Feature

Fall film guide: All the movies you should see in October

A roundup of everything new and noteworthy hitting theaters this month

October 3: Gone Girl

What it is: An adaptation of Gillian Flynn's icy bestseller about a man (Ben Affleck) who becomes the subject of intense media scrutiny — and eventually, "the most hated man in America" — when his beautiful wife (Rosamund Pike) mysteriously disappears.

Why you should care: At a time when the box-office is dominated by generic action vehicles like A Walk Among the Tombstones and The Equalizer, Gone Girl arrives to inject some actual thrills back into the thriller. Ben Affleck is perfectly suited to play Gone Girl's handsome-but-sketchy protagonist (and can undoubtedly relate to having the entire nation poring over every detail of his tabloid-friendly relationship). And David Fincher's moody, exacting directorial style is a perfect fit for Flynn's twisty novel, which takes a skewering look at the dark side of marriage.

What else is coming out: Annabelle, a ludicrous-looking spinoff of The Conjuring that attempts to make children's dolls terrifying; Left Behind, a Nicolas Cage-fronted reboot of the Christian book series chronicling life on Earth after the Rapture; A Good Marriage, a Stephen King adaptation about a woman who discovers her husband is a serial killer.

October 10: Whiplash

What it is: A tense drama about a young student at a musical conservatory (Miles Teller) who threatens to snap under the sky-high standards of a drill sergeant-like instructor (J.K. Simmons).

Why you should care: Despite what might sound like a Lifetime-ready premise, Whiplash is a far cry from your average inspirational music drama. This is a gripping, tightly wound drama about the brutal, soul-sacrificing intensity it takes to reach the very top of an artistic field. J.K. Simmons' talent for blustery speeches has been used for comedy in movies like Burn After Reading and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy, but his brow-beating role in Whiplash reveals new depths in his customary persona.

What else is coming out: The Judge, a bloated courtroom thriller about an attorney (Robert Downey Jr.) forced to defend his estranged father (Robert Duvall) in a murder trial; Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, an adaptation of the beloved children's book with 100 percent more boxing kangaroos; Dracula Untold, the latest in a seemingly endless string of "reinventions" of Bram Stoker's legendary vampire novel; Addicted, a drama about a dissatisfied married woman (Sharon Leal) who embarks on a series of ill-fated marital affairs.

October 17: Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

What it is: A washed-up actor (Michael Keaton), famous for starring in a superhero franchise, attempts to restart his career by producing and starring in a serious-minded Broadway play.

Why you should care: Birdman looks to offer a fascinatingly warped take on the effect of Hollywood star power, and the vacuum it leaves when it goes away. (The real-life parallels between Birdman protagonist Riggan Thomson and Batman star Michael Keaton aren't exactly subtle.) Director Alejandro González Iñárritu hasn't released a feature-length film since 2010's Biutiful, which earned Javier Bardem an Oscar nomination, and it looks like Birdman will put Keaton on a similar track. Most intriguingly of all, the film's cinematographer has revealed that Birdman was shot to appear as if the entire film was a single, continuous take. This is a fascinatingly experimental film, and an early frontrunner in the awards show race.

What else is coming out: Dear White People, a sharp satire about the tensions that break out between the black and white students at an Ivy League college; Listen Up Philip, a Woody Allen-esque drama about a misanthropic author (Jason Schwartzmann) who holds the world at a distance; The Book of Life, an animated family comedy about a man's journey through the spirit world to reunite with his love; Fury, a star-studded war drama about an Allied regiment fighting behind enemy lines in Germany; The Best of Me, the latest undistinguished Nicolas Sparks weepie.

October 24: Laggies

What it is: An aimless 20-something (Keira Knightley) forms an unlikely friendship with a high-schooler (Chloe Grace Moretz) as she attempts to figure out what she wants to do with her life.

Why you should care: Laggies is uneven in places, but the charms of an enormously likable cast — particularly Sam Rockwell, who elevates pretty much everything he appears in — is enough to make it well worth your time. This is a compassionate, thoughtful look at the differences that arise between friends as they grow apart, and a strong case for Keira Knightley as a leading woman.

What else is coming out: John Wick, a generic-sounding thriller about a hitman (Keanu Reeves) on the run from a former employer; Ouija, a horror-movie riff on the "occult device" of the same name; Exists, a new movie from the director of The Blair Witch Project that swaps out the witch in favor of a sasquatch; Stonehearst Asylum, a thriller about a mental ward in which the inmates are actually running the asylum.

October 31: Nightcrawler

What it is: An ambitious young man (Jake Gyllenhaal) begins a career as a freelance crime journalist — but his efforts to climb up the professional ladder push him closer and closer to committing the crimes he's ostensibly reporting on.

Why you should care: After a brief detour into sleep-inducing blockbusters like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Jake Gyllenhaal has made a welcome return to the more challenging indie fare on which he built his career. Coming on the heels of last year's mind-bending Enemy, Nightcrawler casts Gyllenhaal as the protagonist of a similarly unsettling drama.

What else is coming out: Horns, an adaptation of Joe Hill's supernatural thriller about a man who starts growing horns shortly after his girlfriend's murder; ABCs of Death 2, a second installment in the would-be anthology series, in which 26 different directors offer 26 macabre horror stories; Before I Go to Sleep, a thriller about an amnesiac woman (Nicole Kidman) who begins to question everything she was taught.

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