IMDb Picks: September 2014

by IMDb-Editors | created - 05 Aug 2014 | updated - 22 Sep 2014 | Public

IMDb's editors share the movies and TV shows they recommend for September 2014.

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1. Houdini (2014)

TV-14 | 174 min | Biography, Drama

Follow the man behind the magic as he finds fame, engages in espionage, battles spiritualists and encounters the greatest names of the era, from U.S. presidents to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Grigori Rasputin.

Stars: Adrien Brody, Kristen Connolly, Evan Jones, Tim Pigott-Smith

Votes: 10,580

Before History won audiences over with scripted fare such as "Vikings" and star-studded miniseries like "Hatfields & McCoys", it was known for its historical re-enactments, with actors playing out chapters of history as experts told the tale.

"Houdini" channels that same spirit -- which is to say, it takes us through the highlights of Harry Houdini's biography via a stylized scripted account (that some might say takes a few artistic liberties with the illusionist's life story), narrated in voiceover by its star Adrien Brody. Though the script is overly fond of using the metaphor of every unfortunate turn in Houdini's life to a punch in the gut, Brody elevates the material with a moving performance, matched well by his co-stars Kristen Connolly and Evan Jones.

As Labor Day weekend escapism goes, "Houdini" is a breezy period piece, not to mention an entertaining way to find out how the man was able to pull off some of his most famous escapes.

Miniseries Premiere: 9pm Monday, September 1 and 9pm Tuesday, September 2 on History Channel.


2. Sons of Anarchy (2008–2014)

TV-MA | 45 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

A biker struggles to balance being a father and being involved in an outlaw motorcycle club.

Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates

Votes: 235,780

Their road has been long. Their crimes have been heavy and terrible to behold. As we look at the long goodbye season for "Sons of Anarchy", it's less a matter of whether our favorite characters are going to meet Mr. Mayhem than it is when, and how. Remember, this series is modeled on Shakespeare's "Hamlet"...and things didn't end so well for that work's title character, did it?

Superior writing and performances by "SOA's" excellent ensemble cast ensures fans be enthralled by every plot twist that series creator and executive producer Kurt Sutter has mapped out for this final run. In particularly, I'm looking forward to the inevitable showdown between Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) and his mother Gemma (Katey Sagal). Before that happens, however, we'll have to make it through the season premiere's cold open, which includes a jaw-dropping scene of violent dentistry.

Season Premiere: 10pm Tuesday, September 9 on FX. --Melanie

3. The Drop (2014)

R | 106 min | Crime, Drama

69 Metascore

Bob Saginowski finds himself at the center of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighborhood's past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living - no matter the cost.

Director: Michaël R. Roskam | Stars: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts

Votes: 134,559 | Gross: $10.72M

Michaël Roskam generated some headlines here in the U.S. when Bullhead, the film he wrote and directed, wound up on the shortlist for the Best Foreign Language Oscar.

I thought the film's success was entirely due to Matthias Schoenaerts's performance, and this is why I'm interested in Roskam's English-language debut; the idea of Tom Hardy dominating a screenplay by Dennis Lahane (the writer of Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone adapted his own novel here) -- only some unpreventable act of the movie gods could foil such a plot.

This being James Gandolfini's last-ever role ... I still can't even talk about it.

The Drop opens in theaters September 12.


4. The Guest (I) (2014)

R | 100 min | Action, Comedy, Crime

76 Metascore

A soldier introduces himself to the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their son who died in action. After the young man is welcomed into their home, a series of accidental deaths seem to be connected to his presence.

Director: Adam Wingard | Stars: Dan Stevens, Sheila Kelley, Maika Monroe, Joel David Moore

Votes: 83,570 | Gross: $0.32M

The Guest, written and directed by Adam Wingard (You’re Next), received raves when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival back in January. The movie stars Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens as a mysterious ex-soldier who moves in with the family of a deceased fellow soldier. Bad things begin to happen around town, and it’s unclear if Stevens is behind it.

The tightly-wound trailer gives the impression that this is a unique blend of action, thrills and potentially even some horror. It also looks pretty slick for what was surely a very low-budget production. The whole thing feels like it toes the line between studio and independent in an intriguing, potentially commercial way. While the odds are that this ultimately finds an audience further down the road (video-on-demand, probably), I’m still looking forward to checking this out on the big screen. -Ray

The Guest opens in theaters September 17.

5. Red Band Society (2014–2015)

TV-14 | 43 min | Comedy, Drama

A group of teenagers live together as patients at a hospital's pediatric ward and learn how to deal with their illnesses, the experiences that they have, and the people that they meet.

Stars: Octavia Spencer, Dave Annable, Astro, Ciara Bravo

Votes: 9,071

I'm fully prepared to be put through an entire season of his trademark emotional manipulations after watching the premiere episode of the medical dramedy that Steven Spielberg is overseeing for Fox.

What could be thought of as unconventional narration -- the show is told from the perspective of 12-year-old Charlie as lays in a coma -- now seems pre-approved by audiences who made If I Stay and The Fault in Our Stars hits at the box-office this summer. Generally speaking: teenagers dealing with real-world life-and-death scenarios are in, while dystopian-future fantasies are out.

A main draw will be Octavia Spencer playing Nurse Jackson, who oversees the charges of her pediatric ward. Her deadpan humor and maternal instincts should broaden the show's fan base. If the program does connect with a fans, look for the appeal of its young cast to play an equal role.

Season Premiere: 9pm Wednesday, September 17 on Fox.


6. The Maze Runner (2014)

PG-13 | 113 min | Action, Mystery, Sci-Fi

57 Metascore

Thomas is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they're all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow "runners" for a shot at escape.

Director: Wes Ball | Stars: Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Will Poulter, Thomas Brodie-Sangster

Votes: 393,496 | Gross: $102.43M

Young-adult adaptations are a dime-a-dozen these days: when the “based on the worldwide bestseller” card comes up during a trailer, my eyes tend to glaze over. I expected it would be the same with The Maze Runner, which is based on a 2009 young-adult novel that spawned two sequels.

As the release date approaches, though, I actually find myself very interested in seeing this. Perhaps it’s because this is more of a sci-fi survival thriller (akin to The Hunger Games) and less of a romance (akin to Twilight). Or maybe it’s because of the young cast made up of intriguing up-and-coming TV actors headlined by Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf), Kaya Scodelario (the U.K.’s Skins) and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Game of Thrones).

The movie might not be a huge hit – few September releases are, really – but it could be an above-average entry in to the young-adult genre. That alone is enough to get me excited about The Maze Runner. -Ray

The Maze opens in theaters September 19.

7. The Skeleton Twins (2014)

R | 93 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

74 Metascore

Having both coincidentally cheated death on the same day, estranged twins reunite with the possibility of mending their relationship.

Director: Craig Johnson | Stars: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell

Votes: 37,441 | Gross: $5.28M

The Skeleton Twins stars Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader are responsible for two of the best things that have happened in entertainment in the past five years: the comedy hit Bridesmaids, and iconic Saturday Night Live character Stefon. The prospect of seeing these two immense talents on screen together – flexing muscles both dramatic and comedic – is very exciting indeed.

Hader, in particular, feels like he’s on the verge of a major break. He left SNL in May 2013 to pursue more feature acting work, and has a major role in next Summer’s Judd Apatow comedy Trainwreck. The Skeleton Twins probably won’t be the movie to put him on the map: while it received good reviews out of the Sundance Film Festival, it’s a modest, off-kilter comedy that has an “arthouse only” feel to it. Still, it looks like one of the best indie offerings of a quiet September, and should be worth a trip to the theater. -Ray

The Skeleton Twins opens in theaters September 19.

8. 20,000 Days on Earth (2014)

Not Rated | 97 min | Documentary, Drama, Music

83 Metascore

Writer and musician Nick Cave marks his 20,000th day on the planet Earth.

Directors: Iain Forsyth, Jane Pollard | Stars: Nick Cave, Susie Bick, Warren Ellis, Darian Leader

Votes: 10,306 | Gross: $0.28M

The greatest character that Nick Cave could create is "himself," and he has few rivals for this kind of cinematic indulgence, where we get to watch an idealized version of a day in the man's life.

Musically, if you're looking to make inroads to Cave's catalog, it can be rather daunting. I suggest From Her to Eternity, Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus, or Let Love In.

20,000 Days on Earth opens in theaters September 19 in a limited release.


9. Sleepy Hollow (2013–2017)

TV-14 | 45 min | Adventure, Drama, Fantasy

Ichabod Crane is resurrected and pulled two and a half centuries through time to unravel a mystery that dates all the way back to the founding fathers.

Stars: Tom Mison, Lyndie Greenwood, Nicole Beharie, Orlando Jones

Votes: 55,838

In the first season finale, "Sleepy Hollow" transformed the battle to avert the apocalypse into a family affair: Ichabod jumped through time and dimensions to be reunited with his love Katrina and to stop the first Horseman of the Apocalypse, Death, from resurrecting the others. Assisted by Lt. Abbie Mills and her estranged sister Jenny, the Cranes and the Millses became powerful agents of good. Unfortunately, in seeking his sweetheart, Ichabod inadvertently release War, in the form of another long-lost Crane family member who doesn't seem to keen on forgiveness.

All of this sets the stage for a fantastic new chapter highlighted by more screen time for the excellent John Noble and Lyndie Greenwood (who plays Jenny), guest stars who have been elevated to series regulars in season two. The second season also introduces a variety of new demons, including the show's take on a wendigo, a succubus, and "the kindred." We're losing our minds at the thought of having to wait much longer for it.

Season Premiere: 9pm Monday, September 22 on Fox. --Melanie

10. Parenthood (2010–2015)

TV-PG | 60 min | Comedy, Drama

The lives and tragedies of the Braverman family tree.

Stars: Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Dax Shepard, Monica Potter

Votes: 28,707

From the series premiere, I have been a fan of "Parenthood". I don't think I've ever made it through a full episode without tearing up. Last season, I was a bit frustrated with some of the choices the writers made for the characters--and sometimes wondered if any of the Braverman clan could ever find happiness--but I am still counting down the days to the upcoming premiere. For the past few seasons there was always a lingering question if the show would be renewed, so it's almost a relief this is the farewell season, knowing they can give the show a proper ending.


Season Premiere: 10pm Monday, September 25 on NBC.

11. Transparent (2014–2019)

TV-MA | 30 min | Short, Comedy, Drama

An L.A. family with serious boundary issues have their past and future unravel when a dramatic admission causes everyone's secrets to spill out.

Stars: Jeffrey Tambor, Amy Landecker, Gaby Hoffmann, Jay Duplass

Votes: 20,134

A thought-provoking glimpse at sex and identity as filtered through the prism of a family dramedy, the characters "Transparent's" pilot sunk their hooks into my emotions by simultaneously frustrating and surprising me, leaving me impatient to experience the next chapter.

Fans of “Six Feet Under” will recognize a similar dramatic cadence at work in creator Jill Soloway’s vision of this close-knit brood of individuals, whose profound secrets -including its patriarch Mort's long-closeted transition from male to female -- keep them mired in a stifling state of existential inertia.

Mort’s struggle illustrates the concept driving “Transparent”: all of us try hide aspects ourselves that we would rather not show to anyone else, but often those closest to us end up looking right at them, whether we like it or not. "Transparent's" auspicious beginning makes me hopeful that it will grow into the kind of must-watch online series that inspires enthusiastic discussion and devoted fans.

Series Premiere: September 26 on Amazon Instant Video. Free for Prime subscribers.


12. The Equalizer (2014)

R | 132 min | Action, Crime, Thriller

57 Metascore

A man believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and has dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when he meets a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can't stand idly by - he has to help her.

Director: Antoine Fuqua | Stars: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, David Harbour

Votes: 309,103 | Gross: $101.53M

Denzel Washington has established himself as a reliable presence in action movies: even in so-so entries like Safe House and Two Guns, he seems to be doing whatever he can to elevate the material. The same may be the case with The Equalizer, which is a big-screen adaptation of the TV show that lasted four seasons in the late 1980s.

Similar to Denzel’s 2004 hit Man on Fire, The Equalizer finds him using a particular set of skills to enact vengeance on a band of thugs who have wronged a young girl. The Equalizer seems like it might be a bit more fun than that grim outing, though, and director Antoine Fuqua seems to have orchestrated some fairly exciting action sequences. It’s not going to win any awards, but The Equalizer does seem like it could be the best mainstream entertainment that September has to offer. -Ray

The Equalizer opens in theaters September 26.

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