Oscar season is hitting theaters in waves this year. The must-see title of the weekend is Steve McQueen's highly praised Best Picture frontrunner "12 Years a Slave," starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as real-life historical figure Solomon Northup, a free black man kidnapped into slavery before the Civil War, and put under the cruel hand of slave master Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender).
Close on that film's critical heels is J.C. Chandor's "All Is Lost," with 77-year-old Robert Redford giving an impressive solo performance as a nameless man battling the elements on open water when his boat suffers an unexpected accident. Redford is considered a frontrunner for a Best Actor nom in this year's awards race.
Julian Assange biopic "The Fifth Estate," starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the platinum blond WikiLeaks founder and Daniel Bruhl as his one-time compatriot, went out with more of a wimper than a bang upon its premiere at Toronto, narrowing its Oscar chances. Its Tomatometer score of 40% Rotten, plus comparisons to Alex Gibney's excellent WikiLeaks doc "We Steal Secrets," isn't helping the film's chances of making a splash.
Mum's been the word (har, har) on Kimberly Peirce's "Carrie" remake all week long, with reviews breaking October 17, so far middling. Granted, there are iconic shoes to fill for this adaptation of Stephen King's tale of telekinetic teenage horrors, starring Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore. (Sissy Spacek was of course the original wide-eyed Carrie for Brian De Palma, with Piper Laurie as her creepy, Jesus-obsessed wacko mother.)
Sundance entry "Kill Your Darlings" is sitting with mostly positive reviews (although we question the title). The Beat generation origin tale, with Daniel Radcliffe, breakout Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster and Michael C. Hall, doesn't deliver the directing or script chops to meet its estimable acting talent or the riveting real-life mystery it's based upon.
12 Years a Slave Dir. Steve McQueen, USA | Fox Searchlight | Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupito Nyong'o, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfre Woodard, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano | 97% Fresh | Indiewire: "More than a powerful elegy, 12 Years a Slave is a mesmerizing triumph of art and polemics: McQueen turns a topic rendered distant by history into an experience that, short of living through the terrible era it depicts, makes you feel as if you've been there." | Our TOH! interview with Chiwetel Ejiofor
All Is Lost Dir. J.C. Chandor, USA | Lionsgate | Cast: Robert Redford | 94% Fresh | New York Magazine: "In his late seventies, Robert Redford has never held the camera as magnificently as he does in the survival-at-sea thriller All Is Lost." | Our TOH! coverage of the Robert Redford tribute at Telluride
Kill Your Darlings Dir. John Krokidas, USA | Sony Pictures Classics | Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Jack Huston, Ben Foster, Michael C. Hall, Elizabeth Olsen, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyra Sedgewick | 78% Fresh | Variety: "Directed with an assured sense of style that pushes against the narrow confines of its admittedly fascinating story, John Krokidas’ first feature feels adventurous yet somewhat hemmed-in." Our interview with Dane DeHaan
Carrie Dir. Kimberly Peirce, USA | MGM | Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore | 44% Rotten | The Dissolve: "Despite the talent involved and the notoriety of the source
material, Carrie feels strangely small, even television-sized."
The Fifth Estate Dir. Bill Condon, USA | Touchstone Pictures | Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Alicia Vikander, Carice van Houten, Dan Stevens, Peter Cipaldi | 40% Rotten | Hollywood Reporter: "The most compelling thing here by far is the film's vision of Assange, by all accounts a man of enormous self-regard and slippery ethics. Benedict Cumberbatch has the character in hand from the start." | Our TOH! review