The best movies, autumn 2020
Covid-19 has wounded the cinema schedule, but there are still some cracking titles coming up. From Rebecca to Wonder Woman 1984, a wave of wondrous movies is coming this autumn
UK release date: Wednesday 21 October
It’s always hard to predict where British filmmaker Ben Wheatley will go next. The subject matter of his stories ranges from caravanners (Sightseers) to hitmen (Kill List) to chaotic apartment blocks (High-Rise) to dysfunctional family gatherings (Happy New Year, Colin Burstead).
Now, he’s tackling a new adaptation of the classic Daphne du Maurier novel Rebecca. The story follows the second wife (Lily James) to wealthy widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer) as she and he live in his creepy mansion, Manderley, managed by deceptive housekeeper Mrs Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas).
There have been numerous versions over the years, most famously in 1940 by Alfred Hitchcock, but Wheatley has promised to twist the story in his own way. Despite Rebecca being well known, nobody can prepare for what this adaptation has in store.
UK release date: Friday 25 September
19 June 1865. That was the date when African-American slaves in Texas were told that they were free, two years after Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. This year, following the Black Lives Matter protests, the date has gained a new life: echoed in celebrations across America.
In Channing Godfrey Peoples’ new film Miss Juneteenth, the celebration is in the form of a beauty pageant, and the winner earns a scholarship to a historically Black college or university of their choice. Former winner Turquoise (Nicole Beharie) prepares her daughter Kai (Alexis Chikaeze) to enter, believing that winning the competition could change her life. But Kai’s not entirely happy with her mother’s plans…
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
UK release date: Friday 4 September
Charlie Kaufman is the master of stretching viewers’ minds into taffy, ever since Being John Malkovich in 1999. He combines absorbing surrealism with deep philosophical concepts that penetrate the soul.
His new Netflix film I’m Thinking of Ending Things looks far more frightening than his previous projects, like a horror movie. The story sets to capture the doubts and anxieties of a nervous woman meeting her boyfriend’s parents for the first time. And the parents are… strange, to say the least.
Kaufman takes a simple concept, usually reserved for rom-coms, and fills it with unnerving questions about one’s self and place in the world. If I’m Thinking of Ending Things is anything like his other movies, or his recent novel Antkind, it’ll stay with you for an uncomfortably long time.
UK release date: Friday 9 October
Film distributor A24 revolutionised the horror genre with their backing of Ari Aster (Hereditary, Midsommar). Come October, Aster might find a rival in Rose Glass, writer-director of Saint Maud.
This religious body-horror follows hospice nurse Maud (Morfydd Clark), who tends to the terminally ill former dancer (Jennifer Ehle) while trying to save the latter’s soul. Maud’s devotion to the Almighty reaches into the sado-masochistic, originating from a barely glimpsed trauma, as she confidently aphorises: ‘Never waste your pain’. And, considering the shoe with upturned nails featured in the trailer, Maud certainly doesn’t.
With this dark psychological horror, A24 could make horror history for the third year in a row. (For the UK, Saint Maud will be distributed by StudioCanal.)
UK release date: Friday 30 October
This looks to be the 2020 Hereditary: a psychological horror wrapped in a family drama. Relic combines both 'haunted house' and 'cabin in the woods' genres: following an elderly woman living by herself in a secluded area of Australia. She has dementia and leaves reminders stuck to the walls. She goes missing and her family come looking for her, prompting debate about whether she should be put in a retirement home. But the house has a sticky, shadowy presence that seeps into the family's lives.
Like Hereditary and even The Babadook, another brilliant horror from Australia, Relic moulds real-life anxieties with supernatural terrors. Emily Mortimer stars.
The Trial of the Chicago 7
UK release date: Friday 16 October
There’s no Hollywood screenwriter quite like Aaron Sorkin, whose musical ear for dialogue is legendary. Walking and talking through TV (The West Wing, The Newsroom) and movies (The Social Network, Steve Jobs), his scripts are dense with eloquent, energetic back-and-forths, often in a legal setting. In his second film as director, following up the furious fun of Molly’s Game, Sorkin tackles one of the biggest trials in American history.
The Chicago 7 was a group of antiwar activists who organised a rally in Grant Park, Chicago, only to be beaten and tear-gassed by the police. The seven organisers were detained and put on trial for six months – accused by President Nixon’s government of criminal conspiracy and inciting a riot… despite the event being a peaceful protest. No doubt this will resonate with present-day politics and police brutality, much like Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods achieved recently.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 also has a ridiculously starry cast, which includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Rylance, Michael Keaton, Watchmen’s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Succession’s Jeremy Strong.
No Time To Die
UK release date: Thursday 12 November
The story of No Time To Die’s production will be big enough to fill a bestseller one day, and it’s lasted for years.
First director Danny Boyle had a go with his regular writer John Hodge, before leaving after citing ‘creative differences’. Then the True Detective and Maniac director Cary Fukunaga came on board, and people calmed down. Fleabag and Killing Eve creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge came aboard as a co-writer, which excited everybody, and will doubtless prove a vital asset to the film. Then Covid-19 hit and No Time To Die's release moved to November.
This is, reportedly, Craig’s last outing as Bond (though he’s said that before) – completing his quintet, which started in 2006 with Casino Royale. Bond comes out of hiding (again) and reteams with former flame Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) to stop a new villain (played by Rami Malek) armed with a dangerous technology.
Wonder Woman 1984
UK release date: Friday 25 December
Most of the recent superhero movies based on DC comics (your Batmen, your Supermen) have been critical disasters compared to their Marvel rivals. But the former’s quality can be found in their female-led output – filling a gap in the Marvel oeuvre (out of 23 movies, only one focuses on a female superhero). This will soon be improved upon by the upcoming Black Widow prequel with Scarlett Johansson but, until then, DC’s Wonder Woman 1984 will more than suffice.
2017’s Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins, followed a superhero raised on a matriarchal island in the Amazon and broke through the quality barrier DC were struggling with. In 1984, Diana Prince / Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is reunited with her lost love, the fallen pilot Steve (Chris Pine), and finds new foes in the capitalistic arena of 80s America. With a shopping mall worthy of Stranger Things 3, this blockbuster looks nostalgic as much as exciting. Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal also star.
UK release date: Friday 4 September
The most expensive film ever helmed by a female filmmaker, and Covid-19 shattered its cinema release. Despite planned openings in some theatres internationally, this highly anticipated remake is beaming directly to Disney+ for an extortionate premium purchase price of $29.99 (£23). Mulan has been stung by various controversies during its production, but it’s still historic in its inclusivity: the first Disney-branded film, ever, to have an all-Asian cast.
This version is decidedly not a musical, but a mediaeval war epic. The story, based on the Chinese folkloric poem The Ballad of Mulan, follows Hua Mulan (Liu Yifei) as she enters the army disguised as a male soldier.
UK release date: Friday 27 November
‘Is all this living really worth dying for?’ In recent years Pixar has adored swimming in death, especially in Up and Coco – tackling hard concepts that are usually scarce in kids’ movies. Their latest film, Soul, looks to take an even deeper existential step.
Handling some difficult metaphysical concepts, which have troubled philosophers for thousands of years, Soul examines the soul’s journey into and out of the body. The musician Joe (Jamie Foxx) is suddenly taken out of his body and into the realm of souls, those yet to enter bodies on earth. In this Platonic existence, pre-body souls learn about human concepts before entering their earthly bodies. As Joe tries to find his way back to the land of the living, he learns a lot about human nature in the process.