October is something of a dichotomy. The commercial releases mostly look horrible but we’re beginning to get into the heavy award bait, so there are a lot of little gems coming to arthouses near you.
This movie looks kind of terrible but it stars Sam Shepard (The Assassination of Jesse James), who is not only a good actor but is a great playwright. His taste is so good, that even if a movie he’s in looks bad, it’s usually good. Except Stealth. Sweet jesus why was he in Stealth? Blackthorn is about Butch Cassidy in his later years, on the lam in Bolivia, living under the alias “James Blackthorn”. I’ve never been a big Butch Cassidy/Sundance Kid fan, so this doesn’t sound very interesting to me.
I am telling you, one of these days Juno Temple (Wild Child, Atonement) is going to happen. Maybe next year, as she has a part in The Dark Knight Rises. Temple stars in Dirty Girl, a movie set in the 1980’s about a promiscuous teen that runs away, accompanied by a closeted gay classmate. It premiered at TIFF 2010 to largely bad reviews, which is why it’s just now coming out, over a year later. I like Temple a lot but I think I can live without seeing this movie.
The Human Centipede 2
These movies can get bent.
The Ides of March
George Clooney co-writes (along with his writing/producing partner Grant Heslov) and stars in his third directorial effort about a senator campaigning for a presidential nomination. I like Clooney as a director a lot, but I worry about Ides getting preachy, given the political subject matter and Clooney’s tendency toward smug. Though I’m sure I can overlook any smuggery because Clooney had the good sense to cast Ryan Gosling in the lead role. Sigh. The Gos is love. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood also star.
Despite this movie being about robot boxing, it is not, in fact, the Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots movie. It is, however, the movie that killed the Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots movie (allegedly). Real Steel comes from Dreamworks, who is in partnership with Hasbro to turn games and toys into movies (like Transformers). Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots is owned by Mattel, who teamed up with director Wolfgang Petersen (Troy, Das Boot) to turn Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots into a movie. In the interest of preserving their corner of the “shitty toys make shitty movies” market, Dreamworks launched Real Steel into production, effectively killing Mattel’s Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots movie (allegedly). So, no, Real Steel isn’t the Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots movie, but it is a Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots movie. It stars Hugh Jackman and looks completely ridiculous.
Expanding from New York and LA, Michael Shannon (The Runaways, Revolutionary Road) is earning high praise for his performance as a man who believes the apocalypse is nigh and pushes his family to the brink while preparing for the perceived end of the world. It looks tense and kind of creepy and has a psychological thriller vibe. Jessica Chastain also stars, because she’s in everything this year.
Texas Killing Fields
OH MY GOD JESSICA CHASTAIN AGAIN. She really is in everything this year. It’s a good thing she’s a good actress and I like her, and also that she tends to look quite different film-to-film, or else I’d probably be raising money to pay her to not work for a year because I’m sick of seeing her. Chastain costars along with a mannequin Sam Worthington (The Debt, Avatar) in this story about detectives in the bayous of Texas trying to solve a string of murders. Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass, Let Me In) and professional Javier Bardem impersonator Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Losers, Supernatural) also star. At best, Worthington makes me uninterested in movies; at worst he actively repels me from them like he’s a case of DDT. Consider me repelled.
The Big Year
Do you guys follow Steve Martin on the Twitter? You should. He’s one of the few celebrities that are actually funny/entertaining in tweet form. He stars in The Big Year alongside Jack Black and Owen Wilson, which is a slightly weird combination, but I like them all individually so I might as well try and like them together. What? I do so like Jack Black! I like him when he’s being a grown up in grown-up movies, not when he’s doing his “poor man’s Adam Sandler” routine for kids in kiddie movies. I mean come on—Tropic Thunder? High Fidelity? Be Kind Rewind? Just focus on that and forget School of Rock and Year One. Anyway, The Big Year is about competitive bird-watching and it looks like it should be directed by Wes Anderson but it isn’t. Into the Netflix queue it goes.
Fireflies in the Garden
There’s no way this movie doesn’t suck. 1) It premiered in 2008 at the Berlinale and it is just now coming out, three years later. No good movie sits on a shelf for three years. 2) Julia Roberts is in it and I haven’t liked a single movie she’s made since 2007’s Charlie Wilson’s War. And 3) Ryan Reynolds has a beard in it, and no movie Reynolds makes with a beard is ever good (see also: Blade Trinity, The Amityville Horror).
Surprisingly, this remake of the 1980’s classic high school dance flick has been getting good reviews. Directed by Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow), I think this looks as cheesy and silly as the original, but then, dance movies aren’t really my bag (except for Center Stage, which I love) so it’s not like the original was really my thing to begin with. The new Footloose stars some people I’ve never heard of and the Dancing with the Stars twat that’s banging Ryan Seacrest. Nothing about that makes me think this is a good movie, despite the reviews, but I get that there are a lot of people that will enjoy the hell out of it. I do like the part of the trailer where they appear to be playing chicken with school buses.
The Skin I Live In
Tony Flags and writer/director Pedro Almodovar (Talk to Her, All About My Mother) reunite for this film about a plastic surgeon that develops an indestructible, synthetic skin after his wife dies from burns received in a car crash. He needs a human test subject for his new skin and that’s where things go pear-shaped, in typical Almodovarian fashion. I really love Almodovar’s work—he’s a real actor’s director and always brings great performances out of his cast—but I don’t always get to his movies right away. I’ll see this one, though. Eventually.
A retroactive prequel-type-thing to John Carpenter’s 1980’s classic horror movie, also called The Thing, stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrom vs. The World) and Joel Edgerton (Warrior) as scientists in Antarctica who battle an alien capable of mimicking whoever it comes into contact with. I’m not big on the original and I don’t care about this remake/prequel thingie, either.
This also looks terrible. Trespass debuted to mostly negative reviews last month at TIFF and is about a home invasion in a wealthy community where things may not be quite what they seem. Yawn. The best part of this movie is the poster, which hilariously over-photoshopped stars Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman. Cage looks like a ventriloquist’s dummy.
Klitschko – Inside the Ropes
Klitschko might as well be called “the real life Warrior”—it’s a documentary about a pair of brothers, Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, who are both boxing champions. I’m sure this a nice story and everything but I don’t like boxing at all and so this holds little interest for me.
This French import played to strong reviews at Cannes and TIFF. It’s about an artsy intellectual who gives up his literary dreams to work as a shoe shiner and has life upended by the arrival of an immigrant African child. Sounds cutesy and twee but the writer/director, Aki Kaurismaki, is notable for his use of deadpan humor and restrained filmmaking style. He has a knack for combining the silly and the sincere that’s worth watching at least once. I don’t feel a need to run right out and see Le Havre, but I’ll get to it before award season for sure.
Another boring procedural—this time masked as a “thriller—about the 2008 financial crisis comes down the pipe. Did you see HBO’s Too Big to Fail? A lot of good actors in that but good god it was interminable. There’s just nothing sexy or exciting about the financial meltdown. I don’t know about you, but I can’t ever care about any of these characters because I just get so fucking angry at everyone. I spent most of my time watching Too Big to Fail yelling, “Oh FUCK YOU, Bernanke!” at my TV. The trailer for Margin Call makes me similarly stabby so I might have to sit this one out in theaters and wait for a DVD I can scream at in peace. Paul Bettany, Zachary Quinto, Jeremy Irons, Kevin Spacey, Simon Baker, Aasif Mandvi, Stanley Tucci and Demi Moore star.
Martha Marcy May Marlene
I saw this movie a few weeks ago—it’s really, really good. Elizabeth Olsen is impressive as the titular Martha/Marcy May/Marlene, a young woman who gets sucked into a cult. The movie deals mostly with Martha’s attempt to reintegrate into the world after she flees the cult (a series of flashbacks unravels what lead her to leave), and Sarah Paulson (Deadwood) is equally good as Martha’s older sister, Lucy. Olsen and Paulson work really well together and with very little exposition and no backstory they do an excellent job portraying a long sibling history. John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone) is Patrick, the cult leader, and he is chilling. His presence looms large over a story he isn’t actually in much and the way he undercuts Martha’s confidence is frightening. This is a tough movie but it’s one of the best psychological thrillers I’ve seen a while.
Paranormal Activity 3
These movies trip me out. I believe in ghosts and poltergeists and stuff so this shit scares me for realsies. The third installment in the lucrative Paranormal Activity franchise goes back to the “beginning” to show us how all this mess started. Guess what? It’s the kids’ fault. They played “Bloody Mary” and actually summoned Bloody Mary who proceeds to wreak havoc on their house and home. I always hated “Bloody Mary”. I mean, I’m 99.999999% that it’s just a stupid game but I DO believe in ghosts (tell me your good ghost stories—I love collecting them), so on the 00.000001% chance it COULD work, why even tempt fate? Just don’t play “Bloody Mary”.
Jamie Bell (Jane Eyre, Billy Elliot), Thandie Newton (2012) and Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins) star in this movie about a couple (Newton and Murphy) trying to reconcile after the death of their baby. Retreating to a remote Scottish Island, Kate and Martin are quickly stressed when their communications with the mainland fail. Then, after a storm, they find a man washed up on their shore who tells them that a mysterious disease is decimating Europe. I like all these people and I like plaguey plots, but Bell tends to be in the worst movies (see also: Jumper, The Eagle), so I am leery of anything he’s involved in.
The Three Musketeers 3D
This may be the worst movie ever made.
This is some shitty movie with Mickey Rourke and Jason Statham—always such arbiters of good taste—about the underground world of Russian roulette. So basically, Over the Top but instead of arm wrestling truck drivers it’s trigger happy gangsters. Sounds like a winner.
And They’re Off
You know, really, Lord of the Rings didn’t distinguish anyone’s career. Just look at Sean Astin—he was great as Frodo’s life partner Samwise, but here he is stuck in a budget-looking movie about horse racing. I love horses and everything, but Seabiscuit is the only really good horse racing movie I’ve seen. Well, and The Black Stallion, but it wasn’t really about racing, strictly speaking. And They’re Off is a mockumentary about a failed trainer (Astin) who’s so desperate to win again that he hires his ex as his jockey. Since Cheri Oteri (SNL) is the ex, I’m going to assume she’s crazy. Oteri has crazy eyes.
Setting aside the contentious issue of the Shakespeare authorship question, this trailer looks cool. I love the artistic design. I also love that Rhys Ifans is the lead—though he’s been a drunken ass this year, he’s an actor I enjoy yet don’t get to see too much of. Anonymous is his showcase as he stars as Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, who is presented as the “real” Shakespeare. The authorship question is, academically speaking, bunk, but it’s a sexy conspiracy theory and director Roland Emmerich (10,000 BC, Independence Day) got strong notice for his efforts in tackling it coming out of TIFF. He’s going for filmmaking legitimacy and if the reviews hold, he should take a long step in the direction of being considered not the worst director ever. Vanessa Redgrave is getting early Oscar notice for her performance as Queen Elizabeth I, which doesn’t hurt.
Okay, I just have to say this. The part of the trailer where he says, “Men like me don’t write plays” drives me nuts. The Earl of Oxford published at least a dozen plays under his own name—he was regarded as a top comedic playwright—he also published poetry, patronized an acting company known as The Earl of Oxford’s Men, and was a partner in the Blackfriars theater. He did all of this under his real name, everyone knew it and NOBODY GAVE A SHIT.
Castle’s Stana Katic stars with Topher Grace (That 70’s Show), Martin Sheen and Richard Geere in this spy thriller about a Russian assassin. I feel like we just saw this movie and it was called Salt.
Writer/director Andrew Niccol will always have a place in my heart because he made Gattaca and wrote The Truman Show, but he’s been coasting on fumes for a while. In Time looks pretty bad in trailer form so I don’t have much hope for the full-length feature. Justin Timberlake stars (KILL ME NOW) as Will, a young man short on time when time is, literally, money. See, in the future, you die at 25 unless you can earn more time. I assume this has something to do with overpopulation? Will inherits 100 years from a man (Matt Bomer, White Collar), which makes him rich, but he quickly learns the system blows hardcore and some rich people are—surprise—usurping all the resources at the expense of the proletariat. So Will and his hostage—oh yeah, at some point he kidnaps Oatmeal Seyfreid—go on the run and try to bring the system down. They’re tailed by rich-people-agent-assassins because Will is stealing time and giving it away Robin Hood styles.
Look at this point we just may as well make a movie version of Duck Hunt except instead of ducks it’s rich people.
Johnny English Reborn
Rowan Atkinson returns as bumbling spy Johnny English is this completely unnecessary movie.
Sundance’s breakout hit from director Drake Doremus (who also co-wrote the script) stars It Girl Felicity Jones (Brideshead Revisited) and Anton Yelchin (Fright Night, Charlie Bartlett) as a college-aged couple that gets separated when she overstays her visa and has to return to the UK. They try the long-distance thing only to find out that it’s really hard, you guys. Jennifer Lawrence and Charlie Bewley (The Twilight Saga) also star.
The Rum Diary
Johnny Depp reprises his Hunter S. Thompson impression in the long-awaited adaptation of Thompson’s eponymous book about a journalist in 1950’s Puerto Rico being drunky and having adventures while seducing a wealthy ex-pat’s fiancé. I really loved Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but The Rum Diary looks like it lacks the same gonzo verve as Terry Gilliam’s movie (this one was directed by Bruce Robinson, Jennifer Eight). Co-starring Aaron Eckhart and Amber Heard.
Novelist Julia Leigh makes her directorial debut under Jane Campion’s tutelage with Sleeping Beauty, a bizarre-looking film about a young prostitute (Emily Browning, Sucker Punch) who lets creepy old men drug her and do whatever they want to her while she’s knocked out. It looks creepy and weird and I can’t wait to see it, of course. Because I am perverse like that, and love creepy, weird sex movies, especially when they’re completely not sexy. Like this one appears to be.