The time for all things spooky is finally here, and this week's cinema screenings have no tricks – only treats.
Boo! Okay, if that gave you even a hint of a fright, we don’t think you’ll be up for the return of the freaky Michael Myers in Halloween sequel. You’ll be missing out though, as it’s one of the best modern takes on a cult classic.
We’ve also got the slick and charming Robert Redford (allegedly) bidding farewell to cinema in his swan song, The Old Man & The Gun. It’s short and sweet, with Redford showing off that he can be cool at any age.
More of a musical nut? You’re going to love A Star is Born, a rebooted fame tragedy that sings Oscar material, especially when it comes to Lady Gaga’s performance and final song.
There’s also Bad Times at the El Royale, starring Chris Hemsworth, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm and Jeff Bridges – basically, a lot of A-listers. It’s from the guy that directed Cabin in the Woods – so expect the unexpected, folks.
While you can see all that and more in an indoor cinema, if you fancy some al fresco watching, Urban Outdoor Cinema is returning on Saturday October 20 showcasing a selection of horror classics in the lead up to Halloween.
Take a look at our thoughts below and get your fill of all things cinema.
(18TC) Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak
Release: Oct 18
It would seem a prerequisite, but the people rebooting Halloween – journeyman director David Gordon Green and his frequent collaborator, actor Danny McBride, a co-screenwriter – really love the original film (when Rob Zombie tried doing his remake in 2007, you weren’t sure if he was enjoying himself or hating life).
Submitting to the new film, essentially a sequel that wipes out four decades of lesser cash-ins, is like driving a cushy Jaguar along familiar curves.
So much of John Carpenter’s immaculate grammar is impossible to improve upon, so it’s simply been redeployed, sometimes with a small twist, sometimes not. Implacable masked killer Michael Myers still has a fondness for stiffly sitting up like a sprung jack-in-the-box; he still lurks in slatted closets.
What elevates Halloween beyond mere fan service is the presence of Jamie Lee Curtis, whose willowy Laurie Strode has been converted, Sarah Connor-style, into a shotgun-toting shut-in. That’s a great reason to return to the universe of Halloween: everyone’s waving around a gun these days, and the idea that the survivor of the so-called “Babysitter Murders” would, 40 years later, become a militiaworthy nut with murderous instincts of her own has a sad symmetry to it.
Laurie tells us she’s been waiting for the day that Michael would escape, so she can have her vengeance. But we’ve been waiting for it, too. It’s hard to care much about a pair of pushy British podcasters or Laurie’s resentful adult daughter (Judy Greer) and the mouthy millennials who function as Michael-bait. But how do you beat Carpenter’s iconic synth score? You don’t. Some of the new music fits in beautifully: seesawing antilullabies that would have been at home among the analogue stingers of the original. And when Michael wreaks havoc on a crowded suburban street full of trick-or-treating kids and parents on mobiles, some kind of horror rule is broken, deliciously.
The Old Man & The Gun
(PG15) Director: David Lowery
Cast: Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek
Released: Oct 18
Slick and stylish with all the right trimmings for a unique heist movie, The Old Man & The Gun is an ode to some of the silver screen’s best of the bunch, including The Sting and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. From its jazzy tunes, happy-go-lucky atmosphere and even finding an excuse to put Robert Redford back on a horse – fans of the classic “cool guy” genre are in for a cinematic treat.
And much like those kinds of classics, the whole movie is based on the true story of a criminal, except this one isn’t any type of gunslinger. In fact, despite the name of the movie, the only gun he really wields is the one you make with your hand.
But that’s how Forrest Tucker apparently went about his business, with the movie depicting his string of heists at the age of 70 along with his “over the hill” gang of grandpas.
These heists were popular with the public because of how easily they were carried out, and how Tucker was such a gentleman with a big smile on his face that his victims were dumbfounded and ended up respecting him, along with the detective (played by a brilliant Casey Affleck) chasing him.
With this being Redford’s apparent finale before hanging up his acting boots, it’s only fitting that he plays out some of Tucker’s final years of robbing banks, and boy, does he fit the part.
He’s one of the few actors that can naturally pull off the irresistibly charming act without much trouble, which makes it especially jarring when he’s holding up a whole bank – but it’s also why he’s perfect for the role.
Much like his hostages, it’s hard to find Tucker as an “evil” person in this film. He is just a man who has found a love in his craft, and director David Lowery excellently has this come across as admirable.
Affleck needs some of the spotlight too, as his parallel portrayal of John Hunt reflects the other side of the cat and mouse the two are playing.
It’s a calm and relaxing watch, and has a lot to say about the life-long drive and passion within people for what they do best. The perfect send-away for Redford. Darragh Murphy
(18+) Director: Zak Knutson
Cast: Ryan Kwanten, Maggie Grace, Mike Epps
Released: Oct 11
We’re going to give Supercon the benefit of the doubt, as judging by its trailer, it’s (hopefully) fully aware of how silly and forgettable it already looks.
Supercon takes the heist formula and applies it to a comic convention, where a group of former TV stars and comic book artists plan on stealing from an arrogant and somehow-still-famous TV icon and his crooked promoter.
We’re thinking it’s more about the gags rather than the plot, though. Yes, it’s already been slated by critics, but if it’s supposed to be childishly funny and borderlining the Sharknado fad, what’s the harm in a few forgettable chuckles? Darragh Murphy
Bad Times at the El Royale
(18TC) Director: Drew Goddard
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm
Release: October 11
It’s almost a luxury these days to watch a film with an engaging and unpredictable premise, thanks to the amount of remakes, revamps and sequels Hollywood is churning out. That’s exactly why we welcome Bad Times at the El Royale with open arms – even if it turns out to be all style and no substance.
However, if it being directed by Drew Goddard is anything to go by, substance shouldn’t be an issue. His only other directorial role in a movie was Cabin in the Woods, and that garnered cult-classic fame for its spin on the horror genre. Judging from its trailer, we can certainly expect the same kind of mind-boggling premise.
The film sees seven strangers all check in to the extremely shady and rundown El Royale, with the hotel’s gimmick being that it’s split between the states of California and Nevada. The strangers all meet one night with their own dark secrets to hide. So far, so creepy.
“All roads lead here”, the trailer boldly states on screen, so we can only imagine that the strangers are loosely connected in some way, and the hotel management has something to do with it all. But that’s only us theorising based on tried and tested story formulas, so hopefully it shakes the norm and gives us something to talk about.
If the story isn’t as nail-biting as it could well be though, the stellar bunch of actors involved is sure to more than make up for it. We have A-listers including Jeff Bridges playing an extremely troubled man, Chris Hemsworth taking on the role of someone who appears to be equally troubled, Jon Hamm playing a quick-witted all-American vacuum cleaner salesman and Dakota Johnson as a Southern criminal.
Like their characters, the cast is diverse, and we look forward to seeing how it unfolds.
While it does remind us of The Hateful Eight, especially when guns start coming out, Bad Times at the El Royale may prove to be more original, and we can’t wait to see it. Darragh Murphy
A Star is Born
(18TC) Director: Bradley Cooper
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott
Release: October 11
Generously emotional and all the more fun for it, the movie functions as something akin to a Marvel-esque origin story, with Gaga’s own mythology subbing in for her character’s background. It's more than smart to have cast her; it's essential to the movie even working.
But to watch her character, Ally, become a star — especially onstage during the film’s live moments, which feel frightening, massive and deafening—is an incredible piece of evolution. Gaga is really acting here: shy, somehow smaller, trembling with excitement. Incrementally, she blooms in the spotlight, proudly waving around that Streisand schnozz, the big voice completing the transformation. She’s extraordinary, and you root for her to go supernova per the scenario’s time-honored trajectory.
Director-co-star Bradley Cooper has something else in mind, though. Just as his own performance — as Jackson Maine, this film’s rocker on the downslide ends up being one of those grumbly beard chews, his steering of the drama is understated: modest and unshowy. He’s trying to make a “real” version of this glitziest of stories (whatever that means), and you love that Cooper seems to have learned more from his unassuming American Sniper director Clint Eastwood than from American Hustle’s hyperactive David O. Russell.
The result is a Star Is Born that injects its interactions with plain-spoken rawness and believability. You see that not only in the skittish romance at its heart, but via concerned looks from Jackson’s father-figure road manager (a terrific Sam Elliott, booming and righteous during his showdowns) or check-ins from Ally’s limo-driving, coulda-been-a-contender dad.
Gaga and Cooper keep things so grounded and real, it’s almost a missed opportunity that Ally always seems recognisably human, instead of becoming the sharp-edged plastic creation we know Gaga is capable of. It’s a slight timidity that robs the movie of some of its central irony: Ally arrives at fame’s door but at what cost? Regardless, a more showbizzy actor like Judy Garland couldn’t pull off what Gaga is doing here; this is a net gain. Is there an “Evergreen,” though — a barnburner of a ballad? Perhaps: A swooping final number, “I’ll Never Love Again,” is the stuff that Oscar telecasts are made of. Joshua Rothkopf
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed
Release: Oct 4
Venom, a slick-skinned alien “symbiote” who first plagued Marvel’s Peter Parker back in a 1984 issue, has a Wikipedia entry roughly 8,400 words long.
That’s not to say that the villain deserves his own film — even a silly one like Venom — or to be played by the jittery but sometimes inspired Tom Hardy of Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant.
It only suggests that a lot of people take even the marginalia of comics seriously – so seriously that they might not know when they’re getting shortchanged.
It’s these superfans, not casual cineplexers expecting just another monolithic smackdown, who are going to feel the most crushed as Venom slides off the rails.
When exactly does this happen? Is it when you realise that Hardy is going to be using a dis-tracting Squiggy-esque Noo Yawk accent the whole time as Eddie Brock, a hard-charging San Francisco-based investigative journalist? Or when Eddie’s fiancée, Anne (poor Michelle Williams), supposedly a sharp lawyer, dumps him on the street, ring and all, after she gets fired by her Elon Musk-ish billionaire boss Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) after Eddie asks him a few uncomfortable questions about his mysterious labs?
“Have a nice life,” we hear twice in a few minutes, a repetition that just feels like lazy screen-writing.
Nope, the moment when it all slides into accidental comedy comes when the booming voice of the alien (Hardy again, aurally masked as he was with Bane) pipes up in Eddie’s head, dragging him like a puppet through awkward, listlessly mounted action scenes tricked up with CGI black goo.
As you’re enduring the zillionth Frisco car chase since Bullitt and The Rock, it may dawn on you that Venom is supposed to be a bad guy, an antagonist to Spidey (never mentioned here; legally and in terms of solid craft, this isn’t part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe).
Entertainingly, Hardy lets himself get knocked around, Evil Dead-style, but he’s never enough of a jerk – so much for that journo-snoop backstory – and Venom isn’t vicious enough to justify its own existence. Joshua Rothkopf
Last Chance to See
(PG13) Director: Aneesh Chaganty
Cast: Debra Messing, John Cho, Joseph Lee, Michelle La
What to call this fiercely original movie? A Facebook thriller? A Google noir? Its missing-girl mystery plays out almost entirely on screens, using social media apps and chatrooms.
The footprints being followed here are the digital kind, of course, and they’re all the scarier for that. You’ll walk away with a new awareness of just how exposed we all are to malign forces online.
The missing girl is LA high-schooler Margot Kim (Michelle La), a seemingly well-adjusted teen. But in a touching, Up-like opening montage of family snaps and videos, we discover a sorrow that lingers over the family. When Margot vanishes, her dad David Kim (John Cho, terrific) turns to her search history for clues. Things, he quickly discovers, are not what they’ve seemed. Not even close.
Strip away the tech trappings, though, and you’ll find the same joys that powered '90s thrillers like The Fugitive – red herrings, a tireless detective (Debra Messing) and whiplash-inducing twists. Not all are subtle – David’s sleazy young brother may as well carry a ‘bad egg’ sign – and the rules of the film are, well, fluid, but with this many ideas flying around, you can forgive a dud or two. See it, then go chuck your laptop away.
Phil De Semlyen Smallfoot
Director: Karey Kirkpatrick
Cast: Channing Tatum, James Corden, Zendaya
What would happen if Bigfoot had found us? The Warner Bros. movie’s name alone suggests that there may have been some sort of major mishap with a particularly well-known monster. And he’s looking friendlier than ever.
From the Director of Chicken Run comes an animated adventure for all ages, turning the Bigfoot legend upside down. A bright young Yeti finds something he thought didn’t exist – a human. The discovery is his best shot at fame – and landing the beautiful girl of his dreams.
The simple Yeti community is shaken: the creature’s breath is described as “minty fresh”, its teeth super white, and head full of hair, but what else might exist out there in the big world beyond their snowy village?
The amusing tale of Smallfoot is a lesson in friendship and courage, with the big underlying theme being the joy of discovery, newness and acceptance of differences.
Kids will love the story along with this movie’s colourful characters and friendly, legendary lead.