After wading through the (generally) bland waters of spring cinema and (for the most part) over-stuffed summer spectacle blockbusters, Fall typically ushers in the true wealth of what film makers give audiences over the course of the year. These are the films that will be showing up on your Oscar ballot next year. This year offers plenty of variety and big names to choose from, so it's my goal to try and focus in on what the top films to go check out will be. For the purpose of doing a Holiday Movie Guide, I'm using November 15th as a cut-off date for releases on this list.
Narrowing it down to a Top 8, here are my picks for Fall's best bets at the theater:
Prisoners – September 20
A gritty tale of child kidnapping that boasts an impressive cast, including Hugh Jackman, Terrence Howard, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, and Paul Dano. My main attraction here is the cast, particularly Jackman.
Rush – September 27
In his first feature film in over 4 years, director Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13) brings us into the driver's seat of this drama about two rivals in the Formula 1 racing circuit. Howard can make a good movie, and this looks to be a solid one.
Gravity – October 4
In 2006, director Alfonso Cuaron wowed critics with his brilliant cinematography in the bleak dystopian film Children of Men. Cuaron brings his visual prowess back to the big screen for Gravity, a claustrophobic and terrifying look at two astronauts fighting to stay alive after an accident leaves them adrift in space.
Captain Phillips – October 11
Phillips is a thriller set on an American cargo ship that is attacked by Somali pirates. Directed by Paul Greengrass (Bourne series), this movie stars Tom Hanks – who I unapologetically love – and could be a return to form for him.
12 Years a Slave – October 18
Making a recent splash at the Toronto Film Festival, this period piece recounts the unlawful enslavement of a free black man from upstate New York. Riding the success of Hunger and Shame, Steve McQueen directs a dynamite cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, and Brad Pitt. I am really looking forward to this one.
The Counselor – October 25
Every year or two, Ridley Scott, who has made some awesome films – Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, etc. - seems to offer up a drama with a good cast that ends up falling mostly flat. Here's to hoping this one is an exception and a return to his capabilities. The Counselor is about a lawyer who finds himself in deep waters after getting caught up in drug trafficking. The cast includes Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Brad Pitt, and Cameron Diaz.
About Time – November 8
A romantic drama of sorts, About Time follows the story of a young man who discovers he has the ability to time travel. He then uses this ability to try and orchestrate the perfect relationship. Time travel has always been one of my fascinations, so this movie has a personal attraction for me. Rachel McAdams, one of my favorite actresses, is the main character's love interest, so that's also a plus.
The Wolf of Wall Street – November 15
Legendary director Martin Scorsese works with Leonardo DiCaprio for the fifth time to bring us this tale of corruption and intrigue within the world of stock trading. Joining Leo are co-stars Matthew McConaughey and Jonah Hill. Scorsese + DiCaprio is more than enough to get me into a screening of this film.