August used to be the month when studios would dump their crappiest films in the hopes of a quick buck, but the past few years have seen an increase in films that may be actually worth your time. Here are some we have hopes for.
The Other Guys (August 6) – You know all those summer blockbusters about a pair of cops who breezily catch dangerous criminals while causing untold amounts of collateral property damage while looking good doing it? This movie isn’t about those guys. Instead, Will Farrel and Mark Wahlberg are two of the guys you see in the background of the police station of those movies, walking around with file folders and applauding when the hero cops make a particular spectacular bust. But since a movie about guys walking around an office carrying file folders would be rather boring, Farrel and Wahlberg get their own chance to shine, to catch dangerous criminals and to cause untold amounts of collateral property damage. While they probably won’t look nearly as good while doing it, they will probably be entertaining, if the trailer is anything to go by. And, going by Farrel’s last line in the clip, the movie looks like it is well aware of the audience’s knowledge of the genre and are looking to mine a few laughs from that.
The Expendables (August 13 ) – In the days of my youth I spent many days avoiding a number of wedgies, neck slaps, and unwelcome opportunities of getting stuffed in a locker. To properly cope with these looming conflicts, I’d usually escape into a world of hard-hitting, action-filled mercenary movies like First Blood, Commando and others. Thankfully, the locker stuffing days are long gone, but my love for action isn’t. And this summer looks like it’s going to be a good one for men-on-a-mission films with The A-Team reboot and this month’s The Expendables. Written, directed by and starring Sylvester Stallone, The Expendables brings together a dynamic testosterone-filled cast! A number of action vets like Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis, and Mickey Rourke are teamed with more current stars like Jet Li, Jason Statham, and Steve Austin. Even the Governator himself (Schwarzenegger) makes an appearance. While the movie doesn’t break any new ground – a group of mercenaries is hired to infiltrate a South American country and overthrow its ruthless dictator – it does make me nostalgic for the 1980s and the heyday of macho violence and monotone one-liners. Plus, it has all the ingredients this action fan could want: explosions, guns spitting thousands of rounds a second and there’s all sorts of muscle involved. As an added bonus, I get to come home knowing that a wedgie isn’t waiting for me the following day. – John Gibbon
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (August 13) – If there is one graphic novel series with a fan base as rabid as that of Harry Potter readers, it would have to be the Scott Pilgrim series. Granted, in comparison to the Potter heads, the Pilgrim fans are paltry. But they worship the book and treat the release of a new volume like it was a national holiday. The series is an Amerimanga about a man who must fight against his girlfriend’s seven ex-boyfriends in order to win her heart. Unique concept enhanced by pop culture references and rock and roll shout outs.
The film is directed by Edgar Wright, whose Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz certifies him as a genuine genius, and features an all-star cast including Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Anna Kendrick, and Chris Evans. Don’t be surprised if this film turns out to be the film of the summer. – William Gatevackes
Soul Kitchen (August 20) – The summer blockbuster season is usually slim-pickins for me. But in August, I will have a chance to see the latest film by Fatih Akin. This young man of Turkish heritage, raised in Germany has impressed me mightily with two films of his I have seen, the curiously funny Head-On and the amazing hyper-link film The Edge Of Heaven.
I especially recommend The Edge Of Heaven, if for no other reason than the film provides a great role for the former Fassbinder diva Hannah Schygulla as an older woman traveling to Turkey after her daughters death. Hyper-link films, where the plot-points are interwoven and connect and collapse upon each other in a fractured timeline is a tricky beast to tame. Most hyper-link films are either pretentious (Babel, Crash), utterly confusing (Rendition, Lantana) or totally unwatchable (21 Grams, Timecode).
The handful of good ones, Pulp Ficiton, Before The Rain, In The Arms Of My Enemy and Amores Perros are to be treasured. You can add Fatih Akin’s The Edge Of Heaven to that small list. Akin’s new film Soul Kitchen, about the trials and tribulations of a restaurateur in Hamburg looks like fun and considering how much I liked Akin’s other films and the fact that Soul Kitchen stars Moritz Bleibtreu, I think it’s worth a shot. You might remember Moritz Bleibtreu from Steven Spielberg’s Munich, or as one of the terrorists in The Baader-Meinhof Complex or as the loser boyfriend in Run Lola Run or as Woody Harrelson’s very nice boyfriend in The Walker. Either way, Soul Kitchen is on my to do list. – Michael McGonigle
The Switch (August 20) – August always has at least one surprise hit waiting to be discovered, and this year I’m setting my sights on a quirky, “little” film entitled, The Switch.
First of all, the original title alone would have stirred my curiosity with the name, The Baster. Secondly, I’m excited because the movie is taken from a short story by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Jeffrey Eugenides, who also penned the magnificent novel, The Virgin Suicides. Writer/director, and critical darling, Sofia Coppola made fine work of Eugenides’ elegant phrasings with her 1999 cinematic offering. If that wasn’t enough, the script, penned by Allan Loeb (the writer of the buzz-happy Wall Street sequel), landed on 2008’s Black List (a list of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood). Lastly, the film stars Jennifer Aniston – due for a worthy hit, as a 40-something eager to get pregnant, even if by unconventional method, and Jason Bateman, playing Aniston’s neurotic friend.
But, I also like this film’s chances because it is a desirable risk in a throng of bigger August players like The Expendables, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and Eat, Pray, Love. The reason why? The Switch promises to take odd reality and pitch it as an offbeat comedy aiming to prove that some truths, no matter how chaotic, are still stranger than the best fiction. – JG