October has never been known for offering much in the way of quality at the cineplex (in many respects, it’s the dumping ground of the fall movie season), but usually, horror fans can at least expect a bunch of scary movies to help get them in the mood for Halloween. This year is a little different, however, because there are very few horror films in sight. But while the month certainly looks to be short on scares with the exception of “Paranormal Activity 3,” “Red State” and perhaps “The Thing,” the rest of the schedule is filled with some interesting titles that really have the potential to surprise.
Who: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly and Anthony Mackie
What: Set in the near future where robots have replaced humans in the ring, a former boxer and his estranged son discover a junkyard bot that could become champion.
When: October 7th
Why: It’s easy to see how someone might be a little skeptical about a film that looks like “Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots: The Movie,” but after visiting the set last summer, any concerns I might have had were quickly laid to rest following a chat with director Shawn Levy and star Hugh Jackman. I’ve also had the opportunity to see the finished product since then, and while the movie certainly isn’t going to earn a spot alongside “Rocky” and “Raging Bull” as a boxing classic, it’s still a really enjoyable underdog sports drama with strong central performances and plenty of awesome robot-on-robot action.
Who: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti
What: An idealistic staff member for a Democratic presidential candidate gets a crash course on dirty politics during his latest stint on the campaign trail.
When: October 7th
Why: With a big name like George Clooney attached to a movie come big expectations, especially when he’s the one calling the shots. Thankfully, his latest directorial effort appears to be more “Good Night, and Good Luck” than “Leatherheads,” and it doesn’t hurt that he’s surrounded himself with such an incredible ensemble cast. In addition to the film’s multi-hyphenate star, “The Ides of March” features two other Oscar winners and two nominees. It might not be considered the year’s strongest awards contender, but the Academy always loves a good political thriller, and this definitely looks the part.
Who: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
What: When an alien life form begins wreaking havoc at an Antarctic research site, a graduate student teams up with a helicopter pilot to prevent it from escaping.
When: October 14th
Why: There’s been a lot of debate over whether Universal’s “The Thing” is a remake or a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter classic (the fact that it shares the same title certainly hasn’t helped matters), but it’s now been confirmed that it takes place prior to R.J. MacReady’s trip to the Antarctic and will detail what happened at the Norwegian camp featured in the original film. I’m not sure if that makes this prequel any less unnecessary, but at least it’s got a couple of good actors in Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton. That’s definitely a start, but it still has a ways to go to winning back the fanboys after Ronald D. Moore’s script was reportedly scrapped back in late 2009.
Who: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid and Andie MacDowell
What: City boy Ren McCormack moves to a small town where rock ‘n’ roll and dancing have been banned, and his rebellious spirit begins to shake up the populace.
When: October 14th
Why: I know what you’re thinking: who in their right mind wants to see a remake of “Footloose” when they can just watch the 1984 original starring Kevin Bacon? But while it might sound like a terrible idea in theory – a thought supported by the numerous young actors (including Zac Efron and Chase Crawford) who passed on the potentially star-making lead role – early word is that the movie is actually a surprisingly enjoyable reimagining that manages to maintain the spirit of the original while injecting it with some necessary modern updates. Go ahead and file this one under “Wait and see.”
Who: Steve Martin, Jack Black, Owen Wilson, Rashida Jones and Anjelica Huston
What: Three avid bird watchers compete to spot the rarest birds at an annual event.
When: October 14th
Why: Based on the book of the same name by Mark Obmasick, “The Big Year” has the kind of cast that, up until a few years ago, would have sounded like a comedy dream team. But that’s how quickly the careers of Owen Wilson and (especially) Jack Black have plummeted since then, and while that may seem like a bad thing, it actually works in the film’s favor. Expectations are incredibly low, and between its quirky plot and the who’s who of supporting talent (including Jim Parsons, Joel McHale and Kevin Pollock), there’s a pretty good chance that this won’t be nearly as bad as the trailer suggests.
Who: Luke Evans, Ray Stevenson, Matthew Macfayden and Orlando Bloom
What: D’Artagnan and his musketeer comrades Athos, Porthos and Aramis thwart the plans of Royal Prime Minister Richelieu to usurp the King of France’s power.
When: October 21st
Why: It’s gotten to the point where making fun of director Paul W.S. Anderson has grown so tiresome that I wish he would just churn out a good movie for once in order to silence his critics. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen any time soon, because “The Three Musketeers” has been made into a movie so many times that it’s hard to find a reason why another one needs to exist. Anderson is clearly trying to distinguish his version from the many others that came before it by instilling a steampunk-like aesthetic to the film, but while he deserves some credit for at least trying something new, the trailer is so laughably bad that it seems to be all for naught.
Who: Michael Angarano, Kyle Gallner, Nicholas Braun, Melissa Leo and Michael Parks
What: After a group of teens accept an online invitation for group sex, they soon encounter Pastor Abin Cooper, his followers, and their sinister agenda.
When: October 21st (limited)
Why: Although it’s technically been available on Video On Demand for a few weeks now, Kevin Smith’s low-budget attempt at making a horror movie is getting a limited theatrical run towards the end of October in conjunction with its home video release. Some might say that it’s a good excuse to see the film on the big screen, but considering the way that Smith has been marketing “Red State” (taking the show on the road and charging big bucks to see it), the whole thing stinks of a last-ditch effort to bleed more money from his fans. Though reviews of the film haven’t been very positive, I’m still curious to see Smith explore a different genre for once, especially with veterans like Michael Parks, Melissa Leo and John Goodman spouting his trademark dialogue.
Who: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy and Olivia Wilde
What: Set in a world where people stop aging at 25 and time is literally money, a young man accused of murder goes on the run in order to fight back against the system.
When: October 28th
Why: Justin Timberlake isn’t the first person you’d think of to play a Jason Bourne-like action hero, but after watching the sizzle reel for “Gattacta” director Andrew Niccol’s return to the sci-fi genre that premiered at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, I’m certainly willing to give him a chance. “In Time” is one of those high-concept sci-fi movies that are too complex to explain in a single paragraph – the easiest way to describe it is as a less crazy version of “Logan’s Run” – but it’s a pretty cool concept that, if executed correctly, could make for a really fun piece of escapism entertainment.
Who: Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, Aaron Eckhart, Giovanni Ribisi and Richard Jenkins
What: American journalist Paul Kemp takes a freelance job in Puerto Rico and struggles to find a balance between island culture and the ex-patriots who live there.
When: October 28th
Why: A big screen adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s “lost novel” has been in the works for over a decade now, but it wasn’t until two years ago when the project finally went into production, only to be shelved long enough for Thompson’s death to prevent him from seeing the final product. But while the film’s behind-the-scenes drama doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence, Thompson’s semi-autobiographical work always seems to bring out the kooky best in Johnny Depp, who’s been too busy playing the part of a Hollywood A-lister to take many offbeat roles these days. The chance to see Depp embrace his oddball side once again is worth the price of admission alone.
Who: Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Rafe Spall and David Thewlis
What: Set during the succession of Queen Elizabeth I, the film proposes the theory that it was Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford, who penned William Shakespeare’s plays.
When: October 28th
Why: Because if it does well, we may never have to endure another end-of-the-world disaster movie from Roland Emmerich again. Seriously, though, it’ll be interesting to see what Emmerich can do without the crutch of special effects for once, because while he’s proven on numerous occasions that he can blow shit up, the jury’s still out on his skills as a director. The plot may be a bit preposterous, but it’s an interesting theory nonetheless, and I love the idea of staging it as a political thriller instead of a more generic historical drama. The Radiohead song in the trailer, however, still baffles me.