September brings the merciful end of blockbuster season and a beginning to the merciless onslaught of awards season. That means you get Robert Redford’s final performance, Matthew McConaughey aiming for Oscar-sanctified sleaziness and the makers of TV’s This Is Us letting a host of famous names mount a full-frontal assault on your tear ducts. Plus you can choose from name-driven documentaries (will it be M.I.A. or Michael Moore?) and outrageously violent fever dreams (demon-killer Nic Cage or gun-toting teenyboppers). All this and the return of the Predator! Here’s your moviegoing guide for the month.
Assassination Nation (Sep. 21st)
Delete your account — it might just save your life. In director Sam Levinson’s hysterically violent social-media satire, a series of hacked data leaks launches the suburb of Salem, Massachusetts into a neo–witch-hunt frenzy. Quicker than you can say Heathers Redux, the angry townspeople turn on high school senior Lily (Odessa Young) and her snarkier-than-thou trio of BFFs (Suki Waterhouse, Abra and Hari Nef) and kickstart an anarchic Purge-lite night of mayhem. Except these young women are also armed and dangerous. Maybe it’d just be easiest to reprint the laundry list of trigger warnings that the script rattles off in its opening moments: blood, bullying, classism, transphobia, fragile male egos and giant frogs. Not in that order, mind you.
Fahrenheit 11/9 (Sep. 21st)
If you thought Michael Moore was going to take Donald Trump’s ascent to the White House sitting down (or save it all for the stage), guess again. From Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to David Hogg, the crisis at the border to the rusted-out heartland, Moore unleashes a feature-length screed that joins the big topics of the moment under the root rot of Trumpism. Whether he’s springing a surprise interview on Roger Stone at an airport or spraying contaminated water from Flint, Michigan at the governor’s house, the man certainly knows how to create a spectacle. Liberalism’s proudest crusader is back, and in full form.
The House With a Clock in Its Walls (Sep. 21st)
At last, an Eli Roth movie the whole family can enjoy together! The gorehound behind the Hostel films tones down his grislier impulses for this adaptation of a 1973 kid-lit novel about an inquisitive grade-schooler Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) and his eccentric uncle (Jack Black) — who, as luck would have it, happens to be a warlock. It seems that his guardian’s ornate home is cursed; courtesy of its nefarious former owner (Kyle MacLachlan); only Lewis, his uncle and the powerful witch next door (a splendiferous Cate Blanchett) can dispel the dark energy. Bring on the goosebumps!
Life Itself (Sep. 21st)
As the creator of TV’s This Is Us, Dan Fogelman assembled an inter-generational mosaic of melodrama linking together friends, family and lovers. Now he’ll attempt a similar feat with this fit-to-bursting melodrama, which ties together a large ensemble cast over a course of decades and across two continents. From New York to the rolling hills of Spain, a collection of wayward souls including Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas and Olivia Cooke search for meaning, purpose, happiness, etc. If Fogelman’s previous tear-jerkers are any indication of what’s to come, audiences may want to bring a handkerchief (as well as a backup handkerchief).
Mandy (Sep. 14th)
Sure, “Nicolas Cage plays demon-slayer in the psychedelic mutant offspring of Hellraiser” may be a selectively appealing premise. But for the faction of moviegoers attuned to director Panos Cosmatos’ bizarre frequency, this heavy-metal horror dirge is a transcendental, road-to-Damascus experience. The year is 1983: Mr. Rage-in-a-Cage and Andrea Riseborough play a couple living out in the woods whose gnarly version of domestic bliss is disrupted by a gang of hellacious bikers out of a GWAR casting call. Tragedy strikes, sending our man on a rampage of vengeance that reaches psychotic, operatic, apocalyptic highs. It is the only fall film to feature a life-or-death chainsaw duel (we think).
MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A. (Sep. 28th)
When they were both students at a London university, documentarian Steven Loveridge made the acquaintance of one Maya Arulpragasam, a young artist with fierce political overtones to her work. In the years since, the rapper now known as M.I.A. has amassed global stardom and her filmmaking college friend has accumulated a treasure trove of personal footage. He’s now carved a multifaceted, sympathetic portrait of a consistently evolving musician who couldn’t resist her controversy-magnet reputation. You get to see her evolution from a rap-loving twentysomething to someone sparking middle-finger hullabaloo at the Super Bowl, always remaining steadfastly outspoken and unapologetic. Also: “Paper Planes” is still a banger, in case you were wondering.
The Old Man and the Gun (Sep. 28th)
Robert Redford has announced that this lighthearted crime yarn from David Lowery (the director who wowed last year with the metaphysical fable A Ghost Story) will bring an end to his long, august career as an actor. He plays Forrest Tucker, a real-life bank robber and prison-break virtuoso approaching the twilight of his days as a crook. With Detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) hot on his trail, the veteran crook intends on scooping up his lady love (Sissy Spacek) and riding off into the sunset — but getaways aren’t always as clean as we’d like. It’s a fitting sendoff.
The Predator (Sep. 14th)
For the fourth installment of this durable sci-fi/action series (no, we’re not counting the AVP joints), those extraterrestrial killing machines have returned to Earth — and they’ve upgraded themselves. Several of these fang-spouting interstellar hunters square off against a last-ditch defense squadron of PTSD-afflicted soldiers (Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key) and a scientist (Olvia Munn) batting for Team Humanity. The involvement of tough-guy-cinema veteran Shane Black promises a bone-cruncher with a bit more wit than the average big-budget franchise picture.
The Sisters Brothers (Sep. 21st)
French director Jacques Audiard makes his first English-language movie with this grimly comic Western starring John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix as the title outlaws. Their mission: to find a claim-jumper (Riz Ahmed) with a formula that holds the secret for locating gold. Things get complicated, of course, especially when another man (Jake Gyllenhaal) starts tracking down their prey as well. Like violent shoot-outs, wry humor, Phoenix drunkenly falling off horses and a European filmmaker’s cock-eyed view of our nation’s wild, wild West? Saddle up, pardners.
White Boy Rick (Sep. 14th)
Richard Wershe Jr. wasn’t like the other kids growing up in Detroit during the Eighties. For starters, he was his neighborhood’s sole Caucasian teenager working as a high-level cocaine dealer in conjunction with African-American gangs; he was also the only one under the thumb of the FBI as an undercover informant. First-time actor Richie Merritt takes the lead role in this retelling of a true story, tracing Wershe’s journey from kingpin to stoolpigeon as his dysfunctional family (Matthew McConaughey, Bruce Dern and Bel Powley) stands idly by. A deep supporting cast including rappers YG, Danny Brown, and IshDARR adds some street cred to this cautionary tale of the thug life pre-Thug Life.