Who would have thought, a mere two months ago, that the Hollywood movie season would be dominated by sexual-harassment headlines and the bizarre news that one awards-hungry movie would replace an entire performance by an Oscar-winning actor with a new performance by another Oscar-winning actor?
The actor-replacement happens in “All the Money in the World,” which — having been yanked on the eve of its advance premiere when the allegations about Kevin Spacey came to light — will now feature Christopher Plummer in the role Spacey played.
And it’ll make its original December release date, too, according to director Ridley Scott, who hereby pulls off something even more amazing than the creature that comes out of John Hurt’s chest in “Alien.”
That’s a mild story, compared to the allegations that have rained down on the thuggish producer Harvey Weinstein and others. In the midst of all these cultural earthquakes, we still have a holiday movie season on its way.
This one’s a typical slate: prestige pictures vying for awards attention, a few family-friendly crowd-pleasers, and a new “Star Wars” picture. Some of the awards wannabes won’t open locally until January, such as “I, Tonya” (the Tonya Harding story, with Margot Robbie as the Portland ice skater) and “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” (another true tale, about the Oscar-winning actress Gloria Grahame, played by Annette Bening).
Here’s a look at the busy schedule. As always, release dates can change. And so, it seems, can cast members, even on a moment’s notice.
“The Disaster Artist”: A few years ago, a low-budget film called “The Room” gained midnight-movie popularity as the second coming of Ed Wood’s so-bad-it’s-good cinema. And now, just as Wood did (in Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood”), the creator of “The Room” gets his own biopic: James Franco plays the mysterious Tommy Wiseau, a man of many intriguing intonations. If you’ve ever experienced “The Room,” this film is a must. The cast includes Seth Rogan and Dave Franco.
“He’s Out There”: Some horror-movie counter-programming, with a tale of three women at an isolated lake cabin. Sounds nice, but you forget one thing: He’s out there.
“Jane”: This documentary about Jane Goodall and her lifelong study of primates just won the Best Documentary prize from the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Although Goodall’s life has been widely documented, this film by director Brett Morgen (“The Kid Stays in the Picture”) promises new information and rare footage.
“Just Getting Started”: Tommy Lee Jones and Morgan Freeman have an alpha-male contest at a retirement community, a rivalry that soon escalates when the past catches up with them. This one could have some traction as a movie for people over 30, given the appeal of the stars and the fact that this is the first film from “Bull Durham” writer-director Ron Shelton in a decade and a half. Rene Russo co-stars.
“Wonder Wheel”: This year’s offering from Woody Allen, this one a 1950s tale of a restless housewife (Kate Winslet), her coarse husband (Jim Belushi), a younger lifeguard (Justin Timberlake) who wants to be a playwright, and the mob. The story is set at Coney Island, and sits somewhere between comedy and kitchen-sink drama.
“Thelma”: Norway’s submission for the foreign-language Oscar category sounds like a twisted tale, all about a college student who finds herself aware of new and scary powers when she leaves home for the first time. Directed by Joachim Trier of “Louder Than Bombs.”
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”: If you can keep them all straight, this installment picks up from where 2015’s “The Force Awakens” left off, as an older, bearded gentleman named Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) encounters young apprentice Rey (Daisy Ridley) and various robots bop around. This will be the late Carrie Fisher’s final appearance in the saga, alas. The film is written and directed by Rian Johnson, the talented creator of “Looper.” He’s now signed on to prepare a whole new trilogy in the SW universe, so this one better be good.
“Ferdinand”: An animated film from the makers of “Rio” and “Ice Age,” this is an adaptation of the beloved children’s classic about the bull who would rather sniff flowers than fight in a bull ring. Jon Cena does the voice of Ferdinand, and the vocal cast includes Kate McKinnon.
“The Shape of Water”: Lots of film-festival acclaim for the new one from “Pan’s Labyrinth” director Guillermo del Toro. It’s a Cold War mystery about a big discovery in a top-secret science lab, and sounds like a mix of romance and science fiction. Sally Hawkins, Olivia Spencer and del Toro’s favorite creature artist Doug Jones lead the cast.
“The Ballad of Lefty Brown”: Not sure how this low-key western snuck on to the schedule, but here it is: Bill Pullman in a story that puts the stock character of the cowboy’s sidekick at centerstage. In this case, the hero (Peter Fonda) exits the story early, and it’s up to his grizzled pal — sounds like a dandy role for the underrated Pullman — to rise to the occasion.
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”: I’m not sure why anybody thought there needed to be another “Jumanji” movie, but darned if the trailer for this doesn’t look pretty funny. A group of teens playing the titular video game are transformed into avatars who strongly resemble Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Jack Black. Now if they can just survive the perils of the actual jungle, and each other…
“The Greatest Showman on Earth”: Well, this is something different: A biopic of P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman), the man who invented the circus, and thus modern showbiz. There are songs in it, too. Co-starring Michelle Williams and Zac Efron.
“The Post”: The drama of the Washington Post’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in the early 1970s, with Meryl Streep as publisher Katharine Graham and Tom Hanks as editor Ben Bradlee. Think of it as a prequel to “All the President’s Men,” which in a way, it is. Oh, and Steven Spielberg directed. Think this one might have some Oscar potential?
“Downsizing”: In the near future, scientists can shrink humans down to tiny size, an experiment eagerly embraced by everyday schlub Matt Damon — who quickly learns that happiness doesn’t necessarily come from getting small. Another thoughtful comedy from “Sideways” director Alexander Payne, with Damon getting stellar support from Christoph Waltz and Hong Chau.
“All the Money in the World”: The sordid tale of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, whose rich grandfather was so stingy he nickel-and-dimed the ransom payment. The cast is led by Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams, but all eyes are now on Christopher Plummer as the granddad; maybe we’ll see Kevin Spacey’s performance on a special DVD someday, and it’ll be the weirdest “deleted scenes” extra ever.
“The Darkest Hour”: Gary Oldman plays Winston Churchill in one of those historical epics for which actors tend to wear a lot of makeup and win Oscars. Well, Oldman is certainly overdue, and the cigar-chomping Churchill (seen here in the early days of World War II) is as juicy a part as you could wish for. From Joe Wright, director of “Atonement.” Kristin Scott Thomas co-stars.
“Pitch Perfect 3”: An encore performance for the Bellas, as the songbirds reunite to travel to a USO singing competition. If past performance is any indication, there will be sweet harmonies and bad behavior. Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson once again top the bill.
“Father Figures”: Two fraternal twins, played by Owen Wilson and Ed Helms, learn that their mother (Glenn Close) lied about their father being dead. Now they go on a paternity search. The possibilities include Christopher Walken, J.K. Simmons and Terry Bradshaw (playing Terry Bradshaw). This sounds so dumb, it might actually be funny.
“Call Me by Your Name”: Don’t be surprised if this arthouse phenomenon ends up Oscar-nominated; it’s been getting raves wherever it plays. At a villa in Italy during the summer of ‘83, a teenager (Timothee Chalamet) develops a crush on his father’s visiting grad student (Armie Hammer). The director is the reliably over-the-top Luca Guadagnino (“A Bigger Splash”).
“The Phantom Thread”: Purportedly the final film for the mighty actor Daniel Day-Lewis, reuniting here with his “There Will Be Blood” director Paul Thomas Anderson. The story is set in 1950s England, where Day-Lewis plays a fashion designer whose fastidious eye is caught by a new muse (Vicky Krieps).
“Molly’s Game”: Jessica Chastain plays a real-life character, Molly Bloom, who ran a discreet high-stakes poker game for a decade before being caught in the middle of an FBI sting. The subject sounds like a curious choice for “The Social Network” writer Aaron Sorkin (expect lots of looping, wordy monologues), but the Oscar-winning screenwriter has chosen this as his directing debut. Idris Elba co-stars as Bloom’s shrewd lawyer.