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
British actor Tom Hardy has officially signed up to join his Inception co-star Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie adaptation of Michael Punke's novel The Revenant: A Novel Of Revenge. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu will direct the project, which revolves around a 19th century fur trapper tracking down the associates who leave him for dead following a bear attack.
No, not RoboCop — that's just a movie with Michael Keaton in it, puttering around the background with tempered menace. Not The Other Guys, which uses Keaton for nothing more than a recurring joke about TLC lyrics. It's been years. Decades, even, since we saw Keaton grab hold of a role that we could really take home and stew in. Acclaim as the man's greatest work will invariably land on Beetlejuice or Batman. But even these great, especially bizarre cinematic turns don't offer up the full scope of which Keaton is capable. But his latest venture — Alejandro González Iñárritu's Birdman, which has released its first trailer — just might.
It's impossible to ignore the similarities between the premise of Birdman and Keaton's own career: the character began his life in show business as a big name movie star in a superhero franchise, falling toward obscurity in the years to follow. Keaton's decline was never quite as dramatic as the delightfully named Riggan Thomson's looks to be, nor has he ever (publicly) succumbed to this degree of mania. But there's one more connection: one last chance to prove himself more than anybody ever thought him to be. In Birdman, that takes form as a Broadway production that Riggan lands. In Keaton's real life, it's Birdman itself.
Forgive the meta interpretation, but Birdman does look like something we haven't seen (or let) Keaton do in quite some time, perhaps ever. Such a master at the wisecrack and so adept at playing the tertiary oddball, and ostensibly happy to stay relegated to these talents, Keaton has been robbed of his chance to shine as an offbeat dramatic star, instead sticking consistently to the background of commercial fare. In Birdman, so it seems from the trailer (and with consideration of director Iñárritu's history of helming inventive punch-to-the-gut pictures like Biutiful, Babel, 21 Grams, and Amores Perros), Keaton could tap freely into a darkness we haven't seen since his days with Tim Burton; he could use his expertise with vocal tics and manneristic schisms to evoke true psychological horror, drama, and comedy alike. Birdman could give Keaton exactly what the in-universe play gives the former Birdman.
And for those of us hungry for the same brand of irreverent insanity packed into his tiny but memorable Beetlejuice performance, this time dipped in a batter of real world turmoil and emotional discord, it's quite an exciting prospect.
Birdman, also starring Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, and Naomi Watts, hits theaters on October 17.
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British actor Tom Hardy is in negotiations to reunite onscreen with his Inception co-star Leonardo DiCaprio in gritty new thriller The Revenant.
The movie will feature DiCaprio as 19th century fur trapper Hugh Glass, who is left for dead by his associates after being mauled by a grizzly bear, and now The Dark Knight Rises star Hardy is said to be in "serious talks" to join the cast of director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's project, according to film blog SchmoesKnow.com.
Production on The Revenant, based on Michael Punke's 2002 book of the same name, is scheduled to begin in September (14) with a planned release for autumn 2015.
Maybe 2015 will finally be Leonardo DiCaprio's year (we know, we say that every year, but here's hoping). In addition to reuniting with Jonah Hill to star in The Ballad of Richard Jewel, Deadline reports that the Oscar nominee has signed on to star in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's adaptation of The Revenant, which is slated to be released next fall. The film, based on the novel by Michael Punke, will see DiCaprio play Hugh Glass, a 19th century fur trapper who is mauled by a bear and then robbed and left for dead by some of his cohorts. However, Glass survives both attacks and embarks on a journey to enact revenge on the people who betrayed him. The Revenant is being described as a gritty action thriller, which makes it an unusual choice for both DiCaprio and Inarritu, as both are fixtures on the awards circuit, and tend to stay away from the more stereotypical action films.
While DiCaprio has made a few action films and thrillers over the course of his career — most notably The Departed and Shutter Island with longtime collaborator Martin Scorsese — he tends to stick with grander, more awards-friendly fare, and the few action films he has made heavily feature a psychological element, as those seem to be the kind of thrillers that the Academy likes best. And while Babel had some thrilling, action-heavy moments in it, Inarritu is still primarily known for his work with serious, slightly cerebral films, which is why neither of them seem to be the first choice for a film that sounds like a perfect opportunity for Liam Neeson to break out his most threatening growl.
The most likely explanation for DiCaprio and Inarritu's involvement is that the film has a great screenplay that attracted both of them to the project, but it also seems as if the Academy's attitude towards action films are shifting, which may have given them the incentive to sign on to a big-budget thriller. The big winner at this year's Oscars was Gravity, a sci-fi survival film that, thanks in part to Alfonso Cuaron's direction and a couple of A-List actors, was both critically-acclaimed and a major box office success. All Is Lost, a more artistic take on the typical survival narrative also did well this year. Although it missed out on the Oscars, it still received a great deal of attention and acclaim. Plus, there's also the fact that the current crop of action stars are older men with established careers — led, of course, by Neeson, himself an Oscar nominee — and all of these factors seem to signal a shift in the Academy's perspective.
Survival stories like the one at the center of The Revenant have a strong, emotional thread to connect all the action sequences, as well as the opportunity for character development, and the chance for an actor to transform himself for the role. Therefore, it's not a big surprise that more acclaimed actors and directors are exploring the genre, as it allows them to make a dark, emotional or inspiring film while also differentiating their project from the long line of sentimental, Oscar-baiting films that hit theaters every fall. For Oscar fixtures like DiCaprio, it also gives them the opportunity to step into a role that's different than the ones that have come before it. His most memorable roles are always the ones that show a different side of him, whether that side is a drug-fueled criminal, a sadistic plantation owner or a lovesick teenager, and since Hugh Glass is a completely new kind of character for him, we wouldn't be surprised if he quickly joined the roster of iconic DiCaprio roles.
In addition, well-respected filmmakers like DiCaprio and Inarritu lend the movie a much-needed air of gravitas, which will help convince audiences and Academy members alike to give The Revenant a chance instead of dismissing it outright. Cuaron had already earned a great deal of critical acclaim over the course of his career, and that likely played a large role in helping Oscar voters take the film seriously as an awards contender, rather than ignoring a great film on the basis of its genre. Similarly, All Is Lost benefited from an Oscar-winning writer and a star turn by Robert Redford, both of which helped draw attention to the movie so that it didn't get completely lost in the awards season shuffle. Having both DiCaprio and Inarritu on board helps The Revenant enter the Oscar conversation even before it starts filming, and that kind of buzz could help people see it as more than just another action film.
The A-List team behind The Revenant seems to signal that the trend of high-brow action films is likely to stick around, and it might be just what the Academy needs to change the way it looks at genre films. Besides, a gritty action thriller might just be what DiCaprio has needed all along.
Leonardo DiCaprio is swapping wolves for bears - he has signed up to star in gritty new thriller The Revenant, based on the book of the same name by Michael Punke. The Wolf of Wall Street actor will portray 19th century fur trapper Hugh Glass, who sets out for revenge after getting mauled by a big grizzly and being left for dead by associates who steal his possessions. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu will direct the film, which has been given a 2015 release.
Actor Andy Serkis has been tapped to replace Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu as the director of a planned live-action version of The Jungle Book. The Babel filmmaker dropped out of the movie in December (13) due to scheduling issues and Ron Howard had been rumoured to be in talks to take over the job.
However, the role has now been handed to the Lord of the Rings star Serkis, who has signed on to make his feature directorial debut, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The movie, which is being developed by executives at Warner Bros., is not the only The Jungle Book project in the works - Disney bosses are also set to release a rival live-action version of the classic children's story, with Jon Favreau set to direct.
For the bulk of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, moose and squirrel would engage in high concept escapades that satirized geopolitics, contemporary cinema, and the very fabrics of the human condition. With all of that to work with, there's no excuse for why the pair and their Soviet nemeses haven't gotten a decent movie adaptation. But the ingenious Mr. Peabody and his faithful boy Sherman are another story, intercut between Rocky and Bullwinkle segments to teach kids brief history lessons and toss in a nearly lethal dose of puns. Their stories and relationship were much simpler, which means that bringing their shtick to the big screen would entail a lot more invention — always risky when you're dealing with precious material.
For the most part, Mr. Peabody & Sherman handles the regeneration of its heroes aptly, allowing for emotionally substance in their unique father-son relationship and all the difficulties inherent therein. The story is no subtle metaphor for the difficulties surrounding gay adoption, with society decreeing that a dog, no matter how hyper-intelligent, cannot be a suitable father. The central plot has Peabody hosting a party for a disapproving child services agent and the parents of a young girl with whom 7-year-old Sherman had a schoolyard spat, all in order to prove himself a suitable dad. Of course, the WABAC comes into play when the tots take it for a spin, forcing Peabody to rush to their rescue.
Getting down to personals, we also see the left brain-heavy Peabody struggle with being father Sherman deserves. The bulk of the emotional marks are hit as we learn just how much Peabody cares for Sherman, and just how hard it has been to accept that his only family is growing up and changing.
But more successful than the new is the film's handling of the old — the material that Peabody and Sherman purists will adore. They travel back in time via the WABAC Machine to Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the Trojan War, and 18th Century France, explaining the cultural backdrop and historical significance of the settings and characters they happen upon, all with that irreverent (but no longer racist) flare that the old cartoons enjoyed. And oh... the puns.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a f**king treasure trove of some of the most amazingly bad puns in recent cinema. This effort alone will leave you in awe.
The film does unravel in its final act, bringing the science-fiction of time travel a little too close to the forefront and dropping the ball on a good deal of its emotional groundwork. What seemed to be substantial building blocks do not pay off in the way we might, as scholars of animated family cinema, have anticipated, leaving the movie with an unfinished feeling.
But all in all, it's a bright, compassionate, reasonably educational, and occasionally funny if not altogether worthy tribute to an old favorite. And since we don't have our own WABAC machine to return to a time of regularly scheduled Peabody and Sherman cartoons, this will do okay for now.
If nothing else, it's worth your time for the puns.
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Universal Pictures via Everett Collection
Impossibly, there are two different versions of The Jungle Book coming to theaters in the near future: one from director Jon Favreau and the folks at Disney (which will probably have more dancing animals), and a completely different project from Warner Bros. that is now in the hands of Ron Howard, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter.
Coming off of Rush, one of 2013’s most overlooked movies, director Howard has just signed on to take over directing duties for the upcoming live-action Jungle Book film. Howard is taking over the film from director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who had to leave the project over scheduling conflicts. In any case, the move from Inarritu to Howard seems to be a solid one; Inarritu’s involvement with the project had been a bit of a head scratcher from the beginning. Inarritu has always been fascinated with the dark immorality of humanity, and his filmography is filled with morbid and depressing works that are pretty much the polar opposite of any sort of conceivable Jungle Book film... unless things got really goth for Mowgli in his teenage years.
But seriously, the director of such films as Biutiful, Babel, and 21 Grams signing on to make a live-action Jungle Book film was always terribly odd. Howard, on the other hand, seems like the right man for the job, and his work on the upcoming project could see the director return to a genre of film that he hasn’t touched for quite a while. We're talking about the magical decade of the 1980s, during which Howard made films like Splash and Willow. Whimsical family-friendly adventures that are probably lying around your attic in moldy VHS sleeves. Even though the director has moved on to more prestigious fare like the Oscar nominated Apollo 13 and Frost/Nixon, as well as the previously mentioned Rush, we do miss the Howard that made films about Tom Hanks falling for mermaids named Madison. The director knew how to make a fantastic kid's film, and news that he might be returning to that sort of thing has our nostalgia meters hitting an 11 on a 10-point scale. Here's hoping The Jungle Book doesn't disappoint... although we do have Favreau's as a backup.
Filmmaker Ron Howard is in talks to direct and produce a live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book. The Apollo 13 director is set to take over the project from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who dropped out of the film last month (Jan14), citing scheduling issues, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The Jungle Book, which is based on a 1894 Rudyard Kipling story, centres on a young boy, called Mowgli, who is raised by wolves.
This isn't the only The Jungle Book project in the works - director Jon Favreau is developing a live-action movie for Disney.