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|Written by April Yorke|
|Friday, 04 September 2009 00:00|
September occupies a curious spot in the Hollywood release schedule. It's outside of the dog days of August, but just shy of the serious awards-fare that crowds October, November, and December. It's a tricky thing to open a movie in September, but do it well once and you'll never have to do it again.
At least that's the optimistic belief behind The Test. The idea is simple: studios release a movie in September, and then wait to see how audiences respond. If you are an unproven actor looking for leading man status, a September release just might be the opportunity for which you've been looking.
This September is no different, offering a handful of contenders poised to break out as Serious Actors. See for yourself:
Though Gerard Butler's name and face (and abs) are recognizable by this point, both Butler and co-star Michael C. Hall could claim the title of Serious Actor for their performances in Gamer. Though writing and directing team Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are known for Crank, Pathology, and Crank: High Voltage, Gamer at least has an interesting premise -- death row criminals as video game characters operated by others and fighting for their freedom -- and looks visually stunning. Butler's physique and delivery guarantee more action films in his future, but Gamer marks Hall's second feature film. Perhaps he'll finally extend his critically acclaimed TV run to the silver screen.
Two other TV actors trying their hand at September Actor this weekend are Jason Bateman and Bradley Cooper. Both have yet to find sure feature film footing since their early-naughts TV successes (Arrested Development and Alias, respectively). Extract, Bateman's workplace comedy from Mike Judge, certainly looks better than All About Steve, Cooper's rom-com co-starring Sandra Bullock. Judge's last workplace comedy, Office Space, was brilliant; too bad his movies have a tendency to bomb.
A Tim Burton-produced feature film adaptation of an Oscar-nominated short (watch it here) and the zillionth Tyler Perry-Medea movie may not provide any break out opportunities this weekend for actors wanting to be taken seriously. It's unlikely that Sorority Row will lead to the A-list for any of its stars.
The September Issue, however, could expose Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour to just wide enough an audience to turn the sunglass-clad editrix into a cult figure. Viewers, however, may end up siding with creative director Grace Coddington, the lone figure to stand up to Wintour and subvert her practices.
Love Happens, a Jennifer Aniston rom-com, probably won't launch Aaron Eckhart into the hearts of millions of women that didn't already love him, and The Informant!'s September release date is more likely the result of a skittish studio than any doubt in star Matt Damon. (It's this year's Burn After Reading.) (It even looks like Burn After Reading.).
Look for Bright Star to put both Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish in contention for Serious Actor in their roles as poet John Keats and his lover Fanny Brawne, respectively. Early buzz calls this picture Jane Campion's best since The Piano.
It's almost sad to see that Bruce Willis' star has fallen so far that he is reduced to opening a September movie. The Surrogates trailer feels like either a less sharp Minority Report or a less violent Gamer. Even so, many are excited about its original premise (humans control their cyborg surrogates from the comfort of their own home until Willis must awaken to solve a murder). Perhaps this movie is exactly what Willis needs to launch him out of September.
While Pandorum's trailer doesn't separate it from other sci-fi fare, its stars certainly do. The movie pits perpetual September actor Dennis Quaid against talented character actor (and Canadian!) Ben Foster. Foster has a knack for disappearing into his roles but hopefully not from audience's minds. He's capable of anything, perhaps even breaking out of a September release as a Serious Actor.
Best Bet: Bright Star's Whishaw and Cornish
Dark Horse: Gamer's Michael C. Hall