Muppets Most Wanted - Miss Piggy

No Good Deed: Kate Del Castillo

Noah - Russell Crowe

The Maze Runner: Dylan O'Brien

Noah - Russell Crowe

The Equalizer: Denzel Washington


      September stories: A Martian who landed in a multiplex parking lot in September would send home an entirely different report than one who arrived during the summer.

       The summer visitor would talk about seeing a stream of big budget, special effects driven 3D sci-fi action adventures, including some with primitive spaceships navigating the universe and others with Spandex costumed guys with super powers like everybody back home on Mars.

     The September arrival would be spreading the word about more down-to-earth films, driven more by their stories than by high tech effects.

     What the Martian probably wouldn't know, unless it read this column regularly on the interstellar Internet, is that in the fall Hollywood typically shifts its focus to story driven films. That's why most of the films arriving this month require more than a quick sentence to explain their storylines.

     September will bring multiplexes a mixture of genres targeted to all audiences, but that won't be mistaken for high profile summer movies. Here's a quick look at what's opening wide this month.

     September got off to a quiet start last weekend with no new wide releases. The post-Labor Day weekend's traditionally seen by Hollywood as a time when people are busy readjusting to being back at school and work. The lack of new competition worked to the advantage of Marvel Studios and Disney's PG-13 3D sci-fi action adventure "Guardians of the Galaxy,"which placed first in its sixth week with $10.2 million, bringing its cume to $294.6 million.

     This was "Guardian's" third consecutive number one weekend and its fourth victory, including its opening weekend last month. That's the most first place wins for any Marvel film ever.

     This weekend the action ramps up with two new arrivals and the following weekend will be crowded with three wide openings.

     Screen Gems and WP Productions' PG-13 thriller "No Good Deed"opens Friday at about 2,000 theatres. Directed by Sam Miller ("Krakatoa: Volcano of Destruction"), it stars Taraji P. Henson, Idris Elba and Leslie Bibb.

     "Deed's" tracking best and in double digits with women over 25. It's also scoring well with under-25 females.

     Henson plays Terri, a devoted wife and mother living an ideal suburban life in Atlanta, when Colin (Elba), a charming but dangerous escaped convict, shows up at her door claiming car trouble. Terri offers her phone to help him, but soon finds herself fighting for survival when he invades her home and terrorizes her family.

     Sept. 12's other wide release is Warner Bros. and Alcon Entertainment's PG rated family drama "Dolphin Tale 2," opening at about 3,500 theatres. Directed by Charles Martin Smith ("Dolphin Tale"), it reteams Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd from the franchise's first episode.

     The original opened Sept. 23, 2011 to $19.2 million and went on to gross $72.3 million domestically. The sequel's tracking best with women over 25, the moms-with-kids audience that family films need to attract. It's also tracking nearly as well with under-25 women.

     In "DT2," it's several years after young Sawyer Nelson (Nathan Gamble) and the team at Clearwater Marine Hospital, headed by Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick, Jr.), rescued the dolphin Winter. With the help of Dr. Cameron McCarthy (Freeman), who developed a unique prosthetic tail for the injured dolphin, they were able to save her life.

     But their fight's not over yet. Winter's surrogate mother, the elderly dolphin Panama, has passed away and Winter has no poolmate. Unfortunately, USDA regulations prohibit dolphins from being housed alone because their social behavior requires them to be paired with other dolphins. So time is running out to find a companion for Winter before Clearwater loses her to another aquarium.

     20th Century Fox's PG-13 sci-fi action mystery "The Maze Runner"opens Sept. 19. Directed by first time feature director Wes Ball, it's based on James Dashner's best-selling young adult dystopian novel. Starring are Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario and Will Poulter.

     "Maze" is tracking best and in double digits with under-25 males and is tracking nearly as well with under-25 females. It's also scoring in double digits with women over 25.

     In "Maze," Thomas (O'Brien) wakes up in an elevator remembering nothing but his name. He's with about 60 other teen boys who've learned to survive in a completely enclosed environment called The Glade.

     After trying to escape from The Gladefor two years through its surrounding Maze, they're losing hope. But then a comatose girl (Scodelario) arrives with a strange note and their world begins to change.

     Sept. 19 will also bring Universal Pictures' R rated action crime mystery "A Walk Among the Tombstones," directed by Scott Frank ("The Lookout"). It's based on the best-selling series of mystery novels by Lawrence Block. Starring are Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens and David Harbour. "Walk's" tracking best and in double digits with 25-plus males.

      Neeson plays private investigator Matt Scudder, an ex-NYPD cop who's workingnow as an unlicensed private investigator and operating just outside the law. When Scudder reluctantly agrees to help a heroin trafficker (Stevens) hunt down the men who kidnapped and brutally murdered his wife, he learns this isn't the first time they've committed this sort of twisted crime nor will it be the last.

     Blurring the lines between right and wrong, Scudder races to track the deviants through New York's backstreets before they kill again.

      Sept. 19's third wide release is Warner Bros. R rated comedy "This is Where I Leave You,"directed by Shawn Levy ("Night at the Museum" and "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian") and starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Jane Fonda. It's tracking best and in double digits with 25-plus females.

     In "This," four grown siblings return after their father's death to their childhood home and spend a week together -- along with their over-sharing mother and various spouses, exes, etc.

     Confronting their past and their frayed emotional states among those who know and love them, they ultimately reconnect amid the chaos, humor, heartache and redemption that only families can provide.

     The month will wrap up with two wide releases Sept. 26. Columbia, Village Roadshow Pictures and Escape Artists' R rated action crime thriller "The Equalizer"is directed by Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day") and stars Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas and Chloe Grace Moretz. It should play best to 25-plus males.

     Washington plays Robert McCall, who thinks his mysterious past is behind him and he can now enjoy a new, quiet life. But when he meets Teri (Moretz), a young girl controlled by ultra-violent Russian gangsters, McCall can't ignore her plight. Armed with hidden skills to combat those who brutalize the helpless, McCall returns as The Equalizer, his desire for justice reawakened.

     Focus Features' PG rated 3D animated adventure comedy "The Boxtrolls" is directed by Anthony Staachi ("Open Season")& by "ParaNorman" story artist and first time feature director Graham Annable. Its voice stars include Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Jared Harris, Toni Collette, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan.

     "Boxtrolls," based on the novel "Here Be Monsters" by Alan Snow, should play best to family audiences.

     "Boxtrolls" revolves around a family of quirky, mischievous creatures who have raised Eggs, an orphaned human boy (Hempstead Wright), in an amazing cavernous home beneath the streets of Cheesebridge.

     When town villain Archibald Snatcher (Kingsley) comes up with a plot to get rid of the Boxtrolls, Eggs decides to go above ground, where he teams up with the feisty Winnie (Elle Fanning) to devise a daring plan to save his family.

      Bottom line:September's story-driven films provide moviegoers with a post-summer change of pace.