The dumping ground for films that was September is mercifully over. Now that it’s October, we have officially entered the awards season. In the recent past, October has given us two Academy Award Best Picture winners (Argo last year, The Departed in 2006), an almost winner (The Social Network in 2010), and a bunch of films awarded with acting nominations/wins (Ides of March in 2011, A Serious Man and An Education in 2009, Reservation Road in 2007). There have also been films that while not awards contenders are still crazy good (Perks of Being a Wallflower last year, Zombieland in 2009, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist in 2008, Dan in Real Life in 2007, The Prestige in 2006).
What does this October promise? Well, the hype machine indicates it’s going to be Gravity, Captain Phillips, and everything else, although The Fifth Estate and 12 Years a Slave contain certain eventual acting nominees. Of course, it’s not all furrowed brows, historical dramas that bravely (he says sarcastically) reminds us that slavery was indeed bad, and pulse-thumping action. There are also stupid fun movies coming, and being the month of Halloween there is at least one high profile horror film on the way, although this will be the first October since 2009 to not count a Paranormal Activity sequel among its releases:
Here are 12 upcoming releases from October (all release dates are domestic):
1) Gravity – October 4 (Wide)
What’s It About?: A medical engineer on her first space shuttle mission (Sandra Bullock) and a veteran astronaut (George Clooney) are stranded in space after an accident destroys most of their space shuttle.
Why It Might Be Awesome: The buzz from the critics who have seen this at various film festivals is beyond deafening, indicating they are not simply overcompensating because they are desperate to see beloved director Alfonso Cuaron succeed after the under-appreciated Children of Men. Gravity was in development for over 7 years, long enough that at one point it was supposed to star Robert Downey, Jr. and Natalie Portman. It was supposed to come out last November, but was delayed to finish the post-production. The indications are that the wait was more than worth it, and it is being heralded as one of the finest astronaut/space films of all time and the finest usage of 3D in film since Avatar. As such, the hyperbole is flying so free and easy with this one that the biggest challenge will be to simply keep expectations in check so you don’t walk out with the inevitable “yeah, it’s great, but not that great!”
2) Bad Milo – October 4 (Limited)
What’s It About?: A horror comedy centered on a guy (Ken Marino) whose douchebag boss (Patrick Warburton), hippy-dippy father (Stephen Root), mother who is dating a man (Kumail Nainjani) 1/3 her age, and increasingly impatient wife (Gillian Jacobs) combine to create unhealthy levels of stress for him. So, as one does, his stress-related stomach problems turns out to be a literal demon, which can dislodge itself from his body and seek vengeance upon those sources of stress.
Why It Might Be Awesome: Let’s get this out of the way immediately: yes, this is the movie about a guy with a demon that comes out of his ass. Your personal constitution and taste in films will dictate whether or not that is an outright non-starter for you, making Bad Milo a definite hard sell. Frankly, I wouldn’t be interested at all either if not for the cast containing some truly terrific comedic actors (Ken Marino, Kumail Nainjani, Gillian Jacobs, Stephen Root), and the early word-of-mouth indicating that if you are okay with the premise you are in for a far more delightful film than expected. The plot appears to be an homage to the work of director Frank Henenlotter (Basket Case/Brain Damage) in the 1980s, but has a sweeter edge and smart commentary on the way we deal with stress in the modern world (although none of us actually have literal stress demons, right?).
3) Captain Phillips – October 11 (Wide)
What’s It About?: The true story of Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks), whose US cargo ship MV Maersk Alabama was hijacked in 2009 by Somali pirates.
Why It Might Be Awesome: Director Paul Greengrass takes a break from Matt Damon (Bourne Supremacy, Bourne Ultimatum, Green Zone) to give Tom Hanks the opportunity to be a new everyman action hero, and early word is Hanks absolutely thrills as Phillips. Post-Bourne, so many have mimicked Greengrass’ signature flair for realistic, claustrophobic action (looking at you Quantum of Solace), and focus on damaged heroes while looking exactly like what they were: cheap imitations. Now, the master is back at work, offering not just pulse-thumping action but also a surprisingly multi-layered approach to the hijacking and a focus on not just the hero (Hanks) but also the ostensible villain (the captain of the Somali pirates).
4) Machete Kills – October 11 (Wide)
What’s It About?: The U.S. government recruits Machete (Danny Trejo) to battle his way through Mexico in order to take down an arms dealer (Mel Gibson) who looks to launch a weapon into space.
Why It Might Be Awesome: This is a film in which the notoriously busty Sofia Vergara stars as a villain wearing a metal bra which appears to shoot bullets from the nipples sections. Plus, Charlie Sheen plays the President of the United States, and Mel Gibson is a maniacal villain. Yeah, that’s the kind of movie this is, and across the blogosphere those who saw it at film festivals appeared mixed between those who could check their intellect at the door and revel in the stupidity on screen and those whose who simply couldn’t. There is pretty much no real substance here, of course. The Machete franchise began its life as fake trailer in Grindhouse, and the first Machete in 2010 was fun while indicating maybe there wasn’t enough material to warrant a full film. However, there is just so much strangeness with the casting of this sequel, and an undeniably light, but fun tone from the trailers that presents this as a very intriguing option for mindless theater viewing.
5) Escape from Tomorrow – October 11 (Limited)
What’s It About?: A father on a family vacation to Disney World finds out on the last day of the vacation that he has lost his job. Newly unemployed, the theme park loses all of its luster for the father, whose grip on his own sanity becomes tenuous at best as the park itself appears to begin attacking him.
Why It Might Be Awesome: Right or wrong, the backstory here will forever surpass the actual film. Director Randy Moore and director of photography Lucas Lee Graham filmed it guerrilla-style at Disney World without any permission from Disney, who has chosen not to attempt to block the release of the film for fear that doing so would simply grant it even more free advertising. As such, Escape from Tomorrow offers a truly never-before-seen look at Disney World. However, that makes it seems like it’s a documentary about the secret behind-the-scenes fight club of Disney employees in mascot costumes (my money is on Donald Duck because I know he’d fight dirty) or something. Instead, it is a surrealist tale of disillusionment that brilliantly uses an apparent place of dreams, Disney World, as background for brilliant juxtaposition.
6) The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete – October 11 (Limited)
What’s It About?: Dramatization of a true life story of two inner city youths (one African-American, the other Asian) who were left to call upon a considerable supply of resiliency while fending for themselves for an entire summer after their mothers were arrested.
Why It Might Be Awesome: Child actor Skylan Brooks, who plays the Mister to Ethan Dizon’s Pete, is getting Quvenzhane Wallis in Beasts of a Southern Wilde-like reviews, even if the film itself isn’t quite as well liked. After Mud earlier this year, Defeat of Mister and Pete appears to be another film centered around child actors who are thankfully more than up to the challenge.
7) The Fifth Estate – October 18 (Wide)
What’s It About?: The dramatization of the story behind Wikileaks, focused upon how Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and business partner Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Bruhl) turned an minor internet upstart into the enemy of all governments who dare keep secrets (which is pretty much all of them).
Why It Might Be Awesome: Think of it as a political thriller version of The Social Network. The film is being marketed as one of the more important films of our time, due to its incredibly topical nature. The early buzz indicates the film is not up to such laudable aspirations, but Cumberbatch continues to amaze and justify why he is suddenly one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actors.
8) All Is Lost – October 18 (Limited)
What’s It About?: An old, rich white guy (Robert Redford) is enjoying a day at sea on his boat when a collision with a shipping container leaves him calling upon all of his cunning and coming to terms with the high probability of failure and eventual death.
Why It Might Be Awesome: Think of its as a far more literal Life of Pi, i.e., there are no tigers on this boat, or 127 Hours without any flashbacks. It is a man in precarious position for the entire length of the film, forced to confront his mortality. However, unlike those examples there is no framing device or tension-relieving flashbacks or surrealistic imagery. That, actually, might work against the film, which with only one credited actor (Redford) and limited narrative could come off as little more than a giant “For Your Consideration” sign to the Oscars for Redford. However, that’s also what makes it intriguing: can they actually pull this off, or will this simply turn out to be an intriguing but flawed experiment?
9) Kill Your Darlings – October 16 (Limited)
What’s It About?: Beat generation poets Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and William Burroughs (Ben Foster) are drawn together in 1944 by a murder.
Why It Might Be Awesome: The full-length directorial/writing debut of John Krokidas, the obvious immediate appeal of Kill Your Darlings is to see Daniel “Harry Potter” Radcliffe play Allen Gisnberg in a biographical drama. He is reportedly quite good, but so is the film, which The Guardian said “creates a true sense of energy and passion, for once eschewing the clacking of typewriter keys to show artists actually talking, devising, and ultimately daring each other to create and innovate. And though it begins as a murder-mystery, Kill Your Darlings may be best described as an intellectual moral maze, a story perfectly of its time and yet one that still resonates today.”
10) Twelve Years a Slave – October 18 (Limited)
What’s It About?: A biographical drama about Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), a black man who was born free in New York in 1808. In 1841, he accepted an enticing job offer, only to realize too late that it was actually a front used to abduct free black man from the north and sell them into slavery in the south. After 12 years in bondage as a slave on a Louisiana plantation, Solomon finally won back his freedom, and wrote the memoir upon which the film is based in his first year of freedom.
Why It Might Be Awesome: Chiwetel Ejiofar. Seriously. Based upon reviews, that’s all you need to know as his performance as Solomon is supposedly a sight to behold. Brad Pitt is also in the cast, as is Benedict Cumberbatch as a sadistic slave owner, somewhat amusing Toronto Film Festival attendees since Cumberbatch was playing very different roles in two other films at the Festival (The Fifth Estate, August Osage County). This looks set to become to director Steve McQueen what The Butler was to Lee Daniels – the film that finally breaks through and becomes a hit after a handful of liked-not-loved films, Shame for McQueen and Precious for Daniels.
11) Carrie – October 18 (Wide)
What’s It About?: A re-imagining (which is the new marketing term for re-make since “re-make” now carries such a negative connotation as far as box office performance goes) of the 1976 Brian de Palma classic about a telekinetic teenage girl who gets the last laugh in a homicidal rage at her high school prom. Chloe Grace Moretz steps into the Sissy Spacek-sized hole in the title role, and Julianne Moore attempts to make us forget all about Piper Laurie as Carrie’s overbearing, religious mother.
Why It Might Be Awesome: Honestly, I don’t think this will be awesome. Recent history has not been kind to horror film remakes (e.g., Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th), and the only thing that rises Carrie above a cheap nostalgia cash grab is the topicality of the tale of a bullied teenager girl in an era where bullying is such a hot button issue. Moretz is a fantastic young actress who could make for an astouding new Carrie, but she proved with Dark Shadows that she’s not good enough yet to definitely elevate sub-par material. However, it’s October, we want horror films, and other than All the Boys Love Mandy Lane this is what they’re giving us. Maybe it’s just good that it’s not another Paranormal Activity sequel, as the found footage horror genre appears to be on the decline (financially and quality-wise).
12) Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa – October 25 (Wide)
What’s It About?: A bit character from Jackass gets the feature-length treatment, borrowing a page from Borat by crafting a general linear road trip narrative to tie together sequences where people on the street interacting with our actors in character are made supporting characters in a film they had no idea was filming. The simple narrative revolves around an 86-year-old man named Irving (really Johnny Knoxville in old man make-up) who goes on a road trip with his grandson, Billy.
Why It Might Be Awesome: It’s either a tribute to Bad Grandpa, a condemnation of We’re the Millers, or a combination of both, but the first time I saw this trailer was before We’re the Millers and it got more laughs than the entire Jennifer Aniston-Jason Sudeikis film. Yes, after Borat the novelty and originality of a film of this type is gone, and poking fun at Toddlers & Tiaras-like mothers and daughters is certainly low-hanging fruit. However, this trailer amuses me to no end, reminding me of how fun Jackass once seemed in its early days before it devolved into truly obnoxious guys at-times literally just punching eachother’s balls and laughing about it. Now, can Bad Grandpa actually carry its momentum outside the limited scope of a trailer? That remains to be seen.
Other movies of note include the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Sylvester Stallone team-up Escape Plan, Justin Timberlake/Ben Affleck action thriller Runner Runner, and Michael Fassbender action film The Counselor.
What do you think? Any film you are looking forward to? Let us know what you think.
- 8 Movies We’re Looking Forward To: October 2013 (screenrant.com)