Film Film News Lists

A Single Shot, Don Jon, Prisoners & 5 Other September Film Releases to Get Excited About

As far as movies are concerned, September totally, well, sucks.  It’s a transitional month between summer and the awards season, both of which are well-defined release periods in which everyone knows exactly what types of movies to expect.  That’s when you get your big-budget blockbusters or when you get your high-profile awards contenders.  September, on the other hand, tends to be a weird mismatch of lower budget action films, mid-tier comedies, maybe an animated film, and a whole lot of indies the studios purchased on the festival circuit, e.g., at Sundance or the Toronto Film Festival.  At the same time, the major TV networks are typically beginning new seasons of shows in September thus giving consumers much more of a reason to simply stay home at a time when the films at the theaters are already at their least enticing.  As a result, September is almost always the lowest-grossing month of the year for film, domestically.

That doesn’t mean September is a complete and utter dead zone for new movies.  Recent Septembers have given us Looper, Pitch Perfect, Trouble with the Curve, Contagion, Moneyball, The Town, Easy A, and 3:10 to Yuma.  Those are all pretty dang good.  This September seems relatively weak among the films receiving wide releases.  However there are still plenty of films which appear intriguing, even if some of them will need an especially strong initial box office performance to expand wide enough to be seen outside of major markets.

Here are 8 upcoming releases from September to keep an eye on (all release dates are domestic):

1) Hell Baby – September 6 (Limited)

What’s It About?: A horror movie-comedy, emphasis on the comedy, in which Rob Corddry and Leslie Bibb star as a newly pregnant couple who move into a large dilapidated house in New Orleans they got for a steal…because everyone knew it was a haunted house except for them.  Predictably, the house begins exerting an evil effect upon Bibb.  A neighbor, two local police officers, and two priests from the Vatican attempt to provide assistance.  It is the directorial debut of Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, both of whom also wrote the screenplay and star as two of the priests.

Why It Might Be Awesome: The cast: Rob Corddry, Paul Scheer, Keegan Michael Key, Rob Huebel, Thomas Lennon, Michael Ian Black, and Kumail Nanjiani.  Any fan of comedy podcasts, or Adult Swim and Comedy Central shows will love that cast.  However, Rapture-Palooza had many of the same cast members, and it was fiercely average.  Plus, Hell Baby has actually been available on VOD since late July, and there does not seem to be any real buzz surrounding it.   So, in all honesty, it’s probably not particularly awesome, but with a cast like that it should at least be good for a couple of laughs.


2) Insidious Chapter 2 – September 13 (Wide)

What’s It About?: Remember the ending of Insidious where (spoiler alert) it was pretty obvious to the audience that the father played by Patrick Wilson had come back wrong (read: possessed and evil) from the ethereal realm he had gone to save his son?  Well, apparently the sequel will mostly be about the rest of the family figuring that out (and possibly even Wilson’s character as well, who may not be aware of what’s happened).  So, basically, the haunted house story of the original is made far more explicit as a haunted family story in the sequel.

Why It Might Be Awesome: The premise seems incredibly wonky in that it doesn’t seem to quite align with the ending of the first film.  However, it has the same actors (Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson) who were great in the first one, and the same director, James Wan, who is on a serious roll right now with Insidious in 2011 and now the The Conjuring and Insidious sequel this year.  In Wan we trust.


3) Blue Caprice – September 13 (Limited)

What’s It About?: A dramatization of the beltway sniper attacks which occurred in Washington, D.C. and Virginia in October of 2002, as told from the point of view of the shooters.  Isaiah Washington stars as John Allen Muhammad, with Tequan Richmond playing Lee Boyd Malvo, the minor Muhammad recruited, trained, and used as a co-conspirator during the attacks.

Why It Might Be Awesome: It received rave reviews at Sundance, where it was said the film brilliantly refused to judge its characters but instead offered a fascinating portrait of the birth of evil.  The trailer appears to capture this component rather well, presenting a narrative that starts off encouraging (wiser, older adult takes on a mentoring role to a young man in need of a father figure to provide guidance) before continually going places you don’t expect.  Plus, Washington’s performance as Muhammad looks as if it will chill to the bone.


4) A Single Shot – September 20 (Limited)

What’s It About?: A deer hunter in upstate New York accidentally kills a teenage girl while hunting.  Upon noticing that the dying girl had been carrying a bag full of $100,000, he attempts to cover up the accidental murder, and take the money for himself, partially to help cover legal fees stemming from his on-going, increasingly nasty divorce proceedings.  Drama ensues when people come looking for the $100,000.

Why It Might Be Awesome: The cast is stellar.  In supporting roles, you’ve got William H. Macy, Jason Issacs (hello, Jason Isaacs), and Jeffrey Wright, and in the starring role you’ve got Sam Rockwell, who is so good so as to make any film at least interesting by association.  The gritty, noir-ish visual design evokes the Coen Brothers and a recent film like Winter’s Bone, and the trailer rather capably makes it appear like a well-done crime drama thriller.


5) Prisoners – September 20 (Wide)

 What’s It About?: A small-town, middle-class couple (Hugh Jackman, Maria Bello) are thrown into a tailspin when their 6-year-old daughter and her best friend are kidnapped.  The father becomes convinced he knows whose done it, but bristles at the lack of cooperation from the cops (lead investigator played by Jake Gyllenhaal) who cannot find sufficient evidence to support his conclusion.  So, he resorts to vigilante justice and kidnaps and tortures the guy (Paul Dano) he thinks kidnapped his daughter.

Why It Might Be Awesome: Awesome is probably the wrong word for it, as the early word from the sneak preview screening of Prisoners at the Telluride Film Festival this week indicated the audience was moved but left in stunned silence in reaction to the unflinching, realistic violence depicted in the film.  The performances from all involved actors, which in addition to the ones already mentioned include Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, and Melissa Leo, received high praise, and this is one big film this year which will be touted upon its release as an awards contender.  It may be tough to watch, brutal even, but it is reportedly an incredibly powerful piece of film-making. 


6) Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 – September 27 (Wide)

What’s It About?: Having accidentally overrun his town with giant bits of food which literally rained from the sky, inventor Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) is given a shot at redemption when a corporation hires him to help with the cleannup effort of the town which has since been abandoned.  Inviting his closest friends and family members to tag alone, he is stunned upon returning to the town to discover his machine from the first film never actually stopped working, and the city has become overrun with actual giant, sentient food.  Oops.   He knew he forget to hit the off button on that dang thing.

Why It Might Be Awesome: The first Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was remarkably charming, featuring a genuinely touching father-son drama and love story hidden beneath a zany and often surrealistic premise.  It is somewhat discouraging that neither of the original two screenwriters (Phil Lord, Chris Miller, who also co-directed the film) have returned.  However, the premise seems like a fun variation on either of the Jurassic Park sequels (return to place to find it more overrun than thought), and not just a re-hash of the original.  Plus, the voice cast is truly stellar, with Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, Benjamin Bratt, Will Forte, and Neil Patrick Harris all returning and joined this time by Kristen Schaal (whose voice was positively made for voice-over work).


7) Don Jon – September 27 (Wide)

What’s It About?A modern day Don Juan named Don Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who looks, speaks, and acts like he’s been lifted straight out of Jersey Shore courts the girl of his dreams (Scarlet Johansson).  Small problem: he’s addicted to online pornography, and she to Hollywood romantic comedies, both of which have negatively shaped their expectations for romantic relationships.  Tony Danza is also around as Don’s father, and Julianne Moore shows up in the film’s second half in a role most Sundance Festival reviews of Don Jon unabashedly spoiled (so avoid reviews of the film which do not clearly demarcate spoilers).

Why It Might Be Awesome: Possibly due to his idiosyncratic tastes and commitment to his DIY site (and future TV show), undeniable heart-throb Joseph Gordon-Levitt will arguably always be just on the cusp of major film stardom without ever making the full transition.  However, similar to fellow heart-throb Ryan Gosling he has moved into writing, directing, and producing, all three of which he did in addition to acting for Don Jon, which he independently produced before Relativity Media picked up for distribution at Sundance.  The subject matter is topical although uncomfortable (many watch and like porn, most won’t admit to it) meaning this might be a hard sell for some, i.e., a date movie where (stereo-typically speaking) the guy might dread the questions the date/spouse asks of them afterward.  However, it’s an attempt to cast a funny light on an increasingly omnipotent but largely unexplored (on film at least) facet of modern dating.  Indications are that Don Jon is not quite on the same level as Looper and 50/50, both of which also came out in September, but for some the difference in quality was minimal.


8) We Are What We Are – September 27 (Limited)

What’s It About?: A remake of a 2010 Mexican film of the same name detailing a reclusive family with a gruesome secret that’s gradually revealed to the rest of their Catkills town due to flooding caused by torrential downpour.

Why It Might Be Awesome:  Reviews, good or bad, for horror films have minimal to non-existent effect upon box office performance.  As such, the following won’t necessarily bear on impact on how well We Are What We Are will perform financially, but of the 13 reviews currently up on RottenTomatoes it has a 93% fresh rating.  This means that most of the people who saw and wrote about it at the Sundance Film Festival loved it, positioning it as either the next The Conjuring (critically adored, one of the biggest hits of the summer movie season) or You’re Next (critically well-reviewed, tanked at box office).  There’s a trailer, included below.  It looks super creepy, and it comes out at the end of the month just in time to carry over into October when Halloween-fever will kick in.


There are, of course, much bigger movies than these 8 coming out.  However, I can’t get excited about any of them because I’m not a Vin Diesel (Riddick, 9/6) fan, have lost patience for Robert De Niro (The Family, 9/13), never cared for big dance-off movies (Battle of the Year, 9/20), and look at the Ron Howard Formula-1 racing movie starring Chris Hemsworth and just see cliche built upon cliche (Rush, 9/27).

The Mark Ruffalo-Gwyneth Paltrow sex addiction comedy Thanks for Sharing comes out in limited release on 9/20,  and is from the same director of Keeping the Faith, a film for which I have a definite soft-spot.  I analyzed Thanks for Sharing‘s trailer elsewhere on this site, and am still intrigued but the mounting negative reviews for the film have tempered my enthusiasm.  I’d like to get excited about Jayne Mansfield’s Car (9/13) – no, seriously, that’s the title of the film – considering its cast consists of Kevin Bacon, Robert Patrick, Robert DuVall, Billy Bob Thornton, and John Hurt, but can’t help but feel as if I am not the film’s target demographic.

What do you think?  Any film you are looking forward to?  Let us know what you think.

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