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The PopMatters Fall Preview: September 2014

For fans of everything from the truly buzz-worthy (Terry Gilliam) to that found footage trope yet again (Casey La Scala), this warm-up to the end of the year awards has you covered.

For fans of everything from the truly buzz-worthy (Terry Gilliam) to that found footage trope yet again (Casey La Scala), this warm-up to the end of the year awards has you covered.

 

Director: Dustin Marcellino

Film: The Identical

Cast: Blake Rayne, Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Seth Green, Joe Pantoliano

MPAA rating: PG

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5 September
The Identical Sold as a faith-based film that reimagines Elvis Presley’s life as if his stillborn twin brother lived, this cinematic insanity reminds the viewer why Mystery Science Theater 3000 is still relevant in 2014. Troll 2 may be considered the Best Worst Movie of all time, but this Room-like reject is bereft of anything other than cult camp kitsch value. A co-production of a pro-Israel organization and overflowing with “Jesus Saves” shout-outs, this confused collection of biopic clichés tries to match its mythology move for move. Instead, it creates a slice of cine-madness that has to be seen, and experienced, to be believed.

 

Director: Stuart Murdoch

Film: God Help the Girl

Cast: Emily Browning, Olly Alexander, Hannah Murray, Pierre Boulanger

MPAA rating: R

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5 September
God Help the Girl Belle and Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch has had the idea for this quirky coming-of-age tale in his head for over ten years. While on tour, he came up with the idea of creating a song cycle about the growing pains of a music obsessed young girl. He created a concept album for the project, with hopes he could one day bring it to the big screen. Well, here it is, and it’s twee and terrific, both incredibly insightful and a bit shaggy around the edges. While Murdoch’s inexperience as a total filmmaker shows (he directed and wrote the screenplay) the film is still fun.

 

Director: Michael Berry

Film: Frontera

Cast: Eva Longoria, Michael Peña, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan

MPAA rating: R

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5 September
Frontera In a series of interconnecting stories, an illegal crossing the border into Texas is accused of killing the wife of a local sheriff. His pregnant bride, desperate to help him, allows a man named Coyote to help her into America, only to suffer under his sadistic hand. Like a combination of Crash and the work of Alejandro González Iñárritu, this first film from Michael Berry has critics complimenting the work of actors Ed Harris, Eva Longoria, and Michael Pena.

 

Director: Hilary Brougher

Film: Innocence

Cast: Sophie Curtis, Kelly Reilly, Graham Phillips, Linus Roache, Sarah Sutherland, Stephanie March, Perrey Reeves

MPAA rating: PG-13

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5 September
Innocence “A young girl discovers that her elite Manhattan preparatory school harbors a dark secret…” What? Like everyone’s a neckbiter ala Vampire Academy? That the institution is run by a cover of Eastern European witches? That no one cares about such YA nonsense? Turns out, it’s the second suggestion, in direct copycat correlation to Dario Argento’s brilliant horror film from nearly 40 years ago, Suspiria. Certainly, just like Suzanne Collins and Battle Royale, based on the book author Jane Mendelsohn surely ‘never’ heard of the Italian Master of Suspense’s defining film. No matter, as this movie has no chance of being as good.

 

Director: Peter Glanz

Film: The Longest Week

Cast: Olivia Wilde, Jason Bateman, Billy Crudup

MPAA rating: R

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5 September
The Longest Week This year is about to become the Year of Excessive Jason Bateman. After the return of Arrested Development to streaming TV, his directorial debut Bad Words, and the upcoming Horrible Bosses 2, the cult actor still has three more films up his cinematic sleeve, this being the first out of the gate. He plays an spoiled jerk who lives off his parents. As in most movies of this time, he falls in love just as he is dispossessed and out of work. Some are comparing it to Wes Anderson and other twee indie dramedy makers. All we need to hear is the acronym “RomCom” to know what to expect.

 

Director: Casey La Scala

Film: The Remaining

Cast: Johnny Pacar, Shaun Sipos, Bryan Dechart, Alexa PenaVega, Italia Ricci

MPAA rating: R

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5 September
The Remaining It’s found footage time once again, as a group of young adults attending a wedding come face-to-face with The Rapture, and decide to film their call to Judgment. Yes, it’s another faith-based film (damn you God’s Not Dead and Heaven in for Real) trying to glom onto the by now DOA cinematic gimmick ala The Blair Witch Project. Casey La Scala, behind the scenes suit on such films as Donnie Darko, Welcome to Collinwood, and What a Girl Wants, steps into the director’s chair to try and make this mangled material work, but thanks to its combination of the Apocalypse and the approach, it doesn’t.

 

Director: David Wnendt

Film: Wetlands

Cast: Carla Juri, Christoph Letkowski, Marlen Kruse, Meret Becker

MPAA rating: Unrated

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5 September
Wetlands A woman with what can best be described as questionable personal hygiene (and an unusual and eccentric attitude/obsession towards same) is involved in a personal grooming “accident” and ends up in the hospital. There, she tries to reunite her divorced parents while macking with a male nurse. Featuring a star making performance from newcomer Carla Juri and a premise guaranteed to get conservative critics in a froth, the trailers tend to make this look like a graduated gross out comedy. Early reviews suggest something more salacious, scatological, and surprisingly heartfelt. Still, not for the faint of… heart?

12 September

Director: Sam Miller

Film: No Good Deed

Cast: Idris Elba, Taraji P. Henson, Leslie Bibb, Mark Smith

MPAA rating: R

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12 September
No Good Deed

It’s time for another home invasion film, this time featuring Idris Elba as the unlikely villain and Taraji P. Henson as the former DA, now stay at home mom who makes the mistake of letting this loose cannon into her humble abode. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a solid B-movie nailbiter, especially in the dog days of September. The bad news, however, is that this film has been done for over a year now, with the studio shuffling it from release date to release date. That’s never a good sign. Still, the cast has us more than a little intrigued, even if the premise doesn’t.

 

Director: Charles Martin Smith

Film: A Dolphin Tale 2

Cast: Harry Connick, Jr., Ashley Judd, Nathan Gamble, Kris Kristofferson, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, Morgan Freeman

MPAA rating: PG

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12 September
A Dolphin Tale 2Warner had a surprise family film hit with the true story of a bottle nosed dolphin named Winter who lost his tail in a crab trap. He was later fitted with a prosthetic and became a star attraction at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida. The 2011 movie connected with audiences looking for good clean wholesome entertainment, so now we get a sequel. The “tale” this time revolves around an orphaned animal named Hope, and how her arrival affects Winter and the rest of the original cast. Sounds like a solid night out for parents and progeny alike. It also sounds saccharine and overly sentimental.

 

Director: Michaël R. Roskam

Film: The Drop

Cast: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Ortiz, James Frecheville

MPAA rating: R

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12 September
The Drop Ever since the Oscar winner adaptation of the novel, Mystic River, Dennis Lehane has seen several of his books become films, including Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island, and Ben Affleck’s recently announced Argo follow-up, Live By Night. Now we have this effort, starring Thomas Hardy and Noomi Rapace and featuring the last performance from the late James Gandolfini. The story centers around mobsters, money drops, and a robbery gone awry. Director Michaël R. Roskam was responsible for the Oscar nominated Foreign Film Bullhead, so he’s no slouch behind the lens. Still, this looks like lesser Lehane, especially considering his motion picture pedigree.

 

Director: Ned Benson

Film: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them

Cast: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Viola Davis, William Hurt, Isabelle Huppert

MPAA rating: R

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12 September
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them The Rashomon of romantic dramas, this version of Ned Benson’s The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is actually two films strong together. Initially, the filmmaker’s fractured take on a disintegrating marriage was made up of two distinct films, subtitled Him and Her. Starring James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain, both are slated for an arthouse release in the coming months. This take, however, is more traditional and tries to combine the differing perspectives from the previous versions to give audiences a more balanced overview. Early reviews argue that this make be too much of a decent thing, but with all three variations soon to be available, film fans can make up their own minds.

 

Director: Craig Johnson

Film: The Skeleton Twins

Cast: Kristen Wiig, Luke Wilson, Bill Hader, Ty Burrell

MPAA rating: R

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12 September
The Skeleton Twins Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig play a brother and sister who attempt suicide on the same day. That decision de-evolves into long overdue reunion where our siblings share their depressive view of the world. Oh, and it’s a quasi-comedy, with moments of meaningful quirk, complements of a script by Mark Heyman and Craig Johnson. Naturally, these arrested adolescents’ problems all stem from a screwed up family, and early buzz suggests a flawless chemistry between our two former SNL leads. We also get the standard secrets and lies that ended up causing the decade’s long distance and their individual despair.

 

Director: Nicholas McCarthy

Film: At the Devil’s Door

Cast: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Ashley Rickards, Naya Rivera

MPAA rating: R

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12 September
At the Devil’s Door More Satanic shenanigans, this time centering around a house with an evil past, a real estate agent, and a missing girl with a connection to them both. Or something like that. Writer/director Nicolas McCarthy made a minor fright film splash with his first feature film, 2012’s The Pact. This time around, his efforts seems a bit more successful. Apparently, we are dealing with the title demon, “chosen ones”, and some paranormal pregnancies. As with any pre-Halloween horror film, audiences will decide whether this movie delivers the shivers. It seems that fright has become critic proof in the post-home video/streaming age.

19 September

Director: Adam Wingard

Film: The Guest

Cast: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Lance Reddick

MPAA rating: R

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17 September
The Guest

Before 2013, few beyond the horror film obsessives knew the name Adam Wingard. Responsible for such efforts as A Horrible Way to Die as well as segments in both V/H/S and V/H/S/2, his 2013 August release, You’re Next, became an unexpected sleeper. Now, he’s back and he’s bringing the old cinematic truism of the invited/uninvited stranger with him. This time, it’s a vet returning from Afghanistan that has our grieving couple opening their home. Soon, sinister things start happening. Guess you have to be careful who you let into your domicile, no matter the psychological need for same.

 

Director: Wes Ball

Film: The Maze Runner

Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, Patricia Clarkson

MPAA rating: PG-13

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19 September
The Maze Runner The big deal about this movie is not that it’s yet another adaptation of a famed YA novel. It’s not even the less than stellar chances of its success given the recent returns for efforts like The Giver and Beautiful Creatures. In this case, James Dashner’s 2009 novel of dystopian deception will be one of the first to be shown in a new expanded format. Known as Escape, it used three screens to increase the aspect ratio and turn this tale of teens lost in a mysterious mechanical “trap” into a wannabe epic. Few will get to see the film this way. Others will have to settle for a traditional big screen experience.

 

Director: Shawn Levy

Film: This Is Where I Leave You

Cast: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant, Dax Shepard, Jane Fonda

MPAA rating: PG-13

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19 September
This is Where I Leave You There are only two words you need to know here: Shawn Levy. The man who made the Night at the Museum movies. The dude responsible for Date Night, Real Steel, and The Internship. The guy who took a giant cinematic dump on Peter Sellers with the insufferable Pink Panther remake. While many argue that he’s nothing more than a journeyman expert at playing the studio system game, his movies are often miserable examples of mindless “dumbing down”. This will probably make those who loved Jonathan Tropper’s book less than happy. The good news? The author wrote the screenplay. The bad news? Shawn Levy.

 

Director: Scott Frank

Film: A Walk Among the Tombstones

Cast: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, Boyd Holbrook, Ruth Wilson, Sebastian Roché

MPAA rating: R

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19 September
A Walk Among the Tombstones Do you remember a time when Liam Neeson wasn’t a post-middle aged ass kicker hellbent on making bad guys pay while growling dialogue left over from an Arnold Schwarzenegger swap meet? Well, neither does his current fanbase, and both the actor and his audience seem to like it that way. Taking a page out of Taken, Neeson plays a PI who gets in over his head following an agreement to help a drug dealer find his missing wife. The character, Matthew Scudder, is the star of a successful series of books by author Lawrence Block. Guess Neeson has his next franchise all locked up.

 

Director: Peter Chelsom

Film: Hector and the Search for Happiness

Cast: Simon Pegg, Toni Collette, Rosamund Pike, Stellan Skarsgård, Christopher Plummer

MPAA rating: R

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19 September
Hector and the Search for Happiness Is it me, or does Simon Pegg struggle outside of his work with friends Nick Frost and Edgar Wright? Star Trek and Mission: Impossible aside, his performances in movies like A Fantastic Fear of Everything and/or How to Lose Friends and Alienate People are enough to make you forget Shaun of the Dead ever happened. Maybe the director on board here will be the wild card necessary to lift Pegg out of his Coronetto-less doldrums. Peter Chelsom was once celebrated for efforts like Funny Bones and Hear My Song. After the disaster that was Town and Country, however, his Hollywood stock plummeted. Here’s hoping the old Pete shows up, for Pegg’s sake.

 

Director: Kevin Smith

Film: Tusk

Cast: Michael Parks, Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment, Génesis Rodríguez, Johnny Depp

MPAA rating: R

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19 September
Tusk Kevin Smith is a walking, talking, and snarking advertisement for the creative effects of marijuana. After avoiding drugs for decades, the Clerks creator became a dedicated stoner, and the result is a retreat from his “retirement” announcement of a few years back and a massive increase in his productivity. This year alone, he announced a Canada-based trilogy, this first film starting off his unusual triptych. For those of you unaware of the premise, the trailer argues for an internet journalist who responds to a recluse’s unusual ad, and gets turned into a walrus for his efforts. It sounds terrific, but then that could be the THC talking.

 

Director: Terry Gilliam

Film: The Zero Theorem

Cast: Christoph Waltz, Mélanie Thierry, David Thewlis, Lucas Hedges

MPAA rating: R

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19 September
The Zero Theorem Few filmmakers get the short end of the financing stick like Terry Gilliam. Over the course of his nearly 40 years in the director’s chair, the ex-Python has only managed to make 12 movies. He’s had dozens of ideas and has been linked to several successful (Harry Potter, Watchmen) projects. But when it comes to pleasing the money men, he’s deemed difficult and obtuse. Luckily, the aging icon has no plans of giving up, with this buzz-worthy film a clear indication why. Embracing the new technology as much as he tweaks it, this is the kind of movie no one makes anymore. It’s pure Gilliam.

 

Director: Alan White

Film: Reclaim

Cast: John Cusack, Ryan Phillippe, Rachelle Lefevre, Jacki Weaver, Luis Guzman

MPAA rating: R

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19 September
Reclaim Okay, this is gonna take a bit of disbelief suspension. A young couple travels to a foreign land to adopt a child. Turns out, it’s a scam, involving the title act of “reclaiming” the kid, post-payment, and selling him or her onto the next victim. Ryan Phillipe and Rachel Lefevre are the wannabe parents. Jacki Weaver and John Cusack are the criminal connection. Eventually, our future father goes all Taken on the material and turns vigilante, or something like that. Sounds like a solid direct-to-DVD diversion. However, this one is headed to a big screen near you. Here’s hoping its half-decent.

26 September

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Film: The Equalizer

Cast: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo

MPAA rating: R

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26 September
The Equalizer

Denzel Washington is back, and he’s bringing the man who made him a two time Oscar winner (for Training Day) with him. That’s Antoine Fuqua, in case you’ve forgotten. Oddly enough, this is based on the Edward Woodward TV series from the late ’80s, though it’s unlike any episode I remember. There’s a definite Taxi Driver vibe here, with our hero defending a young prostitute (Chloe Grace Moretz) from the Russian mob. Fuqua is an excellent choice for this material. He has a flare for the modern thriller. Looks like another edge of your seat entertainment from the pair.

 

Director: Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi

Film: The Boxtrolls

Cast: Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley, Toni Collette, Jared Harris, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan

MPAA rating: PG

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26 September
The Boxtrolls Stop motion animation is a (nearly) lost artform. Most films pretend to employ the technique, when all they are really doing is substituting CG for meticulous, hand-on creativity. Laika, the company behind the brilliant Coraline and ParaNorman, believe in this age-old idea, and are applying it to an adaptation of Alan Snow’s Here Be Monsters. Unfortunately, early reviews out of the festival circuit have not been kind, many knocking the character design as well as the storytelling. That’s too bad. It would be nice to see an alternative to the stunt casting, pop culture riffing of today’s family film. Laika’s previous movies were magic. This one is apparently just mediocre.

 

Director: Hossein Amini

Film: The Two Faces of January

Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, Oscar Isaac

MPAA rating: R

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26 September
The Two Faces of January Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, and Oscar Isaac star in screenwriter turned director Hossein Amini’s (Drive, Snow White and the Huntsman) feature film debut. Based on a Patricia Highsmith novel and set in 1962, the story involves con men, stolen investments, and more than a few dead bodies. Apparently, it’s been a pet project for Amini for the last 15 years. Many in the foreign film critic community (the movie has already opened overseas) are suggesting it should have stayed a dream. Their main complaint? It just can’t compare to other adaptations of Highsmith’s work (Strangers on a Train, The Talented Mr. Ripley)

 

Director: Max Nichols

Film: Two Night Stand

Cast: Miles Teller, Analeigh Tipton, Jessica Szohr, Leven Rambin, Scott Mescudi.

MPAA rating: R

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26 September
Two Night Stand Talk about high concepts. A pair of anonymous sex partners, having just completed an intended one night stand, are stuck together in his NYC apartment after an overnight blizzard shuts the city down. Naturally, they take the time to get to know each other. Max Nichols, son of Academy Award winner and post-modern icon Mike Nichols, gets his nepotistic groove on, making his feature film debut with this revisionist RomCom, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing (may we point out Jason, son of Ivan, Reitman’s illustrious career). Hopefully, this is another case where the creative apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

 

Director: Henrik Ruben Genz

Film: Good People

Cast: James Franco, Kate Hudson, Omar Sy, Tom Wilkinson, Sam Spruell

MPAA rating: R

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26 September
Good PeopleJames Franco and Kate Hudson are the title couple, a pair of nice people who, until recently, were renting a room to a now-deceased tenant. And what do they find among his belongings? Why, a bag full of money. And what do they do when they find this cash? Why, since they’re drowning in debt, they decide to take it. What happens then? Why, the real “owner” of the stash, the criminal who originally stole it, comes calling. Danish director Henrik Ruben Genz is behind the lens. Hopefully, he can make what’s going to happen in front of it a lot more clever and compelling than this overdone idea.

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