Movies I Wanna See Most: Fall 2013


It has been somewhat of a rough year for film. Though at the time of this writing I've found two or three films I absolutely loved this year and left a lasting impression on me with several others being great, but not necessarily anything exceptional. Exceptional is what we are always looking for as we head into the latter part of the year and studios begin to offer up their Oscar bait. 2013 will be no exception, but the surprise this year is just how many blockbusters have been saved for the final quarter. There are usually one or two December releases that stand to be critical and box office champions, but most are more adult fare that do well with critics and have long legs when it comes to box office numbers. While there will be plenty of these kinds of films still vying for a place on the ballot come next February there are also a fair amount of well-made films that are part of franchises that studios are looking to make a pretty penny on. Whether it be Marvel, young adult adaptations, or re-makes there is something for just about everyone on the docket for the remainder of this year. It was a tough task, to narrow down four months of releases to just ten films, so I've naturally included a quick briefing on five extra flicks that almost made the list at the end of this article. As for the big ten, I can tell you that I'm seriously anxious and optimistic for each and every one of them. Also, just because a film didn't make any part of this list doesn't mean I don't think it will be good; it could mean I'm just not as excited for it as the films that did make the list and it could also be due to the fact I haven't seen much from it at this point. Both guaranteed blockbusters such as the next Hobbit film and smaller fare that has received great festival buzz like J.C. Chandor's All is Lost didn't make any part of this list, but that isn't because I don't want to see them. There promotional material just didn't get me as excited for as the films listed below did. The way I look at it, the following ten films are what I would choose to see were I limited to only that amount for the rest of the year. So here we go...

Thor: The Dark World

I'll kick off the list by indulging in my excitement for super hero movies. Since the success of the first Iron Man film it's been clear that Marvel had ambitions for something much bigger. Whether those ambitions were met and surpassed with last years success of The Avengers doesn't matter for as soon as it was clear second tier heroes like Iron Man and Thor could turn a profit and contribute to the overall story arc Marvel President Kevin Feige seemed to jump head first into planning out years upon years in adavance. As he's slated about two films per year the follow-up to 2011's Thor is next up and the two trailers released so far instill much more confidence in the film than those that had me worried about our first contact with the Demi-God. While Kenneth Branagh was an inspired choice for bringing his Shakespearean influence to the realm of Asgard, it also felt slightly too tongue-in-cheek when compared to the Iron Man films and Incredible Hulk. This time around Feige has hired Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor and as we've moved past the origin story and essentially seen Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in another adventure it feels time to get to know the hero on a more personal level and put much more at stake for him personally. This sequel is set to center around Natalie Portman's Jane Foster as she is targeted by an ancient race that is led by the vengeful Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). In light of these events and the natural thought there is much more to them, Thor must join forces with his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and fight to save us all from an enemy not even Odin (Anthony Hopkins) can withstand. This all sounds a bit grandiose, but that is what Thor is all about and the look and tone of the trailers seem to match those sentiments whole-heartidly. Thor: The Dark World also stars Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano, Jaimie Alexander, Rene Russo and opens in 3D on November 8th.

American Hustle

I was initially surprised to learn David O. Russell would be following-up last years crowd pleasing awards winner, Silver Linings Playbook, so quickly with another project. Not that this was a bad thing. I really enjoy Russell's style and his technique seems to be very off the cuff anyway so it makes sense that he would get a group of his previous collaborators together and get to work while the fire was hot. If nothing else this movie will be worth seeing for the caliber of the cast it sports. Set in the 1980's and centered around the undercover sting operation known as "Abscam" American Hustle is the story of a con artist (Christian Bale) who comes to work for the FBI to root out the corruption that is taking over congress. Bradley Cooper plays an FBI agent with Jennifer Lawrence as Bale's Long Island house wife while Amy Adams seems to have the most delicious of roles to work with as she plays Bale's lover on the side and accomplice in crime. The first trailer doesn't give much away in terms of plot points or performances, but instead puts its trust in the big names it has on its bill dressed in ridiculously outlandish period wardrobe and hairstyles. Bale has a balding head and beer belly while Cooper looks more like his Hangover director Todd Phillips than the marquee star he's come to be known as. Adams is lucky enough to have her pick of top roles and Russell clearly trusts her after giving her an out of character turn in The Fighter to bring what seems to be a sexually charged vixen with a brain to life in this film. Lawrence is simply on fire with both this and the second Hunger Games film out this fall; her name will be even more prominent than it was in her Oscar-winning campaign last year. This will be her third collaboration with Cooper and I was hoping to see more of their Serena by now, but it seems it might be smart to delay that now with this film already picking up steam. The film also stars Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., Michael Pena, and Jack Jones. American Hustle opens in limited release on December 13th before going wide on December 25th.

Oldboy

Ten years ago director Chan-wook Park adapted the Japanese comic book (or manga), Oldboy, for the screen. I have yet to see this original adaptation of the material, but have heard nothing but excellent things. What makes the prospect of checking this out even more enticing (besides the fact I also enjoyed Park's English language debut, Stoker, earlier this year) is that Spike Lee has re-made the film or adapted the material into his own motion picture. I plan to see Park's version of the material before venturing out to see the latest incarnation, but based on the red band trailer released last month I am immensely excited to see what Lee has in store for us. Working with a top rate cast that includes Josh Brolin as Joe Doucett, an advertising executive who is kidnapped and held hostage for twenty years only to be released for no apparent reason. It is an intriguing premise that could hook anyone. That the story follows Doucett after he is released and sets out to get revenge on his mysterious captor makes the idea of delving into this world all the more enticing. There are naturally many other layers that the film hints at that we are not exposed to yet, but based simply on the premise I was immediately hooked and ready to buy my ticket. The footage only re-enforced that desire. I'm not a huge fan of Lee's, but can appreciate the reasons he's come to be acknowledged for. I feel his ambition more times than not overshadows his effort, but what matters is you can feel the effort there and that certainly seems to be true in this more commercial piece. And while I'm also happy to see Brolin in more awards-contender type material (especially after duds like Jonah Hex and Gangster Squad) it is also important to note the supporting cast features the likes of Sharlto Copley, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Imperioli. As the poster still states Oldboy was initially scheduled to open on October 11th and was then pushed back to October 25th. The studio, FilmDistrict, will now widely release the film on November 27th.

Inside Llewyn Davis

If there is one consistent force in filmmaking besides big guns like Scorsese, it is that of Joel and Ethan Coen. After being absent for three years the writing and directing duo will return this year with Inside Llewyn Davis. If this wasn't already shaping up to be one of the more interesting and promising Oscar seasons in recent history this film might be closer to the top of the list. Still, numbers aside, I am very much excited to see what the Coen's have crafted this time around as they've taken on the 1960's Greenwich Village folk music scene. The titular character as played by Oscar Isaac (who seems perfect for the role given he seems to incorporate music into many of his characters, just take a look at Won't Back Down or 10 Years) is a frustrated musician simply trying to make his way and a living off what he loves to do yet seems to continuously come into contact with insurmountable obstacles, some of which are of his own doing. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year and received rave reviews which only upped my anticipation for the film. As much as I love film, and I truly do, there is something about music and the story behind songs that truly mean something that cut to my soul even more. I've always believed the greatest tool in a directors arsenal is a strategically placed song and this film seems it will have ample opportunity to prove this theory right. In the thirteen years that have passed since the Coen's brought us O Brother, Where Art Thou? it seems they have been pining for a way to re-visit the marrying of music and film and have found their outlet in this portrait of an artist who, like so many in that day and age, were looked over while paving the way for the ones we come to call legends today such as Bob Dylan. If you've seen any of the trailers you immediately get the tone and mood the film is going for and it seems to perfectly encapsulate the time period and the emotional roller coaster the lead character is going through. I'm anxious to see this film with no hesitation as to if I will be satisfied or not. It is almost guaranteed the film will be great if not excellent. That the soundtrack will be a must have is just icing on top. The film also stars Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Garrett Hedlund, and John Goodman. Inside Llewyn Davis opens December 6th.

12 Years A Slave

After 2011's Shame director Steve McQueen received a serious bump in recognition along with his star Michael Fassbender. The two have now re-teamed  for a third time and though I haven't seen their first film together, 2008's Hunger, it seems they will again be tackling a tough subject that many would rather ignore or pretend was or isn't as bad as distance would have us believe. As with Shame, 12 Years a Slave seems a film I am more keen to be engaged by rather than one I will enjoy. Though it will inevitably be compared to last years Django Unchained it is evident from the first trailer that McQueens film will be less an exercise in genre and revenge fantasy and more a film attempting to do justification to one mans life. It was interesting to hear Spike Lee's comments on Django Unchained even if I don't think they were very valid and that if he wanted to give an informed opinion on the film he would have actually seen it, but it seems simply because Tarantino approached a sensitive subject matter in a way Lee disapproved of he didn't care for it despite the fact the film offered a harsh and honest view at the realities of slavery and made a black man the hero of the film. I'm curious to see if Lee will see McQueen's film as he is a black director taking on the subject and how he might respond. The film is based on the autobiography of Solomon Northup as played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Northup was an educated, successful, and married black man in 1853 who was kidnapped and forced into slavery for over a decade. The trailer sets a very serious tone, one filled with angst and all the emotions that word carries with it as McQueen seems intent on creating a true to life atmosphere that keeps us on the edge, giving us a persistent feeling of worry as the plantation owners no doubt did with their slaves. It will be a tough film to watch, but as with Fruitvale Station it seems it will inevitably be a very important one to see. 12 Years a Slave also stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Quvenzhane Wallis, Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, Scoot McNairy, Garrett Dillahunt, Alfre Woodard, Dwight Henry, Michael K. Williams, Brad Pitt and opens on October 18th.

The Secret Life of Water Mitty

Many people are quick to jump on the Ben Stiller-bashing bandwagon. To a certain extent this is understandable, the guy hasn't had a solid hit in almost five years as both The Watch and Tower Heist under-performed at the box office and his last Fockers outing didn't do as well as expected and was completely trashed by critics. While his voice work in the Madagascar series doesn't really do much for his cred and his Night at the Museum sequel did well enough in 2009 it was his last directorial effort, 2008's Tropic Thunder, that really gave Stiller a solid box office hit (especially for a completely original film and one that was very meta and could easily have excluded itself from more mainstream audiences) while also being a hit with critics, garnering Robert Downey Jr. an Oscar nomination and ending up on several peoples best of lists at the end of that year. With that in mind it is with great anticipation that I welcome the next film Stiller has decided to direct and star in. I first saw the trailer for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with no knowledge I was about to see it and it blew me away. The footage literally gave me chills and hinted that Stiller and his team were up to something more, something truly affecting. As a re-make of the 1947 Danny Kaye film which in itself was originally based on the 1939 James Thurber short story the film centers around Stiller's eponymous lead character, a LIFE magazine proofreader, who is unable to stand up for himself and therefore retreats to a fantasy world where he becomes the exact opposite of his real self. On these quests he seeks to find a missing image taken by a photographer played by Sean Penn. I was also happy to see that Kristen Wiig will play a major role as the love interest and that, despite all the awards talk already swirling around it, Stiller seems to give a truly heartfelt yet restrained vision of a man who is seeking what we all need out of life: satisfaction. The film was just announced as the New York Film Festival Centerpiece which will have its premiere on October 5th, a full two months before it hits theaters meaning Fox seemingly has a large amount of faith in the picture and I hope rightfully so. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty also stars Adam Scott, Shirley MacLaine, Patton Oswalt and opens on December 25th.

Gravity

As the opener of the 70th annual Venice Film Festival and just recently added to the Toronto International Film Festival's line-up director Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity is one of the more widely anticipated films of the year. It seems we have been waiting forever for the chance to see the film and now that it is finally getting closer and closer it seems as surreal as the visuals we've been treated to in the films trailers. The film was originally scheduled to open last year but was pushed back so that more time could be spent on the visual effects. Before that the film went through several casting changes where actresses such as Angelina Jolie, Marion Cotillard, Scarlett Johansson, Blake Lively, and Natalie Portman were courted before landing on Sandra Bullock. Robert Downey Jr. was also originally signed on to play Matt Kowalsky, but was replaced by George Clooney when he had to drop due to scheduling conflicts. The film has been noted as a kind of passion project for Cuaron who, if you don't recognize his name, made the best Harry Potter movie in The Prisoner of Azkaban as well as the excellent 2006 science fiction film, Children of Men with his breakout hit in the States being 2001's Y Tu Mama Tambien. The director is also well known for his use of long, unbroken shots and he seems to be shooting for the moon on this one. Gravity is said to open with a seventeen to twenty minute long shot with other long shots throughout the film. The two hour film is said to contain only 156 shots while in comparison the average two hour movie usually consists of nearly five thousand. As a big fan of the science fiction genre and of filmmakers who have the ability and vision to push the limits I am extremely anxious to see how well this film turns out. It could very well be one of those defining moments in cinematic history as the film alone seems bigger than any of its individual parts. The expectations for the film aren't really based on cast or even the story that centers around an astronaut who is stranded alone in space after a catastrophic event, but more about where the movie might take us. Gravity opens in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D (which I will be spending the extra bucks to see it in) on October 4th.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

While I have littered this list with many a highly respected, Oscar worthy films it is time for me to allow my inner conformist out and tell you that two of my top three most anticipated films for the remainder of the year could be classified as blockbusters and that this third one is the second in a series of film adaptations of popular young adult novels. I have no shame in this for despite my love of film and attempts to take seriously the intelligent and thoughtful directors of today it is hard to deny the pure thrill of some of the larger scale, studio fare. Especially when it seems to be as well made and labored over as this sequel to Gary Ross's invigorating 2012 adaptation of The Hunger Games. While many will criticize that film for it's over-use of shaky cam and shoddy special effects (and it's true, it has both) it also created a visual world that new director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Water for Elephants) was clearly able to build upon. I have read all of the books and am a fan of each, but Catching Fire is far and away my favorite so I have more justification beyond how spectacular the trailer looks for how excited I am about this film. Catching Fire will pick up in the after math of the first film which has a subtle uprising across the poorer districts causing a few issues. What the second installment really centers around though is the "Quarter Quell" in which past winners of the games are forced to fight to the death. Like the promotional campaign for the first film they have kept any footage of this new set of games completely out of the trailers and will hopefully continue to do so in order for it to be a completely new and thrilling experience when audiences see it on the big screen for the first time. What the "Quarter Quell" really contributes to this new installment though will be the expansion of the character roster. Past winners include Beetee, Cashmire, Enobaria, Brutus, Wiress, Gloss, Mags, Johanna and of course, Finnick. This sprawling ensemble cast will up the ante as far as stakes and relationship dynamics go while Catching Fire has a more obvious influence on the events that happen in Mockingjay than the first installment has on this one. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, and Amanda Plummer. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opens in IMAX and traditional theaters on November 22nd.

Anchorman: The Legend Continues

It was hard not to place this film at number one. In the summer of 2004 I was seventeen years-old and was getting ready for my senior year of high school. Will Ferrell wasn't a household name, but was already a legend to those who followed SNL. In 2003 he'd made serious leaps forward with the release of both Old School and Elf. Still, it wasn't until he was able to team up with long-time SNL writer Adam McKay who, together, would pen the script and then direct Ferrell in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy that the now comedic juggernaut would really leave an impression. It was the film that let the world into the universe of the Frat Pack while giving us countless pieces of dialogue that we quoted over and over again that school year and in the almost ten years since its release has only grown more and more adored as a kind of cult film that everyone feels a part of. McKay and Ferrell would go on to create Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Step Brothers, and The Other Guys together; all of which are comedies I could watch over and over again and present Ferrell in his element doing what he does best. It is as if no one can better utilize Ferrell than his long-time collaborator and so it is with confidence that I am highly hopeful and optimistic for the sequel to the one that put them on the map. With the return of Ron Burgundy in Anchorman: The Legend Continues it seems the entire news team have encountered new challenges as the networks enter into twenty-four hour news cycles and youthful anchors (as represented by James Marsden) threaten the gangs place at the top of the totem pole. Along with Ferrell, pretty much everyone in the core cast has returned including Paul Rudd and Steve Carell, now much bigger stars then they were when the first film came out, as well as Dave Koechner and Christina Applegate; though if the trailer is any indication Mr. Burgundy may have moved on to someone new. What else I like about the trailer is that it hardly gives any story information or jokes away, it plays off the recognition factor and psyches up the audience with a few samples while leaving much to the imagination. While it is inevitable we will get at least one more trailer for the film, I hope the marketing team is smart enough to know the name and cast alone sell this movie and there is no need to divulge a large amount of information. The film also stars Kristen Wiig, Dylan Baker, Meagan Good, Greg Kinnear, Harrison Ford, and countless other big names in cameo appearances. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues opens on December 20th.

The Wolf of Wall Street

When the first trailer for Martin Scorsese's latest debuted it took me completely by storm by being the polar opposite of anything I ever expected from the legendary director. The film was always on my radar given the fact it would mark the fifth time star Leonardo DiCaprio and Scorsese would collaborate, but I had no knowledge of the source material or what the tone of it might be. The Wolf of Wall Street is based on a memoir by Jordan Belfort who was a drug-addicted, party boy stockbroker who was indicted in 1998 for security fraud and money laundering and served a 22-month sentence in federal prison. With that kind of story you might expect the film to be a rather serious drama that, as a Scorsese picture, may highlight the party boy image briefly but follow his time in the court system and in prison more thoroughly for a look at the life of a rich, white male who loses everything and how the dark side of wall street led to his downfall. Instead, what we were delivered was a trailer that highlighted that party boy image and how much fun Belfort and all of his friends were having making millions of dollars a month. What might even be more refreshing than the unexpected tone is the performance that DiCaprio has given. We have all grown accustomed to the actor being a very serious persona, a workaholic who pours large amounts of himself into every role and after the one two punch of playing such a despicable man in Django Unchained and the extremely restrained Gatsby in Baz Luhrman's interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic this past summer it is a bit of a relief that he has done a one-eighty and is pop-locking his way to what may be the most outlandish and unexpected role of his career that could very well lead him to that Oscar he has deserved for so long now. The pleasures don't stop at DiCaprio though, the film also stars Jonah Hill, Kyle Chandler, Jean Dujardin, Margot Robbie, Jon Bernthal, Rob Reiner, and Matthew McConaughey who, if you haven't seen the trailer, continues with his career renaissance as he seems to have a small, but scene stealing role.  The Wolf of Wall Street opens on November 15th.








I won't go into much detail on each of these, but you will be able to check out the trailer for each simply by clicking on the title. First up is The Counselor which I kept switching with 12 Years a Slave given both have Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt in their corners. This is from Ridley Scott and written by Cormac McCarthy who wrote the novels No Country for Old Men and The Road. Scott's films have varied greatly in reception over the last few years, but the cast and writing team here are top notch so I have faith this will be something special. The Counselor opens October 25th.

Tom Hanks will also be returning this fall in full force as he stars in both Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks. The two are vastly different and I truly did hope to include at least one of them in the top ten. While I love Mary Poppins and the trailer for that film does look impressive I changed my vote to the Paul Greengrass directed, based on a true story film that premiered its second trailer this week and impressed me even more. I wasn't sure what to expect as I wasn't familiar with the events being re-told here, but there are clearly more layers at play than I initially expected and if Hanks has any shot at awards attention this year I'm guessing it will be for his portrayal as Phillips rather than Disney. Captain Phillips opens October 11th.

I have yet to dig into the book just yet, but it is waiting patiently for me and I plan to read it before venturing out to see the film version. There has been much fuss around author Orson Scott Card's recent statements concerning gay marriage and as much as he may be using this moment of prominence for himself to let his opinions be known I'm simply hoping for a good sci-fi story and have no interest in his personal convictions. I'm a fan of science fiction and of spectacle and this film looks to contain both. I fully anticipated it would make my top ten list until I went through the full release schedule and realized I'd have to relegate it to honorable mention. The cast looks to be in top form, my only concern is director Gavin Hood who's last feature was X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Ender's Game opens November 1st.

Christian Bale appears again on the list as he assists director Scott Cooper in his follow-up to his 2009 debut, Crazy Heart. I really enjoyed Crazy Heart and more than anything the authenticity with which Cooper captured the lifestyle of a southern man. Jeff Nichols has demonstrated he is a master of this and so I am anxious to see if we have another strong voice in that arena or if the first time was just a fluke. Odds are in Cooper's favor though as he's not only recruited Bale, but also Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker, and Sam Shepard to join him in his sophomore effort. Out of the Furnace opens December 6th.

And finally, we have a film directed by George Clooney and coming out close to the coveted Christmas Day spot. It will be a crowded season this year as there are no less than ten pictures opening in December that will be pining for awards consideration and the more mainstream titles filing in on top of that. What will allow Clooney's latest effort to stand out is his stellar cast which features he, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, and Bob Balaban joining forces to rescue precious pieces of art from the Nazi's before they destroy them. I was extremely excited for what this film might turn out to be, but the trailer was unimpressive and so now I am simply holding out hope there was something more that all of these talented people saw in the project other than the opportunity to work with one another. Monuments Men opens December 18th.