As you will see in this movie preview article, fall is a tricky season. On one hand, you’ve got the peppering of a few Oscar contenders that want to get the word out on their film earlier and build momentum for the year’s end. In the past few years, Best Picture winners Argo and The Departed, debuted in October instead of the over-filled December. Look for Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, Rush, Captain Phillips and The Fifth Estate to follow that trend. Those are all certainly movies to look forward to. On the other hand, the fall season is also the dumping grounds for movies that weren’t good enough for a flashy, high-profile summer release. The kids are back in school and football is on TV causing box office attendance to drop like a rock every year after summer. It’s going to get slow while movies like Riddick and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 hope to clean up summer scraps. Here’s my website’s full preview of the 2013 fall movie season covering the months of September and October.
Riddick— Here’s the perfect example of one of those summer rejects. You would think with the Fast and Furious clout that Vin Diesel could sell a movie franchise during a summer month. Thanks to the sketchy track record of Pitch Black and Chronicles of Riddick, Universal Pictures saved this one for the wide open September slate. As you may have guessed, Diesel is back (along with original director David Twohy) as his Riddick character fighting through interplanetary captivity and things that go bump in the dark. The hard R-rating is just what fans wanted. This could do surprise business. (trailer)
Winnie Mandela— Shot way back in 2011, here’s the first of two somewhat different Mandela-centered projects coming in 2013. This first one, starring Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, centers on the power couple’s early courtship and her long plight with her husband (played by Terrance Howard) in prison. Winnie Mandela looks smaller in stature to Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom starring Idris Elba that is slotted for November. (trailer)
Insidious: Chapter 2— Director James Wan just hit it big with The Conjuring this past summer and has a quick turnaround here to capitalize by returning with a sequel to his 2011 modest hit, with Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne back as Josh and Renai Lambert are still wrestling with the paranormal events surrounding their son. With a shiny new reputation, expect this little horror sequel to move a few tickets, even if Halloween is still nearly a month away. (trailer)
The Family— Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfieffer are the parental units of a Mafia-tied family that is relocated to France for witness protection. Tommy Lee Jones plays their CIA agent caretaker trying to keep a lid on their cover. I smell two Oscar winners and one multiple Oscar nominee cashing in paychecks endorsed by frenetic French filmmaker Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, Leon: The Professional). (trailer)
Prisoners— Hugh Jackman and Terrance Howard star in this Mark Wahlberg-produced crime thriller about a two distraught families stalking and pursuing a confession from a mentally handicapped man (Paul Dano) they believed kidnapped their daughters. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the young detective trying to conduct the investigation properly against these two desperate fathers. (trailer)
Battle of the Year— Go ahead and write this one up for two things. 1) a Balderdash card as a movie plot that sounds too dumb and fake to be true. 2) the next contender to Grown Ups 2 as the worst movie of the year. Here it goes. A burned out basketball coach (Lost‘s Josh Holloway) is recruited to put his coaching skills to use to train a b-boy street dance team led by Chris Brown as your resident thug and Josh Peck as your token white guy. This is going to make the Step Up film franchise look like The Godfather. (worst trailer of the year)
The Wizard of Oz 3D— While I will beat any drum to declare The Wizard of Oz as a timeless classic that should be seen by all, I just can’t get behind exploiting it in 3D for a tidy little profit for Warner Brothers. Simply put, it doesn’t belong in 3D. I’m sure it looks great, but I can’t do it. We’ve seen this 3D re-release trend of classics for years now. Stop falling for it. (trailer)
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2— Like Riddick, here’s another movie that probably could have stolen some summer business or waited until the holiday season to be a big family hit that has been long starved since Despicable Me 2 ruled July. It too finds a clear calendar of kids back in school that need a weekend fix. With original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller busy tackling Captain America: The Winter Solider for next spring, a couple of rookie fill-ins bring back Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, and Neil Patrick Harris for more food-related adventure. (trailer)
Rush— Oscar-winning director Ron Howard ditches Dan Brown books and bad comedies (The Dilemma) for a return to action drama. Rush has a historical sports angle covering the real-life rivalry between Formula One drivers James Hunt (Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl from Inglourious Basterds) during their chase for 1976 championship. (trailer)
Don Jon— If you don’t follow the multi-talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s present career, you need to. Not only has he strung together outstanding high profile acting roles for the past several years, the young man is now tackling writing and directing. Don Jon, which premiered back at the Sundance Film Festival, is his feature debut as a writer/director. Levitt plays the lead character, a smooth operator who nets the perfect girl (Scarlett Johansson) but can’t shake his addiction to porn to make their relationship work. There’s no denying JGL’s talent. This could be he’s biggest step forward to date. (trailer)
Baggage Claim— Not far behind Battle of the Year for preposterousness and awful plot scenario, 2 Guns co-star Paula Patton plays a relationship-desperate and neurotic flight attendant who begins to revisit a rundown of ex-boyfriends and suitors (played by manly studs Taye Diggs, Derek Luke, Djimon Hounsou, and Boris Kodjoe, among others) looking for rush engagement. (trailer)
Metallica: Through the Never— In a blend between actual film and concert documentary, rock band Metallica is the center of a journey of a roadie named Trip (up and comer Dane DeHaan). Connecting their old classics with a new album, this film seeks to be a different kind of concert film. (trailer)
Gravity— In the second half of that opening fall season trend I talked about, here’s one of your prime early-dropping Oscar contenders hoping to follow the Argo footsteps. Director Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men, Y Tu Mama Tambien) has crafted a claustrophobic two-character survival story between two astronauts (Oscar winners George Clooney and Sandra Bullock) who are marooned in space above Earth’s orbit when disaster destroys their shuttle and space station. The early footage is absolutely harrowing and the early reviews are colossally good. (extended trailer)
Runner Runner— From the director of The Lincoln Lawyer, Justin Timberlake, who’s getting a bit old to still play a college student, uses his smarts to win high stakes online poker in an effort to pay for school. However, after confronting a rich gaming site owner (newly minted Batman Ben Affleck) he is tempted to skip school and become the millionaire’s shady protege in Puerto Rico. Affleck as a bad guy? I expect an aged version of his fashionably male character from Mallrats as a reference. We shall see! (trailer)
Captain Phillips— In another early Oscar contender, United 93, Green Zone, and The Bourne Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass brings his knack for modern political thrillers to the story of Captain Richard Phillips (two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks) and the 2009 Somali pirate incident in the Indian Ocean shipping lanes aboard the Maersk Alabama that made headlines four years ago. Even though we may know the ending, expect Greengrass to ratchet up the tension. (trailer)
Machete Kills— In an unlikely sequel to an unlikely movie based on a fake grindhouse trailer, Danny Trejo and his penchant for killing with big farming blades is back with another infusion of big names looking to get in on director Robert Rodriguez’s level of fun. Any movie that has Mel Gibson as a villain and Charlie Sheen as the President of the United States has to be seen to be believed. Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Demian Bichir add to the character roster while Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Sofia Vergara, Lady Gaga, Amber Heard, Vanessa Hudgens, and Zoe Saldana add to the oogle and jiggle factor. (trailer)
The Fifth Estate— Versatile Chicago and Dreamgirls director Bill Condon continues the “Year of Cumberbatch.” Star Trek Into Darkness villain and nerd demigod Benedict Cumberbatch plays WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in this true story crime and espionage thriller. Daniel Bruhl, Anthony Mackie, Stanley Tucci, and Laura Linney round out the supporting cast. Keep an eye on a potential future Oscar nomination from Cumberbatch here. (trailer)
Romeo and Juliet— Fans of Shakespeare and teen suicide get their latest adaptation of the well-known play for a new generation. Unlike Baz Luhrmann, this one is set in period. True Grit Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld and newcomer Douglas Booth play the star-crossed lovers with Damian Lewis and Stellan Skarsgard as the family patriarchs and Paul Giamatti as the pivotal Friar Laurence. English teachers, get your red pens out. (trailer)
Carrie— Thanks to more Hollywood unoriginal tendencies, Boys Don’t Cry director Kimberly Pierce brings her tough girl coda to remaking this Brian De Palma horror classic with Kick-Ass star Chloe Grace Moretz filling Sissy Spacek’s prom dress as the unpopular girl with underlying powers that gets tricked by the popular crowd and provokes their revenge. I don’t know if Carrie was ripe enough for a modern remake, but expect horror fans to give it a shot, especially in this calendar year where horror is hot again. (trailer)
12 Years a Slave— Of all of the potential Oscar contenders looming early in October, this one looks the most striking and dynamic. Shame director Steve McQueen brings an epic struggle of a born-free black man (the always good Chiwetel Ejiofor) in 1841 who is apprehended and sold into slavery by a cruel plantation owner (Michael Fassbender) who fights to be reunited with his daughter (Beast of the Southern Wild Oscar nominee Quvenzhane Wallis) and his freedom. Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Alfre Woodard, and Paul Giamatti also come into play. I predict this early as on of the Best Picture front-runners come next January and February. (trailer)
Escape Plan— From the director of 1408, Expendables franchise fans can put glorified cameos aside and get the real team-up between Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger that they’ve waited over 25 years for. Escape Plan pits Stallone’s wrongfully incarcerated structural engineer and Schwarzenegger’s top dog inmate against a ruthless warden (Jim Caviezel) in a sophisticated supermax prison that Stallone’s character helped design. This movie hopes to make more at the box office than the combined double flops of The Last Stand and Bullet to the Head that these two relics released earlier this year. That shouldn’t be hard. (trailer)
All is Lost— Writer/director J.C. Chandor strike gold on his first feature with an Oscar nomination two years ago for Margin Call. He returns for his sophomore effort with just screen legend Robert Redford, a leaking boat, and the ocean elements for this survival thriller that promises a more serious Castaway and Life of Pi setting. (trailer)
I’m in Love with a Church Girl— In the most logical coin flip segue remix to the old T-Pain anthem “I’m in Love with a Stripper,” rapper Ja Rule plays a reformed drug dealer hoping to clean up his life and surroundings by reading the good book and romancing a holy roller (former Cheetah Girl Adrienne Bailon). Michael Madsen and Stephen Baldwin fill their “faith-based” and “black movie” squares on the acting resume bingo card in supporting roles. (trailer)
The Counselor— Of the October Oscar contenders, here’s the biggest curveball. Gladiator and Prometheus director Ridley Scott teams up with stellar screenwriter/novelist Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men, All the Pretty Horses) in a bizarre looking drug trafficking thriller about a lawyer (Michael Fassbender) who gets in over his head with the wrong people (embodied by Cameron Diaz and Javier Bardem). Brad Pitt and Penelope Cruz are in here too and the trailer does very little to tip this movie’s hand.
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa— Johnny Knoxville and his Jackass crew put him in old man makeup to play a senior citizen perpetrator of outlandish public gags that involved old people, kids, and property destruction. Go on. Admit it. You laughed at the trailer just like everyone else.
As always, keep in mind that releases dates shift all of the time. Check your local showtimes before heading out. I’ll be back at the end of October to present a full Holiday Movie Preview of all the big hitters lined up for November and December for the year-end push at the box office. Enjoy the fall season!