Halloween is just around the corner, and the fall movie season is now in full swing.
Award season hopefuls – some of which held their world premieres at prestigious international film festivals ranging from Venice to Telluride to Toronto – are now trickling into local theaters with increasing regularity.
Here are five October 2012 releases (one of which was the closing night film at the recently wrapped 2012 Milwaukee Film Festival) that are worth your time, and more importantly, your hard-earned money, to carve out time in your busy schedule to see.
October 2012 Film Must-Sees
Searching For Sugar Man
Directed by: Malik Bendjelloul
MPAA Rating: PG-13, for brief strong language and some drug references.
Release Date: Oct. 5, 2012
Part detective story, part history lesson, part discography, director Malik Bendjelloul’s uniformly brilliant documentary, Searching For Sugar Man, which details the efforts of two white South African men, Stephen “Sugar” Segerman and Craig Bartholomew Strydom, to find out what exactly happened to their hero: a little-known Hispanic American singer-musician who released two albums in the 1970s to little fanfare stateside. He fell off the radar after being dropped from his record label, and was long rumored dead. I’ve never asked moviegoers to do what I’m about to in all the years I’ve written about film, especially in regards to a film I feel passionately about and want people to see: Please resist the urge to research the film before seeing it. Skip the reviews, most of them contain spoilers; same goes for the film’s official trailer. Read the reviews and watch the trailer afterwards. In my estimation, the less you know about Searching For Sugar Man before seeing it, the better. I can guarantee you will not be disappointed. Not only is it easily the best non-concert music documentary I’ve ever seen, the music – which inspired a generation of South African youth to stand up against Apartheid – is every bit as captivating as the film itself. In theaters now.
Starring: Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston and John Goodman
Directed by: Ben Affleck
MPAA Rating: R, for language and some violent images.
Release Date: Oct. 12, 2012
Few filmmakers of note have flawless track records. Even modern greats like Spielberg, Scorsese, Coppola, Demme and Malick have produced some disappointments or out-and-out duds (Hook and Jack, for example). And those who do have a perfect track record, chances are they haven’t helmed a lot of films which is the case with actor-filmmaker Ben Affleck who’s now three-for-three with his latest directorial effort, Argo. Following his promising directorial debut with Gone Baby Gone (2007) and his successful sophomore effort The Town (2010), Affleck’s third film, Argo, is loosely based on former CIA specialist Tony Mendez’s (played by Affleck) account of the risky rescue attempt the State Department sanctioned to smuggle six U.S. diplomats out of Iran passing them off as Canadian filmmakers scouting potential film locations for a sci-fi film during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. Oscar winner Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine), and Emmy winners Bryan Cranston (AMC’s “Breaking Bad“) and John Goodman (NBC’s short-lived and much-missed “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip“) co-star. In theaters now.
Starring: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurylenko
Directed by: Martin McDonagh
MPAA Rating: R, for strong violence, bloody images, pervasive language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use.
Release Date: Oct. 12, 2012
Director-writer Martin McDonagh’s marks the second collaboration between him and Colin Farrell following the 2008 caper, In Bruges, for which Farrell won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy. In Seven Psychopaths, Farrell plays a struggling screenwriter who becomes enmeshed in Los Angeles’ seedy criminal underworld after his two oddball friends (Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken) kidnap the beloved Shih Tzu of a ruthless gangster (played by Wood Harrelson, who assumed the role after the originally cast Mickey Rourke bowed out over creative differences with McDonagh). The film is a dark, brooding, bloody, hilarious romp with satirical touches that Quentin Tarantino (the modern master of exploitation cinema that shocks and confounds expectations in equal measure) would likely be impressed by. In theaters now.
Starring: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy
Directed by: Ben Lewin
MPAA Rating: R, for strong sexuality including graphic nudity and frank dialogue.
Release Date: Oct. 26, 2012
Based on the true story of American poet Mark O’Brien (masterfully played by Hawkes), this film follows O’Brien’s journey to lose his virginity at the age of 38. After contracting polio as a child, O’Brien has spent most of his hours confined to an iron lung. Oscar winner Helen Hunt (As Good As It Gets) takes on the role of the sex surrogate who assists him, and Oscar nominee William H. Macy (Fargo) plays a priest whom O’Brien turns to for counsel. Director Ben Lewin was stricken with polio as a child himself, and his film has garnered glowing reviews since its Sundance debut and looks to be a serious awards contender. The film was a huge hit with Sundance crowd earlier this year, where it was acquired by Fox Searchlight Pictures for a reported $6 million.
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Zhou Xun, Keith David, Davis Gyasi with Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant
Directed by: Lana Wachowski & Tom Tykwer & Andy Wachowski
MPAA Rating: R, for violence, language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use.
Release Date: Oct. 26, 2012
One of the year’s most eagerly anticipated films, Cloud Atlas features an acting ensemble of four Oscar winners (Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Halle Berry and Jim Broadbent) along with the likes of Hugh Grant, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving and Keith David, among others, with each given the unique challenge of playing multiple roles in different stories over several different time periods. If this were a documentary about summer stock, it wouldn’t be such a novel concept. But in the world of film, unless you’re Eddie Murphy, it’s a rare opportunity for an actor to inhabit multiple characters in one project. This ambitious big screen adaptation of David Mitchell’s best-selling novel is perhaps the first film ever directed by three people (Lana & Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer). Some who have seen it already (the film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September) have called it a masterpiece, while others have said it’s a mess. Either way, it’s likely to be anything but dull. We’ll all be able to find out for ourselves when it opens in theaters this Friday.