Everyone’s talking about Amazon’s billion-dollar Lord of the Rings prequel, but guess what? There are tons of other things to watch on the streamer this month: a sci-fi drama starring Chloë Grace Moretz; a feminist-friendly first-date-from-hell horror flick; Lena Dunham’s medieval coming-of-age tale; theatrical releases making their streaming debut; and a bunch of old favorites worth yet another view.
Coming Oct. 1
A.I. Artificial Intelligence
In the 1970s, Stanley Kubrick was set to direct this sci-fi update of Pinocchio — a 22nd-century robot child yearns to be a real boy. But Kubrick kept putting it off because he couldn’t figure out how to create a realistic boy robot. After Kubrick’s 1999 death, Steven Spielberg developed it, and finished it in 2001. It’s an odd mix of Kubrick’s ponderousness and Spielberg’s whimsy, but it’s worth checking out, especially for Haley Joel Osment’s melancholy turn as David, the android kid who finally learns to love.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Okay, so historical accuracy isn’t this horror flick’s strong suit. But watching Honest Abe twirl his trusty rail-splitting ax while clobbering blood-sucking vampires — in slo-mo, Matrix-style action sequences shot by Timur Bekmambetov, the Russian director behind Wanted and Night Watch — is definitely a diverting way to while away 105 minutes. Broadway star Benjamin Walker isn’t going to give Daniel Day-Lewis any sleepless nights over the role, but he’s actually pretty great at turning the 16th president into an action figure.
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For Colored Girls
Tyler Perry’s 2010 adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s acclaimed 1975 theater piece exploring the interconnected lives of 10 women of color, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, pulls together an astonishing ensemble cast, including Janet Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg, Phylicia Rashad, Thandiwe Newton, Kerry Washington, Macy Gray. Critics weren’t wowed — “the actors’ earnest work isn’t enuf,” quipped Entertainment Weekly — but kudos to Perry for keeping Madea out of camera range for a change.
Leaving Las Vegas
After a promising series of parts in ’80s films like Peggy Sue Got Married and Raising Arizona, by the mid-1990s, Nicholas Cage was suffering the first of multiple career slumps. Then Mike Figgis cast him as the lead of this bleak 1995 drama about a struggling screenwriter determined to drink himself to death (as the writer soon did). Suddenly, Cage was Hollywood’s hottest star, winning a best actor Oscar and a Golden Globe. Figgis also snagged best director, while costar Elisabeth Shue got a best actress nomination.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1922 short story about a man who is born old and grows young has been catnip for A-list directors for ages. At one point Frank Oz was going to turn it into a film, with Martin Short as the title character. Then Steven Spielberg picked it up, signing Tom Cruise for the lead. Then Ron Howard nearly made it with John Travolta. Ultimately, it was David Fincher who finally got the project on the screen in 2008, giving the world a preview of what a 75-year-old Brad Pitt might look like (spoiler alert: not so bad, actually).
The Silence of the Lambs
Anthony Hopkins’ tiny role in Jonathan Demme’s 1991 serial killer masterpiece — just 16 minutes of screen time — is one of the most revered turns in the history of cinema (not to mention a huge boost to the fava bean and Chianti industries). Hopkins snagged best actor for his performance as cannibal Hannibal Lecter, and the film swept the Oscars, with Jodie Foster getting best actress and Demme nabbing best director and best picture.
Fresh off their successful collaboration on Jerry McGuire, Tom Cruise and director Cameron Crowe reunited for a Hollywood version of the trippy, reality-bending Spanish sci-fi drama Abres Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes), about a wealthy young bachelor who ends up stuck in a really bad dream. Sadly, their 2001 remake turned out to be a dud both commercially and critically, landing Crowe in director’s jail for a while. But 21 years later, it’s worth revisiting for its slick, if sometimes grim, ruminations on the nature of reality and the follies of the human soul — but mostly for Cruise, who turns his charisma up to 11 for this one.
Up in the Air
This cheeky but kind of downbeat 2009 drama about a traveling downsizer who gets paid by corporations to jet around the country and fire their employees was perfectly timed for the economic downturn that began just before the movie was released. Director Jason Reitman’s smartest move in adapting Walter Kirn’s novel was casting George Clooney as the pink-slip dispenser. After all, if you’re going to spend 109 minutes watching people get laid off, it might as well be this guy doing the firing.
Coming Oct. 5
25 Bond movies
Amazon celebrates James Bond’s 60th anniversary by streaming every Bond flick, from Dr. No to No Time to Die, on Prime Video. There’s also a documentary, The Sound of 007, and a recording of a charity concert of the Bond soundtracks, The Sound of 007: Live From the Royal Albert Hall, with special guests including “Goldfinger” singer Dame Shirley Bassey.
Coming Oct. 7
Catherine Called Birdy (Amazon Original)
We haven’t heard a whole lot from Girls creator Lena Dunham lately. But her adaptation of this 1994 best-selling novel, a medieval coming-of-age story about a young girl dodging her parents’ plans for her to marry, was well received at the Toronto Film Festival, so maybe all she needed to get her creative mojo back was a new setting (like, say, the 12th century).
Coming Oct. 9
You know the story. Big flood. Big boat. Animals two by two. But Requiem for a Dream auteur Darren Aronofsky gave the Bible tale the A-list treatment in his 2014 adaptation, casting Russell Crowe as the title character, Jennifer Connelly as his extremely understanding wife, Naameh, and Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah (Noah’s grandfather, for those who skipped that day of Sunday school). Talk about a movie for a rainy day!
Coming Oct. 11
It was pitched as the most accurate Viking epic ever made. Certainly, it’s one of the most violent and expensive, with nearly $100 million worth of 10th-century battle jam-packed into its two-hour running time. (Variety called it “a cautionary tale about budgets gone wild.”) Cult director Robert Eggers’ fans loved it, but its box office flopped. Still, its sterling cast — Alexander Skarsgard as a deposed Valkyrie prince seeking revenge for his father’s murder, Ethan Hawke as the dead dad, and Nicole Kidman as the prince’s long-separated mom — give the production some glitter to go with the gore.
Coming Oct. 20
A country music industry horror flick is about as niche as it gets, but actress turned director Brea Grant’s wicked thriller — about two aspiring country singers (Alexxis Lemire and Abby Quinn) who venture into the spooky old Nashville mansion of an aging, long-retired and deeply unhinged country superstar (Katey Sagal) — charmed 89 percent of critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Think of it as The Shining with a Southern twang.
Coming Oct. 21
The Peripheral (Amazon Original)
With a reported $80 million budget, it’s not quite up there with Amazon’s Lord of the Rings prequel, but it’s still pretty pricey. Based on a book by cyberpunk god William Gibson, it stars Chloë Grace Moretz as a young gamer who somehow finds an alternative-universe window into the future — specifically, London 70 years from now. Not much else is known about the show yet other than its producers are Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, the brains behind HBO’s Westworld reboot.
Coming Oct. 24
Liam Neeson is the Tom Brady of action stars, and at 70, he’s still cranking out two or three extra-crunchy pictures a year. In this one, released to blah box office in February, he plays a moody FBI agent who discovers a conspiracy inside the top echelons of government to target U.S. citizens, so he once again uses his very particular set of skills to take the bad guys down. Directed by Mark Williams, who worked with Neeson on 2020’s Honest Thief.
Coming Oct. 28
The Devil’s Hour (Amazon Original)
Dr. Who is apparently time traveling again, just not in the TARDIS. Not much has been revealed about this six-episode British-based series, but the trailer has Peter Capaldi — you Whovians know who that is — starring as a murder-obsessed recluse who has a “distorted relationship with time” and a fixation on a woman (Jessica Raine) who, for reasons unknown, wakes up every night at precisely 3:33 a.m., otherwise known as the devil’s hour.
Downton Abbey: A New Era
In the second big-screen spin-off of Julian Fellowes’ upper-crusty British TV series about a bunch of aristos dealing with the challenges of the early 20th century, a Hollywood production company comes to the Crawley estate to shoot a silent film. Then talkies get invented, and things go south. Suddenly, Lady Mary offers to dub lines for cockney silent star Myrna Dalgleish. Think Singing in the Rain, minus the singing and dancing (and rain).
Run Sweetheart Run (Amazon Original)
It’s the oldest plotline in the book: Girl meets boy, girl falls for boy, boy turns out to be a psychopath who spends the night chasing girl through the mean streets of L.A. Variety called it a “slick, flashy and trashy genre hash too knuckleheaded to be much fun even as a guilty pleasure,” but critics praised writer-director Shana Feste for her fresh feminist take on tired horror tropes and Ella Balinska for her engaging turn as the executive secretary who finds herself on a first date from hell.
Ben Svetkey is a contributing writer who covers film and entertainment. Editorial director of Los Angeles Magazine, he previously was a top editor at The Hollywood Reporter and Entertainment Weekly and is the author of the Hollywood novel Leading Man.