Ten best bets for fall movies | Fall Preview | Chicago Reader

Ten best bets for fall movies 

Oliver Stone tells the Snowden story, Nate Parker tells the Nat Turner story, and Ewan McGregor tries to tell Philip Roth's story, plus other highlights.

click to enlarge Snowden
  • Snowden


Oliver Stone returns with a whistle-blower biopic for the 21st century
September 16

No one can accuse Oliver Stone of spinning conspiracy theories with Snowden, because it's all a matter of (leaked) record. Joseph Gordon-Levitt seems like an excellent choice to play the principled young security contractor Edward Snowden, who rocked the world with his revelation that the National Security Administration spies on millions of citizens in the U.S. and abroad. J.R. Jones

click to enlarge Queen of Katwe
  • Queen of Katwe


From Ugandan slum to the Chess Olympiad
September 23

Queen of Katwe tells the story of Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi, who overcame an impoverished childhood to compete in the 39th Chess Olympiad. "I broke down and cried, because I was so inspired," says actress Lupita Nyong'o of her first script reading. Director Mira Nair (The Namesake), who has lived in Uganda for more than two decades, filmed on location there and discovered her star, Madina Nalwanga, near Katwe. Leah Pickett

click to enlarge The Birth of a Nation
  • The Birth of a Nation


Not to be confused with D.W. Griffith's
October 7

The Birth of a Nation, dramatizing Nat Turner's 1831 slave rebellion, is the first feature by writer­-director Nate Parker, and what an entrance: after winning the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at Sundance, it was bought by Fox Searchlight for $17.5 million. Since then the film has been overshadowed by rape allegations made against Parker in 1999, so expect to be reading a lot about him. Tal Rosenberg

click to enlarge Three the Hard Way
  • Three the Hard Way


Two mighty strokes of the Hammer
October 13-14

Blaxploitation fans, take note: the Block Museum of Art will welcome venerable football great and movie badass Fred Williamson to talk about his screen career and introduce his 70s action flicks Bucktown and Three the Hard Way. J.R. Jones

click to enlarge American Pastoral
  • American Pastoral


Ewan McGregor makes his directorial debut with an American classic
October 28

Any director might hesitate to adapt a novel as esteemed as Philip Roth's American Pastoral. Well, until now Ewan McGregor has been an actor, which might explain why he had the stones to tackle John Romano's script. Tal Rosenberg

click to enlarge Certain Women
  • Certain Women


The director of Wendy and Lucy reunites with Michelle Williams
October 21

In a series of small, quiet indie dramas—Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy, Meek's Cutoff, Night Moves—writer-director Kelly Reichardt has combined an unerring sense of naturalism with an abiding empathy for the disenfranchised. Certain Women, adapted from short stories by Maile Meloy, reunites her with her frequent muse Michelle Williams, who's joined by Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern. J.R. Jones

click to enlarge Moonlight
  • Moonlight


The work of playwright and Steppenwolf Ensemble member Tarell Alvin McCraney moves to the screen
October 21

Moonlight, an indie drama about a gay black man in Miami, could have the most exquisite trailer of 2016. Writer-director Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy), adapting a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney of Steppenwolf Theatre Company, challenges homophobia in the black community with visceral imagery that promises high art. Leah Pickett

click to enlarge Elle
  • Elle


Paul Verhoeven directs . . . Isabelle Huppert?
November 11

Always happy to offend, Danish filmmaker Paul Verhoeven has given us such pop provocations as RoboCop, Basic Instinct, Showgirls, Starship Troopers, and Black Book. Elle, his first U.S. release in a decade, stars Isabelle Huppert as a woman trying to track down the man who raped her; you can count on Verhoeven to treat this sensitive subject with a complete lack of taste. J.R. Jones

click to enlarge Nocturnal Animals
  • Nocturnal Animals


Early Oscar bait
November 18

Tom Ford made his writing and directing debut with the astonishing gay drama A Single Man (2009) but hasn't been heard from since. His second feature, Nocturnal Animals, is a psychological thriller shot by Seamus McGarvey (Atonement) and starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Laura Linney, and Michael Shannon. The "For Your Consideration" ads can practically write themselves. Leah Pickett

click to enlarge Bad Santa 2
  • Bad Santa 2


Is the elf back too?
November 23

For Bad Santa 2, Billy Bob Thornton returns as the foul-mouthed, booze-guzzling, sex-­addicted Saint Nick. Unfortunately Terry Zwigoff (who directed Bad Santa) and Joel and Ethan Coen (who did uncredited rewrites) are absent this time around. Tal Rosenberg  v

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