Are we going to pretend like I didn’t totally forget to do a preview for September and that this isn’t a week late? Yes we are!
It’s a political allegory centered on small-town politics and amateur butter carving starring Jennifer Garner, Ashley Greene (the Twilight franchise) and Olivia Wilde (professional box office curse). I don’t even know how this movie got made.
Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare
This documentary about the American healthcare system is being billed as a more investigatory, less manipulated account of the state of US healthcare than Michael Moore’s Sicko, and while it does look interesting and well done, without that kind of fire-brand rhetoric, it won’t reach nearly the same scope of audience as Sicko did. Which is too bad, because we really do need to have more informed, rational discussions about healthcare. This is already queued up in my Netflix.
Tim Burton revisits his 1984 short film, expanding it into a feature that is easily the best movie he’s made in several years. The stop-motion animation is beautiful and the story is a nifty riff on the classic Frankenstein. Young Victor revives his beloved dog Sparky and then must deal with the misunderstandings and monsters that arise from bringing a creature back from the dead. Parents should note it’s a bit on the dark side for a children’s movie, especially one from Disney, and so may want to steer the tots away from it. It’s best suited to a 10-and-up crowd, I think. I was a bit taken aback at the depth of the dark humor and the pacing is on the slow side for really little kids to tolerate. I liked Paranorman just a wee bit better, but fans of Burton and animation will find a lot to love in Frankenweenie.
Nicole Kidman pees on Zac Efron. That’s all anyone cares about in regards to this Lee Daniels’ (Precious) film. It is worth noting, though, that this is another of Matthew McConaughey’s “oh yeah, I’m a real actor after all” movies.
It’s so cute! So funny! Rebel Wilson is a hoot!
Seriously, you don’t need to be a theater/show choir geek to dig Pitch Perfect. It is really funny and has a great soundtrack. There’s not a lot of worthwhile light fare in October, so if you’re looking for laughs and no emotional baggage, Pitch Perfect is your best bet.
Some Day This Pain Will Be Useful to You
A lot of people were really into Peter Cameron’s eponymous novel being adapted for film, but it seems like all that momentum just disappeared. Did the disappointing outcome of One Day put you off thoughtful, introspective literary adaptations? It looks like a decent movie but not something I have to run out and see right away, especially since finding this in theaters might be a challenge and my October is all screwed up because of the Chicago Film Festival. So into the Netflix “saved” queue it goes.
Liam Neeson returns in Taken 2: The Takening, as That Guy Who Will Kill You, in a frantic race to save his Wife/Family/Boss from the deadly threat of Ravening Wolves/Organized Crime/Vague Government Conspiracy in the cinematic equivalent of Mad Libs. And, coming in 2014, don’t miss Neeson as Stoically Angry Man On A Mission in Taken 3: Taken’s Revenge.
It’s a found-footage horror movie. Most of the horror geeks are into it. Your tolerance for this movie is directly related to your tolerance for both horror and found footage (mine is low on both counts, so).
Andrea Arnold made Fish Tank, one of the films that distinguished Michael Fassbender when he was just another jobbing actor in London. For Wuthering Heights Arnold has dug up James Howson, who has been getting strong notice as Heathcliff. Can she strike leading man gold twice?
She can definitely strike directing gold twice. Fish Tank is pretty brutal and very raw, and reviews from the UK indicate that Wuthering Heights has the same searing, messy, life-is-a-shithouse feel. Arnold has a unique, distinctly unromantic perspective that ought to suit Heights well, given that it’s a story about awful people torturing each other for decades and bringing down everyone else with them. Yay romance!
Ben Affleck is receiving a lot of praise for his third directorial effort, in which he also stars. Affleck has really set himself apart as a director of thrillers, proving his value behind the camera far extends beyond what he has to offer as an actor, and he’s not exactly a bad actor. I really liked The Town in 2010, and it has since become one of those movies I’ll watch whenever it’s on TV, regardless of what part it’s at. Argo is being touted as even better than The Town, and a lot of people are tipping Affleck for at least one Oscar nod come January. It does look really good. I mean, just the trailer gets me all tense and wired.
Here Comes the Boom
From the people who brought you Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
I mean seriously, that’s all you need to know, right?
Middle of Nowhere
David Oyelowo is having a monster year, with The Paperboy, Middle of Nowhere, Jack Reacher, and most prominently, Lincoln on his roster. Middle of Nowhere is about Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi, nothing I’ve ever heard of), who drops out of medical school when her husband is incarcerated. Nowhere will be buried under the monster machine that is Spielberg’s Lincoln, but if Oyelowo lives up to the hype, there’s a chance we’ll be looking back at this film as part of his breakout year.
Irish playwright turned filmmaker Martin McDonagh follows up his first feature In Bruges with Seven Psychopaths. A more in-depth review will come later as part of my coverage of a special slate of Irish films this month, but for now let me just say that this movie is HELL YES. McDonagh has such a gift for dialogue and he’s cast a stellar ensemble featuring Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell (who is crazy good here), Woody Harrelson and character actor Zeljko Ivanek (The Bourne Legacy, The Words), who gives a performance that ought to net him some pretty solid follow up work (Ivanek is hugely underused in feature films). It’s funny, bloody and though it doesn’t have the same central gravitas and moral ambiguity that made In Bruges such an exceptional film, Seven Psychopaths is really enjoyable and satisfying anyway.
Another found-footage horror movie, Sinister is also registering amazingly well with critics. I’m not super into horror and even I really want to see this. Starring Ethan Hawke, Sinister kind of reminds me of The Ring, in that it revolves around some kind evil spirit inhabiting images. Also it has the crossover potential that The Ring did, and I expect it to be the big go-to horror for Halloween.
It looks fucking scary, right?
Mary Elizabeth Winstead has flirted with breaking out before, with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter but neither movie could deliver a star-making turn. While Smashed won’t have much in the way of box office, the reviews for Winstead have been through the roof, suggesting that her breakout piece has finally arrived. She stars as Kate, an alcoholic who gets sober, putting her relationship through the wringer, as her husband (Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad) is also an alcoholic but has no desire to get sober, too. I’m sure it’s emotionally harrowing, but it’s going to be worth it just to see these two chew through the scenery.
War of the Buttons
This is one of those “kids in the Holocaust” movies that inevitably make me cry. They don’t even have to be good movies, just the idea of kids trying to make sense of Nazi occupation and the Holocaust destroys me. That this actually looks like a good movie doesn’t even matter. The subject is already getting to me.
Back in the 1980’s, French filmmaker Leos Carax emerged as one of the most exciting European talents, only to end up burying himself alive under a misbegotten production with The Lovers on the Bridge in 1991. It was eight years before he made another movie, which also bombed (Pola X), and has been thirteen years since he’s last made a feature. But now he has Holy Motors, which opened to huge praise at Cannes (winning the Award of the Youth), and which has been getting strong reviews ever since. Though I’ve heard some people voice dislike, many people are calling this the best movie of the year. The film follows one character’s (played by French actor Denis Lavant) transformative day through several lifetimes. It looks trippy but also interesting. Probably going to be hard to find in theaters, but worth a look anyway.
New York only
Tyler Perry ditches the Madea get up for Alex Cross, based on James Patterson’s popular detective series. I actually think Perry is an okay actor, and this casting isn’t a horrible decision (at least, it hasn’t proven to be a horrible decision yet), but the movie looks terrible. I lay most of that at the door of the director, Rob Cohen, who is best known for directing Vin Diesel movies like XXX and The Fast and the Furious. I can see where on paper this looked like a good idea, but the trailer looks like a commercial for a new detective serial.
Tonight after Bones, it’s an all new Alex Cross! 10/9 central on Fox!
Paranormal Activity 4
John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone, East Bound and Down) is garnering early and serious Oscar buzz for his portrayal as a man who has spent most of his life in an iron lung and who just wants to get laid already. So he hires a sex surrogate (the movie premiered at Sundance as The Surrogate) to help a dude out. Helen Hunt plays the surrogate (and yeah, that’s basically a nice way of saying “hooker”) and has also been getting a lot of praise. This is something of a comeback for her, but it’s Hawkes who has the best shot at riding this pony to the Dolby next year.
You know, say what you will about Gerard Butler, and I’m no great fan, but the dude is pretty tough. While filming Chasing Mavericks—a biopic about “soul surfer” Jay Moriarty, who famously wiped out on the Mavericks outside Half Moon Bay, California (he’s the one who tops the wave for a few seconds before eating it)—Butler got caught in the wash of a monster set that held him down and dragged him over a reef. I’ve had a drowning incident—that stuff about it being a peaceful, “floaty” way to go? BULL. SHIT. It’s fucking scary and it hurts like a motherfucker. So Butler won a lot of points with me when he came out of that and got right back in the water and kept rolling. Maybe not the best actor, maybe a little pervy and gross, but that’s legit. I can respect that.
From the Wachowskis (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run), Cloud Atlas is scoring very positive early reviews but I cannot get over the three hour run time.
Does anyone really enjoy sitting through a three hour movie? I’m seeing it next week and I’m already dreading it.
Nickelodeon star Victoria Justice is closing in on 20, which means it’s time to age up a little. To that end she stars in Josh Schwartz’s (The OC, Gossip Girl, Chuck) Fun Size, which reminds me of Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist except with a little kid instead of a drunk friend and Halloween in place of a concert. The first time I saw a TV spot for this I did a double take and actually said, out loud, SERIOUSLY? It looks like a Millennial version of Hocus Pocus.
Oh my god remember Hocus Pocus?!
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D