TOPOctober Brings Thoughtful Fare to the Big Screen

October Brings Thoughtful Fare to the Big Screen

By Alec Jordan

It’s been an exciting couple of months on Japan’s cinema screens with homegrown hits Lupin the Third and Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno going down a storm in August, and Hollywood replying last month with the release of heavyweights Dawn of the Planet of The Apes and Guardians of the Galaxy. With the big guns out of the way, October is a more of a low-key, high-class affair with some of the year’s most talked about indie hits getting an outing.

By Christopher O’Keeffe

Frank—Out October 4

Frank is the kind of film that has come out of nowhere and is destined for cult classic status. Written by UK journalist Jon Ronson and based, albeit very loosely, on his time spent in a band with British comedian Frank Sidebottom, the story follows a young musician looking for inspiration who falls under the spell of the charismatic “Frank,” a man who never takes off a giant papier-mâché head piece. Jon joins the band and the oddball group moves to a dilapidated cabin to record their debut album, recording the day-to-day eccentricities of the musicians, and their enigmatic leader, putting it up on the Internet for all to see. Michael Fassbender gives a typically wonderful performance in the title role, with Domhnall Gleeson as Jon, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as icy band member Clara in support. Frank is a quirky comedy-drama that confidently manages the balance between funny and poignant.

Maggie Gyllenhall, Michael Fassbender, and Domhnall Gleeson in “Frank”

Under the Skin—Out October 4

A far cry from the standard sci-fi blockbuster fare, Under the Skin is a dark and intense thriller that has been causing a stir ever since its debut, going on to do surprisingly well at the foreign box office. Scarlett Johansson plays an alien in human form who drives around the streets of Scotland at night seducing men into her van. Non-actors play many of the men in the film and the conversations between them and Johansson’s mysterious female are unscripted, lending the film a touch of gritty reality. Many critics have praised the film’s stunning visuals and haunting atmosphere of Jonathan Glazer’s film.

A Million Ways to Die in the West—October 10

While some comedies don’t translate over to a foreign audience, Ted, the story of a lewd, crude-talking teddy bear was a surprising hit over here, most likely having more to do with his cuddly appearance than his bad attitude. Seth MacFarlane, that film’s creator, is now back with a second go-round: A Million Ways to Die in the West. This is the first time the comedian and Family Guy creator has stepped in front of the camera, directing himself in the lead role of Albert, a cowardly sheep farmer who loses his girl as a result of backing out of a gunfight. When the mysterious and beautiful Anna (Charlize Theron) rides into town, it looks like Albert has a second shot at love—that is, until her gun-slinging outlaw husband (Liam Neeson) rides into town. Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman and Neil Patrick Harris fill out the cast. Fans of Family Guy and Ted will know what MacFarlane is all about by now and can look forward to more of the same risqué humor in this outrageous Western spoof.

Charlize Theron and Seth MacFarlane

Dracula Untold—October 31

First appearing in 20s German silent cinema before a classic portrayal by Bela Lugosi in the 30s, Dracula has come to be reimagined and reinterpreted time and again. Despite the horrifying Count being one of cinema’s most notorious villains, the nearest we’ve ever come to an origin story was the opening sequence to Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 effort, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which gave us a look at the man before he became the monster. Dracula Untold seeks to rectify this by chronicling the transformation of Vlad Tepes, a man trying to protect his family and kingdom from foreign invaders, into the legendary bloodsucker. Luke Evans, better known as Bard the Bowman in The Hobbit, stars as Vlad, who squares off against Mehmed (Dominic Cooper) and his Ottoman army in a bold fantasy retelling of a great man’s descent into darkness.

Dracula Untold

Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1—October 11

If the name Lars von Trier doesn’t already tip you off on what to expect, the title of his latest work, Nymphomaniac: Vol. I, certainly will. The Danish filmmaker has been stirring controversy since the start of his career, earning praise and condemnation in equal measure. Judge his films on their own merit and you’ll find hard-hitting and graphic, yet powerfully moving works, such as Dancer in the Dark, Breaking the Waves, and Dogville. This latest feature stars Charlotte Gainsbourg as Joe, a self-confessed nymphomaniac who confesses her past sexual encounters to a man, von Trier regular Stellan Starsgård, who finds her beaten in an alley. The likes of Shia LeBeouf, Christian Slater and Uma Thurman fill out the interesting cast in a film that had to be split into two parts due to the epic length. The climax comes next month.

Charlotte Gainsbourg and Stellan Stellan Starsgård

A Most Wanted Man—October 17

With the untimely passing of critically lauded actor Philip Seymour Hoffman back in February of this year comes the release of A Most Wanted Man, wherein he plays his final starring role. This political espionage thriller from the pen of John le Carre, the celebrated author behind last year’s hit adaptation Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Translated to a contemporary setting, the film sees a half-Chechen, half-Russian immigrant turn up in Hamburg’s Islamic community after a brutal beating. Is the man a dangerous terrorist or an innocent victim caught up in the politics of a war on terror? German espionage agent Gunther Bachmann (Hoffman) seeks to find out, while Russian and American agents— including Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Robin Wright and Daniel Brühl—also take an interest in the case.

Philip Seymour Hoffman in A Most Wanted Man. (© A Most Wanted Man Limited/Amusement Park Film GmbH © Kerry Brown)

Best of the Rest

Hercules—Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson comfortably fills the role of legendary hero Hercules as he undertakes twelve epic labors in this swords-and-sandals fantasy. (Out October 18)

Rigor Mortis—Entertaining horror action from Hong Kong genre favorite Juno Mak in this tribute to the Mr. Vampire series of horror-comedies. (Cantonese with Japanese subs; out October 25)

Tom at the Farm—Indie cinema wunderkind Xavier Dolan writes, directs and stars in this psychological thriller in which a young man travels to the country to attend his boyfriend’s funeral, only to find no one knows who he is or about his relationship to the deceased. (French; out October 25)

Grace of Monaco—Widely panned biography starring Nicole Kidman as former Hollywood star Grace Kelly as she considers returning to acting amidst, marital troubles and the threat of an oncoming war. (Out October 18)