The Magnificent Seven
Out 29 September
A rollicking romp not to be confused with John Sturges’ more character-based 1960 western or Akira Kusosawa’s masterful Seven Samurai from 1954, Antoine Fuqua’s cowboy shoot ‘em up is deftly cast with Denzel Washington again showing he is not someone to be messed with and Chris Pratt ringing in the humour.
Boys in the Trees
Out 20 October
Nicholas Verso’s Australian film received a standing ovation when it screened in Venice. A teen drama set during Halloween in 1977, it follows Corey, Jango and their skater gang, The Gromits, as their walk through empty suburban streets descends into something darker and magical as they tell each other ghost stories.
Out 4 November
Mel’s movie impressed on the Lido but as the dust settles and the film’s Oscar potential is being assessed, it seems most likely it will be up for technical awards. There is little subtlety here, though there wasn’t any with Mel’s Oscar winner Braveheart either.
Out 10 November
Coming off the dark intense dramas, Prisoners and the hit Sicario, Quebecois filmmaker Denis Villeneuve takes on sci-fi. He admits it was a way of dabbling in the genre before immersing himself in the Blade Runner sequel, which he is currently shooting with Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford. In an unusual and deliberate move, a woman is the protagonist here and Amy Adams is ever-believable as a clever linguist who manages to devise a means of communicating with visiting aliens. Ambitious in its ideas and slow in its pacing, Arrival is how it actually might be when aliens come to visit.
Out 10 November
Designer Tom Ford apologised for taking seven years before delivering his A Single Man follow-up that delighted the Venice and Toronto crowds. In between the two festivals he had his fashion show in New York, so clearly keeps busy. It was worth the wait as the story, based on Austin Wright’s 1993 novel 'Tony and Susan', is unusual and vibrant. It follows a beautiful rich woman, Amy Adams (again) who leaves her first struggling writer husband, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, and marries a successful glamour boy, Armie Hammer. The film interweaves her reading and imagining the frequently violent novel sent to her by her ex-husband, and it takes her out of her malaise.
La La Land
Out on Boxing Day
If ever there was a shoo-in for a best film Oscar, Damien Chazelle’s La La Land it is. After premiering in Venice, it has gone on to impress in Toronto, with even local audiences being surprised by the fact that Canadian actor Ryan Gosling can dance. Emma Stone won Venice’s acting award, though Chazelle is really the master of ceremonies.
Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey
Written and directed by Terrence Malick, this documentary depicting the wonders of the natural world was a sight to behold – for the first half hour maybe. It then however became monotonous, even if it must have taken an extreme amount of effort and patience to compile the material over 20 years and edit it into a 90-minute movie. Cate Blanchett’s haunting voiceover is used sparingly, though effectively conveys the poetic rendering of the images. It was shot as an IMAX film and it will probably be better to see it that way.
Hardly a traditional biopic, as it’s told through flashbacks after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Pablo Larrain’s movie about Jackie Kennedy’s reaction to her husband’s death comes hot on the heels of his wonderful (and superior) Neruda, featuring an a more poetic depiction of a real-life person, played by Gael Garcia Bernal. Natalie Portman is a splendid actress and it’s wonderful to see her back on our screens in Jackie before she takes time off to have her second baby – maybe we’ll see her on the Oscar podium with the glow of motherhood once again as her performance is already gaining Oscar momentum.
François Ozon’s return to form might not have the wow factor of La La Land, but it’s a truly magnificent achievement, shot in black and white and with a quietly affecting tone. It follows a French military officer (Pierre Niney) returning to visit the grave of a Nazi soldier he met during World War II. At the cemetery he meets the man’s fiancée, and German actress Paula Beer truly deserved her Marcello Mastroianni Venice prize for best young performer. When it comes to the Oscars, we can only hope Frantz isn’t eliminated in the foreign category for being filmed in both German and French.
Heal the Living
Who thought a film about organ donation could be this interesting and poignant? French director Katell Quillévéré’s third feature (after Love Like Poison and Suzanne) begins idyllically with some spectacular shots of a group of teenagers surfing though soon gets down to the nitty gritty of what to do with one of the young surfer’s organs after he is killed in a car crash. Michael Moore would like this as the film shows the French health system as one of the most enlightened in the world, but it’s the humanity of the performances – Tahar Rahim as the male nurse and Emmanuelle Seigner as the grieving mum – that really stays with you.