20000 Days on Earth fall movies

This Weekend at the Movies: September 19, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014 Rob Samuelson

The early part of the Fall Movie Season continues to look like a mixed bag in a good way, with movies of various genres opening this weekend. This isn't the comprehensive list, but within the four films previewed here, you're likely to find something that piques your interest.

Opening this weekend, September 19, 2014.

The Guest
Director: Adam Wingard
Writer: Simon Barrett
Starring: Dan Stevens, Sheila Kelley, Maika Monroe

After last year's house invasion horror You're Next, writing-directing team Wingard and Barrett look to be taking the next step to mainstream thrillerdom. In their previous collaboration, they showed an ability to create an uncannily functional movie. Everything that happens is a result of character choices and motivations, and this functionality is something that is sadly missing from most movies these days.

Joining Wingard and Barrett is Dan Stevens, formerly of Downton Abbey, as a southern veteran from one of our country's recent wars visiting the family of his fallen friend. There appears to be more going on, some lies are told, and severe violence looks to rule the day.

20,000 Days on Earth
Directors: Iain Forsyth, Jane Pollard
Writers: Nick Cave, Iain Forsyth, Jane Pollard
Starring: Nick Cave

“That wasn't the truth.” This is how the trailer for “documentary” 20,000 Days on Earth ends. It's not surprising that Austrailian singer-songwriter Nick Cave would say them. He's a famously slippery showman.

In this film, it appears Cave and collaborators Forsyth and Pollard want to do more than the typical question and answer documentary. There's an effort to include a vaguer sense of the truth, the kind you may be familiar with if you've ever seen a Werner Herzog documentary. Cave wants his audience to share an experience rather than simply hear his thoughts on aging, music, filmmaking, you name it. Those things will be elements, but he wants to put on a show, and he seems perfectly at home with the performative – some might say false – aspects of that impulse.

This is Where I Leave You
Director: Shawn Levy
Writer: Jonathan Tropper
Starring: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne

“A bunch of people known for their comedic chops join together to do something slightly more serious.” That would be my tagline and also why I wouldn't make it as a tagline writer in Hollywood. But it's true!

Bateman and Fey are two of the titans of the single-camera wave from the mid-2000s that revolutionized television comedy, making it more cinematic and arguably sharper and funnier. Driver (Girls, Frances Ha) is a major up-and-comer, rumored to be the villain of the new Star Wars trilogy – he's in it for sure, but his role has yet to be divulged. Byrne has been good in everything she's done for a decade or more. Fonda is a legend – anyone who has never seen Klute should remedy that now.

And they play a family dealing with the death of the patriarch. They stay in their childhood home for a week following the funeral and come to terms with it and their own problems. It could easily go off the rails into schmaltz, but the trailer gives some hope that the witty detachment of the leads will keep things grounded.

The Maze Runner
Director: Wes Ball
Writers: Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers, T.S. Nowlin
Starring: Dylan O'Brien, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper

Dystopian fiction tends to catch on with teens, and Hollywood has taken note. The success of The Hunger Games and Divergent series, both in print and onscreen, paved the way for more gray-tinted futurescapes in which young people die a lot for causes that aren't their own. The Maze Runner is the latest in this trend.

Holy moly that's bleak. But it also looks thrilling, with a better budget than the first Hunger Games, and some young actors looking to break out. It looks a bit Lord of the Flies, too, which connected with yours truly as a cranky 15-year-old.

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