New and recent releases to check out in the heat of August.
August is practically halfway over – already, with only a few weeks left until Labor Day and the “official” end of the summer movie season. We’ve said several times before that the summer of 2009 wasn’t exactly one for the memory books, though now we see it has the potential to end strong. Several films are out now and several more are still come this month, and some of them even look promising.
Here’s the rundown of most of the major openings, as well as an independent we think might have some potential. All release dates are for American markets, so some may not be accurate for international audiences.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (opened August 7): A week after its opening, the consensus of those who’ve seen this toy movie comes down to something like, “It wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been.” You know movies collectively are in a funk when the best thing said about a week’s tentpole opening is that it wasn’t the crap people were expecting. And people were expecting crap - there was heavy expectation for months that it would emerge as the grand flop of the summer.
In the unlikely event you don’t already know (and knowing is half the battle), the movie’s about a squad of government soldiers attempting to stop a terrorist group, and it’s based on a groundbreaking line of Hasbro toys from the 1980s. Dennis Quaid, Sienna Miller, and Channing Tatum star.
Julie & Julia (opened August 7): Lonely housewife and white collar drone Julie Powell (Amy Adams) tries to make all the recipes in Julia Child’s (Meryl Streep) memoir/cookbook My Life In France in a single year. Based on the chick lit bestseller (itself the first book based on a blog) and directed by Nora Ephron (You’ve Got Mail), the film is half Powell’s story and half biography of Child’s rise to becoming arguably the most famous chef in history. It’s a woman’s film, though it’s almost certainly better than last summer’s Streep offering, Mamma Mia! Stanley Tucci (Big Night), who we wish made more movies, plays Child’s husband.
Our full preview includes the trailer and a more in-depth plot summary and analysis.
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard (opens August 14): With the exception of the dark horse The Hangover, most male-oriented comedies flopped hard this summer. Land of the Lost and Year One were deservedly dead on arrival, Funny People had naysayers announcing the end of the Apatow Dynasty, and Bruno came and went pretty fast. Meanwhile traditional female-centric romcoms like The Ugly Truth and especially The Proposal might as well have had licenses to print money.
But the guys’ comedies get one more chance with The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, the directing debut of Chappelle’s Show writer Neal Brennan. Jeremy Piven plays a used car uber-salesman hired to clear out a lot of 200 cars over the Fourth of July weekend. Abetting him are Ving Rhames, David Koechner, and Kathryn Hahn. The Hangover‘s Ed Helms, Jordana Spiro, and James Brolin also appear.
Our full preview includes the hilarious trailer and some ideas about why this might be the role Piven was born to play.
District 9 (opens August 14): A thriller in the vein of Species and Alien Nation, first-time feature director Neill Blomkamp’s gritty story imagines a world where aliens have lived in a kind of apartheid among the people of South Africa for decades. When a human inspector (Sharlto Copley) assumes some of the aliens’ DNA, the ruthless international corporation running their ghetto chases him through their sprawling encampment.
Peter Jackson directed the film, which only took shape after the long-ballyhooed film translation of the Halo video game fell apart. Not to second guess, but some images from the film’s TV spots suggest it’ll carry the glum meanstreak that resurfaced in Jackson’s work about two thirds of the way through Return of the King and helped make King Kong almost unwatchable. We hope not, because the film’s setup is fascinating, and there’s always room for another good science fiction film on our viewing schedules.
We’ve got a a preview of this one, too, that includes more background on Blomkamp as well as the film’s setup.
The Time Traveler’s Wife (opens August 14): A woman (Rachel McAdams) spends her life loving a man (Eric Bana) who, thanks to a rare genetic anomaly, compulsively travels through time. Based on the bestselling novel by Audrey Niffenegger and directed by Robert Schwentke (Flightplan), the film’s emphasis apparently rests on the romance side of the story.
Bana and McAdams should by all rights be bigger stars than they currently are, but this sort of sci-fi tinged melodrama doesn’t seem likely to push them up to the A-list. Early reviews have been mixed and often seemingly skewed to how much individual critics cared for the source novel.
We just compiled our list of favorite time travel romances earlier this week.
Inglourious Basterds (opens August 21): Universal’s marketing the living shit out of this on television, so is a synopsis really necessary? Writer-director Quentin Tarantino has said the film is his masterpiece, though what that could mean after the cinematic lip-syncing of Kill Bill and Grindhouse is anyone’s guess. As with so much of his recent work, it’s based on a cult film from the 1970s and reportedly continues his withdrawal from cinematic realism (which was never exactly his strong suit anyway.) History buffs will likely be less than pleased to know he’s changed the ending to World War II.
We imagine Tarantino’s fans (and we imagine there are less of them than in years past) will cheer while most everyone else remains indifferent. And yet, for all that we still love Jackie Brown.
Big Fan (opens limited release August 28): A parking lot attendant (Patton Oswalt) who’s also a New York Giants megafan struggles to cope with getting beat down by his favorite player. Kevin Corrigan and Michael Rapaport co-star, while Robert D. Siegel (The Wrestler) writes and makes his directing debut.
Actually, the script was one of The Wrestler’s biggest problems (we didn’t like the film), suffering from the same pretentious airlessness that’s also creeping into the edges of the trailer below. Still, Oswalt is exactly the actor to tackle a part like this, while Corrigan and Rapaport are the go-to guys for playing working-class Atlantic Northeast.
- Michael Kabel