We’ve hit the end of what been, I think, one of the best summers in a good while, on the threshold of what’s looking to be a pretty solid Oscarbait season. But first comes September, the liminal month, the month of movies not boisterous enough to be summer releases, not aesthetically accomplished enough to be fall releases, and not financially promising enough to bother releasing in a competitive marketplace. And even so, there’s a decent number of films I’m looking forward to, by September standards. Let’s have at it!
Here we go, right off the bat, with the movie may or may not be the best of the month, but will surely be the most reliable: The Nun, no less than the fifth film in the Conjuring universe, and with a 75% success rate across those preceding films, it seems like the good folks at Atomic Monster probably aren’t going to let another Annabelle slip through their quality control net.
Back in the land of September the way it’s meant to go: Jennifer Garner fights Mexican gangs in Peppermint, a film from the director of Taken and the writer of London Has Fallen. I admire Garner’s attempt to redefine her career, but this looks pretty deep-down bad. And then comes the rare film about which I know nothing but its title, which is a good one – God Bless the Broken Road – and it seems to be a religious melodrama co-starring Jordin Sparks. based on a Rascal Flatts song, which is… something.
Four years ago, I groused that Unbroken told exactly the part of its true story that wasn’t interesting, and apparently lots of other people agreed with me, because here comes Unbroken: Path to Redemption. Impressively, it’s from the same director as God Bless the Broken Road, which means that September is going to be Harold Cronk Month all over. Even more impressively, Harold Cronk is the director as well of God’s Not Dead and God’s Not Dead 2, which means that Harold Cronk Month is going to be a big old pile of shit.
In happier regions of cinema, though not by much, comes A Simple Favor, in which improvised comedy expert Paul Feig throws himself at the task of directing a Hitchcockian thriller about a woman who goes missing just after she’s befriended a woman from a lower class, and there’s such a long list of ways for this to go bad, the question is more which of those it will trip over than if it might actually be good. And then there’s White Boy Rick, which is the perfect example of a movie that, if it was any good, would either have kept its earlier release slot in a more commercially robust time period, or would have gotten bumped to deeper into Oscar season.
And then, to come as the light at the end of the tunnel for me at least, is The Predator, fourth film of its franchise, and the first to be written and directed by Shane Black. Which is a combination of auteur and material that is special and privileged and good, and while I’m not at all thrilled about the implications of the fact that this, also, got pushed to September after an initial summer release, I also don’t really care; this is by a good margin the film I’m looking forward to the most all month.
John Bellairs’s 1973 children’s horror book The House with a Clock in Its Walls was of considerable importance to me in my younger days, so I’m obviously instantly hostile to the idea of a film adaptation, particularly one directed by Eli Roth of all people. But that’s where it gets interesting: because it’s also an Eli Roth film produced by Amblin Entertainment, and an Eli Roth film from Amblin Entertainment co-starring Cate Blanchett on top of all of it. Still not expecting it to be good, but it at least an interesting collision of incompatible impulses.
Continuing down the path of pre-dampened Oscarbait comes Life Itself, which assembles a fairly strong cast – Annette Bening, Oscar Isaac, and Mandy Patinkin, among others – and then tosses them into the most appallingly generic-looking family drama framework imaginable. And Michael Moore makes his first film of the Trump era with Fahrenheit 11/9, which just sounds fucking exhausting from top to bottom.
It’s early for the really exciting limited release art films, but I will contend that Jacques Audiard making a comic Western starring John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix as The Sisters Brothers is at least
October is right around the corner, so it’s probably about the right time for a horror movie, and Hell Fest is a not-unpromising looking version of the form: an ’80s slasher throwback, that appears to be a relatively unfussy, unprecious example of the form. Not that I’m expecting good things, Lord knows, but maybe some fun trash. And it’s not the only film that looks like it might be okay: Night School combines two of the loudest current comic actors, Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, but does so under the guiding hand of Malcolm D. Lee, who I have found to be a reliably calming presence. And the animated yeti adventure Smallfoot looks pretty fucking dumb, but Warner Animation has been interesting lately, and I will remain optimistic.
The new Little Women, bringing the story to the modern day, now that just seems tremendously misguided.
Another limited-release movie with awards hopes in its eyes: The Old Man & the Gun, directed by David Lowery, who certainly knows his way around stately, hushed rural fables, but the main draw is that Robert Redford is talking like it’s going to be his retirement from acting.