The month of September is typically a dumping ground of sorts at the movies. With the summer movie season coming to end, the industry shifts its focus from the spectacle pictures to the prestige films angling for an awards run. So the month of September is usually a mild one. Yet, every once in a while in the midst of un-ambitious studio pictures, a rare film can find its footing in what is one of the slower months of the calendar year. In the past few years, surprising and welcome features like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Looper and the Oscar-nominated The Master have all premiered during the month of September.. As a result, the preview selection this month will probably bit a more indie-focused than usual. With that in mind, join us as we count down the top ten films we’re most looking forward to that are opening in cinemas in the month of September.
10) HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS
Who better to lead a spiritual journey on the pursuit of happiness than Simon Pegg. Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol) stars in this dramedy, a British import, as a psychiatrist who embarks on a worldwide adventure to find the true meaning of happiness. Based on the French novel Le Voyage d’Hector ou la Recherche de Bonheur by Francois Lelord, written by Maria von Heland, Peter Chelsom and Tinker Lindsay and directed by Peter Chelsom (Funny Bones, Hannah Montana: The Movie), Hector is angling to be equal parts moving and hilarious. Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), Stellan Skarsgard (Thor), Jean Reno (Léon: The Professional), Oscar nominee Toni Collette and Oscar winner Christopher Plummer co-star.
Buzzometer: 2/10 – Hector and the Search for Happiness received lukewarm reviews when it opened in the UK and premise leads the impression that the film could very easy sway toward the saccharine, but Pegg is a seriously funny performer worthy of a breakout eventually. His writing and acting talents already have niche appeal thanks to devout that worship Shawn of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and last years’ The World’s End. Perhaps the humor in Hector will be more appreciated in the U.S.
Release Date: September 19th (limited)
Mia Wasikowska plays Robyn Davidson, a young woman who ventures on a 1,700 mile trek across the harsh deserts of West Australia in this new adventure story based on true events (as well as the book written by Davidson; Marion Nelson wrote the screenplay marking her feature debut.) Emmy-nominated actor Adam Driver (Girls) portrays a journalist who documents Davidson’s journey, yet the novelty and hopeful ingenuity in Tracks relies on what is for the most part, a one-woman’s show and a hopeful showcase for the gifted Wasikowska (The Kids Are All Right, Stoker.) John Curran (Stone, The Painted Veil) directs.
Buzzometer: 4/10 – Projects like Tracks, seemingly simple, character-motivated stories are all in the execution. Akin, perhaps in concept to last years’ smash Gravity and the upcoming Reese Witherspoon vehicle Wild, the film pits its leading lady at the center in a dangerous environment. Call this the art-house equivalent. That the film premiered to warm reviews during the 2013 festival circuit (premiering at Venice, where it was acquired by The Weinstein Company.)
Release Date: September 19th (limited)
8) THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY
It’s been a long time since a lushly crafted, elegantly mounted thriller came to entrance and seduce the cinema. Oscar nominated screenwriter Hossein Amini (The Wings of the Dove, Drive) makes his directorial debut with this tale of a wealthy American couple (Viggo Mortenssen, Kirsten Dunst) and a mysterious stranger (Oscar Isaac) who get embroiled in a tale of suspense and murder in1960-era Athens. The film premiered earlier this year at the Berlin Film Festival to warm early reviews. The Two Faces of January is based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith.
Buzzometer: 4/10 – Buzz may be a bit subdued, but with a gorgeous cast and locale, Two Faces seems like a welcome throwback to the glamorous filmmaking of yesteryear that’s simply not being made too often anymore. Highsmith, the novelist behind classic suspense tales Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley has been a reliable source for darkly elegant chillers for filmmakers as varied as Hitchcock and Anthony Minghella (and soon Todd Haynes, who recently wrapped the Cate Blanchett-leading Carol headed to theaters in 2015) and Two Faces may join the fray with the same touch of mystery and ambiguous sexuality.
Release Date: September 26th (limited) – available on VOD on August 28th
7) THE EQUALIZER
Denzel Washington reteams with his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua for a big screen adaptation of the 80s television series which starred Edward Woodward. A crime drama that positions Washington as a former black ops commando who is dragged back into action while trying to protect a young teenage girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) from Russian mobsters. The Equalizer is being sold solely on the shoulders of Washington, as it should be considering the two-time Oscar winning actors dependable track-record at selling at reliably delivering when he’s in his wheelhouse (2 Guns, Safe House, Deja Vu, Man on Fire are recent examples and all were steady hits at the box office.) The Equalizer will have its world premiere at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival before arriving in theaters.
Buzzometer: 5/10 – Washington’s reliability and bankability nearly assure The Equalizer will be one of the higher moneymakers of September, but it’s sometimes difficult to get excited about most of Washington’s recent output. Most of his titles as of late have seemed so utterly interchangeable, and that’s a real bummer considering the magnitude of his talent. The Equalizer has nearly the same exact premise word for word as his 2004 film Man on Fire (washed up crime fighter brought back into the game to protect a young girl.) Outside of his 2012 Oscar-nominated performance in Flight, the actor has rarely seemed to challenge himself on screen since winning his Training Day Oscar. Instead, it’s been on stage where he’s stretched his thespian muscles, with turns on Broadway in Julius Caesar and his Tony-winning performance in Fences in the past decade.
Release Date: September 26th
6) THE SKELETON TWINS
Former SNL castmates Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig headline a new comedy-drama that earned kind reviews when in premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, where it picked up the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for writers Mark Heyman (Black Swan) and Craig Johnson (who also directed.) The film tells the story of fraternal twins Milo and Maggie (Hader and Wiig) who reunite after a decade estranged and try to rebuild their relationship and patch together their damaged personal lives. Milo is an unsuccessful gay actor and Maggie is fraught with grief following an affair. The film played extensively on the festival circuit en route to opening in theaters, showing at the San Francisco, Seattle, Sydney and Edinburgh film festivals. Luke Wilson (The Royal Tenenbaums), Boyd Holbrook (Behind the Candelabra) and recent Emmy winner Ty Burrell (Modern Family) co-star.
Buzzometer: 5/10 – Hader and Wiig are both naturally engaging performers, so a film centered and catered to their offbeat charm seems like a no brainer, yet The Skeleton Twins may skew more dramatic, something audiences may be a bit resistant to (Wiig in particular has tried, somewhat unsuccessfully to branch out of her funny woman wheelhouse in recent indies Girl Most Likely and Hateship Loveship.) Still, the actors have carved out a specific and highly watchable chemistry throughout their tenure at SNL and the trailer seems to point that the line between silly and sad may just about be right.
Release Date: September 12th (limited)
5) THE ZERO THEOREM
Terry Gilliam has made a career of marrying the surreal with the sublime with cult classics like Brazil, 12 Monkeys and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and his latest trip sounds like a film that only he could brazen, off-kilter ambition to concoct. Two-time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz plays a computer hacker trying to find the meaning of existence in a dystopic vision of the future, a science fiction fantasia from first-time feature screenwriter Pat Rushin. Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer), Ben Whishaw (Cloud Atlas) and Matt Damon co-star.
Buzzometer: 5/10 – While Gilliam’s output hasn’t had the reliable kookiness it had in the late 1980s/early 1990s, the iconoclastic filmmaker’s weird and lush aesthetic is always welcome even if the movie inside it under delivers (like The Brothers Grimm) and Waltz seems a perfect foil for one of his creations. The Zero Theorem seems unlikely to breakout into the mainstream, but Gilliam, likely, wouldn’t have it any other way.
Release Date: September 19th (limited)
4) THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU
Four grown children return home with their respective families and baggage after the death of their father in this new comedy-drama from director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum, Date Night) from a screenplay by Jonathan Topper, who also penned the novel on which the movie is based upon. The dysfunctional family tale of love and pain reads like an old-school, multi-camera sitcom, but the cast (consisting mostly of likable television stars) makes This Is Where I Leave You seemingly something of a must see. The cast includes Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, Rose Byrne, Connie Britton, Adam Driver and two-time Academy Award winning legend Jane Fonda. Shortly before it releases it theaters, the film will make its world premiere at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival, which will let us know if the film is able to transcend its TV-ready log line.
Buzzometer: 6/10 – Well, who better to guide us through the possibly generic terrain of familial dysfunction than Michael Bluth and Liz Lemon. The cast in the biggest attraction for This Is Where I Leave You, but there’s a longing that the film may be able to tap into something deeper and more thoughtful, potentially something akin to character driven family stories like Ordinary People or Kramer vs. Kramer, the likes of which are scarcely made in mainstream Hollywood anymore. That being said, depth and thoughtfulness have never been adjectives to describes Levy’s prior work as a filmmaker and some of the trailers broader strokes (breast implant jokes) leave cause for alarm.
Release Date: September 19th
3) THE DROP
A brooding new crime drama from director Michael R. Roskam (director of the Oscar nominated foreign film Bullhead) based on the short story “Animal Rescue” by Dennis Lehane (who also penned the screenplay) stars Tom Hardy (last seen in the underrated indie Locke) as a New Yorker who finds himself embroiled in the criminal underbelly after a robbery gone wrong. Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone), Noomi Rapace (Prometheus) and the late James Gandolfini co-star. Past screen adaptations of Lehane include the acclaimed features Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone and Shutter Island.
Buzzometer: 6/10 – The Drop is significant primarily because features the last performance from the late, great Gandolfini. That alone marks the feature, one that on the surface looks a tad generic for its genre, as something worth checking out.
Release Date: September 12th (limited)
2) THE DISAPPERANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY
Writer/director Ned Benson concocted an ambitious and one-of-a-kind love story that is getting an ambitious, one-of-a-kind release date. At the 2013 Toronto Film Festival, Benson unveiled not one, but two films in the line-up with The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, a love story starring James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain. Presented initially as two films– one told from “His” point and view and another from ” Hers,” a detailed, thoughtful account of the highs and lows of a romantic coupling. The film was presented at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival with an cut together version of the two films, compiled as “Them,” was warmly received, especially for Chastain’s authentic performance. In an unparalleled stroke by distributor The Weinstein Company, all three versions of Eleanor Rigby will get theatrical releases, a move that may be labeled a stunt or as completionist’s heaven for cinephiles. Viola Davis, Bill Hader, Ciaran Hinds, William Hurt and Jess Weixler round out the ensemble cast.
Buzzometer: 7/10 – Eleanor Rigby‘s unique release pattern may prove confusing (especially if the film plans an awards run) and may be an art-house only experience, but reviews for the film (in its various incarnations) have been universally positive and the inventive structuring the film marks an impressive stroke of ambition for its distributor.
Release Date: September 12th (limited) – Them opens on the 12th; Him and Her will open separately in limited release on October 10th
1) THE BOXTROLLS
The inventive magicians at Laika Entertainment have in years past brought the rich animated films Coraline and ParaNorman to the big screen, so there should be nothing but excitement for their latest stop-motion creation, The BoxTrolls. Based on the novel Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow and adapted by Irena Brignull and Adam Pava, director Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi tells the unusual story of an orphaned boy raised by underground cave-dwelling trash collectors. An adventure ensues, as does the hopeful delight. Ben Kingsley, Jared Harris, Simon Pegg, Tracy Morgan, Isaac Hempstead-Wright and Elle Fanning provide their voices.
Buzzometer: 8/10 – Based on reputation, Laika is quietly becoming the classiest animated outfit in the industry. The Oscar-nominated success stories Coraline and ParaNorman may not have received the hype nor the hosannas of Pixar or DreamWorks output, but the idiosyncratic pleasures of work seem likely to last for generations. The BoxTrolls looks to add to their list and maybe even garner some awards cache as well.
Release Date: September 26th
- DOLPHIN TALE 2– Sequel to the 2011 hit starring Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman. (opens September 12th)
- FORREST GUMP (IMAX)– Tom Hanks’ Oscar-winning classic is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year with a re-release in IMAX. (opens September 5th)
- LILTING- Ben Whishaw (Cloud Atlas) stars in this indie drama about a young man mourning the death of his lover. (opens September 26th in limited release)
- THE MAZE RUNNER- Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf) gets trapped in a maze. (opens September 19th)
- TUSK- A new horror film from Kevin Smith starring Justin Long (He’s Just Not That Into You.) (opens September 19th)
- A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES- Liam Neeson searches for another kidnapped family. (opens September 19th)