Summer 2014 has come to a thudding close. These past four months have had their ups and downs, but overall this summer wasn’t as bad as the headlines are making it out to be. Despite a significant dip in attendance, there were all kinds of good movies. If you were disappointed by a film this summer, odds are that whatever film you saw next likely left you satisfied. Plus, even though there wasn’t a ton of originality this summer, at least there was variety.
This fall is packed with both variety and originality. The remainder of the year should get any film fan excited since we’ll be seeing films from Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott, Bennet Miller and other beloved storytellers. We’ll have reviews for some of those films as festival season rolls along, so keep an eye out. All of that kicks off this month.
So let’s get started with the 10 must see movies this September.
The Skeleton Twins
Opens in limited release September 12th
Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader playing estranged siblings brought back together sounds like comedy gold, but The Skeleton Twins isn’t a flat-out comedy. It’s about a brother and sister attempting to commit suicide on the same day, so naturally there’s some drama. Wiig has certainly shown she’s capable of nailing more dramatic moments with Bridesmaids and Friends with Kids. As for Hader, he hasn’t had the same chance as Wiig yet, but he earned plenty of praise for his performance back at Sundance.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
Opens in theaters September 12th
Three versions of this story are being released in a month’s time. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby was initially over four hours long and broken into two movies: Him (James McAvoy) and Her (Jessica Chastain), but The Weinstein Company is first releasing a condensed version of Ned Benson’s epic love story.
The question is: which version should people see? Based on all the love for this movie, probably all three. Who wouldn’t want to spend six hours watching James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, William Hurt, Viola Davis, Bill Hader (King of September?), Isabelle Huppert, and Ciarán Hinds?
A Walk Among the Tombstones
Opens in theaters September 19th
Scott Frank is the writer behind some of the best movies of the 90s: Out of Sight, Dead Again and Get Shorty. In 2007 he made his directorial debut with The Lookout – a film just as fine as his aforementioned writing credits. It’s a smart, dramatic, clever thriller featuring what might be Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s best performance yet. Frank’s returned behind the camera with an adaptation of a Lawrence Block book about an unlicensed private detective (Liam Neeson) working for a drug lord trying to solve the mystery of wife’s murder.
The Zero Theorem
Now on VOD and opens in limited release September 19th
A familiar but new film from Terry Gilliam. Even though he didn’t write the script, The Zero Theorem’s ties to the filmmaker’s past work are obvious. For starters, the story follows a loner, Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz), in a world dominated by sensory overload. While the rest of humanity has allowed technology to consume their lives, Qohen’s is driven by waiting for a phone call that will explain why he exists. This comic tragedy is a strangely moving story about hoping our lives have importance. Gilliam is in fine form here, making The Zero Theorem his most cohesive, entertaining and thoughtful film since Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Opens in limited release September 19th
We don’t see enough of Michelle Monaghan. She’s been in a few independent films lately that didn’t garner much attention, but she’s an excellent actor who needs a bigger spotlight. Even when she’s in movies that don’t turn out well, she manages to deliver fine work. When Monaghan has the material to support her, she’s fantastic. Just watch Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang for a reminder or checkout her overlooked performance in Trucker.
In Fort Bliss Monaghan plays an Army medic returning from Afghanistan. The film is currently flying under-the-radar, but it should be worth seeing for Monaghan alone.
Opens in theaters September 19th
Back in the 90s when Kevin Smith’s career was at all all-time high, who would’ve guessed he’d one day make a movie about a podcaster (Justin Long) being turned into a walrus? We can ask the same of Red State. That horror film was a departure for Smith, albeit not a completely successful one. Still, he not only pushed himself as a filmmaker but reinvented himself. Smith deserves credit for that. More importantly, when it comes to the actual quality of his horror films, hopefully Tusk is a step up from Red State. The trailer certainly promises a more effective effort from the writer/director, partnering here again with the brilliant Michael Parks.
Opens in theaters September 26th
Antoine Fuqua’s very, very loose adaptation of the 1980s television reunites him with Denzel Washington. The duo’s first collaboration scored Washington a well-deserved Oscar for his performance in Training Day. As much as people like to remember “King Kong ain’t got shit on me!” and the other large moments from that film, it’s a truly remarkable performance and film because Washington humanized a complete monster.
Now, that next-level kind of performance probably won’t be a part of the R-rated popcorn fun of The Equalizer, but Fuqua and Washington should deliver on the promise of watching the movie star singlehandedly fighting the Russian mafia.
Opens in theaters September 26th
We shouldn’t expect a disappointment from LAIKA. The company has given us two of the best animated features of the past few years: Coraline and ParaNorman. They’re serving up another beautiful piece of stop-motion with The Boxtrolls. What is it about? Probably trolls who wear boxes. At this point, how much do we really need to know about a LAIKA movie going in? Like Pixar, they’ve earned a trust – which they hopefully won’t tarnish anytime soon with a Cars 2 or Brave — to the point where one shouldn’t have to be convinced to buy a ticket to one of their films. The name of LAIKA is all we need to know.
The Two Faces of January
Now on VOD and opens in theaters September 26th
Screenwriter Hossein Amini’s (Drive) The Two Faces of January is a finely crafted thriller. Based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel of the same name, the film follows a young con man (Oscar Isaac), an older matchstick man (Viggo Mortensen) and his wife (Kirsten Dunst). The three develop a complicated relationship while they’re on the run from the police. As a piece of suspense, The Two Faces of January is taut, but the film’s strong points come from Isaac and Mortensen. Both actors turn in top-notch performances as they bite into a troubled father-son-esque relationship.
All is by My Side
Opens in limited release September 26th
This is the kind of bio film we need to see more of. Academy Award winning writer/director John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) tells a singular story about an important time in Jimi Hendrix’s (André 3000) life. Instead of attempting to cram an entire life into two hours, All is by My Side focuses on when Hendrix is just starting out and working through complicated relationships with Linda Keith (Imogen Poots) and Kathy Etchingham (Hayley Atwell). The portrayal of Hendrix and those in his life, accurate or not, makes for a captivating movie without any glamorizing or judgement of its subject.
Honorable Mentions: Wetlands, The Guest, Space Station 76, God Help the Girl and 20,000 Days on Earth
What are you looking forward to the most this month?
Related Topics: Kevin Smith