By Sandra Kraisirideja
After a summer filled with superheroes, aliens and monsters, Hollywood will turn to more serious fare in the fall as the march toward awards season begins. Fall is also when the independent studios really shine and the major studios pin their Oscar hopes on dramatic content with big name stars. The list below—which would not have been possible without the extensive information available on comingsoon.net and trailers on apple.com—represents a majority of the films being released between now and Dec. 31.
Title: “The Family”
Written by: Luc Besson and Michael Caleo (based on the novel Malavita by Tonino Benacquista)
Director: Luc Besson
Cast: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones, Dianna Agron, John D’Leo
Synopsis: A Mafia boss and his family are relocated to a sleepy town in France under the Witness Protection Program after snitching on the mob. Despite Agent Stansfield’s (Tommy Lee Jones) best efforts to keep them in line, Fred Blake (Robert De Niro), his wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer) and their children, Belle (Dianna Agron) and Warren (John D’Leo), can’t help resorting to old habits by handling their problems the “family” way. Chaos ensues as their former Mafia cronies try to track them down and scores are settled in the unlikeliest of settings.
Why see it?: Anytme De Niro plays a mafioso in a movie, it’s worth seeing.
Title: “Sample This”
Written by: Dan Forrer
Director: Dan Forrer
Cast: Gene Simmons, Ahmir Khalib Thompson (aka Questlove), King Errisson, Jerry Butler, Freda Payne, Grandmaster Caz, Melle Mel, Roosevelt Grier, and Afrika Bambaataa.
Synopsis: “Sample This” is the true story of how unknown music producer Michael Viner brought together the greatest studio musicians of the 1970s to create an album that ultimately went nowhere… until the summer of 1973, when DJ Herc took the percussion breaks from that obscure album and extended them by playing them back to back. His beats became an anthem on the streets of the Bronx and ultimately the genre of Hip Hop, becoming one of the most sampled tracks in history and used by artists from Will Smith and Missy Elliot to Amy Winehouse and Jay-Z.
Why see it? To learn about the origins of hip hop from artists who recognize have added to its musical complexities.
Title: “Enough Said”
Written by: Nicole Holofcener
Director: Nicole Holofcener
Cast: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette, Ben Falcone
Synopsis: A divorced and single parent, Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) spends her days enjoying work as a masseuse but dreading her daughter’s impending departure for college. She meets Albert (James Gandolfini) – a sweet, funny and like-minded man also facing an empty nest. As their romance quickly blossoms, Eva befriends Marianne (Catherine Keener), her new massage client. Marianne is a beautiful poet who seems “almost perfect” except for one prominent quality: she rags on her ex-husband way too much. Suddenly, Eva finds herself doubting her own relationship with Albert as she learns the truth about Marianne’s Ex
Why see it?: Gandolfini passed away suddenly this year and his last movie looks like a nice change of pace for the actor best known for portraying the fierce and menacing Tony Soprano. In “Enough Said,” he comes across as harmless as a butterfly. It’s nice to see Louise-Dreyfus in a lead role that is far removed from her character on “Seinfeld” or “VEEP.” Holofcener seems to be venturing into new territory as well. The trailer comes across as a witty romantic comedy wiithout the usual cliche’s of a romantic comedy and there doesn’t seem to be any of the social commentary that was evident in “Friends With Money.”
Written by: Aaron Guzikowski
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano, Maria Bello, Viola Davis and Terrence Howard.
Synopsis: Keller Dover (Jackman) is facing every parent’s worst nightmare. His six-year-old daughter, Anna, is missing, together with her young friend, Joy, and as minutes turn to hours, panic sets in. The only lead is a dilapidated RV that had earlier been parked on their street. Heading the investigation, Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) arrests its driver, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), but a lack of evidence forces the only suspect’s release. Knowing his child’s life is at stake, the frantic Dover decides he has no choice but to take matters into his own hands.
Why see it?: This is French-Canadian director Villeneuve’s first American feature. His film “Incendies” was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in 2011, which explains how Villeneuve was able to attract a talented cast—who are also Oscar nominees and winners in their own right—for his U.S. debut.
Written by: Peter Morgan
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Maria Lara
Synopsis: The epic action-drama stars Chris Hemsworth (“The Avengers”) as the charismatic Englishman James Hunt and Daniel Brühl (“Inglourious Basterds”) as the disciplined Austrian perfectionist Niki Lauda, whose clashes on the Grand Prix racetrack epitomized the contrast between these two extraordinary characters, a distinction reflected in their private lives. Set against the sexy and glamorous golden age of Formula 1 racing, “Rush” portrays the exhilarating true story of two of the greatest rivals the world has ever witnessed—handsome English playboy Hunt and his methodical, brilliant opponent, Lauda. Taking us into their personal lives on and off the track, “Rush” follows the two drivers as they push themselves to the breaking point of physical and psychological endurance, where there is no shortcut to victory and no margin for error.
Why see it? A movie theater with excellent sound is probably the next best thing to being there when it comes to extreme sports like Formula 1. It will be interesting to see if director Howard can balance the visceral driving sequences and dramatic moments. I’ll admit that a historical film about a rivalry between two Formula 1 drivers does not immediately attract my attention, but in the hands of Howard I think it’s possible the movie will be worth seeing.
Title: “Thanks for Sharing”
Written by: Stuart Blumberg
Director: Stuart Blumberg
Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, Josh Gad and Alecia Moore
Synopsis: From Academy Award®-nominated screenwriter and first-time director Stuart Blumberg (“The Kids are All Right”), “Thanks for Sharing” is a sharply comic and deeply moving look at a new kind of modern family, as a group of friends in recovery learns to face life together with heart, humor and humility. Academy Award-nominee Mark Ruffalo, Academy Award-winner Tim Robbins and Broadway star Josh Gad (“The Book of Mormon”) anchor a stellar ensemble that includes Academy Award-winner Gwyneth Paltrow and pop star Alecia Moore (“Get the Party Started”) in her first film role.
Why see it? Blumberg’s script for “The Kids are All Right” was excellent and since he’s written “Thanks for Sharing” as well there is a good chance his directorial debut will be good. Of course he doesn’t have the added bonus of having the talent of Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, but he’s Ruffalo and that’s not nothing.
Title: “As I Lay Dying” – poster downloaded
Written by: James Franco
Director: James Franco
Cast: James Franco, Tim Blake Nelson, Danny McBride, Logan Marshall-Green, Ahna O’Reilly, Jim Parrack, Beth Grant and Brady Permenter
Synopsis: “As I Lay Dying” is adapted from the 1930 classic American novel by William Faulkner. The story chronicles the Bundren family as they traverse the Mississippi countryside to bring the body of their deceased mother Addie to her hometown for burial. Addie’s husband Anse and their children, Cash, Darl, Jewel, Dewey Dell, and the youngest one Vardaman, leave the farm on a carriage with her coffin – each affected by Addie’s death in a profound and different way. Their road trip to Jefferson, some forty miles away, is disrupted by every antagonistic force of nature or man: flooded rivers, injury and accident, a raging barn fire, and not least of all — each individual character’s personal turmoil and inner commotion which at times threaten the fabric of the family more than any outside force.
Why see it? It’s hard to resist anything that Franco does, even when he seems to be everywhere. I’m definitely curious to see how he fares as a writer/director and I like that he’s cast Nelson, who is usually good in whatever he does. McBride taking on a serious role is also refreshing and it wouldn’t surprise me if he kills it.
Trailer – none
Title: “Baggage Claim”
Written by: David E. Talbert
Director: David E. Talbert
Cast: Paula Patton, Derek Luke, Taye Diggs, Jill Scott, Djimon Hounsou, Boris Kodjoe, Tremaine Neverson, Adam Brody, Jenifer Lewis, Ned Beatty, Lauren London, Tia Mowry, La La Anthony, Christina Milian, Affion Crockett, Terrence J, Rickey Smiley, Thomas Miles
Synopsis: Determined to get engaged before her youngest sister’s wedding, flight attendant Montana Moore (Paula Patton) finds herself with only 30 days to find Mr. Right. Using her airline connections to “accidentally” meet up with eligible ex-boyfriends and scour for potential candidates, she racks up more than 30,000 miles and countless comedic encounters, all the while searching for the perfect guy.
Why see it? Why not prepare for the holiday travel season with a light-hearted romantic comedy?
Written by: Erica Rivinoja and John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein
Director: Cody Cameron Kris Pearn
Cast: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte, Andy Samberg, Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris, Terry Crews, Kristen Schaal
Synopsis: Inventor Flint Lockwood thought he saved the world when he destroyed his most infamous invention — a machine that turned water into food causing cheeseburger rain and spaghetti tornadoes. But Flint soon learns that his invention survived and is now creating food-animals – “foodimals!” Flint and his friends embark on a dangerously delicious mission to battle hungry tacodiles, shrimpanzees, hippotatomuses, cheespiders and other foodimals to save the world – again!
Why see it? If you’ve got kids they probably have the date marked on the calendar, especially if you’re raising a budding young scientist at home.
Title: “Don Jon”
Written by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Brie Larson
Synopsis: Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a strong, handsome, good old fashioned guy. His buddies call him Don Jon due to his ability to “pull” a different woman every weekend, but even the finest fling doesn’t compare to the bliss he finds alone in front of the computer watching pornography. Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) is a bright, beautiful, good old fashioned girl. Raised on romantic Hollywood movies, she’s determined to find her Prince Charming and ride off into the sunset. Wrestling with good old fashioned expectations of the opposite sex, Jon and Barbara struggle against a media culture full of false fantasies to try and find true intimacy in this unexpected comedy written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Why see it? There is no denying Gordon-Levitt’s talent and he’s got one of the more interesting careers among his generation of male actors. Since he starred in “(500) Days of Summer.” one of the more refreshing romantic comedies of the past few years, his directorial debut also has a unique angle on finding true love.
Written by: Leland Orser
Director: Leland Orser
Cast: Jeanne Tripplehorn, Leland Orser, Laura Linney, Elliott Gould, Kyle Chandler, Jason Ritter
Synopsis: Leland Orser and Jeanne Tripplehorn star as a married couple reeling from the tragic death of their only child. For each of them, grief becomes a private torment that threatens to destroy their world. Driven apart by sorrow, they try to find their way back to each other and the chance to love again.
Why see it? An intense dramatic film that involve the tragic death of a child is a hard sell when most people want to be taken away from the reality of their lives. An exception should be made when the film has a cast like the one in “Morning.” While films can serve as a form of escape, they can also be cathartic for viewers who are going through a similar situation as the characters.
Title: “Muscle Shoals”
Director: Greg ‘Freddy” Camalier
Cast: Featuring Aretha Franklin, Bono, Greg Allman, Clarence Carter, Mick Jagger, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Keith Richards, and Percy Sledge
Synopsis: Located alongside the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals, Alabama is the unlikely breeding ground for some of America’s most creative and defiant music. Under the spiritual influence of the “Singing River,” as Native Americans called it, the music of Muscle Shoals has helped create some of the most important and resonant songs of all time. At its heart is Rick Hall who founded FAME Studios. Overcoming crushing poverty and staggering tragedies, Hall brought black and white together in Alabama’s cauldron of racial hostility to create music for the generations. He is responsible for creating the “Muscle Shoals sound” and The Swampers, the house band at FAME that eventually left to start their own successful studio, known as Muscle Shoals Sound. Greg Allman, Bono, Clarence Carter, Mick Jagger, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge and others bear witness to Muscle Shoals’ magnetism, mystery and why it remains influential today.
Why see it? Its nice to be reminded of the cultural significance that American music has in the world. Plus the film has got a killer soundtrack that will have you scanning iTunes for these tracks.
Written by: Charlie Stratton
Director: Charlie Stratton
Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Felton, Jessica Lange, Shirley Henderson, John Kavanag, Mackenzie Crook, and Matt Lucas.
Synopsis: Set in the lower depths of 1860s Paris, “Therese” is a tale of obsessive love, adultery and revenge based on Emile Zola’s scandalous novel, “Thérèse Raquin.” Therese (Elizabeth Olsen of “Martha Marcy May Marlene”), a sexually repressed beautiful young woman, is trapped into a loveless marriage to her sickly cousin, Camille (Tom Felton of the “Harry Potter” franchise), by her domineering aunt, Madame Raquin (two-time Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe winner Jessica Lange). Therese spends her days confined behind the counter of a small shop and her evenings watching Madame play dominos with an eclectic group. After she meets her husband’s alluring friend, Laurent (Oscar Isaac), she embarks on an illicit affair that leads to tragic consequences
Why see it? Olsen was so spectacular in “Martha Marcy May Marlene” that I would see her any movie she’s in, unless it’s horror. I’ll admit the plot would mean the movie would stay in my queue for a long time, just waiting for the perfect combination of factors to come together for me to would be in the mood to watch a dramatic period drama with an unhappy ending. Still, the possibility I would see it is there.
Written by: Ben Karlin, Stuart Zicherman
Director: Stuart Zicherman
Cast: Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O’Hara, Amy Poehler, Clark Duke, Jessica Alba, Jane Lynch
Synopsis: “A.C.O.D.” follows Carter (Adam Scott), a seemingly well-adjusted Adult Child of Divorce. Having survived the madness of his parentsí (Richard Jenkins and Catherine OíHara) divorce, Carter now has a successful career and supportive girlfriend (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). But when his younger brother (Clark Duke) gets engaged, Carter is forced to reunite his bitterly divorced parents and their new spouses (Amy Poehler and Ken Howard) for the wedding, causing the chaos of his childhood to return including his wacky therapist (Jane Lynch).
Why see it? Ever since I binge watched “Party Down” on Netflix (before the show was removed), I have been a big fan of Scott and his deadpan delivery. Since he joined the cast of “Parks and Recreation” the show has only gotten better and it will be fun to see what he does in a starring role. I’ve admired Duke since he was on ABC Family’s “Greek” and he is always fun to watch. It’s a great comedic cast from a first time writer-director, which can sometimes be a terrific combination because there is nothing to lose. I’m hoping it’s as clever as it comes across in the trailer.
Title: “All is Bright”
Written by: Melissa James Gibson
Director: Phil Morrison
Cast: Paul Rudd, Paul Giamatti, Sally Hawkins
Synopsis: Two French Canadian neíer-do-wells travel to New York City with a scheme to get rich quick selling Christmas trees.
Why see it? This looks like a dark Christmas comedy and the pairing of Rudd and Giamatti will probably lead to some pretty hilarious scenes.
Written by: Alfonso Cuaron, Jonas Cuaron
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Synopsis: Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (Clooney). But on a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky completely alone—tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness. The deafening silence tells them they have lost any link to Earth…and any chance for rescue. As fear turns to panic, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left. But the only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space.
Why see it? I was initially skeptical about this movie, which didn’t really impress me and seemed like it was a vanity project for Bullock and Clooney. Then I realized it was written and directed by Cuaron, whose last full-length feature was “Children of Men,” a visually thrilling movie that also has a great story. There is a reason “Gravity” is so highly anticipated by fans of his work.
Written by: Peter Landesman
Director: Peter Landesman
Cast: Zac Efron, Marcia Gay Harden, Billy Bob Thornton, Jacki Weaver, Paul Giamatti, James Badge Dale, Jackie Earle Haley, Colin Hanks, David Harbour, Ron Livingston
Synopsis: Recounting the chaotic events that occurred in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, Parkland weaves together the perspectives of a handful of ordinary individuals suddenly thrust into extraordinary circumstances: the young doctors and nurses at Parkland Hospital; Dallas’ chief of the Secret Service; an unwitting cameraman who captured what became the most watched and examined film in history; the FBI agents who nearly had the gunman within their grasp; the brother of Lee Harvey Oswald, left to deal with his shattered family; and JFK’s security team, witnesses to both the president’s death and Vice President Lyndon Johnson’s rise to power over a nation whose innocence was forever altered.
Why see it? “Parkland” marks the impressive directorial debut for Landesman, who not only has the support of an incredible cast but of Tom Hanks’ production company Playtone. History buffs will appreciate a new perspective on the JFK assassination. I like that it views the events from the working class people on the ground who were direct witnesses to the events immediately following the president’s shooting.
Title: “Runner Runner”
Written by: Brian Koppelman, David Levien
Director: Brad Furman
Cast: Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton, Anthony Mackie
Synopsis: Princeton grad student Richie (Justin Timberlake), believing he’s been swindled, travels to Costa Rica to confront online gambling tycoon Ivan Block (Ben Affleck). Richie is seduced by Block’s promise of immense wealth, until he learns the disturbing truth about his benefactor. When the FBI tries to coerce Richie to help bring down Block, Richie faces his biggest gamble ever: attempting to outmaneuver the two forces closing in on him.
Why see it? Affleck has never played a villain and from the trailer it looks like he is relishing the chance to be the bad guy. Director Furman did a solid job with “The Lincoln Lawyer” and writing partners Koppelman and Levien have churned out some entertaining movies. Maybe they weren’t as compelling and original as their first script, “Rounders,” but the formulas they use work.
Title: “Captain Phillips”
Written by: Billy Ray
Director: Paul Greengrass
Cast: Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener
Synopsis: Columbia Pictures’ action-thriller “Captain Phillips” stars two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks in the true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years.
Why see it? It’s nice to see somebody other than Harrison Ford take on the role of “badass” in a dramatic action thriller. Director Greengrass (“The Bourne Ultimatum”) breathed new life into the Bourne franchise and knows how to keep upping the ante when it comes to action sequences.
Title: “Romeo and Juliet”
Written by: Julian Fellowes
Director: Carlo Carlei
Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Douglas Booth, Stellan Skarsgard, Paul Giamatti, Kodi Smit-McPhee
Synopsis: “Romeo & Juliet,” William Shakespeare’s epic and searing tale of love, is revitalized on screen by writer Julian Fellowes (“Downton Abbey”) and director Carlos Carlei (“The Flight of the Innocent”). An ageless story from the world’s most renowned author is reimagined for the 21st Century. This adaptation is told in the lush traditional setting it was written, but gives a new generation the chance to fall in love with the enduring legend.
Why see it? A classical adaptation of the greatest love story ever, written by the creator of “Downtown Abbey,” and starring Steinfeld as Juliet are just three reasons to see this movie. Usually Hollywood tends to modernize Shakespeare for the silver screen so it’s a nice change to see “Romeo and Juliet” being done in the time period it was actually set in.
Written by: Jody Savin, Randall Miller
Director: Randall Miller
Cast: Alan Rickman, Malin Akerman, Justin Bartha, Richard de Klerk, Johnny Galecki, Ashley Greene, Rupert Grint, Taylor Hawkins, Stana Katic, Donal Logue, Joel David Moore, Freddy Rodriguez, Mickey Sumner, Bradley Whitford
Synopsis: “CBGB” looks at New York’s dynamic punk rock scene through the lens of the ground-breaking Lower East Side club started by eccentric Hilly Kristal in 1973 originally as a home for “country, bluegrass and blues” (thus the club’s name) and which showcased cutting-edge bands through its closing in 2006. The Talking Heads, Patti Smith, The Ramones, Blondie, The Dead Boys, Bad Brains, Green Day, Soul Asylum, The Police, Bruce Springsteen, Everclear, George Thorogood, The Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, The Black Crowes, The Flaming Lips, The Goo Goo Dolls, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The B-52s, The Runaways, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Tool and The Wallflowers are just some of the thousands of bands that played the club over the years.
Why see it? To revisit a time when New York was gritty, grimy and free from corporate whitewash. It will also be a kick to see Rickman, Grint, Bartha, Whitford, Akerman, Rodriguez and Katic transform themselves for the time period.
Title: “Kill Your Darlings” – poster
Written by: Austin Bunn, John Krokidas
Director: John Krokidas
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster, Michael C. Hall, Jack Huston, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Elizabeth Olsen
Synopsis: “Kill Your Darlings” is the previously untold story of murder that brought together a young Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and William Burroughs (Ben Foster) at Columbia University in 1944, providing the spark that would lead to their Beat Revolution. This is the true story of friendship and murder that led to the birth of an entire generation.
Why see it? The movie has been getting mostly positive reviews since it’s world premiere at Sundance earlier this year and it has a great cast.
Written by: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Director: Kimberly Peirce
Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Judy Greer, Portia Doubleday, Julianne Moore
Synopsis: A reimagining of the classic horror tale about Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz), a shy girl outcast by her peers and sheltered by her deeply religious mother (Julianne Moore), who unleashes telekinetic terror on her small town after being pushed too far at her senior prom.
Why see it? The original 1976 “Carrie” directed by Brian De Palma from a script by Stephen King and Lawrence Cohen was nominated for two Academy Awards and still holds up surprisingly well today. Chilling performances by Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie have been key to the film’s longevity, not to mention De Palma’s direction. In terms of an update, it’s encouraging to see Pierce (“Boys Don’t Cry’) at the helm and a cast that features Moretz and Moore. The updated movie incorporates the recent trend of online bullying via social media and has Carrie fully aware of her telekinetic powers well before the movie’s final scenes. This may be hard for swallow for diehard fans of the original.
Title: “12 Years a Slave”
Written by: John Ridley
Director: Steve McQueen
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Garret Dillahunt, Paul Giamatti, Scoot McNairy, Lupita Nyong’o, Adepero Oduye, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Michael Kenneth Williams, Alfre Woodard, Chris Chalk, Taran Killam and Bill Camp
Synopsis: “12 Years a Slave” is based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender), as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) will forever alter his life.
Why see it? Since its debut at the Telluride Film Festival early reaction from critics has been positive with many predicting the movie will receive multiple Oscar nominations next year. The acting in particular has been praised.
Title: “The Fifth Estate”
Written by: Josh Singer
Director: Bill Condon
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Anthony Mackie, David Thewlis, Stanley Tucci, Laura Linney
Synopsis: The story begins as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Bruhl) team up to become underground watchdogs of the privileged and powerful. On a shoestring, they create a platform that allows whistleblowers to anonymously leak covert data, shining a light on the dark recesses of government secrets and corporate crimes. Soon, they are breaking more hard news than the world’s most legendary media organizations combined. But when Assange and Berg gain access to the biggest trove of confidential intelligence documents in U.S. history, they battle each other and a defining question of our time: what are the costs of keeping secrets in a free society and what are the costs of exposing them?
Why see it? WikiLeaks is the price we pay for the Internet Age and if nothing else the movie will bring the conversation of privacy and national security to the mainstream.
Title: “All is Lost”
Written by: J.C. Chandor
Director: J.C. Chandor
Cast: Robert Redford
Synopsis: Deep into a solo voyage in the Indian Ocean, an unnamed man (Redford) wakes to find his 39-foot yacht taking on water after a collision with a shipping container left floating on the high seas. With his navigation equipment and radio disabled, the man sails unknowingly into the path of a violent storm. Despite his success in patching the breached hull, his mariner’s intuition, and a strength that belies his age, the man barely survives the tempest. Using only a sextant and nautical maps to chart his progress, he is forced to rely on ocean currents to carry him into a shipping lane in hopes of hailing a passing vessel. But with the sun unrelenting, sharks circling and his meager supplies dwindling, the ever-resourceful sailor soon finds himself staring his mortality in the face.
Why see it? Chandor’s debut feature, “Margin Call,” was stunningly good. His ability to create tension with dry subject matter, such as the 2008 financial meltdown, and somehow make an ordinary office building not feel claustrophobic, was impressive. If there is anybody who can be sure that the story of a man stranded at sea is not boring, I believe it’s him.
Written by: Diablo Cody
Director: Diablo Cody
Cast: Julianne Hough, Russell Brand, Octavia Spencer, Holly Hunter, Nick Offerman
Synopsis: After a nearly fatal accident, 21-year-old Lamb Mannerheim (Hough) is beginning to realize that the world is much bigger than her small, God-fearing Montana town. Armed with a big, fat insurance payout and a checklist of untried sins, there ís only one place for her first taste of temptation, Las Vegas! Now this wide-eyed, innocent girl will have to navigate the bright lights, seedy bars and dark alleys of Sin City. And, with the help of a few new friends (Brand and Spencer), Lamb just might survive her strange adventure and discover what it means to really live.
Why see it? As the writer of “Juno” and the underappreciated “Young Adult,” this is Cody’s first time behind the camera. Everything could either go horribly wrong or not half bad. Since she also wrote the script for “Paradise” I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.
Title: “The Counselor”
Written by: Cormac McCarthy
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt
Synopsis: McCarthy, making his screenwriting debut and Scott interweave the author’s characteristic wit and dark humor with a nightmarish scenario, in which a respected lawyer’s dalliance with an illegal business deal spirals out of control.
Why see it? For the talent both behind and in front of the camera.
Title: “About TIme”
Written by: Richard Curtis
Director: Richard Curtis
Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Tom Hollander, Margot Robbie
Synopsis: At the age of 21, Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) discovers he can travel in time. The night after another unsatisfactory New Year party, Tim’s father (Bill Nighy) tells his son that the men in his family have always had the ability to travel through time. Tim can’t change history, but he can change what happens and has happened in his own life—so he decides to make his world a better place…by getting a girlfriend. Sadly, that turns out not to be as easy as you might think. Moving from the Cornwall coast to London to train as a lawyer, Tim finally meets the beautiful but insecure Mary (Rachel McAdams). They fall in love, then an unfortunate time-travel incident means he’s never met her at all. So they meet for the first time again—and again—but finally, after a lot of cunning time-traveling, he wins her heart.
Why see it? It’s McAdams and that dimple doing what they do best – the romantic comedy with an implausible premise. And remember how incredibly good Curtis’ “Love Actually was? It somehow managed to have all the good feeling of a romantic comedy without being sappy or boring. I’m happy to see any love story Curtis attempts.
Title: “Dallas Buyers Club”
Written by: Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Cast: Matthew McConaughy, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto
Synopsis: Matthew McConaughey stars in “Dallas Buyers Club” as real-life Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof, whose free-wheeling life was overturned in 1985 when he was diagnosed as HIV-positive and given 30 days to live. These were the early days of the AIDS epidemic, and the U.S. was divided over how to combat the virus. Ron, now shunned and ostracized by many of his old friends, and bereft of government-approved effective medicines, decided to take matters in his own hands, tracking down alternative treatments from all over the world by means both legal and illegal. Bypassing the establishment, the entrepreneurial Woodroof joined forces with an unlikely band of renegades and outcasts – who he once would have shunned – and established a hugely successful “buyers club.” Their shared struggle for dignity and acceptance is a uniquely American story of the transformative power of resilience.
Why see it? For McConaughy, who has reinvented his career and is on one hell of a hot streak. And for Leto, who hasn’t been seen in a movie for five years.
Title: “Enders Game”
Written by: TBD
Director: Gavin Hood
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Viola Davis
Synopsis: In the near future, a hostile alien race called the Formics have attacked Earth. If not for the legendary heroics of International Fleet Commander Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), all would have been lost. In preparation for the next attack, the highly esteemed Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) and the International Military are training only the best young minds to find the future Mazer. Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a shy but strategically brilliant boy, is recruited to join the elite. Arriving at Battle School, Ender quickly and easily masters increasingly difficult challenges and simulations, distinguishing himself and winning respect amongst his peers. Ender is soon ordained by Graff as the military’s next great hope, resulting in his promotion to Command School. Once there, he ís trained by Mazer Rackham himself to lead his fellow soldiers into an epic battle that will determine the future of Earth and save the human race.
Why see it? It’s Harrison Ford in space! This is a no-brainer.
Written by: Jimmy Hayward, Scott Mosier
Director: Jimmy Hayward
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Owen Wilson, Amy Poehler, Dan Fogler, Lesley Nicol, George Takei, Colm Meaney and Keith David
Synopsis: In this hilarious, adventurous buddy comedy for audiences of all ages, directed by Jimmy Hayward (Horton Hears a Who!), two turkeys from opposite sides of the tracks must put aside their differences and team up to travel back in time to change the course of history – and get turkey off the Thanksgiving menu for good.
Why see it? A clever take on the Thanksgiving tradition and I”m a sucker for movies with time travel.
Title: “Last Vegas”
Written by: Dan Fogelman
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Cast: Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman & Kevin Kline
Synopsis: Starring four legends like you’ve never seen them before, “Last Vegas” tells the story of Billy, Paddy, Archie and Sam (played by Academy-Award winners Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline), best friends since childhood. When Billy, the group’s sworn bachelor, finally proposes to his 30-something (of course) girlfriend, the four head to Las Vegas with a plan to stop acting their age and relive their glory days. However, upon arriving, the four quickly realize that the decades have transformed Sin City and tested their friendship in ways they never imagined.
Why see it? It’s “The Hangover” for the over sixty set and with this cast what could possibly go wrong? Well, it could turn out to be a boring, predictable movie with shoddy writing and stale jokes. Director Turteltaub (“National Treasure”) knows how to keep the pacing going and there is a lightheartedness to his movies that is entertaining. Fogelman did write “Crazy, Stupid Love,” which was a good movie so “Last Vegas” actually has a shot at being good.
Title: “Best Man Down”
Written by: Ted Koland
Director: Ted Koland
Cast: Justin Long, Tyler Labine, Jess Weixler, Addison Timlin, Frances O’Connor and Shelley Long
Synopsis: When their obnoxious and over-served best man, Lumpy (Labine) unexpectedly dies at their destination wedding in Phoenix, bride and groom Kristin (Weixler) and Scott (Long) are forced to cancel their honeymoon and fly home to the snowy Midwest to arrange for his funeral. But when they arrive they realize that there was a lot more to their friend than met the eye.
Why see it? I may be the only one who feels this way, but I’m seeing it for Long and Labine, who I’ve enjoyed watching since “Galaxy Quest,” for the former and “Sons of Tucson” for the latter.
Title: “Thor: The Dark World”
Written by: Christopher Yost and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Director: Alan Taylor
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano, Jaimie Alexander with Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins
Synopsis: Marvel’s “Thor: The Dark World” continues the big-screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself. In the aftermath of Marvel’s “Thor” and “Marvel’s The Avengers,” Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos…but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.
Why see it? Because it will have been five months since “Iron Man 3” opened in movie theaters and you’ll be going through superhero withdrawal.
Title: “Charlie Countryman”
Written by: Matt Drake
Director: Fredrik Bond
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Evan Rachel Wood, Mads Mikkelsen, Melissa Leo, Til Schweiger, Rupert Grint
Synopsis: Charlie Countryman (LaBeouf) was just a normal guy… until he fell in love with the one girl who will probably get him killed. When Charlie meets the absolutely irresistible Gabi she ís already been claimed by Nigel, an insanely violent crime boss with a gang of thugs at his disposal. Armed with little more than his wit and naive charm, Charlie endures one bruising beat down after another to woo Gabi and keep her out of harm’s way. Finally his exploits of blind valor create such a mess that he’s left with only one way out; to save the girl of his dreams, must Charlie Countryman die?
Why see it? For now it’s enough for me just to see La Beouf and Wood onscreen together. A Google search for a trailer pulled up a YouTube page that was really more of a clip, which didn’t offer much in terms of insight into the movie. The film will only have a limited release so it’s doubtful I will get a chance to see it even though I would like to.
Title: “Sunlight Jr.”
Written by: Laurie Collyer
Director: Laurie Collyer
Cast: Naomi Watts, Matt Dillon, Norman Reedus
Synopsis: Sunlight Jr.” spotlights hard-working convenience store clerk Melissa (Watts) and her disabled boyfriend, Richie (Dillon), who are trapped in a generational cycle of poverty. Their luck may be changing when they learn that Melissa has become pregnant. But as soon as she loses her job and they get evicted from the motel they live in, their joy vanishes. Through this adversity, the couple realizes that they can never lose everything as long as they have each other.
Why see it? Perhaps this bleak movie will help those who see it appreciate their own circumstances and think about how lucky they truly are.
Title: “Wolf of Wall Street”
Written by: Terence Winter
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConnaughey
Synopsis: Based on Jordan Belfort’s best-selling memoir “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which chronicles Belfort’s dramatic rise and fall on Wall Street, along with his hard-partying lifestyle and tumultuous personal life, which included drug and alcohol addiction.
Why see it? Scorsese and DiCaprio are together again and McConnaughey appears to be continuing his hot streak with another Oscar-caliber performance. He’s bound to get a nomination for at least one of his movies this year.
Title: “Delivery Man”
Written by: Ken Scott
Director: Ken Scott
Cast: Vince Vaughn
Synopsis: Vince Vaughn stars as affable underachiever David Wozniak, whose anonymous donations to a fertility clinic 20 years earlier resulted in 533 children. David must now embark on a journey that leads him to discover not only his true self but also the father that he could become.
Why see it? Here’s something I don’t remember ever happening before: a writer/director remakes his own small, low-budget movie but this time it’s a big studio holiday release with one of the biggest comedy stars of the decade. That appears to be what happened for Scott, who co-wrote and directed “Starbuck,” about a man who finds out he fathered 142 children from his donations to a fertility clinic. The trailer exudes a warm fuzziness that makes it tailor-made for the holidays. Parents are going to eat this one up.
Title: “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”
Written by: Simon Beaufoy and Michael DeBruyn
Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone and Jeffrey Wright, with Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland.
Synopsis: “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” begins as Katniss Everdeen has returned home safe after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark. Winning means that they must turn around and leave their family and close friends, embarking on a “Victor’s Tour” of the districts. Along the way Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell) – a competition that could change Panem forever.
Why see it? The cast returns but there is a new director at the helm and new writers. The trailer shows the second installment in the “Hunger Games” series ratchets up the excitement from the first movie, which is currently available on Netflix streaming for anybody who needs a refresher.
Written by: Bob Nelson
Director: Alexander Payne
Cast: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, Bob Odenkirk, Stacy Keach, June Squibb
Synopsis: When a cantankerous old man (Dern) naively thinks he’s won a million dollars from a magazine sweepstakes, his son (Forte) reluctantly agrees to escort him on a road trip from Billings to Lincoln to claim his prize.
Why see it? “Nebraska” is among the movies listed as an early frontrunner for an Oscar nomination, especially in the acting categories. It’s refreshing to see a light-hearted drama that doesn’t appear to follow any formulaic conventions.
Written by: Jennifer Lee
Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk
Synopsis: When a prophecy traps a kingdom in eternal winter, Anna (voice of Kristen Bell), a fearless optimist, teams up with extreme mountain man, Kristoff, (voice of Jonathan Groff) and his sidekick reindeer Sven on an epic journey to find Anna’s sister Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel), the Snow Queen, and put an end to her icy spell. Encountering mystical trolls, an amazing and comedic snowman named Olaf, Everest-like conditions and magic at every turn, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom from destruction.
Why see it? “Frozen” is being released by Walt Disney Animation Studios, which produced “Tangled” and “Wreck-it-Ralph,” and both cleverly written and visually appealing.
Title: “Oldboy” – assets downloaded
Written by: Mark Protosevich
Director: Spike Lee
Cast: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson and Sharlto Copley
Synopsis: “Oldboy” is a provocative, visceral thriller that follows the story of an advertising executive (Josh Brolin) who is abruptly kidnapped and held hostage for 20 years in solitary confinement. When he is inexplicably released, he embarks on an obsessive mission to discover who orchestrated his bizarre and torturous punishment only to find he is still trapped in a web of conspiracy and torment.
Why see it? Lee is an interesting choice to bring Hong Kong director Chan-wook Park’s dark and violent revenge tale to American audiences. Brolin appears to have given everything for this performance. I’ve heard Park’s version is hard to watch and I suspect the American version, while violent, will be somewhat tempered and possibly more accessible to a broader audience.
Title: “Out of the Furnace”
Written by: Brad Ingelsby and Scott Cooper
Director: Scott Cooper
Cast: Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe with Zoë Saldana and Sam Shepard
Synopsis: From Scott Cooper, the critically-acclaimed writer and director of “Crazy Heart,” comes a gripping and gritty drama about family, fate, circumstance, and justice. Russell Baze (Christian Bale) has a rough life: he works a dead-end blue collar job at the local steel mill by day, and cares for his terminally ill father by night. When Russell’s brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) returns home from serving time in Iraq, he gets lured into one of the most ruthless crime rings in the Northeast and mysteriously disappears. The police fail to crack the case, so – with nothing left to lose – Russell takes matters into his own hands, putting his life on the line to seek justice for his brother.
Why see it? To watch Bale return to acting without the use of a cape and cowl.
Title: “American Hustle”
Written by: Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell
Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence
Synopsis: A fictional film set in the alluring world of one of the most stunning scandals to rock the States, “American Hustle” tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who along with his equally cunning and seductive British partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is forced to work for a wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that’s as dangerous as it is enchanting. Jeremy Renner is Carmine Polito, the passionate, volatile, New Jersey political operator caught between the con-artists and Feds. Irving’s unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down.
Why see it? My absolute favorite trailer of the fall releases is for “American Hustle.” Besides it’s brilliant use of the Led Zeppiln song “Good Times Bad Times,” there is something abut the costumes, the music, the makeup and hair that just make me nostalgic for the late ‘70s and early ‘80s in which the movie is set. I can’t decide what’s sexier on Lawrence and Adams — the body hugging polyester dressers or the big har. Remember the last time Cooper, Russell and Lawrence collaborate on a movie? “Silver Linings Playbook” received eight Oscar nominations and If “American Hustle” lives up to the trailer it will likely make an appearance at the Oscars too.
Title: “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaugh”
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Evangeline Lilly
Synopsis: The second in a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug continues the adventures of the title character Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as he journeys with the Wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and thirteen Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) on an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.
Why see it? There’s nothing like a trip to Middle Earth to get into the holiday spirit. Also, the special effects look incredible.
Written by: Spike Jonze
Director: Spike Jonze
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, Scarlett Johansson
Synopsis: Set in Los Angeles, slightly in the future, “her” follows Theodore Twombly, a complex, soulful man who makes his living writing touching, personal letters for other people. Heartbroken after the end of a long relationship, he becomes intrigued with a new, advanced operating system, which promises to be an intuitive entity in its own right, individual to each user. Upon initiating it, he is delighted to meet “Samantha,” a bright, female voice, who is insightful, sensitive and surprisingly funny. As her needs and desires grow, in tandem with his own, their friendship deepens into an eventual love for each other.
Why see it? Jonze (“Being John Malkovich”) is one the most inventive and imaginative directors working today. And while he may have missteped with “Where the Wild Things Are,” he seems to getting back to his quirky character-driven pieces with “Her.” Phoenix is he kind of actor that keeps people guessing and he seems perfectly cast in this movie.
Title: “The Monuments Men”
Written by: George Clooney, Grant Heslov
Director: George Clooney
Cast: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, John Goodman
Synopsis: Based on the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history, “The Monuments Men” is an action-thriller focusing on an unlikely World War II platoon, tasked by FDR with going into Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their rightful owners. It would be an impossible mission: with the art trapped behind enemy lines, and with the German army under orders to destroy everything as the Reich fell, how could these guys—seven museum directors, curators, and art historians, all more familiar with Michelangelo than the M-1—possibly hope to succeed? As the Monuments Men, as they were called, found themselves in a race against time to avoid the destruction of 1000 years of culture, they would risk their lives to protect and defend mankind’s greatest achievements.
Why see it?
Title: “Anchorman 2”
Written by: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay
Director: Adam McKay
Cast: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Christina Applegate, David Koechner
Synopsis: With the 70’s behind him, San Diego’s top rated newsman, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), returns to the news desk in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.” Also back for more are Ron’s co-anchor and wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), weather man Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), man on the street Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and sports guy Champ Kind (David Koechner) – All of whom won’t make it easy to stay classy…while taking New York’s first 24-hour news channel by storm.
Why see it? Since it’s release in 2004, “Anchorman” has grown in popularity as a cult classic with lines from the movie now immortalized on T-shirts and I swear, Ferrell as Ron Burgandy made it cool for men to wear moustaches again. Those who loved the first movie have been waiting for a sequel for years. Hopefully McKay and Ferrell have written a script as clever and funny as the first.
Title: “Inside Llewyn Davis”
Written by: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Director: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund and Justin Timberlake
Synopsis: Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is at a crossroads. Guitar in tow, huddled against the unforgiving New York winter, he is struggling to make it as a musician against seemingly insurmountable obstacles—some of them of his own making. Living at the mercy of both friends and strangers, scaring up what work he can find, Llewyn’s misadventures take him from the baskethouses of the Village to an empty Chicago club—on an odyssey to audition for a music mogul —and back again.
Why see it? The Coen brothers have created another Oscar favorite that will be sure to introduce audiences to some new musical talent, as they did with “O Brother Where Art Thou.”
Isaac’s soulful eyes hook you in and make you root for his character.
Title: “Saving Mr. Banks”
Written by: Kelly Marcel
Director: John Lee Hancock
Cast: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Annie Rose Buckley, Ruth Wilson, B.J. Novak, Rachel Griffiths, Kathy Baker
Synopsis: When Walt Disney’s daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers’ “Mary Poppins,” he made them a promise – one that he didn’t realize would take 20 years to keep. In his quest to obtain the rights, Walt comes up against a curmudgeonly, uncompromising writer who has absolutely no intention of letting her beloved magical nanny get mauled by the Hollywood machine. But, as the books stop selling and money grows short, Travers reluctantly agrees to go to Los Angeles to hear Disney’s plans for the adaptation.
For those two short weeks in 1961, Walt Disney pulls out all the stops. Armed with imaginative storyboards and chirpy songs from the talented Sherman brothers, Walt launches an all-out onslaught on P.L. Travers, but the prickly author doesn’t budge. He soon begins to watch helplessly as Travers becomes increasingly immovable and the rights begin to move further away from his grasp. It is only when he reaches into his own childhood that Walt discovers the truth about the ghosts that haunt her, and together they set Mary Poppins free to ultimately make one of the most endearing films in cinematic history.
Why see it? It’s hard to imagine that it was difficult to make a film version of “Mary Poppins,” so I am curious to learn about this movie’s interesting backstory.
Title: “47 Ronin”
Written by: Chris Morgan, Hossein Amini
Director: Carl Rinsch
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi
Synopsis: Keanu Reeves makes an explosive return to action-adventure in “47 Ronin.” After a treacherous warlord kills their master and banishes their kind, 47 leaderless samurai vow to seek vengeance and restore honor to their people. Driven from their homes and dispersed across the land, this band of Ronin must seek the help of Kai (Reeves), a half-breed they once rejected, as they fight their way across a savage world of mythic beasts, shape-shifting witchcraft and wondrous terrors. As this exiled, enslaved outcast becomes their most deadly weapon, he will transform into the hero who inspires this band of outnumbered rebels to seize eternity.
Why see it? Reeves and martial arts are a winning combination and this movie has more than just some spectacular acrobatics. Take “Lord of the Rings” and combine with with “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” and you get “47 Ronin.”
Title: “August:Osage County”
Written by: Tracy Letts
Director: John Wells
Cast: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Sam Shepard, Misty Upham
Synopsis: “August: Osage County” tells the dark, hilarious and deeply touching story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose lives have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Midwest house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them.
Why see it? Before reactions from the movie’s Toronto Film Festival preview started leaking, I was excited for this movie for the superb cast. Plus, I like to see anything Streep is in. However, initial reaction has not been good so even though I’ll still see it my assumption that it’s going to be good has been compromised.
Title: “Grudge Match”
Written by: Tim Kelleher, Rodney Rothman
Director: Peter Segal
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Kevin Hart, Alan Arkin, Kim Basinger, Jon Bernthal, Camden Gray
Synopsis: In “Grudge Match,” De Niro and Stallone play Billy “The Kid” McDonnen and Henry “Razor” Sharp, two local Pittsburgh fighters whose fierce rivalry put them in the national spotlight. Each had scored a victory against the other during their heyday, but in 1983, on the eve of their decisive third match, Razor suddenly announced his retirement, refusing to explain why but effectively delivering a knock-out punch to both their careers. Thirty years later, boxing promoter Dante Slate Jr., seeing big dollar signs, makes them an offer they can’t refuse: to re-enter the ring and settle the score once and for all. But they may not have to wait that long: on their first encounter in decades, their long-festering feud erupts into an unintentionally hilarious melee that instantly goes viral. The sudden social media frenzy transforms their local grudge match into a must-see HBO event. Now, if they can just survive the training, they may actually live to fight again.
Why see it? Just to see De Niro punch Stallone in the face.
Title: “The Invisible Woman”
Written by: Abi Morgan
Director: Ralph Fiennes
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas, Tom Hollander
Synopsis: Most of Charles Dickens’ acclaimed work as an author is well known, whether it’s “Oliver Twist” or “A Tale of Two Cities” or “Great Expectations” or “A Christmas Carol,” all stories that have been adapted to the big screen either directly or influencing other movies. What some may not know is that he had a mistress named Nelly Ternan for 13 years right up until his death, something accounted by Claire Tomalin in her book “The Invisible Woman.”
Why see it? For the reunion of Fiennes and Scott Thomas, who were last together in the Academy-award winning “The English Patient.”
Title: “Jack Ryan”
Written by: David Koepp
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner
Synopsis: Based on the Jack Ryan character created by bestselling author Tom Clancy, the film is a contemporary action thriller set in the present day and follows a young Jack as he uncovers a financial terrorist plot.
Why see it? Jack Ryan is on the big screen once again and this time it’s our money that’s in danger! That is terrifying.
Title: “Labor Day”
Written by: Jason Reitman
Director: Jason Reitman
Cast: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, James Van Der Beek, Tobey Maguire
Synopsis: “Labor Day” centers on 13-year-old Henry Wheeler, who struggles to be the man of his house and care for his reclusive mother Adele while confronting all the pangs of adolescence. On a back-to-school shopping trip, Henry and his mother encounter Frank Chambers, a man both intimidating and clearly in need of help, who convinces them to take him into their home and later is revealed to be an escaped convict. The events of this long Labor Day weekend will shape them for the rest of their lives.
Why see it? It will be interesting to see how Reitman handles a more dramatic and intense storyline.
Title: “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”
Written by: Steve Conrad
Director: Ben Stiller
Cast: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Shirley MacLaine, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Sean Penn
Synopsis: Ben Stiller directs and stars in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” James Thurber’s classic story of a day-dreamer who escapes his anonymous life by disappearing into a world of fantasies filled with heroism, romance and action. When his job along with that of his co-worker (Kristen Wiig) are threatened, Walter takes action in the real world embarking on a global journey that turns into an adventure more extraordinary than anything he could have ever imagined.
Why see it? This looks like a fun, wild adventure that also has an uplifting message. Who doesn’t want to escape their ordinary lives?