It's September: The young 'uns are back in school, going outside doesn't mean you'll automatically sweat through half your clothes and the movies bounce back from the annual August lull. Translation: Darren Aronofsky and Jennifer Lawrence invite you to a casual gathering from hell; a gruesome Stephen King adaptation gets served up; the kids get a new Lego movie (this time it's Ninjago!); and Jake Gyllenhaal plays a real-life hero and does a Boston accent, which must mean the awards-circuit season is starting up. Here are your 10 best reasons to hit your local movie theaters in the next month.
American Made (Sep. 29th)
Tom Cruise in the cockpit of an airplane – it just feels right. The pilot formerly known as Maverick appears here as Barry Seal, a charismatic weasel who played the U.S. government and the Medellín cartel against one another during the late Seventies. Approached by the C.I.A. to make on-the-down-low recon flights through South America, our flying-high antihero then accepts a deal from the narcos to tote product with him on his return trips. Soon enough, he's rich beyond his wildest dreams, as well as training Contras in his backyard. Then things get really wild.
Battle of the Sexes (Sep. 22nd)
A lot was riding on the historic 1973 match-up between tennis greats Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs – a symbolic showdown in which a self-avowed chauvinist pig angled to prove "male superiority" by besting feminist icon on the court. This chronicle of the event – and the media circus around it – from directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton reunites them with Little Miss Sunshine star Steve Carell as the douchey Riggs; the ever-adorable Oscar-winner Emma Stone is The Woman Who Would Be King. Spoiler alert: Carell dons a Bo Peep ensemble. And poses nude.
The Force (Sep. 22nd)
In 2014, documentarian Peter Nicks decided to track the Oakland Police Department's effort to get their act together in the wake of an ugly scandal and gain back an angry community's trust via an idealistic new chief. He expected to chronicle the dawn of a new harmonious era; what he got instead was a microcosmic look at the systematic rot that's affecting precincts and police officers across the country. It's a penetrating, you-are-there look at the men and women in blue that patrol the Bay Area, and the larger issues that have put them at odds with the folks they're supposed to protect and serve.
It (Sep. 8th)
It's been almost 30 years since Pennywise the killer clown last stalked the sewers of Derry, Maine ... and everything still floats down here. The first of two installments set to cover the entirety of Stephen King's 1,138-page horror-lit epic, this film funnels the usual bugaboos of youth – losing innocence, confronting the unknown – into chilling literal forms. The most well-recognized of which is a razor-toothed homicidal clown, played by Swedish actor Bill Skarsgard in a manner that would give John Wayne Gacy and Shaggy 2 Dope nightmares. Whatever you do, don't take the red balloon.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle (Sep. 22nd)
Matthew Vaughn's violent, unhinged take on Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons' comic The Secret Service ended up becoming one of 2015's biggest sleeper hits. So bring on the sequel, we say, which sends our espionage-ready lad Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and his fellow operatives to the land of the free and home of the brave. Along the way, they make the acquaintance of new allies (Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry) and enemies (Julianne Moore steps in as the new villain, the CEO of an Amazon-like corporation with nefarious plans). Following up the church-set bloodbath of the previous film won't be easy, but we've got confirmation that a man will indeed be laser-lassoed in half, so there's hope.
The Lego Ninjago Movie (Sep. 22nd)
From the treasure trove of intellectual property that brought you The Lego Batman Movie comes the second brand-name spinoff of the year. In the far-off land of Ninjago, Master Wu (voiced by Jackie Chan) trains a group of teens in the ancient, mystical martial arts so that they may one day defeat the evil Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux). One of them just so happens to be the villain's son, mild-mannered Lloyd Garmadon (Dave Franco), who'll have to face some harsh truths about family before he can bring peace back to his idyllic home. A cast of reliable comic talents (Zach Woods, Abbi Jacobson, Fred Armisen, Kumail Nanjiani) join in just for kicks. Hah, "kicks." We just realized we made a funny.
Mother! (Sep. 15th)
Darren Aronofsky's been stingy with details when it comes to his new psychological thriller/horror picture. We know that Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem portray spouses whose tranquil domestic life gets interrupted by a visit from another couple (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer). The specifics beyond that are anyone's guess, though the intense trailer tossed out some disturbing hints; screaming hordes, exploding lightbulbs covered in blood, and spreading waves of instant decay all somehow factor into it. Oh, and Kristen Wiig is in it, too!
Stronger (Sep. 22nd)
David Gordon Green's drama begins with the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013, then follows the true story of survivor Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) as he acclimates to life as a double amputee. His long, arduous journey through physical therapy and the devoted support of his girlfriend Erin (Orphan Black's clonetastic Tatiana Maslany) inspired America – and now his story is hitting theaters just in time for the beginning of Oscar season! Gyllenhaal trying to get a leg up on the distinctive Bawston brogue is just gravy. (Er, chowdah.)
The Unknown Girl (Sep. 8th)
A young doctor (Adèle Haenel) decides to refrain from answering the door when the buzzer at her practice sounds after service hours. She learns the next morning that the woman ringing for her wound up dead the next morning; in a haze of grief and guilt, she sets out to ascertain the identity of the anonymous deceased. Like an episode of Law and Order: SVU scripted by Camus, this mystery from Belgium's premier sibling-directing duo Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne zeroes in on finding dignity rather than justice in a cruel, random world. It's more of a whydunnit than a whodunnit.
Woodshock (Sep. 22nd)
Having conquered the world of fashion as the founders of elite couture house Rodarte, sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy decide to follow Tom Ford's example and have now turned their sights on the moving pictures. Kirsten Dunst stars as a grieving woman who numbs her pain through the use of cannabinoids, represented in the film in long passages of sumptuous, dreamy abstraction. The trailer teased a more artful, experimental debut than most first-timers offer, replete with ghostly double-exposures and bold color schemes. It's a trip, in more ways than one.