For the annual fall movie preview, The A.V. Club turned things over to its well-known and beloved characters Dumbass and Right-On, who have been teaching young people valuable lessons about how to consume pop culture for nearly two decades now. First introduced in 1996, Dumbass and Right-On made their inaugural A.V. Club appearance in that year’s “Don’t Go There!: Dumbass And Right-On’s Mad Fly Fall Movie Preview.” They captured readers’ hearts with their phat, informed take on the year in cinema, and fans embraced the moral teachings that emerged from their contrasting personalities—the likes of which had never been seen before in any publication, anywhere. They proved so popular that they’ve been a staple of The A.V. Club ever since, appearing in countless adventures together. They even inspired their own cartoon spinoff, which we are not at liberty to discuss for legal reasons.
As longtime fans know, Right-On is a good moviegoer who appreciates films that “kick it old school,” with emphasis on character development, memorable dialogue, and innovative cinematography. Right-On always sits up straight whenever the names of his favorite directors are mentioned, and he presumes that most Hollywood films will prove disappointing, on account of he was not consulted.
Dumbass is a buggin’ dude who likes his movies to be as “in your face” as he is, just straight kickin’ it with lots of special effects, formulaic plots, rehashed characters, and kicking. Dumbass never listens when critics are talking, insisting they instead talk to his hand. Dumbass is responsible for nine-tenths of the annual domestic box office.
So come along and join them once again for part one of The A.V. Club’s 2014 Fall Movie Preview, which will cover the major movies coming out in September and October. (They’ll get to the rad offerings of November and December tomorrow.) And while you’re reading, make sure to ask yourself: Are you more of a Right-On, or are you a Dumbass?
The basics: Stuart Murdoch, primary singer and songwriter of beloved U.K. group Belle And Sebastian, has been working on God Help The Girl in some form or another for nearly a decade. It began as a series of songs designed for female vocalists, eventually became an album and accompanying EP and singles, and now makes its debut as a feature musical about Eve (Emily Browning), Cassie (Hannah Murray, who played a character by the same name on the original Skins), and James (Olly Alexander), youthful Belle And Sebastian types who form a band. Sundance reactions were somewhat mixed, but may have been hard to hear beneath the volume of swoons.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Right-On loves Belle And Sebastian, although he maintains an insufferable preference for Tigermilk over all their other records. God Help The Girl may give him pleasingly melancholy flashbacks to his own wistfully misspent youth.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Dumbass has heard that the movie is akin to a series of music videos strung together. Not only are music videos awesome, but the last movie starring Emily Browning that felt like a series of music videos was Sucker Punch, which Dumbass blind-bought on DVD from Best Buy.
The basics: The Wire’s Idris Elba is back to playing a bad guy, but this time he’s a straight-up psychopath, not a gangster carefully trying to climb out of the crime life. He breaks out of jail and ends up at Taraji P. Henson’s house, where he psychologically and physically intimidates her until she (presumably) murders him in the end.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: It looks like a mostly one-location horror movie, with lots of psycho-sexual torture and cheap scares. Taraji P. Henson was in Smokin’ Aces, which is one of Dumbass’ favorite movies.
Why Right-On might like it too: Idris Elba was in The Wire, and Right-On loves The Wire. Taraji P. Henson was in The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, and Right-On thinks it’s one of David Fincher’s more critically overlooked works.
The basics: For years, audiences have clamored for a follow-up to 2011’s Dolphin Tale that would further expound on the complex tale of a dolphin who lost his tail and then got outfitted with a new prosthetic tail. Disappointingly, Dolphin Tale 2 does not appear to follow Winter the Dolphin’s quest for revenge, but Winter does return in the movie, along with original cast members Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson, Morgan Freeman, and Nathan Gamble, plus several additional dolphins who may or may not have missing and/or prosthetic tails.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: Dolphins are such amazing creatures, they might as well be from outer space. They are basically nature’s Krang. Dumbass is nostalgic for Krang.
Why Right-On might like it too: The sense of immense relief that floods Right-On upon realizing the series does not use CG effects to make animals talk with human voices counts as liking it, right?
The basics: With his English-language debut, Bullhead director Michaël R. Roskam moves from actual ball busting to the kind of gangland yarn where people say things like, “Why you bustin’ my balls?” Based on a short story by Dennis Lehane, the film casts Tom Hardy as a young bartender whose involvement in a mob money-funneling scheme is complicated by an armed robbery. The late James Gandolfini, in his final feature-film role, plays the protagonist’s weary cousin and employer.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: Bane and Tony Soprano team up for a Boston gangster movie? Dumbass is listening.
Why Right-On might like it too: Bullhead was the exact kind of macho crime drama Right-On likes—the kind with subtitles and traumatic backstories. Plus, this will be the very last time he can use a new Gandolfini movie as an excuse to remind everyone how brilliant the ending of The Sopranos was.
The basics: Former Saturday Night Live costars Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader reunite for a tale of estranged siblings who reunite. It’s not entirely a comedy, though a scene of the two lip-syncing to “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” is as funny as it sounds. Also amusing: Luke Wilson as the Wiig character’s sweet knucklehead of a husband.
Why it’s right for Right-On: A hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, The Skeleton Twins is more serious than its trailer lets on, with such plot elements as adultery, statutory rape, and attempted suicide bound to bum out the Bridesmaids crowd. Right-On, however, was sold at the mention of Sundance.
Why Dumbass might like it too: If he gets high enough, SNL loyalist Dumbass might be able to convince himself that the film is a feature-length version of “The Californians.”
The basics: When it premiered in Toronto a year ago, Ned Benson’s romantic drama was split into two distinct films, each chronicling the same love story from separate perspectives. Months later, Benson merged Him and Her into a single movie, this one offering a more complete vision of what went right and then wrong between Conor (James McAvoy) and Eleanor (Jessica Chastain). It’s the combo cut that’s opening in U.S. theaters this month, though there are whisperings of the individual, gender-specific edits getting stateside releases come October.
Why it’s right for Right-On: The complicated origins of the project will keep Right-On engaged throughout, as he attempts to figure out which scenes came from which original movie. Should he have any quibbles, it’ll probably just be that he can’t spend a whole Saturday binge-watching all three cuts in succession.
Why Dumbass might like it too: “Like” is a strong word, but one imagines if Right-On is somehow able to trick him into seeing Eleanor Rigby, Dumbass will at least be grateful that he’s blowing only two hours—as opposed to a combined three—on some weepie “chick flick.”
The basics: The writer and director of last year’s home-invasion thriller You’re Next reunite for another eccentric genre picture, this one about a handsome, eerily polite war veteran (Dan Stevens) who pays a visit to the family of his fallen comrade. Things go FUBAR quickly when the young soldier begins to show his true colors. Our man on the scene at Sundance, where the movie premiered, noted that filmmakers Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett “again prove their adeptness at blending traditional thrills with wicked black humor.”
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: Having spent most of his teenage years watching violent ’80s action movies on VHS when he should have been studying, Dumbass should get a kick out of the overt nods to John Carpenter and James Cameron. Also, stuff blows up. Dumbass loves stuff blowing up.
Why Right-On might like it too: Stevens made a name for himself on one of Right-On’s favorite contemporary television shows, Downton Abbey. He shot less people there, of course.
The basics: Because a straight-ahead documentary would not befit an artist as wild and wooly as Nick Cave, 20,000 Days On Earth tells his life story via what appear to be scripted therapy sessions, chats in cars with his famous friends, and live performance footage.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Right-On has been a Nick Cave fan since The Birthday Party—he prefers the old stuff—and admires that Cave is both a songwriter and a respected screenwriter. Also, Right-On loves it when directors mess with form.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Nick Cave is an electric live performer who thrashes around the stage, speaks his mind, and generally looks like half a vampire. He’s been known to shout “Release the bats!” which Dumbass also likes.
The basics: Matthew Scudder, hero of Lawrence Block’s long-running novel series, returns to the big screen courtesy of Liam Neeson. Scudder is a former NYPD officer and current unlicensed private investigator hired to solve the mystery of a drug dealer’s kidnapped wife; it’s a safe bet that this task will require, as the Taken movies say, a specific group of proficiencies. The character was previously assayed by Jeff Bridges (!) in the 1986 Hal Ashby (!) film 8 Million Ways To Die; Tombstones is adapted and directed by Scott Frank, who has noir experience from writing and directing The Lookout.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: Dumbass has seen every action-related movie Liam Neeson has made in the past five years, and bought most of them on DVD at Best Buy. It’s been half a year since Non-Stop, so Dumbass is starting to get the Neeson itch.
Why Right-On might like it too: Frank has written or co-written a lot of excellent movies, including Out Of Sight and Minority Report, and The Lookout was a respectable first effort with a strong sense of character. As such, Right-On would not be opposed to a thinking person’s Taken.
The basics: In the latest film adaptation of a young adult sci-fi novel series, a bunch of photogenic teenage boys are trapped in a verdant expanse that’s surrounded by a massive maze. None of them remember why they’ve been brought there, but they do know that when the maze’s doors close at night, anyone stuck within the huge metaphor for adolescence is killed by monsters. The boys grow even more distressed when one day, a girl shows up.
Why it’s right for Right-On: The Maze Runner’s literary origins—it’s based on the 2009 book of the same name—and its youthful bent promise to give Right-On insight into the “millennial” generation, which he desires so that he can more effectively blame millennials for everything that’s wrong with the world.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Dumbass figures that if Nickelodeon refuses to bring back the teens-in-an-obstacle-course game show Legends Of The Hidden Temple—despite his many eloquent Change.org petitions launched to that end—The Maze Runner is the next best thing.
The basics: Four siblings (Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, Adam Driver) return home to sit Shiva following the death of their father, with various husbands, wives, and girlfriends in tow, in an adaptation of Jonathan Tropper’s acclaimed novel of the same name. Tropper wrote the screenplay himself, while director Shawn Levy tries his second departure from broad comedy after 2011’s Real Steel.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Despite his misgivings about director Levy, Right-On is powerless to resist a cast that includes not just Bateman, Fey, Stoll, and Driver, but also Rose Byrne, Jane Fonda, Kathryn Hahn, Timothy Olyphant, and Connie Britton. As a bonus, frequent comic actors Bateman and Fey get a little more serious than frivolous movies like Identity Thief or Baby Mama typically allow.
Why Dumbass might like it too: For Dumbass, the films of Shawn Levy (Cheaper By The Dozen, The Internship, the Night At The Museum trilogy) have a storied history of laughs—or, even better, laffs.
The basics: A podcaster (Justin Long) journeys to Canadian backwoods to interview a mysterious seafarer (Michael Parks) who turns out to have a creepy, potentially Cronenbergian and/or Human Centipedian walrus obsession. Tusk, which had its unlikely origins as a thought experiment on one of Kevin Smith’s approximately two thousand podcasts, is a second stab at horror from the writer-director, following 2011’s Red State, and will kick off a new trilogy of Canada-set films.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: Long’s potential transformation into a hideous walrus-man should include plenty of gnarly gore.
Why Right-On might like it too: Though he’s held his nose through much of Kevin Smith’s career, Right-On does appreciate transgressive body horror.
The basics: Terry Gilliam does what he does best in The Zero Theorem—which stars Christoph Waltz as eccentric computer genius Qohen Leth, who’s been charged by the mysterious Management (Matt Damon) of the faceless corporation he works for with discovering the equation behind life itself. As Leth plunges headlong into the quest for metaphysical truth, he withdraws from the people around him, including his computerized therapist Dr. Shrink-Rom (Tilda Swinton) and the coquettish Bainsley (Mélanie Thierry).
Why it’s right for Right-On: The Zero Theorem contains many of the typically Gilliam-esque qualities—a retro-dystopian future, an oppressive Orwellian bureaucracy, and a quirky romantic subplot—that Right-On’s loved since Brazil. Philosophical musings on the origins of life are just icing on the auteurist cake.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Those space sequences look pretty trippy, dude.
The basics: It’s the classic vocational-irony narrative: Hector (Simon Pegg) is a psychiatrist who spends his days advising patients on their lives and their happiness—without any life or happiness to call his own. In order to correct this, he takes a globe-trotting sabbatical (with one true destination: himself), a trip that puts the dissatisfied satisfaction peddler in contact with monks, kidnappers, and a veritable European Union of actors including Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, Rosamund Pike, Stellan Skarsgård, and Jean Reno.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Forever seeking methods of bettering himself, Right-On hopes Hector’s journey can bring him some enlightenment as well. (At the very least, the French-language source material will broaden his language horizons.)
Why Dumbass might like it too: Pegg remains a gifted comedian even in his dramatic roles, and the premise of Hector promises some laughs in Dumbass’ second language: slapstick.
The basics: In this adaptation of the acclaimed Australian memoir, a young woman (Mia Wasikowska) decides to walk 2,000 miles across the Outback, with her dog and “four unpredictable camels” by her side. She meets a handsome photographer (Girls’ Adam Driver), naturally, because it couldn’t just be about one woman’s journey, now could it?
Why it’s right for Right-On: Stories of personal perseverance set in exotic locations have always been a weakness for Right-On, who is sure to let you know that he weeps quite frequently at movies.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Camels might poop.
The Equalizer (September 26)
The basics: Denzel Washington takes on the role of a retired special-ops agent who works as a pro bono (and, like Matt Scudder, unlicensed) P.I./avenger during his spare time, in a movie tragically unable to be directed by Tony Scott. (Antoine Fuqua handles the job instead.) Here, Washington’s Robert McCall comes to the aid of a teenage prostitute (Chloë Grace Moretz) and tangles with the Russian mob.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: Post-Oscar Denzel Washington has earned the loyalty of Dumbass by only occasionally straying from a regimen of pulpy, gritty, high-octane thrillers—Liam Neesoning nearly a decade before Neeson got there.
Why Right-On might like it too: Washington is a world-class actor and charismatic movie star, which always brings Right-On some hope that he’ll elevate the material, no matter how junky.
The basics: With The Boxtrolls, a Dickensian allegory about class warfare that’s been adapted from Alan Snow’s novel Here Be Monsters, the lunatics at Laika (Coraline, ParaNorman) make a legitimate bid for the title of World’s Best Animation Studio (though Ghibli would have to pack it in for good before that crown was fit for a new head). Painstakingly modeled and moved over the course of two long years, the film tells the story of some sweet and vile subterranean tinkerers, the young boy who’s raised by them, and the hoity-toity cheese-worshipping White Hats who live on the surface and want them all killed.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Right-On, like any respectable cinephile, reveres the fanatical craft required to create a stop-motion feature, and can’t help but smile at the sound of Richard Ayoade voicing a henchman in the midst of an existential crisis.
Why Dumbass might like it too: The Boxtrolls is a movie in which someone is so intensely lactose intolerant that they explode in a giant puff of yellow smoke after having a particularly choice bite of cheese. This is one of those films that’s made for Right-On, but is filled with jokes that only Dumbass will truly understand.
The basics: Outkast’s André “3000” Benjamin plays the guitar god in this limited-scope look at Jimi Hendrix’s life, covering his 1966-67 blossoming. The film famously features zero Jimi Hendrix compositions, since his estate wouldn’t grant permission, but it will feature some fabulous shirts, because you can’t copyright style.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Writer-director John Ridley is prestige-hot right now, having won an Oscar (for Best Adapted Screenplay) for 12 Years A Slave. Also, Right-On loves a good biopic.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Hendrix shreds, and probably smokes a ton of weed.
The Identical (September 5) makes the loony case that Elvis Presley had a twin brother who could also sing and dance. In the border-town modern Western Frontera (September 5), two sheriffs—one old (Ed Harris), the other young (Aden Young)—hunt a Mexican immigrant they suspect of murder. The documentary Last Days In Vietnam (September 5) peers back on the final weeks of the war, when the North Vietnamese stormed into Saigon. Kevin Kline inherits a Parisian apartment from his estranged father, only to discover elderly Maggie Smith living inside, in My Old Lady (September 10). At The Devil’s Door (September 12), from the director of The Pact, stars Catalina Sandino Moreno as a real-estate agent trying to sell a haunted house. Thanks to the selfless charity it presumably rails against, Atlas Shrugged: Who Is John Galt? (September 12) exists. Prizewinning documentary The Green Prince (September 12) follows a founding Hamas member forced to spy for Israel. The less said about the bifurcated, bewitchingly strange Bird People (September 12), the better. Back from her tour in Afghanistan, an Army medic (Michelle Monaghan) attempts to reconnect with her child in Fort Bliss (September 19). Keep On Keepin’ On (September 19) chronicles the relationship between jazz legend Clark Terry and his young protégé Justin Kauflin. Gay and lesbian activists show their support for striking miners in Pride, a fact-based dramedy starring Bill Nighy and Andrew Scott. John Cusack continues his late-career reinvention as a VOD action star with Reclaim (September 19). The Scribbler (September 19) casts porn star Sasha Grey as a woman trying to eliminate her dissociative identity disorder through a totally safe-sounding technique called “The Siamese Burn.” Peter Stormare appears in the grim drama Autumn Blood (September 19), about sibling orphans trying to survive on a secluded mountain farm. A one-night stand becomes a Two Night Stand (September 25) when Miles Teller and Analeigh Tipton get snowed in after a hook-up. James Franco subsidizes his next ill-advised literary adaptation by starring with Kate Hudson in the thriller Good People (September 26). Patricia Highsmith’s 1964 thriller The Two Faces Of January (September 26) gets the big-screen treatment, with Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst in the leads.
The basics: Working in concert with Secretary and Chloe screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson, Jason Reitman looks to bounce back from Labor Day by peeling back the facade of polite, modern society to expose the Tinder-trolling pervs writhing underneath. An artful teaser trailer finds the film’s ensemble—headlined by Adam Sandler and Jennifer Garner alongside Rosemarie DeWitt, Dean Norris, Dennis Haysbert, and The Fault In Our Stars breakout Ansel Elgort—gazing deeply into all manner of Internet-enabled devices, their digital false-faces juxtaposed against their IRL ones.
Why it’s right for Right-On: The last known defender of American Beauty, Right-On can’t wait to post screen-grabs of Men, Women & Children under the Tumblr tag “The most beautiful thing.”
Why Dumbass might like it too: Adam Sandler has to do at least one idiot voice, right?
The basics: In his continuing mission to only expend his insane talent on airport-fiction adaptations, director David Fincher tackles Gillian Flynn’s twisty bestseller. Future caped crusader Ben Affleck plays murder suspect Nick Dunne; Rosamund Pike is the missing wife he’s believed to have offed. The movie will open this year’s New York Film Festival.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Right-On has been calling Fincher the “heir to Kubrick’s throne” since the release of his “unsung masterpiece” Alien 3. If he didn’t lose the faith with Dragon Tattoo, he’s not likely to do so now.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Two words: Fight Club.
The basics: Remember that creepy-as-fuck doll from the beginning of The Conjuring? Well, now she’s got her own starring vehicle, a kind of paranormal origin story/spin-off. John R. Leonetti, who shot James Wan’s hit fright fest, is stepping into the directing chair, so blame him for any and all soiled undergarments.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: As he’s noted in at least a dozen different comment-section threads over the last year, Dumbass had only one big issue with The Conjuring, and it was that the “chick Chucky” didn’t get more scenes. Hollywood has heard his complaint and is ready to charge him $11.50 to make his dreams come true.
Why Right-On might like it too: Right-On has a running theory that Annabelle was named after the Edgar Allan Poe poem “Annabel Lee.” He intends to spend this Halloween investigating that theory.
The basics: Even Christians love a reboot, apparently, as shown by the newest, relatively big-budget adaptation of the Left Behind book series. Nicolas Cage takes top billing this time around as pilot Rayford Steele, who’s trying to safely land a passenger jet amid the chaos after the good Christians of the world suddenly vanish en masse. Unlike HBO’s The Leftovers, Left Behind leaves no room for ambiguity about the cause of this disappearance—this is the Biblical rapture, and you can bet that all those poor earthbound sinners are in for a real bad time. Producer Paul Lalonde told Variety back in March that the film is “a historical account in a sense, because it’s based on a true story, it just hasn’t happened yet.”
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: The rapture results in a surprising number of explosions, if the newest Left Behind trailer is to be believed.
Why Right-On might like it too: Religious-themed films have been hitting big at the box office lately, and Right-On finds Christian eschatology fascinating as a socio-cultural phenomenon.
The basics: In this true-life-inspired prestige-seeker, Reese Witherspoon plays an American woman who ends up helping Sudanese refugees acclimate to life in the United States. It’s safe to assume heartwarming lessons will be learned on both sides of the equation.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Right-On can feel like he’s doing some important activism—and learning all he needs to know about Sudan—in just a couple of short, entertaining hours.
Why Dumbass might like it too: These goofy Sudanese dudes are total fish out of water in America! One of them even asks if there are any lions around!
The basics: In the grand tradition of Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop comes this on-the-road documentary, which chronicles the podcast tour Community creator Dan Harmon embarked on after he was fired from his own show. Expect laughs and unfiltered emotion.
Why it’s right for Right-On: As an employee of The A.V. Club, Right-On is contractually obligated to love Community and all of its creative voices. (His favorite episode is the My Dinner With Andre parody, naturally.)
Why Dumbass might like it too: Dumbass signed the same contract, but he remains more of a Two And A Half Men kind of guy. Still, he’s also been fired from a lot of jobs, so he should be able to relate to Harmon’s plight.
The basics: Sleazeball defense attorney Robert Downey Jr. returns to his hometown to grieve his mother and hopefully avoid his estranged father, Robert Duvall, the local judge. But when Duvall is charged with murder, Downey must stick around and defend him—and maybe make some amends.
Why it’s right for Right-On: The Judge is already falling all over the awards its cast has won, and dreaming of the awards it might. The only question now is who will get the Best Actor nod, and who will get Best Supporting.
Why Dumbass might like it too: In the trailer, Downey pees on a guy’s shoes. Also, there’s a murder case to be solved.
The basics: Judith Viorst’s 32-page kid-lit staple has been expanded into an 81-minute Disney romp. Now it’s not just the titular kid (Ed Oxenbould) having a rough 24 hours, but his whole family—a wacky roster portrayed by the likes of Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, and the son from Prisoners. Add to the equation jokes about Twitter, a CGI kangaroo, and Donald Glover. Who is this movie for again?
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: Dumbass only reads at a fourth-grade level, so this seems about his speed. Bonus anticipation points for the CGI kangaroo.
Why Right-On might like it too: Right-On is holding out hope that this is going to be some radically adult adaptation, à la Where The Wild Things Are. And who knows, maybe it will be! Director Miguel Arteta did make Chuck & Buck, which is pretty far from family fare.
The basics: Based on Peter Landesman’s book of the same name, Kill The Messenger adapts the true story of Gary Webb (played here by Jeremy Renner), a San Jose Mercury News reporter who spent part of the 1990s gathering and then publishing evidence of a conspiracy between the CIA and Nicaraguan cocaine traffickers. Not only does Webb face pressure from government forces who would rather his story not be told, but he also has to contend with colleagues in the news business who abandon him as he publishes his explosive findings.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Amid its exploration of immorality in politics and the media, Kill The Messenger suggests a sinister, counterintuitive explanation for the crack-cocaine “epidemic” of the 1980s, which is just the kind of story-behind-the-story that Right-On loves to uncork at the cocktail parties in his head.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Notorious drug trafficker “Freeway” Rick Ross is played by Michael K. Williams, who’s best known for playing Omar on The Wire. That’s a big selling point for Dumbass, who considers himself the Omar of the middle-class neighborhood where he buys weed.
The basics: Winner of both the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Whiplash chronicles the epic battle of wills between a promising college drummer (Miles Teller) and the brutal disciplinarian (J.K. Simmons) who drafts him into his jazz-band ensemble. Our correspondent at the fest said that the film is “as meticulously precise, and as thrillingly volatile, as the music it celebrates.”
Why it’s right for Right-On: A self-proclaimed “jazz buff,” Right-On will feel a swell of pride every time someone references a musician he’s heard of. He also makes it a point to see every top-prize winner at Sundance—and this is easily the best one since Winter’s Bone.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Drum solos, man.
The basics: Remember when this movie was supposed to come out in the spring? Or how about when it was rescheduled for August? In any case, it’s the same Weinstein-distributed, Simon Cowell-produced biopic that premiered to mixed reviews at TIFF a year ago. Tony winner James Corden plays Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts. Rags become riches. Dreams become reality. Audiences cheer—assuming they ever get to see the thing.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Having once flirted with the ambition of becoming an opera singer, Right-On won’t quite be able to resist the feel-good trajectory of the film’s true story.
Why Dumbass might like it too: He’d never willfully admit it, but Dumbass gets pretty wrapped up in talent competition shows. Though in his opinion, Kombat Breakers wuz robbed.
The basics: Vampires are so hot right now, especially if “now” can be expanded back to include five years ago, and if there’s one thing that audiences love more than vampires, it’s people who aren’t vampires quite yet, but will be soon, probably. Hence Dracula Untold, the movie that will finally explore the origin of Vlad The Impaler (Luke Evans), the Man Who Would Be Dracula. As previously explained in the opening of Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it turns out Vlad became the embodiment of parasitic evil out of love.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: Dumbass loves origin stories, especially when they involve massive, anonymously teeming CG armies, so Dracula Untold will be right up his alley.
Why Right-On might like it too: Right-On might not admit to a teenage fascination with the original Stoker novel and a compulsion to see every adaptation, no matter how loose, disrespectful, or stupid-looking, but he secretly gets a thrill whenever Dracula appears on the big screen.
The basics: Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Ron Perlman, and Danny Trejo provide the celebrity voices for this imaginative animated tale, produced by Guillermo Del Toro and directed by newcomer Jorge R. Gutierrez. The story combines the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice with a traditional Mexican aesthetic to tell the tale of Manolo (Diego Luna), a musician who must cross through the realms of the living and the dead to reunite with his true love Maria (Saldana) and stop her from marrying arrogant matador Joaquin (Tatum).
Why it’s right for Right-On: The Día De Los Muertos imagery and references to Mexican folklore will give Right-On plenty to talk about at his Mexican cooking class next week.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Celebrity cameos from the likes of Ice Cube and Cheech Marin, and a contemporary pop soundtrack which includes Biz Markie’s “Just A Friend,” should placate Dumbass should things get too arty.
The basics: Michael Keaton is an aging actor who once starred as an iconic, winged superhero, and has spent the last few years of his career trying to live that down. No, this isn’t a documentary, but a showbiz satire from Amores Perros and 21 Grams director Alejandro González Iñárritu. The impressive cast list also includes Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Amy Ryan, and Zach Galifianakis.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Iñárritu is a sore subject for Right-On, who loved Babel when he first saw it, then later claimed to have hated it all along. But Birdman looks like a whole different kind of animal, no pun intended. Early word is that it creates the illusion of a single, unbroken take, à la Rope. Add the fact that it’s master cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity) creating said illusion and Right-On lands on the side of “cautiously optimistic.”
Why Dumbass might like it too: The subtitle for Birdman is “The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance.” As living proof of this principle, Dumbass will be approaching the movie as though it were Keaton’s triumphant return to Gotham City. Just let him have this.
The basics: Brad Pitt heads back into the World War II breach, this time commanding a small tank crew making its way through Nazi Germany during the final months of the war. He commands Michael Peña, Logan Lerman, and (good luck with this one) Shia LaBeouf, among others. At the helm sits David Ayer, the writer—as trailers have been informing everyone for the past 13 years—of Training Day.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Ayer’s End Of Watch cut through Right-On’s years-long disdain for both found-footage movies and gritty cop dramas. Now Fury is poised to do the same for tired WWII-mission movies.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Tanks often shoot at things and blow them up, which Dumbass likes even more than he likes gritty cop dramas where men in close quarters rib each other about their shortcomings while also forming brotherly bonds.
The basics: Former Kim’s Video store clerk Alex Ross Perry first made a name for himself with 2011’s monochromatic The Color Wheel, a mordantly funny and bracingly transgressive sophomore feature that had all the commercial appeal of ebola. Listen Up Philip finds the agreeably militant cinephile stepping into the spotlight without sacrificing any of the glorified self-loathing that defines his previous work. An ode to Philip Roth that bristles with the narcissism of a new generation, the film stars Jason Schwartzman as an embittered writer who refuses to do publicity for his second novel, choosing instead to ditch his girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss) and shack up with his idol (Jonathan Pryce) for the summer. Everyone lives happily ever after.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Right-On needs to be up to speed, so he can’t afford to miss the rare occurrence of a young filmmaker earning a spot in the prestigious New York Film Festival. And worst comes to worst, Right-On still loves anything with Jason Schwartzman—even in the bad stuff, he can squint his eyes and pretend he’s watching Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Um… Listen Up Philip couldn’t be more ill-suited for Dumbass if it were engineered in a secret government lab with the explicit purpose of pissing him off.
The basics: In this Sundance-approved drama, Kristen Stewart plays a guard at Guantanamo Bay who befriends a prisoner (Peyman Moaadi) and begins to question the existence of the facility.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Right-On loves self-flagellating American movies, because they prove to the rest of the world that even if our policies are wrong, many of our people can still be right.
Why Dumbass might like it too: The whole thing takes place in a prison camp known for secret detentions and brutal torture techniques.
The basics: Justin Simien makes his directorial debut with Dear White People, a rapid-fire satire which was successfully crowd-funded on the strength of its trailer and caused quite a stir when it debuted at Sundance earlier this year. Tessa Thompson stars as Samantha White, a student at the fictional Winchester University whose rabble-rousing radio show has made her a star on campus. The film also features Teyonah Parris as Sam’s rival Coco Conners, Brandon P. Bell as her ex-boyfriend, and Tyler James Williams as a reluctant reporter for the school newspaper asked to cover the controversy surrounding an all-black residential hall on campus.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Dear White People’s Ivy League setting is familiar enough to make Right-On feel comfortable, while its incisive racial satire will be a welcome reminder for him to check his privilege.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Thompson’s theory on the racial politics of Gremlins (“the Gremlins are loud, talk in slang, are addicted to fried chicken, and freak out when you get their hair wet”) will make Dumbass laugh and think.
The basics: Sundance closed this year with the first theatrical feature directed by William H. Macy—a drama about a bereaved father (Billy Crudup) who discovers the college-aged son he’s just lost was a songwriter. With the help of a young musician (Anton Yelchin), he forms a band and begins playing the tunes at live gigs. Laurence Fishburne, Ben Kweller, and Macy’s wife, Felicity Huffman, costar.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Right-On has been a diehard Macy fan since Fargo, which he glowingly reviewed for the A.V. Club back in ’96. (He gave it five Golden Pogs—then our highest rating.) Additionally, Rudderless casts Crudup as a musician, inspiring fond memories of Almost Famous. (Original Right-On rating: four and a half Pogs.)
Why Dumbass might like it too: Dumbass has been a diehard Macy fan since Mystery Men, which he gave five Golden Pogs to—much to Right-On’s chagrin.
The basics: Jake Paltrow, younger brother of Gwyneth, directs a post-apocalyptic Dust Bowl oater, starring Michael Shannon as a hardened farmer trying to protect his land from a young rival (Nicholas Hoult). From Sundance, The A.V. Club wrote that “the actors are playing archetypes in search of characters, and the plot, detrimentally chopped into three chapters, never gains any urgency.”
Why it’s right for Right-On: One of Right-On’s favorite games is Spot The Throwback Affectation. Young Ones will keep him very busy on that front.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Westerns are probably Dumbass’ favorite old-timey Hollywood genre, and he likes Mad Max-style outlaw futures, too. Also enticing: Robots! (Everyone rides mechanical bugs instead of horses.)
The basics: Hasbro’s reign of board-game movie terror continues with Ouija, the project that died and came back and died again and will manifest its spirit in theaters just in time for Halloween. Special effects veteran Stiles White makes his directing debut in the tale of a group of teens who are horrified to learn that their friend’s suicide may be linked to a Ouija board she found in her attic, but decide to mess around with the spooky old thing anyway. Oh, the folly of youth.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: Dumbass doesn’t like to think too hard about his horror movies, and an attractive young cast doesn’t hurt, either. And even though McG is no longer attached to the project, Dumbass trusts that his influence will shine through.
Why Right-On might like it too: This one is pretty far out of Right-On’s wheelhouse, but star Olivia Cooke also appears on Bates Motel, and he’s heard good things about that show.
The basics: Bill Murray stars as the titular misanthrope, who is roped into watching his new neighbor’s son and ends up taking the boy on all kinds of non-age-appropriate adventures, introducing him to strippers, trackside betting, and boxing, while presumable learning a few lessons in the process. This broad comedy marks Murray’s first straight-up comedic starring role since the late 1990s; Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, and Chris O’Dowd costar.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: Frankly, Dumbass is sick and tired of seeing Murray skillfully inhabit schlubs possessed of an ineffable sadness. What happened to the asshole from Ghostbusters and Caddyshack? Wait, is that him in the trailer, talking with a vague New England accent? Could it be?
Why Right-On might like it too: Right-On can appreciate Bill Murray in all of his forms: comedic, dramatic, tragicomic. Well, maybe not as Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The basics: Keanu Reeves is John Wick, one of those retired hit-man types Liam Neeson usually plays. When his peaceful family life is disrupted by vicious criminals, Wick goes full Neeson on those responsible, traveling to New York to enact vengeance. Willem Dafoe costars, probably as the villain—because come on. The film will premiere at the genre-friendly Fantastic Fest in Austin later this month.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: Keanu basically is The One to Dumbass, who has been worshipping at the star’s altar since Speed. But based on a plot description, this could star Judi Dench and Dumbass would still be there on midnight the Thursday of opening week.
Why Right-On might like it too: John Wick has been directed by two veteran stunt coordinators. Right-On, who likes to fancy himself a Vulgar Autuerist, suspects that means that it will have good action scenes.
The basics: Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister director Lynn Shelton continues her slow transformation into a mainstream filmmaker with this sitcom-ish indie about an immature woman (Keira Knightley, rocking a very solid American accent) who tells her fiancée she’s headed for a self-improvement seminar, but instead kicks it with a teenage girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) for whom she once bought beer. Sam Rockwell, excellent as always, plays the girl’s understandably concerned father. The A.V. Club take from Sundance: “Given that basic premise, it’s something of a miracle that Laggies isn’t completely insufferable.”
Why it’s right for Right-On: Right-On is still holding out hope that Shelton will return to her improvisational roots. This isn’t the film to get her back there, but Right-On will need to see it as research for his inevitable, glowing appraisal of her “comeback” movie.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Dumbass, like Knightley’s character, is something of an ageless adolescent. Like, literally. He’s been a teenager for 20 years.
The basics: Based on a novel by Laura Kasischke, this coming-of-age mystery features rising star Shailene Woodley as a teenage girl whose mother (Eva Green) vanishes one day with no explanation. The hole this absence creates in the girl’s life is only partly filled by her first sexual experiences, which involve both a hunky young neighbor (Shiloh Fernandez) and a much older detective (Thomas Jane). Word at Sundance was mixed, but almost everyone agreed that Woodley turns in another richly detailed performance.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Director Gregg Araki has proved that he can do sublime work with teen turmoil, having given Joseph Gordon-Levitt his breakthrough dramatic role in 2004’s Mysterious Skin. Also, the film is set in the ’80s, and Right-On has a thing for smart ’80s nostalgia.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Araki is also known—arguably better known—for making sexually adventurous movies like The Doom Generation and Nowhere, and White Bird In A Blizzard… well, let’s just say it reveals a side of Woodley that she hasn’t previously exposed onscreen.
The basics: A critical favorite at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the latest effort by Swedish director Ruben Östlund (whose provocative drama Play was never released in the U.S.) chronicles the emotional fallout that occurs when a family on a ski vacation experiences a near-miss with a controlled avalanche. Faced with what he believes is mortal danger, the patriarch runs like a bat out of hell, leaving his wife and small children to fend for themselves; when it turns out to have been nothing, ugly wounds fester.
Why it’s right for Right-On: The general dynamic—lingering tension between a couple following an act of cowardice on the part of the man—boasts a strong resemblance to one of Right-On’s favorite films from the past few years, The Loneliest Planet.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Unlike the two main characters in The Loneliest Planet, who never discuss what happened (or say much of anything at all after the incident), Force Majeure’s husband and wife have normal, increasingly heated conversations about what it means for their relationship. Overt drama!
The basics: A hit at Sundance, Jesse Moss’ acclaimed documentary concerns a North Dakota pastor who takes in homeless jobseekers drawn to his neck of the woods by the promise of a hydrofracking gig. From True/False, A.V. Club critic Ben Kenigsberg wrote that “the film goes in directions its makers could never have anticipated, providing the sort of closing note that would make a novelist jealous.”
Why it’s right for Right-On: Every Christmas, Right-On intends to make it down to the local soup kitchen to give a little back, but something always come up! This year, he’ll just watch this movie instead and feel good about “informing himself.”
Why Dumbass might like it too: Let’s be real, he won’t.
The basics: A petty criminal (Jake Gyllenhaal, gaunter than usual) breaks into the dangerous, lucrative field of nocturnal crime coverage, jetting around Los Angeles during the wee hours in hope of capturing some extreme footage he can sell to the nightly news. The directorial debut of screenwriter Dan Gilroy, brother of Tony, looks like Network by way of Drive with a pinch of The Wolf Of Wall Street.
Why it’s right for Right-On: As if the above combination of potential influences weren’t enough, Nightcrawler has Robert Elswit (There Will Be Blood) behind the camera and Bill Paxton as a rival freelancer. It’s also got the Gilroy pedigree—a seal of quality, as far as diehard Michael Clayton fan Right-On is concerned.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Dumbass has spent some time driving around the city and filming crimes, albeit usually his own. (The Jackass people never responded about his submissions, but he’s keeping his fingers crossed for a reboot.)
The basics: Things are already going pretty poorly for Ig Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe) before he wakes up one morning with two goat-like horns budding from his forehead. He’s been falsely accused of the rape and murder of his girlfriend Merrin (Juno Temple), prompting the residents of his Pacific Northwest town to give him the ol’ pitchforks-and-torches treatment. But Ig’s new protuberances give him the power to draw out people’s deepest secrets, an ability that comes in handy as he searches for Merrin’s real killer. Plus, they serve as a handy religious metaphor in this dark fable.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: Because Director Alexandre Aja’s last directorial credit was Piranha 3D, the movie that had both naked porn stars and a 3-D severed penis gag.
Why Right-On might like it too: Horns is based on a novel by Joe Hill that was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award, so you could say it was based on an award-winning novel. Right-On likes the sound of that.
Rechristened action idol John Cusack mans the wheel of Drive Hard (October 3), a thriller about a racer forced to play getaway driver for a thief. Addicted (October 10) brings the erotic fiction of Zane to the big screen, several months before Fifty Shades Of Grey does the same for E.L. James. The Devil’s Hand (October 10), formerly titled Where The Devil Hides, provides some seasonal scares for those who can’t score a ticket to Annabelle. Emmy Rossum takes care of a dying Hilary Swank in the Michelle Wildgen adaptation You’re Not You (October 10). Volker Schlöndorff (The Tin Drum) returns with the WWII historical drama Diplomacy (October 15), which is not an adaptation of the strategic board game. The latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation, The Best Of Me (October 17), pairs James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan as reunited high-school sweethearts. Housebound (October 17) is a Kiwi variation on the usual paranormal activity. Isao Takahata returns to Studio Ghibli to direct the folkloric The Tale Of Princess Kaguya (October 17). Juliette Binoche stars as a war journalist in the autobiographical drama A Thousand Times Good Night (October 24). Low Down (October 24) is a biopic of the late jazz pianist Joe Albany, played here by John Hawkes. Martin Scorsese executive-produced the new Wai-Keung Lau and Andrew Loo crime drama Revenge Of The Green Dragons (October 24). Before I Go To Sleep (October 31) sounds kind of like the serious thriller version of 50 First Dates, starring Nicole Kidman in the Drew Barrymore role. And ABCs Of Death 2 (October 31) offers 26 new tales of alphabetical horror.