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Seasonal movie previews are fun because they remind us of when we used to have “seasons” and not just changes in the style and form of climate concerns. We’re nearing the end of “everything is on fire” months and approaching the two weeks of relative calm before triple-digit, below-zero air burns our faces. Why, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Because our attention spans can’t handle an ongoing pandemic, studios have decided to forge ahead with a robust release schedule this year. I haven’t found the right review in which to insert this, so this seems like a fine time to mention I still always wear a mask in theaters. I will for as long as is necessary. I’ve had only one person be a jerk about it, but that person also laughed a lot at “Black Phone.” Here are the 15 films that will get me to mask up until 2022 goes gentle in that aggressively shitty night.

“The Woman King” (Sept. 16)

Who on this Earth is not going to see a movie with Viola Davis as the leader of a real-life, all-female warrior unit from the African kingdom of Dahomey? It looks like the only good parts of “Wonder Woman” but also features Viola Davis as a warrior. Italics very much for emphasis there, y’all.

“Don’t Worry Darling” (Sept. 23)

Nothing about director Olivia Wilde’s “Booksmart” suggested her next film would be a hallucinatory thriller set in the 1950s. Then again, few things do. Putting Florence Pugh’s name on a movie poster activates my blood oath to support it, and that’s before throwing Chris Pine in as a nefarious schemer. I’m also told this one has hairy style or something…

“Bros” (Sept. 30)

Billy Eichner is bringing the world the raunchy, gay rom-com that may finally cause the Ron DeSantises of the world to spontaneously combust. If it is simply half as funny and sincerely sweet as it looks, that would be enough. But if hate-filled politicians around the world pop into plumes of bigoted ash, it should be bumped to the top spot of that American Film Institute list.

“Smile” (Sept. 30)

You see a weird, smiling person and then die within a week or something? Look, I’ve got a thing for rule-based horror B-movies. Think “The Ring,” “The Grudge,” or even “Nightmare on Elm Street,” in which the supernatural nonsense is bound by some hyper-specific set of guidelines, and survival means figuring out a loophole. I now see that I am describing riddles or board games … It’s like that, but a movie!

“Halloween Ends” (Oct. 14)

Speaking of risky horror movie picks, this is a gamble after “Halloween Kills” was such a turd. Normally, I’m a huge fan of repetitive chanting and disappointment, as I’m a Chicago Bears and Cubs fan. Here’s hoping the final part of this trilogy is more like the first and less centered on a group of townspeople hurling slogans at a slasher.

“Decision to Leave” (Oct. 14)

Park Chan-wook makes a movie, I see that movie. It’s similar to the Florence Pugh rule, but there’s a lot less risk of an accidental Timothée Chalamet. Park’s latest is another Hitchcockian jam about a detective getting entangled with a suspect who maybe killed her husband. I don’t know the full story, but I’m inclined to say “Good for her” and 100% ready to cram this flick in my eye holes.

“Black Adam” (Oct. 21)

This looks horrible. And rumor has it that test scores rated this as poorly as the canceled “Batgirl” film. But this one has the Rock and the other one had a lady hero and was helmed by a pair of Muslim directors. Weird how one will open in a bajillion theaters and the other is now an IRS con job. Anyway, the trailers look bland and inert, but I’ve gotta see it if only to make sure the DC fans who threaten me online don’t get bored!

“The Banshees of Inisherin” (Oct. 21)

This reunion of the gang from “In Bruges” that features another take on a weird friendship dramedy is low-key my most anticipated flick remaining this year. Adding Barry Keoghan to a movie that has nothing to do with comic books is a bold move. Can this recapture the Brugesy magic? If it gets even close, it’ll make my top 10.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (Nov. 11)

Whether or not you agree with the way Marvel is handling the tragic loss of Chadwick Boseman, you gotta admit that trailer was one of the single best ever made. Who knows if this franchise can function without the beating heart at its center. But I believe in director Ryan Coogler, who has yet to make a single misstep. And again, did y’all see that trailer? We’re all gonna cry so much.

“The Menu” (Nov. 18)

We simply do not get enough “black comedy horror” films, maybe because it feels like we live in one? Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult play a couple who eat at a restaurant run by Ralph Fiennes. I wonder what the terror-filled twist is? Gluten. The twist is that all the food just has so much gluten. All the gluten from the gluten-free foods has been made into monstrous dishes made exclusively of gluten. The horror…

“She Said” (Nov 18)

Whether or not we’re ready for a movie about the Harvey Weinstein atrocities, it’s already almost here. Featuring the insanely talented Carey Mulligan, Zoe Kazan, and Andre Braugher, this film theoretically could give us an “All the President’s Men” and not a “Bombshell.” It helps that this one is actually written and directed by women. I swear, though: If they give a bunch of Academy Awards to this movie after everyone in the Academy looked the other way during the actual Harvey Weinstein debacle, that’s just a level of dissociation that should be physically unattainable.

“Women Talking” (Dec. 2)

I love that writer/director Sarah Polley’s latest is named something that sounds like a horror movie to more than half of our elected officials. With a knockout cast that includes Jessie Buckley, Rooney Mara, and Frances McDormand, this Mennonite monster story is the real-life account of women systemically being drugged and raped. Will it be a hard watch? Sure. Will Polley and company deliver something remarkable? I am as sure of that as I am that ads will not run on Fox News.

“Avatar: The Way of Water” (Dec. 16)

You remember “Avatar,” right? That’s the White savior cartoon movie with stretched-out Smurfs who have sex with horses through hair. I may have some of that wrong … I do find it hilarious that this is considered “live action,” but if we were in the business of telling James Cameron what to do, Kathryn Bigelow probably would have had her Oscar earlier. This is another one I’m less excited about and more contractually obligated to attend and discuss. Here’s to making it the new top-grossing movie of all time for no reason!

“Shazam! Fury of the Gods” (Dec. 21)

It really feels like the studio should have had to pick between this and “Black Adam” coming out within a few months of each other. That’s just too many lightning bolts on chests for one season. The first “Shazam!” was tolerable, making it a watershed moment for the DC universe. This looks less so, but I am holding out hope for the ability to give another lukewarm thumbs up. Hooray?

“Babylon” (Dec. 25)

After “La Land” had its Best Picture Oscar yoinked back in what remains the best Academy Award moment in history, director Damien Chazelle clearly plotted his revenge. “Babylon” looks like the most self-congratulatory Hollywood movie of all time, as it is set at the transition from the silent films to talkies and features Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, and a sprawling cast of big names … including Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers? A three-plus-hourlong celebration of cinema history is practically daring the Academy to deny Chazelle again. Please do it exactly like last time.


Subscribe to The Reader Newsletter

Our awesome email newsletter briefing tells you everything you need to know about what’s going on in Omaha. Delivered to your inbox every day at 11:00am.

Become a Supporting Member

Subscribe to thereader.com and become a supporting member to keep locally owned news alive. We need to pay writers, so you can read even more. We won’t waste your time, our news will focus, as it always has, on the stories other media miss and a cultural community — from arts to foods to local independent business — that defines us. Please support your locally-owned news media by becoming a member today.

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