There’s a pronounced difference between the knowledge “I shall be very busy at grad school” and the lived experience of holy shit, I’m busy all the damn time, and I’ll spare you the whole story, but that’s how September managed to be the first month in Antagony & Ecstasy history (I believe) without a movie preview. Let us not permit that to ever happen again, and even though this post would have been last-minute if I’d gotten to it 24 hours ago, let alone now, I will beg you to let me pretend that it went off without any hitches at all. And then this weekend will be such fun, with the two ACS reviews I have lined up and a greatly dubious animated sequel and some capsules just coming out like candies from a Pez dispenser. At least until I’m busy all the damn time again, and I write, like, one-half of one review.
Anyway, October. Oscarbait season starts, and I’ve got to say, the 2015 Oscarbait looks especially choice, n’est-ce pas?
And here’s some of that choice Oscarbait right off the bat! Speaking entirely for myself, the last Ridley Scott movie that looks as exciting on paper as The Martian was pretty much never. Maybe Alien. It’s hard to imagine how exciting that would be on paper if I didn’t know what it was.
The point being: look at that cast in The Martian! It’s almost comically overstuffed with exciting names: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig in a dramatic context. And the hook of “Gravity, but it’s on Mars now” is a hook for which I have no resistance at all. The film is hells long and I will never find time for it, but it’s still one of my most-anticipated for all of the rest of the year.
But it’s not even the movie I’m most looking forward to this weekend! For that, let us turn instead to Sicario, making its wide expansion at last, with a pretty luscious cast of its own – Emily Blunt, Bencio Del Toro, Josh Brolin – and what I am promised is some of the prettiest cinematography in all of Rogers Deakins-dom. On top of luminous reviews out of Cannes. It’s pretty much perfect across the board. I will be heartbroken if it’s not a neo-masterpiece.
Another expansion: The Walk, which finds tech-lover Robert Zemeckis recreating the World Trade Center from the ground up to tell a story already told perfectly well in the sterling documentary Man on Wire. With Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a pixieish Frenchman, for reasons that surpass understanding. But live-action Zemeckis has a pretty good hit-to-miss ratio overall, and this is the kind of thing that’s so exactly perfect to see on the biggest screen available.
The other wide release: the latest “backstory to a classic fairy tale” thingy-job, Pan. Director Joe Wright has a way with glitzy style, and that’s just about the only thing that I can scrounge up to feel any kind of hope for what has all the makings of an utter boondoggle.
October means horror, and we’re finally getting some. On one hand, fans of Jack Black giving offbeat performances, as well as fans of zippy kiddie-friendly non-scary adventure apparently on the Hocus Pocus model, we find Goosebumps. I am at least a fan of Black giving offbeat performances, but there’s no reason to pretend this will be good at all. The other, vastly more likely offering is Crimson Peak, Guillermo del Toro’s attempt to do a Gothic ghost story. And as very much a fan of del Toro and Gothic fiction alike, I will happily put this in “can’t wait” territory.
Back on the prestige front, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and the Coen brothers all team up for the Cold War thriller Bridge of Spies. That’s a lot of awesome boxes checked, but this is weirdly turning into a kind of an afterthought in the fall landscape, right? Here’s hoping that wonderful things are lying in wait even so.
More horror: Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, the final entry (yeah right) in the venerable franchise that expended all of its creative juices by the end of the first movie. And yeah, “Dimension” means 3-D. In a found footage movie. Gimmick squared!
The other wide releases are a big old grab bag. First (and surely bigget) The Last Witch Hunter, a movie that Vin Diesel has been joyfully upselling for months like an eager child with a handmade Christmas ornament. It’s the only one of these that has actual decent odds of being good, too. I mean, Vin Diesel vehicles can be awful fun if he’s having fun himself. There’s a pair of films about music performance: the “clueless Americans in Afghanistan” Bill Murray picture Rock the Kasbah, which looks kind of terrible and aggressively pointless, and Jem and the Holograms, which goes beyond pointless into some kind of dark realm of insanity. Take a vintage cartoon about a pop group fronted by a music label owner who uses a holographic band to hide her identity, and make it about teenagers and no holograms? That’s insulting to the high-concept hell that was the 1980s.
And there’s also Burnt, a character comedy with Bradley Cooper as a chef. For some reason.
The month sneaks out on a pair of minor-key little films that feel more or less like they’re hoping to be overlooked: Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, a comedy about surviving the, um, zombie apocalypse. Which is apparently an idea fluid enough to be used more than once every ten years. Also Our Brand Is Crisis, which sounded great when it was first announced: David Gordon Green making a movie about American political misadventures in South America? With a whole list of people we want to see David Gordon Green directing? Hell yeah. But then the reviews came out of Toronto, and they were not enthusiastic, at best.