Donald Clarke's great big autumn movie preview
What better way to get you through the dark winter nights than beneath the flickering lights of a warm movie theatre? Donald Clarke runs through all the cinema releases between now and the new year
Ancient cannibalistic religions have less eccentric calendars than does the movie universe.
The long run-in and dreary aftermath to Christmas do now harbour the odd blockbuster. Hang on for the second Thor movie, the second Hobbit film
and – Lionsgate Pictures dearly hope – the first episode in a long-running Ender’s Game franchise. We now expect a horror film in January (the latest Paranormal Activity flick). School holidays bring animations such as Turbo, Cloudy With Meatballs 2 and Frozen.
But let’s not fool ourselves. We are, a full five months ahead of the ceremony, about to launch ourselves into Oscar season. The studios’ stubbornness in sticking a certain type of movie in this (now yawning) window borders on the absurd. By the time the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis opens in January, it will be a full seven months since it premiered to applause at Cannes. Is it really fair to prioritise the few thousand members of the academy over the millions of cinemagoers who want to see the Coens’ latest?
The notion is that, if you open a film any earlier, confused voters will forget its existence. So, in a few weeks’ time, we get to watch Tom Hanks in the properly thrilling Captain Phillips. Four months later – after Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street, George Clooney’s The Monuments Men and a dozen other contenders – we will be treated to the early front-runner, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. Couldn’t we space these things out a little more? Take a deep breath . . .
HOW I LIVE NOW
Kevin Macdonald directs Saoirse Ronan in an adaptation of Meg Rosoff’s young-adult novel concerning the aftermath of a nuclear attack. The film’s conjuring of English rural idylls – all damp fields and Sandy Denny – is particularly effective.
SUNSHINE ON LEITH
We can think of worse things than a jukebox musical based on the works of the Proclaimers. Peter Mullan appears in a tale that will undoubtedly feature pleas for friends to correspond regularly while visiting the US.
THE TO DO LIST
It looks as if one of the things that young Aubrey Plaza (a person not a mall, apparently) has “to do” before the end of the film is have full sex. Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Rachel Bilson also appear.
THE FIFTH ESTATE
Bill Condon’s film stars the unavoidable Benedict Cumberbatch in a study of Mr Wikileaks Julian Assange. Apparently Assange begged Cumberbatch not to appear in the film. That worked out well.
How many Euro do you get for your grey pound these days? The latest attempt to attract the older demographic finds Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan returning to Paris for a second honeymoon.
Tom Hanks stars as the captain of a container vessel overrun by pirates in the latest kinetic true story from Paul Greengrass. You won’t need to be told that the camera flies about the place with all the dizzy fluidity we expect from this director.
Nicole Holofcener, director of Friends with Money, offers up another serious comedy set among better-off Americans. James Gandolfini is, somewhat poignantly, receiving great notices for one of his last performances.
I smell the approach of half term. Thisanimation from DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox has Ryan Reynolds voicing a racing snail. Oh stop. You think a synopsis of Dumbo would sound any more sensible?
JACKASS PRESENTS: BAD GRANDPA
If you are a member of the Jackass posse, you must be used to the question: “Are you sure that’s a good idea?” The team’s latest film actually tries to build a fictional plot around the pranks. Are you sure . . . ?
CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2
The smell of half-term is still with us. The first one was pretty funny and actually rather touching. Part two promises to beeven more deranged in its orchestration of hurtling foodstuff.
Nobody mention marriage equality. Oops, too late. The adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s space opera stars Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley in tale of combat, endurance and nasty space insects.
THE SELFISH GIANT
Very, very loosely based on Oscar Wilde’s similarly titled story, Clio Barnard’s harrowing social realist piece won mighty applause when it played at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes.
THOR: THE DARK WORLD
And you thought super-hero season ended months ago? Foolish, puny mortal! Chris Hemsworth is back as the god of thunder. TV specialist Alan Taylor takes over directing duties from Kenneth Branagh. The first film was actually pretty good.
Irish director John Crowley tackles the war on terror with a legal thriller starring Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall. The eclectic Steven Knight – writer of Eastern Promises and Amazing Grace – is the talent behind the typewriter.
Winner of best screenplay at the Venice Film Festival, Stephen Frears’s hankie-moistener features Judi Dench as an Irish woman seeking the son she gave up for adoption many years previously. Steve Coogan co-writes and co-stars in a film that should play to a wide audience.
Already the recipient of hysterical raves, Gravity finds astronaut Sandra Bullock cast into space following an encounter with satellite debris. It has taken Alfonso Cuarón seven years to follow-up Children of Men. But it sounds as if the wait may prove worthwhile.
Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline are among the veterans clasping the smalls of their back comically as they visit Vegas for a bachelor party. Obviously, we wish them all well. But really . . .
Yes, it is 50 years since President Kennedy was assassinated. Peter Landesman’s picture pays particular attention to events at the hospital that cared for the dying emperor. Zac Efron and Billy Bob Thornton try to remain calm amid the chaos.
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR
Winner of the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes, Abdellatif Kechiche’s study of a lesbian affair is hugely powerful in its embrace of emotional torment. But complaints from the two main actors have fuelled controversy about the very explicit sex scenes.
Well, you can’t fault the personnel in this thriller concerning the drug trade. Ridley Scott directs. Cormac McCarthy pens the script. Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt star. More quality than a Buckingham Palace garden party.
Yes, you’ve got it. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut is a modern-day take on the story of Don Juan. Not quite as glamorous as his predecessor, the hero – played by JGL himself – is saddled with an addiction to online porn. What would Mozart have thought?
The always subtle, always tasteful Luc Besson offers us a comedy in which a family connected to the mafia are relocated to Normandy as part of a witness protection scheme. Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer play mum and dad. Tommy Lee Jones is the FBI agent saddled with maintaining order.
ALL IS LOST
High concept movies rarely employ concepts that are quite so high as that deployed here. For his follow-up to the undervalued Margin Call, J C Chandor sets Robert Redford adrift in a boat with no company, but plenty of bad weather. Let’s hope the great man makes it.
Excuse me, waiter. But I don’t think I ordered this. Kimberley Pierce’s remake of the Brian De Palma classic casts Chloë Grace Moretz as the telekinetic teenager and Julianne Moore as her deranged mum. If you don’t know the story, don’t watch the absurdly detailed trailer.
GRACE OF MONACO
That Diana movie is already looking like a roaring catastrophe. Can Nicole Kidman recover ground for the doomed-European- princess genre with this biopic of the former Grace Kelly? Tim Roth co-stars as Prince Rainier. I think we all know how it ends.
SAVING MR BANKS
In an intriguing piece of self-examination, this Disney picture follows disputes between PL Travers, author of Mary Poppins, and Walt himself during the production of that durable family musical. Tom Hanks and Emma Thomson play the combatants.
Yes, it does attempt to do what it says on the packaging. Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and Jennifer Hudson tackle a seminal 1961 stage piece that retold the Nativity through African-American spirituals.
It would be unkind to suggest that this latest Disney animation is trying to replicate the baffling worldwide success of Fox’s Ice Age sequence. But the trailer does ring those sleigh bells very cacophonously. To be fair, Frozen is based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen. So, it should be fine.
Bruce Dern won best actor at Cannes for his portrayal of an elderly man travelling across country with his irritable son (Will Forte) in Alexander Payne’s quiet, monochrome road movie. Familiar territory for the director of Sideways and About Schmidt.
Hmm? Nobody is very sure about this. Spike Lee has chosen to cast Josh Brolin in his remake of the Park Chan-Wook revenge drama of the same name. Sharlto Copley and Elizabeth Olsen also appear. All of which is fine. But did it need remaking?
THE HOBBIT: DESOLATION OF SMAUG
Peter Jackson’s painfully slow trawl through a lovely, slight book reaches the second of three parts. Either you already know exactly what happens or you don’t care. Expect more hiking, more songs and (sadly) less Gollum.
It’s this year’s Argo. That’s what they’re all saying. David O Russell’s follow-up to Silver Linings Playbook deals with the notorious Abscam confidence game from the 1970s. Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper get to swan around suavely in flares and crushed velvet. Expect funk.
ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND CONTINUES
Yet more 1970s revivalism? Not quite. This time around, Ron Burgundy and his team are coping with challenges from the succeeding decade: cable TV, 24-hour rolling news, Don’t Stop Believin’. Will Ferrell and Steve Carell make with the hairspray for a sure-fire hit.
It’s been in development for a suspiciously long time. But it’s finally here. Keanu Reeves is one of the titular bandits who seek epic revenge for the death of their master. We are not entirely sure what a Hawaiian-Canadian is doing in 18th-century Japan. Carl Erik Rinsch’s film will make everything clear.
THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY
Ben Stiller directs himself in an adaption of a James Thurber story that previously provided the inspiration for a much-loved Danny Kaye picture. Early reports suggest the film is trying for a poignant take on the material.
MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM
It had to happen. British actor Idris Elba plays the celebrated South African freedom fighter in a film that draws heavily on the great man’s own autobiography. Young Justin Chadwick, director of The Other Boleyn Girl, has been placed in charge.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES
Last year, a horror film – the tolerable Mama – topped the charts at the beginning of the year. So, we should have expected the studios to attempt a repeat of that feat. This is, of course, the fifth episode in the passable poltergeist sequence.
THE RAILWAY MAN
Colin Firth appears as Eric Lomax, a prisoner of the Japanese during the second World War, who, years later, tracked down one of his captors to seek some explanation for his cruelty. Nicole Kidman plays Mrs Lomax.
THE MONUMENTS MEN
George Clooney directs and stars in a film dealing with the art experts who helped rescue many treasures from the Nazis in the later stages of the second World War. Based on The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M Edsel. Which tells you much you need to know.
We have long felt that Channing Tatum might have a great performance within him. Bennett Miller, director of Moneyball, tests the theory with this study of dramatic incidents in the life of Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz.
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
Martin Scorsese directs old pal Leonardo DiCaprio in a film that seeks to convey the excesses of Wall Street at the end of the last century. The trailer suggests that the old master is very much in Goodfellas mode.
It’s Robert De Niro again. If you can credit it, this film has Bob’s character agreeing to a boxing bout with old rival Sylvester Stallone. Yes, it’s Rocky Balboa versus Jake LaMotta. Beyond parody.
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
After a long wait, punters finally get to enjoy the latest film from the Coen Brothers. Moving, funny, beautifully scored, it focuses on life in Greenwich Village’s folk scene in the months before Bob Dylan changed the world.
12 YEARS A SLAVE
The most anticipated film of the season? Perhaps. Steve McQueen’s harrowing drama – starring Chiwetel Ejiofor plays a freeman pressed into slavery – has been greeted with standing ovations at major film festivals. Michael Fassbender co-stars as a cruel overseer.