If your film tastes tend toward the grim, the murky, or the unsettling, then right about now is the time you get the itch to start double checking release dates. For those of us who fall into that camp, the arrival of fall means the movie offerings get better—and often darker. True crime fans will still find the most to watch on the small screen, but you won’t be sacrificing quality.
Longform true crime will continue to be dominated by Netflix, which seems to have separated itself from the pack by producing a string of thoughtful and unhurried documentaries and series. It’s worth noting that many of Netflix’s true crime offerings have a social justice compass. It’s maybe this point of view that gives the work a filmic quality not seen in the countless sensationalized TV true crime shows, and it’s why I’m choosing to include Netflix in my film preview, as opposed to Thursday’s Fall TV preview.
First up is Strong Island, a documentary by Yance Ford that documents the ten years he spent searching for justice for his brother William, a black 24-year old teacher who was gunned down by a white mechanic whom a grand jury refused to indict. Strong Island will be available on Netflix beginning September 15.
I’m currently making my way through Netflix’s brand-new eight-part series The Confession Tapes, an episodic series that examines seven cases (the first episode is a two-parter) of problematic confessions. We’ll be doing a review later this week, but in the meantime, you can read a bit more about it and the science behind interrogation here.
Also coming up on Netflix this fall is Long Shot, about the 2003 arrest and trial of a Los Angeles man for the murder of a 16-year old girl. Juan Catalan long maintained that he could not be the killer because he’d been at a Dodgers game with his daughter, but not even the ticket stubs were enough to absolve him. Instead, his salvation was at the mercy of…. Curb Your Enthusiasm? Yes, it takes a turn. Look for an appearance from Larry David in the trailer.
Finally from Netflix (for now at least), is the docuseries Wormwood, a six-part look at the CIA’s mind control operations in the 1960s. Catch the trailer here and look for it to begin streaming December 15.
We’ve mentioned the podcast on which the film was based in a past Blotter, but it’s worth a reminder that Crown Heights—starring Nnamdi Asomugha, A.K.A. Mr. Kerry Washington in his film debut—was a Sundance darling and opened to wide release this week. You can watch the trailer here.
Also moving from the film festival circuit to national release is Chappaquiddick, the story of the circumstances surrounding the death of Mary Jo Kopechne (played here by Kate Mara), killed when the late Ted Kennedy drove his car, in which she was a passenger, off a bridge.
Finally, three feature films that may not be true crime, but look so compelling I wouldn’t dare pass them by without a mention:
- The House That Jack Built follows a serial killer over the course of twelve years as he perfects his craft and becomes the murderer he was always meant to be. Riley Keough, Uma Thurman, and Matt Dillon (!) star. Of course, this is a Lars von Trier film.
- Remakes are Hollywood’s weakness, but I can’t blame them for wanting to take another chance on Murder on the Orient Express, the Agatha Christie classic. Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, and Derek Jacobi? OK, I’m in. Set for a mid-November release.
- Finally, the dark comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri stars another murderer’s row of actors including Peter Dinklage, Woody Harrelson, and Frances McDormand as a distraught mother frustrated with the local police response to her daughter’s murder who decides to express her outrage on billboards. The film comes out November 10.
That’s it for now. Check back Thursday for our final fall preview of true crime on the small screen.
Featured Image: Fox Searchlight Pictures