Top 10 movies for fall 2021: Our hopes for streams and the cineplex, from Bond on down

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

While spring can really hang you up the most, as a great old song put it, autumn 2021 feels like an honorary spring in the making.

Suspended cultural animation. Uncertain variants and a million separate, often competing comfort zones. Movie theaters have reopened, and people are going back, at least to some (much?) of what’s available, from “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” on down. Do the studios making those movies care? Or are they so invested in stocking their streaming platforms with new fish to fry to give much thought to the fate of the multiplex?

The movie capturing the moment best, I think, is the new James Bond film “No Time to Die.” Its very title suits the feelings of both the vaxed, masked portion of the country and the live-free-and-die faction, millions and millions strong. The movie’s coming out Oct. 8, some 18 months after the $250 million franchise item was first scheduled to open. This is Daniel Craig’s final Bond picture, or so Craig says. It feels like a long goodbye, fulfilled at last.

Unfashionably, “No Time to Die” will open in theaters only. Then it adds its streaming release option a few weeks later, date yet to be confirmed. Now that our kids are nearing full vaccination, I’m feeling a little better about going out to a movie, i.e. going into a theater. Let’s all do what it takes to bid our goodbyes to the pandemic, and the behavior, that got us where we are this fall — which is back, sort of, at a time of partial, hopeful recovery.

Here are 10 prospects, all of which I sincerely hope turn out to be pips. As always, release dates are subject to change.

“The Many Saints of Newark,” Oct. 1 in theaters and on HBO Max. I’ve seen this one, and it’s good — a witty, melancholy “Sopranos” prequel in which teenage Tony (Michael Gandolfini, son of the late James Gandolfini) and his loving, fraught relationship with his uncle Dickie (Alessandro Nivola) is framed by family torment and late 1960s unrest.

“Diana: The Musical,” Oct. 1 on Netflix for one day only; Broadway premiere, Dec. 16; Netflix streaming premiere to be determined. This is Diana’s season, all right, with Netflix sneaking “Come From Away” director Christopher Ashley’s “Broadway capture” edition of the new musical on Oct. 1, two months prior to the show’s Broadway premiere. Meantime “Spencer,” “Jackie” director Pablo Larrain’s take on the Lady Diana Spencer travails starring Kristen Stewart, premieres in theaters Nov. 5.

“No Time to Die,” Oct. 8 in theaters. Retirement doesn’t suit James Bond, which is handy, because there’d be no movie if his old friend Felix didn’t solicit his sense of surly obligation for a final, globe-saving gig.

“Dune,” Oct. 22 in theaters and on HBO Max. Frank Herbert’s 1965 science-fiction phenom, previously filmed, after a fashion, by David Lynch, returns to transfix/disorient/stun/frustrate/entice moviegoers looking for a little spice. “Arrival” and “Blade Runner 2049″ director Denis Villeneuve’s cast features Timothee Chalamet, Zendaya and Oscar Isaac.


“The Harder They Fall,” Nov. 3 on Netflix and in theaters. Fantastic cast: Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, Lakeith Stanfield, Regina King, Delroy Lindo … here’s hoping it’s a bracing amalgam of fact-based history (protagonist Nat Love was a key Black post-Civil War figure of the Old West) and imaginative style courtesy of British director and musician The Bullitts,aka Jeymes Samuel.

“Eternals,” Nov. 5 in theaters. It sounds daft: Director Chloe Zhao, whose poetic naturalism served her so well in “Nomadland” and especially “The Rider,” heading up a Marvel movie? The results will be confined to theaters for at least 45 days prior to streaming on Disney Plus, which suggests Disney learned a lesson from the success of “Shang-Chi” and the wisdom of not self-cannibalizing your own menu offerings.

“Julia,” Nov. 5 in theaters. Sony Pictures Classics is distributing this documentary about legendary cookbook author, chef and lover of life Julia Child. It premiered recently at the Telluride Film Festival to a warm, comfort-food welcome.

“Belfast,” Nov. 12 in theaters. Coming off the late summer/fall film festival circuit (writer-director Kenneth Branagh is scheduled to visit the Chicago International Film Festival in October with it), this black-and-white cinematic memoir delves into Branagh’s early years in Northern Ireland. The filmmaker’s ensemble features Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, Ciaran Hinds and Caitriona Balfe.

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” Nov. 19 in theaters. Jason Reitman, son of original “Ghostbusters” director Ivan Reitman, takes a whack at revitalizing the ‘80s-sprung franchise. This one brings back several of the first movie’s ringers, Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver among them; headliners include Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Carrie Coon and Paul Rudd.

“King Richard,” Nov. 19 on HBO Max and in theaters. Will Smith smells like an Oscar (or something like that), based on the early, tear-stained response to this biopic of Richard Williams — father, pile-driving coach and homespun fount of wisdom, on and off the tennis court, to his stunningly talented daughters Venus and Serena.


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