October is an interesting month for film releases. The blockbuster season is a distant memory and awards season is just getting started. Some festival favorites finally hit wide release, while others are chasing the spooky atmosphere of the season. However, there aren’t many major horror movies this month (and no, “Boo! A Madea Halloween” doesn’t count); instead, it seems that the dominant genre for October is adult thrillers. Sure, there’s a comedy and a drama or two in the mix, but mainly it’s thrillers aimed at grownups with twists, turns and some sophisticated action. Who knows if any of these will succeed at the box office, but here’s what’s on the docket for the month.
“The Birth of a Nation”
Who: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Aunjanue Ellis and Gabrielle Union What: Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher in the antebellum South, orchestrates an uprising. When: October 7th Why: There’s been a lot of discussion around “The Birth of a Nation.” First, there was tons of hype about the film coming out of Sundance, but more recently, the talk has become about writer/director/star Nate Parker’s previous rape allegations. For some, that’s a deal breaker and they won’t go see the film; others have learned to separate the art from the artist and will take the movie on its own merits (see Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, etc.). Based on word of mouth, the film is a harrowing, emotional experience that does a good job of connecting audiences to this historical event while finding the humanity amid all the horrible actions of the time period.
As pointed out in our Moviegoer’s Guide to May (and, you know, the entire internet), “Captain America: Civil War” is due out this week, and it looks like another fine effort from the Russo brothers. This time around, we won’t be put through another Avengers vs. Slightly-Worse-Villain-Than-Last-Time scenario, but instead will see Marvel’s leading superheroes turn against each other. That alone makes for a very fresh look for Marvel.
Let’s not beat around the bush: the big draw this month is undoubtedly the long-awaited match-up between superhero heavy hitters Batman and Superman. Although it’ll be interesting to see whether Warner Bros. and DC Comics are finally able to jumpstart their own shared cinematic universe à la Marvel with this very expensive Hail Mary, there are far more interesting movies that deserve your attention, including a pair of adult-minded sci-fi flicks from the makers of “Cloverfield” and “Take Shelter.”
“London Has Fallen”
Who: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett What: While in London for the Prime Minister’s funeral, Mike Banning discovers a plot to assassinate all the attending world leaders. When: March 4th Why: “Olympus Has Fallen” may have been the better of the dueling “‘Die Hard’ in the White House” movies (though just barely), but the premise behind the sequel is almost as lame as its title, a moronic play on the famous children’s song. Not only does it seem ridiculous that Aaron Eckhart’s president and Gerard Butler’s secret service agent would find themselves in yet another hostage situation, but the very thing that made the first film enjoyable – the close quarters, single-location setting – has been discarded in favor of a more sprawling, city-wide adventure. Granted, it worked for “Die Hard,” but those movies also had John McClane.
“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”
Who: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton What: A journalist recounts her wartime coverage in Afghanistan and Pakistan. When: March 4th Why: War comedies are a tough proposition, especially those set in real-life warzones, because it’s a tricky balancing act of trying to earn laughs while still being respectful of the people at the butt of the joke. Though “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” sounds like a slam dunk on paper – in addition to Tina Fey reteaming with frequent collaborator Robert Carlock, it boasts a talented cast and a pair of directors (Glenn Ficarra and John Requa) with a solid track record – the trailers aren’t very encouraging. Moviegoers could use a good political satire after recent flops like “Our Brand is Crisis” and “Rock the Kasbah,” but sadly, this doesn’t seem to be it.
2016 got off to a pretty dire start last month, but thankfully, Hollywood has put together one hell of an apology with what is quickly shaping up to be the most promising February in a very long time – if ever. Though there are still a few duds littered throughout the month (here’s looking at you, “Gods of Egypt”), there are also some really exciting new releases, including the long-awaited Deadpool movie and the latest from directors Joel and Ethan Coen and John Hillcoat.
Who: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes and Scarlett Johansson What: A Hollywood fixer in the 1950s works to keep the studio’s stars in line. When: February 5th Why: It’s been awhile since the Coen brothers made a straight-up comedy, instead focusing on more dramatic fare like “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “True Grit,” but the writing/directing duo appears to be back to their screwball best with this period piece set during the latter years of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Though the Coens’ goofier films have always been hit-and-miss (for every “Raising Arizona,” there’s an “Intolerable Cruelty”), the footage released thus far has been pretty encouraging, particularly an extended clip with Ralph Fiennes and Alden Ehrenreich squabbling over a line of dialogue that perfectly encapsulates the farcical tone of the movie.
“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”
Who: Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote, Lena Headey and Charles Dance What: Jane Austen’s classic tale of tangled relationships between lovers from different social classes in 19th century England is faced with a new challenge: an army of undead. When: February 5th Why: How do you make “Pride and Prejudice” exciting? Add zombies. That was the secret sauce in Seth Grahame-Smith’s bestselling mashup novel, which transformed the literary classic into a blood-stained horror comedy. But that was seven years ago, so it’ll be interesting to see whether anyone still cares now that it’s finally being adapted for the big screen. After all, the last Grahame-Smith novel to receive the Hollywood treatment, 2012’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” was a massive flop, and although “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” has a cleverer concept, it’s just as one-note, which doesn’t bode well for its audience, whoever that’s supposed to be.
While the past two months have featured several potential award contenders, there’s a surprising lack of prestige films on the November release slate. That’s not to say it’s completely devoid of Oscar bait, because “Spotlight,” “Carol” and “The Danish Girl” are all earning serious buzz, but this month is geared more towards high-profile fare like the new Bond movie and the final installment of the “Hunger Games” series. There’s almost too much to choose from this November, although that’s a nice problem to have.
Who: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes and Monica Bellucci What: A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover the truth behind the sinister organization known as SPECTRE. When: November 6th Why: Daniel Craig may not be doing the movie any favors with his series of controversial remarks during the publicity tour, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who isn’t excited about “Spectre,” especially with the core creative team behind “Skyfall” all returning. Though it will be difficult to top the last installment in the long-running series, director Sam Mendes probably wouldn’t have signed on if he didn’t think it was possible. My only problem with “Spectre” is the casting of Christoph Waltz as the main villain, because while he’s perfect for the role, the actor has played the mustache-twirling bad guy so many times that it feels too obvious.
Who: Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo and Liev Schreiber What: The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese. When: November 6th Why: After delivering an uncharacteristic dud with “The Cobbler,” writer/director Tom McCarthy has seemingly bounced back with this investigative news drama, which gained serious Oscar buzz following its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival. The Academy loves movies based on true stories, especially ones as noteworthy as this, and the cast is overflowing with talent. Though Michael Keaton is hot off his Best Actor win for “Birdman,” early reviews have singled out Mark Ruffalo as the cast member most likely to earn a nomination come January. But regardless of what kind of presence it has at next year’s awards ceremony, “Spotlight” looks absolutely riveting.