The month of October has come to a close and I thought it would be fun to share my first of a monthly series of ranking the films released each month. Keep in mind that I didn’t see every movie that was released in October, mainly missing out on “Happy Death Day,” “Only the Brave,” “BPM,” and “Novitiate.” That being said, I saw a good chunk of the films that did release this month, both good and bad, so let’s begin with my ranking of the 11 October releases I saw from worst to best!
11. “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
Steven, a charismatic surgeon, is forced to make an unthinkable sacrifice after his life starts to fall apart, when the behavior of a teenage boy he has taken under his wing turns sinister.
Currently sitting at a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes and an average rating of a 75 on Metacritic, this is gonna be one of those movies that I’m on the opposite side of the critics. While I was a huge fan of Lanthimos’s last film, “The Lobster,” I found “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” to be cynical, mean-spirited, and hollow. Despite strong cinematography and committed performances from the cast, it was hard for me to be invested in the story or characters and there’s very little entertainment value in it unlike the darkly comedic tone of his previous film.
10. “Wonderstruck,” dir. Todd Haynes
The story of a young boy in the Midwest is told simultaneously with a tale about a young girl in New York from fifty years ago as they both seek the same mysterious connection.
Todd Haynes is a strong visual storyteller, but with “Wonderstruck,” the lacking component is the attachment to the characters, an aspect that’s integral to ensuring that the story leaves an impact. Every emotional beat came off as forced and unfortunately, there were many scenes that felt meandering, dragging out the film’s 117 minute runtime.
9. “Suburbicon,” dir. George Clooney
A noir, small crime thriller set in the 1950s, a home invasion rattles a quiet family town.
This is one of two Matt Damon-starring productions from Paramount Pictures this year and while this one was completely panned by critics and audiences, I honestly didn’t hate it as much as the other one (I’ll get back to that pile of trash in December). The biggest problem with “Suburbicon” is that it’s a tonal misfire at almost every turn, going back and forth between dark comedy, social satire, serious drama, and mystery thriller. None of the scenes mesh together to make for one coherent piece which is all the more frustrating when there are elements within each storyline that could have worked very well had they been explored with more depth and a smooth blend of different tones. It’s George Clooney’s attempt at making a Coen Brothers movie without fully grasping what makes a Coen Brothers movie so special. But hey, Oscar Isaac’s great as usual.
8. “Jigsaw,” dir. Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig
Bodies are turning up around the city, each having met a uniquely gruesome demise. As the investigation proceeds, evidence points to one suspect: John Kramer, the man known as Jigsaw, who has been dead for ten years.
I’m a big fan of the “Saw” franchise. I even recently reviewed each installment of the series this past Friday, even finding enjoyment in some of the more mediocre sequels. So I was excited for “Jigsaw,” interested to see what new take would be brought to the series. Unfortunately, it felt like more of the same, just more polished. It started off strong with a great self-aware tone, but once the film drew closer to a twist ending so hilariously bad that it’s worth the price of admission alone, it became clear that the filmmakers have lost interest in trying to do something new. That being said, I’ll still be there next October if Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures decide to make another one.
7. “Una,” dir. Benedict Andrews
When a young woman unexpectedly arrives at her much-older former lover’s workplace, looking for answers, the secrets of their dark past threatens to unravel his new life. What follows is an emotional and unflinching excavation of inappropriate love – with shattering consequences.
I saw “Una” at last year’s Toronto Film Festival and while it hasn’t stuck with me enough to vividly remember the film as a whole, what I do remember is an emotionally tense drama that’s entirely carried by the great leading performances by Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn.
6. “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women,” dir. Angela Robinson
The story of psychologist William Moulton Marston, the polyamorous relationship between his wife and his mistress, the creation of his beloved comic book character Wonder Woman, and the controversy the comic generated.
I was thoroughly entertained by this movie. Rebecca Hall, Luke Evans, and Bella Heathcote work off each other so well and add a lot to the already fascinating story, making for a sexy, fun time at the movies. It’s not particularly memorable, but if you wanna see an interesting story behind the lustful bond of three people, “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” is definitely worth checking out.
5. “Brawl in Cell Block 99,” dir. S. Craig Zahler
A former boxer-turned-drug runner lands in a prison battleground after a deal gets deadly.
While I still contend that this movie did not need to be over two hours long, I had a blast with “Brawl in Cell Block 99.” S. Craig Zahler does a great job at offering insane action sequences while also developing Vince Vaughn’s character very well. Vaughn gives a terrific performance, brilliantly selling the brutality of this man while not sacrificing his humanity.
4. “The Square,” dir. Ruben Östlund
The Square is a poignant satirical drama reflecting our times – about the sense of community, moral courage and the affluent person’s need for egocentricity in an increasingly uncertain world.
Ruben Östlund follows up “Force Majeure” with one of the years funniest films. Playing a lot like a 150 minute Swedish version of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Square” is a hell of an entertaining ride even if it overstays its welcome. There are many moments from this movie that I keep thinking about that still make me laugh out loud. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it!
3. “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected),” dir. Noah Baumbach
An estranged family gathers together in New York for an event celebrating the artistic work of their father.
Noah Baumbach is a terrific writer/director with films like “Frances Ha” and “Mistress America.” This time around with “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected),” he paints a beautifully authentic look into the lives of a dysfunctional family as well as focusing on the flaws that come with regret and frustration. Every member of the cast is fantastic with Adam Sandler doing his best work since “Punch Drunk Love,” and Ben Stiller bringing a dramatic range that we rarely see from him. I loved this movie.
2. “Blade Runner 2049,” dir. Denis Villeneuve
Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K, unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard, a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for thirty years.
I am thoroughly disappointed that more people didn’t go out in droves to see “Blade Runner 2049,” the best blockbuster film of the year. After seeing the movie twice, I continue to be blown away by the remarkable job Denis Villeneuve did in recapturing the spirit of the original “Blade Runner” while also expanding upon the film’s deepest themes of humanity and identity. Ryan Gosling once again proves why he’s one of the best actors working today bringing such an emotional vulnerability to a character that could have so easily been hollow. Look, if you haven’t seen this movie, go out and see it on the biggest screen you can. It won’t be in theaters much longer.
1. “The Florida Project,” dir. Sean Baker
Set over one summer, the film follows precocious 6-year-old Moonee as she courts mischief and adventure with her ragtag playmates and bonds with her rebellious but caring mother, all while living in the shadows of Disney World.
I still contend that “The Florida Project” is the best film of the year and should be seriously considered as a major Oscar contender. No other film in 2017 has had such a strong emotional core as Sean Baker does a beautiful job dealing with the difficulties of raising a family while living in poverty and at the same time doing so through the beautiful innocence of childhood. It’s a film so full of hope during a time where we really need more films with optimism. It’s a triumph on every level.
So there you have it! It was a really solid month for movies, definitely seeing more good than bad. I’m very excited for next month as we got films like Pixar’s “Coco,” superhero blockbusters “Thor: Ragnarok” (which I’ll be reviewing this Friday) and “Justice League,” and some festival favorites that I’ve already seen like “Call Me By Your Name,” “Lady Bird,” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” I definitely look forward to running down those films at the end of the month!
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Thanks for reading!