October is stacked with some of the year’s best films, both in wide release and limited, many slowly expanding through November, and we have a record-setting 20 recommendations for the month. The conclusion of TIFF and Venice also brought a batch of worthwhile premieres, some of which one will be able to see this month.
To note, after limited September debuts, the recommended Sicario and The Walk will both be opening wide on October 2nd and 9th, respectively. There’s also a few notable releases we weren’t fans of, including Love (10/30) and Truth (10/16). Then there’s some on our radar that would make for worthwhile matinees: Sherpa (10/2), (T)error (10/7), The Final Girls (10/9), Meadowland (10/16) and Rock the Kasbah (10/23). We should also make a note that Paul Thomas Anderson‘s new short film Junun will start streaming at midnight on October 9th at Mubi.
Check out the full list of 20 below and let us know what you’re most looking forward to.
20. The Wonders (Alice Rohrwacher; October 30th)
Synopsis: Nothing will be the same at the end of this summer for Gelsomina and her three younger sisters.
Why You Should See It: One of the last Cannes competition dramas from last year to get a U.S. release, Corpo celeste director Alice Rohrwacher‘s Le Meraviglie (The Wonders) will finally arrive at the end of the month Also starring Monica Bellucci and Alba Rohrwacher, we noted the film has been “praised for its alternation of intimacy and universality, tightness and openness, and the mixing of verisimilitude with wonder.”
19. Yakuza Apocalypse (Takashi Miike; October 9th)
Synopsis: In the ruthless underground world of the yakuza, no one is more legendary than boss Kamiura. Rumored to be invincible, the truth is he is a vampire-a bloodsucking yakuza vampire boss.
Why You Should See It: With dozens upon dozens of feature films under his belt, it might seem difficult to catch up on the films of Takashi Miike, but virtually all of his work is a strong entry point. His latest, the bonkers-looking Yakuza Apocalypse, is now arriving this month. We said in our review from TIFF, “Despite many of them being wonderful, Takashi Miike’s films have a tendency of overstaying their welcome (his favourite runtime: 129 minutes), and Yakuza Apocalypse isn’t necessarily an exception to this. Its subtle victory (though maybe its central weakness as well) is its denial of quick, easy fanboy pleasures. While on paper seeming like the Takashi Miike-est Takashi Miike film ever, it might be a surprising bummer for the Midnight Madness crowd expecting a kinetic horror-action film. Every shot lasts far longer than expected and with little to no music, creating a stream of silence followed by a burst of action rhythmic pattern. Assured action filmmaking, yes, but inevitably feeling few and far between.”
18. In My Father’s House (Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg; October 9th)
Synopsis: The film explores identity and legacy in the African-American family, as Grammy award-winning rapper Che ‘Rhymefest’ Smith and his long-lost father reconnect and try to build a new future in Chicago’s turbulent South Side.
Why You Should See It: One of our favorite documentaries on the festival circuit this year, we said in our review, “Amongst the national conversation we’re having about race is a topic often glossed-over amongst the conservative talking point of “accountability.” Yes, there are fathers who lie, cheat, steal, break the law, go to jail, abuse drugs, and the sort. Breaking the cycle of poverty is critical: a generation of men are lost to the system, either in prison or dead, thus repeating said cycle. One who broke the cycle and is mentoring young men to do so as well is Che “Rymefest” Smith, perhaps best known on mainstream radio for writing Kayne West’s “Jesus Walks” and most recently for the Oscar-winning song “Glory” from Selma.“
17. Our Brand is Crisis (David Gordon Green; October 30th)
Synopsis: A feature film based on the documentary “Our Brand Is Crisis”, which focuses on the use of American political campaign strategies in South America.
Why You Should See It: Based on Rachel Boynton‘s documentary chronicling the involvement of James Carville‘s political consulting firm in the 2002 Bolivian presidential election, Our Brand Is Crisis marks a major step for director David Gordon Green into studio filmmaking, who’s had a string of eclectic choices throughout his career. Produced by George Clooney and starring Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton, it seemed to get mostly good buzz out of TIFF and will arrive at the end of the month.
16. Bone Tomahawk (S. Craig Zahler; October 23rd)
Synopsis: Four men set out in the Wild West to rescue a group of captives from cannibalistic cave dwellers.
Why You Should See It: With Furious 7 and The Hateful Eight, it’s shaping up to be the year of Kurt Russell. His next project is looking to fly a bit more under the radar. Bone Tomahawk, which sees the actor return to the western, will premiere at Fantastic Fest this weekend.. Having come from the relatively unproven writer-director Craig Zahler and no trailer yet, we’re not sure if it’ll be a knock-out, but the cast including Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, and Lili Simmons, is a strong one.
15. Suffragette (Sarah Gavron; October 23rd)
Synopsis: The foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State.
Why You Should See It: While the deeply enjoyable Far From the Madding Crowd isn’t likely to put Carey Mulligan in any awards contention, we imagine things will prove different with the forthcoming Suffragette. Directed by Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane), reviews weren’t over-the-moon at Telluride, but with a cast also including Helena Bonham Carter, Anne-Marie Duff, Meryl Streep, Romola Garai, Brendan Gleeson, and Ben Whishaw, we’re curious about its prospects.
14. The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson; October 7th)
Synopsis: A never-before-seen woodsman mysteriously appears aboard a submarine that’s been trapped deep under water for months with an unstable cargo. As the terrified crew make their way through the corridors of the doomed vessel, they find themselves on a voyage into the origins of their darkest fears.
Why You Should See It: There’s no doubt Guy Maddin‘s latest film should be seen as it’s perhaps the most unique of the year, so even if I found some of it exhausting, it deserves a recommendation. We said in our review, “Dense and lacking the playful quality of his more straightforward work, this represents a new multi-narrative direction for Maddin, and a kind of rabbit hole. Working within the art world verses the film world, Maddin’s work, style and influences have a tremendous amount of power applicable to cinema within the space of a gallery installation. Night Mayor, his first collaboration with the NFB, fictionalized the tension between the NFB’s mission and government controls, capturing the inherently cinematic story of an immigrant inventor who dreams of transmitting images made by Canadians to Canadians. The Forbidden Room, while often brilliant upon first viewing, seems to overstay its welcome. A challenging feature representing a new ambition for Maddin, it’s a step forward, a reinvention, and a difficult film to describe and process.”
13. The Russian Woodpecker (Chad Gracia; October 16th)
Synopsis: As his country is gripped by revolution and war, a Ukrainian victim of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster discovers a dark secret and must decide whether to risk his life and play his part in the revolution by revealing it.
Why You Should See It: One of the most acclaimed nonfiction films to come out of Sundance this year was Chad Gracia‘s The Russian Woodpecker, which picked up the Grand Jury Prize in its World Cinema category. In our review, we said it “exists somewhere between performance art and journalism. While Gracia’s feature begins as a traditional work of artistic documentation it evolves quickly into a haunting thriller as Ukraine’s political climate changes. Opening with a disclaimer that is later explained, The Russian Woodpecker is brave filmmaking for all involved, from Alexandrovich, who uncovers a conspiracy within Chernobyl, to local cinematographer Artem Ryzhykov, who risks his life to capture the images of protest in the film’s third act as Vladimir Putin takes back the Ukraine.”
12. Partisan (Ariel Kleiman; October 2nd)
Synopsis: Alexander, a boy who has been raised in a sequestered commune, finds that his increasing unwillingness to fall in line puts him on a collision course with Gregori, the society’s charismatic and domineering leader.
Why You Should See It: Whether it’s Martha Marcy May Marlene or Sound of My Voice or this year’s The Wolfpack, we’ve seen a number of films at Sundance deal with communes and closed communities, but few bring the level of danger found in Partisan. The directorial debut of Ariel Kleiman (Sundance jury winner for the short Deeper Than Yesterday) is a patiently unfolding drama that displays the lengths one will go to provide shelter and community, and what happens if you step out of bounds. Check out my full review.
11. Victoria (Sebastian Schipper; October 9th)
Synopsis: While on holiday in Berlin, a young woman finds her flirtation with a local guy turn potentially deadly as their night out with his friends reveals its secret: the four men owe someone a dangerous favor that requires repaying that evening.
Why You Should See It: If one thinks the single-take conceit here is a gimmick, think again. We said in our review, “A two-hour-and-eighteen-minute thrill ride from joyous celebration to abject despair, Sebastian Schipper‘s one-take wonder Victoria is a must-see. This isn’t a formal gimmick, like with Birdman, but instead a conscious effort to truly understand the visceral and emotional experience had by the titular Spaniard and her new Berliner friends. From burgeoning love to life-or-death stakes as these clubbers are tasked with robbing a bank, we’re given an unfiltered look at regular people thrust into a dangerous situation without escape. Adrenaline pumps as instinct replaces control for an adventure lacking the latitude for even one false move.”
10. Tokyo Tribe (Sion Sono; October 23rd)
Synopsis: In an alternate Japan, territorial street gangs form opposing factions collectively known as the Tokyo Tribes. Merra, leader of the Wu-Ronz tribe of Bukuro crosses the line to conquer all of Tokyo. The war begins.
Why You Should See It: Currently on various stages of development and production on a number of features, Sion Sono‘s Tokyo Tribe finally arrives in the U.S. this month. We said in our review, “Though a hip-hopera (the last film to earn that label possibly being R. Kelly’s everlasting epic, Trapped in the Closet), Sion Sono’s Tokyo Tribe puts itself in the company of the extreme Japanese genre cinema eaten up by festival audiences, given their brutal violence and flagrant weirdness. Those essential thrills notwithstanding, it becomes off-putting in how one must struggle to keep up with the film throughout — not just in the narrative terms of story and character, but also its extreme formalism. The camera is constantly roving to seemingly new characters, gangs, and raps almost every couple of minutes — even if, on the other hand, the beats seem very redundant. Yet what makes Tokyo Tribe ultimately unique, if still problematic in its sheer amount of chaos, are the underlying politics.”
9. Crimson Peak (Guillermo del Toro; October 16th)
Synopsis: In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds…and remembers.
Why You Should See It: Unfortunately, not much can be publicly discussed about Guillermo del Toro‘s latest film until the embargo goes up in a few weeks. However, one should be pleased it’s a welcome return to form (for the most part) for the director following the big-budget misfire that was Pacific Rim. Reminiscent of The Devil’s Backbone, it’s a wonderfully designed experience and Jessica Chastain maniacally owns every scene she’s in.
8. Experimenter (Michael Almereyda; October 16th)
Synopsis: Famed social psychologist Stanley Milgram, in 1961 conducted a series of radical behavior experiments that tested ordinary humans willingness to obey authority.
Why You Should See It: Although it wasn’t received with a great deal of acclaim at Sundance, we quite liked Michael Almereyda‘s latest drama upon screening it at NYFF. We said in our review, “His film is deftly and intelligently edited, with Sarsgaard’s addresses to the audience forcing contemplation at the most radical moments, reminding viewers that this is a work of art, not a Wikipedia page. Save for the ending, there is no high-school level historiography in Experimenter, only the visible work of a director expertly matching eyelines, creating clearly-defined spaces for characters to inhabit and encroach upon, and using blocking and reveals to create meaning. Not everything can be Citizen Kane or Speak, Memory, although it’s always good to see something try; it’s even better, however, to see it succeed on its own terms, as Experimenter does.”
7. The Martian (Ridley Scott; October 2nd)
Synopsis: During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.
Why You Should See It: If the last few years are any indication, Hollywood has a revitalized interest in turning their head towards the vastness of space. Rather than a focus on alien-occupied science-fiction, we’ve seen a string of major-budget fall releases that question our place in the universe and the boundless exploration therein. The latest in this category, Ridley Scott‘s The Martian, lacks the wall-to-wall tension of Alfonso Cuarón‘s Gravity or the ambition of Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar, but for the most part, it’s a rollicking space procedural that depends on some logic, and a great deal of luck. Check out my full review.
6. Room (Lenny Abrahamson; October 16th)
Synopsis: Escaping from the captivity in which they have been held for half a decade, a young woman and her five-year-old son struggle to adjust to the strange, terrifying and wondrous world outside their one-room prison.
Why You Should See It: After taking on the creative process with the Michael Fassbender-led Frank, director Lenny Abrahamson heads down a darker turn with his follow-up. Based on the best-selling novel by Emma Donoghue, Room stars Brie Larson in what looks to be a another strong leading performance following Short Term 12. Winner of the audience award at Toronto International Film Festival, we’ll have to see if it has the same connection when it debuts in limited release this month.
5. Steve Jobs (Danny Boyle; October 9th)
Synopsis: Set backstage at three iconic product launches and ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac, Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter.
Why You Should See It: Riding off much acclaim after its work-in-progress screening at Telluride Film Festival last month, the premiere of Steve Jobs will be held shortly at New York Film Festival. With the main creative trio of Danny Boyle, Michael Fassbender and Aaron Sorkin crafting the film, it looks to be the definitive biopic (if one can even call it that) of the Apple co-founder.
4. Bridge of Spies (Steven Spielberg; October 16th)
Synopsis: An American lawyer is recruited by the CIA during the Cold War to help rescue a pilot detained in the Soviet Union.
Why You Should See It: There’s a cause for celebration as it’s only a matter of days before a new Steven Spielberg film is upon us. Premiering at the New York Film Festival this weekend, his latest comes from a script by Matt Charman as well as Ethan and Joel Coen, and features Tom Hanks in the leading role. With all the elements of a strong drama, this is one of our most-anticipated of the fall, and one can check back for our review shortly.
3. Beasts of No Nation (Cary Fukunaga; October 16th)
Synopsis: A drama based on the experiences of Agu, a child soldier fighting in the civil war of an unnamed African country.
Why You Should See It: Following up True Detective, Cary Fukunaga returns to feature films with quite a powerful tale. We said in our review, “If there were any question marks still floating over Fukunaga’s credentials, his latest film, Beasts of No Nation, should flick them aside with ease. Based on the acclaimed novel by American writer Uzodinma Iweala and boasting staggering performances from both of its lead players, Abraham Attah and Idris Elba, Fukunaga has delivered one of the most viscerally stylized war films in recent memory. The Africa-set drama is a relentlessly violent, vibrant, and electric film that is at once as druggy and entrancing as Coppola’s 1979 cut of Apocalypse Now and as sonically inventive as Elem Klimov’s Come and See.”
2. The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-Hsien; October 16th)
Synopsis: In 9th-century China, Nie Yinniang is a young woman who was abducted in childhood from the family of a decorated general and raised by a nun who trained her in the martial arts. After 13 years of exile, she is returned to the land of her birth as an exceptional assassin, with orders to kill her former betrothed.
Why You Should See It: One of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful films of the year, we said in our review, “The Cannes Film Festival represents the pantheon of arthouse cinema, so it does raise eyebrows when a wuxia movie is included in its official selection. After all, this is a genre known for superhuman speed and loud, physical forms of expression, stuff that fantasies are made of but not exactly traits one associates with fine arts. That’s until Taiwanese maestro Hou Hsiao-hsien came along to deliver his version of kung fu. The resulting The Assassin (translated from Nie Yinniang) turns out to be the quietest, most introspective and deliberately-paced film in competition, a feat so rare and radical it casually revolutionized decades of filmmaking tradition.”
1. Taxi (Jafar Panahi; October 2nd)
Synopsis: Director Jafar Panahi drives a yellow cab through the vibrant streets of Tehran, picking up a diverse (and yet representative) group of passengers in a single day.
Why You Should See It: How many other filmmakers have consecutively delivered one of the respective year’s best films? On a streak like few others, Jafar Panahi‘s Taxi is perhaps his best. We said in our review, While Closed Curtain represented a howl of despair at his situation – living in an authoritarian state that banned him from exercising his profession for 20 years without permission to leave – in Taxi Panahi considers the same reality with more serenity, even humor, though his protest results no less trenchant. His third film since receiving the ban in 2010, Taxi is a perfect complement to its predecessors, adding another chapter to Panahi’s exceptional and thoroughly stirring exercise in meta-filmmaking.”
What are you most looking froward to this month?