It’s been a pretty good year for Texans at the cineplex. The Sandra Bullock-led Ocean’s 8 was a commercial smash; Austin filmmaker Andrew Bujalski’s Support the Girls was a critical sensation; the adaptation of Houstonite Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians was both. Besides, Ethan Hawke may win himself an Oscar for his role in First Reformed, Friday Night Lights emeritus Michael B. Jordan’s turn in Black Panther singlehandedly redefined what a cinematic super-villain could be, and Stephen Spielberg’s adaptation of Austin native Ernie Cline’s Ready Player One offered a stunning vision of a VR future. And with four months of 2018 to go, we’re not finished yet.
Texans (if you count part-timers like Jordan, who still has a home in Austin) have a lot of mojo at the box office coming this fall. From indie curiosities with a lot of potential to a few of the year’s biggest remaining blockbusters, there’s a lot worth watching. Here’s the rundown.
White Boy Rick (September 14)
The McConnaissance may have wound down right around the time Matthew McConaughey launched himself into space (and memedom) in Interstellar, but his turn in White Boy Rick looks to jump-start what we’ll call McConnaissance II, a chance to redeem the career he redeemed a few years ago after missteps like starring in The Dark Tower and Gold and not starring in Magic Mike XXL. This turn, which sees McConaughey play the sort of charming scumbag-with-a-heart-of-gold that defined the best role in his career, teams the man up with young first-timer Richie Merritt, who plays the title character (and McConaughey’s son) in a true-story drug game epic that looks somewhat like a teenage Goodfellas.
The Predator (September 14)
The last time the Predator franchise took a big-screen spin, it was under the guidance of Robert Rodriguez, who produced and wrote an early version of the screenplay. This time, filmmaker Shane Black (who faced controversy after co-star Olivia Munn revealed that Black cast a friend of his who is a registered sex offender in a small role) helms the saga of an alien hunter who comes to Earth seeking the most dangerous prey. One of its intended prey is played by UT grad Trevante Rhodes, who earned well-deserved accolades starring in the 2016 Best Picture winner Moonlight. Rhodes seems well-positioned to pivot to blockbusters if The Predator gives him a chance to show his stuff.
The Old Man and the Gun (September 28)
Dallas filmmaker David Lowery is preparing to bounce between small-scale pictures and big-budget Disney fare: his last film, A Ghost Story, was a lovely, personal look at mortality, while his next is expected to be the studio’s live-action remake of its animated Peter Pan. The Old Man and the Gun lands on the small-scale, personal side of the divide, with Robert Redford giving his final performance as the titular old man, backed up by frequent Lowery collaborator (and accused sexual predator) Casey Affleck.
A Star Is Born (October 5)
Unlike in the 1976 film, he starred in opposite Barbara Streisand, Kris Kristofferson isn’t involved in this version of the familiar tale in which a successful male artist takes a female artist under his wing (and into his bed) only for complications both personal and professional to ensue. This time around, Bradley Cooper (who also directs) takes on that gig. But the music, which will be performed by both Cooper and Lady Gaga, who co-stars, is pure Texas—Lukas Nelson wrote much of it, and served as an “authenticity consultant” to give Cooper’s Jackson Maine the outlaw cred he needs.
Halloween (October 19)
Like David Lowery, Austin filmmaker David Gordon Green has built his career by moving effortlessly from big-budget studio pictures to small-scale personal projects. (His 2013 feature Prince Avalanche was a lovely ode to the beauty and strangeness found in Central Texas in the wake of the Bastrop wildfires.) Before he gets to work on his announced remake of Friday Night Lights for the big screen, Green’s has this soft reboot of the Halloween franchise coming just in time for the 2018 horror movie season. With this one, Green brings original franchise star Jamie Lee Curtis back into the fold for the first time since 2002’s Halloween H20—and throws out that film, as well as the other eight mostly-unwatchable sequels, in favor of the sort of clean continuity that previously helped revive franchises like Rocky and Star Trek.
Serenity (October 19)
The McConnaissance II may continue with Serenity, or it may derail again—based on the trailer, we could see it going either way. But even if Serenity is bad, it looks like it’ll fall on the “watchable trash” side of the spectrum with an all-star cast of McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Diane Lane, Djimon Hounsou, and Jason Clarke engaged in some sort of sexy-thriller shenanigans that probably include no fewer than three double-crosses, so it could be worse—and if it’s good, that’d be a heck of a win for McConaughey’s second comeback.
Stuck (October 26)
Austinite Giancarlo Esposito stars in the musical drama Stuck, alongside Ashanti and Golden Globe winner Amy Madigan, about the people who find themselves in a New York City subway car that gets stuck on the tracks. As they get to know each other, they sing their hopes, dreams, fears, and problems to the world, which sounds like the sort of glorious schmaltz that delivers perfectly on the premise of a small-scale musical set in a subway car. Either that’s for you or it isn’t, but you should be able to tell which camp you’re in immediately.
Creed II (November 21)
Michael B. Jordan, who pulled off one of the all-time great high-wire acts in film history by improbably turning the seventh installment in the Rocky franchise into the best film in the series, is back. In Creed II, he once again steps into the ring as Adonis “Hollywood” Creed, the scion of Apollo Creed’s legacy working under the tutelage of Sylvester Stallone’s iconic Rocky Balboa. Creed II, which saw writer/director Ryan Coogler pass the baton to director Steven Caple Jr., doesn’t have the same sort of franchise baggage to overcome as Creed did, but even if it’s merely a pretty good boxing movie, that’s a genre that (Creed aside) has been more miss than hit lately. Watching Adonis go toe-to-toe with the son of the man who killed his father in the ring should, at worst, make for a diverting couple of hours.
Aquaman (December 21)
The latest entry in the DC Comics cinematic universe brings Jason Momoa’s title character back to screens after his debut in Justice League last year. This time, instead of playing the hero as a James Hetfield-style headbanger who also happens to fight crime and talk to fish, Momoa plays up the more regal aspects of the underwater prince—including his romance with undersea queen Mera, played by Austin native Amber Heard. It’s hard to say how large a part Mera is in the film, although Heard gets second billing—but it’s got the potential to be a high-profile blockbuster breakthrough for the actress, who has shined in most of her roles throughout her career.
Alita: Battle Angel (December 21)
The days when Robert Rodriguez could do no wrong as a filmmaker may have passed, which means that there’s a lot riding on the Austin filmmaker’s Alita: Battle Angel, a $200+ million blockbuster that producer James Cameron hand-selected Rodriguez to take over. So far, we’ve got incredible effects, Rosa Salazar with CGI-enlarged eyes as a lead, and a cast that includes top-shelf supporting talent like Mahershala Ali, Michelle Rodriguez, Christoph Waltz, and Jennifer Connelly to tell us if Rodriguez is going to pull it off. If it works, Alita: Battle Angel’s epic story about a cyborg navigating a futuristic dystopia to find herself and create a better tomorrow will be the first American adaptation of a Japanese manga comic book to find an audience.