By Jack Rico
October could very well be the single best month to watch movies of 2013. When you do a quick overview of the films being released this month, five of them are the frontrunners to win Best Picture at the Oscars 2014. Many of these movies possess all star casts, top flight directors and innovative and fresh stories. They are also coming fresh off of great reviews at Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York Film Festivals. Not to be ignored are the commercial fare which includes Arnold and Sly together in a full feature film as opposed to cameos and one of the greatest assembled cast of Hispanics in film history in ‘Machete Kills‘ and ‘The Counselor‘. Do yourself a service, if you haven’t been to the movies all year, this is the one month you should step out and watch one.
Here are 10 movies I recommend you watch…now!
10) Escape Plan (Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 50 Cent, Vincent D’Onofrio)
Plot: When a structural-security authority finds himself incarcerated in a prison he designed, he has to put his skills to escape and find out who framed him.
Why you have to see it: The big draw here is seeing Schwarzenegger next to Stallone, not in a cameo, but in a full feature role. The Expendables was just a tease; this should satisfy hard core 80’s action aficionados. Also, this sort of senseless escapism actioner is great for nostalgia and for a fun time at the movies.
9) Machete Kills (Danny Trejo, Sofía Vergara, Antonio Banderas, Demián Bichir, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Vanessa Hudgens, Lady Gaga, Charlie Sheen, Cuba Gooding Jr., Amber Heard, Alexa Vega, Mel Gibson)
Plot: The U.S. government recruits Machete to battle his way through Mexico in order to take down an arms dealer who looks to launch a weapon into space.
Why you have to see it: Director Robert Rodriguez has once again gathered some of the top Hispanic names in the film industry to offer us a violent, yet hilarious time, in the name of exploitation cinema. ‘Machete,’ which has given Danny Trejo a legitimate movie career, is as twistedly funny of a film as you’ll experience. This sequel sees Rodriguez’s sense of violent comedy at an all time high. You’ll be laughing for hours for its extremist violence and irresistible, campy humor and performances. Can’t say no to that on a Saturday night with friends.
8) The Fifth Estate (Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Brühl, Carice van Houten, Alicia Vikander)
Plot: A dramatic thriller based on real events, The Fifth Estate reveals the quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power that turned an Internet upstart into the 21st century’s most fiercely debated organization.
Why you have to see it: One of the best acted films in this slate goes to The Fifth Estate. Benedict Cumberbatch and cast give some excellent performances that will carry the movie as a top contender in Oscar acting categories. In regards to the script, this thriller has the DNA of thrillers from the 70’s – gritty, raw, with an edgy narrative.
7) Carrie (Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Ansel Elgort)
Plot: A reimagining of the classic horror tale about Carrie White, a shy girl outcast by her peers and sheltered by her deeply religious mother, who unleashes telekinetic terror on her small town after being pushed too far at her senior prom.
Why you have to see it: The curiosity of seeing the remake of Brian DePalma’s undisputed horror classic should be enough to get you into the theater. The other reason to watch it is to see how Carrie would approach 2013 and the national, social-media-inflamed crisis of bullying. Add the evolution of special effects to the mix and this remake seems like no-brainer watch.
6) Blue Is the Warmest Color (Léa Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Salim Kechiouche )
Plot: The story of a young lesbian couple’s beginning, middle and possible end.
Why you have to see it: This is the movie that won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival (considered the best film festival in the world), the highest prize awarded at the event. The film is controversial for its shocking and sexually explicit lesbian sex scenes of epic nature and its three hour duration is weathered by some phenomenal performances by its lead. Will Best Foreign film be its goal?
5) The Counselor (Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, John Leguizamo, Rosie Perez, Ruben Blades)
Plot: A lawyer finds himself in over his head when he gets involved in drug trafficking.
Why you have to see it: Just stating the names of the cast seems like someone is joking with you. There are 9 Oscar nominations and 2 wins between them. Add the direction of Ridley Scott and sounds like the film gods descended from the heavens. Also noteworthy is that this film has assembled the most revered and elite Hispanic actors in film. Just having real life couple and Oscar winners Bardem and Cruz in the same movie is something of a privilege. Only if Benicio del Toro were available. Word on the movie experience is that it plays like ‘No Country For Old Men,’ but with much more action, and we know how far that film went.
4) All Is Lost (Robert Redford)
Plot: After a collision with a shipping container at sea, a resourceful sailor finds himself, despite all efforts to the contrary, staring his mortality in the face.
Why you have to see it: Think Tom Hank’s ‘Castaway’ in a boat. That is how I would describe ‘All Is Lost’ from director J.C Chandor. 77 year old acting icon Robert Redford looks to get back into the Oscar race with his one man performance in a film that none of us thought he’d make. To be frank, I thought he retired and never wanted to challenge his skills again. Here, Redford is making a statement that he still has the juice and wants to remind everyone of it. He achieved his goal.
3) 12 Years A Slave (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael K. Williams, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt)
Plot: Based on a true story, in the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.
Why you have to see it: Many are calling ’12 Years A Slave’ hands down the best movie of 2013. I might not necessarily agree with that, but I will call it the most arduous, punishing 2hrs you’ll experience in a movie theater this year. No drama comes close to its revolting violence, cruel humanity and relentless injustices. From rape, torture, kidnapping, devastating degradations, flesh exposed whippings and death by hanging, director Steve McQueen sets out to project the severe treatments of slaves at the hands of ruthless white men in 1841. I will confess, this film is uncomfortable and emotionally disturbing to watch. All you’ll want to do is jump into the screen and put a hurt on these degenerate slave masters. So to answer the lead question in this blurb, why do you have to see it?, it is because films that extract any type of emotion from us are rare now a days. We’re very jaded. To be able to immerse yourself in a story is quite the treat. Some say that there is beauty in the savagery of McQueen’s direction. It is a difficult task to find, but the film’s ferocious brutality allows us to appreciate how far we’ve come as people, how much we have evolved in such a short time and how the wretchedness of humanity never truly lasts. To appreciate the present, one has to understand the past and 12 Years A Slave was quite the reality check.
2) Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed)
Plot: The true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years.
Why you have to see it: Everyone is calling Tom Hanks’ performance in ‘Captain Phillips’ the best work of his career. I have not seen it, but it’ll be hard to beat his performances in Forrest Gump and Philadelphia. Nevertheless, it’s been almost 20 years since Hanks gave us those magical moments and I’d like to see what a wiser, more experienced actor can give today. The trailer itself sucks you in and it’s the type of audience and Academy pleaser that is rewarded come awards season.
1) Gravity (Sandra Bullock, George Clooney)
Plot: A medical engineer and an astronaut work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space.
Why you have to see it: Forget Avatar and any space movie you’ve ever seen (and yes, I include Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey). Alfonso Cuarón‘s Gravity is the best space movie I have seen. It is perfect. It is outstanding at every level, from Cuarón’s groundbreaking state-of-the-art direction to the convincing performances to the edge-of-your-seat thrill ride script, finding a problem with this film will be almost impossible. What is even more outstanding is the perfect balance between high valued commercial entertainment and artistic filmmaking. It’s beautiful to look at, you empathize with the characters, you’re wowed by the visual flow, your heart pounds at its relentless claustrophobic pace and you can’t believe you experienced all of it in 90 minutes. Again, finding a problem with this film will be almost impossible. Gravity, see you at the Oscars!