So did September‘s lineup look like an encouraging start to the fall season? I guess that depends on what film you pick to cure that summer hangover. While the Road to the Oscars might not start until October, don’t overlook September. Lionsgate may mount a campaign for Nick Nolte for Warrior, while Gerard Butler is a dark horse pick to get an acting nod for Machine Gun Preacher. A screenplay nomination could be in Moneyball‘s future, and the features Drive and Take Shelter might surprise.
Moving to October, the month offers two remakes of ‘80s hits, Rock’Em Sock’Em Robots: The Movie, Johnny Depp sans pirate garb, and George Clooney’s push for prestige among others.
The two big releases this week is the Hugh Jackman-starring Real Steel and George Clooney’s latest directorial effort, The Ides of March, which is populated by a strong ensemble. Real Steel allows Hugh Jackman to free himself from Wolverine’s Adamantium claws and play a washed-up boxer who, with his estranged son, restores a rusted junk robo-fighter to compete in robot boxing brawls. Shawn Levy as director is worrying, and the movie sounds like Robots meets Rocky, but the trailer kept my interest. As for The Ides of March, Geroge Clooney has amassed such a talented ensemble it’s hard to resist: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti and Ryan Gosling as the star. Clooney calls his latest directing effort a political thriller; I call it, I’m sold.
Also this week: Paul Rudd and David Wain reunite with Wanderlust, a new comedy that has Rudd and Jennifer Aniston being adventurous as they branch out to live a more counter-culture lifestyle. Sounds vaguely similar to Rudd’s organic farmer’s market in Our Idiot Brother. Dirty Girl and Texas Killing Fields have the distinction of being films from first-time feature filmmakers. Dirty Girl from Abe Sylvia takes us back to 1987 as Danielle (Juno Temple), the titular star, decides to leave Norman, Oklahoma and head to California to meet the father she’s never met. In Texas Killing Fields, Michael Mann’s daughter, Ami Canaan Mann, has Aussie Sam Worthington sporting a Texan accent as he plays a detective in a small Texas town investigating a serial killer who dumps his victims in a nearby marsh. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chloe Grace Moretz and Jessica Chastain co-star.
Pick of the Week: The Ides of March
This weekend sees the arrival of the much-anticipated remakes/reboots of Footloose and The Thing. Okay, so maybe much-anticipated is a stretch, but you have to wonder how two remakes of ‘80s movies get booked for the same weekend, let alone the same weekend in October. What surprises me is that Hustle & Flow director Craig Brewer was insistent on doing the flick after Kenny Ortega dropped out. With Step Up style choreography, expect familiar callbacks to the original with MTV-style video edits. As for The Thing, I understand that the ominous tension is toned down in favor for more action. Because if the tension worked the first time, it couldn’t possibly work again, could it?
In what has to be a first for a comedy, The Big Year tackles the subject of competitive bird-watching. David Frankel, having directed The Devil Wears Prada and Marley & Me, reteams with Owen Wilson in this adaptation of Mark Obmascik’s The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession. Joining Wilson in the competition are Steve Martin and Jack Black. Rashida Jones, Angelica Huston, Jim Parsons, Rosamund Pike, JoBeth Williams, Brian Dennehy, Dianne Wiest, Anthony Anderson, Tim Blake Nelson, Kevin Pollak, and Joel McHale round out the cast.
For your arthouse pick this week is Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In. Antonio Banderas plays a plastic surgeon that creates a new skin that could have saved his wife who burned to death in a car crash. To see if it works all he needs is three things: no scruples, an accomplice and a human guinea pig. He has the first two already. As for the human guinea pig… From the trailers I’ve seen The Skin I Live In looks like it could be Almodovar’s most polarizing film to date. Which is why is always good to see directors take chances even after seventeen films.
Pick of the Week: The Skin I Live In
With no more Jigsaw, the third Paranormal Activity will rule this Halloween. Sorry, but just because you can recruit the directors of the Catfish documentary to make the latest installment, which in turn is actually Paranormal Activity Zero because it looks to be set in 1988, prior to the events of the other PAs, doesn’t mean it will be good. But with just a $4 million budget you know the teens are going to flock to this like Winnie the Pooh to honey. It could be worse; they could see what Paul W.S. Anderson does to Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers. Envisioned as a 3D steampunk-influenced adventure, Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman as D’Artagnan) and the Musketeers (Matthew Macfadyen, Ray Stevenson, and Luke Evans) must contend with Christoph Waltz’s Cardinal Richelieu. Waltz, we get it, you like playing bad guys. Maybe it’s time to do a Jane Austen adaptation.
In limited release is Martha Marcy May Marlene where Elizabeth Olsen tries to re-assimilate after fleeing an abusive cult known as The Olsen Twins. Actually, Elizabeth is the younger, more talented sibling. Look for her to be in the discussion for acting honors. John Hawkes, who picked up a supporting nom for Winter’s Bone, plays the cult leader. Margin Call is a thriller that revolves around the key people at a investment bank over a 24-hour period during the early stages of the financial crisis. Another star-studded ensemble that sees Kevin Spacey, Zachary Quinto and Penn Badgley speculating on how to handle the first stages of a meltdown. Big ensembles like this worry me. The performances should be good, but the overall story may get flat due to too many character interactions.
Pick of the Week: Martha Marcy May Marlene
For this last weekend in October, Roland Emmerich decides to scale back his penchant for disaster and destruction to destroy the foundation of The Globe Theatre with Anonymous, a period drama that questions whether or not William Shakespeare really wrote all those plays. Apparently they may have been written by Hugh Grant’s roommate from Notting Hill (Rhys Ifans plays Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, who some believe is the true author).
Andrew Niccol (Gattaca) steps behind the camera for the first time in six years with In Time, a futuristic thriller where people must pay to say alive if they are to survive past the age of 25 years old. So if you are rich you can live forever. But when Justin Timberlake inherits a fortune of time from a man he’s accused of killing, he must go on the run from some corrupt police officials. Lucky for him he goes on the lamb with Amanda Seyfried.
When you are Johnny Depp you can basically get any director you want to make your picture. That may be the case now, but it wasn’t true when Johnny Depp did Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He had originally approached Withnail & I‘s Bruce Robinson to direct. Robinson wasn’t interested. So when Depp sent him a copy of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary in the mail a decade later, Robinson decided to aboard Capt. Jack Sparrow’s ship.
And it wouldn’t be an October if we didn’t have Jason Statham playing some version of an elite agent. In Safe, he’s a former agent who rescues a 12-year-old abducted Chinese girl. Just his luck he has to do battle with the Triads, Russian Mafia, New York City politicians (Mayor Bloomberg cameo, perhaps?) and the police. And looking at the cast list, Statham may have to also contend with Lo Pan (James Hong), RoboCop 3 (Robert John Burke), and Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon).
The less said about Johnny English Reborn the better. Seriously, Universal…oh, wait, the first Johnny English made $160.5 million worldwide (though U.S. earnings accounted for 17.5% of the total gross).
Rounding out the month is the Sundance festival hit Like Crazy. This love story starring Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones is not a romantic comedy, but rather a drama about two college kids in L.A. who fall in love. After falling in love they try to sustain the passion once Jones returns to London when her visa expires. Writer-director Drake Doremus tries to make us understand why these two people can’t be together even though they want to be together.
Pick of the Week: In Time
Tags: Anonymous, Footloose, In Time, Like Crazy, MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, Paranormal Activity 3, Real Steel, Safe, The Big Year, The Ides of March, The Rum Diary, The Thing, The Three Musketeers, Wanderlust