Friday, October 4, 2013

At the Movies – October 2013 – Part 3: Most Anticipated Films

Must-See of the Month:

12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen) – Drama – Oct 18
Plot Summary: Solomon Northup, a talented pre-Civil War musician and free black man living in the North, is tricked and abducted. Sold into slavery in the South, Solomon must survive if only for the hope of being free again and returning to his family. Filmmakers: This is auteur Steve McQueen’s third feature film, following the brilliant films Hunger and Shame – each dramatically heavy and expertly directed. McQueen is working with a wonderful group, including: frequent collaborator cinematographer Sean Bobbitt (who shot both of McQueen’s other films), composer Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Rises), and production designer Adam Stockhausen (Moonrise Kingdom). Cast: This has 2013’s best cast. It stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and co-stars Michael Fassbender (who has appeared in all of McQueen’s films), Sarah Paulson, and Lupita Nyong’o. The supporting cast features Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt (who is also producing), Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Michael K. Williams, Garret Dillahunt, Scoot McNairy, Alfre Woodard, Dwight Henry, and Quvenzhane Wallis (Henry and Wallis had their breakthrough in last year’s Beasts of the Southern Wild). Expectations: 12 Years a Slave, after premiering at the Telluride Film Festival and winning the Audience Award at the Toronto Film Festival, is the favorite to with this year’s Best Picture Oscar. It is very much in the mix for other awards as well, including: Best Director, Writing, and Acting (Chiwetel Ejiofor, who has long been brilliant and is finally getting some more mainstream recognition, Michael Fassbender, and Lupita Nyong’o). If for no other reason, this is probably a must-see just for the cast alone – and really the same can be said for Steve McQueen’s skill behind the camera and with actors. This looks like an amazing drama that is not so much about the abhorrence of slavery, but more the perseverance of the human spirit, against all odds. Picking a Must-See for October was difficult, as the month holds what will very likely be 2013’s best two films with this and Gravity, but 12 Years a Slave just feels like something substantial and important, a generational cinematic moment (or maybe, I am overselling it). Trailer: HereReview: Here.

Worth Checking Out:

Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron) – Sci-Fi Drama/Thriller – Oct 4
Plot Summary: After an accident leaves astronauts Dr. Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalsky adrift in space, the two must do everything in their power to stay calm and survive until help can reach them. Filmmakers: Finally, auteur Alfonso Cuaron has a new film, after a seven year wait. Just to recap his brilliance, he made the wonderful films Love in the Time of Hysteria, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Children of Men. He is working again with genius cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (who shot Children of Men for Cuaron). New to the team are composer Steven Price (The World’s End) and production designer Andy Nicholson (The Host). Cast: Sandra Bullock stars, with support from George Clooney and Ed Harris (who features in a voice-role). Expectations: Gravity has already played to grand praise coming from its festival screenings. Of the almost two hundred films screened at this year’s Toronto Film Festival, four where separated out of the mix for particular accolades: Rush, Prisoners, 12 Years a Slave, and Gravity (the final two noted as the standout films of the festival). It is also getting awards season buzz for Best Picture, Director, Actress, and other technical categories. The film had a long production schedule, particularly in post-production as it was made to be seen in 3D. Cuaron wants the experience to be thrilling, as if the audience is truly abandoned in space, using many very long-take shots. I cannot wait to see the film. It looks breathtaking. Trailer: HereReview: Here.

Captain Phillips (Paul Greengrass) – Thriller – Oct 11
Plot Summary: Based on the true story of Captain Richard Phillips, the captain of the first American-flagged cargo ship to be hijacked in over two hundred years. Filmmakers: Director Paul Greengrass is probably a perfect fit for this type of film. His style matches the material wonderfully, as he is an expert at creating a gritty and realistic experience for the audience (though some complain about his hand-held camera work) – see Bloody Sunday and United 93 as good comparisons. He also made the strong action thrillers The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, and Green Zone (which is underrated). He is working with composer Henry Jackman (This Is the End), cinematographer Barry Ackroyd (who shot United 93 and Green Zone for Greengrass), and production designer Paul Kirby (The Devil’s Double). Cast: The film stars Tom Hanks, and features Catherine Keener, Max Martini, and Barkhad Abdi in support. Expectations: Captain Phillips looks like a very good thriller, though it will be interesting to see how well Paul Greengrass can manage the tension given that the audience already knows how it ends going in. The film has potential to be in the awards season conversation, but it is probably on the outside looking in right now. Tom Hanks very well could factor in as well (though, this also depends on his showing in Saving Mr. Banks, and how that film turns out). This is definitely worth seeing for fans of good thrillers. Trailer: HereReview: Here.

The Counselor (Ridley Scott) – Crime Drama – Oct 25
Plot Summary: A lawyer looking to make a couple extra bucks tries his hand at drug trafficking. However, he soon finds that he is in way over his head. Filmmakers: Director Ridley Scott is at his best when he is working with great source material, as he is a wonderful visual director: Alien, Blade Runner, Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven (the director’s cut, of course), and Body of Lies (to name my favorite of his films). On the Counselor, he should have fantastic source material, as it is scripted by author Cormac McCarthy (who wrote the novels No Country for Old Men and The Road). Scott is also working with composer Daniel Pemberton (The Awakening), cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, and production designer Arthur Max (who designed Prometheus for Scott, and Wolski shot it – while the story was a bit all over the place, visually the film was quite brilliant). Cast: Michael Fassbender stars, with Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, and Javier Bardem co-starring. Natalie Dormer, Dean Norris, Goran Visniic, John Leguizamo, Rosie Perez, and Bruno Ganz feature in supporting roles. Expectations: The first thing that stands out about The Counselor on paper is just how fantastic its cast is – really a film by Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy with these actors is a good enough reason to see it, knowing nothing else and having not seen a single frame. However, we do know more and have seen more. It looks awesome. This is a must-see for fans of great actors and wonderful crime dramas. Trailer: HereReview: Here.

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