You could be inclined to believe October is just like any other month, especially since there’s only one major horror movie set for wide release to scare your pants off on Halloween. Sadly this must-see slate of ten won’t sate your bloodlust, but it does feature awards-contenders, smart indies and survival thrillers that will have you grabbing the person closes to you. And moreover, these are ten good movies that we think are worthy of your time and money over the next thirty days. So let’s dive right in….
Synopsis: Abby (Robin Weigert) is an upper-class lesbian enjoying life with her lover and child. When she receives a blow to the head, she gives it all up to lead a double life as a Manhattan escort.
What You Need to Know: Lesbian relationship dramas have come to the cinematic forefront with the reactionary response to “Blue is the Warmest Colour.” There’s no denying “Concussion” has an equally out-there premise, but I doubt it boasts a ten minute sex scene that many are calling gratuitous, nor are the actresses condemning the work they’ve done. The first trailer for “Concussion” is sexy, and will probably receive less vitriol than “Blue.” Either way, it’s another boost for same-sex relationships on-screen.
Release Date: October 4th in limited release
Synopsis: Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) are astronauts sent to work on a satellite; Kowalski is on his last mission while Stone is on her first. When the satellite explodes, the two must do whatever they can to stay alive.
What You Need to Know: The buzz on “Gravity” is intense, with many considering it a shoo-in for a plethora of Academy Award nominations, at least in the technical and effects departments where this should clean up. When the movie premiered at the Venice Film Festival our own Oliver Lyttelton called it “as visceral an experience as you can have in a cinema” and that’s high praise indeed! With director Alfonso Cuaron at the helm — who directed the exemplary “Children of Men” — “Gravity” could break out as an elegant science fiction film worthy of awards consideration which is a category continually marginalized come awards time.
Release Date: October 4th
Synopsis: The true story of Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) who defends his ship and crew from Somali pirates.
What You Need to Know: This is one of two films that could result in Hanks getting yet another Academy Award nomination (the other being “Saving Mr. Banks” in December). The Somali pirate saga happened back in 2009 and almost immediately, Phillips’ story was being shopped to movie studios. Cut to 2013 and “United 93” director Paul Greengrass has put out an intense and “breathtakingly harrowing story of survival and grueling desperation” according to writer Rodrigo Perez. There is some debate about the movie’s authenticity, or glorifying of Phillips’ story, and with Greengrass coming off the equally patriotic/historical “United 93,” it’ll be interesting to see how audiences react to reliving history that was only a few years ago. The buzz hasn’t dissipated, so expect this to win something in a few months time.
Release Date: October 11th
“Escape From Tomorrow”
Synopsis: Jim (Roy Abramsohn) and his family are visiting the happiest place on Earth, Disneyland, at the same time that Jim discovers he’s been fired. Distraught over how to deal with the future, the theme park where dreams come becomes a hellish nightmare.
What You Need to Know: Writer/director Randy Moore struggled to create the film, secretly taping throughout Disneyland and turning it into a nightmarish landscape akin to the seventh circle of hell. When “Escape From Tomorrow” premiered at Sundance, there was all sorts of talk over whether the Walt Disney Company would sue, or delay the release of the film citing copyright infringement. Writer William Goss called the movie “dark [and] utterly bizarre,” but still slapped the movie with a “B+” grade in his review. The poster and first trailer are hilarious and portray the theme park, known for talking mice and mass consumerism, as a place where people go to die….figuratively. Escape From Tomorrow takes Disneyland to task, and it’s looking to be more insidious to your psyche and memory than a thousand verses of “It’s a Small World” (admit it; it’s stuck in your ear).
Release Date: October 11th in limited release
“All is Lost”
Synopsis: A man (Robert Redford) finds himself shipwrecked and bobbing along the Sumatran Straits desperately losing hope of rescue.
What You Need to Know: Director J.C. Chandor gained acclaim with his narrative analysis of the US financial crisis, “Margin Call“. His latest work could find Redford priming himself for a Best Actor nod, despite the movie itself being rather “bare bones” according to Jessica Kiang’s review. The trailer for the film emphasizes the trials and tribulations Redford’s character goes through, and it’s akin to Tom Hanks’ work in “Cast Away;” wouldn’t it be great to see these two titans of cinema — representing Classic Hollywood and New Hollywood — duking it out come Oscar time? We can dream.
Release Date: October 18th in limited release
“12 Years a Slave”
Synopsis: Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is kidnapped and sold into slavery. In the twelve years he’s held captive, he is passed to a variety of owners who change his life.
What You Need to Know: “12 Years a Slave” is the movie on everyone’s lips, with many predicting it as a shoo-in for several major categories, and a game-changer for the history of race within the Academy. It certainly gained a toehold after winning the People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Our own Chris Willman had nothing but praise for the stars, and the disturbing — yet haunting — plotline in his “A-” review. The debate rages about the portrayal of slavery in American cinema, especially in light of last year’s “Django Unchained.” Thankfully, “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen believes there’s room for several depictions of slavery in cinema, as he explained in a recent interview. Expect the controversy to start flowing; questioning the movie’s content as it did with ‘Django’; although this is one to keep at the top of your Oscar pool.
Release Date: October 18th in limited release
Synopsis: Tormented teen, Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz), discovers a new world after she unleashes a telekinetic power she never knew she possessed.
What You Need to Know: There’s already been two previous attempts to adapt author Stephen King’s tale of bullying and telekinesis. The 1976, Brian De Palma helmed, film is considered the definitive version, inspiring a fairly terrible quasi-sequel in 1999; there’s also a modernized television remake in 2002 that’s highlight is having Patricia Clarkson playing Carrie’s religious zealot mother. This upcoming remake is gaining fans with the casting of “It Girl” Chloe Grace Moretz as the teen terror, alongside Julianne Moore as her mother. You also have “Boys Don’t Cry” director Kimberly Pierce‘s long-awaited return behind the camera. Both she and Moretz have proclaimed this version to be a game changer; with an approach that will hopefully add some real depth to the characters. It’s also the only movie in the horror genre to come out around Halloween, so if you’re looking for a scare it’s your only option.
Release Date: October 18th.
“Kill Your Darlings”
Synopsis: Follows a young, pre-Beat, Allan Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) as he goes in search of himself. Along the way he meets the alluring Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) who compels Ginsberg to enter dark territory that could prove dangerous.
What You Need to Know: It’s Harry Potter playing Allan Ginsburg and doing stuff you probably never wanted to witness Harry Potter doing. That’s the short version of “Kill Your Darlings.” The movie’s dark tones won’t appeal to everyone; in his review of the movie at Sundance, Rodrigo Perez called it “unsubtle” and “far from enlightening.” Other reviews have praised it or castigated it, but the amount of talent on-the screen (the full trailer includes appearances by Jack Huston, Elizabeth Olsen, and Ben Foster), coupled with the provocative subject matter, should get a few of the art house fans to seek it out.
Release Date: October 18th in New York and Los Angeles with expansion from there.
“Blue is the Warmest Color”
Synopsis: Two women find love, anger, and frustration all within a relationship that spans several years. As each woman is faced with different career paths and life changes, they must decide whether their relationship is worth continuing.
What You Need to Know: In a month riddled with controversial films, “Blue is the Warmest Color” was one of the earliest. The three-hour lesbian drama has been called pornographic, explicit, and disturbing; and that’s from the cast and crew! Writer Jessica Kiang may have called the film “sublime” in her Cannes review, but since then the actresses, cast, and director have all competed for space to inject their own thoughts about the project into the universe. The actresses have already vowed never to work with the director; the crew has leveled cries of “bullying” against the production, and the film’s director — Abdellatif Kechiche — wants to prevent the movie’s release; all from a movie which snagged the coveted Palme d’Or! Sadly, the amount of people able to see this movie is already limited based on its NC-17 rating, and it won’t be considered for the Oscars. However, it’s one you should make the time for.
Release Date: October 25th in limited release
Synopsis: A lawyer (Michael Fassbender) gets involved with a group of drug dealers, pushing him to break boundaries and test his limits in ways he never imagined.
What You Need to Know: Director Ridley Scott lost audiences with the divisive “Prometheus” last summer, but he’s primed to get them back with “The Counselor.” Everything about the movie screams “Must-See,” from the casting of Hollywood’s golden boy, Fassbender, to the script penned by author Cormac McCarthy. There’s even been talk that Cameron Diaz, downright terrifying in recent clips as the film’s villainess, could get a nomination for Best Supporting Actres.! The trailers have a strong blend of action, violence, and gravitas evocative of a McCarthy script, and hopefully it’ll return some goodwill to Scott as a director. Either way, it looks completely insane and a whole lot of fun.
Release Date: October 25th
Honorable Mentions: Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck knock heads in the online poker thriller (really) “Runner Runner” (October 4th); Adam Scott has to get his divorced parents together in “A.C.O.D.” (October 4th); “Putty Hill” director Matthew Porterfield returns with “I Used to Be Darker” (October 4th in New York) while Ken Marino has something awful coming out of his ass in the outrageous horror comedy “Bad Milo” (October 4th in limited release).