Goodbye, summer movie season; hello, biopics, prestige dramas and oh-so-much-more-humbler character-driven fare. A popular PBS period piece spins off into theaters; an even more popular page-turner gets the awards-friendly adaptation treatment; and a space epic gives us a 2001 for the father-issue crowd. Plus there’s a killer clown on the loose, a crew of strippers robbing men blind and one famously pissed-off Green Beret out for blood one last time. Here’s what’s coming to a theater (remember those?) near you in September.
Ad Astra (Sep. 20th)
Brad Pitt gives a classical movie-star turn as Major Roy McBride, a single-mindedly driven astronaut dead set on finding his missing father (Tommy Lee Jones), even if he has to scour the outer limits of our solar system to do it. But that’s just the jumping-off point for this cosmic headscratcher from James Gray (The Lost City of Z) that could spell the end of existence as we know it, a great oncoming crisis involving Roy’s dad and the fabric of the galaxy itself. Before America comes down with another chronic case of Star Wars fever, something chillier and more cerebral may come as a welcome tonic.
Downton Abbey (Sep. 20th)
TV’s Anglophile-catnip series returns, this time at feature length on the silver screen, to satisfy the fanbase’s need for stiff upper lips and droll asides. It’s now 1927, and Downton Abbey is soon to host a pair of distinguished guests: none other than King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James). This causes much tittering and fuss among both the noble Crawley family, desperate to make a good impression on royalty, and their extensive staff of household help. Miniature dramas will play out in the margins, cutting remarks about minuscule breaches of etiquette will be made, and elaborate pastries will be baked. Lace up those corsets one last time.
The Goldfinch (Sep. 13th)
The best-selling novel gets a state-of-the-art movie treatment with a handsome budget, a name-brand director, and a deep roster of A-list stars. Brooklyn helmer John Crowley gets back behind the camera for a winding quest of guilt and redemption that begins when a thirteen-year-old Theo loses his mother in a bombing. Fast forward to the present, and Theo (played as an adult by Ansel Elgort) has a lot of questions that his foster mother (Nicole Kidman) can’t answer. With a precious inherited painting as his primary link to the past, Theo embarks on a journey of painful, salvational self-knowledge that acquaints him with all manner of colorful sorts (Sarah Paulson, Luke Wilson, and Jeffrey Wright fill out the supporting cast) as he learns who he is.
Hustlers (Sep. 13th)
An engrossing 2015 article in New York Magazine laid out the story of a minor-league crime ring run by a crew of enterprising strippers with a talent for finessing Wall Streeters out of thousands. Lorene Scafaria’s film imagines all the glamour and the greed between the lines, tracking the rise and fall of quick-thinking newbie Destiny (Constance Wu) and her mentor Ramona (Jennifer Lopez). As the Benjamins start rolling in, the long arm of the law extends in their general direction, and it’s only a matter of time until they get in far over their stylishly coiffured heads with the scheme. Lizzo and Cardi B make featured appearances in a caper film with a feminine edge — think Ocean’s Eleven in six-inch heels, and you’re halfway there.
It: Chapter Two (Sep. 6th)
The kids of Maine suburb Derry may have survived Pennywise the Dancing Clown in the first installment of this massively-scaled adaptation of Stephen King’s horror epic. But when the story rejoins them as adults, they’ll have to face off with the living personification of their worst nightmare all over again. Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, and Bill Hader lead the grown-up versions of the Losers’ Club as they reconvene twenty-seven years after their brush with terror to banish the unrestful spirit (once again portrayed by Bill Skarsgård) for a second time. But as fortysomethings, with a whole new array of insecurities and emotional baggage for Pennywise to feed on, they may not survive the fight.
Judy (Sep. 27th)
Everyone knows the dewy-eyed-girlhood version Judy Garland of The Wizard of Oz — so this biopic instead focuses on the legendary performer as she grapples with her twilight years. Renée Zellweger portrays the actress-singer at age-forty seven, hard up for cash, and headed to London for a bill-paying concert engagement in 1969. The five-week run tests her resolve on multiple fronts, as she juggles her declining health and persisting addictions with what remains of her relationship with her daughter. Zellweger’s been out of the spotlight for a minute or two, and the all-the-trimmings acting of this flashy portrait could be just the thing to get her back at center stage.
Liam Gallagher: As It Was (Sep. 13th)
Put the former Oasis frontman in front of a microphone, and within 30 seconds, he’ll have said something hilarious and infuriating and utterly memorable. Liam Gallagher packs this documentary full of his signature soundbites — within the first five minutes, he’s declared that he knows precisely how great he is — and yet the film offers a more grounded, sensitive take on the larger-than-life personality. The all-access footage shows a man making an effort to mature, to mend fences with brother Noel and cut back on the rock star vices. From the Wonderwall days to his failed side project to the prospect of a comeback, the film follows a musician who’ll live at no one’s tempo but his own.
Linda Ronstadt: Sound of My Voice (Sep. 6th)
A rock star, a country-western icon, an opera virtuoso, a mariachi dabbler — singer Linda Ronstadt could do it all, and with a force of will undeterred by an industry less than kind to defiant women, she did. This documentary celebrates the talent and determination of the now-retired singer in her own words, with additional commentary from such famous friends as Dolly Parton and Bonnie Raitt. Though a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease has left Ronstadt unable to carry a tune, she hasn’t let the diminish her zest for all that life still has to offer. With no shortage of archival concert recordings, the film will endure as a monument to her titanic legacy.
Monos (Sep. 13th)
In a secluded stronghold on a mountain high above the clouds, forbidding Latin American jungles beneath them, a group of teenage paramilitary soldiers prepare for something. We don’t know what, but judging from the AK-47s they keep slung around their shoulders and their American captive (Julianne Nicholson), it won’t be peaceful. The four-foot-tall general known only as the Messenger (Wilson Salazar) runs whatever this is — a cult? an extremist cell? — with an iron fist, though the evolving sociology of this tight-knit community makes total control complicated to maintain. Colombian filmmaker Alejandro Landes’ hallucinogenic drama is equal parts tone poem and psychedelic war picture, augmented by a haunting score from Mica Levi of Under the Skin notoriety.
Rambo: Last Blood (Sep. 20th)
Vietnam war veteran John Rambo won’t stand for injustice, and he doesn’t plan on backing down just because he’s grown into his mid-seventies. A bit longer in the tooth yet still able to kick the asses of men half his age, Sylvester Stallone reprises his trademark role for one last mission in this conclusion to the franchise. A friend’s defenseless daughter has been abducted by Mexican cartels, and it falls to Rambo to go south of the border and lay waste to the gangs while fending off comparisons to Liam Neeson in Taken. This final installment sticks to the tried-and-true methods of its predecessors, loading up on the wanton gunfire and tough-guy brooding, albeit with a crack or two about the geriatric action. Though let’s be real: It’s not as if any of us would dare look at Sly the wrong way.