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October streaming guide: Kenneth Branagh as PM, The White Lotus, witches and vampires galore

Kenneth Branagh as former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Kenneth Branagh as former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Twitter

For some, it might be too soon to see former UK PM Boris Johnson immortalised on screen in an original TV series … for others, it will be a chance to see what went on at 10 Downing Street during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Billed as a dramatisation based on real events, This England is a six-part series of the British government’s handling of the emerging health crisis in the early months of 2020.

Casting Irish actor and director Kenneth Branagh (Belfast) in the lead is a master stroke, as he carefully transforms into the former PM, mirroring his booming voice, his mannerisms and flair for quoting Shakespeare, not to mention pulling off the necessary transformational prosthetics.

In an interview with the UK’s New Statesman, British director and co-writer Michael Winterbottom explained why he had a sense of urgency about making the series.

“There was this shared experience,” he said.

“Think about all the dramas that revisit and rehash the Second World War endlessly. Here’s a chance to engage with something which has that certain uniqueness – but engage with it now, as soon as possible after it happened, as opposed to trying to recreate a war story from 70 years ago.”

As for how to portray Mr Johnson, Winterbottom said: “We weren’t trying to do a comedy or make fun of him … we tried to imagine his life from that point of view.

“At the same time, he’s also about to have a baby. He’s also divorcing his wife. He’s also got problems in his relationships with his four children from his wife – and he almost dies.”

There’s also Partygate to tackle, the PM contracting COVID-19, the tens of thousands of Brits who died during those months before the lockdown, and a window on the hospital system with its doctors and nurses navigating an unprecedented health crisis.

“What we’re trying to do … is just to try and show what happened.”

If it’s too soon, never fear.

There’s a second series of The White Lotus (although sadly this one doesn’t star Australian actor Murray Bartlett as the unhinged resort manager), a host of scary (and hilarious) movies and vampire series leading up to Halloween later this month, and a few comfort shows and inspiring true wartime stories.

For those needing another dose of US stand-up comedian Amy Schumer, her sketch comedy series (Paramount+, October 25) is returning for a fifth and final season, to get her – and I quote – “forever cancelled”.

This England: BBC First, Binge from September 29

Sidney: Apple TV+, September 23

Streaming now, this documentary looks at the legendary US actor Sidney Poitier, the first Black actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1963 for Lilies of the Field.

The documentary on his life and career includes candid interviews from Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Robert Redford and Lenny Kravitz.

Hocus Pocus 2: Disney+, September 30

It was a family favourite back in 1993 and is hotting up to be Halloween’s best movie for kids and tweens.

Hot off the carpet from the film’s global premiere in New York earlier this week, the film stars as 17th century sisters Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy who are ready to bewitch us all … 29 years after the original.

Midler took to Instagram on September 23, simply to say, “Hello sailors, my name’s Winifred, what’s yours?”

Passport to Freedom: Stan, October 1 

A change of pace here … this mini-series based on the true story of Aracy de Carvalho, a young clerk at the Brazilian consulate who risked her life and saved dozens from jail, or death at the hands of the Nazis.

For two years, she secretly issued passports to Jews without the dreaded “J” stamp, which not only wouldn’t allow them to travel, but would have sent them to concentration camps.

Shipwreck Hunters Australia: Disney+, October 5 

For those fascinated by what lies beneath our treacherous coastline, a team of divers, underwater filmmakers and expert maritime archaeologists take us on a journey for long-lost shipwreck.

In each episode the team embarks on an epic expedition to a remote location off the vast coast of Western Australia.

Werewolf by Night: Disney+, October 7

Now begins some scary Halloween black-and-white filmmaking where a bunch of monster hunters embark on a deadly competition for a powerful relic.

Inspired by horror movies in general, critics are loving it, and Empire Online describes the MCU original series a “love letter to monsters and their humanity”.

Luckiest Girl Alive: Netflix, October 7

Starring Mila Kunis (That ’70s Show) and Connie Britton (The White Lotus, Promising Young Woman) and based on a 2015 New York Times best-selling novel of the same name, Kunis plays a writer living in New York who watches a true-crime documentary in this mystery thriller.

That’s when her life starts to unravel as she’s forced to confront her own high-school history.

Memory: Prime Video, October 7

Irish actor Liam Neeson can never be in too many action movies.

Whether it’s in one of his Taken thrillers, The Ice Road or The Marksman, Memory is testament to Neeson still having a lot of life left in him.

He’s got another six in pre-production after wrapping this film about a cross-border prostitution ring, where he plays a hitman with a conscience.

Monster High – The Movie: Paramount+, October 9

Based on the Mattel franchise about the children of famous monsters and creatures, this follows Clawdeen Wolf (Miia Harris, Just Beyond), who was born half-human and half-werewolf, after she arrives at her new school, Monster High.

“She quickly makes friends with her classmates Frankie Stein (Ceci Balagot, Dispatches from Elsewhere) and Draculaura (Nayah Damasen, Grey’s Anatomy), and for the first time in her life, Clawdeen feels like she has finally found a place where she fits in and can truly be herself, despite keeping her human half a secret.

“When a devious plan to destroy Monster High threatens to reveal her real identity, Clawdeen must learn to embrace her true monster heart and find a way to save the day,” says Paramount+’s official synopsis.

The Curse of Bridge Hollow: Netflix, October 14

For those who want to get into the spooky season festivities but can’t handle the nightmares, this film is the new best friend for parents.

It’s all about a family who move to a new town and dig up an ancient spirit, who transforms all the front-yard Halloween zombies … into real zombies.

The father-and-daughter duo team up for the battle to save the town.

The Vow: Binge, October 18

You can do a quick catch up on The Vow part one on Binge before diving into part two of this six-part documentary series.

Set against the backdrop of the federal trial of the US v Keith Raniere, The Vow part two offers an exclusive view into Raniere’s innermost circle, including NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman.

Senorita 89: Stan, October 19

Senorita 89 is a thriller set in Mexico’s glamorous 1980s scene.

It follows Concepción (Ilse Salas), the matriarch of the most important beauty contest in the country.

Together with a team of expert make-up artists, trainers, and even surgeons, she welcomes 32 finalists to her estate, La Encantada.

There, they will endure three months of arduous training until they reach the Miss Mexico pageant.

Selling in the City: Lifesyle/Binge, October 19

Offering a fresh take on high-end renovation shows, this series is targeted towards a “more millennial crowd”.

Interior designer Rosie Morley and landscape expert Paddy Milne turn inner-city townhouses, apartments and villas in saleable real estate.

Johnny Depp at the Cannes Film Festival in 1998. Photo: Getty

Wild Child: Foxtel, October 21

Much has been made of Hollywood heart-throb Johnny Depp’s life this year, but despite some very unflattering videos and testimony, this documentary takes a closer look at the Pirates of the Caribbean star who has long worn the ‘wild child’ tag like a badge of honour.

The White Lotus: Foxtel, October 30

Mike White’s award-winning anthology series returns for a second series, though this time the action takes place in Italy.

Bartlett departed in dramatic style at the end of the first series, but we’ve still got Jennifer Coolidge back as needy guest Tanya McQuoid.

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