September flew by in a whirlwind of film festivals that saw some films debut to the anticipated thunderous support, as others were dead on arrival. Now, many of those films previewed will be making it to the theaters, so audiences can determine for themselves if the hype for “A Star is Born” was warranted. Or, maybe they’ll go and see “Venom,” a film that seems misplaced amongst films that either hold prestige next to their name or are fitting to the October, horror vibes. It’s a big month though, which is evident from the longer-than-usual list below, so if you aren’t actively seeking out local theaters playing classic horror films, there will plenty other new works to explore.
READ MORE: 2018 Toronto International Film Festival: The Good, The Great, & Only A Little Ugly
Cast: Kathryn Hahn, Paul Giamatti, Molly Shannon, Kayli Carter
Synopsis: After the emotional and economic upheaval of in vitro fertilization, Richard and Rachel are at the end of their middle-aged rope, but when Sadie, a recent college dropout, re-enters their life, things begin to look up.
What You Need to Know: Tamara Jenkins, as is the case with so many female talents working behind the camera, should be a bigger name. She wrote and directed the excellent “Slums of Beverly Hills” and “The Savages” that beautifully expressed familial nuances through female characters who possessed strong senses of agency. “Private Life” is a continuation of her great work so far with a cast full of performers such as Kathryn Hahn and Molly Shannon who are always welcome faces not always given leading roles. (Read our Sundance review)
Release Date: October 5 on Netflix.
Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate
Synopsis: Journalist Eddie Brock is trying to take down Carlton Drake, the notorious and brilliant founder of the Life Foundation. While investigating one of Drake’s experiments, Eddie’s body merges with the alien Venom — leaving him with superhuman strength and power. Twisted, dark and fueled by rage, Venom tries to control the new and dangerous abilities that Eddie finds so intoxicating.
What You Need to Know: Let us be blunt — there’s little about the promotional material for the latest superhero film “Venom” (another potential franchise non-starter) that gives us much hope in its quality. It may do well at the box office, but so far everything we’ve seen appears ludicrous. From the design to Tom Hardy once again spotting a questionable accent and action sequences that seemingly lack clarity, “Venom” looks like a film scrambled together by a studio desperate to keep a potentially hot commodity. Doubts aside (and there are many) the cast is remarkable from Hardy in the titular role to supporting turns from Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed and even Jenny Slate and there’s always a chance that director Ruben Fleischer is going to whip up another “Zombieland” following a few box office and critical disasters. If nothing else, it’ll be an interesting, well-acted disaster.
Release Date: October 5
“A Star is Born”
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott
Synopsis: In this new take on the tragic love story, seasoned musician Jackson Maine discovers struggling artist Ally. She has just about given up on her dream to make it big as a singer… until Jack coaxes her into the spotlight. But even as Ally’s career takes off, the personal side of their relationship is breaking down, as Jack fights an ongoing battle with his own internal demons.
What You Need to Know: Arm yourself for the onslaught of Oscar campaign shenanigans from the latest remake of “A Star is Born,” as it officially begins its public turn following immensely positive reactions from the festival circuit. While the race is still too uncertain and too far out to determine just how likely it is to win gold on Oscar night, it’s unfathomable to think it won’t at least be nominated with the buzz that surrounds it and how fully it delivers on the hype. It may not be the best of the year, but “A Star is Born” is a crowd-pleaser with a confident first time director in Bradley Cooper (along with his best performance to date) and a charming Lady Gaga filling the fresh-eyed, ingenue role that Barbara Streisand, Judy Garland, and Janet Gaynor have performed before. Our critic who saw it at the Venice Film Festival said, “This ‘A Star is Born’ is less about her ambition, his hubris and the general Price of Fame than it is the gently heartsore story of a loving relationship destroyed by alcoholism, set to a killer soundtrack.”
Release Date: October 5
“The Hate U Give”
Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, KJ Apa, Russell Hornsby, Issa Rae
Synopsis: Starr Carter is constantly switching between two worlds — the poor, mostly-Black neighborhood where she lives and the wealthy, mostly-white prep school that she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is soon shattered when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend at the hands of a police officer.
What You Need to Know: Adapted from the incredibly popular 2017 YA novel, “The Hate U Give,” written by Angie Thomas, delivers a rage-fueled voice to a moment calling for it. Timely and powerful, George Tillman Jr. along with star Amandla Stenberg and supporting players Regina Hall (having a great year with this and “Support the Girls) and Russell Hornsby light fire under each scene of micro to macro injustices or aggressions. It’s proof of the value Young Adult stories can have for viewers with a film that begs for reaction and succeeds in doing so, proving to be one of the rawest, most visceral films of the year. Don’t sleep on this film because of stigmatized views on the genre as it’s both heartwrenching and life-affirming in its steadfast attitude in shining the light on resistance and hope, even when it feels like you’re going at it alone. Our critic, who saw it at the Toronto International Film Festival, also saw the virtues of its story, saying, “These are the sort of movies Hollywood needs to be making. These are the sort of stories young people need to experience.”
Release Date: October 5 on Netflix
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler
Synopsis: The riveting story of NASA’s mission to land a man on the moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong and the years 1961-1969. A visceral, first-person account, based on the book by James R. Hansen, the movie will explore the sacrifices and the cost on Armstrong and on the nation of one of the most dangerous missions in history.
What You Need to Know: American flag controversy aside (because of course), Damien Chazelle’s first film since “La La Land” has been met with nearly universal praise, especially once again for the director’s incredible craftsmanship. With “Whiplash,” the aforementioned “La La Land,” and now this, Chazelle is proving that he isn’t confined to any one style or genre of filmmaking, instead keen to take risks with each go-around. Ryan Gosling reteams with Chazelle to play Neil Armstrong in a role described as perfectly suited to Goslings often vulnerable stoicism while Claire Foy (having a big fall with this and her take on Lisbeth Salander in “The Girl in the Spider’s Web“) is saddled with the supportive wife role but is said to bring enough to make it her own and leave a lasting impression. Our critic saw its premiere at Venice and described the film as “…an immersive, immaculately crafted, often spectacular and satisfyingly old-fashioned epic that may well become the definitive moon-landing movie.”
Release Date: October 5
Cast: Anders Danielsen Lie, Jonas Strand Gravli, Thorbjorn Harr, Maria Bock
Synopsis: On 22 July 2011, 77 people were killed when a far-right extremist detonated a car bomb in Oslo before carrying out a mass shooting at a leadership camp for teens. “22 July” uses the lens of one survivor’s physical and emotional journey to portray the country’s path to healing and reconciliation.
What You Need to Know: It’s hard to fathom just what is enticing about a film dedicated to the real-life story of the mass-murder of teenagers, but filmmaker Paul Greengrass is no stranger to mining real tragedy for cinema with his previous entries including “Captain Phillips” and “United 93.” Being released through Netflix, the film so far has generated positive responses, with our critic, dubbing it “visually assaultive.”
Release Date: October 10 on Netflix.
“Bad Times at the El Royale”
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, Chris Hemsworth, Cynthia Erivo, Jon Hamm
Synopsis: Seven strangers, each with a secret to bury, meet at Lake Tahoe’s El Royale, a rundown hotel with a dark past. Over the course of one fateful night, everyone will have a last shot at redemption… before everything goes to hell.
What You Need to Know: Director Drew Goddard built himself quite the immediate following with his directorial debut “The Cabin in the Woods,” a movie that deconstructed the horror movie and the meta approach to its characters and the archetypes they embodied. It was self-aware without being smug. “Bad Times at the El Royale” marks his second outing as director (in film, at least) and once again, he’s delivering a film that is decidedly singular, building off of genres and the tropes that encapsulate them to great effect. The cast is sprawling and reportedly Cynthia Erivo (also strong in Steve McQueen’s upcoming “Widows”) is the standout. (Read our review)
Release Date: October 12
Cast: Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, Amy Ryan, Maura Tierney
Synopsis: Based on the best-selling pair of memoirs from father and son David and Nic Sheff, “Beautiful Boy” chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years.
What You Need to Know: Based on a remarkable true story, Timothée Chalamet proves his Oscar-nominated performance in “Call Me By Your Name” was no fluke with an equally stunning and heartbreaking turn as Nic Sheff. His performance is the main draw but Steve Carell also does strong work as his father. It’s an actors’ film with a truly compelling story at its center, but one that falls victim to the cyclical nature of the story it’s telling. Regardless, it’s an honest and painful extension of the Sheffs’ family experience. (Read our review)
Release Date: October 12
“The Kindergarten Teacher”
Cast: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gael Garcia Bernal
Synopsis: Forty years old, stuck in Staten Island and married to a sweet, but oblivious, husband with kids that largely ignores her, Lisa Spinelli spends her days teaching Kindergarten with growing numbness. When she discovers that a five-year-old in her class may be a poetic prodigy, Lisa becomes fascinated—then obsessed— as she struggles to protect him from neglectful parents and a plagiarizing babysitter.
What You Need to Know: The greatest aspect of Sara Colangelo’s “The Kindergarten Teacher” (only her second feature film to date) is that it gives the mightily talented and almost always underrated Maggie Gyllenhaal a leading role to take ownership of and, by all accounts, does wonders in her performance. Based on the 2014 Israeli film of the same name, the film tackles the “prodigy child” story from a fresh lens as it’s told through the eyes of Gyllenhaal’s Lisa. (Read our review)
Release Date: October 12 on Netflix
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Nick Castle
Synopsis: Jamie Lee Curtis returns to her iconic role as Laurie Strode, who comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.
What You Need to Know: Your excitement over David Gordon Green’s continuation of John Carpenter’s 1978 classic film may vary according to how much of a purist you are. Fans have been burned before my increasingly silly sequels but with Green’s take that sees Jamie Lee Curtis back in the lead, they can rest assured as many of the more ridiculous bits of the post “Halloween” mythology have been blinked away, replaced with a film that’s deeply haunting, brutal and shares the spirit of the original. Michael Meyers returns as one of the most formidable and chilling monsters around and Curtis and co-star Judy Greer are reportedly terrific in this passion project film. Having seen it at TIFF, our critic said, “On paper, this 2018 reimagining doesn’t need to exist, but moviegoers should be glad that it does.”
Release Date: October 19
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal,
Synopsis: Fourteen-year-old Joe is the only child of Jeanette and Jerry a housewife and a golf pro in a small town in 1960s Montana. Nearby, an uncontrolled forest fire rages close to the Canadian border, and when Jerry loses his job, and his sense of purpose, he decides to join the cause of fighting the fire, leaving his wife and son to fend for themselves. Suddenly forced into the role of an adult, Joe witnesses his mother’s struggle as she tries to keep her head above water.
What You Need to Know: By adapting Richard Ford’s short novel, actor-turned-director Paul Dano makes his debut with “Wildlife” with a pair of seasoned performers in Jake Gyllenhaal and, especially, Carey Mulligan. A coming-of-age family drama, “Wildlife” is a showcase both for the lead actress in what many have said is her best performance to date as well as Dano’s work as director, whose style is pointed and controlled. It debuted at this year’s Sundance and has made the festival rounds since, continuing to stun as it makes it way towards Oscar potential. Our critic who saw it back in January said, “Dano’s way of seeing the world through the lens of a movie camera makes him a talent to watch in the future…”
Release Date: October 19
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Richard Grant, Dolly Wells, Jane Curtin
Synopsis: Celebrity biographer Lee Israel makes her living profiling the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead, Estee Lauder, and journalist Dorothy Kilgallen. When Lee is no longer able to get published because she has fallen out of step with current tastes, she turns her art form to deception, abetted by her loyal friend Jack.
What You Need to Know: With her 2015 film “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” director Marielle Heller proved her ability to delicately straddle the line of dark comedy with a topic that tackled female sexuality with wit and tension. With her upcoming film, she has put a highly recognizable comedic face at the core with Melissa McCarthy playing the leading role. Based on Lee Israel’s biography, McCarthy has demonstrated her ability to bring poignancy to all of her larger than life roles in the past but with “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” she’s being given even more room to play with what lies in her arsenal of talents. Our critic called it an “unexpected gem,” writing that it “…feels real and lived in. The filmmaker ensures the drama never feels studio slick and never glosses over Lee’s faults (or, more importantly, crimes).”
Release Date: October 19
Cast: Sunny Suljic, Lucas Hedges, Katherine Waterston,
Synopsis: “mid90s” follows Stevie, a thirteen-year-old in 90s-era LA who spends his summer navigating between his troubled home life and a group of new friends that he meets at a Motor Avenue skate shop.
What You Need to Know: While it didn’t quite make the impression director Jonah Hill and studio A24 were likely looking for, there will still be plenty flocking to the coming of age drama “mid90s” due to the comforting familiarity of the genre. Over the course of the year there’s been a number of first-time actors-turned-directors and it would seem that Bradley Cooper and Paul Dano have fared better, but Hill might have the most crowd-pleasing film of them all. (Read our review)
Release Date: October 19
Cast: Yoo Ah-in, Steven Yeun, Jong-seo Jun
Synopsis: “Burning” tells the story of three individuals and a mysterious incident they experience. Jongsu bumps into an old friend, Haemi, on a part-time delivery job. Haemi asks Jongsu to take care of her cat while she leaves on a trip to Africa. When she returns, Haemi introduces Jongsu to Ben, a man she met in Africa. One day, Ben and Haemi pay Jongsu a visit, and Ben reveals his secret interests to Jongsu.
What You Need to Know: While knowledge of director Lee Chang-dong’s previous work may allow you to have a greater context to his upcoming film, it matters little with the buzz surrounding “Burning” is so enthusiastically voluminous with more than one critic calling it a masterpiece. For those who are aware of Chang-dong’s prior films, it’s well known that easy access happiness is far from his line of interest, rather, pulling from trauma, human spirit (good and bad) and circumstantial loss to make up the backbone of his filmography. All three stars including “The Walking Dead” alum Steven Yeun (who needs a starry leading role by now) reportedly deliver stunning work. Our critic after seeing it at this years Cannes Film Festival said, “Simmering with ambiguity, ‘Burning’ plays its staging, writing, dialogue, acting, music, everything with carefully calibrated minimalism, but in turn it makes some grandiose of statements.”
Release Date: October 26
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Chloe Grace Moretz
Synopsis: A darkness swirls at the center of a world-renowned dance company, one that will engulf the troupe’s artistic director, an ambitious young dancer, and a grieving psychotherapist. Some will succumb to the nightmare. Others will finally wake up.
What You Need to Know: The anticipated remake of Dario Argento‘s 1977 giallo masterpiece “Suspiria” had been in the works for ten years before “Call Me By Your Name” director Luca Guadagnino took the reins, which was an intriguing if not totally surprising move for the filmmaker. There’s been darkness hidden beneath the surface in a number of his films (think of that late in the film turn in “A Bigger Splash) and with “Suspiria,” he allows that darkness to shine. With a muted palette compared to the originals neon vivacity, the director reteams with stars Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton to deliver a similar-but-modern take on the gruesome tale, many comparing it to last years divisive “mother!.” Our critic saw it at the Venice Film Festival, saying it’s at its best when it works, “…As a long, deliriously filmic, primal banshee-howl of macabre imagination that leaves us hormonal and drunk on that lovely delusion: the beautiful, thrilling, lurid lie of cinema.”
Release Date: October 26
Cast: Eva Melander, Eero Milonoff, Ann Petren
Synopsis: Customs officer Tina is known for her extraordinary sense of smell. It’s almost as if she can sniff out the guilt on anyone hiding something. But when Vore, a suspicious-looking man, walks past her, her abilities are challenged for the first time ever. Tina can sense Vore is hiding something she can’t identify. Even worse, she feels a strange attraction to him.
What You Need to Know: Perhaps one of the strangest picks of this year’s Toronto Film Festival, “Border,” written and directed by relative newcomer Ali Abbasi, is agenre-bendingg romance. A Nordic fairy tale that masquerades as both a romantic adventure and horror film, it’s a individualistic story that’s difficult to mimic. Our critic who saw it the 2018 Cannes Film Festival wrote that it was strange but touching, calling it, “Unique, unforgettable and cathartic, ‘Border’ is an oddball, but poignant cult classic in the making.”
Release Date: October 26