A chill is finally in the air, the children have been in school for more than a month, and the holiday season is nearly upon us. That means it's also the season for award-caliber "prestige" films the studios believe could be Oscar contenders. Fall is the best time to arrange for childcare and spend some time in theaters without the kids. Save the family flicks for the actual holiday reunions, and in the mean time get a few dinner-movie dates in with some of the most critically acclaimed movies released this year.
This installment of Get the Sitter features three pulse-pounding films that are all varying degrees of intense, from the fast-paced action of Formula One racing in "Rush" to the heart-stopping, nail-biting (literally!) nature of both the hijacking drama "Captain Phillips" and the lost-in-space thriller "Gravity." So get a sitter and bring your spouse to hold on to for these three critically acclaimed releases.
"Captain Phillips" (Rated PG-13)
Directed by: Paul Greengrass | Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Catherine Keener | Runtime: 134 minutes
Why It's Worth It: If you've ever seen a Paul Greengrass movie ("Blood Sunday," "United 93," the "Bourne" series), you know that he's a master at gritty, fast-paced action that can leave you both dizzy and in awe. A lover of docudramas, Greengrass tells the story of the titular Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks), the commanding officer of a container ship that was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009. Hanks delivers a powerful performance as the brave captain who's willing to sacrifice his own life to ensure the safety of his crew. What's even more impressive (because Hanks is always good) is that the African actors who play the Somali pirates, particularly Barkhad Abdi as the group's leader Muse, go toe-to-toe with Hanks in portraying young men who aren't so much evil as amoral "businessmen" looking for a quick ransom to offer up to their warlord bosses. Even if you know what's going to happen, "Captain Phillips" is a gripping tale. Just be prepared for some unflinchingly intense sequences.
Critical Praise: "Both Greengrass and Hanks are on award-deserving form in a riveting, emotionally complex and hugely intelligent dramatisation of a real-life ordeal. "– Dan Jolin, Empire
"Gravity" (Rated PG-13)
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón | Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney | Runtime: 90 minutes
Why It's Worth It: If you think that a movie starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney must be a romance, you couldn't be more wrong. The perfect example of the intersection between art and technology, this is a movie that's completely worth the IMAX/3D surcharge. What Oscar winner Ang Lee did for an Indian boy lost at sea, Cuarón does in space with two astronauts – one a seasoned veteran (George Clooney) and the other a first-time mission specialist (Sandra Bullock). When an unexpected Russian satellite explodes, causing a swirl of debris to head the NASA team's way, the unthinkable happens. Like "Captain Phillips," this isn't an easy movie to watch, but it's unlike anything you've ever seen (forget the "2001" comparisons; they just both happen to take place in space). Cuarón puts Bullock and Clooney through impossible to imagine situations, and in the end this is an examination of what it means to survive and the amazing feats people can accomplish when the alternative is certain death.
Critical Praise: "At once the most realistic and beautifully choreographed film ever set in space, Gravity is a thrillingly realized survival story spiked with interludes of breath-catching tension and startling surprise."–Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
"Rush" (Rated R)
Directed by: Ron Howard | Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde | Runtime: 123 minutes
Why It's Worth It: It's a fall movie with a summer movie sensibility. There are impressive racing sequences to thrill gearheads and Formula One newbies alike; there's relationship drama for moviegoers looking for character development to go along with all the high-octane driving scenes, and there's also enough humor to take the edge off of the deadly serious competition between two well-bred racing champions from the '70s: handsome, charming English playboy James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and overly serious, literal-minded Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl). Their rivalry was legend in the annals of Formula One racing, and to Howard's credit, he makes their story so universal even people who have no interest in race car drivers will be at the edge of their seats. Hemsworth and Brühl were perfectly cast, and you'll walk out with a new appreciation for the sport and what drives these ambitious racers to face death every time they start their engines.
Critical Praise: "Rush ranks among the best movies about auto racing ever made, featuring two great performances from the leads, who capture not only the physical look of the racing legends they're playing, but the vastly different character traits that made their rivalry, well, made for the movies. " –Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times