Monthly Preview: August 2015

calendar2Alright folks, the home stretch of the summer is upon us. Overall I say it’s been a solid one so far; while the biggest movie of the season was a disappointment for me, there have been more than enough good-to-great movies over the last few months to leave me feeling satisfied with the State of the Blockbuster. And who knows, some of the films on tap for this month might continue that positive trend… if they don’t get drowned out by the exciting indie offerings August has for us. Let’s take a look!

Cop Car: This one wasn’t really on my radar until director Jon Watts was announced as the director of the next Spider-Man movie, but regardless of how that one turns out I can at least be grateful it brought this awesome-looking film to my attention. Watts seems to have crafted a compelling mash-up of backwoods neo-noir and Amblin-style coming-of-age stories, driven by another great performance from the inimitable Kevin Bacon. The reviews from Sundance at the beginning of the year look pretty good, and the fact that Marvel Studios thought it was good enough to trust Watts with one of their biggest characters certainly counts for something as well. Really looking forward to see what Watts and company have up their sleeves with this dingy little thriller.

Diary Of A Teenage Girl: A big buzz-generator at Sundance this year, Diary Of A Teenage Girl sounds like it should be a classic coming-of-age story with some real sexually-sharp teeth to it. Lead actress Bel Powley apparently gives a knockout lead performance to go along with great turns from Kristen Wiig and Alexander Skarsgard, and first time director Marielle Heller is said to have done a great job making a sex-driven movie without it feeling exploitatively sexual. The trailers do admittedly set of the Twee Alarm a little bit, what with the animated bits and everything, but every review I’ve read assures me that those sequences (callbacks to the illustrations in the original novel) should not be taken as a harbinger of some (500) Days Of Summer-esque preciousness. Intrigued to see if this one lives up to the hype.

Fantastic Four: So. On the one hand, you have the director of Chronicle, a great young cast, and a studio that finally seems to understand how to make superhero movies. On the other hand, you have the trailers for the movie itself, which at times suggest exactly the sort of “grounded” superhero aesthetic that went out of style years ago. I certainly hope that the talent on display takes the questionable tone (and never was this sort of “realistic” approach more questionable than in a Fantastic Four story) and spins it into something effective. The pieces are certainly there, and the flashback bit in the most recent trailer certainly suggests the Amblin tone that director Josh Trank has talked about. I will say that if they pull off the tone just right, Fantastic Four could wind up being a very uplifting and even inspirational addition to the superhero canon. Let’s hope that it gets there.

The Man From UNCLE: Lately I’ve found myself feeling bad for The Man From UNCLE, because I really don’t think it has any chance of making a mark in my mind amidst the 2015 Spy-tacular. It won’t be as subversive as Kingsman, or as funny as Spy, or as sharply-crafted as Mission Impossible (review coming later, btw), or as uplifting as Bridge of Spies or as Bond-y as Spectre. Having said that, I have no doubt that it will be a good movie, just not one that reinvents the wheel or does anything distinctive for the genre. But Richie’s sense of style and fun still seems to be present, and the cast still seems to be having a good time. This one will probably be nothing more than a pleasant diversion, but I’m sure I will have fun with it regardless of its wider impact.

American Ultra: While Josh Trank may have stayed in the Serious Superhero sandbox with Fantastic Four, his Chronicle writer Max Landis has gotten as far away from that as possible with American Ultra. It occurred to me that if Pineapple Express was like Lethal Weapon for stoners, than American Ultra looks like The Long Kiss Goodnight for stoners, which is nothing but good news to me (I’m all for the stonerfication of Shane Black’s filmography). Combine the solid high-concept with fun performances from Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart and what looks like some well-crafted action scenes and the fact that it looks legitimately funny, and this one could easily be a solid summer sleeper. Fingers crossed.

Z For Zachariah: I never saw Craig Zobel’s Compliance when it was released a few years ago, even though I was working at a movie theater that was showing it. I do, however, remember the number of disgusted and horrified people that walked out of that movie, truly shaken by what Zobel was accomplishing. While I figure the concept of Z For Zachariah is inherently less upsetting than Compliance’s I also have no doubt that Zobel will not being pulling any punches in this one, and considering the potential of this premise that is nothing but good news. It also doesn’t hurt that he has a killer lead trio in this one, all of whom have a feeling of fearlessness about their work that should help the story immensely. This might not be the most entertaining or moving film of the year, but I have no doubt it will be impactful as all hell.

Early word on Straight Outta Compton is very positive, and it sounds like it could wind up being the louder, brasher brother to Selma (which is awesome news); I have heard really good things about Joel Edgerton’s The Gift, so maybe that will wind up being a sleeper; and pretty much every comedian I am remotely a fan of has raved about the documentary Call Me Lucky which I might hopefully catch this upcoming week.

Anyway, that’s August. Come back next month for all those Adult Dramas that apparently never get made anymore.

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