are faced with a horrifying truth on their weekend away: the world is under attack, and they need to figure out a way to, well, save themselves. Can they? Hell, can anyone? —KE

“Dick Johnson Is Dead” (October 2, Netflix)

The title of “Dick Johnson Is Dead” doesn’t lie, but it’s not exactly truthful, either. Dick Johnson dies many times in his daughter Kirsten’s poignant and personal documentary, starting with the opening credits. And yet he’s very much alive the whole time, playacting in an elaborate form of cinematic therapy with his filmmaker offspring as she wrestles with the anxiety of losing him.

That concept could easily devolve into a navel-gazing exercise, but Kirsten Johnson — the veteran nonfiction cinematographer who directed 2016’s wondrous collage film “Cameraperson” — enacts a touching and funny meditation on embracing life and fearing death at the same time. Oscillating from intimate father-daughter exchanges to surreal meta-fictional tangents, the movie lives within its riveting paradox, reflecting the queasy uncertainty surrounding its subject’s fate.—EK

“Wonder Woman 1984” (October 2, select theaters)

Without the pandemic, we would have started sampling this DC superhero tentpole on June 5. Director Patty Jenkins reunites with Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, and Connie Nielsen on this follow-up standalone to the 2017 DC blockbuster “Wonder Woman” ($820 million worldwide), returning the Princess Warrior Diana to another time (the ’80s Cold War between America and the Soviet Union), with a look back at the intervening years.

The cast is joined in the $175-million sequel by Kristen Wiig (as archeologist Barbara Ann Minerva/Cheetah) and “The Mandalorian” star Pedro Pascal in a bigger-than-life villain role, sans mask. Like Chris Nolan’s “Tenet,” Warners has promised to stick to theatrical (RealD 3D, Dolby Cinema, IMAX, and IMAX 3D) for this big-screen extravaganza. And judging from Gadot’s weepy response to the first cut, expect Jenkins to not only deliver action, romance, and comedy, but some tender emotions as well. “Nothing is born from lies,” states Wonder Woman. “And greatness is not what you think.” —AT

A still from Time by Ursula Garrett Bradley, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“Time”

Amazon Studios

“Time” (October 9, select theaters)

Documentaries often tackle big, important issues, but few nonfiction filmmakers manage to bring such personal artistry to their social consciousness like director Garrett Bradley achieves in her latest feature, which debuted at Sundance in January. In telling the story of Fox Rich’s arc toward activism — fighting to get her husband out of jail while raising their six children — Bradley has found the perfect partner and canvas for her unique political poetry.

A story of a seemingly impossible love, “Time” is a film stripped down to its cinematic and spiritual essence, allowing the audience an emotional window into the deep pain of our rotting justice system and the resilience it demands to survive it. Weaving Rich’s treasure trove of DV home movies with her own distinct black and white compositions, Bradley finds a structure that lets Rich’s story flow like water. In Bradley’s short “America,” she showcased a beautiful re-imagining of African-American big screen representation, and with “Time” she is poised to break out and become one of the most exciting voices pushing nonfiction cinema somewhere truly new. —CO

“Shithouse” (October 16, select theaters and on demand)

It’s a shame that Cooper Raiff’s “Shithouse” didn’t get a chance to screen at this year’s SXSW, because this knowing and funny nano-budget debut is exactly the kind of film the Austin festival exists to showcase. And that’s all the more true because it sounds like such a potential nightmare on paper: Written, directed, and co-edited by its reluctant 22-year-old star with some help from his friends, Raiff’s vulnerable DIY gem tells a coming-of-age story about a mopey college freshman who’s struggling with the whiplash of leaving home.

He meets a girl, they spend a magical night together, things get awkward in the morning but maybe they’ll still be able to help each other figure shit out… you know how it goes. It’s basically the Platonic ideal of the movie you’d expect from a suburban white American softboy who’s been raised on Richard Linklater and “Sex Education.” After winning the SXSW grand jury prize, “Shithouse” was acquired by IFC Films. —DE

“Candyman” (October 16, select theaters)

Director Nia DaCosta’s first studio picture is a contemporary take on the blood-chilling urban legend that audiences were first introduced to in the 1992 slasher movie starring Tony Todd as the title character: “Candyman.” DaCosta’s film takes place a decade after the last of the Cabrini towers were torn down, as visual artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his partner, gallery director Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris), move into a luxury loft condo in Cabrini, now totally gentrified.

With Anthony’s painting career stalling, a long-time Cabrini-Green resident (Colman Domingo) exposes him to the tragic nature of the true story behind Candyman. Anxious to maintain his status in the Chicago art world, Anthony begins to explore these macabre details in his paintings, unknowingly opening a door that unleashes a terrifying wave of violence, putting him on course with destiny. Is Anthony the next Candyman, or at least a descendant of the original? The trailer teases the possibility of either. —TB

“Rebecca” (October 21, streaming on Netflix)

Dame Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 Gothic novel “Rebecca” is best known for its Oscar-winning Alfred Hitchcock adaptation, but the master of suspense doesn’t have a monopoly on it. With films like “Sightseers” and “Kill List,” Ben Wheatley has emerged as one of the U.K.’s most enjoyable black comedy auteurs, so his spin on this drama about a woman who marries a wealthy man and contends with the ghostly presence of his dead wife is more than welcome.

The Netflix production (co-scripted by “Kick-Ass” and “Kingsman” writer Jane Goldman) co-stars Lily James and Armie Hammer as the central couple, with Kristen Scott Thomas (as the wicked housekeeper Mrs. Danvers), Sam Riley, and Ann Dowd among the supporting roles. The new version takes place in Manderlay, against the backdrop of the English coast. Expect a slick and elegant refashioning of the material with surprises to spare. It’s too early to say if this “Rebecca” could obtain the classic status that Hitchcock’s has accrued over the years, but never underestimate Wheatley’s ability to direct his viewers in shocking and memorable directions. —EK 

“Borat 2” (October 23, streaming on Amazon Prime)

The surprise sequel to the 2006 blockbuster comedy was one of Hollywood’s best kept secrets for months, even as star Sacha Baron Cohen has been popping up in the news over the last several months for public pranks, leading many fans to speculate as to whether or not he was cooking up something new. At the end of June, Cohen made headlines for crashing a far-right rally in Olympia, Washington and convincing the crowd to sing a racist song with him. The event was a “March for Our Rights 3” rally organized by the Washington Three Percenters, a far-right militia group known for its gun advocacy. Cohen appeared dressed in overalls and a fake beard, and his song included lyrics about injecting kids with the “Wuhan flu.”

The sequel is reportedly titled “Borat: Gift of Pornographic Monkey to Vice Premiere Mikhael Pence to Make Benefit Recently Diminished Nation of Kazakhstan.” As always, Cohen risked his life to shoot the project in secret. Deadline reports the comedian had to wear a bulletproof vest on two different shooting days to stay safe in case a scenario got out of hand. —ZS

“Those Who Wish Me Dead” (October 23, select theaters)

Taylor Sheridan returns to feature directing for the first time since 2017’s indie sleeper “Wind River’ with “Those Who Wish Me Dead,” a neo-western set amid a forest fire blazing in middle-of-nowhere Montana. Written by Sheridan with crime writer Michael Koryta (adapting his own novel), along with “Blood Diamond” scribe Charles Leavitt, the film features Angelina Jolie leading an impressive ensemble. Also starring are Nicholas Hoult, Tyler Perry, and Jon Bernthal in this story of a 14-year-old murder witness on the run from twin assassins. Sheridan brings his deep pedigree for suspenseful westerns grappling with a depressed America, as he earned an Oscar nomination for writing 2016’s “Hell or High Water,” and serves as the co-creator, as well as writer, director, and producer, on TV’s hit series “Yellowstone.” Sheridan’s crowning achievement remains the taut script for Denis Villeneuve’s “Sicario,” another film about a deadly chase through a dark corner of the world. —RL

“Fatale” (October 30, select theaters)

Directed by genre veteran Deon Taylor, “Fatale” offers promising elements that could lead the film to rise above the psychological-thriller pack. Speaking to Deadline, Lionsgate acquisitions head Jason Constantine says the movie offers the heat and erotic appeal of “Fatal Attraction” and “Basic Instinct,” while Michael Ealy and two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank help deliver a “morally complex” character-driven thriller. Swank plays a mysterious woman who outwits and manipulates a married man with whom she has a one-night stand. Cinematography comes from Oscar nominee Dante Spinotti, known for neo-noirs “L.A. Confidential” and “Heat,” and who worked with Taylor on “Black and Blue” and “Traffik.” —CL

Check out the rest of the fall preview, including selections for November and December, on the next page.

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