Catherine Called Birdy, The Stranger and new White Lotus: what’s new to streaming in Australia this October

Plus Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, an adaptation of Shantaram and Let the Right One In gets a new adaptation … again

Netflix

The Stranger

Film, Australia, 2022 – out 19 October

Thomas M Wright’s follow-up to his enthralling Adam Cullen biopic Acute Misfortune is thankfully not a case of the dreaded “second album syndrome”. In fact, it’s one of the best Australian films of the year. Joel Edgerton is at his brooding best as Mark, an undercover police officer posing as a mid-level gangster to snare an ex-con (an eerily impressive Sean Harris), who investigators believe murdered a teenage boy.

A meditatively deep and dark energy festers throughout, building gradually to culminate in a moment of catharsis that sent a weird wave through my body: I couldn’t tell whether it was hot or cold shivers. The film was inspired by the real-life investigation into the murder of 13-old-year Daniel Morcombe but is not (for reasons articulated in my review) remotely exploitative, unlike more sensationalist productions tied to real-life tragedies. (Looking at you, Bali 2002.)

Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities

TV, US, 2022 – out 25 October

One imagines the home of Mexican film-maker Guillermo del Toro being filled with all sorts of oddities: a monkey’s paw, a bottle with a genie in it, vials filled with magical potions … His eight-part anthology series arrives in time for Halloween and features a wunderkammer of self-contained stories from various directors freshly risen from their vertical coffins. I’m particularly looking forward to episode seven (from The Babadook and The Nightingale director, Jennifer Kent) and episode eight (from the Mandy director, Panos Cosmatos).

A still from Pickman’s Model, an upcoming new episode of Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet Of Curiosities
A still from Pickman’s Model, an upcoming episode from Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet Of Curiosities. Photograph: Netflix

Mr Harrigan’s Phone

TV, US, 2022 – out 5 October

Stephen King adaptation number five billion and seventy-seven belongs to a long line of scary movies connected to telephones – from The Black Phone to classics including Dial M for Murder and Sorry, Wrong Number. The story involves a young boy (Jaeden Martell) who befriends an elderly billionaire (Donald Sutherland), and is surprised to learn he can still communicate with the old man, over the phone, after his death. We’re all familiar with the extra cost of long-distance phone calls, but what about phone calls that cross over into the great beyond? How much does the network sting ya for that?!

Honourable mentions: Wolf Creek (film, 1 October), The Midnight Club (TV, 7 October), From Scratch (TV, 21 October), The Good Nurse (film, 26 October), All Quiet on the Western Front (film, 28 October).

Stan

My Brilliant Career

Film, Australia, 1979 – out 26 October

As I noted in my 2014 reappraisal of this classic title from the Australian new wave, the first novel by Stella Miles Franklin launched more than a single brilliant career. The film adapting her book marked the feature debut of Gillian Armstrong and announced to the world its star, Judy Davis, who rose to prominence for portraying Sybylla Melvyn.

“Here is the story of my career. My brilliant career. I make no apologies for being egotistical because I am,” she says in her opening narration, and from then on the film pivots around her suffer-no-fools personality. Themes of breaking free of the establishment and dancing to your own beat permeate the story, which involves Sybylla pursuing her career and a potential romance with childhood friend Harry Beech (a charming Sam Neill. In fact he is always charming. Because he’s Sam Neill).

The Great Beauty

Films, Italy/France, 2013 – out 22 October

Like the films of Baz Luhrmann, Paolo Sorrentino’s work draws adjectives such as “ostentatious” and “extravagant” – and his movies are always events. The Italian auteur frames The Great Beauty as a vision of contemporary Rome from the perspective of the intellectual and socialite Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), a night owl and culture vulture whose main claim to fame is a novel he wrote many years and drinks ago.

When Jep learns that the first love of his life has died, he’s inspired to take stock of his existence and entertains the idea of writing again. Sorrentino captures his protagonist’s awakening while whooshing us through the city, presented as a decadent feast for the senses.

Honourable mentions: Pixels (film, 7 October), The Lincoln Lawyer (film, 11 October), Stuart Little 1 and 2 (film, 14 October), Batman Begins (film, 15 October), Behind the Candelabra (film, 17 October), Dreamcatcher (film, 20 October), Mass (film, 20 October), One of Us Is Lying season two (TV, 21 October), Almost Famous (film, 26 October), Labyrinth (film, 29 October), The Dark Crystal (film, 29 October).

Amazon Prime Video

The Peripheral

TV, US, 2022 – out 21 October

The creators of Westworld, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, executive produce this dystopian series starring Chloë Grace Moretz as Flynne, a woman in a not-too-distant future who has a part-time job playing virtual reality experiences for wealthy clients. Sounds like a sweet gig – but this is an adaptation of a novel by the legendary William Gibson, who isn’t exactly known for frothy, happy-go-lucky stories.

One of the VR experiences plonks Flynne into an actual reality: London 70 years into the future, after some kind of awful apocalyptic event has taken place. There aren’t many good films or shows about VR-esque devices (Ready Player One certainly wasn’t one of them), leaving a wide open space for interesting narratives.

Catherine Called Birdy

Film, UK/US, 2022 – out 7 October

Lena Dunham turns her focus to medieval England in her adaptation of Karen Cushman’s YA novel about a mischievous 14-year-old aristocrat (Bella Ramsey) determined not to be married off by her father. “I am, thank the lord, very cunning,” she says, and she’ll need to be, given that feudal England isn’t the most accommodating place for a young woman. The Guardian critic Wendy Ide described the film as “a peppy, irreverent delight” featuring “liberal use of goats, geese and chaotic energy”.

Honourable mentions: Raging Bull (film, 1 October), West Side Story (film, 1 October), Top Gun (film, 1 October), The Northman (film, 22 October), Ambulance (film, 22 October), The Cabin in the Woods (film, 26 October).

ABC iView

Significant Others

TV, Australia, 2022 – out 16 October

A good missing person’s drama is usually not about the person who disappeared but how their absence changes the space in which other characters function. That is the case in creator/lead writer Tommy Murphy and director Tony Krawitz’s new six-part series, about a family coming to terms with the vanishing of their sister and mother. Things are complicated by a fraught family dynamic, with the missing person having won an inheritance claim for the family home. Episode one (all I’ve seen so far) is well-acted and intelligently made.

Honourable mentions: Girl, Interrupted (TV, 1 October), The Kids Are Alright (film, 1 October), Would I Lie to You season 15 (TV, 5 October), Sanditon (TV, 13 October), Fisk season two (TV, 26 October).

SBS on Demand

It’s Fine, I’m Fine

TV, Australia, 2022 – out 10 October

Stef Smith’s funny and bittersweet series revolves around a psychologist (Ana Maria Belo) and her patients, absorbing the personalities and idiosyncrasies of the latter (and to some extent the shrink) without a whiff of condescension. It’s elegantly structured as long and enjoyable conversations interspersed with breaks in reality that illustrate something about the patient’s mindset.

Visualising mental health issues is tremendously difficult (consult Wakefield for a great example of doing it well) but Smith doesn’t overreach, never pretending she can fully explain or get to the bottom of anyone. We enjoy observing these people and their idiosyncrasies and we wish them all the best.

Ningla-A’na

Film, Australia, 1972 – out 23 October

A newly restored version of Australia’s greatest protest movie returned to cinemas last month, with an impact that has dulled not one bit in the half century since it was released. Its Italian-born director, Alessandro Cavadini, captures the early days of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, taking to the streets with protesters and examining various aspects of the movement. If you can’t see it on the big screen, catch up with it on the teev: it’s the very definition of an unmissable Australian film.

Protesters outside Old Parliament House at a July 1972 protest for Aboriginal rights
Protesters outside Old Parliament House at a July 1972 protest for Aboriginal rights Photograph: Supplied

Honourable mentions: Gorbachev. Heaven (film, 17 October), Bonnie and Clyde season one (TV, 17 October), North Sea Connection (TV, 17 October), Poltergeist (film, 21 October), Australia Uncovered: Me and My Tourette’s (TV, 25 October), This Is Not a Film (film, 28 October).

Binge

The White Lotus: Blossom Circle

TV, US, 2022 – out 31 October

In the terrific first season of The White Lotus, set in a Hawaiian resort, the satire – of wealth privilege – was everywhere: infused into the decor and baked into the characters’ behaviour. Yet the show’s cerebral elements never feel laboured; you could watch the entire series and not think about it.

The show has evolved into an anthology and the second season – out at the end of the month – features new holidayers (including characters played by Aubrey Plaza and Michael Imperioli, AKA Christopher from The Sopranos), with at least one original cast member checking back in: Jennifer Coolidge. Her performance as Tanya McQuoid was disarmingly and extraordinarily good: simultaneously intense but laidback; emotional but distant; present but elsewhere. To say the original series set a high benchmark is an understatement.

Honourable mentions: Us (film, 1 October), Last Action Hero (film, 2 October), Hellraiser (film, 8 October), After Yang (film, 8 October), The Bad Guys (film, 15 October), The Northman (film, 22 October)

Disney+

Rosaline

TV, US, 2022 – out 14 October

What if … a new Romeo and Juliet story unfolded not from the perspective of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers but an ex-girlfriend of Romeo’s, determined to get back her old boyfriend?

Reinvigorating dusty narratives by focusing on a character positioned on the sidelines is the joke premise underpinning Monty Python’s Life of Brian – and now Rosaline, starring Kaitlyn Dever as the woman determined to thwart the romantic union of Shakespeare’s lovers. Little does she know, of course, that they are more than capable of stuffing things up themselves. Hopefully the director, Karen Maine, can elevate the material above a “one-trick pony” premise.

Werewolf by Night

TV, US, 2022 – out 7 October

Billed as a “special presentation” feature – whatever that means – this Marvel adaptation revolves around a “secret cabal of monster hunters” and reportedly pays homage to monster movies of old. In a featurette about this film special presentation, the producer Kevin Feige shows a remarkable ability to speak as though he’s reciting an exact sentence from a hyperbolic press release: “We wanted to explore entirely new characters and entirely new sides of the MCU with this unusual, fun and frightening spin on the supernatural.” Weeee’lllllll see.

Marvel Studios’ Werewolf By Night
Marvel Studios’ Werewolf By Night lands on Disney+ on 7 October. Photograph: Marvel Studios

Honourable mentions: Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi (TV, 26 October), King of the Hill seasons one to 13 (TV, 5 October), The Simpsons season 34 (TV, 12 October).

AppleTV+

Shantaram

TV, US, 2022 – out 14 October

The bestselling novel spans a whopping 940 pages, giving Eric Warren Singer and Steve Lightfoot lots of material for their new adaptation. The story involves a bank-robbing fugitive (Charlie Hunnam) who hits the streets of Bombay circa the 1980s. The book inspired many people (including at least one Guardian reader) to travel … but did it inspire anyone to rob a bank?! The show will be executive produced by Justin Kurzel, marking the Australian auteur’s first foray into television.

Honourable mentions: Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues (film, 28 October), Raymond & Ray (film, 21 October).

Paramount+

Let the Right One In

TV, US, 2022 – out 8 October

The 2008 Swedish vampire classic Let the Right One In received a respectable Hollywood remake with 2010’s Let Me In, and now gets reinvented again as a TV series. Oh, and the original film adapted a 2004 novel. Oh, oh: the book has also been adapted for the stage (with a Sydney production now playing, in fact).

So: novel, check. Film, check. TV series, check. Play, check. But where, I hear you ask, is the video game? The augmented reality experience? The special edition Guess Who board? With time, friends. With time.

Honourable mentions: So Help Me Todd (TV, 1 October), Cypress Hill: Insane in the Brain (film, 3 October), Significant Other (film, 8 October), Hellraiser (film, 2022).

  • This article was amended on 5 October. An earlier version incorrectly said Justin Kurzel directed two episodes of Shantaram. He was initially on board to direct but is now executive producer

Contributor

Luke Buckmaster

The GuardianTramp

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