Thursday, October 2, 2014

Movie Preview: October 2014

You know it was September in Hollywood when the third highest grossing movie of the month was a movie that was released on August 1. Yes, Guardians of the Galaxy has been something special, but historically speaking, September is the worst movie month of the year in terms of financial gross and this just evidence of that continuing this year. In fact, even in terms of a typical September this was a bad month as it was the second lowest grossing September since 2005. Now October isn't necessarily known to be much better, but its usually more of an interesting month for people as we have both Halloween season combined with the real start to Oscar season. I'm not sure how this October will stack financially to past Octobers, but I do know there are a lot of interesting movies to talk about, so let's begin!

October 3rd - 5th-

What do the movies Se7en, Fight Club, Panic Room, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo have in common? They're great movies? They're praised by critics and viewers alike? They have many Oscar nominations between them? Two of them are in the top 25 on the IMDb top 250? If you answered in any of those ways, you'd be mostly right. The answer I was going for was that they are all directed by David Fincher. My point in all that is to show how great of a track record this man has with making movies people love. He's back at it again with Gone Girl. As you can see, Fincher is well-versed in many different types of movies. However, this one seems right along the lines of Se7en and Zodiac as it's a crime drama. Ben Affleck stars as a man who's accused of killing his wife. He of course claims innocence. Lots of Oscar buzz has followed this movie for quite some time now based on the fact that Fincher's last three movies have a combined total of 26 nominations. With great early reviews, it looks like yet another success for Fincher. Look for potential Oscar nominations for Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris and Ben Affleck as well as a best picture nomination and most likely several others.

Last summer The Conjuring was a huge success as it made over $300 million worldwide mainly due to the almost universal praise by horror fans. And of course you know what happens when a horror movie gets that type of success, right? YOU GET MORE!!! And because horror movies are so easy to make, you usually get a lot more. But no, we don't have The Conjuring 2. We have Annabelle, which is a prequel. Bold going where no horror has gone before? Nope. Annabelle will give us the haunted doll treatment. Being that this is Halloween and this movie will be around for the whole Halloween season, this is smart timing. Horror fans will have no Paranormal Activity to show up to this October and so instead they should turn to this prequel.

Next up we have the return of one of the most ridiculed actors in the business right now. Nicolas Cage in Left Behind. Now did you know that Nicolas Cage has been nominated for best actor twice? And did you also know that he actually won one of those nominations? Some people might have a hard time believing that, but it's true. He won best actor at the Oscars in 2003 for the movie Adaption. So that shows that he can act and thus is often unfairly ridiculed. However, his problem is that he will accept pretty much any role it seems and this could be another one of those instances that really won't help his case. Left Behind is a Christian drama that centers around the rapture. Christian dramas have been huge wildcards this year as many of them have been huge successes while others have gone nowhere and it's been hard to predict. Freestyle Releasing scored big with God's Not Dead early in the year, but came up completely empty with The Identical last month, so who knows where this will go. If I were to make a wager, I would go for the latter.

And finally in limited release this weekend we have Men, Women & Children. This is a dives into a lot of the real life issues that a lot of people, specifically teenagers and their parents, have to deal with. This specifically has emphasis on the effect that the internet has had on these crowds. This is only in five theaters this weekend as it tests the art-house markets first before expanding nationwide at the end of the month. This was initially thought to be a decent Oscar contender, but got mixed reviews out of the Toronto International Film Festival, which doesn't bode well for it. However, both Ansel Elgort and Adam Sandler have been in conversations when it comes to a best supporting actor nomination at the Oscars. Yes, you heard that right. Adam Sandler and Oscar nomination have been mentioned in the same sentence.

October 10th - 12th-

Like Men, Women & Children, another Oscar hopeful had it's Oscar hopes dashed by a poor showing at the Toronto International Film Festival and that would be The Judge. However, there might not be a whole lot of tears shed in this case because a movie headlined by Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall has a chance to be a pretty good box office hit. RDJ plays a lawyer who is called home to deal with his father (Duvall), who, despite being a judge for a long time, is now suspected of murder. Unlike other Oscar hopefuls, this is skipping the limited release stage and going straight to a wide release, which is another potential sign that this could end up being a movie that is enjoyed more by general audiences than by Oscar.

Family audiences have been somewhat ignored in Hollywood for the last several months. While some did show up for Laika's The Boxtrolls, a more widely appealing movie will be hitting the markets this weekend in Disney's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Don't ask me to type that twice. Many will recognize this from the popular children's book of the same title. It's a very short and simple book about a boy who has a really bad day. Some have questioned the necessity of this being a full-length movie, but Disney certainly seems to be hitting a lot of the right chords by making it a fun family film full of hilarious gags and a touching story.

Once again getting in the spirit of Halloween we have the return of one of the most iconic Halloween characters in Dracula Untold. If done right this could be a very popular choice this Halloween because it is Dracula, but as the title suggests, this attempts to tell the untold story of Dracula. The interesting thing with this is that the central character is Vlad Tepes, who was an actual historical figure in the 15th century. Known as Vlad the Impaler by many, he actually went by the title Dracula and was the inspiration of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula. Combining history with fiction could be a brilliant strategy in October for this movie or it could be a confusing disaster like that of I, Frankenstein earlier this year. Universal certainly is hoping for the former as this movie has a huge budget of $100 million. If they don't play their cards right, this could be the biggest financial disaster of the year.

The final wide release of the weekend is the movie Addicted. Based on the best-selling by Zane, this is a thriller about a woman who seemingly has everything she could want -- a loving husband, two kids, and a successful career. Despite this, she manages to get herself involved in an adulterous relationship that causes everything in her life to turn south very quickly as she finds herself down a very dangerous road. In a very crowded weekend, this is looking to do some counter-programming for the adult audiences, which may or may not work out due to the fact that The Judge might be fighting for similar adult audiences.

While that is the end of the wide releases of the weekend, we're only halfway done with this weekend as there are several noteworthy limited release movies. The most noteworthy is a movie that got a lot of praise out of the Toronto International Film Festival and that is St. Vincent. This stars Bill Murray in a role that seems to have been tailor-made for him to play. He plays a care-free, grumpy old man who has to accept this younger kid into his life almost against his will. However, this relationship goes remarkable well, which seemingly changes Bill Murray's outlook on life. The Oscar buzz surrounding Bill Murray for this role is currently very loud.

Next up is the thriller Kill the Messenger. This is the first of a couple of different journalism-related crime dramas and is also the second Avenger this weekend to star in his own Oscar-baited movie as Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) plays a journalist faced with a very tough decision. He's run into a story that he feels needs to get out to the public. However, if he does so, he could be risking the life of him and his family. So what do you do? Save yourself or inform the public of what's happening?

Another Oscar-baited movie being released this weekend is Whiplash. This has J.K. Simmons as the current frontrunner for the best supporting actor award, but also has Miles Teller among the very long list of potential nominees. The movie is a musical drama about a young drummer aspiring for greatness who enrolls in a conservatory where his teacher plans on doing everything possible to make him great.

And finally on this very busy weekend in both limited and wide release, we have the documentary Meet the Mormons, which is the first theatrically released movie made by The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints. The movie follows the lives of six devout members of the Church and while telling their amazing stories, it confronts many of the stereotypes that surround the Mormon church. The Church has heavily promoted this movie and while it should be huge in Utah, it isn't just a Utah release. It's being released in quite a few select cities in over 30 states and will go to more as the demand arises.

October 17th - 19th-

Whew! Never thought that previous weekend would end, did you? The third weekend of October doesn't have as many releases as the second, but there are three wide releases to speak of, the most notable one being Fury. Oscar loves Brad Pitt and Oscar loves war movies, so this seems like a match made in heaven when it comes to awards. Fury is a World War II movie that takes place in Germany towards the end of the war when Brad Pitt's character, an army sergeant named Wardaddy, commands a tank with her five-man crew into a deadly mission. While the movie should be in contention for best picture, in terms of acting it's not Brad Pitt getting the most Oscar buzz for this. It's his co-star Logan Lerman in the supporting role.

While I'm sure all the guys will be trying to convince their girls to let them go to the war movie, many of them may be sucked in by their girls to see the latest Nicholas Sparks movie adaption in The Best of Me. This seems like a typical cookie-cutter chick flick. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Conflict happens that separates boy and girl. Boy and girl overcome conflict and live happily ever after. In this run around, the conflict happens to be a separation of many years. But seriously, you watch this trailer and you literally know the whole movie and how every twist and turn works out. These Nicholas Sparks adaptions never vary from that formula. But do you know what, it works for them. There have been eight of these so far and most of them have ended between $60 and $80 million, with a few early ones ending between $40 and $50 million. If it ain't broken, don't fix it. The young version of the couple in this movie is Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato while they older version is James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan.

In our three main options for the weekend, we have first discussed a movie for the men followed by a movie for the women. In a fitting ending, we complete this trio of movies by talking about a movie for the children with The Book of Life. Surprisingly, 2014 has been a year that has been sparse on animated movies. Since June we have had How to Train Your Dragon 2, Planes: Fire & Rescue, and The Boxtrolls. That's it. So The Book of Life could be well-received because of that, especially for those family audiences that skipped out on Planes: Fire and Rescue and The Boxtrolls. The Book of Life is about a young man torn between following his heart and meeting the expectations of his family. Before deciding, he embarks on a journey that spans three separate worlds where he is forced to face his fears. Since this isn't done by a major animation studio, the big draw that advertising has used is producer Guillermo del Toro as well as star voice casts Zoe Saldana and Channing Tatum.

On the limited release front, there is only one release that I want to talk about this weekend, but it's a big one. This movie is Birdman. No, this isn't a superhero movie. This is a movie about an old, washed-up actor who used to play a superhero and is trying to make a comeback. The best picture and best actor categories in the Oscars are going to be very competitive, if you haven't been able to tell by just reading this post. But despite that, Birdman is seen as one that is almost guaranteed to a nomination in both. In fact, it'll most likely be in serious contention to win both awards with Michael Keaton being the one in the best actor category. This also has Edward Norton and Emma Stone in strong contention for Oscar nominations. In general, this could be one of those movies that shows up in most categories. The early word is very positive.

October 24th - 26th-

Releasing the weekend before Halloween is our second horror movie of the month in Ouija. This is three weeks removed from Annabelle, so it has the potential to still do good even if Annabelle ends up being a success. This also has the advantage of being a PG-13 horror movie, which could bring in a whole new younger crowd that will most likely skip out on Annabelle due to that movie's R rating. Finally, Ouija boards have a lot of real life horror stories behind them, so this movie looks to play off that psychological aspect of Ouija boards, thus making it different than your typical horror movie. This has sparked concern among a lot of people who say that Ouija boards are not to be messed with. But of course controversy sparks curiosity, so that could play out to the movie's benefit.

Next up is the action thriller John Wick. This movie stars Keanu Reeves in the title role of John Wick, an ex-hitman who who comes out of retirement to take down a group of gangsters that took everything from him. This is the type of movie that would need a big box office draw in order to avoid going completely ignored and unfortunately Reeves isn't what you would call a box office draw. He hasn't really had a big hit since the Matrix trilogy. Not really helping the cause is that this is the directorial debut of Chad Stahelski, who's main body of work has come as a stunt coordinator. This doesn't seem like a recipe for success.

Last up for this weekend is the sports drama 23 Blast, which will only be released in around 600 theaters, so don't look for this to make much of an impact. This is a movie about a high school football player who goes blind, but yet still manages to keep playing the game as a center. No big name actors. Not much in terms of marketing. Actor Dylan Baker, best known for his portrayal of Dr. Curt Conners in Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy, is making his directorial debut with this. Just like John Wick, look for this to come and go unnoticed.

October 31st - November 2nd-

Two days from this weekend is in November, but I'm including this in October because that's the month that starts the weekend. It's probably not too likely that a whole ton of people will show up to the theaters on Halloween night, but there's a couple of movies debuting anyways. The first of which is Nightcrawler. Back when I talked about Kill the Messenger, I mentioned that it was one of a couple different journalism-related crime dramas. Nightcrawler is the other one. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a freelance journalist who will go to any lengths, legal or not, to get the story that no one else will get. This is actually a really relevant issue in today's society as journalism has changed quite a bit from what it used to. Nightcrawler will look to bank off word of mouth to be successful and that could work out as it got praised at its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival. Gyllenhaal is also one of the many names that could be in play for a best actor nomination, although his situation could be a lot like Hugh Jackman from last year's Prisoners who got left in the dust due to a really competitive field.

And we've finally come to the end of this very busy October month. The finale is Before I Go to Sleep, which is another thriller that could get completely ignored. The movie looks like a really intense version of 50 First Dates. Nicole Kidman plays a character who loses her memory every night. When she wakes up, her husband, Colin Firth, has to remind her of who she. Things get tense in the movie when she starts to learn about the secrets of her past. This is released by Clarius Entertainment and they haven't had a whole lot of success with their other two movies from this year. Although they are looking for a third time's the charm with this, it seems more likely that it will instead by a three strikes and you're out.

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