Sunday 3 September 2017

Autumn film preview (Telegraph 02/09/17)

Mother! (Sep 15)
Wayward visionary Darren Aronofsky returns to Black Swan territory with a psychological thriller about a couple (the already eyebrow-raising pairing of Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem) receiving unexpected houseguests. Trailers look promisingly batty, but if history teaches us anything, it’s that exclamation marks in movie titles can be awfully hard to live up to.

Victoria and Abdul (Sep 15)
Judi Dench has played Queen Victoria so often you’d think filmmakers were constructing some regal franchise around her. Wily veteran Stephen Frears (Philomena) here films Shrabani Basu’s non-fiction account of Victoria’s dealings with an Indian clerk (Ali Fazal) – not untopical subject matter, at a moment Britain starts renegotiating its relationship with the world.

Goodbye Christopher Robin (Sep 29)
The awards contenders keep coming. This one follows the Finding Neverland line in giving the full three-hanky treatment to the melancholy private life of a much-loved author – in this instance AA Milne, played by the suddenly ubiquitous Domhnall Gleeson. The dependable Frank Cottrell Boyce writes; Simon Curtis (of My Week with Marilyn) directs.

Blade Runner 2049 [above] (Oct 6)
Industrious French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve has delivered solid hits in this slot two years running, following 2015’s Sicario with 2016’s Arrival. Now he has his highest-profile gig yet: a belated sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic, with Ryan Gosling taking up the hunt for replicants. Harrison Ford awaits, scowling, somewhere in the smog.

The Snowman (Oct 13)
Nothing to do with Aled Jones, rather the first adaptation of Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole bestsellers, with detective Michael Fassbender tracking a misogynist killer prone to leaving coal-eyed markers alongside the bodies. Tomas Alfredson – the Swede behind Let the Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – is the suitably Scandinavian director.

The Death of Stalin (Oct 20)
We’ve waited a while for Armando Iannucci to follow 2009’s In the Loop – he’s been busy with TV’s Veep, among other projects – but now he’s back, marshalling an expert comedy troupe (Jeffrey Tambor, Simon Russell Beale, Michael Palin, Paul Whitehouse) through a satirical account of the fallout from the Soviet leader’s sudden passing.

Breathe (Oct 27)
Andy Serkis pauses his mo-cap monkeying to make his directorial debut with a period drama about a society couple (stars du jour Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy) coming to terms with a polio diagnosis. Advance buzz is very good: writer William Nicholson’s last foray into similar hospital-bed territory was 1993’s enduring sob-inducer Shadowlands.    

Call Me by Your Name (Oct 27)
Trailing positively ecstatic reviews, Luca Guadagnino’s follow-up to A Bigger Splash repairs to early 80s Lombardia to observe a holiday romance between an American academic (The Social Network’s Armie Hammer) and a younger local (Timothée Chalamet). Sleeper success beckons: late October audiences will surely fork out for the sunshine alone. 

The Mercy (Oct 27)
The story of errant yachtsman Donald Crowhurst prompted one of the last decade’s most haunting documentaries in 2006’s Deep Water. Now the very capable James Marsh (Man on Wire, The Theory of Everything) offers a dramatised take on the same chilly facts. Colin Firth mans the tiller as Crowhurst; Rachel Weisz plays wife Claire.

Thor: Ragnarok (Oct 27)
Marvel Product #252 seems to have been trailered all year, promising a larkier take on the usual hammer-throwing – doubtless connected to What We Do in the Shadows joker Taika Waititi’s presence behind the camera. It’ll likely still climax with a city being stomped, but may benefit from arriving at the end of a superhero-light summer.

Murder on the Orient Express (Nov 3)
Retired from TV screens, Hercule Poirot reappears in cinemas care of Kenneth Branagh, director-star of this new version of Agatha Christie’s locomotive whodunnit. Obstacles lurk on the line – general plot familiarity, Branagh’s absurd sheepdog of a moustache – but with a first-class ensemble (here: Depp! Pfeiffer! Colman! Dench! Cruz!) Our Ken usually delivers.

Loveless (Nov 10)
Writer-director Andrey Zvyagintsev confirmed a mounting reputation as Russian cinema’s agonised conscience with 2014’s knockout Leviathan, looking on helplessly as his protagonist came to be crushed by the merciless forces of Putinland. His latest, premiered at Cannes, charts the impact a couple’s bitter divorce has on their young son: it’s reportedly no less bracing or essential.

Paddington 2 (Nov 10)
Paddington overcame production troubles to become the feelgood triumph of late 2014: a sweet, funny pantomime that also said something cheering about British hospitality. A follow-up was inevitable, but – promisingly – the services of original director Paul King have been retained, and welcome new arrivals include Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson. Ready the marmalade sandwiches.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Nov 17)
The surreal courtship rituals of 2015’s The Lobster provided Greek writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos with a surprise crossover hit: youngsters flocked to witness modern cinema’s oddest date movie. His follow-up looks just as bizarre, while evidently shading darker: Lobster survivor Colin Farrell plays a well-appointed surgeon whose life goes into dramatic freefall.         

Battle of the Sexes (Nov 24)
Tennis’s 1973 match-up between pioneering feminist Billie Jean King and shameless chauvinist Bobby Riggs – basis of a lively 2013 doc – now gets the Hollywood treatment, with a newly Oscared Emma Stone and the excellent Steve Carell smashing the still-topical issues back-and-forth. Little Miss Sunshine’s Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris – a happier pairing – direct.

Suburbicon (Nov 24)
George Clooney’s latest directorial offering – working from a script by his occasional paymasters the Coens – is a dark 50s-set comedy in which Matt Damon’s foursquare salaryman loses his grip on reality following his wife’s suspicious demise. The trailer suggests a cross between The ‘Burbs and Double Indemnity: let’s hope this marriage pays off.

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