Fall 2012 Movie Preview: The Master, Looper, Skyfall, and Other Key Films

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  • Publish Date: September 6, 2012

October's key releases

Argo Watch Trailer
October 12 | Directed by Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck's third directorial effort could be his best yet. Based on true events chronicled in a 2007 Wired article, Argo depicts the daring rescue of six American diplomats from Tehran during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979. How did the CIA pull it off? By convincing the Iranian government that the six men were part of a film crew scouting locations for a movie named Argo—a bluff that required the agency to round up a fake screenplay and set designs by comic artist Jack Kirby. Affleck himself heads an ensemble cast that also includes Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Kyle Chandler, and Tate Donovan. Buzz from Telluride, where Argo premiered a few days ago, suggests that the film is a lock for a best picture nomination.

Cloud Atlas
October 26 | Directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski

The most ambitious film on the fall schedule, Cloud Atlas is an adaptation of David Mitchell's seemingly unfilmable 2004 book by a trio of directors: Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and the Wachowskis (The Matrix). The structurally complex, award-winning novel tells six connected stories that span multiple genres, multiple continents, and hundreds of years (from 1850 to the distant future), and the movie will attempt to do the same, with many of its stars—the large cast includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, and Susan Sarandon—playing multiple roles throughout the nearly three-hour film. Word that even those actors were confused by the sprawling story was mitigated by an impressive early trailer, which suggests that, at the very least, Cloud Atlas will look good on screen, even if it doesn't ultimately come together as a story.

Frankenweenie
October 5 | Directed by Tim Burton

Tim Burton's first 2012 film, Dark Shadows 55, wasn't quite the director at his best, but he has a chance to redeem himself with this impressive-looking, black-and-white, stop-motion animated remake of his own 1984 short. Like the original, this Frankenweenie is, unsurprisingly, a parody of Mary Shelley's original Frankenstein story, with a plot centering on a young boy who brings his beloved pet dog Sparky back to life. The vocal cast includes Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, and Martin Landau, and, naturally, there's a Danny Elfman score. The PG film will screen in 3D IMAX in addition to regular 3D and 2D releases.

Holy Motors Watch Trailer
October 17 | Directed by Leos Carax

French director Leos Carax, who hadn't made a film in over a decade, wowed audiences at this year's Cannes with Holy Motors, perhaps the most talked about movie of the festival. But while critics mostly raved about the surreal, absurdist, poetic, experimental, and often funny film, explaining just what it is was a bit trickier. The story, such as it is, centers on a man (Denis Levant) who travels between a dozen parallel lives, giving Carax an opportunity to dabble in an equal number of genres—including sci-fi, musical, gangster film, romance—while also, perhaps, commenting on the nature of moviemaking itself. With reviewers tossing around words like "abstract," "visionary," "bizarre," "barking mad," and "preposterous," it sounds like one of those films you'll either absolutely love or completely detest, and also like nothing else you'll see this fall.

Killing Them Softly Watch Trailer
October 19 | Directed by Andrew Dominik

Based on George V. Higgins' 1974 novel Cogan's Trade, but moved forward in time over 30 years to include references to the recent economic downturn and the 2008 election, the pulpy, violent thriller Killing Them Softly reunites writer-director Andrew Dominik with star Brad Pitt, who last worked together on The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford 68. Pitt stars as a mob enforcer who tracks down a pair of thieves who rob a poker game; Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, and Ray Liotta also star. Early reviews from the festival circuit are divided between critics who love the film and those who feel it is too arty, restrained, and heavy-handed; they all suggest that viewers shouldn't expect a straight-ahead action film.

The Paperboy Watch Trailer
October 5 | Directed by Lee Daniels

Out of the numerous major films to debut at Cannes this year, The Paperboy was probably the least divisive; critics almost unanimously despised the film. Director Lee Daniels' follow-up to the Oscar-nominated Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire 79, pulpy Southern drama The Paperboy is also based on a novel (by Pete Dexter, who, unlike Sapphire, doesn't get a shout-out in the title), and centers on a journalist (Matthew McConaughey) and his brother (Zac Efron) who attempt to free a death row inmate (John Cusack) at the request of his penpal/groupie (Nicole Kidman). Kidman, at least, has been drawing some praise for her performance—as well as notoriety for a scene in which she pisses on Efron (for medical reasons, of course)—but the film as a whole has been labeled "ham-fisted," "inept," "craptastic," and "insipid" ... which, come to think of it, almost makes it sound worth seeing.

The Sessions Watch Trailer
October 26 | Directed by Ben Lewin

The Audience Award winner at this year's Sundance (back when it was still known as The Surrogate), The Sessions features standout performances by John Hawkes (Deadwood, Martha Marcy May Marlene) as real-life poet and polio victim Mark O'Brien (who was paralyzed from the neck down) and Helen Hunt as the sex surrogate who helps him lose his virginity at the age of 38. O'Brien's life story was previously chronicled in an Oscar-winning 1996 short, and many industry experts suggest that an Academy Award nomination could be in the cards for Hawkes, and possibly for the film itself.

Seven Psychopaths Watch trailer
October 12 | Directed by Martin McDonagh

Acclaimed Irish playwright Martin McDonagh made the jump to writing and directing feature films in 2008 with the dark comedy In Bruges 67, which, while not exactly a major hit, has developed an appreciative cult following in the ensuing years. Now, McDonagh returns with a follow-up, and it's another blackly comedic crime caper (with a greater emphasis, this time, on the comedy) that stars Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken as a pair of dog thieves who pick the wrong pet owner to steal from: a psychotic Los Angeles gangster played by Woody Harrelson. See, it already sounds good, and we haven't even told you yet that Colin Farrell, Abbie Cornish, Tom Waits, and Gabourey Sidibe also star.

Smashed
October 12 | Directed by James Ponsoldt

Any Breaking Bad fan is familiar with the quality of Aaron Paul's work, so it's no surprise that he impressed critics at Sundance with his performance in Smashed, a new dramedy from writer/director James Ponsoldt (Off the Black 62). But reviewers found his co-star, Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), every bit his equal in a revelatory performance as a recovering alcoholic trying to rebound from addiction and rebuild a marriage that revolved too heavily around partying. Winstead is being mentioned as a dark horse Oscar contender for a film that also includes strong performances in smaller roles from Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, and Octavia Spencer.

Taken 2 Watch trailer
October 5 | Directed by Olivier Megaton

A surprise hit in the winter of 2009, Taken 50 turned Liam Neeson into a bankable action star while grossing $226 million worldwide. Now, Olivier Megaton (Transporter 3 51) steps in for original director Pierre Morel in a sequel that picks up where the first film left off. Okay, so Taken didn't exactly end in a cliffhanger—the story was wrapped up pretty completely—but that doesn't mean that Neeson's killing spree after his daughter was kidnapped in the last film can't trigger a thirst for vengeance on the part of the surviving criminals, who conveniently kidnap Neeson's ex-wife (Famke Janssen) this time around. (By the time we get to Taken 8, the goons will probably have to nab his mailman.) Plot details aren't exactly important; all you need to know is that Neeson has another opportunity to get mad and get even. Will that work in a more competitive October as well as it did in January? Taken 3 depends on it.

All October releases by date

Friday, October 5

Delayed from last fall, the comedy Butter stars Jennifer Garner as a conservative Midwestern wife who becomes obsessed with winning a butter carving competition; Ty Burrell, Olivia Wilde. Rob Corddry, and Hugh Jackman also star.

Frankenweenie: See above.

Eugene Jarecki's documentary The House I Live In LIMITED won the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance festival for its multifaceted examination of the war on drugs.

A married Hugh Laurie has an affair with his neighbors' daughter (Leighton Meester) in dramedy The Oranges, which also stars Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Allison Janney, and Alia Shawkat.

The Paperboy: See above.

Pitch Perfect centers on a collegiate, all-girl a cappella group; Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson star (and sing) in this Glee-like comedy.

Crime novelist Ethan Hawke discovers a box of Sinister old movies in his new home in this supernatural thriller.

French-language drama Sister LIMITED is set near a Swiss ski resort.

Taken 2: See above.

V/H/S LIMITED is a found-footage horror anthology featuring segments by Ti West, Joe Swanberg, and Glen McQuaid.

Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank) directs a challenging new adaptation of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights LIMITED that wowed critics with its cinematography at last year's Venice festival.

Friday, October 12

Now that he's grown and out of rehab, Chris O'Dowd (Bridesmaids) still can't stop torturing his younger brother (Sons of Anarchy's Charlie Hunnam) in the comedy 3,2,1… Frankie Go Boom LIMITED.

Argo: See above.

Even though the free market has spoken—to the tune of a dismal box office take of less than $5 million for the first film—sequel Atlas Shrugged: Part 2 LIMITED arrives with a completely overhauled cast and a new director to continue what is planned as a three-part adaptation of Ayn Rand's Objectivist novel.

A high school biology teacher (Kevin James) tries to raise money for his school by competing as an MMA fighter in the comedy Here Comes the Boom.

Sundance entry Middle of Nowhere LIMITED depicts the struggles of a nurse whose husband is in prison; critics praised the directing, though some found the drama too slow.

Another—though more poorly received—indie drama from this year's Sundance, Nobody Walks LIMITED is co-written by Lena Dunham (HBO's Girls) and centers on the tangled relationships of a group of Silver Lake residents (including John Krasinski, Olivia Thirlby, and Rosemarie DeWitt).

Seven Psychopaths: See above.

Smashed LIMITED: See above.

Christopher Barratier, director of The Chorus, returns to World War II and its impact on children in his new film War of the Buttons LIMITED.

Wednesday, October 17

Holy Motors LIMITED: See above.

Friday, October 19

Tyler Perry takes on the role of homicide detective Alex Cross, previously played by Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider, in a new thriller based on James Patterson's novel Cross.

Killing Them Softly: See above.

The relationship between a young couple (Gael Garcia Bernal and Hani Furstenberg) is tested by a backpacking trip through the Caucasus mountains in drama The Loneliest Planet LIMITED, based on a short story by Tom Bissell.

Spoiler alert: Paranormal Activity 4 features a bunch of fake found footage; Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Catfish) return as directors.

A new generation of top female yoga instructors are the focus of the Annette Bening-narrated doc Yogawoman LIMITED.

Friday, October 26

With The Big Wedding of their adopted son approaching, divorced parents Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton must pretend to be a happily married couple when the young man's ultraconservative biological mother arrives in town; the comedy also stars Amanda Seyfried, Katherine Heigl, Robin Williams, Topher Grace, and Susan Sarandon.

A 15-year-old surfer sets out to conquer some of the world's biggest waves in true-story inspirational drama Chasing Mavericks, from directors Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted.

Cloud Atlas: See above.

A high school girl is forced to skip a party and babysit her younger brother on Halloween, but loses track of him while trick-or-treating, in the teen comedy Fun Size, the feature film directorial debut for Josh Schwartz (The O.C., Chuck).

The Sessions LIMITED: See above.

Horror film sequel Silent Hill: Revelation 3D is based on the videogame Silent Hill 3; Adelaide Clemens, Sean Bean, Kit Harington, and Carrie-Anne Moss star.

Continue reading ...

We conclude our fall preview with a look at November releases on the next page ...

Comments (2)

  • Critic2012  

    Note to the Metacritic editors- Paul Dano was in THERE WILL BE BLOOD (92). THAT should be his highest Metascore, not Meek's Cutoff (85).

  • JUIKER  

    So, what is Skyfall then??

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