Monthly Preview: October 2013

While September (especially this year) is essentially The Island of Misfit Movies, October is considered the true beginning of “Oscar season”- i.e. when Hollywood starts putting out the serious big guns. This month has some big-time movies on the docket, including some that have been tipped as Oscar front-runners, but outside of those heavy hitters there isn’t much else that really catches my eye. But if these few live up to the hype that’s been built around them, I’ll still consider it a great month at the movies.

A.C.O.D.: This is the rare movie for me that’s all about the cast. While the director’s only other notable credits (as a writer) are the TV show Six Degrees and that crap Elektra movie, the cast on display here is phenomenal: Amy Poehler, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O’Hara, Jane Lynch, Mary Elizabeth Winstead (who is oddly not name-dropped at all in any of the ads), and a leading role for the awesome Adam Scott. I’m expecting the movie overall to be a decent little pseudo-indie, but hopefully it will be a solid engine for the cast to flex their comedic muscles, much like The Heat was earlier this year for Bullock and McCarthy. Seems like a nice, easy little feature, which is fine by me.

Gravity: It’s been 7 long years since Alfonso Cuaròn knocked it out of the park with Children of Men, one of my favorite films of the millennium so far (and one I really need to revisit soon). Now he’s finally back on the big screen with what looks like an incredibly ambitious visual experience in Gravity, and word on the digital street is that it’s harrowing, engaging and brilliantly shot, which sounds about like what I’d expect. While I might not be too thrilled on paper with Sandra Bullock as the main character, I also don’t have any direct dislike of her either, and I trust Cuaròn’s judgment. I’ve stopped watching trailers after the first one (above) because I’m sold and don’t need to see more; and if you’ve needed more convincing than that one preview… COME ON!

Runner Runner: This is one of those movies that fits into that nice, comfortable studio midrange area that has become less and less common in the last five or six years, but I’m always glad to take a flyer on when it has the right elements. What’s (sort of) exciting to me about it is that the creatives here were separately involved in two terrific examples of this sort of movie: director Brad Furman broke out with The Lincoln Lawyer, and writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien did Rounders. Combine that creative team with the rise-and-fall story of a gambling empire, and the solid cast of Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake, Gemma Arterton and Anthony Mackie, and it should shape into a comfortable old sweater of a crime drama to settle in with on a lazy Saturday.

Escape From Tomorrow: This movie falls into the same category already occupied this year by the likes of Upstream Color and Spring Breakers; namely, “This looks bizarre and different and ballsy, but I’m still not completely excited by it.” It seems like the sort of movie that plays with/abandons traditional style to create a more visceral experience, driven almost entirely by theme, which is cool but not something I latch onto as much as I should, because fuck it, I just don’t. Having said that, it still intrigues me enough to stay on my radar, and there’s also the whole “shot guerrilla-style at Disneyworld and is still getting released somehow” angle that’s been talked about ad nauseam. The reviews might’ve been mediocre-to-bad, and it might not be in a style I really respond to, but in the end it seems to be something different than anything else on screens right now, and that’s worth something; how much it’s worth is something we’ll have to see.

Kill Your Darlings: As a big fan of the Harry Potter films I’m certainly very acquainted with Daniel Radcliffe as the great boy wizard, but I’ve yet to see any of his non-Potter work. And he’s certainly had several interesting projects that make it clear that he isn’t resting on his laurels and is trying to grow as an actor. Kill Your Darlings, however, is certainly the one that has most caught my attention (at least until Horns comes out anyway). Featuring Radcliffe and an array of young stars including Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster, Jack Huston and Elizabeth Olsen, the film follows Allen Ginsberg at the start of the Beat generation, as he and Burroughs and Kerouac get mixed up in a murder. It seems like an intriguing angle from which to explore this distinctive literary era, and the reviews for John Krokidas’ debut feature were pretty positive. A nice little arthouse dark horse in the middle of a month full of major players.

Twelve Years A Slave: Apparently this is the movie that will win ALL THE OSCARS. And if that’s how it turns out I suspect I won’t have a huge problem with it. I liked Steve McQueen’s previous efforts, Hunger and Shame, and seeing him work on this much larger scope with such a great ensemble cast is definitely exciting. The buzz out of the festivals so far has been deafening, and it certainly has the makings to be a terrific movie. While I’m not expecting it to be among my favorite movies by the end of the year I’m sure it’ll still be a moving, visceral experience, and a major stepping stone in McQueen’s (and hopefully, star Chiwetel Ejiofor’s) career. Sometimes it’s nice to feel like an Oscar frontrunner is a movie I might really actually like, regardless of how irrelevant the Academy’s opinions are to my own.

All Is Lost: I haven’t had the most in-depth exposure to Robert Redford, and those movies of his I have seen lean towards his more popcorn-y fare (Three Days of the Condor, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Spy Game, The Sting). I should probably try and watch some of his more “serious” work soon, but if I don’t, All Is Lost seems to be a terrific showcase of his talents. Furthermore, it looks like a terrific dramatic exercise by JC Chandor, who comes off the sparse but intriguing Margin Call for this one-man survival story. The bare-bones nature of the story could definitely serve as a great showcase for both Redford and Chandor, and their ability to do a lot with a little. Or it could be boring as hell. But again, terrific buzz and frightening trailer; could certainly make a nice companion piece with Gravity, no?

The Counselor: Oh, Ridley Scott. I wish I could like you more, but after the brilliant one-two punch of Alien and Blade Runner you’ve been inconsistent to say the least. But combining Sir Ridley’s visual sensibilities with a script by Cormac McCarthy and a completely stacked cast (led by the terrific Michael Fassbender), and I certainly will give the resulting movie a good long look. Especially with what looks like a no-bullshit, balls-out crime thriller with a no-name protagonist, some bizarro baddies and sultry femme fatales (even if one of them is Cameron Diaz). Right up my alley. No idea if this will be an awards contender or just a pulpy fun time, but I’ll be first in line to find out. Here’s hoping Ridley woke up on the right side of the creative bed this time.

Outside of these there’s not much else for me to consider. The Carrie remake intrigues me, both for the great cast and the fact that Boys Don’t Cry director Kimberly Peirce of all people is behind the camera… though the fact I haven’t seen either of her previous films yet makes me less able to get genuinely excited. And I actually saw All the Boys Love Mandy Lane years ago (from an Australian copy of the movie I obtained less-than-legitimately), and I remember it as being a well-constructed slasher film with some decent surprises, but the memory isn’t so fond that I’m rushing out to revisit the legal-issue-plagued movie in theaters.

Anyway, that’s it for October. On to the (increasingly barren) wilds of November…

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