This post is more than a month late, because I’m a procrastinator of the highest order. I’m the archbishop of the priesthood of procrastinators. My inertia got so bad that I finally decided if I wanted to get it out at all, I should just buckle down and do it, so here it is. (And there is still a Part 2 to come.) Since it’s so late, I have already watched several of the films I mentioned below, so some will be semi-reviews.
Fall means time for serious dramas, lots of which are indie films vying for awards recognition; as well as, of course, year-end blockbusters (say it with me: STAR WARS), and everything else in-between, because not every movie can be huge and/or Oscar-worthy. There isn’t a wide enough audience for blockbusters every week in fall, unlike summer, since teenagers (the most avid of moviegoers) are back in school. And apparently, not for films targeting older audiences either, as this past adult-film saturated “Floptober” has shown.
Below is my usual list of movies that spark my interest.
Movies I will definitely watch in cinemas:
The Martian (Oct 1)
I’ve already watched and reviewed this. You know how much I liked it. Going into the film, I was merely curious to see how Matt Damon will survive on Mars by his lonesome; but the filmmakers made it such a triumphant story of hope, creativity, resourcefulness and teamwork that it is one of the most enjoyable films I’ve watched this year.
I like the teaser trailer slightly better, as it used music from one of the Mad Max: Fury Road trailers. And I *love* Mad Max: Fury Road, so anything that reminds me of it will score in my book.
Bridge of Spies (Oct 15)
This would have been on my 50-50 list (with 50 percent chance of me waiting for it to come out on home video) if my friend didn’t want to watch it. The pedigree of the film is distinguished, with Steven Spielberg directing and Tom Hanks acting, but I wasn’t all that keen on watching a film about Cold War politics, spies and negotiations. It sounds very dry, and like something I can watch at home.
But it is a fine film, to be savoured like fine wine. Like Matt Damon, Tom Hanks is an everyman, but he’s the kind of everyman that you root for because he looks genial and kind and just generally a *good* person. And since his role in Bridge of Spies is exactly that, of a man who sticks to his principles even though the whole world sees in shades of good and evil and not what’s fair and just, he was naturally perfect. (Next up, he’s playing Captain Chelsea ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, the heroic pilot who safely landed his plane in the Hudson River after the engines failed, without any casualties. When that movie was announced, people speculated who would play the captain, but really, how could it be anyone else but Tom Hanks?)
The movie had gorgeous lighting that made everything look really crisp and stark (which reminded me of the lighting in The Judge, so I went back to check and I was right! Janusz Kaminski, Steven Spielberg’s longtime cinematographer, did the lighting for both movies.) And I don’t know what it was about the framing, but that too, plus the makeup and lighting, all made Spielberg’s vision of that ’50s-, early ’60s-era picture perfect. It’s just a beautiful film.
The Last Witch Hunter (Oct 22)
I had every intention of watching this, because it has Rose Leslie (Ygritte in Game of Thrones!) in it, and Vin Diesel isn’t bad in brainless action flicks. But because it didn’t do very well at the box office, and I didn’t watch it on opening week, there aren’t anymore good timings at my nearest cinema. So I’ll have to wait until it comes out on home video.
This is another movie that proves that “box office stars” don’t guarantee success, even though Vin Diesel helped the Fast & Furious series to several billion dollars. (Though I feel the interracial mix of the ensemble cast, the sheer outrageous-ness of the stunts, and all the fast cars and hot girls were the main reasons; rather than the clout of any particular star.) And I suppose audiences didn’t like the medieval-ish witchcraft and sorcery fantasy aspect, which kills any chances of The Last Witch Hunter becoming another franchise. Which is good news, because some films just shouldn’t be made into franchises, no matter how much they earn.
Burnt (Oct 29)
It’s a feel-good drama about the workings of a high-end restaurant kitchen, if you ignore the fact that Bradley Cooper’s hot-tempered chef is a horrible person to work for. But following the cliches of redemption stories, by the end of the movie, he changes: becoming less uptight, finding “love” in the form of Sienna Miller’s character and her adorable daughter, and earning his third Michelin star — the whole shebang.
Critics disliked it though, far more than I feel it deserves. I mean, it’s not Oscar-worthy, but it is entertaining. Bradley Cooper is hot, the drama in the kitchen is riveting, the movie ends well — I can’t ask for more.
Burnt happens to be Bradley Cooper’s passion project, in which he helped produce it, and pushed hard for the movie to be made. He even made sure that the script had lots of chances for him to speak French, which apparently the internet finds sexy. Just look in the comments section. Sadly, even his star power couldn’t seduce audiences into watching it.
Goosebumps (Oct 29)
This is a movie that I would not have watched at all, because the trailer looks silly, and I wasn’t a fan of the Goosebumps series. (I eschewed all things horror from young.) More importantly, Jack Black hasn’t had the best track record in the last five or six years with stupid duds — and I really mean “stupid” as in if you watch them, you actually feel your IQ lowering — like Year One, The Big Year and Gulliver’s Travels (the latter with the same director as in Goosebumps); and he was the only big name cast in it. How was I supposed to have any confidence in it?
But I can be wrong in my surface judgments, when I decide to give movies I don’t feel like watching a chance. Goosebumps is surprisingly not bad, and it did relatively well in the U.S. last month — probably because it also targeted families at a time when there weren’t many family friendly movies out in theatres. It’s very PG-rated fun, and feels kind of like Night at the Museum (the first one), Jumanji, and Casper for the new teen generation. Even if you’re not exactly the target audience for it (like me, since it doesn’t have the nostalgia factor of having read the books going for me), you can sit through it and enjoy yourself without feeling like you’ve wasted your time.
(Just some random trivia: Dylan Minnette, who’s the young hero here, played Jack’s son in Lost Season 6!)
Spectre (Nov 5)
It’s James Bond. ‘Nuff said.
*The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2* (Nov 19)
The last of the Hunger Games series. I’m prepared to have my guts wrenched. The trailers have been great at drumming up anticipation and stirring up emotions — much better than Mockingjay Part 1’s trailers did, and comparable to Catching Fire’s, my favourite of the series. Early reviews have been glowing so far.
Victor Frankenstein (Nov 26)
I love James McAvoy (though not so much Daniel Radcliffe, whose long hair irks me), and the “buddy comedy” aspect. At least, it seems like a comedy from the trailer. IMDb lists it as a drama/horror/sci-fi though. Frankenstein the novel doesn’t end well too, so I’m probably wrong. But the movie’s got a good English cast including Mark Gatiss and Andrew Scott (Sherlock alums!), Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister) and Jessica Brown Findley (Sybil in Downton Abbey), so I will watch it anyway. I don’t have any hopes of it being a good movie, but I expect to be entertained.
The Good Dinosaur (Nov 26)
My heart is already melting after watching the trailer, so there’s a good chance this will be one of Pixar’s great films. Spot is adorable! And the T-Rexes taking in Arlo reminds me of “Fish are friends, not food!” in Finding Nemo. 😉 But damn, is Arlo’s dad going to be Mufasa? :’-O
In the Heart of the Sea (Dec 3)
Chris Hemsworth, in period costume, chasing down a giant whale, in a tale that inspired the novel Moby-Dick. The final trailer below is my favourite of the four the movie has put out, because the music accompanying it emphasises the adventure, the thrill, and the epic scope of the movie. You cannot underestimate the importance of music in trailers.
The film was supposed to open in March, but the filmmakers shifted it to a December date (hence so many trailers, when such films usually only have two). Probably because they think it has awards potential. We’ll see.
Hope Chris Hemsworth can pull off a heavy drama! I’m rooting for his career to go places, but first, it has to be seen if his name above the line can entice people to watch a film — something that Michael Fassbender sadly couldn’t do for Steve Jobs, nor Tom Hiddleston for Crimson Peak. (Though to be fair, even Robert Downey Jr. couldn’t do it for *his* passion project, The Judge, which did badly at the box office, though I thought it was a pretty decent and touching movie. :S If Tony Stark can’t open a movie, who can?)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Dec 17)
Of course The Force Awakens is on my list. It’s going to be the biggest film of the year. I’m not particularly a Star Wars fan, though I like the series, but John Williams’ a-f**king-mazing score layered over the trailer (or any trailer, actually) can roust you into doing things, like rushing out to be the first to watch the movie, even if you’re not a superfan. It’s truly a sublime masterpiece that works in your subconscious.
Spotlight (Dec 31)
Spotlight is about the 2002 Boston Globe investigation that uncovered the massive scandal of Catholic priests sexually abusing altar boys. Not only does it have an awesome cast (Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, to name a few), it has been receiving rave reviews from critics and journalists who applaud its in-depth look at journalism. So I definitely want to check it out.
Movies I would like to watch, but I may end up waiting for home video:
Crimson Peak (Oct 15)
If it weren’t for Tom Hiddleston, this would have been on my other list — the ones I’m not intending to watch at all, as I don’t watch horror films, unless I’m absolutely forced to for work. (People who have watched it say it’s not so much a horror film than a gothic romance, but I think their definitions of what constitutes horror is different from mine, judging from what I’ve seen in the trailer.) But sadly, nobody wants to watch it with me (because they don’t watch horror films either), and I refuse to watch it by myself. Also, it tanked, so it’s suffering from lack of good timings at my nearest cinema too. Sorry Tom. 🙁
Macbeth (Nov 26)
It’s one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, with Michael Fassbender as Macbeth and Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth. I love both of them, so I’ll watch it, hopefully in cinemas. (It’s a little too heavy for a leisurely night out.) They must have had a great time working together in this movie, because somehow, Michael convinced her to be in Assassin’s Creed, which he is acting and producing in with the same director from Macbeth. Otherwise, I would never have imagined such a classy actress as her being in a video game movie adaptation. :-O
Trumbo (Dec 17)
Bryan Cranston plays Dalton Trumbo, a screenwriter blacklisted in Hollywood during the era of McCarthyism and communist fears. It *feels* like Argo, though they are different genres, because they share the trait of protagonists working in secrecy while fighting against the establishment. (Both John Goodman and Bryan Cranston were in Argo, so that probably helped.) I like Bryan Cranston a lot too. But is it a movie I need to watch on the big screen? I’m leaning towards “no”.
The Dressmaker (Dec 24)
I want to watch it simply because the couture looks amazing, set starkly against the barren landscape of the Australian Outback. Though I’m a little uncomfortable with Kate Winslet romancing Liam Hemsworth, who is much younger than her. But it looks like a movie I can watch at home, rather than sparing the effort to go to the cinema, so I’ll probably do that.
By the Sea (Dec 31)
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie play a couple with marital troubles on a seaside vacation, in a movie written and directed by Jolie. Will be interesting to watch! But in cinemas? I’ll see if I’m free that week.