October brings more Halloween treats than tricks at the movies – no less than five big Cannes films all make their public debuts in American theaters, from a Swedish art-world satire to a stirring French AIDS-activism drama. You also get a cold-blooded serial-killer thriller starring Michael Fassbender, a rock ’em sock ’em prison movie starring a skinhead Vince Vaughn and – finally! – the long-awaited, breathlessly anticipated Blade Runner sequel. Here’s what you’ll be seeing at a theater near you for the next month. Boo!
Blade Runner 2049 (Oct. 5th)
After decades of rumors, false starts, production delays and personnel switch-ups, Hollywood has finally managed to produce a sequel to Ridley Scott’s sci-fi cornerstone. Now the only question left is whether it’s any good. The team involved certainly inspires confidence, with genre chameleon Denis Villeneuve carrying over his philosophical bent from Arrival and Ryan Gosling making a fine foil for a returning Harrison Ford. Details of plot have been kept blessedly concealed; the earliest peeks have promised the sort of noirish existential potboiler laced with dirty neon and futuro-urban grime you’d want in a new Runner-up. But will there be unicorns?!?
BPM (Beats Per Minute) (Oct. 20th)
The populist favorite out of this year’s Cannes Film Festival and France’s official Oscar submission, this rousing drama focuses on the early Nineties moment when the in-your-face group ACT UP forced the hidden epidemic into the public consciousness. Director Robin Campillo chronicles a political moment through the personal lives of those who stood up, talked back and demanded the right to live as the Parisian government and Big Pharma hung them out to dry. See it by any means necessary.
Brawl in Cell Block 99 (Oct. 5th)
Bradley Thomas (Vince Vaughn, barely recognizable underneath all the seething hatred) is in a bad spot. He owes money to some mean people, lands himself in prison and learns that his only way out is to murder a jailbird in a high-security block. First, our man has to snap enough limbs to get himself sent to the maximum-lockdown facility – and that’s only the first phase of the bloodbath. Credit S. Craig Zahler, the man behind cannibal western Bone Tomahawk, for turning what might have been a standard cellblock-Candide story into a gritty, down-and-dirty grindhouse action flick. The Vaughnaissance can start any moment now.
The Florida Project (Oct. 5th)
Like a rework of To Kill A Mockingbird set on the periphery of Disney country, Sean Baker’s follow-up to Tangerine follows a rambunctious grade-schooler named Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) making mischief with her little pals in the dirty hallways, dingy rooms and run-down playgrounds of an Orlando motel. A cast of nonprofessionals bring this Willem Dafoe practically steals the show as the patient, empathetic, but firm manager of the property, setting off early awards sirens. It’s a joyous burst of youthful spirit, with a bitingly sad finish and an unforgettable final note.
Human Flow (Oct.13th)
World-renowned artist and noted political dissident Ai Weiwei tackles the global-refugee issue in a new documentary, shooting in 23 countries over the course of a year and delivering a panoramic view of a planet in a state of heartrending unrest. Bearing witness through the all-seeing eye of his drone-mounted camera, our tour guide generates sympathy for displaced populations in search of a welcoming new home. The timely urgency doesn’t need stating, and yet the granular-level poignancy will still take you by surprise.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Oct. 27th)
Somewhere around the dog-murder punch line in The Lobster, American audiences realized that Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos has a sick sense of humor. He returns this year with another English-language feature, with unlikely muse Colin Farrell starring as a proud surgeon with a checkered past and an even sketchier present. What’s the nature of his relationship with a meek and yet still weirdly sinister boy (Dunkirk breakout Barry Keoghan) that he ritually meets at a local diner? What of his wife (Nicole Kidman), a cold and intense woman he can only screw when she acts like a corpse? And what the hell is a sacred deer?
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Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (Oct.13th)
Fun fact: Bill Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman, was also credited with developing the earliest lie detector. This biopic from director Angela Robinson centers on an even more interesting tidbit from the man’s extraordinary life: He (Luke Evans) and his wife (Rebecca Hall) lived together with a young lover (Bella Heathcote) in polyamorous bliss for years. Would that every handsomely mounted period piece about a troubled genius included so many hot-under-the-collar BDSM scenes.
The Snowman (Oct. 20th)
Swedish filmmaker Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) goes from John le Carré to Jo Nesbø, taking on the Scandi-noir legend’s hero Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) who’s tasked with bringing a murderer leaving his corpses inside snowmen to justice. The case gets frightening personal for Harry, because of course; the toll of his work grows higher than any man could bear, yadda yadda yadda. It’s a detective-vs-serial-killer procedural so intense and cruel, you’ll forget to laugh about the main character being named Harry Hole.
The Square (Oct. 27th)
Class tensions, museum budgeting, threatened masculinity – cue the belly laughs, right? Sweden’s own Ruben Östlund follows up the ingenious Force Majeure with this sharp satire on the pretensions of the art world and such of-the-moment topics as safe spaces and clickbait. Museum curator Christian (Claes Bang) is elated to have landed a provocative new exhibit, an illuminated public square. Cue a peculiarly tense one-night stand with Elisabeth Moss, an inadvertent larceny frame-job and a fundraising banquet that starts out as performance art and turns perversely violent. The movie more than earned the Palme d’Or it claimed at Cannes back in May.
Wonderstruck (Oct. 20th)
How do you follow up a movie like Carol? If you’re Todd Haynes, you make a kid’s movie. This adaptation of Brian Selznick’s novel follows the lives of two deaf children, separated by decades, move on curious parallel tracks: In 1927, young Rose (Millicent Simmonds, a real find) sets out for New York to track down a silent film star (Julianne Moore) she idolizes. On the eve of the great 1977 blackout, Ben (Oakes Fegley) also sets a track for the Big Apple, searching for his missing father in the wake of his mother’s death. Lovingly crafted and accompanied by a beautiful score by Carter Burwell, it’s the rare art-house movie the whole family can enjoy.