Every month when I sit down to write this column, I look at how the most anticipated are connected. Is there a unifying theme? Recurring actors? Blockbuster aspirations? Yet, this October, the only connection is TAKE MY MONEY. Most of the films have received critical praise and those that haven’t are grade-A Hollywood oddities with interesting (read: troubled) productions. You will be surrendering your paycheck to these films.
Believe it or not, Oscar favourite A Star is Born (3 Oct) starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, is not a feature-length adaptation of the gospel banger from Disney’s Hercules, but rather the fourth iteration of the famous tale about a rising star and her troubled mentor-slash-lover. Gaga is more than up to the task of following in the footsteps of Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand as a bar singer who begins a bad romance with the John Wayne-type Jackson Maine (Cooper), a self-destructive personality about to fall off the edge of glory. As the director, Cooper gives us glimpses of how intrusive fame is (hello paparazzi), but he bottles emotional electricity, proving he is not pulling a poker face with his extended list of credits.
Also looking to squeeze in some extra cash by opening two days early is Venom (3 Oct), Sony’s latest attempt at starting an extended universe with Spider-Man characters without Spider-Man. Tom Hardy is Eddie Brock, a journalist whose investigations into scientist Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) cause him to merge with a symbiote and become Venom. A classic Spider-Man villain, here he is an anti-hero who likes to eat human body parts. It’s a very B-Movie premise, and director Ruben Fleischer excels at jazzing up cheesy plots. Also starring Michelle Williams and Jenny Slate, the industry is curious to see if Venom can keep up with the other superhero movies.
Columbus (5 Oct) is counter-programming to a prospective Oscar-juggernaut and an autumn blockbuster. A small indie movie that plays like a delicate whisper, we witness Jin (John Cho) and Casey (Haley Lu Richardson) connect over Columbus’ modernist buildings. It’s unsurprising that former film essayist Kogonada would make a movie about something so structural, and he puts his academic knowledge to good use in this assured debut.
Chris Hemsworth walking shirtless through a flowery field; don’t say director Drew Goddard doesn’t give you what you want. Bad Times at the El Royale (12 Oct) is his first film since The Cabin in the Woods, and it looks like he is up to the same tricks, this voyeuristically deconstructing crime genre. The premise is superficially similar to Hotel Artemis, another film about strangers tangled together in one location directed by a man named Drew, yet Goddard has a track record of writing loveable characters and should give us a fun time with this ensemble.
Another Oscar-frontrunner is First Man (12 Oct), Damien Chazelle’s telling of how Neil Armstrong got to the moon. Echoing films like The Right Stuff and Apollo 13, Chazelle takes an old-school approach by emphasising a practical SFX wizardry and focusing on the family drama at the centre of one of humanity’s greatest achievement. Ryan Gosling gives one of his best performances as the first man on the moon, and Claire Foy overcomes the terrible distressed-wife-at-home trope.
Nicolas Cage goes full-on metal in Mandy (12 Oct). When a cult kills his wife (Andrea Riseborough), Cage forges an axe and goes grinding, killing everyone in his way. Now, if that’s not a great elevator pitch, I don’t know what is.
Now under the direction of David Gordon Green, Michael Myers is back on another killing spree in Halloween (19 Oct). Ignoring the sequels, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) once again faces Myers, although this time she is prepared and has spent many years becoming a badass. Green brings his trademark leanness and opts for a simple slasher story based around impactful scares.
Amanda Stenberg fell victim to the deflating YA sensation earlier this year, but we have a feeling The Hate U Give (22 Oct), a powerful look at race relations through the eyes of a schoolgirl, will be a success. Starr (Stenberg) lives two lives, taking on different personalities in her black neighbourhood and her white school. When a police officer kills her childhood friend, Khalil (Algee Smith), she stands up and fights injustice. Regina Hall, KJ Apa and Issa Rae give strong support.
The final film of the month is Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody (24 Oct). Rami Malek plays Freddie Mercury, and the rest of the band is filled out by Gwilym Lee, Joseph Mazzello and Ben Hardy. At least the soundtrack is guaranteed to be good.