Nocturnal Animals is a psychological thriller written and directed by Tom Ford, with a screenplay adapted from Austin Wright’s 1993 novel Tony and Susan. The film follows Susan (Amy Adams), a rich art gallery owner in Los Angeles. One day, Susan receives a package from her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) that contains the manuscript for his newest novel, which is dedicated to her. As Susan reads further and further into Edward’s sadistic thriller, the more unsettled she becomes.
Many of you know Tom Ford from his prominent position among fashion royalty (or from the catchy line “I don’t pop molly, I rock Tom Ford” from Jay-Z’s 2013 hit “Tom Ford”), but Ford is also one hell of a filmmaker. The 55-year-old designer first broke into Hollywood with his 2009 debut effort A Single Man, a heartfelt and poignant drama about a gay university professor dealing with the loss of his partner, which earned Colin Firth an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. A Single Man was an amazing film, but Ford has truly outdone himself with his sophomore effort Nocturnal Animals. He has an almost innate ability to create the picture-perfect blend of style and story, and his venture into noir here is to cinema’s benefit.
What Ford excels the most at in Nocturnal Animals is his storytelling. Tom Ford seamlessly intertwines three separate narratives: the past, the present, and the fiction. We spend time following present-day Susan, as well as exploring her failed marriage to Edward many years ago—all the while, we see a visual representation of Edward’s novel acted out while present-day Susan reads the book. It is a unique storytelling device that thrives thanks to the profoundly creative mind of its creator. Ford fiercely examines love, heartbreak, revenge, and the notion that we can never turn back time to right our wrongs—the story is disturbing and beautiful, all at the same time. Nocturnal Animals is not a perfect film; but I assure you, it is a striking piece of cinema that absolutely sticks with you!
In Nocturnal Animals, Ford has brought together a stellar cast of actors, each with his or her own talents and contributions that make this film so great. For starters, Amy Adams thrives as Susan—she has always been one of my favorite actresses, and, per usual, she shines in every one of her scenes. Further, I am surprised Jake Gyllenhaal has not gotten more attention for his magnificent portrayal of two characters: Edward in the “past” scenes and Tony in the visual depictions of Edward’s novel. Edward and Tony are two vastly different characters, and Gyllenhaal nails the dichotomy in his performance of both roles.
The two actors garnering the most attention, though, are Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Although Taylor-Johnson won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor (upsetting Mahershala Ali in the process), he did not even receive a nomination at the Oscars; conversely, Shannon snagged an Oscar nomination in the Supporting Actor category. Both actors are exceptional talents in Nocturnal Animals, and I greatly enjoyed their performances. Shannon plays an inexplicable Texas lawman in Edward’s novel, and he knocks his performance out of the park. On the other hand, Taylor-Johnson stole the show for me as the terrifying Ray, the ringleader of a band of thugs in Edward’s novel that torment Tony and his family on the side of the highway in the single greatest scene in the film. Although his character is not one the Academy usually celebrates, I truly believe he deserved that nomination over Shannon. Nocturnal Animals is rated R for violence, menace, graphic nudity, and language.
Happy Sunday! Today I am revealing films No. 10 through No. 6 on the list of my Top 10 most anticipated movies coming out during the fall season. This batch includes a wide range of films, including a likely heavy hitter at the box office, and if you are looking for a great movie to go see in theaters in the next few months, this post will give you some top-notch options among the films that look most poised for success.
No. 10 – The Founder
The Founder details the true story of McDonald’s and its rise to fast-food domination. The film follows Illinois salesman Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) as he meets brothers Mac and Dick McDonald (John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman), who operate a hamburger restaurant in California. Controversially, Kroc tactically maneuvers himself into a position to take control of the McDonald’s brand, which grows into one of the world’s best-known brands after Kroc buys the chain for $2.7 million in 1961.
The source of my interest in The Founder is one man: Michael Keaton. Beginning with Birdman in 2014 (for which Keaton won the Oscar for Best Actor) and Spotlight in 2015 (which won the Oscar for Best Picture), Michael Keaton has undergone a true film renaissance. The resurgence of Keaton as an acting powerhouse is undeniable, and from the looks of the trailer for this film, I can only believe that he is set to kill it once more. The role seems to include elements of comedy, drama, malice, and deceit—a veteran like Keaton is sure to embrace this challenge and deliver a balanced performance.
One of the film’s keys is also one of the film’s (potential) downsides: director John Lee Hancock. Hancock’s directorial history consists of The Rookie, The Alamo, The Blind Side, and Saving Mr. Banks. The positive here is that Hancock clearly knows how to take a true-life story and mold it into a solid movie. The drawback, though, is that each of these films—while well-crafted—got a bit cheesy and cliché at times. As is evident from the trailer, The Founder takes on a seriously controversial subject matter, and I am hoping that this factor takes the film into the category of “drama,” rather than “melodrama”—I want the Big Mac, not the Big Sap. The Founder is set for a theatrical release on December 16, 2016.
Director: John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks, The Blind Side)
Starring: Michael Keaton (Spotlight, Birdman), Laura Dern (99 Homes, Wild), and Nick Offerman (Danny Collins, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl)
No. 9 – Loving
Loving follows the courtship and marriage of Mildred Jeter, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man. The two are arrested and sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 because their interracial marriage violates the state’s anti-miscegenation laws. The couple eventually sues the state of Virginia in a series of proceedings leading to the United States Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Loving v. Virginia, which holds that laws prohibiting interracial marriage are unconstitutional.
Before I even knew much about this film, I was interested. As most of you probably know, in May I graduated from Oklahoma City University School of Law. During my time in law school, I examined the case of Loving v. Virginia in my constitutional law course. It is a case that stands as a pillar of change during a truly despicable time in American history, and I am more than happy to see the Loving’s story played out on the silver screen. Like I have felt with most films coming out this fall, however, the story appears quite susceptible to an overload of sap. But Richard Lawson, a critic for Vanity Fair, claimed the film’s lack of schmaltziness (for lack of a better word) take away the film’s “heft.” For me, I would always err on the side of avoiding anything that makes a story mawkish, so Lawson’s criticism does not bother me whatsoever.
I first heard about Loving this past spring when it competed for the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. Although it did not win the coveted award, the film still ultimately won—it received a standing ovation following its screening and many critics considered the film a surefire Oscar contender. Most of this success can be attributed to Loving’s director (Jeff Nichols) and stars (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga). Nichols is a filmmaker that continues to, movie by movie, build up a critically acclaimed filmography. The beautifully crafted Mud served as my introduction to Nichols as a writer/director, and I look for him to bring that same poise and dexterity to Loving. As far as acting, I haven’t seen much of Ruth Negga, but I can definitely vouch for Joel Edgerton’s abilities—he has proven to be an underrated master of his craft, and all signs point to the same level of sharp performance that I have grown accustomed to seeing from Edgerton. Loving is set for a theatrical release on November 4, 2016.
Director: Jeff Nichols (Midnight Special, Mud)
Starring: Joel Edgerton (Midnight Special, Black Mass), Ruth Negga (Warcraft, Fury), Nick Kroll (Sausage Party, Knight of Cups), and Michael Shannon (Elvis & Nixon, Midnight Special)
No. 8 – Nocturnal Animals
Nocturnal Animals follows Susan (Amy Adams), a successful LA art-gallery owner, whose idyllic life is marred by the constant traveling of her handsome second husband. While he is away, Susan is shaken by the arrival of a manuscript written by her first husband, who she has not seen in years. The manuscript tells the story of a teacher who finds a trip with his family turning into a nightmare. As Susan reads the book, it forces her to examine her past and confront some dark truths.
Tom Ford. Tom Ford. No, I am not quoting lyrics from Jay-Z’s 2013 song “Tom Ford”; I am talking about the director of Nocturnal Animals. While Tom Ford is universally known as one of the world’s greatest fashion designers, he is also an acclaimed filmmaker. In 2009, Ford wrote, directed, and produced A Single Man, an award-winning film starring Colin Firth. I was a huge fan of Ford’s debut effort, and when I found out he was returning this year with Nocturnal Animals, I was on board. Aside from Tom Ford at the wheel, my interest in this film further derives from its acting stars: Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal. Adams definitely ranks in the top five of my favorite actresses currently working, and I cannot wait to see her take on this thrilling role. With Gyllenhaal, we all know what we are going to get—a charismatic yet enigmatic performance; it is a recipe for success and Gyllenhaal rarely lets the audience down. Nocturnal Animals is set for a theatrical release on November 18, 2016.
Director: Tom Ford (A Single Man)
Starring: Amy Adams (Arrival, Big Eyes), Jake Gyllenhaal (Demolition, Everest), Michael Shannon (Elvis & Nixon, Midnight Special), and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Kick-Ass)
No. 7 – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the first of three stand-alone spin-off films set in the Star Wars universe and takes place (temporally) sometime between the conclusion of Episode III and the beginning of Episode IV in the Star Wars franchise. The film is set 18 years after the formation of the Galactic Empire and follows the Rebel Alliance as it recruits Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) to work with Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and a team to steal the Death Star plans.
To be completely honest, I did not watch a single Star Wars movie until last fall when I binge-watched the entire series in anticipation of the release of Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Although the franchise had always been a cinematic blind spot for me, I got caught up in a short span of time and was not disappointed. With the exception of Episodes I and II, I found all of Star Wars films to be highly entertaining and well-crafted pieces of cinema. Because of this, I have an enormous interest in the newest addition to the Star Wars universe.
As was probably the case for most Star Wars fans, the trailer for Rogue One had me hooked. Aside from a journey back to a galaxy far, far away, Rogue One also grabbed my attention with its out-of-this-world (see what I did there) cast. Leading the way is Felicity Jones, a fetching actress who more than impressed me with her Oscar-nominated performance in 2014’s The Theory of Everything. Joining Jones are actors Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed, and Forest Whitaker, a group with varying degrees of experience but unwavering levels of precision. Led by Gareth Edwards (the director of Monsters and Godzilla), this cast has everything going for it to make the newest Star Wars film a success. Let’s hope Rogue One delivers. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is set for a theatrical release on December 16, 2016.
Director: Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, Monsters)
Starring: Felicity Jones (A Monster Calls, The Theory of Everything), Diego Luna (Blood Father, Elysium), and Ben Mendelsohn (Mississippi Grind, Slow West)
No. 6 – Moonlight
Moonlight tells the story of a young black man balancing his dysfunctional home life and coming of age in the “War on Drugs” era. The story of his struggle to find himself is told across three distinct chapters in his life as he experiences the ecstasy, pain, and beauty of falling in love while grappling with his own sexuality.
Moonlight is one of those films that looks to have everything necessary to strive as a sleeper hit this fall. After debuting at this year’s Telluride Film Festival, Moonlight was met with universal acclaim—David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter stated the film was “fluid and seductive, deceptively mellow, and shot with shearing compassion,” while Time Out New York’s Joshua Rothkopf hailed the film as “without a doubt, the reason we go to the movies: to understand, to come closer, to ache, hopefully with another.” For me, these early reviews triggered an immense interest in the film, and I cannot wait to see where Moonlight goes from here.
The film does have some question marks though: director Barry Jenkins and lead actor Trevante Rhodes (who plays Chiron) epitomize the term “unknown.” Although I have never heard of Jenkins, the critics at Telluride collectively praised his abilities. Justin Chang from the LA Times suppressed any apprehension I had about Jenkins, stating that he “made a film that urges the viewer to look past Chiron’s outward appearance and his superficial signifiers of identity, climbing inside familiar stereotypes in order to quietly dismantle them from within . . . . [Moonlight] doesn’t say much. It says everything.” Moonlight is set for a theatrical release on October 21, 2016.
Director: Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy, My Josephine)
Starring: Trevante Rhodes (The Night Is Young, Weightless), André Holland (The Knick, Selma), Naomie Harris (Our Kind of Traitor, Spectre), and Mahershala Ali (Free State of Jones, House of Cards)
Although I love writing about all of the major Academy Awards categories, my favorite part of this blog is revealing my favorite films from the past year. Over the next few weeks, I will announce each of the movies on my “Top 15 Films of 2015” list; however, today I start by announcing my “Honorable Mentions.” Therefore, I present you with the five films that just missed out on making my list of the Top 15 Films of 2015:
No. 16 – Legend
Legend is a British crime thriller written and directed by Brian Helgeland. The film tells the true-life story of Reggie and Ronald Kray, identical twin brothers who headed the preeminent organized-crime gang in London’s East End in the 1950s and 60s. Full disclosure: the story and direction as a whole lose focus two-thirds through the film, which is what prevents this movie from being much higher on my list of 2015’s best films. However, Legend still stands tall as a worthy leader of my Honorable Mentions because of Tom Hardy and Oscar-nominated cinematographer Dick Pope. Tom Hardy plays Reggie Kray. Tom Hardy plays Ronald Kray. That’s right—the most talented actor in world cinema leads the film in both main roles. His acting alone is reason to see this movie. Reggie can be violent and dangerous, but he has a softer, more romantic side. Ronald, on the other hand, is the walking example of mental instability, and his violent side is worn much more openly on his sleeves. Hardy’s performance is one of the more amazing things I have ever witnessed in film. You truly forget early on that Hardy is playing both roles—you connect with these characters on a completely individualized basis, as if two actors pulled this off. This visceral exposition was inherently complex, and Dick Pope deserves mounds of credit for making it happen from a cinematography perspective. I highly recommend this movie because of Tom Hardy alone, and it is additionally worth your time to read this article about how, technically, the double-performance by Hardy was created.
No. 17 – Southpaw
Southpaw is a boxing drama directed by Antoine Fuqua, with a screenplay by Kurt Sutter. The film follows world champion boxer Billy Hope as he attempts to get his career back on track after seemingly losing everything in life: his wife is killed in a tragic shooting, and his daughter is stripped from Billy’s care by Child Protective Services. I only saw Southpaw recently, and since I saw Creed beforehand, my expectations for Gyllenhaal’s boxing movie were not high—I mean, how could there be TWO great boxing movies in one year? Boy, was I wrong. Creed (which will come up much later on my blog…wink, wink) and Southpaw are vastly different films, each with its own identity.
Gyllenhaal nailed his leading role, even if the character appeared a bit too dark for me at times. Sutter’s story was fantastic and hard-hitting, which comes as no surprise after I found out that he created FX’s critically acclaimed Sons of Anarchy. I have been incredibly disappointed with Antoine Fuqua’s directorial efforts since Training Day (a top-20 film for me of all time), so I am thrilled to see him back to making remarkable movies. Although I wish I could have seen Eminem in the lead role (the story was based on his life and the rapper was attached to the film for years), I was glad he still crept into the finished product: one of the best scenes features Gyllenhaal training while Eminem’s “Phenomenal” blasts through the speakers—it was glorious!
No. 18 – The Gift
The Gift is a psychological thriller written, directed, and produced by Joel Edgerton. The film follows a married couple, Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall), as their lives are turned upside down with the introduction of Gordo (Joel Edgerton), a mysterious acquaintance from Simon’s past. This movie went decently under the radar throughout its limited release towards the end of summer, and I was lucky to have come across it—it was one of the more surprising film experiences of 2015 for me. I have always enjoyed Edgerton as an actor, but my respect for his acting abilities has wildly intensified after seeing this movie. The character evokes the epitome of creepy-crawly emotions, and Edgerton nailed every nuanced look and gesture. What really surprised me was how impressive Edgerton is as a filmmaker—plus, this is his directorial debut. Wow, what a way to start off with a bang! I have seen The Gift twice at this point (once in theaters, once at home), and with a second view, the thrills and chills were still aplenty. Need a good Redbox suggestion? Here you go. You’re welcome!
No. 19 – Black Mass
Black Mass is a crime drama directed by Scott Cooper, with a screenplay by Jez Butterworth and Mark Mallouk. The film follows the true-life events surrounding one of the most notorious American mobsters: Boston-native James “Whitey” Bulger. If you like gangster movies, then this is a must-see; Cooper has created a worthy entry into one of film’s best genres. The direction is great, the story is well crafted, and the movie is thrilling, but the standout feature of Black Mass is the ensemble cast (and the performances that flow therefrom). As I pointed out in my Fall Preview in August, Johnny Depp is (despite his many flaws) at his core an incredibly talented performer—all of that talent is on full display in this movie. There are also wonderful supporting performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, Rory Cochrane, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Plemons, Peter Sarsgaard, Adam Scott, Dakota Johnson, and Corey Stoll. However, my favorite part of the film was Joel Edgerton as FBI agent John Connolly. Edgerton’s character had by far the biggest character arc, and Edgerton knocked every aspect of that journey out of the park. For that performance alone, Black Mass is one you need to check out.
No. 20 – Bridge of Spies
Bridge of Spies is a Cold War drama directed by Steven Spielberg, with a screenplay written by Matt Charman and the Coen brothers (Joel and Ethan). The film follows the true-life story of James Donavon (Tom Hanks), an American attorney tasked with defending Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance). Additionally, Donavon helps the CIA negotiate for and assist in the exchange of Rudolf Abel for Francis Gary Powers, an American spy-plane pilot captured by the Soviets. No one is happier than I am to see a Spielberg movie among the ranks of my favorite films from the past year. Movies like Jaws, E.T., Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, and Catch Me If You Can are incredible, absolutely incredible. However, recent films like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, War Horse, and Lincoln forced me into a state of lost hope for Spiely as a filmmaker. I included Bridge of Spies on my Fall Preview because I had high hopes for the movie, considering Spielberg employed the Coen brothers to write the script. The Coen brothers are some of the most masterful screenwriters in the industry, and they brought their A-game to this movie. With a superb script, vintage directing, and skilled acting by Hanks and Rylance, Bridge of Spies turned out to be one of the year’s best—obviously the Academy agreed, as it nominated the film for six Oscars, including Best Picture.
Nightcrawler is a neo-noir crime thriller written and directed by Dan Gilroy. The film, set in a nocturnal Los Angeles, follows Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), a man desperate for work who happens upon the world of “nightcrawling”—a trade where freelance journalists monitor police scanners in order to rush to the scene of wrecks, fires, assaults, murders, and more to capture video of the events to sell to the highest bidder. Determined to make himself an overnight success, Lou embarks on a determined, but twisted journey into the bloodthirsty business of turning crime into dollar signs.
Of all the films released in 2014, you will not find a more sadistic, but comical, spine-chilling, but appalling one than Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler. Dan Gilroy has not had the most prestigious career in film, making his mark only as an average writer in the industry (over a 20-year period, from 1992–2012, he penned only six screenplays). But in Nightcrawler (Gilroy’s directorial debut), he has elevated himself into “a-force-to-be-reckoned-with” territory. This film explores the old media adage of “if it bleeds, it leads,” and this broad, violent idea provides Gilroy with plenty of room to delve deep into the underbelly of society’s voyeuristic lust for blood. I am sure everyone is familiar with the term “rubbernecking,” (commonly used to describe slowing down to view the scene of a car accident) and this is the primal theme that Gilroy surveys. In the film, Lou chases down accidents, murders, and so on before the police can arrive to shoot footage of the incident, and then he negotiates for the purchase of that footage with Nina Romina (Rene Russo), the morning news director at a failing local TV station who desperately needs a boost in ratings. Therefore, Gilroy’s story is the manifestation of the cyclical demand for this raw, brutal footage: society is enabled by Lou (who shoots the footage), Lou is enabled by Nina (who purchases his footage), Nina is enabled by the news station (who is in dire need of an increase in ratings), and the news station is in turn enabled by society (who craves this footage). The concept seems so simple, and Gilroy does an exceptional job of delineating this perverse plot in the most irksome way.
One mark of a great writer is his/her ability to create a memorable character, such as Tarantino’s Hans Landa (Inglourious Basterds), Paul Thomas Anderson’s Daniel Plainview (There Will Be Blood), and Oliver Stone’s Tony Montana (Scarface). In Lou Bloom, Dan Gilroy has created one of the most inexplicable, sociopathic, and demented characters since Travis Bickle in Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. One of the most unnerving features of Lou Bloom is his appearance. Jake Gyllenhaal lost 20 pounds for the role, and this gauntness is the defining characteristic of his portrayal of the ruthless antihero. Gyllenhaal’s eyes appear sunken in throughout (making him look like an unsettled insomniac), and his greased-back hair and robotic-like demeanor go perfectly hand-in-hand with Lou’s manic rhetoric throughout the film. An established actor in the industry, Gyllenhaal is no stranger to remarkable, critically acclaimed performances. But I believe that his portrayal of Lou Bloom in Nightcrawler is by far his greatest of all time—this is why, in my opinion, the Academy’s biggest mistake this year (aside from The Lego Movie getting jipped) was leaving Gyllenhaal out of the Best Actor category. Apart from Gyllenhaal’s physical dedication to the role of Lou, he delivers one of the most icily neurotic performances of 2014. Lou is a fascinating mix of blank-stared sociopath and charismatic comic, and Gyllenhaal brings these utterly multifarious characteristics to life in an unruly manner.
Nightcrawler also features some marvelous supporting performances from Rene Russo and Riz Ahmed. Russo (writer/director Dan Gilroy’s real-life wife) executes her role as the morning news director Nina Romina with effortlessness. Nina knows that her job is on the line at a news station that is rapidly faltering, and with that in the back of her mind, she must go to extreme lengths to survive. She is chilling in her own way (not to mention wildly matter-of-fact), and Russo gives one of the most surprising performances in Nightcrawler. Riz Ahmed also gives an unpredictable breakout performance as Rick, Lou’s ill-fated recruit/sidekick. Riding around every single night with Lou (a character with little to no moral compass), Rick is consistently besieged by the ferocious nature of this business—he attempts to be, to no avail, the voice of reason for the nightcrawling duo. Ahmed brilliantly delineates the conflicted nature of Rick’s character, and he breathes a humanistic vivacity into the only character worthy of empathy. Nightcrawler is rated R for violence including graphic images, and for language.
Hey movie fans! I hope everyone enjoyed the introductory post to my Fall Preview 2013 a couple days ago, which included five honorable mention films set to debut in theaters in the next few months. Today’s post reveals films No. 10 through No. 6 on my list of Top 10 most anticipated movies coming out during the fall season. This batch includes some surefire, award-quality works of cinema, and if you are looking for a great movie to go see in theaters in the next few months, this post will give you some top-notch options.
No. 10 – Prisoners
Prisoners is a film about two girls that go missing and follows a detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) and a desperate father (Hugh Jackman) as they work to track both girls down. Even though the trailer presents the film as a thriller following two families trying to track down their daughters, Gyllenhaal says it is much more than meets the eye: “What’s different about this story is the idea that revenge just begets more revenge and you become a prisoner of that need to seek revenge.” The trailer initially caught my eye with its dark, menacing demeanor, and not only was I captivated with the idea in general, I was even more fascinated with Paul Dano’s role. He has long been a fantastic character actor, and I expect nothing but a superb supporting performance in this film from the twenty-nine-year-old star. Prisoners is set for a theatrical release on September 20, 2013.
Director: Denis Villeneuve (Incendies)
Starring: Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables, Wolverine), Jake Gyllenhaal (Brothers, End of Watch), Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood), Terrence Howard (Crash, Hustle & Flow)
No. 9 – Rush
Rush tells the true story of Formula One rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda. At the 1976 German Grand Prix, Lauda (Daniel Brühl) was involved in a disastrous crash that nearly took his life. The film follows his comeback and relationship with Hunt (Chris Hemsworth). I am always a sucker for a quality sports-themed movie, and I have been aware of Rush for quite some time. Not only is the story emotional and uplifting, but the film also features two exceptional actors playing these infamous lead roles. Over the past couple of years, I have become a huge fan of Hemsworth’s acting abilities, highlighted in Thor, The Avengers, and The Cabin in the Woods. I also expect big things in this film from Daniel Brühl, whose breakout performance was in my favorite film of all time, 2009’s Inglourious Basterds. Lastly, the film features a supporting performance by one of my favorite actresses in cinema, Alexandra Maria Lara. Needless to say, this movie has everything going for it, and I anticipate moviegoers everywhere to “rush” to the theater to see it (pun clearly intended). Rush is set for a theatrical release on September 13, 2013.
Director: Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon)
Starring: Chris Hemsworth (Thor, The Cabin in the Woods), Daniel Brühl (Inglourious Basterds), Olivia Wilde (The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Drinking Buddies), Alexandra Maria Lara (Downfall, L’affaire Farewell)
No. 8 – Her
Her is a film about an introverted writer named Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) who is dealing with the end of a long relationship. He decides to buy a new computer operating system named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), and through their conversations, Theodore begins to fall in love with “Samantha.” The first time I saw this trailer, I thought, “wow, what an odd premise.” But the more I watched it, the more engrossed I became with the subject matter. Half of my intrigue dealt directly with this unique plot, but the other half came from the people involved with the film. No matter how odd he may be as a human being, Joaquin Phoenix is still one of the single most talented actors working in Hollywood, and his involvement with the film foreshadows an excess of award praise for the movie. I am also looking to this movie to put Spike Jonze, the director, back on the cinematic map. He has had success directing on the silver screen in the past, with movies like Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, but his 2009 live-action adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are was clearly less than spectacular in my book. I am hoping Her revitalizes my enjoyment of Jonze’s films. Her is set for a theatrical release on December 18, 2013.
Director: Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Where the Wild Things Are)
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line, The Master), Amy Adams (The Master, American Hustle), Scarlett Johansson (Hitchcock, Don Jon)
No. 7 – Out of the Furnace
Out of the Furnace is a film that follows an ex-convict (Christian Bale) as he seeks revenge on a crime boss (Woody Harrelson) that he suspects has something to do with the disappearance of his missing brother (Casey Affleck). Obviously, with a couple of the heavy hitters of Hollywood in this film, specifically the always-remarkable Christian Bale, it will definitely be one to look out for come Oscar season; however, I am most eager for the film because of the director, Scott Cooper. Cooper has only directed a single feature film before Out of the Furnace: the 2009 drama Crazy Heart, which earned Jeff Bridges the Academy Award for Best Actor. I immediately fell in love with Crazy Heart after seeing it for the first time, and I have been eagerly awaiting Cooper’s next film for four years. Luckily, he has come back strong with a motion picture that is already receiving a fair amount of Oscar buzz, and I cannot wait to see how his second go-round pans out. Out of the Furnace is set for a wide theatrical release on December 6, 2013.
Director: Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart)
Starring: Christian Bale (The Dark Knight Rises, American Hustle), Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints), Woody Harrelson (The Hunger Games, Now You See Me)
No. 6 – Inside Llewyn Davis
Inside Llewyn Davis is a film about an anti-social musician (Oscar Isaac) and the struggles he faces as he tries to salvage any success in his personal and professional lives. The newest Coen Brothers film does not quite look like any other that they have created before, but my devotion to their work is unrelenting, and I believe this film will captivate not only myself, but also all movie fans alike. For Mumford & Sons fans, this movie will be right up your alley—Marcus Mumford and Academy Award-winner T-Bone Burnett produced the folk-style music incorporated throughout the film. Some gifted young performers appear in the film in addition to Isaac, including Mr. “Suit and Tie” himself, Justin Timberlake, and Carey Mulligan, one of the most popular and talented young actresses in the business today (not to mention she’s Marcus Mumford’s wife). The film debuted at Cannes earlier this year, winning the second-most prestigious award available, the Grand Prix, and it was met with rave reviews—based on 23 critics reviews, the film has already garnered a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. With this film, expect the same amazing product the Coen Brothers have been handing out for many years, including just the precise balance of emotion and their classic satirical humor. Inside Llewyn Davis is set for a theatrical release on December 6, 2013.
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men, True Grit)
Starring: Oscar Isaac (Drive, The Bourne Legacy), Carey Mulligan (Drive, The Great Gatsby), John Goodman (Argo, Flight), Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy, Country Strong), Justin Timberlake (Trouble with the Curve, Runner, Runner)