E: Ah, September. School begins, the new television season starts up, and the movie season goes to sleep. Oh, sure, we get a few advanced would-be awards films or adult-skewing thrillers, but September for the most part is a dumping ground for films that don’t fit into peak viewing times.
M: Is it me, or does it seem like we say that for every month outside of May through July, then November and December? And yet every year there are surprise hits in the other months, and movies that should have drawn a better audience in the crowded ones. Argh!
C: We do. It’s starting to get repetitive. We need a new opening strategy.
E: Okay, how’s this? September can bring a few awards bait film in slow release (Argo, American Beauty) and October even more. And as the studio’s schedules get more and more crowded, you get a better chance of getting good films every month.
M: And hey, you know what? Looking over this month’s slate… It looks pretty decent. A small selection, but more things I think I want to see than I expected.
E: Okay, so how’s this: September — more than “decent enough.”
M: And yet, this is not one of those promising films.
C: No indeed. And talk about your non-creative titles.
M: Yeah, horrible.
E: Vin Diesel hopes to revive yet another moribund franchise. Yawn.
M: Seriously, I have no interest in this latest installment, even with BSG‘s Katee Sackhoff participating. However, it has made me want to go back and check out the original, Pitch Black, which co-stars another kick-ass sci-fi (and SyFy) woman, Farscape‘s Claudia Black. It’s the only one I’ve heard good things about, and it was well enough received (by audiences at least) to spawn the rest of the “franchise.”
E: Let me know how that works out for you, then.
E: Documentary in which people who knew him and people who were influenced by him (including Hollywood luminaries like Danny DeVito, John Cusack, Ed Norton and Phillip Seymour Hoffman) talk about the acclaimed, reclusive writer.
C: A movie about a hermit! This is edge-of-your-seat stuff, folks!
M: I saw a write up of this complaining about how they made a biopic about someone that didn’t want anything about them known in public, and had to laugh. Isn’t that part of WHY there needs to be a biopic now? Because no one knows the details? I mean, there’s no need to do a biopic on Lindsey Lohan, we already know pretty much everything she’s ever done, right?
E: That could not be more true. I guess the question is, does our curiosity trump his right to privacy?
C: No, but I doubt the film violates his privacy much, if it’s mostly about his influence–his part in our shared culture.
E: Fair enough, though that means it’ll lack those details M was hoping to hear.
M: Um, I did not say *I* was hoping to hear about his private life details! As for the film itself, I am passing. As we discussed when prepping for On The Road, the whole beatnik thing is not for me. Catcher in the Rye bored me, and made me want to slap Holden Caulfield, so I’m not really interested in seeing about the process of creating him, even if the trailer makes the film look like the L.A. Confidential of reclusive author biopics.
C: Okay, now I need to watch the trailer.
E: Oh, you guys are going to love this one. Charming film where two hot moms (Naomi Watts and Robin Wright) sleep with each other’s teenage sons.
M: Sounds worthwhile.
E: I thought you’d think so. Whatever could go wrong with that scenario?
C: Eeewwwww. Also, I saw the trailer for this months ago. Did it get rescheduled?
E: Um, maybe?
M: A movie with this great a premise? Never!
E: Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson stars as the title character, with Oscar nominee Terence Howard as her husband. What did Winnie do for the cause of freedom while her husband mouldered in jail? This movie aims to tell us. Considering the subject matter and track record of the actors, you have to ask yourself why this movie is opening in September.
C: Because sometimes they release small, good movies of the sort that would get lost during blockbuster season in September?
M: I’d personally rather watch her story than J.D. Salinger’s. Like, a thousand times over.
E: Oh, for sure. I hope it’s this year’s Argo; it’s certainly an amazing story with some fine actors to tell it. And come to think of it, it’s probably in September because there’s a Mandela biopic starring Idris Elba coming out in November, so probably they’re leaving each other space.
M: And, well, it looks fantastic.
E: I’m not 100% sold, but I’m very, very curious.
Insidious: Chapter 2
M: Or, as I am calling it, Insidious: Chapter No Thank You.
E: I will say this much for it – it does look genuinely scary. Oh, and I have a question, too. When did Patrick Wilson become the new poster boy for the horror genre?
M: Maybe when his agent realized that his non-horror career has fallen flat on its face?
E: Action comedy starring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones and Glee‘s Diana Agron.
C: De Niro plays a former mobster who writes a tell-all memoir, becomes a target, and mobilizes his whole family to protect themselves–rather brutally. This of course allows for cutesy scenes of his wife and daughter doing dark violent things, which is super ironic of course, because they’re blonde and pretty.
M: I could not have been more surprised by the trailer for this. I REALLY want to see this. Witty, humorous, great actors being great and not hiding their age. Looks like action-comedy at its best to me. Makes me wonder why it didn’t come out two months ago.
E: I don’t think we saw the same trailer; witty would not be the word I picked. I’ll grant you it could be okay, and that Luc Besson has made some exciting (though flawed) movies, but there’s usually a reason that movies come out in September, and it’s not “July was just too full of great movies.”
M: I don’t know what trailer you saw, then. Everything I’ve watched for this, especially longer ads or trailers, looks great.
C: I’ve got to weigh in somewhere in between. It looks a little gratuitously bloodthirsty for me (“watch this family whack some guys!”), but also possibly amusing.
M: Come on, how can you not want to see Michelle Pfeiffer blow up a snooty French supermarket?
E: Oh, I see. It’s not that the film is so overwhelmingly witty. It’s that they blow up and beat up the French.
E: Indie film shot in Saudi Arabia (the first ever) about a young girl longing for a bicycle in a culture which decrees that such transportation brings too much dangerous freedom to females.
C: Hm, that definitely sounds interesting.
M: This is another one that I think looks fantastic. However, rather than talking about the obvious charisma and charm of the actress in the title role, or the important story being told about women’s rights in the part of the world dominated by Sharia law, let’s back up to the “first ever” claim. I remember the Jamie Foxx-Jennifer Garner movie The Kingdom making a big stink a few years back about being the first to film in Saudi Arabia. Maybe this is the first made entirely in the country?
E: I assumed what they meant was that it was the first film made by Saudis in Saudi Arabia?
C: Really? Could that be possible?
M: Maybe, it’s definitely not clear, though.
E: Let’s go back to M’s original point, with which I agree wholeheartedly — this looks fantastic.
A Strange Brand of Happy
E: Christian indie starring singer Rebecca St. James as a life coach choosing between her depressed client and the suave jerk who fired him.
M: I don’t know. I usually like strange, and God knows (literally) that I want Christian film makers to do well, but ehhhhh, not thinking they did so well here. It just looks like a strange brand of strange to me.
C: I like the idea of you an God having this conversation. “So I was thinking, God, if these Christian filmmakers could just make some good movies…” “I know, M, I know. Yeesh. Don’t you think I’m trying?”
M: Idea? That’s a legit daily conversation!
And While We Were Here
E: Kate Bosworth stars as a writer adrift on Italy’s glorious Amalfi coast.
C: Oh good, a movie about an adult who’s kind of lost and flailing immaturely through life. Something new for this year!
M: YES! And combine it with one of my all time least favorite movie genres… the adulterous love story. I seriously cannot stand movies that are supposed to be love stories that start out with one of the main characters married to someone else. Like the absolutely brutal, barely watchable Legends of the Fall. Call me old fashioned if you want, but it completely turns me off. Throw in that the guy Bosworth is traipsing around with looks like he’s 16, and I think I’d rather have Dad show me one of those travel videos he loves of the Amalfi coast.
C: Coming from the guy who watches the Tour de France, I don’t feel like that’s much of a criticism.
M: Hey, watch it!
C: You know it’s pretty much a travelogue. But I know what you mean, I can’t stand adultery stories either. Even movies like Waitress, that other people find charming–nope. I’m just left cold.
E: Yeah. It’s nice to see Kate Bosworth doing something serious, and the cinematography is very pretty, but the PBS travelogue totally wins this battle.
Star Wars: Attack of the Clones 3D
M: Is anyone else as disturbed as I am at where Disney appears to be taking the Star Wars franchise? Really, a movie a year for who knows how many years starting in 2015? Rumors of some straight-to-video stuff? Yes, because over-exposure and diluting the quality of a product is ALWAYS a good move.
C: Aren’t we a little late for that complaint? Like, ten years too late?
M: It is never too late for that complaint!
E: And hey, you could do straight-to-video on of some things — say the kids’ cartoons — and that would be fine.
M: No, no it wouldn’t. Seriously, you’ve been corrupted already by the dilution of the product if you think it would be. Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi!!!!
E: It depends on what they’re planning. I’m hesitant, yes, but the franchise has sunk so low that I find it hard to imagine it’s got so much further to sink.
C: Exactly. Have you seen the Lego movies? Star Wars is now a parody of itself.
M: This leads to a tangential discussion. I think you two would agree that I am generally a pretty optimistic person, right? Well, I have a friend at work that finds me to be very cynical. I think it’s partly because of things we deal with at work, but I also think it’s in part because we’re both big Star Wars fans, and I can be nothing but cynical about George Lucas, in particular, and the way Star Wars has been handled from around 1995 onward.
E: That’s interesting. I wouldn’t call you cynical, though you are certainly cynical when it comes to certain things that have let you down. And Star Wars is one of those things.
Thank You For Sharing
E: Mark Ruffalo stars in this (romantic?) comedy about sex addicts; Gwyneth Paltrow is the perfect woman he doesn’t know how to approach after five years in a 12-step program. It’s written and directed by Stuart Blomberg, who made the fantastic The Kids Are All Right.
C: Okay, I’m perfectly aware of how weird this sounds, but this movie actually looks quite… sweet.
M: Yep, that sounds weird.
C: It seems to take the subject of sex addiction seriously as an addiction, not just as an excuse to show some guy having sex with a million women like Californication or that X-rated Michael Fassbender movie. Mark Ruffalo — and okay, it helps that I love Mark Ruffalo (though he was also in an well-reviewed adultery movie that I hated) — plays a character who wants to stay “sober” and doesn’t know how to have a relationship in those conditions. It’s actually an interesting premise, and there seems to be comic relief as well.
E: I agree, I found the trailer sweet and endearing as well — especially the way the other members of Ruffalo’s support group (Pink, Tim Robbins and Josh Gad of The Book of Mormon) stand up for each other. And it made me laugh. I would absolutely see this movie.
M: I don’t know if “sweet” is the word I’d use, but it does sound promising, and certainly not the usual Hollywood fare.
E: Has it been too long since we’ve seen a conspiracy theory film about JFK’s assassination? Never fear! The wait is over!
M: Right, because we were all just chomping at the bit for another JFK.
C: I’ve never even seen JFK.
M: I’ll sum it up for you, so you never have to. Present conjecture and hypothesis as if it is fact. Have a typical Oliver Stone LSD scene. Have Kevin Costner say “Back and to the left… back and to the left… back and to the left…” Repeat last part for about 3 hours.
E: It wasn’t that bad, M. Just because you hate Oliver Stone… anyway, Billy Bob Thornton, James Badge Dale and Zac Ephron (really?) share the screen with Paul Giamatti, who plays amateur cameraman Abraham Zapruder.
M: I will give it this, I like the cast. Well, let me rephrase… I like Paul Giamatti and James Badge Dale.
C: Yet I wouldn’t see a movie based on their presence alone. This is a wait-for-reviews picture.
E: And almost surely a “wait for video” one even if the reviews are good.
E: Hugh Jackman, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, Paul Dano, Maria Bello, Melissa Leo and Jake Gyllenhaal (hey, whatever happened to him? it feels like he hasn’t made a movie in a few years) star in the movie that poses the question: how far would you go to save your child?
C: This is a question I feel like many movies seem to pose.
M: Ohhh, now this is a dilemma. I love both Jackson and Gyllenhaal (and agreed, he’s been MIA, he should be in way more things, what gives?!), and this looks like a terrifically taught, suspenseful thriller…
E: And, let me say it again, this cast is outrageously spectacular.
M: Totally! But ugh… kidnapped/missing children is REALLY tough for me to do. I will likely pass, despite how well done and well acted it looks.
E: I agree — Jackman is a vigilant seeking revenge on the men who kidnapped his daughters, and that’s just not my bag. I actually skipped Ben Affleck’s directorial debut Gone Baby Gone, even though it was nominated for an Oscar, because I just could not handle seeing a child that age kidnapped. (It’s one of two acting nominees I’ve chosen not to see in the entire decade.) It sounds like the filmmakers are going for moral complexity, which is great in theory, but child endangerment makes me just too squeamish. It may be the anti-Chuck Norris film, but that doesn’t help the subject matter.
C: As the one who’s not a parent here, I might be more in the target demographic, but revenge movies have to be really well-written for me if they’re going to work.
M: Based on the trailers I saw, it was more of a find the kids movie than a revenge movie. Jackman looks to want to go a bit Gitmo on a guy he’s convinced is the kidnapper, but other than that I didn’t see the revenge part.
Battle of the Year
E: Dance movie starring Josh Holloway as the unwilling coach of a dance crew hoping to bring victory back to the USA.
C: Hold up. Sawyer from LOST? As a dance coach?! You have my attention…
M: Okay, call me crazy, but I kind of want to see this! Mrs. M and I discussed after watching the trailer how it looks so formulaic, but that there’s a formula for a reason, and this one just might have found that successful spot in it. And, well, Josh Holloway is awesome and all Sawyer-y, getting crabby and mad at the little b-boy dancers. Yup, I’m crazy.
E: You’re the same kind of crazy as me, then. I love watching great dance, and there’s something comforting about the occasional competition triumph movie. Does it look like well-made cinema? No. Does Josh Holloway appear to be the only person in the movie who knows how to act? Yes. Does it look worth renting? Yes.
C: Y’all are over-thinking. After the trailer narrator delivered the line “a great coach can take any team, in any sport, to the top,” you gotta realize there is no thinking involved here. This is just ridiculous and awesome.
M: Exactly! Put the brain aside, let the formula play out, enjoy.
C: Oh bother. A friend has just alerted my dimwitted self that this movie also stars Chris Brown. (What can I say, I’m a TV and movie blogger, I don’t recognize singing people!) Aaaaand my willingness to pay money to see this has dropped to zero. What a shame.
M: Oh, but as a rental on Netflix or RedBox? I’m in… 6 months from now.
E: Romance starring two television titans — Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini.
C: Neither of whom, not to be unkind, I’ve ever been particularly compelled by.
E: No, I’m with you. You don’t have to like everybody.
M: I don’t know if I’ll end up seeing this, but the concept has potential. Tony Soprano and Elaine get set up, start dating and falling for each other. Elaine separately develops a friendship with Tony’s ex-wife, at first not knowing the connection, and the whole time with the ex-wife not knowing of the dating. Elaine hears all the exes’ complaints, and tries not to let them impact the relationship. Theoretically, hilarity ensues.
C: Well, it’s not a bad concept. Who knows, maybe it’ll be decent.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
E: Or, Jurassic Park: The Food Cartoon. Flint and Sam and the gang return to Swallow Falls where Flint’s invention has run amok, spawning a lost world of food-creatures like shrimpanzees, cheespiders, mesquitoasts, watermelphants and of course tacodiles.
C: Those are some pretty excellent words, I’ll give it that.
M: I really need to see the first. My kids liked it, I just haven’t gotten to it.
E: The first was cute but way over the top, and this one looks certain to follow in the same excess.
E: No, it’s not about the band.
M: Nor is it a remake of the 1991 Jason Patrick/Jennifer Jason-Leigh movie of the same name.
E: It does seem to be about Chris Hemsworth in tank tops.
M: For those that care more than just about one of the Hemsworth boys’ bodies, it’s based on a true story of two Formula One racers.
C: If that was supposed to make the film sound more widely appealing, it backfired.
M: Yeah, it wasn’t, it was supposed to make is sound less skeevy. It actually looks, from at least some of the trailers I’ve seen, like the other driver — played by Inglorious Basterds’ Daniel Bruhl — should be the lead, but clearly isn’t. Also for those who are attracted by things other than Hemsworths (*cough* NOT C! *cough*), the makers of the movie have kindly included Olivia Wilde as Hemsworth’s love interest. However, if you’re hoping the movie is good, don’t be discouraged by that, it looks like this could actually break her “everything I’m in is crap” curse.
C: Really? Color me dubious. But then, I find race cars curiously off-putting, like escargot or public massage chairs.
M: Seriously? Who doesn’t like a quick minute in the Brookstone chair when they’re tired from traipsing around the mall? What’s wrong with you?
C: Oh, I didn’t mean Brookstone; I mean those kiosks where you put your face down on a chair and some random person gives you a 15-minute massage in public.
E: Well, I’m more excited to see the excellent Natalie Dormer from Elementary and Game of Thrones. And let’s remember that we have Ron Howard in the director’s seat and Peter Morgan penning the lines. That’s a little more substantial than my tank top crack might have implied. Apparently Hemsworth’s character is quite the exuberant playboy, and this makes it the sexiest movie Howard has ever made.
M: Not to get all “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” or anything, but Howard’s sexiest movie prior to this would probably be Backdraft, which had as one of its leads… 1991 Rush star Jennifer Jason-Leigh. Boom.
E: Writer-director Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays against type as a Jersey Shore-like guy who’s all about his family, his “boys,” working out and going clubbing to pick up girls. Despite what might look like a perfect playboy lifestyle, he’s also addicted to porn. How will affect his life when he meets his perfect girl (Scarlett Johansson)?
C: See now, this to me looks like the movie Thank You For Sharing could have been but doesn’t look like (from the trailer). It sounds sordid.
M: I read a long piece on this a few months back (long enough that I was surprised it hadn’t come out yet), and it looks to me like it could be quite good.
E: This movie’s getting great reviews – the industry rags have been talking about it for nearly a year now.
M: Well, that would explain it!
C: Hm. Maybe my feeling about this is wrong.
E: Well, that’s not to say I actually want to see it. One element that fascinates me from the trailer is the way the film puts Johansson’s love of romantic movies up as a comparison to Levitt’s porno habit, looking at the way we as a society medicate ourselves with various forms of entertainment.
C: Nope, still sounds sordid. And depressing.
M: Yeah, that’s just messed up. However, the parts of that that I’ve seen in trailers for this play that comparison in a comedic light. Either way, let’s move on to what looks good about it. I think Gordon-Levitt is becoming one of the best actors going. You want to talk about against type for him? Did you watch Looper? Not sure he has a type any more.
C: Or ever did, considering his early film work included both 10 Things I Hate About You and Brick.
M: Still need to see Brick. But also include 3rd Rock. And now throw in Inception and The Dark Knight Rises. No type.
E: I haven’t seen Looper yet…
M: Oh, you should. It was good, and not what I expected from the ads.
E: What I meant about this movie, though, was that he plays a dumb muscle-bound Lothario, and whatever else his type might be I’ve never thought of him as dumb.
C: Okay, fair point. Me neither.
E: Tony Danza costars as Levitt’s father, and Julianne Moore as what looks to be his therapist.
M: Too bad Tony Danza’s not playing against type as when playing dumb!
As I Lay Dying
E: James Franco headlines this adaptation of William Faulkner’s classic novel.
M: Okay, my enthusiasm for this month’s slate only goes so far. This looks very period-y and like its trying to be very important… It also looks painful to watch. Plus, Franco and his buddy Danny Boyle trying to play serious in it? Meh.
C: Period movies based on classic novels are usually my thing… but most definitely not in this case. “Painful to watch” is exactly right.
E: I hate William Faulkner.
M: And there’s that.
Out in the Dark
E: Gay Romeo and Juliet love story thriller about an Israeli lawyer and a Palestinian student.
M: Looks to be a complex story that plays on the Israeli-Palestinian tensions maybe as much as the sexuality issue.
E: It looks excellent, doesn’t it? From the punny title, I thought it was going to be schlocky, but the trailer’s amazing.
M: I don’t know if I’d go as far as amazing, but yes, very good.
The Secret Lives of Dorks
M: Ugh, why are the nerdy/ugly girls in movies always played by attractive women being made to look “bad”?
E: Because it’s a movie.
C: Because it’s an American movie. And I don’t care if it’s the norm, I still hate it.
M: Hear, hear!
E: Also, 1985 called and it wants its plot back.
C: And it’s not even a good homage. It looks atrocious.
E: Because it’s such a smart idea, Paula Patton’s flight attendant decides she needs to be engaged before her sister’s wedding. So she takes six weeks and looks up all her most promises exes. And, I’m sorry, but from the preview there’s no clue why she would have dumped Taye Diggs, Trey Songz, or Djimon Honsou.
C: Attractive a list of men as that may be, this premise is the worst. Who decides to get engaged to anyone because they’re going to a wedding? Women, you know, are just so desperate like that!
M: Wasn’t there a flop with this same premise in the last few years? Maybe a Katherine Heigel movie?
E: Anna Faris? I think there was a TV show, too — The Ex List.
Inequality for All
E: Documentary about the economy.
M: Oh yes, let’s all run out to see Robert Reich, a rich guy who was too liberal to even win the Democratic nomination for governor in MASSACHUSETTS, tell us about how evil rich people are ruining our lives. I bet it’ll be completely factual and unbiased.
E: I knew you’d love this one. What better way to end September than with my brother foaming at the mouth? It’s a preview of all October’s horror flicks.