From a wild Emma Watson to a 3D “Finding Nemo,” the best movies to watch for in September


The summer movie season is officially over. The “Great Minnesota Get-Together” just wrapped up, kids and students are back in school, and Hollywood and Independent studios are gearing up to release their most prestigious prize-contending films over the next few months.

Over Labor Day weekend, the Telluride Film Festival took place in the mountains in Colorado, screening some of the most highly anticipated titles of the year; later this week, the Toronto International Film Festival starts and will showcase many premiere films that will most likely end up on the red carpet this February at the Oscars. Many of the films screenings at these two festivals will slowly start opening in the Twin Cities between now and Christmas Day, with a few opening in 2013, but will have already have opened in New York and Los Angeles in order to qualify for Oscars this year.

I know it’s only September, but in reports from Telluride and the Venice Film Festival (which opened last week and ends this weekend), some of the journalists were quoted saying things like, “Oscar-worthy performance,” “Should be a lock for a nomination,” and “lives up to expectations”; from these quotes, studios start planning Oscar campaigns and strategic release dates. It was also right around this time last year that eventual Best Picture winner The Artist was picking up steam. Some of these films playing in Venice, Telluride, and Toronto will be opening in the Twin Cities this September; these are a few I’m looking forward to.

Pixar is re-releasing its 2003 classic as Finding Nemo 3D, giving it a much deserved 3D boost, which should be a blast on the big screen. It is one of the more underrated family films of the past decade, and the 3D upgrade has been getting nothing but astonishing reviews. This will certainly be a real treasure on the big screen. (opens Friday, September 14)

Despite the awful title, End of Watch has me intrigued. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as policemen who confiscate some money and firearms in a routine traffic stop. Little do they know they are now marked men: they stole from a powerful cartel in L.A. and are now trying to survive. This sounds like familiar territory from other “cops and robbers” action films, but this one is written and directed by David Ayer (Training Day and Dark Blue). If Ayer can turn Gyllenhaal into a badass, as he did with Ethan Hawke (who received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Training Day), count me in for some dirty dealings and double crossings. (opens Friday, September 21)

Advance word on Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest mystical mind-boggler, The Master, has been extremely positive; well before its Venice premiere, there were test runs of the film in 70mm in Los Angeles and Chicago. (Let’s hope the Twin Cities can see a 70mm print!)  Joaquin Phoenix stars as a navel veteran who comes home after the war and begins to question his life, until he meets a charismatic author (Philip Seymour Hoffman, who may or may not have something to do with a Scientology movement) and falls under his spell. Anderson, one of the most talented American filmmakers and storytellers working today, has created another winning trailer featuring his typical hooks; fragmented sounds, shouting matches, beautiful cinematography, and, by the looks of it, terrific acting by Phoenix, Hoffman and Amy Adams. (opens Friday, September 21) 

Selected as the opening night film at TIFF this week is a film by writer/director Rian Johnson (Brick), who’s trying to recover from his disastrous sophomore film, The Brothers Bloom: a unique sci-fi time traveling take on the future called Looper. Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt play each other, 30 years apart, as a trained assassin, or Looper. Levitt must kill Willis; when Willis escapes, Levitt must track him down before he is killed, in order to prevent any further damage to Willis’s, his own, future. Sounds risky, dangerous and really entertaining. Johnson’s loopy story and visuals look outstanding and could be a real game changer: when science-fiction films are done right, they can redefine the genre. I’m hoping this one does. (opens Friday, September 28)

In her first American lead role, Emma Watson stars in novelist Stephen Chbosky’s 1999 cult-novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which Chbosky also adapted for the screen and directs. Taking a cue from other coming-of-age stories, a high school freshman named Charlie (Logan Lerman) is befriended by two seniors (one played by Watson and the other by Ezra Miller) and discovers he finally feels accepted, even if he knows his friends will be gone at the end of the year. Having read the book many years ago, I wonder if this story will feel somewhat dated considering it takes place in the early 90s, but many of the topics in the book are still what teenagers face today: first crushes, dealing with mental illness, family secrets, suicide, and the quintessential first high school booze, drugs, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll party. (opens Friday, September 28)