The biggest October news 'round here, of course, is the 48th Chicago International Film Festival, about which I will have more to say in the next week or so. I will promise this much: I'm not even going to attempt to match my screening record of 37 films from last year, because the speed of it nearly broke me.
In the meanwhile, let us turn to the more sober matter of the month's wide releases: a typical October blend of genre films, also genre films, and the odd outcropping of Oscar hopefuls. To this point, 2012 has not yet paid off any of my hopes for a whole month to live up to my expectations, but that does not keep me from maybe dangerously voicing the thought that, all things considered, the genre films look decent, and the also genre films even more so.
I don't quite get why Taken 2 exists: I was under the impression we'd already had a Taken 2, and it was called Unknown. But here we are, with Liam Neeson once again recusing a female relative from terrorists, and if it is as much exactly the same thing as Taken as the trailers indicate, it should at least deliver on the front of Liam Neeson kicking all the ass he can find. An important front, no doubt. But I'm picky about my sequels: I prefer them not to be carbon copies. After all, I have the ability to watch Taken any time I feel like it; why pay $10 for the privilege?
Speaking of "a different thing, only the same", Tim Burton makes his second stop-motion animation feature, after 2005's Corpse Bride, in the form of horror-parody Frankenweenie, in which a creepy young boy brings his beloved dog back from the dead. Making the second time Burton has directed this exact scenario: in 1984, he made a live-action short Frankenweenie, to which he owes basically his entire subsequent career: it was the kind of perfect gem that made executives want to throw projects at him. All of 29 minutes long, it's one of the director's most successful projects, and I truly don't see how tripling its length is going to work out well; but I am not Disney, and I do not have the ability to force movies to be successful through sheer ornery perseverance.
Pitch Perfect hits wide release after a water-testing week which kicked off the kind of cool reviews and moderate box office that is exactly not what studios want from platform releases.
A crowded weekend, with an extremely clear hierarchy of importance: rapturously reviewed Oscarbait; smart thriller with a tony cast and significant writer-director; concepty horror film (the first of three consecutive weekends with a horror release, because that is how you do October); high-concept comedy with an actor whose fanbase does not overlap with the concept much at all, and will almost certainly bomb.
In more concrete terms, that means Argo, the third feature made by Ben Affleck with his director hat on, the toast of Toronto, an historical political thriller with resonance to the modern day, a cast to die for, and a scenario - the CIA fakes a movie set to rescue hostages from Iran - that looks to be both fun and serious in alternation. It's the kind of thing you'd get out of a laboratory specially designed to make crowdpleasing, critical hits that win awards.
Then comes laureled playwright Martin McDonagh's second film, Seven Psychopaths, with five hugely exciting male actors and two not very exciting at all women, which will not help with McDonagh's laddish reputation; Sinister in which Ethan Hawkes fights an early Christian demon hiding in 8mm film; and ill-advised Kevin James/UFC mashup, Here Comes the Boom, in which fatty faw down.
They made a Paranormal Activity 4. Don't wanna talk about it.
I also don't really want to talk about Alex Cross, which witnesses Tyler Perry taking over a character played in the '90s by Morgan Freeman and trying to become an action star; when you think about the degree to which Madea's early films were all variations on "unstable freakshow waves a gun and screams", the jump to action stardom is not quite so strange, though I wonder how they plan to fit a pro-church message in there.
I owe a debt to the friend who pointed out that Cloud Atlas is basically The Fountain, only made by insanely ambitious popcorn entertainers and not a moody auteur. Speaking personally, I don't see any way for the collaboration between the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer to result in an especially coherent movie, doubly so given that it consists of six overlapping stories in six different historical periods, all linked by a piece of music that gives the film its title. But if all we can hope for is a glorious mess - and I think it is - all signs point to it being one of the most hypnotic, magnetically glorious messes of recent memory.
Having failed once, there is now a second attempt at forcing survival horror video game Silent Hill to succeed as a movie, with the 3-D Silent Hill: Revelation, which I am going to see on account of my known fondness for setting money on fire. There's also a Halloween party comedy thingy called Fun Size, about which I know nothing; and for some reason, Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted are collaborating to make an abnormally niche-ey looking movie about surfers called Chasing Mavericks. This last film earns the honor of being the 2012 wide release film in the United States that I am least inclined to ever want to see.