E: This October looks good, man. Really good.
M: Not feeling you. Looking through, I only see a few movies that I’m legitimately interested in seeing, and I’m not wild about any of those.
C: But then, there are only about two months in the year — December and May — when we’re as excited about the movie offerings as E is.
All Is Bright
E: Christmas caper (in October? Erm, okay) starring Pauls Rudd & Giamatti as would-be Christmas tree vendors.
M: I like both of them, that’s a good sign…
E: Yes, but in October? It apparently involves Rudd trying to raise money so he can marry Giamatti’s ex-wife.
C: Okay, that’s just strange. Is Giamatti auctioning her at a high price?
M: If that’s accurate, it’s gone off the rails. However, I didn’t even get a hint of that in the trailer. From what I saw Giamatti is a recently paroled con with an ex-wife who told his daughter that he died a horrible, painful death. He’s trying to clean up to get back in the girl’s life, so he tries to sell Christmas trees with Rudd, while fighting the urge to pull off robberies to make easier cash. I’m not sure I want to see it, but it looks deeper than I expected it to.
C: That definitely doesn’t sound like a “caper.” From that term, I was thinking something more… Jingle All the Way-ish.
E: This is getting a limited run in theaters and will be available come Thanksgiving for holiday DVD viewing.
C: Well, that’s not a great sign of studio confidence.
C: Also known as, that movie you’ve seen so many worshipful commercials for. The elegiac space epic of our time! …Or something like that.
E: Definitely the class of the weekend, maybe the month. Alfonso Cuaron’s opus is winning raves, but as with last year’s Life of Pi (in which the lead actor spent much of the film on a CGI boat with a CGI tiger), I can’t quite imagine wanting to watch several hours of Sandra Bullock’s astronaut floating in CGI space. How can that possibly end well?
M: It’s not the floating around that concerns me, it’s the imminent doom. I mean, given what little I have seen in the previews, like you said, how the hell does this end with anything except death?
C: For me, its potential entertainment value hinges on whether or not she makes friends with a volleyball.
M: Hee hee. Honestly, I can’t get any kind of a grasp from the press for this (commercials, trailers, etc.) of what I’d actually be going in to see. Is it Castaway in space? Is it this generation’s 2001? Another failed George Clooney space movie like Solaris? Or is it pure cinematic genius?
E: Advanced word would have it be the latter.
C: Yeah, well, critics loved those movies. Average humans did not.
M: I will say two things. Most of the ad campaign has me interested, trying to figure out what it is, and what it will be, but in a good way. HOWEVER, the most recent ad has quotes from James Cameron gushing about it… and that turned me off. It’s not that I don’t like Cameron’s work (I love a lot of it), it’s that I don’t like Cameron, and his endorsement worries me.
E: M, I’m sorry, but that’s just foolishness. The guy’s a blow hard who makes good movies; why would his liking a movie mean anything one way or another? I cannot wait for this to hit theaters so we find out if it’s really the film or the year, or just another pretentious dud.
M: Really, you’re calling me foolish for being turned off by an endorsement from one of the most pretentious people in Hollywood, if not the world, and in the same comment wondering if the film will be pretentious?
C: There is a flaw in that reasoning. But if you think those glowing endorsements have to do with anything other than “my friend made/produced this,” then that is a touch foolish, bro.
Metallica Through the Never
E: Though I’m not a Metallica fan, this looks like a really cool take on the 3D concert film.
C: My mind has stalled trying to process how the 3D concert film could be made cool.
E: Hear me out! It’s a long-form video combining concert footage, animation and live action bits to tell the story of a roadie named Trip (Dean DeHaan), who’s sent on a mission to recover some important equipment but gets caught up in an epic nightmarish riot instead.
C: Well… adding a narrative is a good idea. The rest just sounds like stoner bait to me.
M: I saw a long trailer for this a while back, and it looked intense and kinda weird, a little like a music video on the kind of steroids that Lance Armstrong was on.
E: Normally, this sort of thing would bore me. Why watch other people watch a live show? The point of a concert is being there. So I love that Metallica’s added something extra. I might actually rent this, just out of sheer curiosity over how it all comes together.
E: Online gambling thriller starring Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake.
C: Ha! That’s right, hang on to your seat as you watch people gamble online! Once again, we’re back to replicating the thrill of Twilight‘s tense googling sequences.
E: You kill me, C.
M: They’re not actually gambling online, JT gets involved in a shady online gambling website run by Ben Affleck, and gets hounded by the feds.
E: Because that’s so much better?
M: Have you ever watched people just play poker, let alone on-line poker? Yes, it’s better.
E: The whole thing just looks — unnecessary. I get that Timberlake has been paying his dues in these “good enough” films, but Ben, what gives? I thought you gave up making lame movies.
M: This looks SOOO formulaic. It could be a puffy, entertaining romp, and I like Affleck (ish), JT and Gemma Arterton, but it’s definitely not on the level of Argo or The Town.
E: By the way? When the trailer starts with “in a world where” you know you’re in trouble.
C: Yeah, once a movie’s actually been named after that cliche, you should really only use that phrase in satire.
E: Here’s another high prestige release, this one with much more obvious charms: Tom Hanks plays the title character in the true story of an American freighter captured by Somali pirates, and the crew who fought back.
M: I am hoping this one turns out well, and it certainly looks like it could. Hanks is doing another accent, which rarely works (see: Catch Me If You Can), but other than that this “ripped from the headlines” story has all kinds of promise.
E: What, is that really going to bother you that much?
C: I’m with him, a badly done accent can be a small but irritating distraction.
M: I really enjoyed CMIYC, but his attempt at a Boston accent made watching it harder, so it could. As an aside, the commercial for this did lead to an interesting conversation with my kids, as I had to explain the difference between Somali pirates and, say, the Pirates of the Caribbean. Fun stuff!
C: Ha. Those movies do such a fine job romanticizing the pirate life, it’s hard to remember they’re the bad guys in real life.
E: Heck, it’s is hard to believe there’s still such a thing as pirates, but it seems that a few guys with guns and tiny boats can accomplish much against unarmed prey.
M: Gun-free zones at work!
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
C: I already feel bad for Mandy Lane, and I’m not even sure if it’s a girl or a street. Either way, this can’t end well.
M: It is a girl, and I’m pretty sure you can guess what happens to her and/or all the boys.
E: Yeah, a horror movie about a house party, a good girl who might be going bad, and the inevitable cabin in the woods; this stars Amber Heard and Anson Mount.
M: <sarcasm> Oh Hollywood, you honor the month of my birth with such wonderful tales… of gore, dismemberment, and the utter worst that one human can do to another. Thank you so much! </sarcasm>
E: Visit the legendary punk club in its heyday in 1980s NYC, where you’ll meet eccentric characters played by Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman and Ashley Greene.
C: Ron Weasley! Does he party with Snape? Because that, I might have to see.
E: I know, right? Or maybe not. Maybe that would be bad.
M: In this case I think good. Rickman, who has been a family favorite since Die Hard, plays the manager of CBGB (which stood for — but did not actually play — Country, Blue Grass and Blues), and we see a bevy of punk and rock icons roll though as they try to break in, and the club tries to stay open despite money and building troubles. Looks like it could be fun.
God Loves Uganda
E: If you’re interested in documentaries, this film from Oscar-nominated director Roger Ross Williams might do the trick. The film tries to unwind the intricate associations of American evangelicals in the African country that’s now considering a law to execute citizens for the crime of homosexuality.
M: From everything I can see, it’s an all-out assault on Christianity, based on the actions of some stupid lawmakers who don’t understand the message of Christ very well. Funny that Hollywood never makes these movies about, say, Iran, or any other Muslim nations that already put homosexuals to death.
C: I’m not sure Hollywood makes “these movies” frequently enough for that to be a valid criticism. The description does make it sound like a less than nuanced view of the complex results of missionary work (and colonialism before that) in Africa. On the plus side for you two, though, Williams is also the director of Undercover Boss. So you’ll probably cry.
M: As discussed many times, that’s an awfully low bar.
E: Shy teen (Harrison Gilbertson) hooks up with his neighbor and explores his new house. I’m sure there are only fluffy bunnies in the closets.
C: Such a clever title!
C: Oh gosh, speaking of inventive titles…
M: I can’t tell if this is going for straight out Hot Shots-style spoof, or if it’s just Snakes on a Plane-type campy pulp.
E: Oh, you need to watch the trailer, my brother. You wouldn’t be asking if you had. Seriously. Go watch. I’ll wait.
M: I have, before this. There’s only a subtle difference between the two styles.
E: Hilariously, Danny Trejo (reprising his role as Machete from Machete) plays a former federal agent on a secret mission from the President: to stop a mad revolutionary and an arms dealer from taking over the world. Mwhahaha!
M: Again, make a case that this isn’t mother bleeping snakes on a mother bleeping plane.
C: Deliberately over-the-top and actually satirical can indeed be hard to tell apart. In this case, though, I think the fact that it’s the third in a series of overly grotesque and exploitative “grindhouse” films is a giveaway.
E: No, it’s the second. First there’s Machete. Now there’s Machete Kills. Eventually there will be Machete Kills Again. Seriously, if you need further proof that this is a spoof, Hot Shots star Charlie Sheen plays the macho man president, and Sofia Vergara shows up in a machine gun bra. Now, both of those are so on point they’re almost not funny, but I think there’s actually hope for this. Plus, it also stars Amber Heard, Lady Gaga, Jessica Alba, Mel Gibson and Cuba Gooding Jr., who pulls off his face in the preview.
M: Okay, I’m leaning in your direction now, E.
C: No, it’s not a spoof. It’s what you said before, M: a self-aware B movie, not a send-up of a B movie.
M: Now I’m more confused than when we started, and this movie doesn’t deserve the time to figure it out. Let’s just move on.
Romeo and Juliet
E: Shakespeare’s classic remade with the amazing Hailee Steinfeld and the not-so-amazing Douglas Booth.
C: Ugh, I can’t stand him or his pouty, pouty lips.
E: The filmmakers (who include Julian Fellowes) aim for a straightforward version without the razzamatazz of Baz Luhrmann.
M: I can’t understand why you would say that about Luhrmann. His work is so grounded, gritty and real.
C: I love the Luhrmann razzmatazz, so that’s another point against this in my book. However, there’s certainly room for a good straight-up film version of the play, since the famous Zeffirelli film is now 45 years old.
E: Stellan Skarsgard, Paul Giamatti and Kodi Smit-McPhee round out the cast.
M: I’ve been a fan of Skarsgard since his turn as a cocky Russian sub captain in The Hunt For Red October, and love seeing him get recognition and things like Thor and Avengers now. Paul Giamatti’s always been a favorite of mine, too. Good cast.
C: Mostly, I’d agree.
E: Yes, and Steinfeld? You should see the remake of True Grit if you haven’t already; she was magnificent.
M: I haven’t seen it, and don’t let Dad know, but I haven’t seen the original either.
E: Dude. See it. But Douglas Booth? C and I attempted to sit through the recent Great Expectations miniseries, and his wooden Pip was pretty much unwatchable. I simply do not understand how that boy keeps getting cast in otherwise impressive looking productions. He’s not that pretty.
C: Oh, it’s a kind of china doll attractiveness that seems to be very in among the teen set right now.
E: Okay, but there have to be lots of other pretty boys who can actually, you know, act.
M: Well, I have no comment on his prettiness, but he looked capable in the trailer for this.
C: Meh. I also strongly disliked him in Great Expectations, which is where all this ire is coming from.
E: In some ways, though, this issue is beside the point for me. I love the bard, but this isn’t one of my favorites. From every level, from every character, it’s just a tale of completely avoidable, fatal stupidity. Intentionally so, of course, but I find I have less and less tolerance for that.
M: It’s also been done SOOOOO many times.
C: Yeah, the fact that there haven’t been any straightforward American film adaptations in so long doesn’t outweigh the fact that there are thousands of spin-offs, allusions, and retellings absolutely saturating pop culture. This movie will have to work hard to stand out. Otherwise, all it will achieve is the mildly rewarding status of being shown in a lot of high school classrooms on days the English teacher needs a break.
Camille Claudel, 1915
E: Juliette Binoche stars as the famous French sculptor, moldering in a church-run insane asylum. Apparently the director cast actual asylum inmates. Exploitative? Respectful? You decide.
M: Since I couldn’t even find a trailer for this that had English SUBTITLES, I know what I’ll decide… to mock you for using one of your typical “words no one knows” to look smart. Moldering? Seriously?
C: Oh pish posh, M. Moldering is a classic word for evoking that Gothic, eery, rundown atmosphere. And yes, I fully recognize that I undercut my authority as a judge of language hipness by using the phrase “pish posh.”
Kill Your Darlings
E: Daniel Radcliffe stars along with the always creepy Dean DeHaan in this beatnik biopic. Radcliffe plays poet Alan Ginsberg, and the story follows his involvement in a murder investigation at his college involving Ben Foster’s William Borroughs. Completing the cast are David Cross, Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Kyra Sedgewick.
C: Good people. Wait, didn’t we review this already? Was the release date moved?
M: Yeah, I could have sworn we already talked about this one. That aside, that’s a heck of a cast. It’ll be interesting to see if Radcliffe can successfully tear himself away from Harry Potter. It’s going to be hard, and he’s had little luck so far.
E: I wouldn’t say that. I’d say that he hasn’t yet attained popular success as another character, but he’s worked consistently and gotten good reviews in smaller films. He’s done lots of theater, and been nominated for awards for it. I’m not even sure what your complaint is; are the movies he’s making not big enough for you?
M: It’s not that they’re not big enough, it’s that they’re not successful, or memorable. If you think of him, you think of HP, and there’s nothing else yet that comes to mind. Maybe on stage success and some critically acceptably received performances carry the day for you, but for the larger audience, I think he’s still not out of Harry Potter.
C: He’ll never not be Harry Potter, it’s too much of a phenomenon and he played the role in eight movies, for heaven’s sake. But he’s had plenty of success in other things, they just haven’t been the kind of projects that are blockbusters.
M: For my money, I know neither is exactly the same, but he should study the career choices of Harrison Ford and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Ford has been able to overcome two roles (Han Solo, Indiana Jones) that could have easily overwhelmed the rest of the career of lesser actors (see: Hamill, Mark) and Gordon-Levitt has successfully transitioned from child actor to grown up star.
C: Yeah but the fact that Ford had two classic roles back-to-back, not just one like Hamill, is largely what made that possible. Few actors are handed one iconic part, let alone two.
E: While I totally agree that the actors you mention are great role models for any young star’s career, I would like to say something about this actual movie.
M: Now, why would you go and do a thing like that in a movie preview?
E: Dean DeHaan creeped me out in Chronicle and I have trouble imagining him as a magnetic charmer; that would hold me back from seeing the film far more than Radcliffe’s presence.
M: Maybe you can watch the Metallica movie first, and if he’s good in that… 😉
All is Lost
E: It’s been a while since we’ve seen Robert Redford in front of the camera, but this taught looking nautical thriller has him picking up his best acting reviews in decades.
M: This looks like the ocean version of gravity, actually. Or like Life of Pi, but without the tiger. Or like someone took a small portion of Laura Hillenbrand’s brilliant book Unbroken and used that as the genesis for this.
Big Ass Spider
E: Okay, so it’s not the sequel to Sharknado.
C: If it was, that’d be a weak follow-up title.
E: And I still can’t believe this Greg Grunberg/Ray Wise monster movie is actually going to play in theaters. But you have to love it for the name at least, right?
M: Oh yes, it’s very Snakes On A Plane.
E: Stephen King’s horror classic gets an update with Chloe Grace Moretz in the role made famous by Sissy Spacek, and Julianne Moore as her tormenting mother.
M: I’m not a horror fan, so I am definitely not the right person to answer this question, but I will ask it. Did we really need a remake of Carrie?
C: Yeah, why? Why bother? I mean, except that it was probably cheap to make and will net a small profit?
E: If that’s the point, then why hire high profile, respected actresses to star in it? Not that I understand the reasoning either, I’m just saying it doesn’t look like a hack job.
M: Actually, a lot of the horror movies that come out in October have such high returns on investment that they keep studios in the black for most of the year. So in this case they can probably afford the bigger names, banking on the rest of the costs being low, and their names bringing in an even bigger audience. Still doesn’t make it worthwhile.
E: If the rest of this week’s fare is too scary or too cerebral, you can always take comfort in this Sylvester Stallone/Arnold Schwartzenegger vehicle, which promises to be neither.
M: Fitting that “escape” is in the title, as this is pure escapist entertainment. Check that, I’m not sure yet about the “entertainment” part. It looks like it could be a fun check your brain at the door action flick, but neither Sly or Ahnold have really delivered on that in a long time, unless you count The Expendables.
E: I guess the big draw is that at a certain point, they fight each other. If you’re into that kind of thing.
M: That would be a HUGE hit… in 1987.
The Fifth Estate
E: If you’re interested in ripped-from-the-headline stories, on the other hand, you might enjoy this tale of Wikileaks whistleblower Julian Assange. Of course, you might just come to see Benedict Cumberbatch channel the brilliant and controversial Assange in a floppy blond wig.
M: I have to say, I recently RedBox’d Star Trek Into Darkness, and was unfortunately unimpressed by Cumberbatch. It may have been more the fault of the script/direction, but with all the rumors, I was expecting a villain for the ages, Ricardo Mantalban-level performance, and I didn’t get that.
E: That movie seems to being going down in film history as a massive misfire. You should check out more of Cumberbatch’s work (particularly the brilliant miniseries Sherlock) before judging him solely on that.
M: See, I’m familiar with Cumberbatch and have watched Sherlock. That’s exactly why I was disappointed by STID. I expected the kind of greatness I’ve seen from him, and the kind of greatness that villain needs to have to be done right, and it just wasn’t there. I blame most of it on the script, though, not enough for him to work with. Back to this movie, he looks hilarious with the blond hair.
C: Also, what is the Fifth Estate? The Third Estate was the poor, the people revolutions were fought by and for in Europe once upon a time, but I didn’t know there was a population group lower down the social ladder than that.
E: The Fifth Estate is the press. So sure – necessary and yet even less loved than the poor. A reasonable title for a film about secret keeping, whistle blowing and the ethics of each in the internet age.
C: Wikipedia says the press is the Fourth Estate, so I guess this is still a mystery.
E: Wait, something about this sounds familiar.
C: What’s up for November, one called Haunted and Haunteder?
M: Nope, Haunting.
E: Didn’t we already have that in August?
E: Moving on. Apparently Abigail Breslin thought it was some sort of rite of passage: teen actress, horror flick. The idea seems to be that a villainous ghost kills every teenage girl who lives in his old house, reliving a murder he committed in life. Breslin (and the ghosts of his victims?) takes him down.
M: Yeah, that’s a slight twist, but other than that it looks like every other creepy horror movie that comes out every October.
E: So, girl power, yay — but why do families with teenage girls keep buying this house?
M: So they can make a movie about it?
Twelve Years A Slave
E: Yet another entry into this year’s Oscar race — and yet another biopic featuring Benedict Cumberbatch.
M: Seriously, two in one weekend? WTF, Hollywood!
C: Well, he is a pretty hot ticket right now.
M: So spread them out a week for better audience drawing.
E: I bet at least one if not both are starting in limited release, so maybe that help. Also helping: the limelight in this film goes to Chiwetel Ejiofor as the freeman sold into slavery, and to a lesser degree to Michael Fassbender’s brutal plantation owner.
M: Sounds Django Unchained-y.
E: Um, yeah, except this is based on a true story, and that was over-the-top crazy. They’re worlds apart tonally.
C: Yeah, this sounds much more like high school history class fodder. Or college, depending on just how brutal Fassbender is.
M: Okay, I just watched the trailer, and I agree: the premise may be similar, but the films look nothing alike. That said, I like all those actors, and would have gladly endorsed Ejiofor had he, as British rumor-mongers had speculated, become the next Doctor Who.
E: If only! (Though I should point out that happened one Doctor ago, when he reportedly turned down the chance to become 11; I hadn’t read anything about him being in the running this time.)
M: I heard it this time around, too.
C: As did I.
E: Fine, fine, sorry I brought it up. He would have an excellent Doctor.
M: As long as you’re willing to admit that. Now, I think Twelve Years looks like it could be really good, and might be the movie I’m most interested in this month. It’s a truly heart-wrenching set up, an educated, intelligent free man kidnapped and taken from his family, sold into slavery and unable to convince anyone he is actually free, then abused by the plantation owner. Oof.
E: Oh yes. Now, if the subject matter and those cast members aren’t enough, Sarah Paulsen and Brad Pitt co-star.
M: Who’s Brad Pitt?
Blue is the Warmest Color
E: French coming of age story staring Adele Exarchopolous and Lea Seydoux as the blue-haired art student who captures her imagination. And other things. Sound cheesy? It was good enough to win this year’s Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, so they must have done something right.
M: That festival tends to be as politically motivated and personally biased, depending on who’s on the jury, as they are truly judging the films on their merits, so it could mean something good, but it may just as easily not.
E: Because one movie a month starring Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt is never enough!
M: Again, who’s this Brad Pitt fellow?
E: I laughed the first time, bro. Anyway, Fassbender wants to marry girlfriend Penelope Cruz, but gets a little too involved with crazy Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz and some other over the top baddies. Car chases and explosions ensue.
C: Hm, that has potential.
E: Ridley Scott’s not too shabby as a director either.
M: Not at all. I just caught a commercial for this, and it caught my eye despite the fact that I was fast-forwarding, causing me to rewind and watch it, which is a pretty good sign. However, after watching it I felt like I just saw an ad for an updated version of 2 Days In The Valley. That’s not so good.
E: Al Pacino and Jessica Chastain star in this exploration of Oscar Wilde’s most banned play.
C: Which is called Salome, so what’s with the title? Is this a Tristram Shandy 2005 thing where they go all meta with the adaptation? Because Salome is weird and overstrained enough as it is.
E: It sounds like Pacino performed in Salome two years ago in London, and in doing so became obsessed with Wilde in a weirdly pretentious, self-involved way, and so he dragged a documentary crew all around Britain so he could moon moodily over places connected with the playwright and film himself looking thoughtful and important.
M: On first read of your comment, I thought it was going to be Pacino traipsing around Britain mooning people. That might be worth watching. As for what it actually will be, it’ll be interesting to see what Pacino does, since for most of his roles over the past 25 years he’s played a caricature of himself. I’m not sure that’ll work as King Herod.
C: In this version of the story, I expect it’ll work just fine.