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COMING SOON: September 2015 – voting poll!

September 1, 2015

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Although it’s hard to believe summer is over, I’m kinda glad since that means we’re getting closer to award season and the Chicago International Film Festival in October ( it also means Winter is Coming, but let’s stay positive).  Just like any month of the year, there are sequels (“Transylvannia 2” and “The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials”) and reboots (“The Transporter: Refueled”), but let’s move beyond those and find the movies that could possibly be standouts in September. I’m more interested in thrilling dramas, such as “Sicario” and “Everest” as well as horror films by the likes of M. Night Shyamalan and Eli Roth. There’s also a handful of indies I have my eye on and this is also the month we’ll find out whether or not Johnny Depp can redeem himself.

So, let’s look at which films seem to stand out each week in September (NOTE: these are Chicago release dates and they are subject to change)….

September 2nd

 

A WALK IN THE WOODS – This adaptation of travel humorist Bill Bryson’s memoir of the same title has been working the festival circuit since it’s appearance in January at the Sundance Film Festival. It stars Robert Redford as Bryson, so it’s no surprise it was at Sundance, but it remains to be seen whether or not the multitude of fans the book has will be pleased with the inevitable changes made from page to screen. It also stars Nick Nolte as Redford’s Appalachian trial companion and Emma Thompson, Mary Steenburgen, Nick Offerman and Kristen Schaal. (limited release)

September 4th

 

DRAGON BLADE Apparently this was action/adventure period piece was a huge hit in China already this year. Well, I find that hard believe considering the three leads listed here: Jackie Chan, John Cusack and Adrien Brody (the latter two gents have been well far from selective in building their recent filmography). The story follows corrupt Roman leader Tiberius (Brody) who arrives with his legions of swords and shields to claim the Silk Road. It’s up to Chan and his trained elite warriors to protect his country alongside a legion of defected Romans (there’s Cusack). It’s directed by Daniel Lee (“Black Mask”) and will likely hit two or three theaters and make most of its money domestically on iTunes or VOD.

MERU – This recent Sundance Award winner will make it to a couple local theaters, but I recommend checking it out at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago on Friday, September 4th (where co-directors Jimmy Chin and Chai Vasarhelyi will be in attendance to discuss the film), because it’s rare to get a chance to hear from directors immediately after watching a film. Chin was one of two elite climbers who climbed Mount Meru in the Himalayas back in 2008. It went from a planned 7-day trip to a 20-day odyssey with an incredible amount of challenges and obstacles.  But that was only one of two attempts at doing the unthinkable and this documentary covers their second journey. (limited release: AMC River East, Regal Lincolnshire & South Barrington AMC as well as Music Box Theatre)

QUEEN OF EARTH – Writer/director Alex Ross Perry follows up last year’s “Listen Up, Phillip” and has given Elizabeth Moss an upgrade –  from a solid supporting role in that film to a lead role in this psychological thriller. Moss and Katherine Waterston (“Inherent Vice”) play two lifelong friends who retreat to a lake house together and realize they’ve drifted apart.  There’s obviously a lot more going on than just that, of course. (limited release) NOTE: director Alex Ross Perry will be attending the Music Box Theatre on September 5th for a post-screening discussion of his film.

STEVE JOBS: THE MAN IN THE MACHINEIn October we’ll have Danny Boyle’s “Steve Jobs” which will have Michael Fassbender as The Man Who Would Be Apple, but to hold us over here’s a documentary by veteran filmmaker Alex Gibney (who recently released “Going Clear” the controversial HBO doc on Scientology) looking at the personal of the late Apple CEO. It may be a good primer for Boyle’s dramatic look at the iCons life.  (limited release)

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Elisabeth Moss in “Queen of Earth”

 

 

September 11

 

COMING HOME – From Yimou Zhang, the director of “The Curse of the Golden Flower” comes a tale starring Gong Li and Daomin Chen as a devoted couple who are forced to separate when her is arrested and sent to a prison camp during the Cultural Revolution. When he finally returns home he finds that his wife no longer remembers him. (limited release)

DREAMCATCHER – A documentary by Kim Longinotto about Brenda Myers-Powell, who for 25 years called herself ‘Breezy’ as a drug-addicted prostitute. After a violent encounter, Brenda woke up in the hospital and decided to change her life. Today she is a beacon of hope and a pillar of strength for hundreds of women and girls as young as fourteen who want to change their own lives. The film explores the cycle of neglect, violence and exploitation which each year leaves thousands upon thousands of girls and women feeling that prostitution is their only option to survive. By following the very charming, charismatic and truly empathic Brenda, we enter the lives of young women and see their points of view. Overlooked by almost everyone except Brenda, who offers a contrast  to hopelessness. (limited)
THE VISIT – Dare we give writer/director M. Night Shyamalan another chance with our time and money? That’s the big question. He offers a supposedly frightening tale about how life gets incredibly freaky for two young children and their single mother after the kids visit their grandparents. It stars Kathryn Hahn, Ed Oxenbould, Olivia DeJonge and Deanna Dugan. I just don’t know.
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Chicago’s own Deanna Dugan “The Visit”

 

 

September 18

 

BLACK MASS – Is it possible we’ll finally see some quality acting by Johnny Depp? Well, if the trailer for 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, is any indication – then yes, it’s possible. This crime drama is directed by Scott Cooper (“Two Hearts”) and is packed with talent: Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Dakota Johnson, Peter Sarsgaard, Adam Scott, Juno Temple, Corey Stoll and Kevin Bacon.

CAPTIVE – Here’s a fact-based thriller directed by Jerry Jameson about a recovering addict and single mother (Kate Mara) who is randomly taken hostage in her own apartment by a man (David Oyelowo) on the run from the law for breaking out of jail and murdering the judge assigned to his case. It also stars Michael K. Williams and Mimi Rogers. I’m interested only in David Oyelowo.
EVEREST – Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur (“2 Guns” and “Contraband”) loosely adapts Jon Krakeur’s acclaimed novel Into Thin Air about the Mount Everest climbing expedition team he was involved that encountered a severe snow storm. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, John Hawkes, Sam Worthington, Josh Brolin, Keira Knightley and Robin Wright.  It looks like a stomach-churning nail-biter.
PAWN SACRIFICE – Tobey Maguire plays American chess champion Bobby Fischer prepares for a legendary 1972 match-up against Russian Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber), held in Reykjavík, Iceland and publicized as a Cold War confrontation which attracted more worldwide interest than any chess championship before or since. It’s directed by Edward Zwick (“Glory” and “Defiance”) and also stars Lily Rabe, Peter Sarsgaard, Robin Weigert and Michael Stuhlbarg.  

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Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon in “99 Homes”

 

 

September 25

 

99 HOMES – Ramin Bahrani directs Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon and Laura Dern in a story about a father struggling 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.

A BRILLIANT YOUNG MIND Not a prequel to Ron Howard’s award-winning movie. Rather one about a socially awkward teenage math prodigy (Asa Butterfield) who finds new confidence and new friendships when he lands a spot on the British squad at the International Mathematics Olympiad. It also stars Rafe Spall, Sally Hawkins and Eddie Marsan and is directed by Morgan Matthews who directed a documentary about the same subject.

THE GREEN INFERNO – A group of student activists travels to the Amazon to save the rain forest and soon discover that they are not alone, and that no good deed goes unpunished. Directed by Eli Roth and starring Lorena Izzo (his wife), Ariel Levy and Aaron Burns, the much-delayed horror flick should won’t be for the queasy viewer.

 

THE INTERN – Confession time: I’m a sucker for Nancy Meyers comedies (“The Holiday” and “Something’s Gotta Give”) and her latest finds Robert De Niro as 70-year-old widower Ben Whittaker who has discovered that retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Seizing an opportunity to get back in the game, he becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site, founded and run by Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). Also starring Nat Wolff and Rene Russo.
THE KEEPING ROOM – A drama directed by Daniel Barber revolving around three Southern women, two sisters and one slave (Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld and Muna Otaru) who are left without men in the dying days after the American Civil War, who must defend their home from two rogue soldiers who’ve broken off from the fast-approaching Union Army.
THE SECOND MOTHER – A Spanish film directed by Anna Muylaert about an estranged daughter of a hard-working live-in housekeeper who suddenly appears, which finds the unspoken class barriers that exist within the home thrown into disarray.
SICARIO – Director Denis Villeneuve (“Prisoners” and “Enemy”) takes us to the U.S./Mexico border for this thriller about an idealistic FBI agent (Emily Blunt) who’s enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border. It also Benicio Del Toro, Jon Bernthal and Josh Brolin.

STONEWALL – From Roland Emmerich, the guy who brought you “Stargate” and “Independence Day” comes a historical account of  the 1969 Stonewall Riots, the violent clash that kicked off the gay rights movement in New York City. The drama centers on Danny Winters, who flees to New York, leaving behind his sister. He finds his way to the Stonewall Inn, where he meets Trevor before catching the eye of Ed Murphy, manager of the Stonewall. He collides with corrupt police and exploits homeless youth. It stars Jeremy Irvine, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Ron Perlman and Joey King.

 

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Kirby Bliss Blanton in “The Green Inferno”

 

September 30 

 

THE WALK – Guaranteed to make you dizzy or shake your head at Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s accent. The story of French high-wire artist Philippe Petit’s attempt to cross the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974 is directed by Robert Zemekis and also stars Sir Ben Kingsley and Charlotte Le Bon. Although I was lukewarm on Zemekis’ last film “Flight”, I’ll still check this one out in IMAX!  

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