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The JoBlo.com 2014 Fall Movie Preview

09.03.2014by: Paul Shirey
Now that the blockbuster season is over it's time to jump into awards season as the leaves begin to turn and we head into the cold months. Typically focusing on more complex fare, but not without extravagance or silliness, the fall movie season brings with it a series of entries that give your brain a bit more to chew on, albeit with a few deviations that let it take a comfortable nap. There's a healthy dose of cool flicks on the docket, from a sci-fi epic to a Biblical opus to a man-to-beast horror show to a WWII tank actioner to a murder-mystery to a battle-filled Hobbit film to a dictator assassination comedy to a stop-motion monster pic to a 20-years-late dumb comedy sequel and beyond. In short, whether it's Oscar bait or plain ol' escapism, there's plenty to satisfy all tastes as we bundle up into the next movie season.

#20 Horns (October 31st - limited)

Stephen King's offspring, Joe Hill, penned the original novel for HORNS, which finds a man awakening after the mysterious death of his girlfriend, only to find that horns are sprouting from his head. The horns in question give the man, played by Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, the ability to sense secrets from those he questions, which is kind of important as he's the prime suspect in the murder of his girlfriend, played by Juno Temple. Directed by horror genre favorite Alexandre Aja (THE HILLS HAVE EYES and PIRANHA remakes, HIGH TENSION) the film is a unique blend of black comedy, horror, and even a little romance, making for a film that goes beyond a simple odd premise. It's also cool to see Radcliffe taking on roles that go way outside the comfort zone of "The Boy Who Lived" and making a name for himself outside the realm of Hogwarts. Beyond that, this just looks like a good time and thankfully arrives on just the right day.

#19 Foxcatcher (November 14th - limited)

Yet another biographical film (hey, it IS Oscar season, right?), FOXCATCHER follows the real-life story of Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), an Olympic wrestler whose relationship with sponsor John du Pont (Steve Carell) and brother Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) leads to tragedy. Directed by MONEYBALL's Bennett Miller, the compelling tale is made even more so with Carell breaking the comedy mold and taking on the role of du Pont, a rather colorful and enigmatic character (seriously, Google him) who was likely a fun challenge to portray. Tatum and Ruffalo are also playing against type (maybe less so for Tatum, but still) and if the trailers aren't enough to creep you out and invite you into this crazed story I don't know what could. For my money, seeing Carell take the plunge into this character's world is enough to get me on the FOXCATCHER team.

#18 Big Eyes (December 25th)

Director Tim Burton takes a deviation from the fantasy-themed worlds he typically inhabits and jumps back into the biographical business with BIG EYES, based on the life of painter Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) who was made famous in the 1960's with her popular "big eyes" paintings, which her husband, Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), took credit for, causing an intense legal battle over the rights to the work. With a screenplay by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (ED WOOD, THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT) this may be the project to put Burton back in the good graces of fans who have felt that he's grown too comfortable with his work and style of late. As a huge fan of ED WOOD, I'm excited to see Burton do something off the beaten path and with Adams and Waltz in the lead, along with a supporting cast that includes Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman, Danny Huston, and Terence Stamp, this could easily be one of the director's best flicks in years.

#17 Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (December 25th)

The time-traveling boys are back! Well, most of them anyway. Director Steve Pink returns after the 2010 hit HOT TUB TIME MACHINE, along with Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Collette Wolfe, and Chevy Chase, subbing in Adam Scott for the notably absent John Cusack (guess he's too busy with the direct-to-video classics). Also joining in the fun is Community's Gillian Jacobs, who joins in the misadventures when our wacky crew jump into the future, rather than past, causing all manner of mischievous, raunchy mayhem along the way. The red-band trailer for the film shown at Comic Con was more than enough to show that these guys may well have caught lightning in a bottle for a second time and furthers the chase for the Great White Buffalo.

#16 The Boxtrolls (September 26th)

Laika's THE BOXTROLLS is the latest stop-motion animation feature from the makers of CORALINE and PARANORMAN, both of which were outstanding entries to the genre and proof that Laika's name is more than enough to bank on for future such endeavors. Starring Game of Thrones' Isaac Hempstead Wright as a human boy adopted by a group of underground "boxtrolls" who collect trash to make inventions, the film boasts a strong supporting cast, including Ben Kingsley, Elle Fanning, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Richard Ayoade, Jared Harris, and Tracy Morgan. Based on the children's novel 'Here Be Monsters' by Alan Snow, THE BOXTROLLS has a rich universe that is ripe for exploration in stop-animation form and looks absolutely stunning based on the trailers we've seen thus far, which not only inspires me into the theater, but also cements Laika's ability to pick and choose some great material to explore with the medium.

#15 Big Hero 6 (November 7th)

Marvel's first big-screen animated film with Disney, BIG HERO 6 is an adaptation of the comic of the same name that follows child prodigy Hiro Hamada, along with his inflated robot Baymax, as they team up with a group of friends to form a band of high-tech heroes in the fictional city of San Fransokyo. Although Disney is trumpeting the teams of FROZEN and WRECK-IT RALPH as the key selling points to BIG HERO 6, it's still got Marvel's superhero formula all over it and the animation looks surprisingly sharp and fun with a Pixar-like twist. With plenty of action, humor, and character to hold the animated tale together, BIG HERO 6 simply looks like a ton of fun and will be a welcome addition to the animation-light year we've had so far.

#14 American Sniper (December 25th)

Based on the autobiography by legendary Navy S.E.A.L. Chris Kyle, AMERICAN SNIPER is a project that changed many hands, including Steven Spielberg's, before landing with another legend; Clint Eastwood. The Oscar-winning director took on the tale of America's most-lethal sniper with Producer/Actor Bradley Cooper taking on the lead role, who has carried and nurtured the project with personal zeal since getting attached. Kyle's numerous exploits have left a compelling legacy with more than 150 confirmed kills during his wartime service and a host of interesting tales, including a purported incident with Jesse Ventura that led to the former Governor getting punched out as well as a confrontation with two carjackers that led to their deaths at the hands of Kyle. With such a rich character to draw from and with the duo of Cooper and Eastwood steering the ship, there's little doubt that AMERICAN SNIPER will be anything less than an engaging view.

#13 The Judge (October 10th)

It's hard to imagine Robert Downey Jr. without his Iron Man visage anymore, but even when stripped of his armor, goatee, and fellow Avengers, the star can still bring the charm and chops, which he looks to prove with his latest non-superhero jaunt, THE JUDGE. Co-starring the legendary Robert Duvall, along with Vincent D'Onofrio, Billy Bob Thornton, Vera Farmiga, Leighton Meester, and Dax Shepard, the film is part coming-home drama and murder mystery with WEDDING CRASHERS David Dobkin at the helm. Although labeled a drama, the film still has that Downey Jr. charm that permeates anything he's in anymore, making for a much more enticing film than it would otherwise likely be. And, that's just fine, actually. THE JUDGE could be the perfect film to mix things up a bit and allow us to see RDJ stretch those acting chops beyond his debonair Marvel counterpart.

#12 The Equalizer (September 26th)

The TRAINING DAY duo of Denzel Washington and director Antoine Fuqua reunite to adapt an '80's TV show that starred a British white guy? Okay, tell me more. Apparently, test screenings of the film had the highest scores for an R-rated movie in the studio’s history. All right. I'm in. Really, there's not much to sell here. You've got Denzel, whose built a reputation as a reliable onscreen badass, Fuqua, who excels when he's on his game, a solid back up cast including Chloe Moretz and Marton Csokas, and that elusive hard R-rating, which causes most studios to flinch these days. At this point, if you're going to go "R" with an action film then you may as well go all in and based on early reactions this one goes the distance. We've been starved of some old-school bloody testosterone-laden action for a while now and THE EQUALIZER may well be the antidote to that all-inclusive PG-13 that can be stymying to the genre. My body is ready.

#11 The Interview (December 25th)

Last year's comedy hit THIS IS THE END featured an all star cast from Camp Apatow that was led by both Seth Rogen and James Franco with Rogen, along with writing partner Evan Goldberg, at the helm. The filmmaking duo is back for THE INTERVIEW, a high-concept comedy that see's Rogen and Franco as tabloid journalists recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Sounds like a fun romp, right? Well, just don't ask North Korea, who have called the film a “wanton act of terror” and promised "merciless retaliation" if released, which only increases our desire to see it. In true Rogen/Goldberg fashion, the film looks like a blast and is sure to push the envelope with their usual blend of raunchy humor and bro-bonding jokes. Thankfully, Lizzy Caplan joins the misadventure as an agent helping the unlikely duo with their assassination plan. Will THE INTERVIEW start a war with North Korea? Doubtful, but if the movie is as fun as it looks then it could certainly fire up the box office.

#10 The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part One (November 21st)

What began as a satisfying adaptation of a YA property that blossomed into a major franchise and launched the career of Jennifer Lawrence, THE HUNGER GAMES series has grown into something with a much larger demographic appeal, particularly after the EMPIRE STRIKES BACK-ish sequel from last year, CATCHING FIRE. It doesn't hurt that Lawrence has gone on to become an Oscar winner that's shot to the top of the A-list and that the film's are getting much darker and action heavy as they progress, bringing in an audience that wasn't so warm to the concept in the beginning. Not that the series needed it, but still. With the third entry in the series, THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY - PART ONE, director Francis Lawrence once again leads the charge with Lawrence's Katniss becoming the face of a revolution as war breaks out amongst the various districts in Panem. It's looking like a much more violent and war-torn entry and with newcomers to the series Natalie Dormer, Julianne Moore, and Toby Jones joined by veteran's to the series, including Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Josh Hutcherson, and more, there's good indication that this next entry could be every bit as exciting and surprising as the last.

#9 Dumb and Dumber To (November 14th)

After nearly 20 years we're finally getting the comedy sequel we craved for so long. The only question now is; do we still want it? Well, after seeing the first trailer for DUMB AND DUMBER TO it seemed that Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels barely missed a beat (or aged a day for that matter) since The Farrelly Brothers' 1994 hit DUMB AND DUMBER. Now Harry (Daniels) and Lloyd (Carrey) are back for another lame-brain journey into insane stupidity and it looks to be every bit as hilariously ridiculous as the first. The simple story has the two searching for "one of their long lost children in the hope of gaining a new kidney" but we all know it's less about them attaining their goal and more about all the crazy shit that happens on the way. SIN CITY 2 recently paid the price for waiting too long to produce a sequel, so you have to wonder if DUMB AND DUMBER TO will suffer the same fate. That said, if it can produce even a fraction of the original's quotable moments then we may be in good hands. Either way, it's good to see Harry and Lloyd back in their dimwit form.

#8 Birdman (October 17th - limited)

With Oscar buzz already trickling in from director Alejandro González Iñárritu's (BABEL, AMORES PERROS) latest effort, it seems that BIRDMAN is much more than a comedic superhero tale. Starring Michael Keaton (in an ironic twist) as an aging actor who portrayed an iconic superhero and is trying to reclaim his former glory with a Broadway play, the film debuted at the Venice Film Festival with rave reviews and has created a stir that pushes it into absolute must-see territory. For what seemed like just an interesting-looking dark comedy, BIRDMAN is apparently much, much more. It's said that the film flows "seamlessly" as if there were no cuts and that Michael Keaton delivers a career-making performance in what is more of an abstract, stylistic, and deep film than anyone anticipates. With word of mouth like that it's hard to dismiss BIRDMAN. Supporting stars Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, and Naomi Watts only sweeten the deal in what is sure to be a much talked about film.

#7 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (December 17th)

With a swift title change to focus on the "Battle" aspect and less on the casual stroll of "There and Back Again" the final installment of THE HOBBIT trilogy is set to wage war on the big screen, once again in optional HFR (High Frame Rate) and 3D. Director Peter Jackson leads his sixth and final(?) Middle Earth flick with a heavy focus on the title's subtly named "Battle of the Five Armies" which has been slowly gathering in the last two films, with a dragon still to contend with and the converging forces heading to The Lonely Mountain. So far, THE HOBBIT films have divided fans, with some loving the return to Jackson's Middle Earth and others loathing it, while calling out the filmmakers for stretching a simple story (originally planned as two films with Guillermo del Toro at the helm) into an overlong and overstuffed production. Love 'em or hate 'em, though, THE HOBBIT films will draw to a close with this one, which looks to be filled with all the action and effects you've come to expect from a fantasy finale (especially one that's been building for two films).

#6 Fury (October 17th)

Although director David Ayer's last film, SABOTAGE, failed to find the action genre footing that star Arnold Schwarzenegger needed, it was still a slice of brutal filmmaking that is evocative of the filmmaker's style and proof that he's ready to mix that into some mainstream fare. Enter FURY, a WWII tank actioner that has Brad Pitt (aptly named Wardaddy) leading a Sherman tank crew behind enemy lines on a deadly mission. With Ayer, however, you can expect that the mission matters a lot less than the characters, who typically take center stage in his films. With a cast of tankers that include Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, Shia LaBeouf, Jon Bernthal, Scott Eastwood, and Jason Isaacs, you can count on some intense scenes, both against the enemy and each other, as they navigate the battlefield under the guidance of Ayer. If the director is able to maintain the gritty punch of his previous efforts in a big studio film then we may well have a potential new classic in the war film genre with FURY.

#5 Tusk (September 19th)

It's hard to peg just what's going on with Kevin Smith's directing career these days, especially with his constant "retirement" talk. With The Weinstein Company passing on CLERKS III, Smith has found a new method of finding ideas for films, which basically equates to culling from "they should make a movie about that" conversations with friends. The on-again-off-again director has taken that route with TUSK, an idea that stemmed from a podcast discussion over a real ad for a "man seeking Walrus rooommate." Smith turned the humorous ad into a nightmare horror film, which borrows from the original ad and takes it to some HUMAN CENTIPEDE level insanity. Starring Justin Long, Genesis Rodriguez, Haley Joel Osment, and Smith's RED STATE star Michael Parks, who plays the "man" who is seeking the Walrus companion, the film looks batshit crazy (but in a good way). Based on the trailer, this looks like an absolute crazy blast and with Smith promising that we'll see Long go "full Walrus" there's some titillating excitement to see what that entails. It's the most compelling thing Smith has offered up as a director in a while and if he pulls it off it could be a new career awakening.

#4 Gone Girl (October 3rd)

Director David Fincher returns to the big screen with another dark and moody tale that fits his sensibilities and style perfectly. GONE GIRL, based on the popular novel by Gillian Flynn, has the future Dark Knight, Ben Affleck, as the prime suspect in the murder of his wife (Rosamund Pike) with reporters, police, and lawyers descending upon him from all angles as the story unravels and the mystery deepens. With so many people already well-versed on the ending of the saga, both Fincher and Flynn have reportedly constructed a new ending that will satisfy both fans of the book and newcomers, while still maintaining the integrity of the story. It's a ballsy move and one that many are curious to see play out. With a supporting cast that includes Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, Scoot McNairy, Kim Dickens, and Patrick Fugit and yet another pulse-pounding score from Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor this is sure to be a big draw for fans of Fincher's lurid style.

#3 Exodus: Gods and Kings (December 12th)

Director Ridley Scott can be hit or miss, and there was a time that it seemed like he'd never get back on top after his early sci-fi faves ALIEN and BLADE RUNNER took hold. Then along came GLADIATOR, which put the stylistic filmmaker back in the game. Since then, he's remained one of the most prolific and compelling filmmakers in Hollywood, dipping his toe in a multitude of genres, each with varying degrees of success. Now, he returns to the sword-and-sandal genre (and following in the footsteps of Darren Aronofsky's NOAH) with EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS, starring the former Dark Knight, Christian Bale, as well as Joel Edgerton, Aaron Paul, Ben Kingsley, John Turturro, and Scott's former ALIEN star, Sigourney Weaver. The Biblical tale recounts the story of Moses (Bale) and Ramses (Edgerton) and their struggle against one another to lead the Israelite slaves out of Egypt. It's got all the "epic feel" style of Scott's previous entries in similar genres with plenty of room for some stunning visuals and old-school battles that make for a viscerally thrilling time at the movies. I'm a sucker for a Ridley Scott epic, so this one's an easy sell.

#2 Inherent Vice (December 12th - limited)

Based on the novel by Thomas Pynchon, the next opus from director Paul Thomas Anderson is a bit of a departure from his usual heavy-handed storytelling. A "pothead' private investigator, played by The Master's Joaquin Phoenix, is visited by en ex-girlfriend who reveals an intricate plot that unfolds into a series of misadventures and characters, played by a laundry list of talent, including Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Maya Rudolph, Owen Wilson, Michael K. Williams, Eric Roberts, Jena Malone, and more. It's a great ensemble cast for what feels like a gonzo '70's set detective story that will likely have a few surprises in store. I expect we'll see some truly strange and terrific performances from this one and look forward to seeing it unfold in true PTA fashion. No matter what he does, you can always count on that.

#1 Interstellar (November 7th)

Director Christopher Nolan's films are at the point now where each new entry is an event, much like a new Tarantino or Spielberg or del Toro film. There's an anticipation based on his style and previous entries that garners attention from both rabid fans and casual spectators alike. What is being called his most ambitious film to date, INTERSTELLAR is a sci-fi tale that follows "a group of explorers" who set about to "make use of a newly discovered wormhole" in order to discover a way to save humanity. Not much more is known about the film, which is cloaked in typical Nolan secrecy, as is part of his charm. One thing is for sure, after the emotionally thrilling trailers we've seen so far and an absolutely stellar cast, including Matthew McConaughey at the peak of the McConaissance, as well as Jessica Chastain, John Lithgow, David Oyelowo, Topher Grace, Casey Affleck, Wes Bentley, and returning Nolan-ites Michael Caine and Anne Hathaway this is one that has rocketed to the top of our must-see list.

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