September. It’s a month. Movies are released.
SEPTEMBER 2, 2016
The Big: THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS vs. MORGAN
The Light Between Oceans – Sounds like one of those fake titles on Seinfeld for a melodrama. And boy does it sound like quite the melodrama – an interwar couple that lives in a lighthouse discovers a baby in a boat with a corpse and decide to raise it, but the choice “leads to devastating consequences.” So much sadness! To be fair, Swiss Army Tot has a decent pedigree. Actors Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, and Rachel Weisz are strong performers, and writer-director Derek Cianfrance has made 1-2/3 good movies. (The final third of The Place Beyond The Pines lacked the power of the first two parts, and the thematic connections weren’t nearly as deep as Cianfrance seemed to think they were.)
Morgan – This week’s horror thriller sees Luke Scott, the son of A Good Year director Ridley Scott, tackling his first feature film. Another seemingly small scale “what do we do with a monster” movie along the lines of Ex Machina, it also boasts a decent cast (albeit not nearly as prestigious as Oceans) with Kate Mara, Rose Leslie, Paul Giamatti, and Toby Jones, but a middling Rotten Tomatoes score. (44% rotten with a 5/10 average review.) Despite its clever marketing campaign (including having IBM’s Jeopardy champion AI Watson create a trailer), it’s still probably a wait-for-Netflix movie.
The Little: YOGA HOSERS vs. THE 9TH LIFE OF LOUIS DRAX
Yoga Hosers – On the one hand, it’s nice that Kevin Smith has managed to cast off the shackles of Hollywood and anyone’s expectations in order to make the movies he wants to make on his own terms regardless of their appeal (or lack thereof). On the other, this looks truly terrible, plus it’s a sequel/spin-off to his career nadir Tusk. (Hopefully, his career nadir; it’s truly hard to see him dipping lower than that.) From reports and rumors, Smith seems to genuinely wants this to be some sort of new teen cult classic but, based on the ads, it speaks to no one of any age or any constitution.
The 9th Life of Louis Drax – Haute Tension/Horns’ director Alexandre Aja continues in the supernatural thriller genre with this movie about an investigation into a possibly abused child’s potentially fatal fall. It stars Jamie Dornan (50 Shades of Grey, The Fall), Sarah Gadon (Dracula Untold, Indignation), and Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad, BoJack Horseman). Plus the script is written by Max Minghella who is probably best known as the lead in Art School Confidential. (On that note, it’s been over a decade since Terry Zwigoff made a movie, as he did not return for Bad Santa 2.)
SEPTEMBER 9, 2016
The Big: SULLY vs. WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS vs. THE DISAPPOINTMENT ROOM
Sully – Is Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (his first name is Chesley?) really that interesting a figure for a biopic, even for a director such as Clint Eastwood? Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about the man behind the picture. He has the iconic plane landing moment – but then what (or before then what)? The annoying travails of fame? At least Flight dealt with the ethical ramifications of if fake-Sully (Denzel Washington) was inebriated, how would we respond to that legally, morally, publicly? Real-Sully (as played by Tom Hanks)? He’s annoyed about going on The Today Show? Biopics/true stories can generally be about relatively insignificant people (e.g. The Straight Story, Melvin and Howard) or individual events (e.g. Captain Phillips (also played by Tom Hanks); Elvis & Nixon) or icons whose life stories have so many events spanning so many decades that they become boiler plate “greatest hits” movies that nevertheless win Oscars. Sully the man falls somewhere in between these three sub-genres so it’s hard to imagine him having a tale worth the big screen treatment. Documentary? Sure. Well, maybe.
When The Bough Breaks – Every year around this time we get an urban-audience centered Lifetime-plotted thriller (e.g. No Good Deed, Obsessed), but they generally do decent box office.
The Disappointment Room – This week’s horror thriller is directed by DJ Caruso and stars Kate Beckinsale as a mother who discovers a mysterious room in her new house. Are they all dead? Probably!
The Little: DANCER
Dancer – A documentary by Steven Cantor about Sergei Polunin, one of the most renowned ballet dancers of recent years. The film talks about his career and his sudden decision to leave the British Royal Ballet after being named the youngest principal in its history.
SEPTEMBER 16, 2016
The Big: BLAIR WITCH vs. BRIDGET JONES’S BABY vs. SNOWDEN
Three completely different audiences, three big movies.
Blair Witch – This week’s horror thriller … Let me start by saying I am a fan of the Adam Wingard/Simon Barrett filmmaking team – You’re Next is a fantastic under siege movie and The Guest is one of the best throwback action movies I’ve seen in ages – and if I’d be interested in seeing anyone’s take on one of the biggest indie hits of the 1990s, it’s theirs. That being said…is there a market for Blair Witch, let alone a sequel rather than a full-on reboot? The first film is 17 years old, which is the prime age for horror movie goers and I don’t think the franchise has had a powerful enough presence in the zeitgeist to remain a brand. Unlike other horror series that pumped out movie after movie to where the villain became a genuine movie star, Blair Witch was two and done. And the second was such a catastrophe that it essentially killed the franchise until now. That being said, horror movies are doing amazing box office this year, and it would be nice to see Wingard/Barrett capitalize on that and show that found footage can be so much more than the Paranormal Activity movies.
Bridget Jones’s Baby – It’s been 12 years since we last saw Bridget Jones in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, a movie that had her incarcerated in a Thai prison. (That’s seriously a plot point.) 12 years later, and she’s pregnant, but who’s the father?!? Does anyone care? Maybe? I mean, I’m sure there are underserved audiences this might appeal to.
Snowden – Postponed for a year, presumably for Oscar consideration, Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes on the role of one of the most controversial figures of the past decade – Edward Snowden. Unlike Sully, he is definitely a figure worth analyzing (the documentary Citizenfour, for example), but is Oliver Stone the person to do it? After all, his offerings for the past 15 years (Savages, Alexander, Wall Street II: Money Never Sleeps (which deserves a slot on any worst sequels list)) have gone from terrible to terrible. And will it be possible to get an accurate assessment of the film, or will any honest view be tainted by political allegiances?
The Little: OPERATION AVALANCHE
Operation Avalanche – A fake documentary (are non-comedy fake documentaries still called ‘mockumentaries’ or do they have their own term?) about faking the moon landing. Remember Apollo 18? Of course, if done “legitimately” (i.e. a period-accurate, serious consideration of a conspiracy behind the moon landing, rather than being full of failed moments that try to shock or surprise you), it could have potential. This Variety review is positive, so here’s hoping.
SEPTEMBER 23, 2016
The Big: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN vs. STORKS
The Magnificent Seven – Yes, it’s a remake (like the original), but the terrific cast lead by Denzel Washington (as well as Chris Pratt, whom the ads are focusing very heavily on) overseen by director Antoine Fuqua, plus the quality of the trailers make this look like a good Western yarn. And if the remarkable success of Hell or High Water is any indication, people are in the mood for that genre. (Plus what else of note will have come out by the time this is released.)
Storks – We were doing so well without a kid’s movie. We almost made it an entire month.
SEPTEMBER 30, 2016
The Big: DEEPWATER HORIZON vs. MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN
Deepwater Horizon – Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg, the director/star of Lone Survivor, reteam for another based-on-a-true-story: Deepwater Horizon, about the BP Oil Spill in 2010. (That was six years ago?) The trailers are reminiscent of Lone Survivor, as well as 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, in how it focuses on the people on the scene as it’s happening rather than all the political angst that follows. But, much like Sully, I have to ask – is this an even interesting enough topic to carry a feature film? However unlike Sully, the key event does last long enough to achieve feature length, and it has more characters running around than Human Captain and Goose Captain.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Tim Burton avoided the ill-fated Alice in Wonderland sequel for this. Wise choice? We’ll see. (But with the horrific box office of Alice 2, it probably is.) Re-teaming with his Dark Shadows co-star Eva Green (thankfully not Johnny Depp), this looks to be another attempt at a franchise based on a Young Adult series, but again thankfully it doesn’t seem to involve Chosen Ones or Dystopias. Plus Eva Green (The Dreamers, Casino Royale, Penny Dreadful) is a terrific actress, though one you wouldn’t necessarily consider the lead for a children’s franchise.
The Little: AMERICAN HONEY
Probably the most notable smaller movie this month, American Honey, which won the Cannes Jury Prize this year, is about a teenage girl who joins a group of ne’er-do-wells who cross the country wreaking havoc. If her earlier film Fish Tank is any indication, writer-director Andrea Arnold is adept at presenting a seemingly honest, gritty, down-and-out world of youths and casting actual newcomers who capture the harshness of the world (in this case, Sasha Lane). Plus it co-stars Shia LeBeouf who has seemingly found his niche in dark and dirty films, which fits him so much better than Indiana Jones’ son. Also, the 2 hour, 42 minute running time shows a genuine and impressive desire to spend a lot of time with these characters; or they end up fighting a space goblin for 30 minutes.
So that’s September. I think the major standout will be The Magnificent Seven – though Blair Witch has a definite chance to win the month. And then onto October and Boo! A Madea Halloween (or, more accurately, Hellurween) and Inferno, the third Robert Langdon movie where we find out “Dante’s Inferno isn’t fiction, it’s a prophecy!” … Movies! Because you’re not going to read, are you?