Film

The PopMatters Fall Film Preview: October 2014

Awards season starts in earnest with several titles vying for a place among the best of's and critic's choices. We'll get a few scares, shocks, and laughs out of these films.

Awards season starts in earnest with several titles vying for a place among the Best of's and critic's choices. We'll get a few scares, shocks, and laughs out of these films.

 
Director: Jason Reitman

Film: Men, Women, and Children

Cast: Rosemarie DeWitt, Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer, Dean Norris, Adam Sandler, Ansel Elgort, Kaitlyn Dever

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://www.popmatters.com/images/blog_art/m/menwomenchildrenposter.jpg

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1 October
Men, Women, and Children After starting off like a sensation (Thank You for Smoking, Juno, Up in the Air), Jason Reitman has come crashing back down to Earth. The once celebrated director has seen efforts like Young Adult (terrific) and Labor Day (awful) tank at the box office. So this adaptation of Chad Kultgen's disconnected culture cautionary tale could be a make or break effort for the upstart. Even with the presence of Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love mode (always a novelty), this seems like an act of oddball desperation. So far, reviews have been decidedly mixed. At least the message about technology taking over our lives is contemporary and relevant.

 
Director: David Fincher

Film: Gone Girl

Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://www.popmatters.com/images/blog_art/g/gonegirlposter.jpg

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3 October
Gone Girl David Fincher is a genius. He's the very definition of auteur. While he's only managed to make ten films in the last 20 years, almost all of them have been masterworks. So his adaptation of Gillian Flynn's bestseller instantly becomes one of this Fall's most buzzed about and highly anticipated efforts. Hiring Ben Affleck pre-Superman v. Batman was also a nice bit of marketing happenstance. Still, Fincher can be a hard sell among both your average filmgoers and cinephiles. His films are rarely hits (Se7en and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button being the exceptions), only to do well later as creative classics.

 
Director: Philippe Falardeau

Film: The Good Lie

Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Corey Stoll, Sarah Baker

MPAA rating: PG-13

Image: http://www.popmatters.com/images/blog_art/g/goodlieposter.jpg

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3 October
The Good Lie Usually, a movie about a Caucasian woman helping a bunch of African refugees as they escape the Hell of their homeland and resettle in America would stink of the cinematic subgenre known as the "White Messiah". In this case, however, director Philippe Falardeau decides to focus on the minorities, resulting in a manipulative, feel-good drama that's more realistic and authentic than one imagines was originally intended. Reese Witherspoon's spunky employment advocate doesn't show up until partway through the story, and she takes a back seat to the fish out of water trials and tribulations of the main characters. The result is refreshing.

 
Director: John R. Leonetti

Film: Annabelle

Cast: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Alfre Woodard

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://www.popmatters.com/images/blog_art/a/annabelleposter.jpg

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3 October
Annabelle James Wan took the story of Ed and Lorraine Warren (most famous for The Amityville Horror investigation), their investigation of a family in Rhode Island, and turned it into the $318 million megahit, The Conjuring. Naturally, studio suits wanted more, More, MORE, so we have this prequel/sequel centering on a minor object from the first film. Indeed, the Annabelle doll is given her own origin story here, but what could have been another joyous cinematic dark ride turns instead into a series of jumps and jolts followed by long patches of predictable paranormal preposterousness. Without Wan behind the lens, it just doesn't work.

 
Director: Vic Armstrong

Film: Left Behind

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Cassi Thomson, Chad Michael Murray, Nicky Whelan, Jordin Sparks, Lance E. Nichols, Martin Klebba, William Ragsdale, Lea Thompson

MPAA rating: PG

Image: http://www.popmatters.com/images/blog_art/l/leftbehindposter.jpg

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3 October
Left Behind Anyone looking for scope and spectacle at their end of the world scenario need look no further than The Bible and its Revelations/Rapture to provide the necessary epic ingredients. Still, filmmakers are often flummoxed on how to get the faith-based material past a mainstream audience. Michael Tolkin succeeded back in 1991 with The Rapture. Alas, this sappy adaptation of the first installments of the 16 part Christian cautionary tale from authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins does not. Instead of going all fire and brimstone, we get Irwin Allen as interpreted by Jim and Tammy Faye Baker. Not even the presence of overacting guru Nicolas Cage can enliven this addled apocalypse.

 
Director: Alberto Arvelo

Film: The Liberator

Cast: Édgar Ramírez, María Valverde, Juana Acosta, Danny Huston, Erich Wildpret, Alejandro Furth

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://www.popmatters.com/images/blog_art/l/liberatorposter.jpg

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3 October
The Liberator Many probably don't remember their history lesson about Simon Bolivar. During the first part of the 19th century, however, he was instrumental in helping his native South American's break free from the Spanish empire. Venezuela has tapped this epic to be its entry for the Best Foreign Language film award at this year's Oscars, and according to those who've seen it, it has all the earmarks of a winner. Others have complained that Bolivar's story is too complicated to be captured in a single film. This is for the selective arthouse audiences and those interested in previously unexplored world history.

 
Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith

Film: Drive Hard

Cast: John Cusack, Thomas Jane

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://www.popmatters.com/images/blog_art/d/drivehardposter.jpg

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3 October
Drive Hard We've had Drive, Drive Angry, Learning to Drive, and Drive-Ins, and now we've got a former Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle reconfigured for the talents of Thomas Jane and John Cusack (how that works is Hollywood's own private mystery). The former plays an ex-race car ace turned driving instructor. The latter is a daring criminal who kidnaps his co-star to help with his high speed getaway. Set along Australia's Gold Coast, the latest from Brian Trenchard-Smith (BMX Bandits, Leprechaun 4: In Space) has direct to DVD written all over it. In the parlance of 2014, that means a limited release and a date with VOD.

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