Death takes no holiday this fall at the movies, thanks to Agatha Christie and more

By Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

There is so much up for grabs this fall, including the pandemic state of actual, physical moviegoing. How many films' release dates will turn to sand and reschedule to 2021, or end up streaming? Will the new James Bond film "No Time to Die" finally arrive Nov. 20? If "Mulan" conquers, Disney Plus will set the course of future U.S. film distribution and overrule the success of "Tenet" in American theaters, if it indeed succeeds?

The certainties, meanwhile, are fraught with loss. In August, "Black Panther" star Chadwick Boseman died, four years after he was diagnosed with colon cancer. His farewell performance premieres on Netflix, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 27. In the August Wilson drama "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," set in a Chicago recording studio, Boseman takes the role of Levee, a volatile trumpeter eager to make his mark in the 1927 jazz world, thwarted by the white powers that be.

Meantime the documentary-trained filmmaker behind "The Rider," the peak achievement of 2017, returns with "Nomadland." Writer-director Chloe Zhao took inspiration from the nonfiction account "Nomadland: Surviving America in the 21st Century," and the road picture starring two-time Academy Award winner Frances McDormand is making the fall film festival rounds - virtually, that is - before landing in theaters Dec. 4. Probably. What can say other than "probably" about anything this fall?

Here are four more to anticipate this fall, with the usual COVID-19 subject-to-change caveats.

"The Nest," IFC, Friday. Jude Law and Carrie Coon star as a couple recently relocated from America to Surrey, England, in a low-keyed psychological thriller many praised in its 2020 Sundance Film Festival premiere. Writer-director Sean Durkin's earlier "Martha Marcy May Marlene" indicates the foreboding atmosphere afoot.


"The Trial of the Chicago 7," Netflix, Oct. 16. Speaking of grisly Chicago folklore: The epoch-defining 1968 Chicago clash of protesters, police, Daley-era machinations and a subsequent courtroom drama provides the material for Aaron Sorkin's docudrama.

"Death on the Nile," 20th Century Studios, Oct. 23. Director/star Kenneth Branagh follows up his flamboyant version of "Murder on the Orient Express" with another Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot mystery, featuring Gal Godot, Armie Hammer, Annette Bening and other deeply suspicious characters.

"Black Widow," Disney/Marvel, Nov. 6. Scarlett Johansson steps out from behind the usual Avengers wall of men in Spandex. Will it open in theaters, or fly straight to Disney Plus? Friend, if I knew, I'd tell you. Let's just find out together.

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