by Sara Michelle Fetters -
SGN A&E Writer
Now that we've passed the autumnal equinox, it's safe to say the fall movie season is fully upon us. With the release of Prisoners last week and Rush this Friday (see review in this issue), you can tell the studios have shifted their focus from the comic-book style pyrotechnics of the summer to the more cerebral, character-driven (i.e., 'Oscar-worthy') entertainments that typically make up the bulk of films hitting theater screens during the last few months of any given year.
Not that Hollywood is throwing its affinity for big-budget tween- and teen-friendly pictures aside. Just the opposite, actually, as not only are we getting another chapter in the Marvel cinematic universe, Thor: The Dark World, but sequels The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Anchorman: The Legend Continues, and this weekend's Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 are all expected to play to packed houses as well. On top of that, potential franchise starter Ender's Game enters a crowded field, while Paramount reboots author Tom Clancy's enduring hero Jack Ryan once again, this time with Chris Pine in the lead.
But, if reports out of film festivals in Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, and Venice are to be believed, 2013 could end up being one of the best years from a major Hollywood studio standpoint in quite some time. Gravity, Nebraska, Dallas Buyers Club, 12 Years a Slave, Captain Phillips, Inside Llewyn Davis, August: Osage County, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and All Is Lost have all been seen and the buzz is extremely positive (more or less) across the board, each having massive Oscar prospects. Potential high-quality efforts still to be screened - including upcoming films from Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street), David O. Russell (American Hustle), Spike Lee (Oldboy), John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks), and George Clooney (The Monuments Men) - dot the calendar, each hoping for awards consideration and love come the end of December.
The following is a list of films and events scheduled to hit the Seattle market through the end of the year. As usual, release dates are subject to change, so check your local listings.
Baggage Claim - An almost unwatchable romantic comedy with Paula Patton as an airline flight attendant who uses her connections with her airline to track the whereabouts of her ex-boyfriends in order to meet up with them in-flight to see if she can potentially find a husband (and, no, you did not read that synopsis incorrectly).
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 - Surprisingly endearing and shockingly funny sequel to the 2009 CG animated hit. Didn't like the original, but kind of love this one, which probably means it won't be anywhere near as successful as its predecessor.
Don Jon - Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes his debut as a writer and director staring in this amusing, if admittedly slight, story of a chronic womanizer and sex addict who meets his match in the form of the confidently sexy Scarlett Johansson. Far more fun that it arguably has any right to be.
Enough Said - Writer/director Nicole Holofcener's (Please Give) latest features one of the final performances of the great James Gandolfini, which in and of itself would make it worthy of a look. The fact that it also stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus in one of her best roles makes it even more so.
Inequality for All - Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich takes a look at economic disparity between the rich and the poor in the United States. What he finds is (spoiler alert!) not exactly comforting.
Metallica Through the Never - The iconic rock band combines concert footage with some weird fictional story about one of their roadies being sent on a secret assignment where the fate of the world might just be in the balance. Oh, yeah, it's also in IMAX 3-D.
Mother of George - Fantastic drama concerning a Nigerian couple living in Brooklyn struggling to conceive a child and being faced with a difficult decision that could shatter their loving home. This quietly devastating import stakes a claim to being on of 2013's best motion pictures.
Rush - Ron Howard's sensational drama chronicling the real-life exploits of Formula One racing legends James Hunt and Niki Lauda and their 1976 rivalry, featuring explosive racing footage and an award-worthy performance by actor Daniel Brühl.
Gravity - Alfonso Cuarón's hypnotic journey into space featuring Sandra Bullock as a newbie astronaut who suddenly finds herself alone in an epic battle for survival. Features some of the year's most mind-blowing images, the film is a technical 3-D marvel that doesn't skimp on the human element, making it one of the year's most impressive dramatic forays.
Haute Cuisine - The true story of Danièle Mazet-Delpeuch, the first woman to become chef for a French prime minister when she was appointed to the post by François Mitterrand, this SIFF 2013 favorite returns to Seattle for its regularly scheduled theatrical engagement. Foodies rejoice!
Parkland - Star-filled chronicling of the events surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, most notably how it affects Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti), who shot perhaps the most famous home movie in history; Dr. Jim Carrico (Zac Efron), who was in the ER when the president arrived at Parkland Hospital; and Robert Edward Lee Oswald Jr. (James Badge Dale), brother to you-know-who.
Runner Runner - Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck in a drama directed by Lincoln Lawyer filmmaker Brad Furman involving a Princeton student falling under the spell of an internet gambling titan located in Costa Rica and then discovering his idol might not be all he appears. Looks generic, but the director and cast combo still has me intrigued.
The Summit - The deadliest day in mountain climbing history is chronicled, 11 climbers mysteriously perishing in 2008 as they attempt to ascend to the top of the infamously lethal K2.
Eighth Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival - Seattle's premier LGBT film festival returns for two weeks of film, live performance, and all sorts of original programming at venues throughout the city. Full coverage coming soon.
Captain Phillips - Tom Hanks seems like a lock for an Oscar nod for his performance as the real-life cargo ship captain who was taken hostage by Somali pirates in 2009, the first such takeover of an American flag-waving vessel in over 200 years.
Machete Kills - Danny Trejo is back as the titular Mexican-born hero, this time tasked by the president of the United States (Carlos Estevez, aka Charlie Sheen) to thwart the power-mad designs of an unstoppable supervillain, portrayed by none other than a scenery-chewing Mel Gibson. The B-grade all-star lineup includes Amber Heard, Sofia Vergara, Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr., and ... Lady Gaga. You read that right.
Wadjda - A Saudi student enters a Quran recitation competition to secure the money to buy a green bicycle that's caught her eye. Suffice it to say, her actions open a lot of eyes and force those around her to rethink their conservative views.
We Are What We Are - Jim Mickle's remake of the chilling Mexican horror-thriller revolves around the Parkers, an apparently loving everyday family whose cannibalistic secrets threaten to come to light when an unexpected downpour derails their normal dinner plans.
Carrie - Kimberly Peirce's (Boys Don't Cry) reimagining of the Stephen King classic stars Chloë Grace Moretz as the telepathic titular character and Julianne Moore as her religiously psychotic mother. Expect more than a few buckets of pig blood to be spilled.
Escape Plan - Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger team up in an action-thriller set inside a supposedly inescapable prison. (Come on now, you know you want to see it. Just admit it already.)
The Fifth Estate - Director Bill Condon leaves the world of Twilight behind to return to his Gods and Monsters nuts-and-bolts roots, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker tackling headline scene-stealer Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) chronicling his rise to fame - some would say infamy - as he risked everything to make WikiLeaks a household name.
12 Years a Slave - If you believe the hype, this year's Oscar for Best Picture, Actor, and Director is this film's to lose, filmmaker Steve McQueen (Hunger; Shame) and screenwriter John Ridley (Three Kings) adapting Solomon Northup's agonizing, gut-wrenching memoir for the silver screen. One thing's for certain, this examination of the horrors of slavery won't be for the faint of heart as McQueen apparently doesn't pull back or leave a single thing to the imagination.
All Is Lost - Stunning, close to mind-blowing, seafaring adventure with Robert Redford alone in the middle of the Indian Ocean, his ship sinking and time running out for any chance of survival. A remarkable, once-in-a-lifetime experience with a performance from the iconic star ranking as one of his all-time best.
Blue Is the Warmest Color - This almost three-hour Lesbian melodrama made waves at the Cannes Film Festival, but not just for its extensive, shockingly explicit NC-17 sex scenes. Honest, emotionally bare, dramatically raw, director Abdellatif Kechiche's latest features performances from Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux that are as extraordinary as they are honest. One of 2013's best films.
The Counselor - Ridley Scott (Gladiator) and author/screenwriter Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men) join forces for this psychological thriller about a New York lawyer (Michael Fassbender) who on a whim dips his toe into the drug-trafficking trade only to discover how quickly he's in up to his neck. All-star supporting cast includes Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Penélope Cruz, John Leguizamo, and Javier Bardem.
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa - I have nothing to say here. Nothing at all.
Ender's Game - I've never read a single one of Orson Scott Card's books upon which this star-studded sci-fi epic is based, so I have no idea how many of his odious homophobic personal views make it into the prose. Be that as it may, I'm still quite curious to give this one a look, and hope beyond hope that writer/director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi) has managed to create a thrilling adventure and not some inadvertently anti-Gay futuristic polemic.
Free Birds - CG animated comedy about a pair of wisecracking turkeys who go back in time to change the face of Thanksgiving dinner.
Last Vegas - A sixtysomething remake of The Hangover starring Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline, and Morgan Freeman as three friends spending one last historic night together as they throw a bachelor party for their last remaining unmarried pal (Michael Douglas), a serial bachelor heading down the aisle for the very first time. Okay, so it's not a remake, but it certainly sounds similar, just with four Oscar winners portraying the leads.
About Time - A time-travel romance from the creator of Love Actually, writer/director Richard Curtis, that posits that a young man with the ability to run backward and forward through the years as he sees fit would use his talents to woo whom he sees as the perfect girl. Why, yes, this does sound a lot like The Time-Traveler's Wife, which coincidentally also starred Rachel McAdams. Go figure.
Dallas Buyers Club - Is this the movie that will garner Matthew McConaughey an Academy Award? Maybe. His depiction of Texas electrician and committed homophobe Ron Woodroof - a man who, after he was diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, devoted the remainder of his life to fighting the establishment and helping others afflicted with the disease secure drug treatments the medical establishment and pharmaceutical companies didn't want on the market - drew a fair share of raves after its Toronto Film Festival screening.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark find themselves back inside the arena fighting for their lives once again in this second chapter of author Suzanne Collins' best-selling trilogy. Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend) takes over the directorial reins, while Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Claflin, Amanda Plummer and Jeffrey Wright get added to the star-studded cast.
Nebraska - Bruce Dern and Will Forte having been drawing raves for their performances since the film's Cannes debut, director Alexander Payne's (Sideways) latest considered to be an Oscar frontrunner.
Black Nativity - Kasi Lemmons (Eve's Bayou) returns to the director's chair with an adaptation of this theatrical smash, Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson, and Forest Whitaker just four of the talents she's brought along for the holiday-themed musical ride.
Frozen - Disney's latest animated frolic is an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, and while the studio has kept things pretty hush-hush, early buzz says they might just have another gem on their hands along the same scale of wondrous brilliance as Tangled.
Homefront - Jason Statham, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth, and James Franco star in this thriller culled from the book by Chuck Logan, with a screenplay by Sylvester Stallone and direction by Gary Fleder (Runaway Jury). If that's not one of the stranger cast-screenwriter-director combos in recent memory I'm not sure what would be. Consider my interest somewhat piqued.
Oldboy - Spike Lee attempts to reinvent the Chan-wook Park cult favorite with Josh Brolin as a man on a mission of vengeance as he attempts to discover who kidnapped and tortured him for 20 years only to suddenly set him free with no explanation whatsoever. Apparently features a mid-movie single-take fight sequence spanning over 10-plus minutes that those who have seen it can't stop raving about.
Out of the Furnace - Scott Cooper follows up his Oscar-winning Crazy Heart with this drama about a man (Christian Bale) driven to find out what happened to his younger sibling (Casey Affleck) after he goes missing and local law enforcement seems unwilling and uninterested in searching out the truth. Zoe Saldana, Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker, Sam Shepard, and a monstrously evil-looking Woody Harrelson co-star.
American Hustle - The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook filmmaker David O. Russell unites cast members from both Oscar-winning pictures (Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, and Bradley Cooper) in a pulled-from-life story of political tomfoolery set in Camden, New Jersey, circa 1980. One of the year's most anticipated motion pictures.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - 'So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their endings ...' In other words, the journey of Bilbo Baggins continues, this time straight into the heart of a certain dragon's gold-filled lair.
The Monuments Men - George Clooney returns to the director's chair with this based-on-fact World War II adventure yarn about a team of soldiers, art historians, and museum curators tasked with keeping priceless artworks from being destroyed by the Nazis near the end of the war. Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, and Jean Dujardin costar alongside him as the merry men (and woman) assigned this perilous mission.
Anchorman: The Legend Continues - 'You stay classy, San Diego.'
Inside Llewyn Davis - Joel and Ethan Coen's latest was another film to premiere at Cannes to raves, the story of a 1961 Greenwich Village folk singer (Oscar Isaac) apparently a music-infused stunner ranking as one of the finest achievements of the year.
Saving Mr. Banks - Emma Thompson is P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks is Walt Disney in this drama chronicling their tempestuous relationship as the celebrated filmmaker, animator, and showman put on a full-court press to convince the Mary Poppins author he's the right man to shepherd her most cherished creation onto the silver screen.
Walking with Dinosaurs 3D - The BBC favorite makes the jump to 3D and IMAX with wide-eyed boys and girls everywhere ready to jump out of their seats in dino-sized glee.
47 Ronin - Long-delayed Keanu Reeves fantasy-martial arts adventure finally hits cinema screens over a year after its original release date and numerous reshoots. Hey, World War Z had the same issues, and that turned out all right. Same could go for this, too ... right? Yeah, I'm not holding my breath, either.
August: Osage County - The Broadway sensation is adapted for the screen by playwright Tracy Letts and features as star-studded a cast as any in recent memory, Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts headlining. Toronto reactions were mixed - some called it brilliant, others maudlin, but almost all were in agreement that Streep is on her way to another - this would be her 18th! - Academy Award nomination.
Grudge Match - Guess it had to happen sooner or later, Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro sending up two of their most iconic characters, both portraying former boxing legends coaxed back into the ring for one last bout even though both men are deep into their 60s. Alan Arkin, Kevin Hart, and Kim Basinger costar.
Jack Ryan - Paramount returns to the Tom Clancy well, Chris Pine taking over the role once filled by the likes of Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck under the direction of Kenneth Brannagh (Thor; Hamlet). Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley costar.
Labor Day - Oscar-nominee Jason Reitman (Young Adult; Juno) adapts Joyce Maynard's bestseller about a single mother who gives the wrong man a ride home. Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, and Tobey Maguire star.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty - The James Thurber short story is given a modern facelift by director/star Ben Stiller (Zoolander; Tropic Thunder) centering on a man whose fantasy dreamscapes of romance and adventure are thrust into reality when he's forced to go on a global quest to save both his job and that of the woman he secretly loves. The trailer is admittedly extraordinary and I'm curious to find out if Stiller has the chops to bring a story of such breadth and magnitude to life.
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