As the nights start to draw in and the temperatures begin to plummet, there’s nothing more appealing than a trip to the cinema – luckily, this month sees the release of some of the year’s most hotly anticipated blockbusters and arthouse releases. From Denis Villeneuve’s take on a cult sci-fi classic to a Sopranos prequel and Wes Anderson’s gloriously quirky new arrival, these are the must-watch new films to have on your radar this October.
The Best New Films To See This October
Wes Anderson is back with his 10th film, a lovingly crafted ode to print journalism, in particular the wit of The New Yorker. Based in the offices of the eponymous French Dispatch, a Kansas newspaper supplement run out of the imagined provincial French town of Ennui-Sur-Blasé, the film is presented as a sort of short story anthology, splicing together reports from its roster of brilliant American expatriates, led by editor Arthur Howitzer Jr (played by Anderson regular Bill Murray).
Among those stories are ‘The Concrete Masterpiece’ by art critic JKL Berensen (Tilda Swinton), which follows convicted murderer Moses Rosenthaler (Benicio Del Toro) and his prison guard muse Simone (Léa Seydoux), and Frances McDormand’s Lucinda Krementz, who does a deep-dive into the local student revolutionary scene and ends up having an affair with its magnetic young leader, Zeffirelli (Timothée Chalamet). Anderson surpasses himself with the alluring visuals that have become his calling card, creating his most sumptuous feast for the eyes yet. From perfect symmetrical compositions and subtle visual quips to eye-catching splashes of colour and animation in an otherwise largely black and white film, this is a joy from start to finish.
Out 22 October
After her show-stopping turn in hit TV show The Queen’s Gambit, Anya Taylor-Joy returns to the big screen with another thoroughly enjoyable period piece. British director Edgar Wright conjures up the intoxicating hedonism of 1960s Soho in this time-travelling psychological thriller, which transports the viewer to the heart of Swinging London and includes cameos from several 60s icons, including Terence Stamp and the late Diana Rigg in one of her final screen roles.
The action is split between then and the present day, where Sixties-obsessed country mouse Eloise (played by Thomasin McKenzie) has just moved to London from Cornwall to start a fashion design course. Every night she slips into the body of vampy singer Sandie (Taylor-Joy), who is looking to become the next Cilla Black. At first Eloise seems to be flourishing, but the dark events she witnesses in her nocturnal outings, from the pimps and predators inside smoke-filled nightclubs to the seemingly charming wide boy she takes up with (played by Matt Smith), soon begin to take their toll, and she quickly starts to unravel. With an energetic Sixties soundtrack and nods to Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy and Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, this is a beautifully executed nostalgia-fest with a twist.
Out 29 October
The Sopranos has been revived and returned with a Gandolfini firmly at the helm once again, only this time it’s Michael Gandolfini, son of the late James Gandolfini, who is tackling the role of Tony Soprano. Acting as a prequel to the now iconic six-season television series, the film follows a teenage Soprano as he grows up in the tumultuous era of 1960s New Jersey, amid Newark’s race riots and mounting racial tensions.
Gandolfini is spellbinding in the role, bringing the same melancholic sensitivity and glowering gravitas that his father trademarked, and is joined by a stellar cast including Vera Farmiga as his formidable mother, Livia, and Goodfella’s star Ray Liotta in a memorable cameo, but the dramatic focus of the film firmly centres around Tony’s honorary uncle and mentor Dickie Moltisanti, played by Alessandro Nivola. Charismatic, ambitious and impulsive, he embodies the family’s growing antagonism towards the African American gangs, led by Dickie’s former lackey Harold McBrayer (Leslie Odom Jr), and their suspicions that the Italian-American heyday in organised crime is coming to an end. A treat for fans of the show and Sopranos-newbies alike.
It looks like third time’s a charm for this sprawling sci-fi saga, which follows in the footsteps of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s failed 1970s attempt and David Lynch’s 1984 critical flop. Fans of Frank Herbert’s cult novel will be relieved to hear that Denis Villeneuve’s version of the fantasy epic more than does the original work justice, creating the perfect combination of arthouse sensitivity, mesmerising cinematography and blockbuster thrills.
Timothée Chalamet stars as the messianic Paul Atreides, haunted by dreams he doesn’t understand. His father, the Duke (Oscar Isaac), has been handed stewardship of the desert planet Arrakis, the only source of a magical drug known as ‘spice’, peopled by the indigenous and continuously repressed Fremen, the most notable of which is Chani (Zendaya). Despite the film’s otherworldliness, its themes feel more relevant to real life than ever before, tackling issues of colonialism, oppression and religion, all deftly handled by an ensemble cast that includes Javier Bardem, Charlotte Rampling, Josh Brolin and Stellan Skarsgård. Brilliant, brutal and breath-taking, it’s a must-watch.
Out 21 October
This genre-bending film is part mockumentary, part psychological thriller-comedy that astutely explores notions of identity and the nature of fame. Written by and starring friends Annie Clark, otherwise known as musician St Vincent, and Carrie Brownstein (of rock band Sleater-Kinney), the film is a riff on the conundrum of the stage persona: just who is Annie Clark when she’s not being St Vincent?
The plot centres around a documentary that Brownstein is directing about Clark, but an issue arises when she simply can’t manage the discord between Clark’s wildly different personas, one minute the latex-clad goddess performing on stage, the next a quiet music geek who likes nothing more than playing a post-show game of Scrabble. In an effort to prevent the film from becoming boring, Brownstein encourages Clark to embody St Vincent even when she’s not on stage, creating more and more outlandish scenarios to film, including a particularly memorable scene where Clark forces Brownstein to capture intimate moments between her and her girlfriend, played with gusto by Dakota Johnson. Playful, visually inspired and cleverly realised, it’s a thought-provoking exploration on the differences between lived experience and performance.
Out 29 October
Mary Quant is one of the fashion world’s most visionary names, credited with defining the aesthetic of Swinging Sixties London with her championing of the mini skirt, and yet there has never been a feature documentary celebrating the life of the trailblazing 20th-century designer – until now.
Marking Sadie Frost’s directorial debut, the film features rarely seen archival footage of the style maven as she discusses the inspirations behind her ground-breaking designs, which liberated the women of the 1960s, as well as the wider cultural goings on, such as the revolutionary introduction of the pill and the arrival of Beatles-mania. As one VT puts it, “If the Beatles provided the soundtrack [of the Sixties], Mary provided the visuals.” Alongside this, Frost introduces cleverly filmed dramatised scenes in which the British actress and model Camilla Rutherford plays Quant. The documentary also features original interviews with family members and a veritable who’s who of fashion and beauty industry titans, from Kate Moss and Charlotte Tilbury to Vivienne Westwood and Jasper Conran. A fitting tribute to the British designer who created a global look.
Out 29 October
The Tony and Olivier Award-winning musical get a Hollywood makeover with this faithful retelling of the Broadway hit, for which Ben Platt reprises his role as the geeky Evan Hansen, the only original cast member to do so, and is joined by a host of A-list talents including Julianne Moore, Amy Adams and Kaitlyn Dever.
The story follows socially awkward, isolated Hansen on the first day of his senior year, as he arrives with a hand-written pep talk to himself, on the advice of his therapist. But the letter is intercepted by one of his classmates, Connor Murphy (Colton Ryan), who mistakenly reads the mention of his sister (and Evan’s crush) Zoey (Dever), as a personal dig and goes on take his own life. His parents find the letter and mistakenly interpret it as a suicide note to Evan, leading to Hansen being swept up into the life of the grieving family. The musical broke boundaries with its honest portrayal of teen mental health and anxiety disorders, and the film seeks to deliver the same hard-hitting messages to a new audience.
Out 22 October