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August used to be a terrible month for films, but over the last few years, huge successes have been born here. Comedies in particular have found new life in August. In 2007, Superbad opened to critical acclaim and $33 million. In 2008, Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder found a solid measure of success.
Last August, however, we had a breakthrough. G.I. Joe began the month with a strong box-office pull (despite lack of quality) and two films nominated for Best Picture came out: District 9 and Inglourious Basterds. Even if the summer is on its last legs, you can’t count out August. Here is our preview.
-- August 6 --
The Other Guys
Will Ferrell is a love him or hate him comedian. His stupider-than-thou antics have made hits like Elf and duds like Land of the Lost alike. The new comedic action hybrid The Other Guys looks to land on the brighter side of his film credits. The story centers around NYPD desk jockey Allen Gamble (Ferrell) and disgraced cop Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg) getting their big break to becoming headline officers when a dangerous case is handed off to them. Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton, Dwayne Johnson, and Samuel L. Jackson fill out the cast as Gambles trophy wife, the police captain, and the satirical alpha cops respectively.
A host of cameos are promised to sprinkle across the length of the feature including Derek Jeter, Rosie Perez, Brooke Shields and perhaps a few other surprises. Advertising has focused less on the buddy cop aspect, playing up Ferrell’s obliviousness and Wahlberg’s attempts to play the straight guy. The film doesn’t hide the satire, opening the preview with an over the top scenario involving Johnson and Jackson crashing their police vehicle into a tour bus throwing only an action hero one-liner to the startled passengers. Movie posters recall the preposterousness of Crank with Ferrell and Wahlberg shooting off guns as they fall through the clouds.
However, another mismatched cop movie was already released this year. Cop Out paired Bruce Willis with Tracy Morgan to the tune of 19% on Rotten Tomatoes and approximately $45 million domestic. That was February though, a weak month for motion pictures in general. The Other Guys may get a boost from the summer timeframe and the added bonus of being the first action film introduced since Angelina Jolie’s Salt two weekends prior. It could conversely lose momentum to Steve Carrell comedy Dinner for Schmucks out one week before.
Middle Men (limited)
Ahhh the early days of Internet porn – where would we be without such visionary pioneers? Middle Men finds a man named Jack Harris (Luke Wilson) who along with this new fad called the Internet, becomes a pioneer of electronic ill-repute. The cast is chock-full of talent including James Caan, Giovanni Ribisi, Kelsey Grammer and Gabriel Macht, but this film seems to be flying under the radar and almost seems poised for a dump.
Acting talent and a titillating, "true-story” premise does not always hit the mark as often as one may think. Can we expect a classy effort like The Bank Job or be subject to another 21 or Pirate Radio? The tagline reads: Money. Sex. Murder. Greed. Corruption. If Middle Men can keep true to even half of those monikers then this sly "rise-and-fall” tale could be an underrated gem come year’s end.
-- August 13 --
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
In a summer rife with stale and derivative movies, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World looks to provide a welcome alternative. Based on the comic book of the same name, this is one of the two movies (Inception being the other) that had the most hype going into the summer.
The film appears to be in the same vein as Michael Cera’s Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist in that the characters seem to be the same quirky emo sort of people, with an extra dash of ‘80s video games mixed in (no complaints here). Scott Pilgrim (Cera) has found the girl of his dreams, however he must defeat her seven evil exes in order to successfully date her.
The film is directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) and appears to blend pop culture, video game references, rock music and science fiction motifs. We’ll see if it can live up to the hype and the beloved comic series.
Directed by Edgar Wright
Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, what more would you want in an action film?
Stallone writes and directs his first film that is not based on his iconic characters Rocky Balboa and John Rambo. The Expendables is a deliberate throwback to classic 80s action films: large men with big guns blowing the shit out of everyone and everything. It promises to be an old-fashioned actioner with guns and fist fights, relying on stunt work and pyrotechnics instead of CGI.
A team of mercenaries is assigned a mission to overthrow a brutal South American dictator. But it’s not long before they are thrown in the middle of a web of deceit and betrayal.
The Expendables was written, staring and directed by a man who knows what he is doing in this genre. In a recent interview Stallone says he wants to follow Clint Eastwood route from acting to directing; a very good role model to have, but an ambitious comparison. He first has to hope has a hit on his hands in a fiercely competitive weekend with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Eat, Pray, Love.
Eat Pray Love
Julia Roberts is an exceptional actress. The Academy Award winner can make you laugh, cry, and, essentially, make you fall in love with her. She promises to do all of those things and more in the upcoming feel-good drama Eat Pray Love.
Glee creator Ryan Murphy helms this film that is based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir of the same name, which follows Gilbert (Roberts) as she embarks on a one-year journey to Italy, India, and Bali in search of self.
Even though the leading role in the film doesn’t seem like a difficult one, there is something that feels like perfection with the phenomenally talented Roberts in it. Even in the brief, light-on-details trailer there is just something magical about her being in it. Sure, she won’t be shopping on Rodeo Drive with Richard Gere’s wallet this time, but it’s hard to imagine that audiences won’t fall in love with this pretty woman yet again.
Would it be a bit crazy to say that she might pick up another Oscar nomination? She hasn’t been nominated since her win in 2000, but this dose of light drama might do the trick. The supporting cast includes Viola Davis, James Franco, Javier Bardem, Mike O’Malley, and Richard Jenkins.
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Written by Ryan Murphy and Jennifer Salt, Elizabeth Gilbert (memoir)
Starring: Julia Roberts, Viola Davis, James Franco, Javier Bardem
-- August 20 --
I suppose there is something to be said for actually remaking a horror film in need of an upgrade instead of slaughtering classics like Jason Voorhees does naked teenagers. The 1978 original was released right on the heels of Jaws and not surprisingly felt like a cheaper, sillier version of that Spielberg masterwork.
French director Alexandre Aja seems to flip-flop between original work and remakes, having burst onto the horror scene with the now cult-classic High Tension, before remaking Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes. In 2008 he found Kiefer Sutherland looking at his own reflection a lot in Mirrors, and now he is back to sifting through the horror archives of the past.
Presented in 3D (shocker) Piranha tells the delightful tale of a swarm of prehistoric fish with a penchant for nibbling – hard – and terrorizing the residents of a lakeside town. The cast certainly shows promise with Ving Rhames, Elisabeth Shue and the one and only Christopher Lloyd (where’s a time-traveling DeLorean when you need one?) and Aja is more than a competent filmmaker. Toss in some buckets of blood along with a wink and a nudge and this could be a fun diversion this August.
Jason Bateman is just about everywhere these days. His main destination this summer, however, is in this romantic comedy opposite Jennifer Aniston, who adds another actor to her ever-growing list of collaborations in rom coms. The Swtich is another pregnancy/paternity comedy, although the set-up is much stronger than in films such as April's The Back-up Plan. This time, Bateman (the friend) "hijacks" his longtime crush's planned pregnancy by drunkenly replacing her donor's sperm with his own. Seven years later, she's back in his life and there's no avoiding the truth when he meets the hypochondriac child, Sebastian.
Maybe the best part of this film is Jeff Goldblum playing the part of the best friend. It's such an odd yet inspired choice and he plays it dryly in the trailer to the point where you have to laugh because both you and him and are in on this joke. The film could be better than usual, but another pregnancy-based formula romantic comedy is beyond tedium at this point.
Directed by Josh Gordon, Will Speck
-- August 27 --
The Last Exorcism
Exorcism is a popular theme for horror films, whether it’s Catholic (The Exorcist, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) or Judaism (The Unborn). Now it’s evangelical protestants’ turn with The Last Exorcism.
Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) is about to conduct his last exorcism and allows a documentary crew to follow him to as he tries to cure a farmer’s daughter, but his faith is about to be put to the test.
This is the second feature for German director Daniel Stamm, whose first film, A Necessary Death, was not widely seen. It is written by partners Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland who have yet to have a hit and stars an actor who has mostly worked on television.
The key to The Last Exorcism’s success financially will rely on it’s big name producers Eli Roth (director of Hostel and Cabin Fever) and the experienced Marc Abraham (Spy Game, Children of Men, Dawn of the Dead remake).
It is clear from the trailer that The Last Exorcism is trying to tap into the documentary feel of The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity and mix it with the supernatural and religious horror of The Exorcist, a horror classic.
Directed by Daniel Stamm
It feels like the previews for this film have been around for a year. Or perhaps it’s just that this ensemble cast of B and C-list actors have brought together for another generic heist picture that feels like every other we’ve seen.
Takers revolves around a notorious group of criminals out to score the biggest heist yet. A determined detective (Matt Dillon) is out to crack the case and come between the criminals and their $20-million bounty. Idris Elba, Paul Walker, rapper T.I., R&B singer Chris Brown, Hayden Christensen and Michael Ealy play the clever thieves who have pulled off job after job without incident – until now.
This is an old story with a stale look. Typically films of this feel and caliber are reserved for the straight-to-DVD market but Sony/ScreenGems half believes in its hype and has given the film an end of August release (often considered a dumping ground). Still, the film has virtually no competition at the box office save a holdover from the previous week, Lottery Ticket, which caters to the same niche African-American market Takers will garner the majority of its revenue from.