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Top Film Releases in October: Send in the Clowns

Daniel Pateman

Although the shape-shifting Pennywise has departed cinemas, he’s passed the face paints to Joaquin Phoenix as Joker: a deranged criminal with a grittily real origin story. Renée Zellweger’s impressive portrayal of Judy Garland during her final months at the Talk of the Town will leave you dewy-eyed, while Doctor Sleep– adapted from the 2013 novel by Stephen King – hits screens on Halloween.

Joker and Judy arrived together this month like some oddly-complimentary double act. Joaquin Phoenix tackles one of DC Comics most iconic characters: delivering a stunning performance as the struggling comedian who becomes a criminal kingpin. A psychological thriller indebted to Martin Scorsese’s depictions of urban decay, and utterly different from Todd Phillips’ previous films (Road TripThe Hangover Trilogy), Joker has been touted as “thrillingly original” by the Daily Mail and a “dark evolution” for comics-inspired cinema.
 

Renée Zellweger has also been lauded for her role in Judy, playing “the world’s greatest entertainer.” Set in the winter of 1969, Garland – who gained adoring fans as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (1939) – undertakes a five-week residency at London’s Talk of the Town: battling personal insecurities, addictions, and reminiscing on her life and loves. Zellweger is the film’s beating heart: transformative, “jaw-dropping” and “deeply committed” as the troubled but talented star.
 

The directorial debut of Joe Talbot, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is out on 25 October and is loosely based on the life of its star Jimmy Fails. Wandering around the rapidly changing city with his friend Mont, Fails returns to the childhood home his grandfather built. Lamenting its neglected condition, they occupy it when the former owners move out and revert it to its former glory. Wistful, dreamy and with a sense of nostalgic exuberance, it snagged Best Director at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and currently has a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
 

The idiosyncratic The Peanut Butter Falcon meanwhile is a particular delight: charting the unlikely bond between runaway Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a young man with Down’s syndrome, and troubled fisherman Tyler (Shia LaBeouf). Seeking new lives, they embark on a Mark Twain-style adventure through the American South: drinking moonshine, narrowly escaping death, and becoming each other’s staunchest allies. While lacking any real surprises, it’s a consistently joyful experience, with a touching central relationship and stellar ensemble cast. Released on 18 October.
 

Finally, Halloween. The ideal time for the unhinged delivery of “Here’s Johnny!!” through the letterbox. Doctor Sleep, the follow-up to Stephen King’s The Shining, axes its way into cinemas on the 31 October. Director Mike Flanigan reconciles King’s 1977 novel with Stanley Kubrick’s divergent film version, delivering an adaptation both eerily unusual and giddily familiar. Now an adult, Dan (Ewan McGregor) is an alcoholic looking to recover from his traumatic past. When he meets Abra (Kyliegh Curran), a young girl with the same psychic powers, she asks for his help defeating The True Knot: a cult that feeds off the “shine” of young children. Thirty-seven years after Jack Torrance terrorised his family – and audiences – prepare to enter The Overlook once again!
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