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Fall Film Preview: 11 Movies We Plan to See

Autumn's best bets feature Nicole Kidman, J-Lo, Brad Pitt, Will Smith, the Crawleys, Rambo and more

The Goldfinch (Sept. 13)

In this eagerly awaited adaptation of Donna Tartt's 2013 best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning door stopper of a novel about a boy whose mother is killed in a terrorist bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nicole Kidman, 52, plays a wealthy socialite who bonds with Theo. Baby Driver's Ansel Elgort plays an older Theo; Oakes Fegley, 14, is Theo the younger.

Hustlers (Sept. 13)

There's deafening Hollywood buzz for producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's fact-based film about strippers who fleeced Wall Street guys in vengeance for the 2008 financial crisis. The fabulous cast includes Jennifer Lopez, 50, Constance Wu, Cardi B (an actual ex-stripper who says she really robbed her clients!), and Mercedes Ruehl, 71 (The Fisher King).

Downton Abbey (Sept. 20)

In the last episode of the hit TV show — which had 2.5 times as many viewers as Mad Men — it was New Year's Eve 1926. In the movie, it's fall 1927. As the Depression looms, the Crawleys must tighten their belts, with less help than usual. “No maid, no nanny, no valet,” says Lord Grantham. “It's 1927, and we are modern folk.” But when the king and queen announce a visit to Downton, everyone's in such a tizzy that they have to call head butler Carson out of retirement to get the place shipshape. Most of the TV cast is back, along with Harry Potter star Imelda Staunton, 63, who as Lady Bagshaw, serves as irresistibly irascible Dowager Countess Maggie Smith's sparring partner. But even the countess is changing with the times. “One must have standards,” she says, “but one must not be inflexible."

Rambo: Last Blood (Sept. 20)

It's been 37 years since Sylvester Stallone introduced action movie lovers to John Rambo in First Blood. Now, Sly is 73, and Rambo is older and more reflective. He comes out of retirement to rescue a friend's daughter kidnapped by a drug cartel. They say this is the fifth and final film in the Rambo series, but Stallone used to claim that the 2008 Rambo was the last one — so who knows?

Ad Astra (Sept. 20)

In what promises to be the most ambitious outer-space film since Sandra Bullock's Gravity, Brad Pitt rockets into unfriendly skies to hunt for his father (played by Tommy Lee Jones), who disappeared en route to Neptune, and to save the solar system.

Gemini Man (Oct. 11)

Double Oscar-winning director Ang Lee (Life of Pi, Brokeback Mountain) pits hit man Will Smith against a replica of himself 25 years younger in a film that's out to push the boundaries of computer graphics. Smith is having a comeback — Aladdin is the top-grossing film of his career — and Gemini Man is cowritten by Game of Thrones creator David Benioff.

Watch the trailer for Judy

Judy (Sept. 27)

In her 30s, Renée Zellweger got a major Hollywood honor every year, including Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG wins in 2004 for Cold Mountain. Then her career cooled. But she's back at the front of the Oscar pack playing Judy Garland in 1968, three decades after Over the Rainbow, when she did her last concerts at London's Talk of the Town club and courted her fifth husband, Mickey Deans (American Horror Story's Finn Wittrock). That's really Zellweger, now 50, singing (not lip-synching) Garland's poignant swan songs. “You won't forget me, will you? Promise you won't,” she implores the crowd. Come Oscar night, she won't be forgotten.

Pain and Glory (Oct. 4)

Oscar winner Pedro Almodóvar has never made such an AARP-friendly movie. It's a semiautobiographical tale about an arty Spanish film director (Antonio Banderas, 59), once a young rebel, now afflicted by the challenges of aging, pain, painkillers, writer's block and guilt about his mother, played by Penelope Cruz, in flashbacks to his Valencia childhood. (Sounds like Alfonso Cuarón's 2018 Oscar magnet Roma.) Banderas won best actor at the Cannes Film Festival for this sensitive look back on life and the struggle to stay creative as we get older.

Joker (Oct. 4)

Joaquin Phoenix, who turns 45 in October, always refused to do comic book movies. (He spurned the role of Doctor Strange.) But he chose to be the seventh actor to portray Batman's nemesis because this movie isn't based on the comic books. It's set in 1981 Gotham, Phoenix's Joker is a desperately alienated guy like Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver, and he's obsessed with becoming a stand-up comic on a late-night talk show, like Robert De Niro in The King of Comedy. And who plays that talk show host? Robert De Niro. It's enough to turn a man to a life of crime.

The Lighthouse (Oct. 18)

The whole trick to survival as a lighthouse keeper on a New England rock in the 1890s is not to go crazy. Entirely failing to stay sane, a longtime lighthouse boss (Willem Dafoe, 64), a tyrant out of Moby-Dick, tries to keep his new assistant, a drifter (Robert Pattinson) in line, as both are driven to drink — first alcohol, and when that runs out, kerosene — until they lose track of time. In a black-and-white film with Oscar potential, there's a menacing seagull, a mysterious mermaid and a creature with slimy tentacles. But the real monsters are in these terminally lonesome men's minds.

The Last Full Measure (Oct. 25)

Few fall movies sound as rousing as this, the true story of Air Force medic William Pitsenbarger (Jeremy Irvine), who refused to board the last chopper out of one of Vietnam's bloodiest battles and saved more than 60 soldiers. Decades after his death, his dad (Christopher Plummer), combat comrade (William Hurt) and fellow veterans fight to get him the Congressional Medal of Honor. Costarring Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, Diane Ladd, John Savage, Bradley Whitford and — in his final role — Peter Fonda.

AARP critic Tim Appelo was Amazon’s entertainment editor and a critic for The Nation, Hollywood Reporter, EW, People, MTV, LA Weekly, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times.

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