In Movies & TV Commentary

"Kingsman," "It" and "mother!" are all headed your way in September.

Fall movie preview: What you'll be watching on the big screen in September

The summer movie season did not end on a bad note. A pianist hitting a wrong chord in a song's final measure is "ending on a bad note." However, that pianist missing every single note on the entire final page of music and then suffering a fatal heart attack on stage. Now THAT's more like the note August played to wrap up the already out-of-tune summer movie season.

The closest thing to a big name blockbuster the month had – the Stephen King adaptation "The Dark Tower" – threw up its hands and gave up months before it even hit theaters, and fans followed suit, smartly waiting out for "It." Steven Soderbergh's return "Logan Lucky" underperformed at the box office. There was a movie with the actual title "The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature."

The result was a final weekend that ranked as the worst box office haul since the weeks after 9/11, topping off a summer movie landfill of constant financial decline with one final, particularly rotten heap.

Not that it would be difficult to rise up from below rock bottom, but there is reason for hope on the horizon for Hollywood: an upcoming September slate that reads more like a summer movie month of heavy hitters than August's paltry, picked-away bones.

Horror movies – one of the few bright spots last month – will likely continue their winning ways with the perfectly timed "It" and Darren Aronofsky's intriguing "mother!" A "Kingsman" sequel and a new LEGO installment both sport more blockbuster potential than anything in months, and there's a new Tom Cruise movie that's not "The Mummy."

So chin up, Hollywood; all is not lost quite yet – and if September sucks, too, at least there's a new "Star Wars" movie in three months.

Here's what you'll see on the big screen next month.

Sept. 1

"Tulip Fever"

OK, listen, I didn't say September was ALL going to be good. Labor Day is traditionally a light weekend for Hollywood – something it desperately doesn't need right now – and this year is no different, with this romantic drama serving as the biggest release of the weekend (just 600 screens nationwide) that's not actually from 1977.

Considering how long it's been delayed, though, it might as well be. How long? The bodice-ripping period piece was supposed to be star Alicia Vikander's big Oscar drama after "Ex Machina" … in 2015. "The Danish Girl" ended up taking that mantle, but even when the movie was set to follow on that award-winner's fumes in 2016, it was pushed again. And again. And, just to be safe, one more time. But I suppose you want for the right moment when you've got a winning, universal story like "two lovers engage into a secret affair while entering into the high stakes world of tulip bulbs" WHAT AM I READING?!

Even if "Tulip Fever" turns out better than its release's reputation – and with a cast including Vikander, Christoph Waltz, Judi Dench, Jack O'Connell and more, it just might – things are guaranteed to get much worse at the box office before they get better.

Sept. 8

"It"

Now this is how you scare some life into the box office. "It," an adaptation of Stephen King's beloved horror novel about an evil monster menacing some small-town kids in the form of a clown could not come at a better time – not just for Hollywood but for its own success, coming hot off the heels of the creepy clown news stories, "Stranger Things" and today's insatiable desire for nostalgia. Combine all that, and you've got a contender for the biggest opening weekend in September history.

But forget finances: "It" looks like the real deal as a horror movie too. Of course, a part of me yearns to have gotten "True Detective" director (season one, the ONLY season) Cary Fukunaga's full original vision. But what we've seen of "Mama" director Andy Muschietti's version still looks dark, eerie and intense as heck. Pennywise is chill-inducing – a tough act to follow Tim Curry's iconic take – the kids' interactions play right and the early buzz from critics is that it's one of the best Stephen King adaptations to hit the big screen in a while.

Considering the history of King adaptations, it should indeed easily float to the top of that list – plus float the box office and the sequel plans following the kids' adult years. That's right; "It" isn't done with you yet.

"9/11"

So Charlie Sheen and Whoopi Goldberg are starring in an action drama about 9/11. I'll just leave that somehow real information here while I go stare directly into the sun.

"Home Again"

Not in the mood for murder clowns? Well, in a classic case of counter-programming, here's "Home Again," a rom-com starring the delightful Reese Witherspoon as a woman who … actually, I'm not exactly sure; the trailer is perplexingly vague. I guess she's a single mom who lets three 20-something dudes move in, including one (Pico Alexander) that she's sleeping with? And also Michael Sheen and Candice Bergen are there?

Odd marketing aside, who better to make a middle-aged, upper middle class, rom-com meringue than Hallie Meyers-Shyer, daughter of Nancy Meyers, the queen of that very, very, very particular genre. Yes, her work ("The Holiday," "Something's Gotta Give," "The Intern") is about as real as one of her brightly lit, perfectly dressed Pottery Barn catalog sets, but they're also universally pleasant and nice, like a comfortable pillow (and just as edgy). "Nice" isn't typically the most favorable descriptor, but when the other main option in theaters is a death clown, "nice" might just be perfect.

Sept. 15

"All I See is You"

Blake Lively and Jason Clarke ("Zero Dark Thirty") star in this thriller from Marc Forster ("World War Z," "Finding Neverland"), about a blind woman who regains her sight and discovers ugly details about her marriage in the process.

Here's what I don't see: an official trailer for this movie. Or even a single movie poster – less than a month away from release. And what I DEFINITELY see? An announcement coming soon, pushing this movie back, probably to early next year. Either that, or this movie's getting buried – and bad.

"American Assassin"

The first of two "American" movies this month, this thriller – based on Vince Flynn's popular novel – follows a young man (if I had to guess, probably American) whose girlfriend is killed in a beach shooting, so he goes off to murder all the responsible terrorists in return. Then the CIA, led by Michael Keaton, picks him up and trains him so he can murder terrorists the right way – terrorists including a former protégé of Keaton's, played by Taylor Kitsch.

This is the kind of low-risk, low-ceiling action thriller that typically fills out the late summer and early fall, brainlessly entertaining enough to get a pass before being sent off to be endlessly repeated on HBO, FX and TNT as fine background noise (see: "The Hitman's Bodyguard). I like pretty much everyone involved here – including director Michael Cuesta ("Kill the Messenger") – but I'd bet nobody remembers this movie beyond the moment they walk out of the theater.

"mother!"

Darren Aronofsky's routinely flirted with the horror genre, making unnerving arthouse creepouts like "Requiem for a Dream" and "Black Swan." However, the auteur appears to be going all in with "mother!", his secretive new project starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as a married couple who move into a new house in the country that gets invaded by a whole crowd of unsettling oddballs (led by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer). And if the first poster is to be believed, apparently Lawrence will very peacefully go all Kali Ma on herself.

Frankly, who knows? The trailers, ads and, heck, the entire film's existence have been very secretive, craftily selling … something, but it's unnerving alright. Some people might be annoyed by how little they know going in, but I'm a fan; I'm looking forward to being surprised – especially by Aronofsky, who's great at bringing into dark, disturbed parts of the brain onto the big screen.

Oh, and as for the, uh, noticeable age difference between Lawrence and Bardem: The two are 22 years apart, the same as Lawrence and Aronofsky – who are dating in real life. Do with this information what you will.

Sept. 22

"Friend Request"

I originally wrote about "Friend Request" last October, when it was originally supposed to hit theaters. That says a lot about where your expectations should be for this horror flick about an evil murderous Facebook profile. I guess "evil murderous Facebook profile" says a lot about the level of quality we're probably talking about too.

"Kingsman: The Golden Circle"

For those crying out for a new, goofy Roger Moore-esque Bond movie ... well, that's probably not coming for a LONG time. But 2014's "Kingsman: The Secret Service" was probably the next best thing, a crazy, cartoon spy romp with some star performances new (Taron Egerton) and old (Colin Firth) and an all-timer action sequence. So of course there's a sequel, which only seems to have added to the fun of the first film, adding Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry, a villainous Julianne Moore and a laser lasso to the maelstrom. And, of course, I'm in – if only to see how returning director Matthew Vaughn tops his church shootout from part one.

"Ninjago"

While corporate crap like "The Angry Birds Movie" and "The Emoji Movie" fall on their faces, the LEGO film franchise somehow has managed to go two-for-two in having its cake and eating it too. "The LEGO Movie" is an all-timer already, and the only major criticism for this year's "LEGO Batman Movie" is that it had to follow the first film's blissful sugar rush act.

September's "Ninjago" will now attempt to make that three-for-three, telling the brick-built tale of a ninja kid trying to bond/battle with his evil world-conquering dad. The animated adventure couldn't come with a better pedigree – and not just because it's a LEGO movie but because the cast is loaded with comedy talent, from Dave Franco to "Silicon Valley" co-stars Kumail Nanjiani and Zach Woods to "Broad City" star Abbi Jacobson and more. Oddly, buzz is light on what should be an easy win – and the trailers so far aren't major hits – but hopefully that's just Warner Bros. playing coy and not a sign the franchise is throwing up its first brick.

Sept. 29

"American Made"

There was plenty of pearl-clutching to go around concerning Tom Cruise's career after "The Mummy" died like an ice cube in the Sahara at the domestic box office. But come on, it's still Tom Cruise. He may never have completely recovered from the scientology freak-out of 2005, but he's still a star – especially worldwide, where the movie single-handedly made back double its reported budget. Bottom line: Tom Cruise doesn't need your career advice, internet writers.

IF, however, I were to slip into the shoes of an online celebrity career counselor nobody hired, I'd say Cruise should reteam with his "Edge of Tomorrow" director, Doug Liman, to make another fun, smart action movie that smartly uses his charismatic wildman sociopath persona to good effect. And conveniently, that's just what's happening! "American Made" – based on the true story of Barry Seal, a passenger pilot turned U.S. government-approved smuggler for the Medellin drug cartel in the '80s – may be more drama than actioner, but it looks like a good rollicking ride all the same.

Now, Tom, about making any more of these Dark Universe monster movies …

"Flatliners"

I've often argued that Hollywood should stop remaking movies that people already like and instead remake movies that were bad but promising. Why remake "RoboCop" or "Ben-Hur" when we pretty much got those right the first time? On the other hand, remake "Flatliners," the Joel Schumacher horror-thriller that was as insanely star-studded (Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland and … Billy Baldwin?) as it was insanely squandered potential, a story about hopping the line between life and death that became as dim as the college kids doing the research.

And that's just what Hollywood did, remaking – and also apparently sequel-izing – the concept with a solid cast (Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Diego Luna's hair) and a solid hand behind the camera: Danish director Niels Arden Oplev, the man behind the Swedish "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" adaptation (aka the good one). Kiefer's even back too! So hopefully my theory about bad movies making good remakes isn't proven DOA.

"Til Death Do Us Part"

Another year, another black-led steamy psychological domestic thriller in early fall. Last year, there was "When the Bough Breaks." The year before, the role was played by "The Perfect Guy," while 2014 got not just one but two: "Addicted" and "No Good Deed." And for 2017, we almost didn't get one, but just creeping into the final weekend is "Til Death Do Us Part," starring Taye Diggs. Prediction: You'll remember it as well as you remembered all of those other thrillers I just listed.

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