Autumn: that magical time when the aspens change, people start wearing socks with sandals, and the silver screen divides it's the time between horror flicks and Oscar picks.
If you're looking for something highbrow after a summer of explosions and flying boob scenes, try James Franco's adaptation of Faulkner's dark tale, "As I Lay Dying"; Bill Condon's flick about the inner workings of WikiLeaks in "The Fifth Estate"; the true story of horror on the high seas, "Captain Phillips"; the most recent adaptation of "Great Expectations"; or the Ridley Scott/Cormac McCarthy project about a lawyer dipping his toe in the drug trafficking pool, "The Counselor."
Horror fans have "Insidious 2" and a remake of "Carrie" (by "Boys Don't Cry" auteur Kimberly Peirce) to look forward to dissecting.
There's a question of how to categorize J.C. Chandor's "All is Lost," about a man trapped in the middle of the ocean facing certain death; it was listed as action, but sounded like a drama until I heard it was dialogue-free, then I changed my mind to horror. (Just kidding -- a film purposefully allowing a lack of words to speak volumes definitely piques the interest.)
Sci-fi films run the gamut, from Vin Diesel in "Riddick" to Alfonso Cuaron's space thriller, "Gravity."
Other films of note: Shane Salerno's dubious dive into the fiercely private life of "Salinger"; Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal toe-to-toe as grieving father and well-meaning detective in the dark thriller, "Prisoners"; Sam Rockwell as a poacher in trouble with both his family and backwater gangsters in "A Single Shot"; and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's turn at playing auteur in "Don Jon," about a beefcake arguing to his girlfriend (Scarlett Johanssen) that her romantic comedies lack reality as much as his porn does.
Perhaps you're not quite ready to let go of the popcorn flick? Check out Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton mired in ice-age cannibal hell in "The Colony"; Keri Russell as a Darcy-obsessed woman in the fluffy "Austenland"; the Metallica musical, "Metallica Through the Never" (although maybe only fun if you're high as a kite); or Robert Rodriguez's pulp opera, "Machete Kills."
Below you'll find a list of films coming out in the next couple of months. Release dates are subject to change.
It all starts when Ethan Hawke gets a creepy phone call from the video phone inside his Shelby. Here's what I presume the contents of the phone call were based on the trailer: drive around really fast shooting and blowing stuff up, be sure to cause everyone unlucky enough to be on the road near you to crash, and keep the cute little carjacker (Selena Gomez) in the passenger seat with you because she's good at computering, or we'll kill your wife.
One Direction: This is Us
Back in July, U.K. pop band One Direction wandered out of Boulder's St. Julien Hotel and all the 12 year-old girls in town went bonkers. These are the same girls who'll wanna watch Simon Cowell's hand-picked band prance around in skinny jeans and floppy hair on the big screen. This horrific-looking video-diary is directed by Morgan "Super Size Me" Spurlock. Weird, right? I know, I know. Maybe his inner 12 year-old girl couldn't pass this up.
Twenty-nine year-old Leigh (Kristen Bell) ditches her miserable life as a reporter in New York, moves back in with the 'rents in Connecticut and lands a lifeguarding gig so she can regroup. While metaphorically and literally treading water, she hooks up with an unhappy teenage dude (David Lambert) -- which yes, is kind of gross even if he is legal. The film is getting a super limited release but may be worth hunting down since it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year.
Brian De Palma, ("Carrie," "The Untouchables" and "Scarface") directs this remake of a French film about a fierce, manipulative advertising maven (Rachel McAdams) who lures her naive protege (Noomi Rapace) further and further down the rabbit hole of sin. I bet it's all fun and games until someone puts on a creepy clown mask and starts feeling stabby.
After an eight-year hiatus from the series, Vin Diesel returns as the title character, this time dumped on a Saharan planet with a bunch of goo-drenched aliens with pincers for faces. He sends a distress signal, bringing only mercenaries and frenemies. Whoops. The three groups fight each other until the pincer-faces get out of control and it's time for some teamwork! Stars Karl Urban, Dave Bautista and Katee "Starbuck" Sackhoff.
NYPD is confounded when a serial killer targets pretty people visiting Manhattan for a memorial. But THEN they figure out every victim has the name of a saint. I'm guessing at this point they just go around telling everyone named Maria, Francis or Patrick to lock their doors.
Writer/director Shane Salerno digs into celebrated writer J.D. Salinger's time in WWII, his impact on the publishing industry and popular culture with the publication of "Catcher in the Rye," and the three murderers who took those words as justification to kill. Salinger's resulting nervous breakdown, famous reclusiveness and unpublished manuscripts are explored in this documentary featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, John Cusack, Martin Sheen, Tom Wolfe and Gore Vidal. The question of how far someone can peer into a life willingly hidden is worth asking, although the pull to understand a writer who seemed to understand so many is undeniable.
Insidious Chapter 2
Director James Wan reunites with "Insidious" actors Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson in this sequel about a kid (Ty Simpkins) with a mysterious connection to the dead. Two years after the first story ends, the Lambert family again endures hauntings which result in self-dentistry, creepy renditions of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and baby stealing.
We've got another reunion on our hands here, but this time it's with director Luc Besson and Robert De Niro (who did the incomparable "Leon: The Professional" together). In this flick scripted in part by Besson, a mob snitch (De Niro) lands himself in the Witness Protection Program with his family (Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron and John D'Leo), and the help of his case officer, played by Tommy Lee Jones. This looks like more of a lighthearted romp with an occasional flying bazooka scene and less a thoughtful drama about escaping the trappings of an old life, but could be fun.
A Strange Brand of Happy
Despite being sort of a miserable suck, David Weathersby (Joe Boyd) is cheered on by friends and family to stop pussyfooting around the girl he likes (Rebecca St. James), retaliate against the jerkface (Benjamin Keller) trying to steal her, and start going after the things he wants. Written and directed by indie filmmaker Brad Wise.
Battle of the Year
Benson Lee directs this flick about a small American team looking to win their first dance championship in 15 years, and the gruff, be-hatted coach (Josh Holloway) and hottie sidekick (Caity Lotz) who lead them toward the finish line. Chris Brown also stars, so I'll be sure to miss this film twice.
Hugh Jackman plays a goateed dude who (understandably) loses his mind when his daughter and her best friend go missing. Despite the efforts of friends and neighbors (Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Melissa Leo, etc.) and the focused, competent help of the local P.D., led by ominously-named Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), after several days, the search only turns up one creepy, Winnebago-driving dude (Paul Dano) but no evidence tying him to the kidnapping. Directed by Oscar-nominated Denis Villeneuve, the script languished in the hands of other directors until landing a solid cast, seriously moody cinematography and some awards buzz.
As Earth struggles under some future Ice Age, a tiny pack of survivors led by Laurence Fishburne (YES!) leave their comfy digs to check out a distress signal from another colony. Bill Paxton (and I) think this is a colossally stupid idea -- particularly after they discover bloody tracks, an empty silo and a bunch of cannibals with sharpened teeth -- but you try saying no to Fishburne. Damn.
A Single Shot
Based on the novel of the same name by Matthew Jones, this flick focuses on a hunter (Sam Rockwell) mistakenly shooting and killing a woman hiding out in the woods. He discovers a pile of money in her possession but the found fortune isn't solving the problems (losing the family farm, etc.) he'd hoped they would; instead a host of new enemies come at him: some smiling, some terrifying, some straight out of "Deliverance," but all looking to take him out. And I don't mean for dinner and dancing. Also stars Melissa Leo, Ted Levine and Joe Anderson.
Thanks for Sharing
Mark Ruffalo plays a sex addict furiously fighting for his "sobriety" while dating Gwyneth Paltrow. This sounds like another terrible plan, but Fishburne isn't to blame this time. Tim Robbins is a sponsor, P!nk, Patrick Fugit and Josh Gad are fellow addicts, and Joely Richardson and Carol Kane play long-suffering mothers. Sexcapades featuring recognizable names could be mildly amusing, but it's probably best to just catch this on Netflix one night when you're hard up. For a MOVIE. Sheesh.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Scientist Flint Lockwood (voice by Bill Hader) returns to his lab to destroy the crazy machine he created, which is now churning out food-animal hybrids. I'm not a big fan of kid movies, but the potential for puns such as, "There's a leek in the boat," is pretty high. So, you know, there's that.
This biography features Daniel Bruhl and Chris Hemsworth as Niki Lauda and James Hunt, two world-class Formula 1 drivers inspired equally by their passion for racing and the growing antagonism between them. In 1976, when a crash leaves Lauda near death and grossly disfigured, that same rivalry gets him out of the hospital bed and back on the track to take down his nemesis. Also stars Olivia Wilde and Natalie Dormer. Ron Howard directs.
As I Lay Dying
Faulkner's novel was on the A.P. English reading list when I went to high school, but all I remember about it was how beautiful the language was, how gear-grinding the narrator shifts could be, and how miserable I felt reading the story of a family's attempts to get their dead matriarch buried. Wouldn't call this fun for the whole family; it's truly some dark stuff, friends. Starring James Franco (who also directs), Danny McBride, Logan Marshall-Green and Tim Blake Nelson.
Jerusha Hess, who had a big hand in creating the wild world of "Napoleon Dynamite" and "Nacho Libre," takes a more serious (although possibly less fun) tone in her directorial debut, "Austenland." Obsessed from an early age with "Pride and Prejudice," Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) packs her dreams of meeting a Mr. Darcy and travels to England to spend her vacation at a Jane Austen-themed manor, where she hopes to meet a Mr. Darcy of her own. I'd pooh-pooh the entire thing start to finish, but Bret "Brit" McKenzie from "Flight of the Conchords" is in it.
You know how they say watching too much porn can give a person unrealistic ideas about sex? No? Well they say that. Joseph Gordon-Levitt writes, directs and stars in this flick about a Jersey Shore-style dude, not simply obsessed with gym-tan-laundry, but also his church, his family, his friends and absolutely obscene amounts of porn. So I guess that would make it GTLCFFP. Anyway, he's happy enough with the status quo until he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), whose obsession with the unrealistic storylines in romantic comedies gets him thinking her harping on about his porn might be a whisper hypocritical. (THAT'S gonna go over well...)
Metallica Through The Never
Yes. Go ahead and read that again. It's a musical. With Metallica. I wanna tell you all about the Metallica phase I went through in high school and my friends' cover band that played at the Grizzly Rose, but I gotta stay focused ... which is gonna be hard to do. Ready? Okay, a Metallica roadie named Trip (Dane DeHaan) is sent on a mission to locate a stranded truck filled with "stuff" the band needs. He has a badass van, but then there's a riot of some kind, and dudes in gas masks riding horses, and flamethrowers, and OFF TO NEVERNEVERLAND! Sorry.
Paula Patton is an incredibly beautiful, well-spoken, successful woman flipping out because she has to go to her sister's wedding single. SIGH! (Editor: please put the sigh in 80-point font.) She goes through her little black book and revisits all her exes to make sure -- really, really sure -- she can't force those relationships to work, traveling 30,000 miles in the span of a month "accidentally" bumping into them (Djimon Hounsou, Taye Diggs, etc.) I'm gonna go out on a limb here and guess that at the end of the film, she learns that she's all she needs to be happy. And then marries one of them anyhow.
Justin Timberlake's character in this film is like Russell Crowe in "A Beautiful Mind," only he uses his powers for gambling. So, I guess more like Dustin Hoffman in "Rainman." Then again, he's good looking and plays poker, so maybe more like Steve McQueen in "The Cincinnati Kid" or Edward Norton or Matt Damon in "Rounders." Anyway, he loses a grip of coin in online gambling, goes offshore to find the person who cheated him, gets mixed up with a very bad man (Ben Affleck) who feeds dudes to crocodiles, then gets in worse trouble with the FBI. I like poker, and good-looking men, and man-eating crocodiles, but this premise isn't doing much for me. Fold.
Guess what happens when a medical engineer's first space shuttle trip coincides with an astronaut's last outing? Wait: the engineer is played by Sandra Bullock and the astronaut is played by George Clooney -- change anything for you? Now what if I tell you something crashes into the space shuttle, and there's nobody left but the two of them, and also they were outside of the shuttle when the accident happens, pinballing around in their spacesuits, and also they're no longer tethered together, and also it was directed by Alfonso Cuaron, who did "Y Tu Mama Tambien" and "Children of Men" -- both of which you should see if you haven't already. If you're not sure what to think, well, I'm with you. But I'm gonna see it regardless because Cuaron is kind of a badass.
Turns out this isn't a public service announcement. "Sin City" and "Planet Terror" director Robert Rodriguez teams up with some of his regular actors (Jessica Alba, Alexa Vega, etc.) and some who are new to him (Mel Gibson, Sofia Vergara, Lady Gaga, Cuba Gooding Jr.) for his most recent pulp adventure. This time, Machete (Danny Trejo) is sent by the U.S. government to -- I think -- trash the entire country of Mexico in order to kill an arms dealer wanting to launch a weapon into space. (This doesn't have anything to do with "Gravity," no. I know, darlings, shhhh...go back to sleep.)
Christian rock-singing', church-goin', goody-two-shoesin' Grace (AJ Michalka) fights with her daddy, a former rock star who found God. But she finds trouble chasing a career in sinful L.A., what with boys and tight jeans and lip gloss around every corner. Will Grace stay on the rumspringa path or straighten up and fly right? I will never know the answer. And I'm really OK with that.
The Fifth Estate
Academy award-winning director Bill Condon explores the creation and rise to power of Julian Assange's WikiLeaks organization. What we've got here, pals, is a top director working off a novel written by a former colleague of Assange's (Daniel Domscheit-Berg) about a hotly-debated, politically relevant topic, starring Sherlock -- I mean Benedict Cumberbatch -- and Stanley Tucci, Daniel Bruhl and Laura Linney. Carry the two ... yes, on paper what we have here is an Oscar bid.
And here's another one. Paul Greengrass (nominated for an Oscar for "United 93") directs this adaptation of Captain Richard Phillips' novel recounting the 2009 hijacking of the MV Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates -- the first U.S. cargo ship to be hijacked in 200 years' time. Is the emotionally powerful, historically dramatic adaptation of a first person account of heroism led by a fancypants director not enough for you, Academy? Fine, Tom Hanks stars as Captain Phillips.
Charles Dickens' unforgettable story (in part because it's remade so often) of the orphan Pip (Jeremy Irvine), who's taken under the wing of a mysterious benefactor (Ralph Fiennes) and raised to be a gentleman. His childhood love, Estella (Holliday Grainger) is taught to be cruel by the jilted Miss Havisham (Helena Bonham Carter). Directed by Mike "Four Weddings and a Funeral" Newell. Grab yer Kleenex, (sadly, Franzia isn't allowed in) and head for the theatre.
Yes, it's still the story (penned by Stephen King) of a shrinking teen violet (Chloe Grace Moretz), brutalized by both her fervently religious mother (Julianne Moore) and her sociopathic classmates until she snaps and uses her telekinetic powers for retribution. (Using telekinesis to clean up the school parking lot would've made a duller story.) Director Kimberly Peirce's take on "Carrie" will certainly be different from Brian De Palma's 1976 version starring Sissy Spacek, but I wonder if the sensationalism will be tempered with more sympathetic undertones since Peirce directed "Boys Don't Cry."
Sylvester Stallone plays a dude specializing in testing the break-out-ability of various prisons. He's asked to design an escape-proof facility for a mysterious financier but instead he's tossed inside it because it was already built. Oh, SNAP, Son! His first move is to make friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bill Paxton is slapping his freezing forehead somewhere now.
All Is Lost
Robert Redford stars as a sailor adrift on the ocean, staring death in the face after his sailboat is crushed by a rogue shipping container. This mostly dialogue-free film, written and directed by J.C. Chandor, (whose debut, "Margin Call," was nominated for an Oscar) stars only Redford. (Insert "Old Man and the Sea" joke here.)
I'm In Love With a Church Girl
Partyboy Miles (Jeff Ja Rule Atkins) enjoys his drinks, his mob friends and his drug trafficking business until the D.E.A. goes and ruins everything. Defeated, he hangs out with his mom who sends his bum to church. There he falls for Vanessa (Adrienne Bailon) who LOVES church more than all the church ladies in the world, combined. In other news, this also stars Stephen Baldwin. I think I'd rather watch that Metallica musical again.
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Johnny Knoxville dresses up like an 86-year-old dude and takes his fake, second-grade-style grandson (Jackson Nicholl) across the country, playing pranks on everyone they meet, knocking over caskets and liquor stores, entering little girl beauty pageants and basically acting like a couple of jackasses. (Truth in advertising, eh?) The difference between this and say, what Sacha Baron Cohen did in "Borat," might be the difference between acting offensively simply to mock and acting offensively to highlight a cultural failing.
Director Ridley "Blade Runner" Scott adapts Cormac "No Country for Old Men" McCarthy's screenplay about a lawyer (Michael Fassbender) who finds himself mired in exponentially-deep trouble after dipping his toe in the drug trafficking pool. Stars Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, John Leguizamo, Rosie Perez, Goran Visnjic and Natalie Dormer. Yes, everyone can smell that Oscar.