I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
James Cole Clay // Film Critic
This wasn’t the best summer for movies, while some have labeled it the worst summer for movies in a decade.
There were many disappointments from SUICIDE SQUAD, to ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS and onto INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE and one final jab at NOW YOU SEE ME 2. But have no fear, the fall movie season is in full swing– a time that is likely to bring together some quality talent and inventive ideas to prime cinephiles and moviegoers as we all enter awards season.
So while we won’t be able to discuss every film coming out between now to November, here are a few that caught our eye.
This road-trip drama could be a hard sell for some with a staggering 162 minute run-time, but I implore those on the fence to indulge in director Andrea Arnold’s previous work (start with 2009’s FISH TANK with Michael Fassbender).
AMERICAN HONEY is about a magazine crew’s road-trip that makes a few pit stops to party, take drugs and indulge in the finer things about being young. Shia Lebeouf and Sasha Lane have already been heralded for their performances, which seem to be a celebration of youth culture in 2016.
Not many filmmakers would take on such a daunting and ambitious project unless they knew it could be pulled off. Yet AMERICAN HONEY seems to meet somewhere in the middle of Jack Kerouac’s ON THE ROAD and Hunter S. Thompson’s FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS.
THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN
Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN is looking to be a huge fall hit for Emily Blunt, and for good reason. Directed by Tate Taylor – who helmed the vastly underrated James Brown biopic GET ON UP – delves into new, more mysterious territory that could prove to satiate the appetite for a damn good mystery just in time for the October foliage.
This is a film is made by women and starring women (Fun fact: It’s written by Erin Cressida Wilson, who wrote the salacious 2002 film SECRETARY, which was nothing short of revolutionary for opening up the dialogue for sex on film in the United States). While GIRL ON THE TRAIN may not live up to that hype, it’s too much fun to speculate something groundbreaking from the talent involved here.
Ben Affleck’s career has gone up and down, sideways and back again. Some say he’s even better as a supporting character (GOOD WILL HUNTING, EXTRACT), but he’s really been flexing his chops lately and challenging his range as an actor. (Even as horrible as BATMAN V SUPERMAN was, Bat-fleck was the best part of it.)
With THE ACCOUNTANT, he teams with director Gavin O’Connor (WARRIOR). If the trailer (set to Radiohead’s “Everything in it’s Right Place”) is any indication of the tone, the film will be a mysterious and precise story with Jason Bourne type implications. We now know Affleck’s time is valuable, and this film should be one hell of a number crunch.
FANTASTIC BEASTS & WHERE TO FIND THEM
Like CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR from this summer, the first spin-off in the Harry Potter Wizard-verse FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM appears to be blockbuster brilliance.
Starring Eddie Redmayne, an actor that has some room to grow on me, seems to be perfectly cast in the role of “magizoologist” Newt Scamander. His plucky charm is a sure-fire way for Redmayne’s stock to rise in the fanboy world.
Written by J.K. Rowling herself and directed by David Yates (who directed the last four HARRY POTTER films) knows this universe and there’s no doubt that this magical ride will cast a spell on fans and critics alike.
The film is directed by fashion genius turned filmmaker Tom Ford (A SINGLE MAN). His eye for visuals and art direction are enough to pay attention to his work as a filmmaker. But with a cast like Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon and Amy Adams, NOCTURNAL ANIMALS has got to boast some impressive acting work as well.
Now, I have yet to read the plot description of the film and will not watch the trailer prior to screening the film, but the mystery behind this mystery is slowly building, hopefully with a satisfying climax.
RULES DON’T APPLY
Hey everybody, remember Warren Beatty, the icon who broke free from the constraints of authority in the perfect 1967 film BONNIE AND CLYDE?
Well, he hasn’t appeared on camera in over 15 years. So when you hear Beatty is directing and starring in a new movie, any film lover’s ears tend to perk up a bit.
The big question people are asking is, “Does Beatty still have what it takes?” Chances are yes. Yes, he does. RULES DON’T APPLY is the perfect title for a comeback film, because forget what you know about Beatty, this should and hopefully will subvert any and all expectations.
The cast includes Beatty, Annette Benning, Lily Collins, Alden Ehrenreich (who is about to be a very big movie star), Matthew Broderick, Laura Linney and a swath of highly talented players.
See you at the movies!
THE BIRTH OF A NATION (Oct. 7)
CHRISTINE (Oct. 14)
THE HANDMAIDEN (Oct. 21)
MOONLIGHT (Oct. 21)
ARRIVAL (Nov. 11)
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (Nov. 18)