Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to September

The summer movie season may be finally over, but awards season is just around the corner, and Hollywood typically uses September as a time to catch its breath between all the madness. But while there aren’t many high-profile releases on tap for the month, there are still plenty of promising titles worth checking out, including the latest from visionary directors P.T. Anderson and Rian Johnson and the return of Clint Eastwood.


Who: Henry Cavill, Bruce Willis, Sigourney Weaver and Veronica Echegui
What: After his family is kidnapped, a young Wall Street trader is confronted by the people responsible: intelligence agents looking to recover a mysterious briefcase.
When: September 7th
Why: Despite a starring role in last year’s underwhelming Greek epic “Immortals,” British actor Henry Cavill has failed to demonstrate why he was chosen to don the iconic red and blue suit for Zack Snyder’s upcoming “Man of Steel.” And though his latest vehicle was delayed earlier this year due to reportedly bad test screenings, “The Cold Light of Day” will give him another shot to convince audiences that he’s the right choice to play Superman. With that said, however, not even the involvement of Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver makes this action thriller look any less like a Jason Bourne rip-off. After all, there’s usually a pretty good reason when a film’s release date gets pushed back, and it’s hard to imagine that any amount of re-editing will fix that.


Who: Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde and Jeremy Irons
What: A writer at the peak of his literary success discovers the steep price he must pay for stealing another man’s work.
When: September 7th
Why: CBS Films doesn’t exactly have a very good track record, but compared to their past projects, “The Words” seems to be a step in the right direction. Though it received mixed reactions when the movie premiered earlier this year at Sundance, the concept is intriguing enough that I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. The ensemble cast certainly doesn’t hurt its chances, although it’s not the first time that the studio has used big stars to disguise a turd. And while Bradley Cooper is an actor that I admire, and it’s always a pleasure to see Jeremy Irons no matter how small the role, it’s a little worrying that “The Words” might follow suit, especially in the hands of first-time directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, the writing duo behind the disappointing “TRON: Legacy.”


Who: Kristen Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, Rebel Wilson and James Marsden
What: Three friends are asked to be bridesmaids at a wedding of a woman they used to ridicule back in high school.
When: September 7th
Why: It may seem awfully convenient that another R-rated comedy about bridesmaids behaving badly is being released only a year after Paul Feig’s Oscar-nominated film became the surprise hit of last summer, but that’s about where the similarities end. In fact, those who claim the movie is just a rip-off might be surprised to discover that Leslye Headland’s directorial debut (which screened at Sundance this past January) is based on her 2010 off-Broadway play of the same name. Though it hasn’t gotten quite the same acclaim as “Bridesmaids,” I’m actually looking more forward to this darker, meaner wedding comedy, namely due to its awesome cast. Kirsten Dunst and Isla Fisher can be great with the right material, while Lizzy Caplan and Rebel Wilson are two very funny women with very different brands of humor that deserve more recognition.


Who: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Michelle Rodriguez and Oded Fehr
What: Alice fights alongside a resistance movement in the continuing battle against the Umbrella Corporation and the undead.
When: September 14th
Why: Following in the footsteps of the “Fast and Furious” series, the fifth installment of the action horror franchise is bringing back several characters from previous films (including Michelle Rodriguez’s Rain and Oded Fehr’s Carlos Olivera), despite the fact that many of them are supposed to be dead. There’s no doubt a good explanation to the logistics behind director Paul W.S. Anderson’s all-star edition, but it probably won’t matter much either way. If you’re still watching these films at this point in the series, you clearly don’t care that they’re nothing more than schlocky B-movies with plenty of style but little in the way of actual substance. Don’t expect “Resident Evil: Retribution” to buck that trend, but it looks a lot more fun with Rodriguez and Fehr back for another round.


Who: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams and Jesse Plemons
What: A Naval veteran arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future until he’s tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader.
When: September 14th
Why: Paul Thomas Anderson’s long-awaited follow-up to 2007’s “There Will Be Blood” is shaping up to be one of the most controversial films of the year. Though Anderson claims the movie isn’t about the Church of Scientology as suggested, it’s hard to take that statement seriously when the trailer showcases a number of similarities between Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Whether or not he’s telling the truth remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: with Anderson behind the camera and a cast that includes Hoffman, Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix (making his big screen return after wasting the last few years making “I’m Still Here”), “The Master” will likely be a contender in nearly every major category come awards time.


Who: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey and Wood Harris
What: In a futuristic city where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop and his trainee take down a gang that deals a reality-altering drug.
When: September 21st
Why: I don’t remember much about the 1995 Sylvester Stallone action vehicle “Judge Dredd” other than the fact that it was terrible, but that’s surely enough to raise some eyebrows regarding the latest attempt to bring the popular antihero of the British comic “2000 AD” to the big screen. Though the filmmakers have been pretty open about doing fans of the series justice with their adaptation, “Dredd 3D” still has many of the same problems as its predecessor – namely, that it’s difficult for an audience to connect to a character detached of all emotion. Sure, it looks great visually (even if it does go over the top with the slo-mo shots), and the “Raid”-like setup should result in some cool action, but I’m still not sold that this version is going to fare any better than the last one.


Who: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick and America Ferrera
What: Two young officers are marked for death after confiscating a small cache of money and firearms from the members of a notorious cartel during a routine traffic stop.
When: September 21st
Why: If there’s one thing that David Ayer loves, it’s making gritty cop movies. In addition to writing the excellent “Training Day” and the mediocre “Dark Blue,” he also directed “Street Kings” and has another one in production. His latest police thriller reminds me a lot of the former, and that’s great news, because along with landing Denzel Washington an Oscar for Best Actor, “Training Day” is perhaps one of the best cop films ever made. Those are some big shoes to fill, but “End of Watch” certainly has the right ingredients to make it happen, including a talented cast led by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena, and an interesting docudrama style that will most likely divide audiences. Though Ayer still has a lot to prove behind the camera, it’s easily his most promising project to date.


Who: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake and John Goodman
What: An ailing baseball scout in his twilight years takes his daughter along for one last recruiting trip.
When: September 21st
Why: Much like last year’s “Moneyball,” Robert Lorenz’s directorial debut is a baseball movie that isn’t really about baseball at all. That doesn’t make its early fall release any less fitting, but it goes without saying that “Trouble with the Curve” probably isn’t going to be the next “Bull Durham.” Still, it was a real coup to get Clint Eastwood to come out of semi-retirement and star in his first movie since “Gran Torino,” although it’s not surprising that Lorenz was the one to do it, having served as a producer on every one of his films since “Blood Work.” While the prospect of pairing a screen icon like Eastwood with a newer talent like Amy Adams is pretty exciting, the real wild card here is Justin Timberlake, who has yet to prove that he can hold his own against such heavyweights.


Who: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman and Paul Rudd
What: An introvert freshman is taken under the wings of two seniors who welcome him to the real world.
When: September 21st
Why: It’s not every day that the author of a critically acclaimed novel gets the chance to not only adapt their book for the big screen, but direct it as well, so consider Stephen Chbosky a very lucky man. Of course, the unique format of the novel (collected as a series of letters written by the titular wallflower to an anonymous recipient) was going to pose a number of difficulties for any filmmaker, so it was probably smart to hand over that responsibility to the one person who knows the book better than anyone else. Giving an untested director such as Chbosky complete creative control was still a pretty big risk on the part of Summit Entertainment, but if the casting (which includes a great group of young actors like Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson in her first major post-“Harry Potter” role) is anything to go by, fans have nothing to worry about it.


Who: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels
What: A mob hitman whose victims are sent back from the future is surprised when his latest assignment turns out to be his older self.
When: September 28th
Why: Rian Johnson’s “Brick” is one of my favorite movies of the past decade, so I was a little disappointed when his sophomore effort, the quirky con artist comedy “The Brothers Bloom,” failed to live up to my lofty expectations. But that’s only made me even more excited for his new sci-fi thriller “Looper,” which reunites the director with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and looks every bit as complicated as it sounds. Johnson has made some pretty ambitious movies in his short career, but they don’t even come close to this one, which represents a massive increase in scope by comparison. And it definitely shows, because judging by the trailer, “Looper” is going to be an absolutely wild ride, from the complex time travel plot to the slick action. Though the jury is still out on the facial prosthetics that Gordon-Levitt is wearing in order to more closely resemble Bruce Willis, it’s just nice knowing that a director even cares about those kinds of little details.