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The Big Dog in the Yard
It might not have seemed so before the festival buzz started building up around it, but Prisoners looks like it's going to be the movie of September. The plot pits Hugh Jackman and Terrence Howard -- as fathers of abducted daughters -- against Jake Gyllenhaal's lead detective, who must find the kids and keep Jackman from going full-on vigilante on Paul Dano, who looks like the most likely suspect. The lead performances -- Gyllenhaal and Jackman especially -- are said to be amazing, and the supporting cast includes Viola Davis, Melissa Leo, and Maria Bello. All under the guidance of Incendies director Denis Villenueve. This could have Mystic River-type aspirations if things break right.
Attempting to parlay Vin Diesel's Fast and Furious resurgence with another shot at getting Riddick right could go either way. Similarly, the dance movie Battle of the Year feels very tricky indeed, particularly with lightning rod Chris Brown in a featured role. It is, however, Josh Holloway's big post-Lost project, so that could draw some curious eyeballs.
Performances to Watch Out For
Rosemarie DeWitt's last teaming with writer/director Lynn Shelton produced the very excellent Your Sister's Sister, and they're together again -- along with Allison Janney and Ellen Page -- for Touchy Feely, where DeWitt plays a massage therapist going through a crisis.
Did you know The Family is the third film Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer have done together in the last six years? Unlike in Stardust and New Year's Eve, however, they're actually sharing scenes in The Family, in which director Luc Besson has cast them as a mobster mom and dad who have to move their family to France for witness protection. They have ... trouble doing that, let's say.
Also worth a look: the late James Gandolfini in Nicole Holofcener's latest film Enough Said, which will hopefully have that great actor going out on top. And Paula Patton makes a go of being a romantic comedy leading lady in Baggage Claim.
Toughest Opening-Weekend Decision The weekend of September 27th sees the opening of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut, Don Jon. That's the same weekend Ron Howard's car-racing drama Rush expands into most markets. The main characters love of cars plays into both films. An addiction to online pornography only appears in one, as does Scarlett Johansson and her marble columns accent. So if you're looking for a tiebreaker ...
Best Movie to See With Friends
Runners-up here include Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, since the original was such a fun movie, and if you have kids, well, they count as friends sometimes too. But no, the no-brainer choice for September is Insidious Chapter 2. It's actually fairly rare for a horror sequel to continue the story of its protagonists (rather than, say, line up all new victims for the killer/monster/ghosts to devour), so it'll be interesting to see a film go the Poltergeist route. The first Insidious had major scares, and it's always more fun to experience Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, and Barbara Hershey get terrorized among friends.
Best Movie to See Alone
We've got high hopes for Blue Caprice, but a crime drama based on the Beltway Sniper case probably calls for some solitary contemplation, so save the fun group outing for something where you're not fixating on mortality and insanity and violence.