October Rundown: 8 Must-See Movies

Aside from Denis Villeneuve’s dark, dizzying Prisoners, this September was an unusually slow start to the 2013 Fall Movie Season. By this time last year we had already been treated to the candy-colored bombast of Dredd 3D, the head-spinning ambition of Rian Johnson’s Looper, and the soul-crushing character study of Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. Sorry, but this year’s uninspired mob-genre riff The Family and atrocious 3D failure Battle of the Year don’t hold a match to those three September 2012 gems. Not even Ron Howard’s exciting Rush does either. So where in the world are all the damn good movies? Luckily the answer is already here: October. With multiple award contenders on the horizon this month, October brings critically acclaimed filmmakers and actors back to the big screen, from Alfonso Cuaron, Steve McQueen, and Ridley Scott to Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks, and Julianne Moore.  Out of the over 50 limited and nationwide releases this month, here are 8 movies that you’ll probably want to check out:

Gravity Poster.jpgGravity (Oct. 4) – Acclaimed Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron has arguably made one of the best foreign language dramas (Y Tu Mama Tambian), one of the best Harry Potter movies (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), and one of the best dystopian science fiction films of all time (Children of Men). Now, after a 7-year absence, most of which was used to create the technology needed to make the movie feel like it was filmed in space (complete with that feeling of zero-gravity weightlessness), Cuaron returns to theaters with what could very well be the best film of the year and one of the most memorable movie-going experiences of all time. Gravity, a space epic following two astronauts (George Clooney and Sandra Bullock) desperately struggling for survival after a debris shower destroys their ship, has all the makings of a Cuaron classic, especially since his love for long, unbroken single takes seems to be very much in tact here (the opening shot lasts a staggering 13 minutes uninterrupted). Regardless of what’s opening this month, Gravity is the must see movie to see in the theater and paying the extra bucks for a premium IMAX 3D ticket seems well worth it. Just how incredible this one is remains to be seen but one thing that’s certain: expect to here Cuaron and Bullock’s names all awards season long.

Captain Phillips Poster.jpgCaptain Phillips (Oct. 11) – Any movie starring Oscar-winning legend Tom Hanks is an obvious must-see, but one that’s a real life, modern day pirate thriller directed by Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum)? Now that’s just mandatory viewing. Covering the events of the 2009 Maersk Alabama hijacking – which saw 4 Somali pirates take control of a freighter run by Captain Richard Phillips (Hanks) – Captain Phillips is already being hailed a knockout, with some media outlets claiming that Tom Hanks soars to new career peaks as an actor. If these early reviews are true – and Hank really is soaring to new career peaks over Forrest Gump, Philadelphia, Cast Away, and more – than my god this is bound to be one hell of an emotional journey and another contender for best of the year. More excitingly, Captain Phillips brings director Greengrass back to the “true-story of heroism” genre he so masterfully and gut-wrenchingly nailed in the great United 93. Combining the stirring emotions of United 93 with the ultra-tense, docu-like atmosphere of his final two Bourne efforts, Captain Phillips should be an edge-of-your-seat heart racer. Once again – expect to hear Greengrass and Hanks’ names all awards season long.

Machete Kills.jpgMachete Kills (Oct. 11) – In the midst of an awards season full of heavy, adult oriented dramas, Machete Kills gets bonus points for being exactly the opposite: a bloody, dirty, extremely violent R-rated massacre of a movie with exploited women and tons of guns, drugs, and the rag-tag, bad boy duo of Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen. Yes, you read that correctly. The sequel to Robert Rodriguez’s highly enjoyable exploitation send-up Machete (which itself was based on a fake trailer that debuted in front of Rodriguez and Tarantino’s B-movie homage Grindhouse), Machete Kills again finds Danny Trejo on a killing streak that leads him to Jessica Alba, Michele Rodriguez, Sheen, Gibson, Oscar-nominee Damien Bichir, Lady Gaga, Sofia Vergara, Antonio Banderes, Alexis Vega, Zoe Saldana, Vanessa Hudgens, Cuba Gooding Jr., and more. With a cast this wild, expect Rodriguez to match, and maybe even surpass that wacko, B-movie extravaganza energy of the first. In other words, we couldn’t be more excited!

Escape From Tomorrow poster.jpgEscape From Tomorrow (Oct. 11 LIMITED) – Shot discretely on location at Walt Disney World without the approval of The Walt Disney Company, this controversial fantasy-horror movie should be the must see experimental movie of the year if reviews out of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival are to be believed. Marking Randy Moore’s debut feature, Tomorrow showcases a father’s last day at the famed theme park and his subsequent decent into madness, a startling metaphor about “the terror of ubiquitous entertainment”. Combining surrealist and neo-noir filmmaking elements, critics have compared this guerilla-style horror film to Roman Polanski and David Lynch, and the late critic Roger Ebert hand-selected it to screen at his Chicago film festival right before his passing. So, just how terrifying is this Disney-world gone to hell movie? We’ll have to wait and see, but luckily it hits theaters and video-on-demand simultaneously so we’ll all have the opportunity to check it out.

Carrie 2013 poster.jpgCarrie (Oct. 18) – Ok, so do we really need a remake of Brian De Palma’s 1976 horror classic? Nope. But this Stephen King-based tale of a specially gifted girl gone mad should be the perfect Halloween treat, especially since not a single other nationwide horror movie is being released this year. While we can bitch about Hollywood’s addiction with remakes, why not praise them for sparing us another Paranormal Activity entry; plus, the talents behind this Carrie remake are quite good. For starters, the incredibly talented Chloe Grace Moretz is stepping into Carrie’s pig-blood-soaked shoes, and while Sissy Spacek’s original, Oscar-nominated performance has since become iconic, Moretz should do just fine putting her own unique spin on the character. Same for the great Julianne Moore, who has the movie’s best role as Carrie’s sadistic, God-loving mother, Margaret White. While Piper Laurie’s version of the character is the definitive mother from hell, there’s really nothing the supremely skilled Moore can’t do. Expect fireworks. Also of intrigue is director Kimberly Pierce, who hasn’t made a film since 2008’s Stop-Loss. Importantly, Pierce was the writer-director of 1999’s Oscar-winning Boys Don’t Cry, a film that more than proves she knows how to handle female isolation and inner turmoil, themes that resonate very well in King’s horror story. We might not need a Carrie remake but sign me up anyway!

All is Lost poster.jpgAll Is Lost (Oct. 18 LIMITED) – After earning an Original Screenplay Oscar-nomination for his 2011 debut Margin Call, director J.C. Chandor returns with follow-up All Is Lost, starring Robert Redford as a man lost at sea. Entirely a one man show – Redford is the only actor in the entire film – and filmed with barley any dialogue – reports claim Redford has all but 10 lines throughout the movie’s 100 minutes – All Is Lost shares many of the same ideas and survival themes as Cuaron’s Gravity, which can only be a good thing. Redford hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar since 1973’s The Sting and, once again, expect his name to be called all awards season long in the Best Actor race.

12 Years a Slave film poster.jpg12 Years a Slave (October 18 LIMITED) – Though it’s way too early to begin making Oscar predictions, many are already proclaiming 12 Years A Slave this year’s frontrunner for Best Picture, as well as a slew of other awards including Director (Steve McQueen), Actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Supporting Actor (Michael Fassbender), Supporting Actress (newcomer Lupita Nyong’o), Adapted Screenplay (John Ridley), and more. If that’s not enough of a reason to see it, take the reviews that are not only praising 12 Years as one of the first true cinematic depictions of American slavery but also as a film that stands on the same historical grounds as Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. With hype this high it’ll be easy to get yourself over-eager for this one, but with a cast this extraordinary (Sara Paulson, Brad Pitt, Alfre Woodard, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch), a subject matter this emotionally fragile, and a director who has been poised to make it big in America for quite some time now (he barley missed out with 2011 masterpiece Shame), I’d listen to the praise and make 12 Years A Slave one of this month’s mandatory viewings.

The Counselor Poster.jpgThe Counselor (Oct. 25) – More than director Ridley Scott and more than what looks like the perfect ensemble cast (an ticking-time-bomb Michael Fassbender, a sultry Penelope Cruz, a wacked out Javier Bardem, a sly Brad Pitt, and a femme fatale Cameron Diaz), The Counselor is a must-see because it marks the screenwriting debut of famed novelist Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men, The Road). If you’ve ever read a McCarty novel or seen No Country, you know just how brilliant McCarthy is – his knack for poetic prose and his specialty at using horrific violence and just the right time. With a hard R rating, expect The Counselor to take dark, dark turns and go to nightmarish places the trailer only hints at. With Gravity, Captain Phillips, and 12 Years all going for Oscar glory, it’ll be especially great to have an R-rated adult drama merely content with entertaining. And man oh man, expect this one to entertain in sickening and dazzling fashion.

Which October release are you most looking forward to seeing?

Article by Zack Sharf


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