What to Watch in September: Shang-Chi, Evan Hansen and a Nicholas Cage Samurai Western

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prisoners of the ghostland - Credit: YouTube
prisoners of the ghostland - Credit: YouTube

Whether you’re staying in or heading to the theaters, this September has something for every taste, including a return to horror by a modern master, to a movie in which Nicolas Cage wanders through a post-apocalyptic Japan. History buffs have their pick of a new Ken Burns documentary or a new Ryan Murphy docudrama, and fans of musicals have a couple of options as well. Let’s get started with one of the month’s biggest releases, the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Theaters, September 3)

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Introduced as Marvel’s response to an early-Seventies spike in interest in martial arts, the kung fu hero Shang-Chi has hung around comics ever since. He’s always had a strong cult following but, as it did for the Guardians of the Galaxy before him, that following will certainly grow after he makes his MCU debut.

Simu Liu (Kim’s Convenience) stars as a San Francisco parking attendant known to his friends, including longtime pal Katy (Awkwafina), as “Sean.” He’s forced to confront his past, and his estranged father Wenwu (Tony Leung), when he’s drawn into a world of mysticism and underground fight clubs. Michelle Yeoh co-stars. See tickets and showtimes here.

Mogul Mowgli (Theaters and VOD, September 3)

The plot of this new movie starring Riz Ahmed might inspire a touch of deja vu for those who caught the terrific Sound of Metal last year. In that film, Ahmed plays a drummer forced to reconsider every aspect of his life when he loses his hearing. Here, Ahmed stars as a rapper who also has to reassess his life due to illness. The resemblance likely ends there, however. The film, which Ahmed co-wrote with director Bassam Tariq, has already won acclaim on the festival circuit, suggesting if Ahmed’s repeating itself, it’s in the best way possible. See tickets and showtimes here.

Worth (Netflix, September 3)

This month brings the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and, unsurprisingly, the premieres of several projects inspired by tragedy. Among them is the latest from Sara Colangelo (The Kindergarten Teacher), which tells the true story of Kenneth Feinberg, the lawyer who oversaw the September 11th Compensation Fund, which had the seemingly impossible task of determining the amount of compensation due to the loved ones of 9/11 victims. Michael Keaton plays Feinberg, leading a cast that includes Amy Ryan and Stanley Tucci. Watch on Netflix here.

Cinderella (Amazon, September 3)

Kay Cannon (Blockers) directs this modern musical update on a familiar story starring pop star Camila Cabello as Cinderella and Billy Porter as her fairy godparent. The soundtrack mixes originals with classic covers and, if Cabello wasn’t musical power enough, Idina Menzel plays her wicked stepmother. Watch with a 30-day free trial to Amazon Prime here.

Impeachment: American Crime Story (FX, September 7)

The third season of American Crime Story shifts away from famous murders to a different sort of crime — though what constitutes the crime might depend on where viewers fall on the political spectrum. Based on Jeffrey Toobin’s A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President (find the book here) and focusing on the events that surrounding Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment, the season brings back American Crime Story regular Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp and recruits ACS newcomer Beanie Feldstein to play Monica Lewinsky. Watch with a free trial to FX on Hulu here.

Come From Away (Apple TV Plus, September 10)

One of the most acclaimed projects inspired by 9/11, this Canadian musical is based on the true story of what happened when 7000 travelers found themselves unexpectedly stranded in the small Canadian town of Gander in the week after the attacks. This filmed version of a live performance — think Hamilton, not In the Heights — was made while Broadway was closed by the Covid-19 pandemic and features many of the performers from its original run. Watch on Apple TV here.

Malignant (Theaters / HBO Max, September 10)

Director James Wan made his name with horror films like Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring. If fans of Wan’s work in the genre might have feared he left it behind after Aquaman, Malignant proves that fear was misplaced. Annabelle Wallis (Peaky Blinders) stars as a woman with a haunted past that may connect her to some present-day murders. Watch on HBO Max here.

The Card Counter (Theaters, September 10)

With The Card Counter, Oscar Isaac joins the gallery of actors who’ve appeared as haunted men in Paul Schrader movies. Isaac stars as William, a military interrogator who learned to count cards during a prison stint. Tiffany Hadish co-stars as the woman staking his gambling career alongside Tye Sheridan, who plays a fellow veteran trying to draw William into exacting revenge on their former commanding officer (Willem Dafoe).

Language Lessons (Theaters, September 10)

Natalie Morales stayed busy during lockdown by making both her first and second films as a director. Though shot second, the well-liked Plan B premiered on Hulu earlier this year. Made at the height of the lockdown, this scaled-down directorial debut stars Morales and Mark Duplass as, respectively, a teacher and student who form an unlikely bond over the course of some long-distance Spanish lessons.

LuLaRich (Amazon, September 10)

A multi-level marketing company focusing on women’s clothing, LuLaRoe has been accused of being a pyramid scheme and likened, by former members, to a cult. This four-part docuseries from the makers of Fyre Fraud charts the still-operating company’s rise and descent into lawsuits and accusations. Watch with a 30-day free trial to Amazon Prime here.

The Voyeurs (Amazon, September 10)

It’s been a while since we’ve gotten an old-fashioned erotic thriller whose unabashedly sleazy premise makes it hard to resist, but this new film from writer/director Michael Mohan looks like it’s determined to singlehandedly revive the genre. Sydney Sweeney and Justice Smith star as a young couple who discover the neighbors (Ben Hardy, Natasha Liu Bordizzo) who live across from their new apartment don’t worry about closing their windows when they have sex. They can’t stop looking and trouble inevitably follows. Watch with a 30-day free trial to Amazon Prime here.

American Rust (Showtime, September 12)

Simply by being a crime story set in the Pennsylvania Rust Belt, American Rust will inevitably inspire comparisons to Mare of Easttown. Whether it has anything in common with that show beyond murders in the Keystone State remains to be seen, though it sounds unlikely given that its source material, an acclaimed 2009 novel by Philipp Meyer, inspired comparisons to John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy. Jeff Daniels stars as a sheriff who has to make some hard choices while investigating a murder to which the son of the woman he loves (Maura Tierney) might have some connection. Watch with a free trial to Showtime here.

Scenes from a Marriage (HBO, September 12)

Years before it became fashionable for film directors to explore the possibilities of television, Ingmar Bergman created the six-part drama Scenes from a Marriage for Swedish television. Tracing the ups and downs (and ups and downs) of a seemingly perfect Swedish couple’s marriage, it’s one of Bergman’s most enduring achievements. That might scare off a lot of creators from remaking it, but not Hagai Levi (The Affair, In Treatment), who directs and co-writes this Americanization that finds Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain stepping into roles originated by Erland Josephson and Liv Liv Ullmann. Watch on HBO Max here.

Y: The Last Man (FX, September 13)

One of the best comics of the past two decades has also proven one of the trickiest to adapt. Created by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, Y: The Last Man is set in a post-cataclysmic near future in which an unexplained event has killed off every creature on the planet with a Y chromosome. Well, almost all of them. The only two apparent survivors are the seemingly unremarkable Yorick Brown and his pet monkey, with whom he traverses a world that’s been profoundly changed — but not always in the ways that might be expected. After several attempts to turn the book into a film it’s now been adapted as an ambitious TV series starring Ben Schnetzer as York, Diane Lane as his mother (a senator who becomes president after the catastrophe), Olivia Thirlby and others. Watch with a free trial to FX on Hulu here.

The Premise (Hulu, September 16)

B.J. Novak’s kept a relatively low profile since The Office drew to a close but that’s set to change with this new anthology series, for which he serves as host and creator (and often writer or co-writer and director). Inspired by timely topics like police violence and gun rights (and, for one outing at least, butt plugs), each episode explores a single, you guessed it, premise as played out by a rotating cast of guest stars that includes Lucas Hedges, Daniel Dae Kim, Jon Bernthal, Tracee Ellis Ross, and more. Watch with a 30-day free trial to Hulu here.

Cry Macho (Theaters, September 17)

How long have filmmakers been trying to adapt the 1975 novel Cry Macho? Consider this: at times various proposed adaptations would have starred no-longer-with-us stars like Burt Lancaster and Roy Scheider. Happily, Clint Eastwood is still with us. He directs and stars in this story of a retired rodeo star hired by his former boss (Dwight Yoakam) to retrieve a son who’s fled to Mexico.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Theaters, September 17)

Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker built a glitzy empire preaching the gospel on television in the Seventies and Eighties, but that empire fell apart when scandal engulfed it following revelations that Jim had paid a six-figure sum to silence a rape accusation. Based on the 2000 documentary of the same name, which attempted to bring some nuance and sympathy to the story, The Eyes of Tammy Faye casts Jessica Chastain (almost unrecognizable under all that make up, as anyone would be) as Tammy Faye opposite Andrew Garfield’s Jim. Michael Showalter directs.

Blue Bayou (Theaters, September 17)

Justin Chon serves as writer, director, and star of this new drama in which he plays Antonio LeBlanc, a New Orleans resident who faces deportation despite living in the United States since the age of three. Alicia Vikander co-stars as Kathy, Antonio’s wife and the mother of the child he could be leaving behind.

The Nowhere Inn (Theaters and VOD, September 17)

In a hall-of-mirrors film that blurs fact, fiction, and performance, Annie Clark (a.k.a. St. Vincent) plays Annie Clark who hires friend and fellow musician Carrie Brownstein (played by Carrie Brownstein) to make a documentary about her. Then things take a turn for the weird. Clark and Brownstein co-wrote the script of this film that both baffled and impressed audiences when it played Sundance in 2020.

Prisoners of the Ghostland (Theaters, September 17)

Nicolas Cage teams up with cult-favorite director Sion Sono in a post-apocalyptic Western in which his character must rescue a woman from a dangerous wasteland or face his death. That description might sound strange, but the film is even stranger. If you’ve ever wanted to see Cage wearing a leather jumpsuit and screaming “Testicles!” it’s the movie you’ve been waiting for.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (Amazon, September 17)

Inspired by the 2011 documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16, the Dan Gillespie and Tom MacRae-created Everybody’s Talking About Jamie became a hit in the United Kingdom. The story of an aspiring drag queen who fights prejudice to fulfill his dream, it’s scheduled to hit the U.S. in 2022. This film version, starring newcomer Max Harwood, arrives this month to clue the rest of the world in on what all the fuss is about. Watch with a 30-day free trial to Amazon Prime.

Muhammad Ali (PBS, September 19)

That latest from documentarian Ken Burns (co-directing with daughter Sarah Burns and her husband David McMahon) explores the life of the boxer and global icon whose athleticism and activism put a deep stamp on 20th century history. Told in four installments, the eight-hour film will roll out over four consecutive nights.

Ordinary Joe (NBC, September 20)

Though not particularly memorable as a film, 1998’s Sliding Doors has stuck around in the public consciousness thanks to an intriguing premise. The Gwyneth Paltrow-starring film depicts the divergent courses taken by her character’s life depending on whether she makes or misses a train. This new series expands on that idea, following the life of Joe Kimbreau (Josh Wolk) down three different possible paths. Will it do a better job than Sliding Doors of making those stories interesting in their own right? Tune in to find out. Watch with a free trial to Peacock.

The Wonder Years (ABC, September 22)

Mixing comedy, drama, and nostalgia in telling the story of one boy’s coming-of-age in the late-Sixties, the original incarnation of The Wonder Years became one of ABC’s signature series in the late-Eighties/early-Nineties. Like the original, this new version is set at the end of the 1960s but presents the era from a different perspective, that of a Black 12-year-old named Dean (Elisha “EJ” William) growing up in Montgomery, AL. Don Cheadle narrates as the voice of the adult Dean. Watch on ABC with a free trial to fuboTV.

Foundation (Apple TV Plus, September 24)

Next month sees the premiere of Denis Villeneuve’s long-awaited adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. But you don’t have to wait until then to see a new take on a science fiction cornerstone thanks to this attempt to create a series based on Isaac Asimov’s sprawling stories of a far-future galactic empire that’s home to Seldon (Jared Harris), a brilliant sociologist/mathematician trying to limit the damage of a coming dark age. Lee Pace co-stars as the galactic emperor who doesn’t want him to succeed. Watch on Apple TV here.

Dear Evan Hansen (Theaters, September 24)

It’s a good month for fans of the mid-2010s most acclaimed musicals. Joining Come From Away is this big-screen take on Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, and Steven Levenson’s story of the eponymous Evan Hanson (Ben Platt, reprising the role he originated), a high school student who suffers from social anxiety disorder and inserts himself into the story of a recent tragedy via a misunderstanding. No stranger to coming-of-age stories, The Perks of Being a Wallflower’s Stephen Chbosky directs.

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