This October is about former heroes on the comeback trail. Renee Zellweger stars as Judy Garland in Judy, Will Smith, arguably the biggest star of the 21st century, stars alongside Will Smith in Gemini Man, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the biggest star of the 90s, returns as his most famous character in Terminator: Dark Fate. There’s also what’s set to be the most talked about film of 2019 in Joker, but it doesn’t quite fit this conceit, so we’ll gloss over that.
Judy, in cinemas on the 2 October, is from acclaimed theatre director Rupert Goold and focusses on a specific time in Judy Garland’s life. In 1968, she arrived in London, reluctantly leaving her family behind in America, to perform a series of sold-out concerts and this film captures that period. Zellweger’s performance is already one of the front-runners for major awards recognition next year and it’s already being heralded as career best work. Unlike Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody, Zellweger does all her own singing in the film too, and from the trailers alone you can tell she’s not just impersonating Garland, but inhabiting her.
Just two days later, a very different film is unleashed as Joaquin Phoenix takes on the role of Batman’s most famous adversary in Joker. Phoenix’s presence alone should tell you that this is far from a regular comic book film, but there’s a few things that mark this out as a must-see. Set in New York in the 1970s and co-starring Robert De Niro, the similarities with Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver are not accidental and Phoenix looks like giving a truly transformative performance. Warner Bros also took the unusual step of entering it into the Venice Film Festival this year, and not only did it play in competition, it won the biggest prize – The Golden Lion. The previous two winners of the prize were The Shape Of Water and Roma, both of which won Best Director Oscars, which suggests the Golden Lion may not be the only prize heading the Joker’s way. The film hasn’t been warmly welcomed by all though, with some critics expressing concern about the consequences of glorifying such an unpleasant character, and the discourse around this one is going to run and run, so head to your local cinema from 4 October to join the conversation.
On October 11, Will Smith returns in Ang Lee’s Gemini Man. Smith plays an aging hitman who faces off against a younger clone of himself, recreated using the latest digital wizardry. The effect looks remarkable and Lee has also shot the film using high frame rate technology, which results in a unique 3D viewing experience – at cinemas capable of projecting it. For his last two films, Lee has sought to push the boundaries of film-making technology, making one of the best 3D films in Life of Pi and then utilising HFR technology, somewhat unsuccessfully, in Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and Gemini Man looks to continue his boundary pushing. Will Smith is still one of the most charismatic leading men in Hollywood and the de-ageing technology looks to be eye-popping. If you can see it in the HFR 3D, don’t miss it.
Given the quality of the last couple of Terminator films, it’s fair to be cautious about Terminator: Dark Fate, but there’s reason for genuine hope with this new film and we can find out whether it’s well-founded on October 23. Carrying on straight from Terminator: Judgement Day, Sarah Connor and a hybrid cyborg human must protect a young girl from a newly modified liquid Terminator from the future. The plot sounds familiar, but what makes it exciting, firstly, is the return of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor for the first time since Judgement Day. Secondly, James Cameron is usually just wheeled out ahead of release to wax lyrical about the latest Terminator film but on this occasion he’s been involved from the story stage, and finally directing duties are taken up by Tim Miller. His last film was Deadpool and he did wonders with a relatively small budget, so hopefully he can do wonders with a much larger one. This is his first film since Deadpool and you can assume he hasn’t been short or offers since then but he’s chosen Terminator: Dark Fate. I can’t promise it will be good, but I think, for the first time in years the omens are promising.
They’re the four films we highlight in this month’s podcast but as usual, it’s a busy month, particularly for the half-term audience. Shaun The Sheep returns in charming sci-fi Farmageddon, Angelina Jolie chews scenery in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, and The Addams Family become a major new animation. For an older audience, there’s the long-awaited new film from button-pushing comedy hero Chris Morris (Brass Eye, Four Lions) with The Day Shall Come, while Keira Knightley plays a true life whistleblower in Official Secrets. The end of the month sees Naomie Harris play a cop running from her own colleagues in Black and Blue, and Ewan McGregor playing a grown-up Danny Torrance in The Shining sequel, Doctor Sleep. It’s a packed month, so there should be something for everyone.