By James Robert Shaw (The Wind up Geek)
Okay, I know what you are thinking –what happened to the five must see? To be quite honest, it has changed and this format is how it’ll be from now on.
I’ve learned that a number of sites such as this one only touch on movies released in North America (okay, USA) but what of other countries? There is so much good cinema to get excited over even during a dry month like September.
What I present here (at least for this month) won’t represent the films of every country. Some films like those from Italy I was not able to learn the release dates to. But I’m sure that over time, I’ll discover where to look. For now you’ll have to satisfy yourself with my limited list over the next couple of months.
I hope what you see will whet your appetite.
Jackhammer (September 2nd/USA)
Director: Michael Hanus / Writer(s): Michael Hanus, Guy Christie, and Duncan MacLellan
Cast: Guy Christie, Michael Hanus, Silvana Azurdia, and Jason Burkart
Synopsis: After an audition goes bad, Julius Warner is blacklisted by the most powerful casting agents. Desperate, he turns to his older brother Jackhammer who introduces him to the wild world of male stripping. When things quickly go pear-shaped, Julius gets mixed up with the Russian mob, crazy ex-girlfriends, protein dealing thugs and odd characters, With all of this happening around them, Jackhammer tries his utmost to keep Julius from harm.
Opinion: Jackhammer may be Canadian filmed and funded but American audiences expecting to find weird cinema (Crash, Kissed) may be disappointed when they are met with a straight up comedy. And with a television series already in talks, Jackhammer may be the biggest thing to come out of Canada since the Trailer Park Boys. Expect to see cameos in this film by Pamela Anderson (Barbwire), Nicole Sullivan (Cougar Town), Jamie Kennedy (Scream). Julian Paul (The A-Team), and Robb Wells (Trailer Park Boys).
To see Ed’s review, check out what he wrote for Absolute Underground.
My Old Lady (September 10th/USA)
Director: Israel Horovitz / Writer(s): Israel Horovitz (screenplay & play)
Cast: Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith, and Kritsin Scott Thomas
Synopsis: A down on his luck New Yorker travels to Paris to collect an apartment that his estranged father left in his will. Upon entering the premises he is confronted by an elderly woman with a unique living arrangement.
Opinion: I can never fault Kevin Kline for a bad performance, just a bad choice of movie. But this film doesn’t feel like that. And with the ever versatile Kline starring alongside the great Dame of cinema, Maggie Smith, I can see little to change that feeling.
Pride (September 12th/UK)
Director: Matthew Warchus / Writer(s): Stephen Beresford
Cast: Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Liz White, Andrew Scott, Dominic West, Joseph Gilgun, Paddy Considine, and George MacKay
Synopsis: The true tale of how the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners movement (LGSM) rallied for the striking National Union of Mineworkers in Thatcher’s Britain.
Opinion: Director Matthew Warchus has been on the winning end when it comes to stage productions (nominated two times for the Tony Award) but on the losing end with film (Simpatico). But redemption seems possible with a Stephen Beresford script and a well-rounded cast that includes Bill Nighy.
Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends (September 13th/Japan)
Director: Keishi Ōtomo / Writer(s): Nobuhiro Watsuki (manga)
Cast: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Takeru Satô, Yû Aoi
Synopsis: Based off Nobuhiro Watsuki’s original manga series (1994 – 1999), this film is another installment that follows a former assassin in the Meiji era as he makes atonement for his previous murders by offering protection and aid to those in need.
Opinion: After almost three years with three films, Rurouni Kenshin will come to a close. Rumour has it the series will end in an over two-hour action fest. If this is true then male fans will watch the sword fights while female fans will be watching young Takeru Satô.
Maiko wa Lady (September 13th/Japan)
Director: Masayuki Suo
Cast: Mone Kamishiraishi, Sumiko Fuji, and Gaku Hamada
Synopsis: From the director of the hit comedy – drama Shall We Dance? (1996) comes the story of Haruko, a young girl from Kagoshima Prefecture who becomes an apprentice geisha in the Kyoto entertainment district. But her training is overseen by a strict young woman. Will Haruko achieve her dream of becoming a geisha.
Opinion: Although not on the same level as zany comedy Maiko Haaaan!!!, people may still get some delight from the subject of geisha in a film that crosses Broadway musical numbers with Japanese culture.
The Maze Runner (September 19th/USA)
Director: Wes Ball / Writer(s): Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers, T.S. Nowlin (screenplay), and James Dashner (novel)
Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Will Poulter, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Synopsis: Suffering from amnesia, Thomas wakes up in an elevator that emerges him into the center of “The Glade”, a maze filled with deadly surprises. He finds he is not alone, his co-residents, all teen boys, have survived on supplies and their own agriculture. Every 30 days someone new is brought into the maze’s living space, but when a comatose girl arrives with a strange note, their world suddenly changes.
Opinion: When it comes to teen flicks I’m very fussy. Hunger Games does little for me and Twilight even less so. But The Maze Runner, based on the novel by James Dashner, is more my style. From the look of the trailer it throws in some decent action scenes while keeping an air of suspense. Look for Game of Throne‘s Thomas Brodie-Sangster as part of the cast.
Wheels (September 19th/USA)
Director(s): Tim Gagliardo, Donavon Thomas / Writer(s): Donavon Thomas
Cast: Donavon Thomas, Patrick Hume, and Diana Gettinger
Synopsis: No matter how hard he tries, Mickey, a suicidal paraplegic can’t seem to kill himself. He meets a kindred spirit in Drake, a heroin addict. Together they make their way through the city looking for reasons to live.
Opinion: Wheels may be one of those few films heaped with critical acclaim but will still fly under mainstream radar. It would be a shame such a film would lose opportunity because neither of the lead actors have chiseled good looks (remember Jeremy Renner from The Hurt Locker).
Kano (September 20th, 2014/Japan – Fukuoka International Film Festival)
Director: Chih-Hsiang Ma / Writer(s): Te-Sheng Wei
Cast: Togo Igawa, Takao Ohsawa, and Masatoshi Nagase
Synopsis: Set in 1931, Kano follows a ragtag group of farm boys from southern Taiwan as they try to make it to Koshien, Japan’s national high-school baseball championship.
Opinion: Canada has hockey, Great Britain has football (soccer), India has cricket, and Japan has
sumo wrestling baseball. That’s right, known to the uninformed as the country that loves to watch two men in diapers wrestle each other appear to love baseball over their traditional sport. And if you have ever seen the stands filled with fans at their games, there is more excitement and enthusiasm to be found amongst them than in their American counterparts.
Leviafan (September 24th/France)
Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev / Writer(s): Oleg Negin, Andrey Zvyagintsev
Cast: Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Aleksey Serebryakov, Elena Lyadova, and Roman Madyanov
Synopsis: On the outskirts of a small coastal town an ordinary family: Nikolai (Aleksey Serebryakov), his wife Lilya (Elena Lyadova) and their teenage son Romka, struggle for ownership of their land, their business and their home against a corrupt mayor. To protect the financial security of his family, Nikolai fights back by enlisting an old army buddy who is now an authoritative lawyer.
Opinion: Andrey Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin have already won best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival for Leviafan but don’t expect the awards and accolades to end there. Zvyaginstev is already known in his home country of Russia for his outstanding direction (The Return, The Banishment), but Leviafan may be the film to set him on the international stage this year.
The Boxtrolls (September 26th/USA)
Directors: Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi / Writer(s): Irena Brignull, Adam Pava (screenplay), and Alan Snow (novel)
Cast: Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan, Pat Fraley, and Steve Blum
Synopsis: Based on the book “Here Be Monsters” by Alan Snow, the film follows the adventures of Eggs, an orphaned boy who is adopted by a race of enginutive box wearing trolls who live beneath the town of Cheesebridge. Deemed a menace and a scourge, the town hires exterminators to deal with the problem. Now it is up to Eggs to find a way in which to save them.
Opinion: The Boxtrolls are like Wombles only without the dress sense. I’ve been hearing a lot about this one for some time and my expectations are high. From the same company (Laika Entertainment) that brought box office wonders like Coraline and ParaNorman, I’m hoping for what could be the highest grossing animated film of the year.
Honourable mentions this month have to go to Laggies (Kiera Knightley, Chloë Grace Moretz) about a woman stuck in permanent adolescence, she lies to her fiancé by hanging out with her teenage friend instead of going on a retreat. Canadian drama Mommy (Anne Dorval, Antoine-Olivier Pilon, Suzanne Clément) takes place in my dad’s original neighbourhood of Saint-Hubert, Quebec, and WolfCop is a horror that feels like a buddy comedy.