As the fall draws closer, it brings with it the start of Oscar season, when every studio unveils its biggest, buzziest and most dramatic films in an attempt to earn some recognition on the biggest night in Hollywood. And while every year does turn out a great deal of excellent films and incredible performances, at a certain point they all start to feel the same, with one domestic drama blending into another and period pieces all attempting to outshine each other. But there is some variety hidden amongst the Oscar bait, with some films providing original, interesting stories or creative twists on classic plots. In case you’re looking to add some variety to your fall film lineup, we’ve run down the best, most original awards bait hitting theaters this fall. Once December hits, however, it's every moviegoer for himself.
Interstellar Smack dab in the middle of Oscar season, Christopher Nolan will finally unveil his latest epic, Interstellar. Part post-apocalyptic drama, part space opera, part Hollywood blockbuster, and Phase II of the McConaissance, the film follows a group of explorers who set off in for a wormhole that will allow them to travel from one solar system to another in search of resources that can save the earth now that it’s run out of food. So, you know, just your usual low-key, easy to follow, low-stakes story. Opens: November 7
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby Every year, there’s at least one Oscar baity film the centers on a relationship falling apart, but The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby puts a new spin on that old classic by creating an epic, two-part film that tells the story from both his (James McAvoy) and her (Jessica Chastain) perspectives. Since premiering at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival to rave reviews, we’ve been waiting impatiently for our chance to see the film. As it turns out, we’ll actually get two: a one-film version which blends both sides together will be released along with the original two-film version. Opens: September 12
The Boxtrolls Of all the films being released at the end of 2014 – war epics, biopics, highly-anticipated comebacks – one of the most exciting is an animated film about the friendly trolls who live under the sewers of a small English village. That’s because The Boxtrolls is the latest film from Laika, the stop-motion studio that has made such wonderful films as Coraline and ParaNorman. Like its predecessors, The Boxtrolls looks like an incredibly detailed, magical, funny adventure, but unlike them, we’re hoping that the studio will finally be able to get the recognition they deserve for their labors of love. And with no Disney or Pixar films to compete, they might finally have a shot. Opens: September 26
Gone Girl We know, we know: you’re probably sick of hearing about Gone Girl. But the buzz surrounding the film, its stars, the book it’s based on doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon, so you might as well embrace it. Besides, it gives us yet another opportunity to study the enigma that is Ben Affleck’s career. Will he get a third Oscar for this? Will it finally make people take him seriously as an actor and filmmaker? Are we all going to stop praising him the second the first trailer for Batman V. Superman comes out? Nobody knows. Opens: October 3
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Fury It wouldn’t be awards season without a World War II drama, and 2014 is no exception. However, in addition to the typical slate of inspiring biopics and domestic dramas about the home-front, Brad Pitt and David Ayer are offering Fury. It’s a small-scale – well, as small scale as a world war gets – film about the lives and missions of a single tank crew tasked with venturing behind enemy lines, and it features a cast of acclaimed, yet underappreciated actors like Logan Lerman, Jon Berenthal, and Michael Pena. Just when you thought you’d seen every single war drama that’s been made, there finally comes one that’s actually intriguing. Opens: November 14
Kill the Messenger His Avengers co-star Robert Downey Jr. might have a higher-profile film opening that day, but we’re much more interested in Jeremy Renner’s Kill the Messenger. Based on the true story of Gary Webb, a reporter who uncovered the CIA’s connection to the Nicaraguan drug trade, the film centers on the manhunt that Webb became a part of after going public with his evidence. It’s the biggest, most intense role that Renner has had since The Hurt Locker, and after years of being overlooked in favor of his showier co-star, we’re excited to see him get some of the attention he deserves. Opens: October 10
Birdman Everyone love a comeback story, right? Well, how about one that’s a little more surreal? That’s what Michael Keaton is going for with his upcoming film Birdman, which takes places over the course of the several days in which washed-up actor Riggan Thompson, who made his name as superhero, attempts to mount a comeback with a play that he wrote, directed and is starring in. With Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu at the helm and a cast featuring Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, and Edward Norton, we’d be interested in this even if it weren’t Keaton’s first big film in years. Opens: October 17
Beyond the Lights After winning over audiences everywhere with her breakthrough role in Amma Asante’s Belle, Gugu Mbatha-Raw is set to prove that she can do more than just period pieces with Beyond the Lights. Mbatha-Raw plays Noni, a Rihanna-like pop star struggling with being a puppet for her pushy stage mom and greedy record executives, who finds joy in a relationship with down-to-earth cop Kaz (Nate Parker). The story might be familiar to anyone who saw Britney Spears’ “Lucky” video, but it’s the perfect opportunity for Mbatha-Raw to really showcase her talent with a role that requires her to sing, dance, fall in love, and break our hearts. Opens: November 14
Summit via Everett Collection
You can imagine that Renny Harlin, director and one quadrant of the writing team for The Legend of Hercules, began his pitch as such: We'll start with a war, because lots of these things start with wars. It feels like this was the principal maxim behind a good deal of the creative choices in this latest update of the Ancient Greek myth. There are always horse riding scenes. There are generally arena battles. There are CGI lions, when you can afford 'em. Oh, and you've got to have a romantic couple canoodling at the base of a waterfall. Weaving them all together cohesively would be a waste of time — just let the common threads take form in a remarkably shouldered Kellan Lutz and action sequences that transubstantiate abjectly to and fro slow-motion.
But pervading through Lutz's shirtless smirks and accent continuity that calls envy from Johnny Depp's Alice in Wonderland performance is the obtrusive lack of thought that went into this picture. A proverbial grab bag of "the basics" of the classic epic genre, The Legend of Hercules boasts familiarity over originality. So much so that the filmmakers didn't stop at Hercules mythology... they barely started with it, in fact. There's more Jesus Christ in the character than there is the Ancient Greek demigod, with no lack of Gladiator to keep things moreover relevant. But even more outrageous than the void of imagination in the construct of Hercules' world is its script — a piece so comically dim, thin, and idiotic that you will laugh. So we can't exactly say this is a totally joyless time at the movies.
Summit via Everett Collection
Surrounding Hercules, a character whose arc takes him from being a nice enough strong dude to a nice enough strong dude who kills people and finally owns up to his fate — "Okay, fine, yes, I guess I'm a god" — are a legion of characters whose makeup and motivations are instituted in their opening scenes and never change thereafter. His de facto stepdad, the teeth-baring King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins), despises the boy for being a living tribute to his supernatural cuckolding; his half-brother Iphicles (Liam Garrigan) is the archetypical scheming, neutered, jealous brother figure right down to the facial scar. The dialogue this family of mongoloids tosses around is stunningly brainless, ditto their character beats. Hercules can't understand how a mystical stranger knows his identity, even though he just moments ago exited a packed coliseum chanting his name. Iphicles defies villainy and menace when he threatens his betrothed Hebe (Gaia Weiss), long in love with Hercules, with the terrible fate of "accepting [him] and loving [their] children equally!" And the dad... jeez, that guy must really be proud of his teeth.
With no artistic feat successfully accomplished (or even braved, really) by this movie, we can at the very least call it inoffensive. There is nothing in The Legend of Hercules with which to take issue beyond its dismal intellect, and in a genre especially prone to regressive activity, this is a noteworthy triumph. But you might not have enough energy by the end to award The Legend of Hercules with this superlative. Either because you'll have laughed yourself into a coma at the film's idiocy, or because you'll have lost all strength trying to fend it off.
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Poor Dan Aykroyd. Sweet, well meaning, Vodka-branding Dan Aykroyd. He’s been so gung-ho about bringing a third chapter of the Ghostbusters franchise, but just can’t seem to catch a break in this endeavor. And even though Ghostbusters 3 is a product that not a great deal of us are actually looking forward to, it’s hard not to feel a little bad for the man. He’s given us so much to love — the original Ghostbusters, The Blues Brothers, his Saturday Night Live turn — that can’t we just let him have this one? Who’s it hurting, really?
The latest update in this unfortunate project is that filming — which was supposed to take way in the summer of 2013 — has now been pushed back to the fall… if the movie is, in fact, still a definite go. The Hollywood Reporter says Sony won’t make its final decision on the film until at least March of ’13. This after the hiring of Men in Black III scribe Etan Cohen and the series’ returning director Ivan Reitman.
The setbacks facing Aykroyd's passion project have been plentiful. Plans in summer of 2011 slated shooting for early 2012, but script rewrites and production pushback have thus far delayed the inception of filming indefinitely.
The most public conflict with which Ghostbusters 3 has dealt, however, are the alleged defamatory remarks made by the original Ghostbusters star Bill Murray. It is a certainty that Murray won’t be involved with the developing threequel, but some less concrete rumors have linked Murray to acts like shredding the script as a display of his disapproval. Aykroyd has denied the veracity of these stories, however.
So it won't be until the beginning of next spring (the earliest) that we find out for sure if Ghostbusters 3 is actually going to take form. And if the project does come to fruition, it won't be until the beginning of next fall (the very earliest) that the movie actually begins its process of filming. After that, who knows what other delays will face this cursed production. Poor Dan Aykroyd.
[Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures]
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Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
"Honored to be in Amy's bridal party. Amy is so truly beautiful - proud to be by her side. Mike's a lucky man!" TORI SPELLING on being part of pal Amy Colvin's Beverly Hills wedding ceremony. Colvin exchanged vows with Michael Kaz, an assistant editor on 2010 Oscar-winning film, The Hurt Locker.