Monthly Preview: September 2014

calendar2With the Summer Blockbuster Season behind us, we are entering Prestige Film Season, and one that looks to have a lot of potential. September in particular has, for some time now, been the month of dark horse awards contenders and borderline-commercial genre fare. The end result of this mish-mash is a collection of distinctive and hard-to-categorize films that are more concerned with being themselves to worry about profit or accolades, which can only be a benefit to open-minded moviegoers. This September seems to be no exception, with a bunch of interesting-looking options from a bunch of up-and-coming filmmakers, and I’m sure there’s something in this month for everyone.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: A romantic drama starring James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain would be enticing no matter what. The idea of a movie that shows a relationship from each lover’s (slightly different) POV ups the ante. The thought of pursuing that split perspective to the point of making two full films seems more than a little insane, but intriguingly so. While this month will only see the release of the combo film (the separate Him and Her editions come out in early October I believe), I’m still incredibly curious to see where they take this unique approach, and whether it has the impact such an ambitious film would hope to have.

The Drop: This is the kind of movie where going down the IMDb page feels like checking off a list of “Things That Make A Movie Sound Good”. Directed by Michael Roskam of Bullhead? Yup. Written by Dennis Lehane, one of the better crime novelists working today? Oh yeah. Impressive young actors including Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and Matthias Schoenaerts? For sure. One last sure-to-be-intense performance from the late great James Gandolfini? Absolutely. So by the time you actually see the trailer, which shows a film combining old-school crime movie tropes with a nuanced examination of pride and power among criminals, it’s just icing on the already-enticing cake.

The Skeleton Twins: Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are exceedingly funny people, and in the trailer for Skeleton Twins we see that in spades, albeit in a more subdued and bitter fashion. But the reviews of the film paint a much darker picture, of a very dramatic and heavy film, one that obviously doesn’t sell as well as two SNL alums sniping at each other and acting ridiculous. I see that potential dichotomy as a good thing though because nothing builds pathos like humor, and I can easily see Wiig and Hader’s witticisms being used to draw you in before dropping the drama on you. While it might also suffer from a bit of Sundance Indie Flavor, I think the combination of the leads’ sense of humor and a more subdued dramatic narrative could pay dividends.

The Guest: Over this past weekend I finally got around to watching You’re Next from Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, and damn was I impressed. So now I’m even more excited for their next collaboration on this film, which stars Dan Stevens and features the sort of awesome high-concept premise I’m always hungry for. Furthermore early reviews suggest the same sort of throwback-’80s vibe that helped make Cold in July such a success earlier this year, so I’m definitely sold on this. Hopefully it will be the sort of sleeper hit that sticks with you in the way that only sleeper films really can.

Tusk: It’s kind of bizarre just to consider that Kevin Smith is the elder statesman of this month’s filmmakers, much less that he’s found a second life directing horror films. While Red State was a very flawed piece of work (though one I really want to revisit), I did think it had some interesting moments and saw Smith discover a really different side of himself, not to mention really embracing the technical side of filmmaking like never before. The big question for when it comes to Tusk is whether Smith approached the absurd premise with the right tone; the trailer suggests that maybe he did, but if this veers towards knowingly-bad, Syfy-Original-Movie schlock then I might not be able to follow him with this one. Fingers crossed he gets it right.

A Walk Among The Tombstones: While Scott Frank has been around as a screenwriter for awhile, he only has the underrated The Lookout to his name as a director. So to solve that drought, he did the sensible thing and made a movie with Liam Neeson. But unlike many of the current glut of Neeson actioners, this one seems more focused on character and mystery than on middle-aged ass-kickings, and between Frank’s solid filmography and the respected history of the Matt Scudder character I have a good feeling they can pull it off. On the late-career-Neeson scale, I’m hoping it will fall in right on the same level as The Grey, and give us a good, solid crime story along the way.

Boxtrolls: When your studio is responsible for Coraline and ParaNorman, I can’t imagine anyone not being excited for your next effort. Enter Boxtrolls, which looks just as beautiful and imaginative as any of Laika’s previous work. Furthermore it’s got a strong moral-driven fairy-tale premise that could easily translate into effective emotional impact. When you add the great voice cast to Laika’s beautiful story and animation work, and I’m sure this will be a fun time… especially after a month of intense dramatic material.

And… that’s it? While this month has the aforementioned solid lineup, everything else outside of it falls squarely in the Not-Interested pile for me. While the Mia-Wasikowska-starring Tracks is finally coming out (a movie I originally slated as an also-ran back in the spring before it suddenly got delayed) I don’t have a ton of carryover enthusiasm for it. Otherwise, there’s nothing that feels like it might sneak up on me.

But hey, still looks like a great month to me! And it’s a good warmup for the fall season too, particularly going into one hell of an October, so strap yourselves in for some good times in the near future.

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