Late August is traditionally a dead season at the movies, when studios either dump out movies they don't care about or release the dumbest, silliest stuff they think you'll accept because it's summer and you don't have the energy for it. In some way they're right-- we put all our energy into watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes and no fewer than four superhero movies, and right now Colombiana really does seem to suit everyone's intelligence level.

But September, with its promise of cool weather and great movies, is just around the corner, and here at Cinema Blend we're already marking our calendars for the best of what's to come. We all picked one movie coming up in September that we're really looking forward to, whether they're festival hits we've already gotten to see, like Eric and Drive, or promising comedies that seem to make the most of our beloved stars, like Mack and What's Your Number. September isn't the most prestigious month of the fall movie season-- that'd be December, when all the Oscar hopefuls flood the marketplace-- but at this point in summer, it still looks pretty great.

September 9: Contagion
by Sean O'Connell
I can’t quite figure Contagion out. The premise screams of summer movie escapism, a Danny Boyle-inspired exercise in medical paranoia and apocalyptic decimation that finds international experts combating a rapidly spreading disease. But the cast overflows with Oscar winners and nominees such as Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne and Gwyneth Paltrow, which has me wondering if Contagion can stimulate the brain as well as tweak our nervous systems. Good thing Steven Soderbergh is helming this thriller, due in theaters on Sept. 9. We know the creative genius behind Traffic, Out of Sight and the Oceans films has very little trouble maneuvering a high-wattage cast through a densely populated drama. Because I can’t say I’d be nearly as interested in Contagion if the golden-toned poster boasted, “A film by Uwe Boll.”

September 9: Warrior
by Jesse Carp
Warrior is a nice mix of summer blockbuster and fall prestige. The film not only features two future super stars in Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton, but also a great grizzled old-man supporting role for vet Nick Nolte. Director Gavin O'Connor did a good job with the Disney-fied sports flick Miracle, but last year's The Fighter showed that there's also a demand for a more challenging film from the genre. Warrior strives to enter that elite weight class with its grainy look as well as a desire to create complex characters with treacherous relationships, not just focusing on sports set pieces. Don't worry, the action is there, and amazingly choreographed, with Warrior swaying towards the more bang for your buck tournament formula. But O'Connor is careful to take the time to breathe between the fights, both the physical and emotional ones. He also manages to weave the emotional thread into the final physical showdown, which makes for a great conclusion. Warrior is a tough, yet heart-warming story with exceptional performances from the aforementioned three actors-- Edgerton as the reserved, family man and long-retired fighter, Nolte as the red-faced, recovering alcoholic father, and Tom Hardy as the estranged brother and vulnerable beast. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the main event.

September 16: Drive
by Eric Eisenberg
This is cheating a bit, as I already got to see Drive at this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival, but it’s applicable as there has been no other movie this year that I’ve been as desperate to see again. During my screening I actually stayed seated in the theater hoping that they would accidentally run the movie again. In the beautifully lit, meticulously sound-designed film, Ryan Gosling stars as a stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver. After beginning a relationship with his neighbor (Carey Mulligan), he becomes embroiled in a heist gone wrong, and the heart-pounding action, passion, tension and heart that follow make this film the definition of "must see.” The film also features one of the greatest scores/soundtracks of the year, the synth-pop music emanating from the protagonist’s car accentuating the film's bold mix of brutality and beauty. In Drive, director Nicolas Winding Refn has crafted a truly brilliant film that is not only the best of his career, but one of the best of the year.

September 16: Straw Dogs
by Will LeBlanc
It’s rare that there's a mainstream Hollywood remake we can actually be excited about, but Straw Dogs is one of them. A remake of Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 film originally based on Gordon Williams’ The Siege of Trencher’s Farm, director Rod Lurie is bringing this chilling tale to the new millennium--replacing Dustin Hoffman with James Marsden, Susan George with Kate Bosworth, and filling in for Del Henney as the most vile of viles will be True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgard.

The original story is set in southern England, but Lurie is taking us to the deep south of America this time as the Sumner family relocate there to escape the increasing pressures of L.A. life. When they return, they are not greeted kindly by the locals, one of whom is Amy Sumner’s jealous ex, Skarsgard. Harassment begins and increases steadily as the film progresses, culminating in a hyper-violent assault on the Sumner’s home that leaves many dead. It was that violence coupled with a rape scene earlier on in the film that earned Straw Dogs the title of one of the most controversial films of all time. This latest adaptation may not push the envelope, hell it may even wind up being terrible, but we’re hopeful that the film’s R rating will be used to the fullest to properly tell a story that was so well told once before.

September 23: Moneyball
by Katey Rich
Like any other red-blooded American, I've got a big weakness for baseball movies-- just one shot of the manicured green outfield and a dusty pitcher's mound and my eyes are already welling up with memories of summertime backyard baseball games after dinner. But Moneyball, based on Michael Lewis's bestselling book of course, isn't just going for the gut-level nostalgia of the game. It's an attempt at turning a book about baseball statistics-- about baseball statistics as used by an economist, for God's sake-- into a rousing movie. WIth a cast that includes everyone from Brad Pitt to Jonah Hill to Parks and Recreation's Chris Pratt, and a trailer that makes shameless but effective use of Explosions in the Sky-esque music to put a lump in your throat, it looks like a good old-fashioned American baseball movie that's also brainy enough to fit right into the traditionally witty fall movie season.

September 30: What's Your Number
by Mack Rawden
For years, Anna Faris has built a career and a less than stellar critical reputation out of a very aggressive, in your face brand of humor. From house bunnies to scream queens to promiscuous mall employees, she’s gotten a lot of laughs out of these ridiculous characters, but there comes a point in every comedian’s career in which he or she realizes some laughs are better left uncultivated in order to increase sympathy and believability. Earlier this year, Anna Faris proved she could strike the right balance in the charming Take Me Home Tonight, and now she looks to continue that understated trend in What’s Your Number?. Upon first glance at the trailer, it might seem like another run of the mill rom-com, but five years ago, Faris would have likely played this woman as a punchline, the class clown. Not anymore. Now we seem to be given a good-hearted, mixed-up and perhaps a bit bumbling lead to laugh with. I have no idea if we’ll remember this film even exists in ten years, but that hardly seems relevant if it makes money and proves to Faris she can be both realistic and funny. I’m going to see it, and I hope a lot of you are there with me.

September 30: 50/50
by Jessica Grabert
Joseph Gordon-Levitt may have survived heroin deals, memory loss, a terrible break up, a dream within a dream and distressed Joy Division t-shirts in his previous movies, but in his September release 50/50 he's up against something way worse: cancer. Screenwriter Will Reiser’s real-life cancer story might initially seem like a real downer, but Seth Rogen playing a buddy role-- one he played in real life for his best friend Reiser--and its proliferation of caring, witty women (Anna Kendrick and Bryce Dallas Howard) give it a bit more of a shine than fellow disease ridden films Philadelphia or Stepmom. Besides, any writer who can give a film a working title of I’m With Cancer must have a little twist to his humor. With The Wackness director Jonathan Levine on board, it’s looking like 50/50 has better odds than that at the box office next month. It all seems so carefully crafted, I’ll give it a pass for having a clip of that terrible Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros song at the end of its first trailer.

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