So September. I guess I was wrong about Sully, what with it getting both critical admiration and the box office to match. Beyond that? It was a relatively dour month. It’s bad when The Magnificent Seven matches Storks on Rotten Tomatoes. Are our standards really that low? So onto October, which may be even worse.
OCTOBER 7, 2016
The Big: THE BIRTH OF A NATION vs. THE GIRL ON A TRAIN
The great “The Something Preposition A Something” battle of 2016.
The Birth of a Nation – Another remake?!? So does that make the 1,000th time that joke has been used? Anyway, this version of Birth turns out not to be about how the KKK saved America, but about how slave Nat Turner organized a landmark rebellion in the antebellum South. The film, which has been overshadowed by director/writer/star Nate Parker’s sexual assault controversy, has gotten terrific early reviews and is clearly hoping to repeat the awards and commercial success 12 Years a Slave had several years back. (It’s notable that both films had the backing of Fox Searchlight). Will it? Probably not. 12 Years got in first, and Oscar voters are unlikely to return to that well again. Unless they were so shamed by #OscarsSoWhite last year that this wins out of guilt. (Though Ghostbusters 2016 should have the guilt angle sewn up by now.) Regardless, this certainly overshadows whatever it is The Free State of Jones tried to accomplish.
The Girl on a Train – The newest movie based on a seemingly popular chick lit book that I never heard of until I saw posters for this movie. It’s this year’s Gone Girl, but it lacks David Fincher as an excuse to see it. Sure, it has a strong cast lead by the almost always solid Emily Blunt (almost), but without that filmmaker prestige, it’s less likely to drive other (read: male) viewers to the theater.
The Little: VOYAGE OF TIME: THE IMAX EXPERIENCE
Voyage of Time – Remember when IMAX was primarily known for documentaries? Well they’re at least temporarily returning to that revenue stream. Except instead of nature documentaries, it’s Terrence Malick’s 40-minute treatise on the creation and obliteration of the universe. The film, which has its origins dating back to the 1970’s, is one of the most intriguing releases of the month (if not the year). A shorter version will be released to theaters, but if you’re interested enough in this project, you’re going to make it to IMAX. (If it’s a reasonable distance away. No one should get a hotel to see a movie.)
OCTOBER 14, 2016
The Big: THE ACCOUNTANT vs. KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW?
The Accountant – Understandably hedging his bets on the DC Universe, Ben Affleck stars in a thriller that seems like it could have some potential as a franchise, or maybe just be a relatively decent standalone movie. In it, he plays an accountant afflicted with some kind of Generic Pop Culture Autism Spectrum Disorder who goes on a revenge quest. AspBournegers? It’s an R-rated crime drama seemingly based on an original idea with a fantastic cast including Anna Kendrick, The Punisher, New Commissioner Gordon, Amanda Waller from Arrow, George Bluth, and Dr. Emilio Lizardo. Plus director Gavin O’Connor has proven himself as not just a remarkable filmmaker with Warrior. As long as it doesn’t devolve into mindless action shlock or pretend to be smarter than it is (“We can use his math to get him…through more math!”), it maybe could be one of the best movies this month.
Kevin Hart: What Now? – Kevin Hart is one of the biggest stars in the world, at least one of the biggest comedy stars in the world, even if his movies range from terrible to terrible, and this is his latest concert film. His last concert film, Let Me Explain, made over $30 million and ended up as the fourth highest grossing stand-up concert film of all time and he’s only gotten bigger since its release in 2013.
The Little: CERTAIN WOMEN vs. SHIN GODZILLA
Certain Women – Definitely one to look out for during Awards season (maybe not for the biggest trophies, but some acting and maybe screenplay), Certain Women is the latest film from Kelly Reichardt who has had a remarkable string of movies about trapped, down and out people. With Women she reteams with Michelle Williams, her leading actress from Wendy and Lucy and Meek’s Cutoff for a drama about life in a small town. Williams, one of the best actresses currently working, joins with Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart, who desperately wants to be one of the best actresses currently working. (To be fair, she has proven herself over the past several years.)
Shin Godzilla – With a limited one-week engagement and a less-than-500-theater release Shin Godzilla (Godzilla Resurgent) is worth noting as one of this month’s more interesting offerings. Set for October 11, the latest Japanese take on Godzilla is a throwback to the Man In Suit era of the giant green lizard, and it has been getting decent reviews and good overseas box office. I’m not going to pretend that I am a big old school Godzilla fan, as I’m sure online commentators are wont to do to establish their geek credit, but I fully recognize that the franchise has a lot of die hard fans. Plus this movie makes us ask: did I really like Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla or did I just think I did? #LetThemFight
OCTOBER 21, 2016
The Big: JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK vs. OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL vs. BOO! A MADEA HALLOWEEN
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – While I expressed a desire for The Accountant not to devolve into action shlock, that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate good action shlock, which the first Jack Reacher was. It was actually one of the best movies in years that actually understood the genre. Even though it didn’t do good box office, it developed a cult following, and it’s a testament to Tom Cruise that he recognized the franchise’s potential and wrangled another one.
Ouija: Origin of Evil – A prequel to the first Ouija movie, which I guess people were clamoring for. Nothing quite like the prequel horror movie with the 1990s-TV level look of the 1960s/70s. Anyway, it’s the only monthly Halloween spectacular, now that Rings has moved to next year, so that enhances its potential for box office greatly. Horror had a nice boost this year with major successes such as The Conjuring 2 and Don’t Breathe, but Blair Witch might have put a stop to that. Of course, I have no idea how popular The Ouija Movie actually is, so maybe it has a Paranormal Activity level fandom?
Boo! A Madea Halloween – If you watch the trailer, you have no idea if you’re laughing with it or at it. You contemplate seeing it out of morbid curiosity, while also recognizing that you’ll be regretting your decision 10 minutes later. But its sheer existence fascinates you.
The Little: AMERICAN PASTORAL vs. MOONLIGHT
American Pastoral – I can’t be the only one who has asked “what’s happened to Ewan McGregor?,” but he seems to be making a comeback. There’s the misbegotten T2: Trainspotting 2 sequel filming now. I am a fan of the original film, but 20-years-onwards sequel are a mixed bag at best. I can’t say that I’m interested in what Spud, Renton, and the rest of the gang have been up to, and the “T2” part of the title shows just how out of touch it seems. The real T is at T5 now; nobody remembers a marketing campaign from 1991. He was also recently cast in the third season of Fargo, which is great if only because that series makes phenomenal use of its cast in unexpected ways, so maybe Noah Hawley will remind us just why we thought he had so much potential before he wielded a lightsaber and threw away his career.
And there’s also American Pastoral, a movie he doesn’t just star in, but directs. The film, which is based on a Philip Roth novel, is about the facade of the American dream in the 1960s. Haven’t we done enough with that topic by now? Even without Mad Men being the perfect dissertation on that subject, it seems like it is overly easy pickings. Plus the trailer’s use of “Mad World” makes us think about how overused that song is, which further set this off on the wrong foot. The film is making the festival circuit now, so we’ll be getting reviews shortly. Maybe McGregor did something remarkable. Or not.
Moonlight – With very strong festival buzz and amazing early reviews, Moonlight is being positioned to come out of nowhere and become a major Oscar contender. I don’t think it will be; there are some movies that earn a lot of praise but end up as too small or gritty or “urban” to really be considered for the major awards; similar to Girlhood from last year. Regardless, it’s shaping up to be one of the best reviewed movie of the year.
OCTOBER 28, 2016
The Big: INFERNO
Inferno – “Dante’s Inferno isn’t fiction, it’s prophecy!” It’s one of those lines that stick with you for all the wrong reasons. Whether reading it in text or hearing it in the trailer, it’s comically bad. Anyway, let’s travel back to 2003, when Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code became one of the best selling and most talked about books of all time, which only served to highlight that we were as stupid 13 years ago as we are now. But the enormous success of that book naturally lead to a film adaptation with Ron Howard directing and the almost surefire Tom Hanks starring. It was a more-or-less faithful adaptation, which meant it was also stupid, but it made over $200 million domestic in 2006.
Then came a movie about the previous book in the series – Angels & Demons. Released in 2009, it made $160 million domestic. Seven years later, do we still have Robert Langdon fever? I cannot imagine we do, but I wouldn’t have bet on DVC in the first place, so clearly I’m not a good judge of its potential. A relatively vanilla, inoffensive action-adventure quest might play towards older audiences, or for people who think they’re smart because of the Wikipedia-level stock knowledge they gain from these simpleton movies. (“Did you know that Dante’s Inferno is part of a three-part series called The Divine Comedy? They all might be prophecy too!”)
So that’s October. I’m holding out hope for The Accountant and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, but as for biggest movie of the month…could it actually be Inferno? Well not to worry because the following week we get Doctor Strange. After seeing what we have to contend with, I’m sorry for ever complaining about the amount of superhero movies we get.