The turn of the calendar from August to September means a sudden, significant change in the type of movies arriving weekly.
Action blockbusters and superhero blowouts give way to the slow hum of fall prestige, as reports trickle in from Toronto and Venice about the festival favorites we'll be arguing about months from now and into Oscar season.
The story of the fall? Several of the films will arrive on Netflix first, and then hit theaters a few weeks later. Here's some of what you can expect on area screens this fall, between now and Thanksgiving.
Brad Pitt didn't star in a movie for a couple of years, but he returned this summer in director Quentin Tarantino's “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” and on Sept. 20 you can catch him in the space drama “Ad Astra.” Directed by James Gray, it's the latest in the subgenre that I'll call "elevated space," in the tradition of “Interstellar” and “Gravity.” The supporting cast is a miniature “Space Cowboys” reunion, with Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland both appearing.
Also on Sept. 20, “Downton Abbey” gets a feature movie sequel, with most of the surviving cast returning for a story set during a visit by the king of England in the late 1920s, as the Abbey's staff is at odds with the king's court.
Sylvester Stallone can't stop making sequels to his classic movies, and on Sept. 20 he’ll return with the fifth (and allegedly final) Rambo movie, titled “Rambo: Last Blood.” I'm not the first to make this joke, but why isn't it called “Rambo No. 5”?
On Sept. 27 comes the first of Netflix's substantial awards slate, with Steven Soderbergh's “The Laundromat.” Starring Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman and David Schwimmer, the story is set against the backdrop of the Panama Papers scandal. After three weeks in theaters, it’ll arrive on Netflix on Oct. 18.
Todd Phillips' “Joker,” starring Joaquin Phoenix as the iconic Batman villain, has already set off a massive culture war even before anyone who wasn't at the Venice Film Festival — where it won the Golden Lion award — has seen it. Whether it's a dark masterpiece or an irresponsibly mounted, incel roadmap to violence, Joker arrives Oct. 4.
Remember the story about the female astronaut who wore an adult diaper to drive across several states to confront her lover? That gets a fictionalized movie treatment called “Lucy in the Sky,” starring Natalie Portman, and it also arrives on Oct. 4.
Eddie Murphy is on the comeback trail, with both a return to stand up comedy and a Saturday Night Live hosting stint on the way, and he's also starring in the blaxploitation biopic “Dolemite is My Name,” which hits theaters Oct. 4 and is slated to arrive on Netflix three weeks later.
It's Will Smith vs. Will Smith in “Gemini Man,” which reaches theaters Oct. 11. Directed by Ang Lee, the film features an age-appropriate Smith getting into one little fight — no, check that — going into battle with a de-aged clone of himself. “Game of Thrones” co-creator David Benioff is one of three screenwriters.
“Jexi” is the comedy featuring Adam Devine fighting with the Siri-like digital assistant on his smartphone. The film, arriving on Oct. 11, had one of the more ghastly trailers of the summer, but Spike Jonze's “Her” had a similar premise and was a near-masterpiece.
Also on Oct. 11, “Breaking Bad” finally gets a long-awaited sequel movie, “El Camino.” The Netflix-exclusive picture follows the post-Walter White adventures of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), and series creator Vince Gilligan wrote and directed.
“Parasite,” the latest film from “Snowpiercer” director Bong Joon-Ho, has been drawing rave reviews on the festival circuit, and the South Korean film is set to hit theaters stateside on Oct. 11.
Taika Waititi, who directed the well-received Marvel movie “Thor: Ragnarok,” has helmed a natural follow-up project entitled “Jojo Rabbit,” a World War II satire in which the director himself plays a boy's imaginary friend, who is Adolf Hitler. Arriving Oct. 18, opposite sequels to “Zombieland” and “Maleficent,” “Jojo Rabbit”stars Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell.
Director Robert Eggers, who made the shockingly scary “The Witch” back in 2015, returns with “The Lighthouse,” an A24 picture starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe arriving Oct. 18. No evil goats this time, as far as we know.
There have been several “Terminator” sequels since 1991's classic “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” most of them forgettable. The latest one, “Terminator: Dark Fate” (Nov. 1), brings back James Cameron as a producer, with Tim Miller (“Deadpool”) directing, while Linda Hamilton returns as Sarah Connor, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is in the film as well. Mackenzie Davis stars in the film, which ignores the events of the last couple of sequels.
Also on Nov. 1 comes “Motherless Brooklyn,” a 1950s murder mystery starring Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. The film, adapted from Jonathan Lethem's novel, is also Norton's first time directing since “Keeping the Faith” in 2000.
Martin Scorsese's latest three-hour mob epic, “The Irishman,” is based on the possibly apocryphal remembrances of Philly-area mob figure Frank Sheeran, and stars the Hall of Fame of mob actors Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel. It starts a limited theatrical release Nov. 1, before hitting Netflix on Nov. 27.
Noah Baumbach already made an acclaimed movie, 2005's “The Squid and the Whale,” about his parents' divorce. Now he has a new film, “Marriage Story,” about his own divorce, a movie which has drawn rave notices from the Toronto International Film Festival. Starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, “Marriage Story” opens in theaters Nov. 6 and then reaches Netflix one month later.
In “Last Christmas” (Nov. 8), Emilia Clarke tries to get a post-“Game of Thrones” movie career off the ground, in a holiday romance that co-stars “Crazy Rich Asians” leading man Henry Golding. Paul Feig, who made “Bridesmaids” and last year's underrated “A Simple Favor,” directs.
“Doctor Sleep,” arriving Nov. 8, is a sequel to “The Shining,” starring Ewan McGregor as an adult version of Danny Torrance, the kid on the tricycle in the original film. Directed by Mike Flanagan, the film is based on a 2013 sequel novel by Stephen King, although there's no Jack Nicholson or Shelley Duvall.
On Nov. 15, “Charlie's Angels” gets another reboot, with Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska and Naomi Scott (Jasmine from the “Aladdin” remake) playing the Angels for director Elizabeth Banks, who also plays Bosley.
On Nov. 22, the kids get a treat as “Frozen 2” arrives from Disney, with a brand new suite of musical numbers. On the same day, it’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” with the Mr. Rogers biopic starring Tom Hanks, and finally, “21 Bridges,” the Philly-shot cop film starring Chadwick Boseman.
Also this fall: The Philadelphia Film Festival runs Oct. 17-27, and while the lineup won't be announced for a few more weeks, you can expect to see a lot of the titles set for release in November and December. Also, the new AMC movie theater on Market St., in the new Fashion District Philadelphia complex, is set to finally open sometime before the end of the year, giving Center City its first multiplex in decades.