Heroes, villains and rebels: the biggest films of autumn 2018
There are heists aplenty, scores to settle, Lady Gaga becomes a star, farewells to Sam Shepard and Harry Dean Stanton, and democracy meets its Peterloo
Mon 27 Aug 2018 06.00 BST Last modified on Thu 6 Sep 2018 13.03 BST
Director: Desiree Akhavan
Desiree Akhavan is the US film-maker who got noticed with her New York-set satire Appropriate Behaviour. Now she has scored a serious success with this subversive queer coming-of-age drama starring Chloë Grace Moretz, which was a hit at this year’s Sundance. Moretz plays Cameron Post, a teenaged orphan in small-town 90s America who is caught kissing the prom queen. Her aghast aunt sends her to a Christian “re-education” camp, where she has to contend with the organisers’ bizarrely misconceived ideas.
Release date: 7 September. All dates given here are for UK cinemas – other territories vary
Dir: Bart Layton
Is it a heist drama? A story about dysfunctional relationships? An awful warning about the elusive nature of truth? Bart Layton’s new film is based on the true story of a bunch of students who, in 2003, got it into their heads to steal rare books from a university library in Kentucky. The participants are played by actors but the real people themselves are interviewed, documentary-style, to put the action into context but also to question what really happened.
Dir: Jon M Chu
Based on the colossal bestseller by Kevin Kwan, this blingtastic comedy boasts an almost all-Asian cast. It is the first major Hollywood film to do so since The Joy Luck Club in 1993, and has been welcomed as a boisterous corrective to a certain kind of Hollywood racism that renders Asian people invisible. It tells the Cinderella-ish story of Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), a smart, hard-working economics professor who discovers her Singaporean boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding) is so mind-bendingly super-rich that it’s basically embarrassing. She has to impress his formidable mother, played by Michelle Yeoh.
Dir: Agnès Varda
Agnès Varda ascends to a yet higher and more rarefied level of “legendary” status with her latest, Oscar-nominated movie, which she presents to the public at the age of 90. It is a docu-essay that she has co-created with the 33-year-old French photographer and graffiti artist JR, in which they travel to various villages and small towns around France and he creates monumental photos of the people they meet and plasters them on the sides of barns and buildings. It is garrulous, engaging, revealing.
Dir: Gaspar Noé
The adulte terrible Gaspar Noé is back, more lethally brilliant and icily provocative than ever. Or, to put it another way, more infuriating than either fans or detractors will be entirely able to handle. Climax is based (loosely) on the true story of a 90s dance troupe in France who held a party after a rehearsal, drank booze spiked with LSD and then succumbed to a sinister collective freakout. It is like a DJ set from hell, and some of the images Noé contrives are worryingly extreme. The dance moves are sometimes flailingly superhuman.
A Star Is Born
Dir: Bradley Cooper
A Star Is Born is a movie that regenerates like Doctor Who. It first appeared in 1937, then famously in 1954 as a musical with Judy Garland and James Mason, and then again in 1976 with Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand. (Its story of sacrificially wounded showbiz maleness also resurfaced in more recent films such as The Artist and La La Land.) Anyway, now A Star Is Born is reborn, with Bradley Cooper directing, and playing a downwardly mobile country star who discovers a wonderfully talented singer played by Lady Gaga.
Dir: Damien Chazelle
Damien Chazelle, Hollywood’s youthful boy wonder, tackles an authentic American icon: Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon. Ryan Gosling plays that Adam of US history, Corey Stoll is Buzz Aldrin, and Claire Foy plays Armstrong’s first wife, Janet Shearon. Chazelle will have his work cut out to measure up to Ron Howard’s superbly watchable space drama Apollo 13, which had Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell. (Pablo Schreiber – Nick Sobotka from The Wire – plays Lovell for Chazelle.)
Dir: Matteo Garrone
This new film returns Italian director Matteo Garrone to the world of gangsterism he portrayed in his film Gomorrah. It is a compelling opera of beta-male criminal martyrdom, inspired by a true case. Marcello Fonte won a prize at Cannes for his portrayal of Marcello, who runs a dog-grooming salon in a small Italian town and deals cocaine on the side. Then one of his loyal customers, a brutish bully called Simone with a brain addled by the white powder, forces Marcello into helping him with burglaries. Gripping, horrible and tragic.
Dir: Mike Leigh
We are approaching the 200th anniversary of the 1819 Peterloo massacre, when British soldiers attacked an unarmed democracy rally of 60,000 in St Peter’s Field in Manchester: an act of aggressive folly which was to be a long-term spur to parliamentary reform and radical campaigning journalism – leading, in fact, to the creation of this newspaper, originally called the Manchester Guardian. Now Mike Leigh has written and directed a drama based on these events, with Rory Kinnear as the radical orator Henry Hunt.
Dir: Annemarie Jacir
Bethlehem-born film-maker Annemarie Jacir made the heartfelt and engaging drama When I Saw You, about Palestinian children in Jordanian refugee camps after the 1967 war. Now she returns with Wajib (the title translates as “Duty”), a father-son drama set in Nazareth. A young architect who lives abroad comes home to help his father with the traditional task of hand-delivering invitations to his sister’s wedding, and in the process has to sort out his own family issues.
King of Thieves
Dir: James Marsh
The bizarre true-crime story of the ageing London villains who pulled off an extraordinary heist in London’s Hatton Garden jewellery district in 2015 cries out for a geezer-ish Britmovie treatment. In fact, one has already been made. But now the guv’nor himself has given his imprimatur: Michael Caine stars in this new adaptation with Tom Courtenay, Michael Gambon and Jim Broadbent – and Ray Winstone representing the fresh-faced younger generation.
Dir: John Carroll Lynch
The late Harry Dean Stanton made one of his final performances in this plangent and thoughtful movie from actor-turned-director John Carroll Lynch. Stanton plays the eponymous Lucky, an old man meditating on the nature of mortality, fate and life itself. Stanton’s affecting appearance is not far from his breakthrough performance in Wim Wenders’s Paris, Texas. David Lynch contributes a cameo.
Dir: Chloé Zhao
Chloé Zhao’s The Rider is a feature that straddles the worlds of documentary and fiction; a drama that uses non-professionals and draws upon their real lives. It’s an indie-realist slice of Americana, a tale of cowboys and bronco riders in South Dakota. A young rider called Brady is recovering after a bad accident – the sort of thing which has left a friend of his severely disabled. It is a gentle, slow-moving film which is in no hurry to reveal its truths: an immensely cherishable piece of work.
Dir: Camille Thoman
Sam Shepard’s final performance is to be found in this enigmatic metaphysical drama-thriller from the former documentary director and UK theatre performer Camille Thoman. Mireille Enos plays conceptual artist Miranda Hall, who is in a relationship with her agent Paul (Shepard). Her latest creation is about voyeurism and surveillance, and stems from a stranger’s smartphone that she found (unlocked) in the street. Having used the personal information in it as the basis of an exhibition, to its owner’s rage, she now wonders if she is herself being tracked.
The Little Stranger
Dir: Lenny Abrahamson
A ghost story of the classic English sort is on offer in this movie based on the 2009 novel by Sarah Waters, whose Fingersmith was so memorably transformed into the Korean film The Handmaiden. It is set in the pinched and austere years after the war, and country doctor Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) makes a visit to a strange, old house, where he makes the acquaintance of a young woman, Caroline (Ruth Wilson), and discovers a terrible secret.
Dir: Robert Schwentke
This movie by German director Robert Schwenke, shot in stark monochrome, is based on the grisly true story of Willi Herold, a German soldier on the run from the authorities at the end of the second world war. He accidentally discovered an officer’s uniform and then brazened out his own situation by pretending to be an officer on precisely the same mission as those on his tail – and ended by executing hundreds of prisoners. A tough, bleak watch.
Dir. Björn Runge
Glenn Close gives perhaps the best performance of her career in his hugely enjoyable black comedy. In The Wife, adapted from the novel by Meg Wolitzer, she play Joan, , the supportive wife of a world-famous author, Joe (Jonathan Pryce), whose conceited literary celebrity becomes even more insufferable when he wins the Nobel prize. Joan is a former creative-writing student of Joe’s who tells interviewers that she’s quite happy to have abandoned her own writerly aspirations and devoted herself to her husband. But that is not true.
Dir: Panos Cosmatos
Here is a film to divide audiences. Some have found it mesmeric, others unbearable. Nicolas Cage stars in this sci-fi horror, futuristic in its way, although set in 1983. Cage plays a guy whose life has been destroyed by a marauding gang of sadistic satanic cultists who have killed everyone dear to him. The spectacle of Cage set on violent revenge, with his face covered in blood, is not something to be taken lightly.
Dir: Steve McQueen
Connoisseurs of Brit crime have a place in their hearts for Widows, Lynda LaPlante’s post-Sweeney 80s TV show about the widows of a criminal gang, killed during an armed robbery, who take over their late husbands’ business. Now Steve McQueen (Hunger, 12 Years a Slave) has directed a feature film version with Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo as the widows themselves. Hopes are very high for this.
Dir: Sebastián Lelio
Chilean film-maker Sebastián Lelio makes his English-language debut with this intensely controlled drama. Rachel Weisz plays a young woman who has to make an uneasy homecoming with the death of her father,an Orthodox rabbi, against whose strict values she was rebelling. Now she finds things very tense with her old friends, who have embraced the religious conservatism she rejected.