Monthly Preview: August 2014

calendar2It’s been a pretty good summer so far; not only have there been a nice selection of indie films to choose from, but many of the major tentpole films have lived up to the sort of narrative standards I hold dear. And we’re not done yet, as August brings us a major blockbuster release, and a nice little pile of independent releases to help shift us towards the fall prestige season. Without further ado, my wanna-see movies of August 2014:

Guardians of the Galaxy: Oh boy, here we go. The summer action movies I’ve seen this year have been pretty damn good overall and Guardians of the Galaxy is the perfect culmination of all of that. A Marvel Studios space opera, with a strong-voiced genre director (James Gunn), a killer cast (Pratt, Saldana, Bautista, Diesel, Cooper) and an even better soundtrack… what more could one ask for? A rollicking good time will be had by all, I’ve no doubt, and if you need further convincing you can see my review any minute now.

Calvary: While Martin McDonagh is (rightfully) recognized as one of the better Irish writers of his generation, you’d be a fool to forget about his brother John Michael, who follows up The Guard with this awesome-looking gem. The premise- a priest is threatened with murder in the confessional and then faces his own mortality while looking for the culprit- is dramatic gold, and with Brendan Gleeson and Chris O’Dowd aboard there will be plenty of dry wit on display as well. I’m always one for a McDonagh black comedy and I’m sure this one will live up to the family tradition quite nicely.

Life After Beth: There are a lot of disparate elements with this one. On the one hand you have a very comedy-friendly cast including Aubrey Plaza, Anna Kendrick, John C Reilly, Cheryl Hines, Paul Reiser and Molly Shannon. On the other hand, the leading man is Dane DeHaan, a guy known more for his intense and creepy dramatic persona. On one hand, it’s a great high-concept genre mash-up, but on the other it’s written and directed by Jeff Baena, otherwise known as the writer of I Heart Huckabees, a movie that seems to fly in the face of “high-concept”. Combining elements like this can either lead to something brilliant or something muddled, but the trailer suggests more the former. If nothing else it seems like a very different take on zombies, and one that hopefully meshes well with the relatable relationship dynamics the movie is exploring.

Zero Theorem: Terry Gilliam’s work can be a very tough pill to swallow at times, but his science-fiction work has always seemed to me as beyond reproach. Both Brazil and Twelve Monkeys are supremely well-respected examples of their genre, and while there’s no guarantee that Zero Theorem will live up to that legacy it does seem that Gilliam is aiming as high as possible here. The subject matter (a mathematician tries to crack the meaning of existence) could easily make for a navel-gaze-y experience, but one replete with gorgeous Gilliam imagery and some intriguing performances from Christoph Waltz and David Thewlis. This should be on iTunes and on-demand this month, and in theaters in September, so pick your poison and dive on in.
The One I Love: I remember hearing about this one back around Sundance, and I didn’t think about it again until the trailer came online the other week. I was surprised to find a mysterious and suggestively abnormal story on display, one that apparently earns comparisons to the likes of Charlie Kaufman. Between the awesome and underrated trio of actors (Elisabeth Moss, Mark Duplass and Ted Danson) and the beautifully understated visuals, there’s a lot to like here, but nothing moreso than the intriguing ambiguity of what the trailer sets up. I want to see it just to find out what the deal with this house is, which if nothing else is a feather in the marketing team’s cap.

Starred Up: This one I’ve only been vaguely aware of until very recently, but after watching that trailer I’m very much in. Jack O’Connell is very much on the rise (and features in Angelina Jolie’s next directorial feature in December) and looks to be a force here, which you have to be when standing next to the inimitable Ben Mendelsohn. The movie looks harsh and mean and claustrophobic, and while some of the beats in the trailer look a bit too aspirational in relation to the rest I’d hope that the filmmakers can play those two tones off of each other to create a far more impactful emotional experience to accompany the visceral. This one is also on-demand in advance, if you’d like to heighten the experience by watching it in a small room alone.

What If essentially looks like the modern riff on When Harry Met Sally… but it does have Daniel Radcliffe, and the director Michael Dowse was also behind Goon, so I’m willing to presume that it has something original to offer the formula; Let’s Be Cops, to be frank, looks absurdly douchey, so credit to Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans for being charming enough to make me laugh at the trailer anyway; Frank almost made the main list, and I’m sure Michael Fassbender will kill it, but it could also very easily be the kind of weird-ass movie that I don’t go for, so I’m keeping my expectations restrained; Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is also a near-miss, but the closer we get to release the more I realize I’m completely unexcited for it, yet another major difference between me and my 15-year-old self; and finally, the only reason I mention Life of Crime is because it’s based on an Elmore Leonard story, and his work usually translates at least into decent movies, if not always great ones.

 

And there’s your summer movie season, folks! No rest for the weary though, as the fall has a ton of offerings of its own, a surprising number of them right off the bat in September. Come on back to find out what’s on the menu!

 

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