“Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover” is a proverb whose simple existence proves the fact impressionable souls will do so without fail. This monthly column (with a special year-end retrospective today) focuses on the film industry’s willingness to capitalize on this truth, releasing one-sheets to serve as not representations of what audiences are to expect, but as propaganda to fill seats. Oftentimes they fail miserably.
Another year is complete and the time has come to revisit the best one-sheets that did all they could to help their films achieve box office glory. Unsurprising to those of you who been following the Posterized Propaganda series all year, most of the ones I’ve singled out are teasers. Frankly, marketing firms find themselves freer to take chances and really toy with our perceptions before knowing too many details about the finished piece.
Compositions rule the day alongside carefully placed typography and a fearless desire to play with aesthetic and the medium by exceeding their constraints. Print is inherently flat as it handcuffs designers into a preordained space with regulated text. The following firms thankfully continue to find ways to ignore the rules and give us work that doesn’t hit us over the head or treat us like Kindergarteners.
This is 40
The Cimarron Group
Safety Not Guaranteed
I remember loving this poster when it came out a few months ago as Ignition really went all out rotating the page 90 degrees clockwise so Ben Foster and Lubna Azabal can be anchored at left. It’s a brilliant way to transform a horizontal image vertical and the beige field of sky is a perfect blank slate for the pertinent production text to hover atop. Add in the authentic, map-like paper folds and you really do get a sense of the title’s Here being used as a destination. But instead of a place for these lovers to look towards, the location they seek is anywhere they can be together.
Rust and Bone
I know the scrawled text over image trope is a bit overused these days, but I can’t help feel it enhances the fragility this still of Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts emits. It along with the distressed, faded edges of scratches and folds add age to the image as well as character. We’re only seeing a small portion of the two before they continue out of frame, her expression projecting a sense of trepidation and a strengthening trust. The film is called Rust and Bone, but the poster is all about flesh and emotion.
The Loneliest Planet
Perhaps my inclusion of The Loneliest Planet makes it seem as though turned pages are presently my motif of choice, but this sheet truly captivates. Not only do the heads of Gael García Bernal and Hani Furstenberg perfectly bisect the page vertical, they also meet at the horizon line of the poster’s alternate image’s mountain landscape on which our actors hike along. It’s a gorgeous expanse of desert dunes filtered through a green marble juxtaposed against the colorful faces of the film’s stars. Forcing the crisp san serif text within a thinner vertical band only helps keep our attention constantly shifting from side to side to up and down.
Honestly, I don’t care if Brian O’Dell‘s poster for Deepsouth should or shouldn’t be on this list when release schedule and notoriety are brought into question because it is a stunning piece of art notwithstanding. I love the delicate, lowercase Courier-like font with a not-so-subtle red cross serving as its “t” pushed down to the bottom of the page so our gaze can wind our way through the upside down tree’s barren branches. Is it a depiction of lungs? Is it a representation of a family tree stretching out wide? It’s beautiful in a purely formal aesthetic way—that’s what it is.
The Cabin in the Woods
Phantom City Creative
The surprise film of the year—for the studio who shelved it two years, not the fans who knew they’d love it—The Cabin in the Woods was ripe for Mondo Tees to print a limited edition art run. Thanks to Phantom City Creative, the result is everything we could have hoped. Playing with the genre-bending, multi-level plot structure and set of the film, this homage to M.C. Escher‘s Relativity perfectly encapsulates what Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon created. Handdrawn and meticulously detailed to even include the honeycomb pattern its science fiction side utilized, it’s a breathtaking rendering.
Bond is certainly back, as Skyfall is already surging overseas and finally arriving in US theaters this weekend. We already gave you our whole-hearted recommendation, but it’s time to take a look a few features worth brushing up on before heading into the multiplex. Ranging from some with undeniable connections to others that stretch expectations a bit, check out our rundown below and let us know your thoughts in the comments.
The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)
Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way first. Chances are you already gave this a rewatch when the trilogy concluded this summer, but even Sam Mendes called out Nolan’s “game changer” as a direct influence on his James Bond film. Reminiscent of the Batman flick, Skyfall takes a nod in nearly every department, whether it be plot, villain, setting or action sequences. While still providing high-class spectacle, Mendes was able to infuse some real-world implications. – Jordan R.
Goldfinger (Guy Hamilton, 1964)
If not the best Bond film, this is still the consummate example of what an entry should be. Not just because of its extreme entertainment value, but also the way it introduced certain, long-lasting elements — including the Aston Martin, a classic item that’s cropped up very recently — and set the series’ rigid structure. The way Skyfall reassembles that to its own whims is one of its greatest pleasures, particularly in the sensation of new possibilities as the events continue to unfold. And, come on: if you want to get into a Bond mood, you simply can’t go wrong with Goldfinger. Or Pussy Galore. - Nick N.
Road to Perdition (Sam Mendes, 2003)
If it weren’t for this film, Skyfall would have been a very different production. Even though Mendes wasn’t initially a fan of his Road to Perdition star and friend being chosen as our new Bond, his tone (along with the rest of the world) reportedly changed after seeing Casino Royale. Then it was ultimately Craig who convinced him to helm his first foray into Hollywood blockbusters. But back to Mendes’ follow-up to American Beauty – his first teaming with Craig resulted in one of the finest crime dramas of the last decade, and while this one is more about the serene, chilling moments, he was able to exercise his action muscle for the first time, something that’s certainly on showcase now. - Jordan R.
The Sacrifice (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1986)
I know, I know, I know. Andrei Tarkovsky‘s end-of-the-world picture — an end-of-life endeavor, too — with its questions about life’s tenacity and man’s connection to some higher being, is not wholly synonymous with Skyfall. (Even if you’ve yet to see Mendes’ spy adventure, that almost goes without saying.) However, the climax of both films share an unusual thematic connection by using the (fiery) destruction of a home unit as, in a roundabout way, a final challenge for either protagonist to face. If God (as well as possessions) are the enemy and Erland Josephson is the one staking out independence, Raoul Silva and James Bond could be seen as their respective surrogates. It’s not a conventional comparison, and I think that makes it all the better. – Nick N.
Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991)
On a more obvious level, Bardem’s Raoul Silva connects back to the Jonathan Demme classic by way of villainous theatrics. It’s all fun and worthwhile, though the lasting impact is not at all unlike what was done by Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter: more than anything, the way his initial guise lures in an audience and how the more decisive actions show his true surface, but also their lasting psychological impact on the film’s heroes. – Nick N.
Skyfall opens everywhere on November 9th.
What films do you recommend checking out before seeing Skyfall?
This week marks the US release of the twenty-third James Bond feature film, Skyfall, and last month saw the debut of its theme song, performed by Adele. We gave you our take on the film already, but our sister music site, Beats Per Minute, have counted down the ten best theme songs in the series run. Check out the article from BPM contributor Ray Finlayson below.
One could argue that the Bond title song is almost as important as the film itself – or at least there are certainly instances where the song sticks in your head more than the film. Over the past fifty years, we’ve been introduced to Ian Fleming’s conceived world of Bond: a world of guns, villains, and a charm as smooth as the perfect vodka martini. In a way the Classic Bond Film™ is an outdated product of decades past, where women were seldom more than objects to overrun by Bond’s charm, where evil masterminds could live in volcanoes, and where everything could be solved by a convenient gizmo, an instantly desirable gadget, or sultry one-liner.
The Bond Song, though, can go beyond all this, and be a timeless product that will resonate for decades after its release. What follows then is a list of arguably the best title songs from the James Bond catalogue. One could ponder over what makes a winning Bond Song, and hypothesize over a potential formula, but as decades have moved on and styles have changed, it’s become evident that there is no real winning way to construct one.
There are, of course, ways not to do it. It’s fairly obvious why Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” isn’t on this list, nor on the official Casino Royale soundtrack, and the less said about Madonna’s tacky and glitchy “Die Another Day” the better (only redeemed in the slightest of ways when compared to her woefully unneeded cameo in the film). “Another Way To Die” has all the horn and string fanfare (and I do love me some crunchy Jack White-guitar work) but dare I say it sounds too American for what is essentially a British institution? And Lulu’s “The Man With Golden Gun” has an opening line that would even the most misogynistic sexual innudeno-loving Bond-fan wince.
But before we get started, a disclaimer: While I could very easily have put Monty Norman’s classic “James Bond Theme” from Dr. No in first place, I’ve decided to omit it from the running. Without a doubt it’s the quintessential sound of Bond himself – of him walking nonchalantly through M16 headquarters, of him engaging in fisticuffs with a henchman, of him riding a vehicle of any sort through an explosion, of him inevitably seducing a woman – and it’s only matched by John Barry’s subsequent themes, but it seems a little unfair to pair it against more conventional “songs.” Anyway, let’s get going.
As with every year, the last few months on the calendar tend to provide some of the best theatrical offerings and November is no exception. Our top spy agent returns and with him comes a few of the most-anticipated adult dramas and even a few promising family offerings thrown in. In terms of cinematic events, keep your eyes out for AFI Fest recently kicking off in Los Angeles, which holds the premieres of two films showcasing iconic figures. Check out matinees to see below and top recommendations to follow.
Matinees: The Details (11/2), A Late Quartet (11/2), This Must Be the Place (11/2), In Another Country (11/9), Starlet (11/9), A Royal Affair (11/9), 28 Hotel Rooms (11/16), Rise of the Guardians (11/21), Hitchcock (11/23), Rust & Bone (11/23)
10. Wreck-It Ralph (Rich Moore; Nov. 2nd)
Synopsis: A video game villain wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.
Why You Should See It: Directed by Futurama‘s Rich Moore, this story of a Donkey Kong-esque bad guy is aiming to be one of the most enjoyable experiences this fall, tailor-made for any videogame fanatic. With a voice cast of John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch and Sarah Silverman, check out our positive review here, where we proclaim there is much more in store than just a reference-filled extravaganza.
9. Lincoln (Steven Spielberg; Nov. 9th)
Synopsis: As the Civil War continues to rage, America’s president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield and as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.
Why You Should See It: While it’s one of the more disappointing offerings this year, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is a commendable effort in capturing a brief, but vital moment in history. After a dull, oddly-paced initial hour due to lack of forward momentum, this biopic finally finds a groove when Spielberg dives into the political inner workings of what it takes to get the 13th amendment passed.
8. Anna Karenina (Joe Wright; Nov. 16th)
Synopsis: Set in late-19th-century Russia high-society, the aristocrat Anna Karenina enters into a life-changing affair with the affluent Count Vronsky.
Why You Should See It: Few can do period dramas better than Atonement‘s Joe Wright and after a brief action stint with Hanna, he has returned to adapting literary classics with Anna Karenina. Judging from our TIFF review, Wright has delivered quite a spectacle with this “audacious” take, so those expecting a dry turn are bound to be surprised.
7. Flight (Robert Zemeckis; Nov. 2nd)
Synopsis: An airline pilot saves a flight from crashing, but an investigation into the malfunctions reveals something troubling.
Why You Should See It: Although we offered up a negative take out of NYFF, I found a lot to admire in Robert Zemeckis‘ return to live-action filmmaking. Although heavy-handed at times, this unconventionally-structured character study takes a compelling, often dark look the complexity of addiction. Anchored by a stellar performance from Denzel Washington, this drama is well worth your time.
6. The Central Park Five (Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon; Nov. 23rd)
Synopsis: A documentary that examines the 1989 case of five black and Latino teenagers who were convicted of raping a white woman in Central Park. After having spent between 6 and 13 years each in prison, a serial rapist confessed to the crime.
Why You Should See It: The fall consistently brings a eclectic slate of documentaries and this month is perhaps the best, as Ken Burns‘ controversial exploration on the 1989 Central Park Jogger Case will be unveiled in theatrical release. Directed with his daughter, Sarah, and David McMahon, the film has caught fire with lawyers in New York, as they even attempt to subpoena notes and outtakes from the film. As the filmmakers fight back, expect this to be one of the most vital documentaries of the year.
After a string of fairly run-of-the-mill action films, Denzel Washington has finally returned to dramatic territory with one of his most accomplished roles yet in Flight. Set to hit theaters this weekend, Robert Zemeckis‘ first live-action film in over a decade is set to surprise many with its unconventional structure and rooted character study. Ahead of the release, we’ve selected five features that would be worth brushing up on before heading to see this drama. Check out the rundown below and let us know what you’d recommend.
Barfly (Barbet Schroeder, 1987)
With his long, greasy hair and never-ending five’o clock shadow, a young Mickey Rourke commands the screen as Charles Bukowski persona Henry Chinaski in this slow burn of an addition drama. Featuring innovative lighting (the now industry-standard Kino-Flo was invented for this film) and a brave turn by then fading starlet Faye Dunaway, Barfly is one of the stronger performance pieces out there. – Dan M.
Factotum (Bent Hamer, 2005)
In yet another Bukowski tale, Matt Dillon‘s character tries to make something of himself in the literary world while also working a series of odd jobs and coming across a whole host of interesting characters and romantic partners. Much like Flight, Factotum is a character study about an alcoholic but hopefully unlike the former, it presents a romanticized look at being a “starving artist.” It’s not a connected movie so much as a series of vignettes strewn together loosely, but Bukowski fans will be pleased with this adaptation and those like me who wish they could just shirk responsibilities and live life on the fly will find Factotum worthy of living vicariously through. – Jon S.
The Flight of the Phoenix (Robert Aldrich, 1965)
It may seem a strange choice, but this Jimmy Stewart classic was something of a dark turn for the beloved actor, much like beloved Denzel Washington‘s turn in Flight. Playing the pilot of a plane crashed in the middle of the desert, Stewart’s Frank Towns fights with feelings of desperation, anger and insanity, slowly losing grip on any sense of leadership he once held. It’s hard to watch someone you like so much make so many bad decisions in two short hours. – Dan M.
The Great Waldo Pepper (George Roy Hill, 1975)
This one is an under-seen little gem from the mid-70s, directed by George Roy Hill and starring Robert Redford as a talented pilot who just missed out on the dogfighting glories of World War I. Determined to prove his claim as “the second best pilot in the world” (behind the German ace Ernst Kessler of course), Waldo risks life, limb and love. – Dan M.
Leaving Las Vegas (Mike Figgis, 1995)
As Robert Zemeckis uses one of Hollywood’s most recognizable faces to explore the complexity of addiction in Flight, close to a few decades ago Mike Figgis led Nicolas Cage to a career-best, Oscar-winning performance as a downbeat alcoholic. While Figgis’ take is a little more raw than this weekend’s drama, both films feature a startlingly tragic look at this life-altering disease. While Washington clearly has his pick of the action litter, Las Vegas also led Cage to the three-punch of The Rock, Con Air and Face/Off. – Jordan R.
Flight opens everywhere on November 2nd.
What films would you recommend seeing before Flight?
Considering the amount of genres, characters, time periods and storylines on display in Cloud Atlas, the filmmakers certainly have a wealth of cinematic history to draw upon — yet by most accounts (including our own) they’ve delivered something unlike anything we’ve seen before in theaters. Tied into this weekend’s release, we’ve attempted to take a look at five different films that are worth brushing up on before heading to see the latest creation from the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer. Check out the rundown below and chime in with your recommendations.
2046 (Wong Kar-wai, 2004)
How do you sequalize an uncontested masterpiece of unbearable human longing? If you’re Wong Kar-wai, the answer would be “lose half the onscreen duo, dedicate entire portions (of your period piece!) to a neon-lit, future landscape of Asia, then trust the audience to work that all out.” Seams of Cloud Atlas may already form in your head, but Wong’s devastating follow-up to In the Mood for Love is a more centralized story that uses futuristic tethers as a way of tackling personal grief. If you’ve seen the aforementioned film – as well as that one’s own predecessor, Days of Being Wild – I can’t recommend it more highly. If you already have, however, be warned: 2046 has the power to tear out your heart. – Nick N.
The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky, 2006)
Ever first since we get the first glance at the debut six-minute trailer for Cloud Atlas, Darren Aronofsky‘s underrated gem was the first comparison to spring to mind. While it explores half as many time periods as David Mitchell‘s novel, we travel through the past, present and future dissecting similar themes to Atlas when it comes to reincarnation and parallels, in both story and editing techniques. Both of these science-fiction films display a sense of wonder and ambition that is all-too-rare in the genre. - Jordan R.
Intolerance (D. W. Griffith, 1916)
While D.W. Griffith‘s classic is coming up on its 100th anniversary, its influence still reverberates through just about every film coming through Hollywood — and it has rarely been more apparent than with Cloud Atlas. This 1916 film, employing radical cross-cutting for its time, takes a look at four separate stories — including then-present day, the Renaissance, Babylon and the story of Jesus Christ — as Griffith explores themes of inhumanity, bigotry, persecution and more. In another possibly tie to Atlas, this one cost an astounding $2 million at the time and was deemed a financial failure upon release. Hopefully this year’s film doesn’t suffer the same fate, but one can legally stream Griffith’s entire nearly three-hour cut here before heading into theaters this weekend. – Jordan R.
Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972)
Andrei Tarkovsky‘s sci-fi film, one of the genre’s finest, is not the most obvious choice when it comes to Cloud Atlas – it might be more opaque than any other film listed here. But it sprang to mind when yours truly pondered what makes Solaris so affecting: its depiction of an unbrekable love. Like those in the Wachowskis‘ and Tom Tykwer‘s film, astronaut Kris Kelvin knows the being in front of his own eyes is not the person he fell in love with years past, but the emotional truth behind the presence of “it” — “it” is certainly not a human being — is enough to make the man throw everything he’s ever known out the space capsule. While it’s unlikely that Cloud Atlas holds the kind of patience Tarkovsky showed off in Solaris‘ long (long) opening portion, the film will do something right if it can communicate the same mysterious, internal sensation delivered throughout. – Nick N.
Soylent Green (Richard Fleischer, 1973)
This silly little B-movie played more serious when it came out in 1973, and is now timeless thanks to its iconic final line, not to mention the hilarious SNL skit featuring Phil Hartman. The makers of Cloud Atlas are clearly aware of the natural clunkiness and cheesiness that comes with bringing an imagined future to life, and use it to there advantage. They are aware that, above all else, this is supreme entertainment and any message that comes with it should be delivered with a little twinkle in the eye. – Dan M.
Cloud Atlas opens everywhere on October 26th.
What films would you recommend checking out before seeing Cloud Atlas?
Although he often excels in various supporting roles, John Hawkes was given his due at Sundance earlier this year with the drama The Sessions (then titled The Surrogate). Following a polio-stricken patient searching for a sexual breakthrough (courtesy of Helen Hunt), Fox Searchlight quickly snatched up Ben Lewin‘s heartwarming true story and are finally putting it into theaters this week.
To go along with the occasion, we have rounded up five films that would make a perfect watch before heading into theaters. Note that we considered including Catherine Scott‘s Scarlett Road, which tells a nearly identical story in documentary form (SXSW review here), but lack of distribution in the US will make it difficult for you to find. Check out our rundown of the five recommended films below.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel, 2007)
While The Sessions tugs on the heart, Julian Schnabel’s masterpiece deals with similair themes to great effect, but adds a stunning visual depth. Following a man whose only route of communication is the movement of his left eye, few other films can literally place you in the shoes of this struggle, thanks in part to Janusz Kaminski‘s arresting cinematography. – Jordan R.
Me and You and Everyone You Know (Miranda July, 2005)
While this independent drama doesn’t feature any sort of debilitating disease, Miranda July‘s debut film does serve as a major break-out for star John Hawkes. Although he previously had a healthy career in television and film, Me and You and Everyone You Know showed us a different side of the actor, namely that of a lead actor able to anchor films on his own. Never is that ability more on display than in The Sessions. – Jordan R.
My Left Foot (Jim Sheridan, 1989)
Featuring the performance that made Daniel Day-Lewis a household name, Jim Sheridan‘s biopic of Christy Brown, an artist with cerebral palsy who was forced to learn to write with his left foot, has served as the blueprint for how to make an honest, heartfelt picture concerning the challenges of disability. - Dan M.
The Sea Inside (Alejandro Amenábar, 2004)
Before he terrorized James Bond, Javier Bardem helped lead a certain Spanish drama to Oscar glory. Opening with a meditation, Alejandro Amenabar‘s compassionate true tale follows Ramon Sampedro (Bardem) who fought, bedside for 30 years for the right to end his life. Amenabar is excellent at internalizing the struggle: a feat for any story about terminal illness. The film is a visual triumph, itself a meditation on escape from the confines of one’s body. – John F.
Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist (Kirby Dick, 1997)
The subject of sex surrogates is often treated with compassion, but Bob Flanagan wants none of that. Not for the close-minded or faint of heart, Kirby Dick’s groundbreaking documentary follows the artist, his practice, inspirations and relationships. Flanagan defying the odds, engages in S & M practices including ritualistic bleeding, breathing control, piercing and hanging as a means of controlling a terminally ill body, with the assistance of his partner (and slave master) Sheree Rose. Dick’s camera doesn’t shy away from the gory details in this riveting portrait of Flanagan, who died during filming at age 43. – John F.
The Sessions opens in limited release Friday, October 19th.
What films would you recommend checking out before seeing The Sessions?
In the last five years, over the span of just three features, Ben Affleck has established himself as one of the most consistent directors in Hollywood. For his latest drama, which we took a look at in Toronto, the filmmaker has turned a few decades back to 1979, capturing a intense, sometimes comedic true-story of hostage rescue via a fake film crew. Drawing on a wealth of films, both new and old, we take a look at five you’ll want to brush up on before heading into the theater this weekend. Check out the rundown below.
All the President’s Men (Alan J. Pakula, 1976)
Not only is this political feature a paradigm for taut, well-founded 1970s-set thrillers, the Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford-led film was also specifically used by Affleck as an example for Argo. With his production also making use of Washington, D.C., as they shot on location, the director looked at how Pakula so skillfully captured the surroundings and I couldn’t think of a better mold to follow. – Jordan R.
The Anderson Tapes (Sidney Lumet, 1971)
One of the first films to really dig into the idea that the “important” people were always watching, this overlooked Sidney Lumet ’70s-set picture featured Sean Connery expanding his range a bit as an ex-con who realized he’s being watched by anybody and everybody. For what reason? He’s not entirely sure. Though far from perfect, Lumet’s film is one made before its time - Dan M.
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (John Cassavetes, 1976)
It’s dirty, violent, funny and sexy. You’ll want to take a shower afterwards, and then watch it again. John Cassavetes‘ sly examination of the slimy entertainment world oozes with every kind of emotion, brilliantly taken on by Ben Gazzara, who would never be better. Few other movies more succinctly examine how the quest for success can so quickly become a fight for survival. - Dan M.
Munich (Steven Spielberg, 2005)
That sex scene notwithstanding, Munich is both a late-era masterwork of true complexity and, I’d add, one of Spielberg’s finest hours as both storyteller and formal craftsman. Since we pretty much know how this turns out before the first wrenching kill — hello there, Argo — it’s that much more incredible to see The Beard orchestrate each scene with a deft hand for tension. But, while Munich is, yes, highly entertaining, that all comes at a moral cost which might render it the darkest film of Spielberg’s career. Friday’s release will be lucky to contain half of what makes this such a terrific film. – Nick N.
Syriana (Stephen Gaghan, 2005)
A masterpiece of the Bush era, Gaghan’s film is a fully-realized look into what has emerged as the great war of our time, and perhaps of any time: money and resources. Featuring George Clooney in an Oscar-winning turn and Jeffrey Wright as a scene-stealing political liaison slowly crippled by his moral compromising, Syriana serves as a poignant reminder of the country we live in and the politics that fuel it. As Affleck heads to the Middle East for Argo, hopefully he got some helpful tips from his friends involved with this production. - Dan M.
Argo opens everywhere October 12th.
What films would you recommend brushing up on before Argo?
This month marks one of the most exciting times of the year for a film fan, as studios are finally beginning to show off their most promising movies of the year, either in theaters or on the festival circuit. We will be bringing extensive coverage of TIFF later in the month, but with the theatrical offerings (some from the aforementioned festival and many from Sundance), filmgoers have much to look forward to. I opted not to include re-releases of Finding Nemo and Raiders of the Lost Ark in order to highlight others that you can check out below.
Matinees: Girl Model (9/5), Detropia (9/5), Toys in the Attic (9/7), Hello I Must Be Going (9/7), 10 Years (9/14), Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (9/21), 17 Girls (9/21), Head Games (9/21), Dredd (9/21), The Hole (9/28), Starbuck (9/28)
10. The Words (Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal; Sept. 7th)
Synopsis: A writer at the peak of his literary success discovers the steep price he must pay for stealing another man’s work.
Why You Should See It: As Bradley Cooper heads into more serious work with Silver Linings Playbook and The Place Beyond the Pines both on the festival circuit this month, a little warm-up that premiered at Sundance arrives in theaters this week. I found The Words to be a bit dramatically inert due to its structure, but it’s worth seeing for fine performances for Jeremy Irons, Zoe Saldana, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde, J.K. Simmons and more.
9. End of Watch (David Ayer; Sept. 21st)
Synopsis: Two young officers are marked for death after confiscating a small cache of money and firearms from the members of a notorious cartel, during a routine traffic stop.
Why You Should See It: David Ayer has yet to helm a cop drama that rises above cliches, and while I can’t help but thinking End of Watch falls into the same category, there is a surprising amount of buzz for this one. I’ve talked with a few people who have raved about the two lead performances and even say the handheld style works. Perhaps this TIFF premiere will be a major surprise this fall.
8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky; Sept. 21st)
Synopsis: An introverted freshman is taken under the wings of two seniors who welcome him to the real world.
Why You Should See It: In a rare occurrence, author Stephen Chbosky went ahead and not only adapted his own book but got behind the camera as director for The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Set to premiere at TIFF, the major draw in this coming-of-age tale for yours truly is Ezra Miller, stepping out from dark roles in films like We Need To Talk About Kevin and Afterschool. Also starring Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Mae Whitman, Paul Rudd, Johnny Simmons and Dylan McDermott, hopefully this one captures a specific time in adolescence with authenticity.
7. Trouble with the Curve (Robert Lorenz; Sept. 21st)
Synopsis: An ailing baseball scout in his twilight years takes his daughter along for one last recruiting trip.
Why You Should See It: Clint Eastwood returns in front of the camera for what looks to be a relatively light, enjoyable time out on the baseball field. Amidst a season of awards-focused heavy hitters, I’m looking forward to a simple, well-told story. First-time director Lorenz looks to deliver with a cast that also includes Amy Adams, John Goodman and Justin Timberlake.
6. Liberal Arts (Josh Radnor; Sept. 14th)
Synopsis: When thirty-something Jesse returns home for his old professor’s retirement party, he falls for Zibby, a college student, and is faced with the powerful attraction that springs up between them.
Why You Should See It: For his sophomore feature, How I Met Your Mother star Radnor steps it up in a major way after his trivial, poorly-written debut Happythankyoumoreplease. Dropping the false nature of his previous effort, Liberal Arts adds a wonderful cast that includes Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney and a hilarious cameo performance from Zac Efron. It’s funny, charming and well worth your time.
5. Arbitrage (Nicholas Jarecki; Sept. 14th)
Synopsis: A troubled hedge fund magnate desperate to complete the sale of his trading empire makes an error that forces him to turn to an unlikely person for help.
Why You Should See It: Nicholas Jarecki has delivered one of the finest feature narrative debuts of the year with his tense thriller Arbitrage. Not only is it great to see Richard Gere back in a role meant for him, he’s joined by up-and-coming stars Brit Marling and Nate Parker, both showing off why they deserve to be in the spotlight. One can check it out on the same day on VOD as well.
4. Bachelorette (Leslye Headland; Sept. 7th)
Synopsis: Three friends are asked to be bridesmaids at a wedding of a woman they used to ridicule back in high school.
Why You Should See It: Wickedly funny and surprisingly dark, Leslye Headland‘s indie dramedy debut is a R-rated good time that tackles sincere issues many films in the genre gloss over or barely recognize at all. Many will compare it to Bridesmaids, not helped by the fact it also stars Rebel Wilson, but Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, James Marsden and Adam Scott come together for this snappy, hilarious look at growing up and much more.
3. How to Survive a Plague (David France; Sept. 21st)
Synopsis: The story of two coalitions — ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) — whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition.
Why You Should See It: Not too long ago the mix of stigmatism and general unawareness of HIV/AIDS led to little government involvement, but change finally came thanks to a fearless group people. Premiering at Sundance to strong reviews, David France‘s How To Survive a Plague chronicles this uprising and looks to do exceptional justice to such a vital time in our very recent history.
2. Looper (Rian Johnson; Sept. 28th)
Synopsis: In 2072, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits. Someone like Joe, who one day learns the mob wants to ‘close the loop’ by transporting back Joe’s future self.
Why You Should See It: With his first two features (Brick and The Brothers Bloom), Rian Johnson has established himself as an inventive filmmaker who is on the verge of making a masterpiece. If the buzz rings true, his first foray into science-fiction with Looper could very well be a major next step. Certainly his biggest film yet, the Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis-starring feature marks that rare, promising occasion that both a Hollywood film and an art film has opened the Toronto International Film Festival.
1. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson; Sept. 14th)
Synopsis: A Naval veteran arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future – until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader.
Why You Should See It: Usually we would have to wait deep into the fall for my most-anticipated film of the year, but thankfully it’s coming early. We can already confirm that Paul Thomas Anderson‘s There Will Be Blood follow-up is excellent, but that will likely be only the beginning of the discussion when it comes to this elusive drama. As it expands in the coming weeks, check your local theaters and make sure you see this one in 70mm if possible.
What are you looking forward to this month?
With the fall film festivals kicking off as we speak, it’s only a matter of time before the awards season gets into full swing. As we do every year before we collectively enter the trenches, it is time to catch up on the best films that have arrived thus far, many of which you may have missed.
Below one will find a rundown of our favorite films of the last 8 months (U.S. releases only) in alphabetical order and including just about every genre. Many are already available on streaming platforms or on home release, so check out the list below and dedicate some time to watching these gems. Then come back at the end of the year and see how many of these contenders make it to the finish line.
21 Jump Street
When it comes to dumb movies, 21 Jump Street is among the best. With a mix of reflexive and, often, self-deprecating humor, this reboot of the late-80s cop show managed to rise above the recent rash of recycled material by presenting itself as a smart-aleck comment on Hollywood’s nostalgia addiction. Led by the unexpected pairing of Channing Tatum and weird-skinny Jonah Hill, the refreshing raunch fest featured stand-out performances from supporting cast members like Rob Riggle, Nick Offerman and Ellie Kemper, not to mention the always memorable Ice Cube. But the biggest surprise was Tatum, who proved he’s more than just a stripper with smooth moves (although that works too, as you’ll later see) by delivering some impressive all-or-nothing physical comedy. – Amanda W.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Set in a small Bayou community not too far from New Orleans, Benh Zeitlin’s feature debut is 93 minutes of pure cinematic joy. Although a fantasy in many ways, there is a stark authenticity to the relationship between a father and his 6-year-old daughter with a wild imagination. Delivered by miraculous first-time performances by Dwight Henry and Quvenzhané Wallis, both struggle to survive but maintain a strong, positive outlook on life. There are no huge stars or fantastical action sequences here, yet it all feels very grand, made all the more poignant by its post-Katrina surroundings. – Jack C.
Richard Linklater’s latest effort is an acerbic mockumentary which tells the story of Bernie Tiede (Jack Black, who previously collaborated with the director on School of Rock), a mortician who moves to the small town of Carthage, Texas and immediately makes his mark on the people. Quickly beloved by all, he decides to strike up a friendship with the wealthy, mean old widow Marjorie Nugent (Shirley Maclaine), and a very strange incident follows. The meticulousness of Black’s performance as the eccentric and effeminate Bernie combined with the hilarious fake interviews of the town’s people and an intriguing true life story make this one of the sleeper hits of the year. Watch out for man-of-the-moment Matthew McConaughey, too. – Jack C.
Beyond the Black Rainbow
It’s just a bit funny: I saw this film some 16 months ago, even liking it so much as to give it an honorable mention on my top ten list last year. Most, however, didn’t see Beyond the Black Rainbow until this year — I suspect those numbers aren’t high in and of themselves, either — and only recently plunged into the dark and imposing world of Panos Cosmatos’ debut. Not that the length of time necessarily matters; a bizarre sense of humor mixed with striking imagery and superb sound design all make Rainbow awfully hard to shake. When the whole package is so deftly handled, whether or not it makes total sense almost doesn’t matter. – Nick N.
The Cabin in the Woods
Film theorists and critics alike credit Scream as the original post-modern take on horror movies, but the popular 1996 slasher flick does not hold a candle to The Cabin in the Woods. Joss Whedon combined his creative superpowers with that of another small screen giant, Lost writer/producer Drew Goddard, to create the ultimate commentary on an extremely varied, trope-filled genre. Filled with sharp, funny writing and riotous action – not to mention a very game cast – it sets a new standard for meta-movies of any kind. – Amanda W.
Chicken with Plums
The duo of Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi brought wonders to the animation genre with Persepolis and now they return with an astounding story of lost love. Perfecting their magical realism technique, it’s difficult not to be enraptured by their sophomore feature. With a mix of various kinds of animation woven into this live-action film, Chicken with Plums is one of the most stimulating, visionary films of the year. - Jordan R.
This story of a fast-food restaurant, gullible employees and one phone call that will change their lives will leave you angry and in need to converse about the subject matter it delves into. Craig Zobel made a big, controversial splash at Sundance earlier this year and the film’s been riding the wave ever since. See it on the big screen while it’s still in limited release — just be prepared for a worthy, lengthy discussion. – Dan M.
Love it or hate it, this is a film made without compromise. But I do love it, and even think David Cronenberg has done some of his finest work with a scary, funny, and prescient examination of a world which lies just outside the limo. What’s great on the page and translated through the camera is tied together by one great ensemble, all of whom are squaring off against Robert Pattinson, an actor who could only be said to have made his homecoming. What a beautiful breakout this is. – Nick N.
Damsels in Distress
If you’ve seen any Whit Stillman film before then you’re either on board with his style or far in the other direction. With his latest, teaming Greta Gerwig with Analeigh Tipton, Aubrey Plaza and more, the director returns after a 14-year break and continues the same sharp, witty dialogue with his refreshingly-relaxed tone. Hopefully he won’t be gone for too long again. – Jordan R.
The Deep Blue Sea
This one, like so many of British auteur Terence Davies’ films, was quickly and quietly forgotten upon its release. And it’s shame, because Rachel Weisz has never been better, playing a tortured wife in love with a tortured British soldier (the magnificent Tom Hiddleston) in post-war Europe. Davies’ steady, confident direction is aided by some beautiful lensing from Florian Hoffmeister. – Dan M.