In providing our comprehensive fall preview, one amounting to 70 titles, we gave a strong hint at what’s to come in our monthly round-ups of films to see, but it’s normal for unexpected releases to pop up and dates to be shifted. Such is already the case with September, as a certain TIFF premiere imported from Hong Kong will already get a release, alongside a number of highly anticipated newcomers and festival favorites.
Matinees to See: Blind (Sept. 4th), Coming Home (Sept. 9th), A Brilliant Young Mind (Sept. 11th), The Fool (Sept. 16th), Peace Officer (Sept. 16th) The Cut (Sept. 18th), Racing Extinction (Sept. 18th), Pawn Sacrifice (Sept. 18th), Songs From the North (Sept. 18th), Stonewall (Sept. 25th), Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon (Sept. 25th), and Misunderstood (Sept. 25th). Check out the rest of our list below and, in the comments, let us know what you’re most anticipating.
15. Black Mass (Scott Cooper; September 18th)
Synopsis: The true story of Whitey Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf.
Why You Should See It: Based on the ensemble alone — including Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, Kevin Bacon, Rory Cochrane, David Harbour, Dakota Johnson, Julianne Nicholson, James Russo, Adam Scott, Corey Stoll, and Juno Temple — Black Mass should, at the very least, pack some surface-level entertainment. What remains to be seen is if Scott Cooper can pull together a truly remarkable crime drama. After being disappointed by his previous features, let’s hope this third time is the charm.
14. Mississippi Grind (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck; September 25th)
Synopsis: Down on his luck and facing financial hardship, Gerry teams up with younger charismatic poker player, Curtis, in an attempt to change his luck. The two set off on a road trip through the South with visions of winning back what’s been lost.
Why You Should See It: After breaking out with the bleak, masterful character study Half Nelson, filmmaking duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck took on baseball with the under-appreciated Sugar and mental illness with It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Some five years later, they are back with the freewheelin’ fun of Mississippi Grind, a good-natured but ultimately conventional exploration of the sadness and loneliness that comes with a gambling addiction. Check out my full review.
13. 99 Homes (Ramin Bahrani; September 25th)
Synopsis: A father struggles to get back the home that his family was evicted from by working for the greedy real estate broker who’s the source of his frustration.
Why You Should See It: After participating in their respectively lame doses of superhero nonsense, Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon teamed for the far more (dramatically) interesting 99 Homes, the latest work by Ramin Bahrani. When it premiered at Venice a year ago, we said in our review, “Right from the first big sequence – an early, gripping confrontation in which Dennis’ family is forced by police officers to step outside the house that’s been foreclosed on – it’s clear that Bahrani’s direction is hitting harder than ever.”
12. Time Out of Mind (Oren Moverman; September 9th)
Synopsis: George seeks refuge at Bellevue Hospital, an Manhattan intake center for homeless men, where his friendship with a fellow client helps him try to repair his relationship with his estranged daughter.
Why You Should See It: With the restrained eye of Oren Moverman, Richard Gere gives one of his best performances in Time Out of Mind. As we said in our review, “Gere’s performance isn’t building towards a single cathartic or redemptive breakdown. Instead, Moverman’s film guides the character of George to moments of awareness, where the actor transcends his shoddy clothes and wispy beard to become something entirely compelling.”
11. Everest (Baltasar Kormákur; September 18th)
Synopsis: A climbing expedition on Mt. Everest is devastated by a severe snow storm.
Why You Should See It: It’s only a matter of days until we get the first reviews of Everest, which should be a major step-up in blockbuster directing for Baltasar Kormákur. Brought to life by an impressive ensemble of Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, and Emily Watson, the script from William Nicholson (Gladiator) and Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) will hopefully elevate (sorry) this drama from standard awards-season fare.
10. Finders Keepers (Bryan Carberry and J. Clay Tweel; September 25th)
Synopsis: In 2007, a severed human foot was discovered in a grill bought at a North Carolina auction.
Why You Should See It: Based on its premise, one might initially peg Finders Keepers as one of the strangest documentaries of the year, but it soon reveals itself to be one of the most emotional and uplifting. The story centers on John Wood, an amputee attempting to reclaim ownership of his mummified leg from Shannon Whisnant, who believes it’s his property and has dreams of being a reality TV star. Directors Bryan Carberry and J. Clay Tweel root themselves into the community as they explore the perils of addiction and the bond of family, all while tracking this peculiar custody battle of sorts.
9. Sleeping with Other People (Leslye Headland; September 11th)
Synopsis: A good-natured womanizer and a serial cheater form a platonic relationship that helps reform them in ways, while a mutual attraction sets in.
Why You Should See It: After adding a welcome dose of drama to her comedy Bachelorette, writer-director Leslye Headland returns with a Jason Sudeikis– and Alison Brie-led sophomore effort entitled Sleeping with Other People, once again proving that the romantic comedy is alive and well. We said in our review, “Working within sub-genre expectations with a sure hand and a bit of a sardonic streak, Headland finds fresh ground to tread in familiar territory, not-so-subtly updating When Harry Met Sally… for a generation a tad more comfortable with oral sex and obsessed with their iPhones.”
8. Welcome to Leith (Christopher K. Walker and Michael Beach Nichols; September 9th)
Synopsis: A feature documentary chronicling the attempted takeover of a small town in North Dakota by notorious white supremacist Craig Cobb.
Why You Should See It: What could be the most disturbing horror film of the year arrives in the form of a documentary. According to us, “Welcome to Leith delivers as a psychological horror film, one more compelling and politically relevant than your average fiction offering in the genre. It’s a critical portrait of a place that on one hand seems to lack identity, but certainly not character.”
7. Goodnight Mommy (Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz; Sept. 11th)
Synopsis: In the heat of the summer, a lonesome house in the countryside between woods and corn fields, lives nine-year-old twin brothers who are waiting for their mother. When she comes home, bandaged after cosmetic surgery, nothing is like before.
Why You Should See It: For those in need of a Michael Haneke-esque thriller before the prestige-drama onslaught hits, don’t look further than this Austrian feature. We said in our review, “There’s little doubt about the insanity within this chilling Austrian thriller. While the more vague the better, it is a cruel, twisting narrative that too obviously telegraphs some aspects but also keeps a handful of the proceedings mysterious and is all the better for it.”
6. The Keeping Room (Daniel Barber; September 25th)
Synopsis: Left without men in the dying days of the American Civil War, three Southern women – two sisters and one African-American slave – must fight to defend their home and themselves from two rogue soldiers who have broken off from the fast-approaching Union Army.
Why You Should See It: After premiering at last year’s TIFF, this Civil War-set, female-led drama will finally arrive in theaters. Led by Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, and Muna Otaru, we said it “floats in and out of conventional editing and exposition, but, while laconic in delivery — and not to be confused or associated with a Terrence Malick style of filmmaking — the message comes across clear and powerful.”
5. The Walk (Robert Zemeckis; September 30th)
Synopsis: The story of French high-wire artist Philippe Petit’s attempt to cross the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974.
Why You Should See It: While we’re curious about the spectacle of Everest, we have no doubt the next IMAX film of the month (getting an exclusive 9-day run in the format), The Walk, will deliver on thrills. He’s built a career out of delivering such entertainment, and Robert Zemeckis is returning with perhaps the best material to mine from (just watch Man of Wire if you need to be convinced). It’s set to open the New York Film Festival, and we’ll have to see if he provides a worthy enough reason to translate this into a narrative feature, but there’s little doubt that he’ll perfectly capture the vertigo-inducing acts of Petit.
4. Breathe (Mélanie Laurent; September 11th)
Synopsis: Charlie is an average French suburban teenager, but when she becomes fast friends with Sarah, the rebellious new girl at school, she discovers there’s nothing average about how she feels in Melanie Lauren’t sophomore film.
Why You Should See It: Although it seems to be flying under the radar, actress Mélanie Laurent’s drama, Breathe (known as Respire in its native French), is not to be missed. Naming it one of the fall’s best films, we said “it’s not just the most impressive film so far this year directed by an actor. It also ranks among the most astute recent studies of the emotional minefield that is adolescence.”
3. The Reflektor Tapes (Kahlil Joseph; September 23rd)
Synopsis: An exploration into the music and performances of the Canadian rock band.
Why You Should See It: After earning the top honor at the Grammys, Arcade Fire delivered another epic album with the two-part Reflektor and with the release brought a worldwide tour. There to capture it all was the Sundance-winning Kahlil Joseph and the result is the feature-length documentary The Reflektor Tapes. It’s set to screen across the globe on September 23rd, following a TIFF premiere, and I got an early look at the film. While full reviews are under embargo until an official debut, I can tell you it’s a deeply intimate look at the process of creation and touring — one that should please any fan of the band.
2. Sicario (Denis Villeneuve; September 18th)
Synopsis: An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.
Why You Should See It: He’s perhaps yet to make a flat-out great film, yet I can’t help but be deeply intrigued by what Denis Villeneuve takes on next. After proving he can handle both psychological arthouse fare with Enemy and studio thrillers with Prisoners, Sicario will hopefully meld the best of both. As we said in our review, it “delivers a constant, exhilarating stream of elaborate and exquisitely photographed thrills that ends up largely compensating for the would-be profundity.”
1. Office (Johnnie To; Sept. 18th)
Synopsis: A movie musical about high-level corporate intrigue.
Why You Should See It: Johnnie To, whose recent work was featured on our best films of the half-decade list, returns this fall with something quite unexpected: a workplace musical. Led by Chow Yun-fat and Sylvia Chang, the picture revolves around a company attempting to recover in the wake of the global financial crisis. With the director’s unmatched style for editing and composition, this promises to be one of the the most intriguing titles in the TIFF lineup — one that will thankfully arrive in theaters during its festival run.
What are you most looking forward to seeing this month?