Here we are, nearing the end of the fall festival season, and while like 98% of the attention in the world of movies will be paid to all the awards from now until the Oscars, we can all feel better knowing there’s sure to be some great movies to see in theaters coming soon. October is looking strong indeed. For cinemas across the globe, it will be a race to show as many of these big titles as possible, in hopes of serious box office from all that attention. Certainly some will be lost in the shuffle, but it’s an admittedly busy and exciting time to be a movie fan.
The film of the month is Barry Jenkins‘ “Moonlight,” after our glowing review out of Telluride made the rest of us poor schlubs who couldn’t attend any of the festivals feel even more jealous that we had to wait. But it’s coming later this month, so the wait is almost over! With a trailer that’s just lights out great, and all the positive word of mouth so far, we couldn’t be happier to finally see it ourselves, and see what all the fuss is about. But there’s eleven more strong choices on the final list here to seek out, and even more in the honorable mentions.
“The Birth of a Nation”
Synopsis: Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher in the antebellum South, orchestrates an uprising.
What You Need To Know: The directorial debut of actor Nate Parker (“Red Hook Summer,” “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”) is the first time the story of Nat Turner has properly been brought to screen. The film blew the roof off Sundance when it premiered in January, and has only become more topical since in light of the Black Lives Matter movement and the issues it continues to raise across the country about systemic racism. Against that backdrop, and in the context of the ongoing industry debates about diversity in the Academy, the path to the Oscars seemed assured, until recent revelations about Parker’s past (and that of co-writer Jean McGianni Celestin) came to light. Our review from Sundance called it a “howl of anguish and rage,” and it’s an undeniably powerful piece of work, that now has lightning-rod significance not just for the issue of race in America, but also for a whole different debate about the artist vs the art.
Release Date: October 7th
“The Voyage Of Time: The IMAX Experience”
Synopsis: Documentary tracing the universe from its birth to its eventual death.
What You Need To Know: Even by the standards of the unhurried Terrence Malick, “Voyage Of Time” had a long gestation period, beginning as a project called “Q” in the 1970s that investigated the origins of life on earth. That film mutated into both “The Tree Of Life” and this, Malick’s first documentary, which has been actively ticking along since the late 2000s at least. Though there are two versions that have recently premiered at festivals, it’s the shorter one narrated by Brad Pitt, specifically made for IMAX screens, making its way this month. It’s essentially Malick’s take on the epic nature documentary, mixed with the dawn of time segment of “Tree Of Life.” Even some Malick die-hards were frustrated by “Knight Of Cups,” but this should satisfy fans much more, even if our critic in Venice was only lukewarm on the longer cut with Cate Blanchett’s narration.
Release Date: October 7th (Limited IMAX)
“Under The Shadow”
Synopsis: As a mother and daughter struggle to cope with the terrors of the post-revolution, war-torn Tehran of the 1980s, a mysterious evil begins to haunt their home.
What You Need To Know: This spring, we unveiled our list of 12 Arthouse Horror Directors Who Are Reinventing The Genre, and making the cut was Babak Anvari, the director behind “Under The Shadow,” which premiered at Sundance and has since become one of the most buzzed-about genre pictures of the year, hitting a slew of festivals including SXSW, New Directors/New Films (where our review extolled its many virtues) and Fantasia. Starring Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi, Ray Haratian, and Hamidreza Djavadan, the movie takes place in Tehran during the Iran-Iraq war. When a woman’s husband is called to the battlefield to serve as a medic, she’s left home to care for their young daughter. In a city that’s already running over with tension from the war, the stakes are raised when a bomb lands on the woman’s building. It doesn’t detonate, but instead, something far more fearsome is unleashed — a djinn. We’re all for this new wave of arthouse horror, and hope this proves to be another notch in the wave’s belt.
Release Date: October 7th (Limited)
Synopsis: Documentary tracking the mass incarceration of African-Americans.
What You Need To Know: After breaking out to the mainstream in a huge way with the wonderful “Selma,” Ava DuVernay became one of the hottest directors around, and will soon start filming on her big-budget adaptation of “A Wrinkle In Time.” But that’s not technically her follow-up to “Selma” — instead it’s this documentary that the director has been quietly working on, that just opened this year’s New York Film Festival (the first ever non-fiction film to do so), where our Rodrigo Perez extolled the virtues of its quiet power: “as bleak as the doc can be — at least if you feel some empathy for those not as privileged as you are — the urgency coursing through its veins makes for a galvanizing need to remedy the inescapable harm that black America still faces on a daily basis.” With contributions from everyone from Angela Davis to Newt Gingrich, this promises to tackle an utterly vital issue, going, as the press release puts it, from “The Birth Of A Nation” to Black Lives Matter, and we’re excited to see DuVernay move her considerable skills back into the non-fiction arena, especially with subject matter like this.
Release Date: October 7th (Limited + Netflix)
“The Girl On The Train”
Synopsis: An alcoholic woman becomes fixated on a young woman, only to become a prime suspect when she is murdered.
What You Need To Know: There’s no point making mid-budget movies, they say. No one goes to see thrillers for grown-ups, they continue. To which we say: “Gone Girl.” David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best-seller is one of the darkest and most uncompromising mainstream movies of recent years, and still proved a giant hit, taking nearly $400 million worldwide. Just as “The Girl On The Train” followed Flynn’s literary success, a movie adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ novel hopes to similarly cash in. Director Tate Taylor might not have the A-list cred of a Fincher, but he’s shown a knack for popcorn entertainment with “The Help” and “Get On Up,” and he’s assembled a killer cast here, not least the plum starring role that Emily Blunt’s long deserved. Trailers make this look like an artful throwback to the heyday of the ’90s thriller, and looks to be a unique offering in a season mixed with blockbusters awards contenders.
Release Date: October 7th