fall movies film

This Weekend at the Movies: A Preview

Friday, September 12, 2014 Rob Samuelson

We live in one of the greatest decades for American cinema since moving images were first captured. Since about 2007, every year has had at least a handful of masterpieces from every genre and budget, and that pace seems to be picking up. Unfortunately, due to financial matters (re: being broke), I did not go see as many movies as I would have liked this summer. I saw three of the big blockbusters, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Godzilla, and Guardians of the Galaxy, in theaters. These films, combined with things like this Scott Tobias piece at TheDissolve, make me think this was a superb year for the movies of the “bang-zoom” variety. I will have to catch up as things like X-Men: Days of Future Past and Edge of Tomorrow hit Blu-Ray and streaming services and wish retroactively that I had been richer during the months of April through August, 2014.

However, those same budgetary concerns may soon not apply as I work on getting critics' passes to the fall films typically associated with Oscar season. I will attend the Chicago Independent Film Festival next month for this here publication, but that is only part of the cinematic coverage I hope to bring you. So, with the influx of auteur-ish films on the horizon from now through December, I will be bringing Halfstack readers a quick rundown of what to expect in theaters each weekend. It is not intended to be comprehensive, but more about the movies that personally excite me and those filmmakers and performers I think deserve more eyeballs. Again, depending on cash flow or (hopefully) free screenings, I look to have reviews of the films throughout the following week.

So here are a few movies opening this weekend, September 12, that caught my eye. A note here because September is usually a transitionary month, with some interesting art films getting released, but also a slew of things the studios didn't feel enough confidence in to release during the more lucrative summer season. It leads to some odd thrillers placed alongside costume dramas. It's a great time for counter programming.

The Drop
Director: Michael R. Roskam
Writer: Dennis Lehane (adapted from his short story “Animal Rescue”)
Starring: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts

Author Dennis Lehane has seen a large number of his novels adapted by Hollywood in the last decade plus – Clint Eastwood's Mystic River, Ben Affleck's Gone Baby Gone, Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island. The Drop puts Lehane's low level toughs in Brooklyn instead of Boston. Hardy and Gandolfini run a “drop bar” for all the less-than-legal money flowing through the neighborhood. Bad things happen, they get robbed, and soon desperate choices must be made.

Having a “hard-boiled”(the ins and outs of those low on the criminal totem pole) plot is generally an easy way to get me to see a movie, but a hard-boiled movie with all-world talent like Hardy (Bronson remains one of the greatest films of the last decade), Gandolfini in what is likely his final screen role after his unfortunate passing earlier this year, and Rapace, who is capable of creating otherworldly empathy (she was the highlight of Brian De Palma's otherwise dreadful Passion), then it could be a new favorite.

No Good Deed
Director: Sam Miller
Writer: Aimee Lagos
Starring: Idris Elba, Taraji P. Henson, Leslie Bibb

Idris Elba is an indispensable actor. From his early days as criminal striver Stringer Bell on HBO's The Wire to his supporting role as a god in the Thor films to “cancel[ing] the apocalypse” in last year's Pacific Rim, he's done a lot of big stuff. Missing from his resumé, though, is a trashy thriller where he gets to be a genuine malcontent baddie.

And make no mistake,
No Good Deed is trash. From the trailer alone, I can tell there's a strong sense of dum-dum moralizing and some scenery chewing for Elba. But even if it's just a paycheck gig, the presence of Henson (whose kind role in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was one of the few highlights of that overly saccharine film) and Bibb (charming as the straight woman in A Good Old Fashioned Orgy and the first two Iron Man movies) may class up the joint a little. Either way, this could be a good one to half pay attention to on a lazy Saturday afternoon one day.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them
Director: Ned Benson, making his feature debut
Writer: Ned Benson
Starring: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Bill Hader

Originally conceived as two films about the arc of a relationship, one from the female perspective (Chastain) and one from the male (McAvoy), recent edits have made them one, hence the Them subtitle. Rumor has it according to last week's Filmspotting podcast that all three versions will be released in some form in the future, but for now, filmgoers are getting the combination cut.

The trailer gives a couple hints as to how that will work, with different takes and angles to show the slipperiness of human understanding and interaction. It looks ambitious as all get out, and the two leads are possibly the best in the game right now. Chastain especially has been on an all-universe roll the last few years, with The Tree of Life and Zero Dark Thirty being particular standouts. Now they pair in what looks to be an even-handed approach to relationships, with the highs and lows receiving a lot of screen time.

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