The autumn season is a strange time for cinema. On one hand, it marks the end of summer and the so-called "summer blockbuster." The time around Labor Day, specifically, is considered in Hollywood to be one the lamest times of the year. Of the films opening last weekeend, for example, "Premium Rush" was number one at the weekend box office with only $6.3 million. If you're not familiar with box office numbers, that is extremely low. A documentary about Barack Obama also debuted last weekend and earned $6.24 million!
On the other hand, the autumn film season, which falls right before the coveted holiday season, is the best time for Oscar-worthy films to slip in all stealth-like and blow our minds. Consider Argo, The Master, and Cloud Atlas to be in that category. Of course, there are some random animated and action films peppered in for good measure, and of course, the final Twilight movie.
Without further ado, here are 10 films to see between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.
I realize October is a big time for horror films, but those freaks need to be separated form the rest of us! Check out my horror film guide here.
Resident Evil: Retribution - September 14
Okay, so it's the fifth Resident Evil movie, and maybe nobody asked for a fifth one, but in this installment, the zombies are smart enough to shoot guns and ride motorcycles! Are you kidding me!? If you love zombie movies, it's a good chance to see the genre taken in a new direction, especially because Alice goes on a chase from Tokyo to New York, Washington, D.C. and Moscow, so we get to see Russian and Japanese zombies! Also, Michelle Rodriguez' character from the first film is brought back as two clones- one good and one evil. I realize "Retribution" intended for a very small market (people who've seen the first four), but it provides a great opportunity to have a mini-marathon before hitting the cinema.
The Master - September 14
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, and Amy Adams
I've got four words for you: The 84th Academy Awards. One can easily picture the Oscar in the hands of Anderson, Hoffman, and/or Phoenix, and I can't wait for the latter's acceptance speech. What is going on inside that guy's head? Anyway, if you're not convinced, remember that Anderson doesn't make bad movies. The only reason There Will Be Blood didn't win the Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay awards for which it was nominated was because of a little film called "No Country for Old Men." This year, the competition should be slimmer, and "The Master", which has already garnered controversy for being an analogy to the origin story of Scientology, will be a hot topic of discussion, so don't get left behind!
Dredd - September 21
Director: Pete Travis
Cast: Karl Urban, Lena Heady, Olibia Thirlby
Explore: Judge Dredd Wiki
Yes, I'm aware that Sylvester Stallone's 1995 film Judge Dredd was an awful movie that doesn't deserve a remake. But you know what does deserve a worthy film adaptation? The comic strip 2000 AD, which has been running since 1977 and whose main character is the bad ass Judge Joseph Dredd. I'm not promising that Karl Urban will blow us away, but he will keep the iconic helmet on, as the original story mandates. What I can promise you is that Lena Headey (also known as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones) will be an amazing villain as the prostitute-turned-drug-lord named Ma-Ma.
Looper - September 28
"Looper" is a dark sci-fi story about a hitman, played by Gordon-Levitt, who receives his victims from the future. Everything is going peachy until his future-self, played by Willis, is sent back for execution. It's not the first time Willis has been sent back in time (watch "12 Monkeys" immediately if you haven't seen it), and I don't need to remind you that time travel movies are bad ass, especially when there are no gaping plot holes. Rian Johnson, who also wrote the screenplay, seems nerdy enough to have those bases covered. Throw in Gordon-Levitt, whose elevator to superstardom won't stop rising, and you've got yourself a smart, sharp action film with strong acting to boot. Basically, it's the anti-Expendables 2.
Frankenweenie - October 5
In 1983, Tim Burton made a short film called Frankenweenie about a boy and his dog Sparky. Sparky dies, and the boy is supposed to learn a nice lesson about the inevitability of death and letting things go, but instead, the boy goes all Dr. Frankenstein and resurrects Sparky. Now, Burton's dream to make this story into a full-length, stop-motion animated feature has come to fruition. Fans of The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride (you know, the people who shop at Hot Topic) will be going crazy to see this movie, but to be honest, it should be a great Halloween movie for the whole family. When was the last time you saw a black-and-white stop motion-animated comedy horror film... in 3D???
Argo - October 12
Ben Affleck's directorial follow-up to "The Town" is based on the true rescue of six American diplomats during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. The Canadian and U.S. governments teamed up and disguised the hostages as part of a film crew scouting the region for a fake Sci-Fi film called "Argo". These are the type of real life stories to which you respond, "Hollywood couldn't make that up", but they did, and now they are making a movie about the fake movie. I think "Argo" is the sleeper film of the year. The cast is phenomenal, the story is captivating, and Affleck has proved himself as a great director. Hopefully his style translates in 1970's Iran, which is a about as far away as you can get from Beantown.
Cloud Atlas - October 26
Director: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Cast: Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, and Hugo Weaving
Cloud Atlas is based on a best-selling novel by David Mitchell that was released in 2004. The plot consists of six mini-plots, each one revealed to be a story that is read or viewed by the main character in the next. It sounds complicated, but that's why it was written and directed by a team of 3 people with experience in the elaborate arts: Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run") and the the Wachowski
brothers siblings ("The Matrix"). Just watch the trailer, if it doesn't blow you away, you have no soul! We've got extra interest in this film because it's the first attempt at a German-made blockbuster.
Wreck-It Ralph - November 2
If you've played any video games in your life, even just one round of Pac-Man back in the 80's, you will find this movie appealing. If you're a hard-core gamer, this movie is a must-see. If you grew up in the golden age of arcade games and now have children who take motion-controls and realistic looking graphics for granted, this is the perfect movie for your whole family. The titular protagonist, a bad guy who longs to be a hero, is so lovable that I'm already pitting this against Brave for Best Animated Feature.
Skyfall - November 9
Ok, so maybe the last Bond film wasn't that great. You things are bad when you're lead actor must attempt finishing the script when a writer's strike torments production and a clear ending. But c'mon, Skyfall is a new Bond film, and the days of cheesy gadgets and silly one-liners are behind us. Casino Royale was bad ass, and at least Quantam of Solace had a good cinematic feel and superb acting despite lacking any semblance of a good story. Here's hoping that Javier Bardem hits one out of the park, which he often does, and that Daniel Craig keeps Bond sophisticated, which he has thus far.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 - November 16
This series gets stranger and more disturbing with every installment, so this being the last, lets hope it there is more excitement and less sentimental sappiness to smoothly blend with the freakiness and wrap up the saga. Part 2 picks up after the birth of Renesmee Cullen, the half-mortal daughter of Stewart and Pattinson's charcters, and the Cullen clan must protect her from mobs of other vampires who wish to destroy the all too powerful child. While viewing the movie, try to block out the fact that Stewart cheated on Pattinson in real life with her Snow White and the Huntsman director.