I say it every single summer and I’m going to say it again for those who haven’t been paying attention. The hot August weekends at the movies are generally considered the “Dog Days of Summer,” the point where most studios have already shot their load and released their biggest and best. While there’s still room for one or two more hits, it’s not as definite anymore that even movies released in the early part of August are going to be able to find an audience. Fortunately, there are a couple of strong and anticipated movies among them, but there are also more than a few movies that can’t help but make me feel just a little bit snarky while writing about them, maybe because I know that most of these movies will be out of theaters by the time things start picking up again in November.
The month kicks off straight away with the perfect Hollywood pairing between two of the biggest box office superstars working today, Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, starring in the action crime comedy 2 Guns (Universal August 2), loosely based on the Boom Studios! graphic novel by Steven Grant and Mateus Santolouco. For Wahlberg, it’s a reunion with his Contraband director Baltasar Kormakur, with him and Denzel playing undercover federal agents forced to work together to take down a drug syndicate. Yes, folks, it does look like the dudes are reclaiming the genre that Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy tried their very best to abscond with The Heat.
District 9 filmmaker Neill Blomkamp, whose South African sci-fi movie received a number of Oscar nominations, returns with his follow-up Elysium (Sony August 9), his latest sci-fi epic starring Matt Damon as a guy living in the year 2154 where the classes are divided between Earth and a space station called Elysium who must figure out a way to get there in order to save his own life. Also starring an extremely rare Jodie Foster appearance and the ubiquitous Sharlto Copley, it’s probably one of the more anticipated movies of the month among genre/film fans.
Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s snarky superheroes return in Kick-Ass 2 (Universal – Aug. 16), once again starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Moretz and Christopher Mintz-Plasse as street hero Kick-Ass, his far more skilled and deadly “sidekick” Hit-Girl and his former friend turned super-villain, The Red Mist (although I think he goes by a different name in this movie that I can’t divulge in a PG-13 preview column). Nicolas Cage is nowhere to be found but he’s been replaced by Jim Carrey, who is also nowhere to be found because he was so affected by the events of the Sandy Hook killings that he’s not promoting the movie.
Another welcome return is the one reuniting Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead creators Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost for The World’s End (Focus Features – Aug. 23), as a group of high school chums attempt to make an epic pub crawl 20 years later only to discover that everyone in their town is behaving strangely.
That one mixes the trio’s distinctive British humor with science fiction and action, which means the only straight comedy of the month is We’re the Millers (New Line/WB – August 7), a road comedy reuniting Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston from Horrible Bosses and directed by Dodgeball‘s Rawson Marshall Thurber that has Sudeikis playing a slacker hustled into smuggling drugs across the Mexican border for the drug cartel, something he does by assembling a makeshift family that includes Emma Roberts and Will Poulter from Son of Rambow.
For those who wondered what happens in the world of DisneyPixar’s Cars when someone needs to travel further than just down the road, we get Disney’s Planes (Walt Disney Pictures – August 9). I have nothing further to add to that one – it’s literally a movie about talking planes that race each other.
Following the success of 2010′s Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, which grossed $226 million worldwide, the trio of Godly progeny played by Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson and Alexandra Daddario return in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (20th Century Fox – August 7), going on another quest based on the popular series of books by Rick Riordan, this one involving the Golden Fleece and you guessed it a “SEA OF MONSTERS”!
Speaking of popular books, I’ve never read The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (Screen Gems – Aug. 21), but obviously someone has and have pegged it to be the next next NEXT “Twilight” or “Hunger Games” or whatever the current popular hot young adult novel of the moment is. This one stars Lily Collins as a teenager who finds out she’s the descendant in a long line of “Shadowhunters.”
Liam Hemsworth stars in the high-tech espionage thriller Paranoia (Relativity Media – August 16)–also based on a book I believe–which puts him into the rivalry between two powerful billionaires, played by Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman.
After seemingly months of Deadline Email reports about the legal battles over its title, Lee Daniels’ The Butler (The Weinstein Company – August 16) finally comes out with Forest Whitaker playing you guessed it “The Butler.” (Isn’t it amazing how these movie titles just make it really obvious what the movie is about so you don’t have to do any sort of fancy guesswork?) This is a White House butler who served over three decades for eight American Presidents.
Ashton Kutcher plays Apple founder Steve Jobs in JOBS (Open Road Films – August 16), the movie about Steve Jobs getting his job at Apple Computer. It is literally NOT the silliest actor/premise pairing of the month. That one’s still to come.
That honor also doesn’t go to the intriguing political thriller Closed Circuit (Focus – Aug. 28), which stars Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall as former lovers taking on terrorism in the latest movie from Irish filmmaker and theater director John Crowley (Boy A, Intermission) with a screenplay by Eastern Promises writer Steven Knight.
Two years after it premiered in the Midnight Madness track at the Toronto International Film Festival, Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett’s popular cult home invasion thrillerYou’re Next (Lionsgate – Aug. 23) finally sees the light of day. Not sure how this movie will fare so soon after the hugely successful The Purge, but it probably cost about as much to make. I personally hate the movie with a passion for reasons that you can read in my two-year-old review, but everyone else seems to love it, so whatever.
Speaking of Purge star Ethan Hawke, sticking him in a car with Selena Gomez seems to have been the big selling pitch for the action-thriller Getaway (Warner Bros. – Aug. 30). I’m sorry, but this is a real movie? I’m starting to think that someone has hacked the ComingSoon.net database and is punking the Weekend Warrior this month.
The good news: Super Size Me director Morgan Spurlock has a new documentary. Bad news: It’s One Direction: This is Us (TriStar Pictures – Aug. 30). I’ll just leave it at that.
In much brighter news, August brings a plethora of movies that I caught at this year’s South by SouthWest Film Festival and I’m giving the “Movie of the Month” award to Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies (Magnolia – Aug. 23), starring “New Girl’s” Jake Johansson and Olivia Wilde as co-workers at a brewery who fight off their obvious sexual tension to stay true to their significant others, played by Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston.
If I picked two movies this month, I’d probably go with David Gordon Green’s “return to indie filmmaking” (at least as a director) with Prince Avalanche (Magnolia – Aug 9) starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch as two road workers trying to rebuild the roads after a devastating fire. Smashed director James Ponsoldt tackles Tim Tharp’s coming-of-age tale The Spectacular Now (A24 – Aug. 2), starring Miles Teller (Footloose) as Sutter Keely, a partying high school senior who finds himself grounded when he falls for Shailene Woodley’s Aimee.
Destin Daniel Cretton’s Short Term 12 (Cinedigm – Aug. 23) stars Brie Larson (who also appears in The Spectacular Now) as the supervisor at a facility for at-risk teens who ends up bonding with a troubled teen girl and that was the big winner at this year’s SXSW Film Festival as it won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award.
Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall star in Dan (Borat) Mazur’s Brit rom-com I Give It a Year (Magnolia), the latest from Working Title Films, as a couple who have to contend with friends and family who don’t believe they can make the marriage work with Anna Faris and Simon Baker playing bad influences around the couple that adds sexual tension to their marriage.
Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler star in Kevin and Michael Goetz’s thriller Scenic Route (Vertical Entertainment – Aug. 23) as two friends on a road trip through the desert that forces them to question their friendship.
That’s it for the SXSW movies–there are a lot of them this month–but outside of that, Amanda Seyfried goes blue in Lovelace (RadiusTWC – Aug. 9), playing porn star Linda Lovelace, a role that was once going to be played by Lindsay Lohan, who instead stars in Paul Schrader’s The Canyons (IFC Films – Aug. 2), a dramatic thriller starring former porn star James Deen.
David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (IFC Films – Aug. 16) stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara as an outlaw couple apprehended during a crime spree and how they’re reunited four years afterwards when he escapes from jail looking for his woman and their daughter.
Sharlto Copley not only reunites with his South African countrymate Neill Blomkamp with Elysium this month as he also stars in a second sci-fi movie, Europa Report (Magnet Releasing – Aug. 2), Sebastian Cordero’s found footage outer space epic that follows a journey to Jupiter’s moon Europa.
Back down on Earth in war-torn Afghanistan, a woman tries to keep her coma-stricken husband alive in Atiq Rahimi’s The Patience Stone (Sony Pictures Classics – Aug. 14), confessing her sins to him knowing that he can’t act against her.
Based on a true story, The Frozen Ground (Lionsgate Aug. 23) pits Nicolas Cage as an Alaskan State Trooper against a serial killer played by John Cusack, and yeah, if it sounds a bit like Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia, you may be right, but it’s not a bad movie and Vanessa Hudgens plays a teen prostitute who mostly keeps her clothes on.
And last but not least is the latest from Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-Wai, The Grandmaster (The Weinstein Company – Aug. 23), an action epic based on the life of legendary martial arts master Ip Man starring Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi.
Incidentally, unless there seems to be some sort of demand for these monthly previews of which we’re not aware, this will probably be the last monthly preview for a while. If you like these things, please do let us know and I’ll make an effort to continue them now that the summer is over.