Cole Smithey’s Fall 2013 Movie Preview
Moviegoers start your engines; the season of Oscar contenders is upon us. You have the best chance of seeing a better-than-average, if not truly exceptional, movie in the fall. Film studios are busier than ever rolling out movies they hope will secure spots in every critic’s top-ten lists. After an abysmal summer, Hollywood certainly has its work cut out. For the record, we’ll pretend that predictable flicks like “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and “Thor: The Dark World” don’t exist. With autumn movies from Martin Scorsese, George Clooney, Bill Condon, Ridley Scott, and Alfonso Cuarón on the horizon, the cooling months of 2013 will have plenty of heat to offer at your local cinemas. Mark your calendars. Here are my ten most anticipated movies.
“Gravity” — Opens October 4
As unlikely as it sounds, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney could hear Oscar nomination’s siren sound for their performances in this outer space thriller directed by Alfonso Cuarón (“Children of Men”).
Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical engineer embarking on her premier space shuttle mission. Clooney’s veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky is along to supervise — this is his last mission before retirement. Things don’t go so well. Catastrophe strikes during a spacewalk where Stone and Kowalski are tenuously tethered together. The only thing potentially worse than being stranded in the middle of the ocean is free-floating in outer space with no ship to seek refuge inside. “Gravity” promises its audience a new kind of claustrophobia from inside the confines of a relatively thin spacesuit. Warner Brothers has been showing its impressive trailers for “Gravity” in cinemas for the past few weeks. They hold more suspense than you find in some entire movies. Be prepared to feel scared, cold, and frantic.
Captain Phillips — Opens October 11
Tom Hanks is overdue for a comeback. “Larry Crowne,” “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” and last year’s “Cloud Atlas” were the most recent cinematic embarrassments for an actor who once wore the crown of America’s best-loved thespian. Oscar® nominee Paul Greengrass (“Bloody Sunday”) directs the fact-based story of Richard Phillips, the Captain of the MV Maersk — the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in 200 years — as based on the book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea” (by Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty). An Oscar nom could be in the offing for Hanks in a gritty role as a ship’s captain who keeps his wits about him under the fiercest of hostage conditions. Greengrass’s days spent working as a documentary filmmaker for the BBC should serve him well in an action-packed survival tale that will have you squirming in your chair. Catherine Keener stars as the brave captain’s wife Andrea.
The Fifth Estate — Opens October 18
The U.S. government’s endemic corruption that allows things like secret courts to sponsor illegal surveillance of its citizens and the internet at large, gets the first of what promises to be many more cinematic exposes. Bill Condon’s (“Kinsey”) dramatization of WikiLeaks’s origins should stir up yet more lively public conversation. Benedict Cubmerbatch plays the enigmatic Julian Assange. The freethinker and his equally ardent colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl) become self-appointed “underground watchdogs of the privileged and powerful.” The duo fight with each other and with the defining question of our time: “what are the costs of keeping secrets in a free society — and what are the costs of exposing them?”
Here is a Hollywood crash-course in the movement, organization, and back-channels responsible for exposing a stack of government lies so thick it will take many generations for society to digest the scope of America’s mechanized and systematic deceptions. The search for truth in the modern age begins with “The Fifth Estate.” Carice van Houten (“Black Book”), Anthony Mackie (“The Hurt Locker”), and Laura Linney (“Kinsey”) star.
The Counselor — Opens October 25
“The Counselor” touts the best cast of any movie to come out of 2013. For argument’s sake we’ll pretend that Cameron Diaz isn’t in it. But just look at who is — Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Rubén Blades, Bruno Ganz, and Penélope Cruz. Then, realize that the movie is director Ridley Scott’s adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel (“No Country for Old Men”), for which McCarthy makes his screenwriting debut. Hot.
Unpredictable baddie Rainer (Bardem) introduces the Counselor (Fassbender) to “moral decisions” — involving drug trafficking — that are sure to “take him by surprise.” Needless to say our anti-hero counselor will embark on a descent into hell like nothing you’ve ever witnessed. A veritable hornets’ nest of Oscar bait, “The Counselor” promises to bask in Cormac McCarthy’s signature embellishments of a brutally dry wit, scathing social satire, and a kind of hard-earned violence that means something when the day is done. Hardcore moviegoers will salivate over this one. Come and get it.
The Wolf of Wall Street — Opens November 15
Martin Scorsese hasn’t missed the mark since “Gangs of New York” (2002). Even then, “Gangs” was thoroughly entertaining in spite of its flaws — why, oh why, did Scorsese ever cast Cameron Diaz?
Scorsese returns to his devoted muse Leonardo DiCaprio to play Jordan Belfort, a ruthless Wall Street hotshot. The year that Jordan turned 26 he made 49 million dollars — and he was “pissed” because it was three short of a million bucks a week. Jordan and his crew of investment sharks make more money than they know what to do with. I think you can sense where this is going. The movie is based on the real-life Jordan Belfort’s memoir of the same title. Sex, drugs, alcohol, and conspicuous consumption might not be the traps of all Wall Street robber barons, but they were for Belfort. Watch the greedy pig and his gnarly associates get their comeuppance. The movie also stars Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, and Jon Favreau.
Grace of Monaco — Opens November 27
Nicole Kidman plays Hollywood-starlet-turned-Princess Grace Kelly in this Weinstein-produced period-piece biopic that is receiving a limited release in anticipation of Oscar attention. The film — directed by Olivier Dahan (“La Vie en Rose”) — follows Grace Kelly’s identity crisis in the midst of a political dispute between Monaco’s Prince Rainier III (Tim Roth) and Charles de Gaulle (André Penvern). The threat of a French invasion of Monaco hangs in the balance. Nicole Kidman has long been out of the limelight of critical praise. However, the famously icy blond may be perfectly suited to embody one of the ‘60s most iconic women. Keep an eye out for an appearance from Alfred Hitchcock (Roger Ashton-Griffiths), who famously directed Grace Kelly in “Rear Window” in 1954. Frank Langella and Parker Posey are featured in supporting roles.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom — Opens November 29
“I have walked a long walk to freedom. It has been a lonely road and it is not over yet. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin. People learn to hate. They can be taught to love — for love comes more naturally to the human heart.” Nelson Mandela’s profound words still stir deep emotions in whosoever hears them. Idris Elba (“Pacific Rim”) plays South Africa’s national hero in director Justin Chadwick’s ("The Other Boleyn Girl") filmic chronicle of Mandela’s winding life’s journey that encompassed people of all races and political views. Expect Idris Elba to deliver a tour de force as the man who became South Africa’s first democratically elected president. It wouldn’t be Oscar season without a historically significant biopic. “Mandela” Long Walk to Freedom” is already a hot-ticket.
Out of the Furnace — Opens December 6
Scott Cooper — the writer-director of everyone’s favorite 2009 movie “Crazy Heart” — brings it with an explosive crime drama about two blue-collar brothers living in America’s economically downtrodden Rust Belt. Russell Baze (Christian Bale) is fresh out of prison when his younger brother Rodney (Casey Affleck), an Iraq war vet, goes missing. It turns out Rodney is mixed up with a Northeastern crime syndicate led by Curtis DeGroat (Woody Harrelson), a notoriously dangerous character. Not even local police will investigate Rodney’s disappearance for fear of Curtis and his coldblooded gang. It’s up to Russell and his friend Red (Sam Shepard) to venture into Curtis’s territory in an attempt to locate and rescue Rodney. The ubiquitous Forest Whitaker stars in this dramatic potboiler of emotionally epic portions.
Inside Llewyn Davis — Opens December 6
The Coen Brothers’ reimagining of New York City’s early-‘60s era folk music scene was every critic’s darling at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Greenwich Village’s snow-covered streets provide the cultural platform for Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) — a Dave Van Ronk-inspired creation — to search for folk-music fame. A stray cat keeps Llewyn company. An angry romantic fling (Carey Mulligan) haunts Llewyn’s movements, as does the suicide of his former musical collaborator (Marcus Mumford). T Bone Burnett’s prodigious musical influence is every bit as present here as it was on the Coen’s winning “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Llewyn’s odyssey takes him to Chicago’s equally inhospitable landscape in the company of Roland Turner (John Goodman), a partially paralyzed blues singer with all the charisma of a hot glass of beer. “Inside Llewyn Davis” is the Coen Brothers’ first movie since “True Grit” (2010). Get the popcorn ready.
The Monuments Men — Opens December 18
George Clooney double-dips in the fall run-up to Oscar glory with a fact-based World War II story co-written with his frequent collaborator Grant Heslov. Clooney plays George Stout, an aging American military commander who puts together a troop of eight architects and art historians — all of whom are on the far side of 40 — to protect and rescue precious works of art inside Nazi Germany. Under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s orders, the platoon fights against the clock. The fall of the Third Reich inspires the German army to order all precious art and historic sites destroyed. With a cast that includes Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”), and Bob Balaban, you can guess that a fair amount of humor will accompany the action. There may yet come a time that George Clooney will make a career misstep, but it doesn’t seem likely to occur anytime soon.