Good things come to those who wait and for those who feel as though they’ve suffered through a year of largely uninspired films up to now will likely breathe a sigh of relief at the sound of names like Darren Aronofsky, Sofia Coppola and Peter Weir. ‘Tis the season for Jim Carrey to take a pay cut to star in a gay romance like “I Love You Phillip Morris” or Javier Bardem is whispering sweet nothings to spirits in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu’s “Biutiful” rather than Julia Roberts.
There is the naughty — Kristen Stewart stripping in “Welcome to the Rileys,” the would-be terrorists of the Brit comedy “Four Lions,” or the evil Santa in “Rare Exports” — and the nice — the tap-dancing lovers in “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench,” the glory of James Franco’s daredevil surviving “127 Hours” and Colin Firth’s verbally-challenged royal conquering his stutter in “The King’s Speech.” Needless to say, there’s a little bit of something for everyone this holiday season and we’ve got the complete guide to the gifts waiting to be unwrapped at your local theater after the wrapping paper at home has hit the floor.
by Stephen Saito
In theaters the week ending October 23
DIRECTOR: Jeff Deutchman
FEST CRED: SXSW, Sarasota, Traverse City, Indianapolis
THE GIST: In anticipation of this fall’s midterm elections, it is only fitting that this “participatory documentary” that was culled together from the footage of amateurs and professional filmmakers from across America and around the world (including “Catfish” co-director Henry Joost and “The Order of Myths”‘ Margaret Brown) over the course of the day Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 will hit theaters in a one-night event on October 20th before being made available on demand two days later. As I wrote during its premiere at SXSW last spring, it’s a crowdsourced depiction of election day that “deals in emotions as opposed to narrative, and in the idea that moviemaking can be a social collective rather than an exercise in the auteur theory.”
THE CAST: Joe Conti, Stephen Guarino, Brian Keane, Gregory Gunter, Sebastian Le Cause, Alex Di Dio, James Martinez
DIRECTOR: Douglas Langway
FEST CRED: Outfest, Frameline, Oslo, Q-Fest, Newfest
THE GIST: For a comedic history of the gay male fetish towards the large and hirsuite, see Malcolm Ingram’s doc “Bear Nation.” But for a comedy about the bears, look no further than Langway’s film about a weeklong convention of bears in New York where a thin, young and largely hairless man looks for love among a community where he’s not an easy fit.
DIRECTOR: Frederick Wiseman
FEST CRED: Cannes, Toronto, New York
THE GIST: New Yorkers have had a year-long exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art to enjoy the 36-film career of venerable documentarian Wiseman who shows no signs of stopping with his latest, a peek inside Lord’s Boxing Gym in Austin, Tex. as an eclectic group of pugilists, including lawyers, doctors and grad students of varying age, race and class, train. And New Yorkers should be aware that the night before “Boxing Gym” starts its run at the IFC Center on October 21st, the legendary director will be onhand to present a special screening of the Marx brothers’ “Duck Soup,” of all things.
THE CAST: Dermot Mulroney, Diane Kruger, Sam Shepard, Vincent Perez, Rosanna Arquette, Jordi Molla
DIRECTOR: Baltasar Kormákur
FEST CRED: Woodstock, Hamptons
THE GIST: Bursting out of Iceland with respected romances “101 Reykjavík” and “The Sea” at the turn of the century, Kormákur’s English-language debut, the little seen Julia Stiles-Jeremy Renner drama “A Little Trip to Heaven,” slowed down the director slightly and led to a return to his home country and the much-awarded 2006 thriller “Jar City.” Now, he’s back in the States with this thriller about a district attorney (Mulroney) and his wife (Kruger) who are forced to come to terms with their ethics when faced with finding a lung donor for their young daughter and discovering the most viable solution may be turning to a surgeon who performs illegal transplants in Mexico.
THE CAST: Jonathan Jackson, Beau Garrett, Nick Stahl, Alona Tai, Robert Forster
WRITER/DIRECTOR: James M. Hausler
THE GIST: Boy, Nick Stahl gets himself into some sticky situations, as he will later on this winter in “Meskada,” but first in this thriller where he stars as Billy, who returns home after suffering a bad breakup and hopes to take comfort with close friends from the past. Unfortunately for him, his best bud Stanley (Jackson) has demonstrated increasingly erratic behavior as he becomes obsessed with a local girl who turns up missing, leading Billy to put his friend’s troubles before his own as things dangerously spiral out of control.
THE CAST: Paul “Big Show” Wight, Dennis Farina, Melora Hardin, Mark Feuerstein, Will Patton, Bobb’e J. Thompson, Rebecca Creskoff
DIRECTOR: Michael W. Watkins
THE GIST: Like so many WWE live events, this comedy starring the wrestler Big Show will be but a two-night event in Peoria, Miami, Bloomington (MN), Southlake (TX), and New York and Los Angeles on October 23rd and 24th, but like the John Cena drama “Legendary” earlier this year, it marks a step away from the action films that defined WWE’s early years in the film business. Here, the Big Show plays a dim bulb orphan named Walter who is coaxed into competing in a mixed martial arts event by a conman (Feuerstein) who promises him that the money will go to saving his orphanage, though fortunately a nun (“The Office”‘s Hardin) is onhand as Walter’s chaperone to keep things on the up and up.
THE CAST: Henry Phillips, Ellen Ratner, Matthew Walker, Audrey Siegel, Derek Waters, Guilford Adams
DIRECTOR: Gregori Viens
FEST CRED: Slamdance, Sonoma, Vancouver, Austin
THE GIST: The winner of the audience award at last year’s Slamdance Film Festival, Viens’ second feature was inspired by a documentary he made in 1997 about the real-life musician Henry Phillips and has the troubadour, known for his bitingly satiric lyrics, play himself as he hits a career crossroads and winds up in Los Angeles where he lands a record deal, but also finds a girl he’s interested in and a brother he’d like to be closer with, leaving him with some hard decisions to make. The film will open at New York’s Quad Cinema.
THE CAST: Kyle Riabko, Lauren Ashley Carter, Fisher Stevens, Barry Corbin, Rebecca St. James, Jessie Payo
DIRECTOR: Daniel Millican
THE GIST: It’s a good old fashioned battle of the bands in this high school-set comedy about a competition between three film students who team up with three musical acts to create the best music video. (The film will open in limited release in Tulsa, Nashville and Grand Rapids.)
THE CAST: Noureen DeWulf, Dominic Rains, Rasika Mathur, Tony Yalda, Anne Marie Leighton
DIRECTOR: Eyad Zahra
FEST CRED: Sundance, SXSW, London
THE GIST: Said to be a “‘Catcher in the Rye’ for young Muslims,” Michael Muhammad Knight’s novel about the Islamic punk rock scene already inspired the Omar Majeed documentary “Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam,” and now serves as the basis for Zahra’s feature debut about a Pakistani college student (Rains) who falls in with a group of Koran-reading punk rockers in Buffalo.
THE CAST: Krystal Summers, Erica Andrews, Jenna Skyy, Kelexis Davenport, Willam Belli
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Israel Luna
FEST CRED: Tribeca, Seattle, QFest, aGLIFF
THE GIST: The film GLAAD doesn’t want you to see! Which would’ve probably been the tagline for this exploitation flick had it come out during the era it parodies and was in fact the headline last spring when the gay and lesbian organization tried to have it pulled during this year’s Tribeca Film Festival for its premise of a group of transgenders who are savagely beaten and return from the brink of death to take vengeance on their attackers. The film’s cast and crew disagreed and one suspects its intended audience will side with them by enjoying the campy nature of this bloody revenge comedy.