While you might be bummed you can't make it to Venice, Telluride and TIFF, over the next four weeks, there will be plenty of movies hitting theaters that are just as buzzworthy, heading to cinemas following their splashy premieres around the world. So to help you along your way, we've picked ten films that are unspooling in the next 30 days or so that will likely to be worth your time and hard earned dollars. So with no further ado…
1. “The Master”
Synopsis: A troubled, hard-drinking former sailor (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in with a charismatic man in the process of setting up his own religion (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
Our Verdict: Undoubtedly the biggest news of the month movie-wise is the return of Paul Thomas Anderson, with his much-anticipated look at addiction, Scientology-like religions and the love between two men, reuniting with him longtime muse Hoffman, and giving him the great Phoenix and Amy Adams to play with as well. At this point in time, we’ve had two separate looks, and while both reviews had issues, it’s clear that it’ll cause more debate than anything else this month. Charlie Schmidlin, who caught a secret 70mm screening in Chicago last month, said that it’s “altogether an experience at which to marvel,” although he found the film a little "listless." Meanwhile, I saw the film in Venice at the weekend, and though I found it “a film to admire (enormously) rather than cherish,” it’s also a stunning film in many respects, from the glorious 70mm photography to top-notch performances from Phoenix, Hoffman and Adams. Other reactions have ranged from raves to disappointment, but whichever way you land on it, this is clearly the one film this month you have to see.
When? New York and LA from September 14th, expanding from September 21st.
Synopsis: In a future where time travel exists, but is outlawed, hitmen are enlisted to eliminate mob targets sent back from even further in the future, so as to leave no bodies. However, the system falls apart when Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) fails to pull the trigger on his older self (played by Bruce Willis).
What You Need to Know: Of course, “The Master” isn’t the only hotly anticipated film landing this month. Writer-director Rian Johnson has already put an inspired spin on both film noir with the high school-set “Brick” and the con-man caper with “The Brothers Bloom” (disliked by some, but in this writer’s opinion, it’s something of an undersung gem). To see him tackle heady sci-fi action with a cast that includes “Brick” lead Gordon-Levitt (coming right off “The Dark Knight Rises”), Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Piper Perabo, Paul Dano and Garret Dillahunt is an exciting prospect indeed. No official reviews have yet dropped, but as far back as the end of last year, the buzz has been very, very strong, while the trailers look great, and an opening slot at TIFF bodes well. Bruce Willis himself has called it the best thing he’s ever been in, and given that he starred in “Pulp Fiction,” “Die Hard” and “12 Monkeys,” that’s probably worth paying attention to.
When? Opens wide September 28th. Look for our review in a day or two, when it opens TIFF.
3. “Keep The Lights On”
Synopsis: A documentary filmmaker (Thure Lindhart) and a literary agent (Zachary Booth) make an unexpected connection after a one-night stand.
Our Verdict: Ira Sachs' follow-up to his acclaimed "Forty Shades of Blue" sounds like a U.S.-set version of last year's acclaimed "Weekend," and if Simon Abrams was correct when he reviewed the film for us at Sundance, it's every bit as good as its predecessor. "Sachs pulls no punches" he wrote, with "every moment poignant and significant in some way." Aside from one heavy-handed scene, the film was "stunning… there's no melodrama here, just a moving and totally engrossing story of two men in love." The central performances from Zachary Booth ("Damages") and Danish actor Thure Lindhart ("Into the Wild," "Flame & Citron") seem like they could be star-makers as well. And if you weren't convinced already, the score is made up of cuts from the great Arthur Russell. Hopefully it'll manage to break out a little more than the woefully underseen "Weekend" did.
When? Opens September 7th.
4. "The Perks of Being A Wallflower"
Synopsis: A high school freshman struggles to get over the suicide of his best friend.
What You Need To Know: If you're going to make an adaptation of one of the most beloved cult novels of the last fifteen years or so, it's always going to reassure fans to know that the project has the backing of the original author. But Stephen Chblosky doesn't just approve of the adaptation of his bildungsroman "The Perks of Being A Wallflower," he's written and directed it as well, thanks to the backing of John Malkovich's Mr. Mudd company (who were also behind "Juno"). And he's managed to attract a solid cast too, with Logan Lerman taking the central role, Emma Watson looking to break out beyond Hermione as female lead Sam, and Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Kate Walsh, Paul Rudd, Nina Dobrev and Johnny Simmons also involved. Of course, being an author doesn't help you be a filmmaker, but Chlobsky's got some experience on screen, adapting "Rent" for Chris Columbus and creating and producing the cult post-apocalyptic TV show "Jericho." Plus the trailer was pretty promising, and we've heard some good advance buzz already (Lerman and Miller are meant to be especially good). If nothing else, the soundtrack, which features New Order, The Smiths, Sonic Youth and David Bowie, is pretty kick-ass.
When? September 21st
5. “Liberal Arts”
Synopsis: An uninspired, drifting thirtysomething goes back to his college to bid farewell to a famous professor, only to meet, and fall for, a precocious young sophomore.
What You Need To Know: As the star of hit sitcom "How I Met Your Mother," Josh Radnor was always going to have the shadow of Zach Braff and "Garden State" hanging over his directorial debut "happythankyoumoreplease." While that film had its share of issues, he's already beaten Braff by getting his second film under his belt only two years after the first. And Radnor's been smart enough to cast last year's breakout starlet Elizabeth Olsen opposite himself (well, wouldn't you?) with a cast also including "Young Adult"'s Elizabeth Reaser, sudden indie convert Zac Efron, and, as professors, Allison Janney and Richard Jenkins, two actors scientifically proven to make any film they're in 20% better. Each. And for the most part, Cory Everett liked the film when he saw it for us in Park City, calling the cast “an ensemble of terrific performers,” particularly the “effortlessly endearing” Olsen. There are problems – “The music is overbearing at times and there are a few too many endings that circle back to wrap up a story thread you may have already forgotten about,” according to Cory. But for the most part, it seems to be fairly slight, but firmly enjoyable little indie comedy.
When? September 14th
Synopsis: On the verge of his sixtieth birthday, hedge fund king Robert Miller tries to sell his company before his terrible fraud can be discovered.
What You Need To Know: In the era of Enron and Lehmann Brothers, can you make a fraudulent scumbag a sympathetic lead? That's the question that Nicholas Jarecki (the brother of documentarians Andrew and Eugene) hopes to answer with "Arbitrage," and he couldn't have asked for an actor with a better track record in morally ambivalent males than Richard Gere (who replaced Al Pacino in the part). Gere's involvement seems like a microcosm of the film in general; while Jarecki might have been courting the likes of Pacino, Eva Green and rapper Drake, he's ended up with a pretty terrific cast, with Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, William Friedkin (?!), Nate Parker and rising star Brit Marling supporting Gere, and if nothing else, the plot couldn't be more timely. We didn’t catch it ourselves at Sundance this year, but word is that it’s a solid, if not quite top-flight, drama, marking Jarecki as one to watch, and that Gere gives one of the finest performances of his career (which could end up landing him awards buzz).
When? September 14th both in theatres and on iTunes.
7. “Hello I Must Be Going”
Synopsis: A divorced 35-year-old moves back in with her parents, only to begin a relationship with a boy close to her half her age .
What You Need To Know: The return to direction of "High Fidelity" star Todd Louiso, who was behind the undervalued "Love Liza," and the already forgotten "The Marc Pease Experience," would be enough to gain a modicum of interest, but really, there's main reason we’re excited about "Hello, I Must Be Going": a long, long overdue lead role for the great New Zealand actress Melanie Lynskey. Having made her debut aged only sixteen, opposite Kate Winslet in Peter Jackson's "Heavenly Creatures," she's been working steadily ever since, but has really wowed (quietly) in the last few years with supporting turns in "Up in the Air," "The Informant!" and "Win Win," among others; she's been ready for a breakout for a while. According to James Rocchi, who saw the film for us at Sundance, Lynskey “hurls herself into the part with enthusiasm and charm,” but it also happens to be a “smart, smutty and sweet” film that “deserves a hearty welcome from moviegoers looking for an honest and frank comedy that never forgets to help us care about its characters.” Hurrah!
When? September 7th.
8. Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel
Synopsis: Documentary about Vreeland, the seminal columnist, journalist and editor who headed up Vogue during its 1960s heyday.
What You Need To Know: While we wouldn’t quite describe ourselves as dedicated followers of fashion, the world of haute couture is an undeniably fascinating one, and Diana Vreeland one of its most important figures. A columnist for Harper’s Bazaar for 25 years from 1937, she was one of the first people to treat fashion as an artform, and was responsible for discovering Lauren Bacall, among many others, as well as advising everyone from Jackie Kennedy down on what to wear. She then moved over to arch-rivals Vogue, heading it up for 9 years, before curating exhibitions at the Met. Nearly 25 year after her passing, this documentary, directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland (granddaughter-in-law of her subject), Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt, and Frederic Tcheng, has been picking up rave reviews ever since premiering at Venice and Telluride a year ago. It’s not going to be for everyone, clearly, but anyone interested in that world, in one of its key figures, or simply after a fascinating documentary, should be in for a treat.
When? September 21st
Synopsis: In a post-apocalyptic dystopia, the lawmen act as judge, jury and executioner. The remorseless Judge Dredd is teamed with a young psychic, Rookie Anderson, to battle the dealers of a new drug, SLO-MO, but the duo find themselves trapped in a giant tower block, Peach Trees, with everyone out for their blood.
What You Need To Know: The '90s were not kind to the comic book movie, but few were quite as bad as the Sylvester Stallone– starring "Judge Dredd," which took the beloved 2000AD character and watered it down beyond recognition. But DNA Films are trying another, more faithful stab with Karl Urban as the Dirty Harry-inspired supercop (who won't remove his iconic helmet, as in the comics), "Juno" star Olivia Thirlby as his apprentice, and Lena Headey as scarred villain Mama. The production seems to have been a troubled one, with writer Alex Garland (“28 Days Later”) and director Pete Travis (“Vantage Point”) seemingly clashing, but the film won over fans when it premiered back at Comic-Con in July. Todd Gilchrist wasn’t quite with them when he reviewed it for us, finding the film “empty,” and saying that “it doesn’t seem like there are larger ideas” in the film. But he did find the visuals, courtesy of Lars Von Trier and Danny Boyle collaborator Anthony Dod Mantle, “remarkable and unique, lending the action a grisly but poetic feel,” and concluded that “the performances are strong, the characters thoughtfully developed and the visuals beautifully executed.” So it sounds like action and comic book movie fans won’t be too disappointed.
When? September 21st.
10. “End Of Watch”
Synopsis: Two young LAPD cops become the number one targets of a vicious drug cartel after pulling off a major bust.
What You Need To Know: More than anything else, this is the film we’re a little less certain on. David Ayer’s career to date as a director has consisted of variations on the theme of his breakout script, “Training Day,” some successful – “Harsh Times” – others less so – “Street Kings.” This is along similar lines, but with the ever talented central duo of Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena taking the lead roles (with Anna Kendrick, America Ferrera, Frank Grillo and David Harbour among those in support). But there’s one crucial difference – Ayer’s using a found-footage aesthetic, with the film made up entirely of CCTV footage and cameras mounted on the two leads, their weaponry and their car. It should at least be an interesting experiment, and if it pays off, could make for a truly visceral experience. And indeed, we’ve heard wildly mixed things to date – some have called it unwatchable, some have suggested it could be a dark horse Oscar contender. Whether the latter are on the money, or if it follows films like “The Grey” and “50/50” as films whose awards chances are massively over-hyped by excitable bloggers remains to be seen, but we’ll be finding out soon – the film premieres at TIFF in only a few short days.
When? September 21st