It’s that time of year again! That time that every film fan looks forward to most, the fall! With it recedes the mindlessness of the summer blockbuster season, only to be replaced with Oscar-bait and hidden gems. While last year ended up being one of the strongest fall showings in a long time, fall 2014 is shaping up to be just as good, if not even better thanks to a plethora of long-awaited films finally surfacing and a strong lineup of releases from now till the end of the year. There are so many good (we hope they’re all good) movies on the horizon that our initial list was over thirty films long! However, after much debate we narrowed our list down to the usual twenty. Take a look and let us know what you’re anticipating most this fall!
1.) “Interstellar” (November 7)
Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Christopher Nolan is one of the most renowned directors working today. Thanks to singlehandedly revitalizing Batman, and arguably the superhero genre as a whole, Nolan all but has free reign in Hollywood these days; a rarity in this age of studio mandates and interference. Likewise, Nolan’s best movies tend to be his own original creations. While some may claim that “The Dark Knight” is the greatest creation since the advent of Cheez-Whizz, I’m hard pressed to find someone who honestly believes it a better film than “Memento” or “The Prestige,” not to mention that the extremely mixed response to his trilogy capping “The Dark Knight Rises” has soured many to Nolan’s realistic interpretations of superheroes. So when it was announced that Nolan would step away from tights and capes to develop an original sci-fi epic about wormholes and a dying earth, enthusiastic squeals could be heard around the world. However, anticipation has only increased exponentially as time has passed. The incredible cast announcements, including Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Casey Affleck, and Jessica Chastain, sent the Internet into frenzy, only to be topped by the arrival of a couple trailers in the past few months. While anticipation was already through the roof, the trailers’ astute emotional impact coupled with incredible sci-fi imagery shot anticipation for the film into the stratosphere, catching everyone here at Reel Reactions in its wake. While individually many of us here may be anticipating certain films a bit more, there’s simply no denying the absurd levels of hype surrounding “Interstellar.” No film is a bigger question mark this fall and nothing else has wrangled our collective attention quite like this film. For these reasons alone “Interstellar” is Reel Reactions most anticipated film of Fall 2014. -J.H.
2.) “Inherent Vice” (December 12)
The words “a new Paul Thomas Anderson movie” alone should make any cinephile jump for joy. Combine that with the fact that his newest film is an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s most famous and lauded novel, and that it stars Josh Brolin, Joaquin Phoenix, Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, Maya Rudolph, Michael K Williams, and Reese Witherspoon, and that its been compared to “Big Lebowski” in terms of tone and quality, and you’ve got yourself an automatic top spot on our most anticipated list. There’s really not much more to say because not much is known about the film. Regardless, we here at Reel Reactions will be the first to line up for “Inherent Vice.” – J.H.
3.) “Gone Girl” (October 3rd)
Following his underwhelming adaptation of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” David Fincher is giving the adaptation game another go with a big screen version of Gillian Flynn’s much-lauded thriller, “Gone Girl,” a razor-sharp page-turner about a man who becomes the main suspect in his own wife’s disappearance. The novel itself is a bravado exercise in cyclical and unreliable narration, and with Flynn adapting her prose herself, it’ll be interesting to see how the structure is influenced by the gap between literary and cinematic storytelling (there were rumors that the entirety of the third act was altered by Flynn and Fincher). However, the execution is yet to be seen, and even with the flaws that riddled “Dragon Tattoo,” Fincher is a precise and tenacious filmmaker with reputation and skill to spare. At the very least, you can expect a gorgeously photographed and edited feature, with a surely investment-level duration, and wonderfully chiseled performances. Ben Affleck leaves his director’s chair behind in hopes of completing his next-gen-Ben persona (his first big screen appearance since the Oscar-winning “Argo”) and British actress Rosamund Pike (“The World’s End”) plays the titular missing woman. If anticipation is to be surpassed by presentation, expect “Gone Girl” to heat up multiplexes like it did bookshelves. –M.M.
4.) “Nightcrawler” (October 17)
Without a doubt, one of the most underrated actors working in Hollywood today is Jake Gyllenhaal. Other than his failed attempt to break into Hollywood super-stardom with the 2010 action adventure video game adaptation “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” Gyllenhaal has continuously been independent film’s go to guy, churning out fantastic performance after fantastic performance (most recently his two collaborations with director Denis Villenueve in “Prisoners” and Enemy”). “Nightcrawler,” which stars Gyllenhaal as a hardworking and ambitious Los Angelean who stumbles into the world of freelance crime journalism, looks to be continuing this trend, with Gyllenhaal losing a substantial amount of weight to embody his character’s vicious “hunger,” literally and figuratively. Stylistic action set pieces and a feverish pace give the film a very interesting look, and when dealing with a town as unpredictable as Los Angeles, one can only imagine what first time director Dan Gilroy is capable of. – N.F.
5.) “Birdman” (October 17)
Alejandro González Iñárritu is one of those directors that, while everyone recognizes his incredible talents, none of his movies really live up to his potential as a director. His directorial debut, “Amores Perros,” is supposed to be incredible in parts and flaccid in others, with moments of transcendence but lacking as a whole. Similar statements have surrounded his Oscar nominated “Babel,” while his other American film, “21 Grams,” is an emotional rollercoaster stuck in an inane and unnecessary structure. That being said, Iñárritu seems poised to have his first real winner with this year’s “Birdman.” The story of a washed up actor attempting to remain relevant in a changing world, “Birdman” follows Riggan Thomson, a former superhero star as he attempts to juggle his family life while simultaneously creating a Broadway play in a last ditch effort to recapture his fleeting celebrity. While that may sound trite, the combination of talent and execution make “Birdman” seem utterly unique. It was a pure stroke of brilliance to cast Michael Keaton, who famously played Batman in the late 80’s and early 90’s, in the role. Not to mention the simultaneous post-modern deconstruction of celebrity and superheroes seems ripe for storytelling greatness. Word out of the festival circuit has been revelatory, deeming it an early Oscar frontrunner for Keaton, Iñárritu, and Best Picture, but even without all the accolades it’s quickly earning, this film has enough talent and intrigue behind it to land a top spot on our list. – J.H.
6.) “Whiplash” (October 10)
A film that’s been garnering unbelievable amounts of hype since its premiere, Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash” is shaping up to be the breakout indie film of the year. This dark psychological tale about a drummer (Miles Teller) who’s feverish attempt to become one of the great jazz drummers of all time sets him on a crash course with a demeaning instructor (played by J.K. Simmons) seemed to captivate audiences and critics alike when they both awarded it top prize at the Sundance Film Festival for the drama category, a feat accomplished by “Fruitvale Station” just one year prior. What interests me the most, however, is the countless interviews with director Chazelle, in which he describes his decision to shoot the jazz performances in the style of an action scene, giving viewers some fantastic and high-energy performances to look forward to. – N.F.
7.) “Foxcatcher” (November 14th)
Oscar nominee Bennett Miller helms this true crime story about the murder of an Olympian wrestler at the hands of a multimillionaire. Channing Tatum resides at the center of Miller’s dark drama as Mark Schultz, a wrestling prodigy looking to follow in the footsteps of his Gold medal winning brother, David (Mark Ruffalo), but when he finds himself under heavy manipulation by his unstable sponsor, Jon Du Pont (Steve Carell), things begin to unravel. The rare case of a film being delayed that seems to actually be for the better (it was supposed to hit theaters last Christmas), the film earned raves out of its Cannes premiere and garnered Bennett Miller a Best Director award. It’s been the talk of the town since then, with major merits leaning toward Tatum (supposedly career-best work) and Carell, whose immersion into the warped mind of a psychopath is majorly transformative, eons away from the comedic work by which the actor first made his name. Bridging the stark realism of “Capote” and the dramatic precision of “Moneyball,” Miller could not have found a picture more within his wheelhouse, and if the work keeps turning heads, the accolades may continue to tumble toward team “Foxcatcher.” – M.M.
8.) “The Guest” (September 17)
At the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, Midnight Madness fans were treated divinely when Adam Wingard’s “You’re Next” made it’s appearance on the silver screen. Darkly funny, immensely brutal, and issuing in a new female badass the likes of Ripley or Linda Hamilton, the film captivated horror fans all across the states when it was released theatrically about two years later. Now just one year later, Wingard returns with “The Guest,” an action/thriller that follows the story of David, a soldier returning from war, as he comes into contact with the family of a dead soldier he supposedly befriended while serving together. Much like with 2012’s “Cabin in the Woods,” “You’re Next” shines in its ability to use the genre as a playground, praising its shortcomings and effectiveness while equally satirizing them. As writer/director, Wingard is fully responsible for how unbelievably effective “You’re Next was as a crowd-pleaser, and if early reviews are indicator, it seems like he’s continued that trend with “The Guest.” – N.F.
9.) “Big Hero 6” (October 23)
There’s no denying that over the past few years, Disney Animation Studios has been the champion of animated film. Between “Frozen,” “Wreck-It Ralph,” and “Tangled,” the company has been consistent in producing critically and commercially successful, while studios like Pixar seem to be getting less acclaim and franchises like Dreamwork’s “How to Train Your Dragon” seem to underperform in terms of predicted box office revenue. This year Disney Animated looks to ride their previous success with the release of “Big Hero 6.” An adaptation of a popular Marvel Comic series, the film takes place in fictional San Frantokyo, where young inventor Hiro Hamada and his robot Baymax must pull together a team of inexperienced crime-fighters to foil the plot an evil foe. Bolstering beautiful animation and an all-star voice cast, the film looks like a continuation of the fun, action-packed underdog story we’ve come to know and love from Disney, with the potential to usher in a new era of animated superhero films in the future. -N.F.
10.) “Fury” (October 17th)
For years, David Ayer was regarded solely for his “Training Day” screenplay, even when the screenwriter turned toward a career in directing. After numerous attempts at recreating the same kind of gritty glory that was rewarded to “Training Day,” he scored with the gimmicky cop drama, “End of Watch.” Looking to take his abilities to the next level, Ayer was given the opportunity to bring his World War II passion project, “Fury,” to the big screen. However, he was pushed into helming another feature before Fury could become a reality – this spring’s bomb, “Sabatoge,” starring Arnold Schwartzenegger, which our own Zack Sharf called, “as tasteless as filmmaking gets.” With our expectations considerably low for any kind of Ayer follow-up, our interests peaked considerably after the debut of “Fury’s” ruthless first trailer. Gone were the sandy streets of Los Angeles and the thematic blurry line between cop and criminal, now replaced by the vast trenches of World War II. Gone were the flexed muscles of “Sabatoge’s” ragtag cast, now replaced by the star power magnetism of Brad Pitt. Whether or not “Fury” amounts to anything as golden as other movies starring its lead or taking place in the same period, it appears that Ayer, both as a writer and director, is ready to grow up and prove that he’s a craftsman worthy of something far greater than the standard LA grime. This could actually be Ayer’s shot at something truly fantastic. – M.M.
11.) “Horns” (October 31)
Daniel Radcliff has been trying with all his might to put some distance between himself and Harry Potter, and for the most part, he’s been succeeding fantastically. He appeared nude on Broadway, acted alongside Jon Hamm on the BBC, starred in horror films and romantic comedies alike, and delivered a career best performance as Allen Ginsberg. However, what better way to distance yourself from a goody-two-shoes hero role than to play a character that is slowly but surely turning into the Devil himself? That’s the underlying concept to Alexandre Aja’s newest film “Horns.” Adapted from Joe Hill’s, son of Stephan King, fantastic novel of the same name, “Horns” tells the story of Ig Perrish, a man who mysteriously starts growing horns after doing terrible things on the anniversary of his girlfriend’s enigmatic murder. However, these aren’t any old ornamental horns, but rather power-bestowing instruments upon which Ig can reveal the secret desires of any and everyone he comes in contact with. Realizing the potential of this horrible gift, Ig sets out to find his girlfriend’s killer. While this may sound like a standard murder mystery with a twist, the novel is much more about the emotional core of these characters, and the moral quandaries of doing horrible things with good intentions. If Aja can maintain the nuances that make the book so great, and Radcliffe can live up to both his potential as an actor and Ig’s potential as a great character, than “Horns” very well may be one of the biggest crowd pleasers of the season. -J.H.
12.) “The Interview” (December 25th)
The comedic talents of James Franco remained mostly untapped after “Freaks & Geeks” came to a premature close in the early 2000’s, but once fellow Freak-for-life Seth Rogen became a comedic heavy hitter seven or so years later, their big screen reunion, better know as “Pineapple Express,” reaffirmed the integrity of numerous comedy subsidiaries: the R-rated comedy, the stoner comedy, the action comedy, and the buddy comedy. When the duo teamed up again, they brought all of their friends along for the ride, and the apocalyptic “This is the End” was an even bigger abundance of riches. The gap between “Express” and “End” was a full five years, but thankfully we only had to wait a fifth of the time to see Franco and Rogen side-by-side once more. Their newest, and already most controversial, is entitled “The Interview” and chronicles an oblivious newscaster (Franco) and his producer (Rogen) during their attempt to assassinate the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Un. The early trailers have only teased the absurdity that will surely make up most of “The Interview,” but the viral campaign has gotten off to a riotous start with Franco filming an entire news segment in character, allowing us to watch him insult a few of today’s most recognizable celebrities. While the release date push from October to Christmas does raise our eyebrows, we’ve managed to be impressed with all that these guys have done so far. Why should we expect anything less? -M.M.
13.) “Skeleton Twins” (September 12)
Family dramadies are a dime a dozen nowadays, with a majority of them feeling recycled and somewhat lazy in terms of writing and acting. It’s these films, however, that allow a film like “The Skeleton Twins” to emerge with the promise of something truly special. The story of two twins (played by Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader) who unexpectedly cross paths and begin to realize fixing their relationship might be the way to fix their lives was received with critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival, winning the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award in the Dramatic Category (held previously by “In A World…” and “Safety Not Guaranteed”). That, coupled with the early praise for Wiig and Hader, gets us hopeful that this film will be the indie charmer of the year. -N.F.
14.) “Rosewater” (November 7)
If you keep up with “The Daily Show” then you probably already know about this film. Last summer, Jon Stewart took a three-month break from “The Daily Show” to create his directorial debut, “Rosewater.” The story of an Iranian journalist who appeared as a guest on “The Daily Show” before being detained and tortured in Iran struck Stewart too close to home to simply ignore, compelling him to take a significant break from his host duties to tell the story of Maziar Bahari and his 100 day detainment. While the recent trailer made the film appear a bit schmaltzy, the idea of this story being so personal and moving to Stewart that he’d take the longest break ever in his decades spanning tenure on “The Daily Show” is enough to raise awareness. While Stewart is far from a proven filmmaker, at the end of the day, his wit and passion alone are enough to give him the benefit of the doubt. Who knows if the film will end up being any good, but the story surrounding its inception and creation are more than enough to warrant a spot on this list. – J.H.
15.) “Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies” (December 17)
Say what you will about “The Hobbit,” get it out of your system before continuing reading because it seems like hating on these films is the cool thing to do these days. Look, I’ll make no attempt to claim that these movies are fantastic pieces of filmmaking, nor will I even try to compare them quality wise to the “Lord of the Rings Trilogy” (because really there’s no comparison). That being said, I don’t see anything wrong with enjoying these movies for what they are: fluff, and damn fine fun fluff at that. Sure, these films are extremely flawed, and nowhere near as good as they could’ve been, but that hasn’t ruined my enjoyment of them. More time in Middle-Earth is enough to gain my ten-twelve dollars, so just let me enjoy these movies in peace. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system lets move on. This latest and last “Hobbit” film seems to hold the most potential yet, leaving behind the lightheartedness of the first film or so, and approaching the gravitas that comes with Sauron and the original trilogy’s inherent darkness. It probably won’t be incredible and it probably won’t fix the wrongs of the last couple movies, but at the very least it should prove to be an enjoyable couple hours at the theater. -J.H.
16.) “Leviathan” (Fall TBD)
If you’re reading this list you may have noticed that something’s lacking in our choices. No, it’s not the order of the list or our reasoning behind our choices; it’s the absence of foreign films. Now, to be honest, keeping up with every film in American cinema is hard enough on its own, but couple that with all of the news, reviews, and opinions on foreign films and you’re left with a nearly Herculean task. So forgive us for not being quite as knowledgeable with our foreign cinema as we are with our domestic. That being said, there are always a few foreign films every year that demand our attention, with this year’s being Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan.”
Throughout the 20th Century, Russia was one of the preeminent producers of exciting and boundary-pushing cinema thanks to the likes of Sergei Eisnstein, Dziga Vertov, and Andrei Tarkovsky. However, come the late 20th and early 21st century, Russian cinema became more insular, lacking the international appeal of its predecessors. That being said, Russian cinema has returned to prominence in the last decade thanks to the likes of Zvyagintsev. His previous films, “The Returned,” “Elena,” and “The Banishment,” have all received rave reviews, with “The Returned” even winning top prize at the Venice Film Festival. Likewise, his newest film, “Leviathan,” a retelling of the Book of Job set in modern day Russia, won best screenplay at this year’s Cannes Festival. The idea of a modern day Book of Job set in the political turmoil of Russia alone would have us excited, but the fact that the accolades and honors are already piling up has only increased our anticipation for this ambitious foreign film. -J.H.
17.) “Theory of Everything” (November 7)
While the biopic genre has never been at the top of my list of favorites, even I can admit that as of late Hollywood has been churning out some fantastic ones. In a sea of over-glamourizing heroes and letting story take a back seat to main performances, films like “Saving Mr. Banks,” “Rush,” and the recent “Get on Up” have provided a glimmer of hope in the form of fantastic performances wrapped in interesting and highly entertaining true stories that felt like I was living through the experiences rather than just casually observing them. “The Theory of Everything” tells the story of Stephen Hawking and his time at Cambridge in the 1960s where he fell in love with his wife to be Jane. Already garnering critical acclaim for its performances, direction, and cinematography, this biopic about one of the most intelligent human beings living today is surely to garner some Oscar buzz and excitement from movie fans alike. -N.F.
18.) “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I” (November 21)
Based on its critical and commercial success, it should come with no surprise that the third installment of the “Hunger Games” franchise would appear somewhere on this list. Unlike most, I was one of the people who found the first “Hunger Games” to be a massive disappointment, most notably in its lazy directing, unbearably quick editing, and the actual games themselves. However, my apprehe’nsion for the future of the series dissipated completely with the release of the sequel “Catching Fire.” Directed expertly by Francis Lawrence, the second installment was better in practically every way, providing a real sense of dread and compassion toward the characters, as well as exhilarating and well directed action sequences that kept me on the edge of my seat. With Lawrence at the helm and all of the fantastic acting talent present as well, there’s no reason not to be excited for the next installment in this increasingly impressive series. – N.F.
19.) “Kill the Messenger” (October 10th)
It seems like a while since Jeremy Renner graced us with a role similar to those that introduced us to his immense talents. He surely held his own amidst the stacked ensembles of “The Avengers” and “American Hustle,” but his star-making turn in “The Hurt Locker” and tour de force in “The Town” both seem like they happened ages ago. Michael Cuesta’s “Kill the Messenger” appears to be the antidote to this issue; this meaty true life tragedy about a journalist who became the target of a massive smear campaign after he tried to out the CIA’s involvement in the arming of Contra rebels and importation of cocaine into California tosses Renner front and center. Based on the explosive book by Gary Webb – the journalist whom Renner will portray – and in the hands of a veteran “Homeland” director, “Messenger” has a lot going for it. The talents paired with the intensity of the material are matches made in heaven, but the real question will be how Cuesta decides to handle the tone, deliver the facts, and still leave much of the majesty to the medium. David Fincher, Kathryn Bigelow, and even Ben Affleck have proved that they’re able to take front-page news and turn it into steeping thrillers; can the TV craftsman do the same with Gary Webb’s heartbreaking story? We’re excited to see the result. -M.M.
20.) “Horrible Bosses 2” (November 26th)
Not every film deserves a sequel, nor does every film demand a sequel. Some films get sequels that are needed, some get sequels that are lucrative, and some get sequels that are huge wastes of time. I don’t know if “Horrible Bosses 2” will end up being any combination of those types, but the early peeks at the foul-mouthed follow-up surely has us smiling. The original dark comedy was a surprise critical and box office hit in the summer of 2011, but a sequel hardly seemed like the next logical step. However, it appears that there might be even worse bosses worthy of landing in the crosshairs of Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis. With “Star Trek” breakout Chris Pine and two-time Oscar winner, Christoph Waltz, joining the cast, we’re sure some debauchery will ensue and the absence of Colin Farrell will be rectified. However, with Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Aniston returning, some shocking irreverence will help make this a sequel that we’re happy to have, and a movie that we’ll gladly see during the Thanksgiving season. -M.M.
By Mike Murphy, Nick Franco, and James Hausman