Summer Movie Preview: August 2013

Last month of summer movies, and we’re finishing with one of the best—Edgar Wright’s The World’s End—one of the few originals, Elysium, and one of the most promising sequels, Kick-Ass 2. There’s also a bunch of random Wednesday releases this month.

August 2

2 Guns

Alternate title: 2 Men Who Are Very Secure in Their Manhoods, No Seriously, We’re Not Compensating for Anything.

The Canyons

Don’t support this asshole. Just don’t.

Limited

Drift

How this movie doesn’t star the Hemsworth brothers I will never understand.

Limited

Europa Report

This is a sci-fi flick about a mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, done in a documentary style. It’s gotten decent reviews and seems particularly On Demand-friendly (i.e.: entertaining enough but not worth the trip to the theater). Co-stars Sharlto Copley, who is always enjoyable.

Limited, On Demand

The Spectacular Now

James Ponsoldt’s last film was Smashed, a solid film featuring stellar performances from Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World). On the surface, The Spectacular Now seems less emotionally upsetting, as it’s a coming-of-age tale about a high school delinquent (Miles Teller, Rabbit Hole) who falls for a nice girl (Shailene Woodley). I don’t know, though—Ponsoldt ran directly at the dark, difficult themes of Smashed, and I wonder if The Spectacular Now might have some hidden emotional pot holes. But the reviews have been super good, so I’m totally going to risk it.

Limited

August 7

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Given that Percy Jackson was one of the worst movies I’ve seen in recent memory and that the box office wasn’t great, I wondered why Fox went ahead with a sequel. Then I saw the trailer and it all made sense.

Because fuck you, that’s why.

We’re the Millers

After seeing Blackfish, that part in the trailer where the orca eats the seal has taken on a new, darker meaning.

Also this movie sucks.

August 9

Elysium

Neill Blomkamp follows up District 9 with Elysium, starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley, with bonus Diego Luna. It’s about a future in which all the rich people live on a space station with no poverty or sickness while everyone else struggles on shitty, disease-ridden Earth. I’ve heard some people theorize that the reason all the villains these days seem to be rich white people is because Hollywood doesn’t want to offend any ethnic/racial groups, but I don’t know. I think everybody just really hates rich white people.

I Give it a Year

Have not heard good things about this British comedy starring Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids, Damages) and Rafe Spall (Prometheus). It’s about a couple who hits the skids the second they say “I do”, which is the most original idea for a romantic comedy ever.

Limited, On Demand

In a World…

Lake Bell (Children’s Hospital) wrote and directed this movie about a woman who aspires to be a voice over actor, and whose father is a Don Lafontaine-esque Movie Trailer Voice Guy. I’m not as big on Lake Bell as some people, mainly because for as much as everyone keeps insisting she’s a comedy girl, I never find her that funny. Maybe she’s better at being a filmmaker. I’m sure I’ll find out in 4-6 months on Netflix.

Speaking of trailer voices, when was the last time you saw a trailer with a voice over?

Limited

Lovelace

Amanda Seyfreid stars as 1970’s porn star Linda Lovelace in a biopic that was initially meant to have some Oscar cache. But since it’s coming out in August, I’m going to go ahead and assume it’s not quite up to snuff.

Limited

Planes

Cars is the least charming movie by Pixar, and Planes is its even less charming cousin, produced not by Pixar but by their similarly charmless parent company, Disney.

Prince Avalanche

Starring the ever-likable Paul Rudd and that massive tool Emile Hirsch, Prince Avalanche got strong reviews at Sundance, particularly for Rudd. David Gordon Green returns to his character-driven roots after spending years making comedies like Pineapple Express (and then Your Highness and The Sitter, but those NEVER HAPPENED) and working on Eastbound and Down. Prince Avalanche is largely a two-hander about a couple of guys working on a road, and it does look good, but more Netflix-good than theater-good.

Limited

August 16

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

Another Sundance film, and I can’t figure out why it’s coming out in August and not even one month later, in award season proper. There is a lot of admiration for this film, starring Rooney Mara, Ben Foster and Casey Affleck. The only complaints I’ve heard is that it’s slow and derivative of Terrence Malick—seems like those two things pretty much go hand in hand—so either it’s really just too derivative or it’s that distributor IFC Films has zero Oscar game. Probably at least a little bit the latter.

Limited

Austenland

I want to support this movie because I like Jane Austen, Bret McKenzie and Keri Russell, and the book was cute, but it’s produced by Stephenie Meyer and ugh. It’s got decent reviews, and I’m choosing to focus on the “produced, written and directed by women” part, rather than the “brought to you by Stephenie Meyer, she of no taste” part.

New York/LA

The Butler

This is blatant Oscar baiting and I’m going to be the asshole who says it—this looks like a cheap Lifetime movie of the week.

jOBS

Starring Ashton Kutcher as Computer Jesus.

Kick-Ass 2

Yessssssssssss.

Bonus gratuitous shirtless Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

Paranoia

This is an actual movie.

August 21

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Warning: Contains incest.

August 23

The Grandmaster

Wong Kar Wai’s long-awaited epic biopic of Ip Man, the Kung Fu master who taught Bruce Lee comes out at last. It’s a little uneven, being too long and at times off pace, but it is GORGEOUS. If you’re even remotely into Kung Fu movies you should definitely take the time to find it. And if you’re not into Kung Fu movies, it’s still worth watching. It’s beautiful and well-acted and the pacing issue never overcomes the narrative. The action is explosive but the story being told in between is interesting, too. This is a beautiful film from a master filmmaker.

Limited

Short Term 12

Brie Larson (21 Jump Street, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) stars in writer/director Destin Cretton’s feature film adapted from his own short of the same title. It got strong reviews at SXSW, with a lot of praise going toward Larson, who’s been steadily building momentum in the indie scene. Could be her break-out piece, but I suspect The Spectacular Now, which she is also in, will still be dominating the art house landscape at the end of the month.

The World’s End

Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright close out their “Cornetto trilogy” by parodying alien invasion movies. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz set the bar really fucking high, but reviews have been pretty great. I can’t wait for this one.

You’re Next

Another home invasion horror movie, this time set during a family reunion. The Conjuring used up my allotted tolerance for horror movies until the annual Halloween schlock splurge. Pass.

August 28

Closed Circuit

I can’t deal with Rebecca Hall. I’m still not over Lay the Favorite. Which, if you don’t know, is one of the all-time worst movies I’ve ever seen. EVER. And she was TERRIBLE in it.

August 30

Drinking Buddies

It’s cute, nothing groundbreaking. Come for the Anna Kendrick, stay for the Nick Miller Jake Johnson. Definitely an on demand pick.

Limited, On Demand

Getaway

Ethan Hawke now stars in Selena Gomez movies. Or, Selena Gomez is now starring in an Ethan Hawke movie. Either way, this is a straight up bizarre bit of casting.

One Direction: This is Us

Inexplicably, this is directed by documentarian Morgan Spurlock.

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13 thoughts on “Summer Movie Preview: August 2013

  1. It’s amazing, but I have never been more underwhelmed by a slate of summer movies. I am excited to see Elysium, but if I were not a huge fan of District 9, it probably would not be on my radar.
    The only summer sequel that I have really been looking forward to is Kick-Ass 2. The first one was SO much fun. It was, in fact, much more entertaining than the Watchmen movie. I don’t know if that was because of the high quality of Kick-Ass or the poor quality of Watchmen, but I’m there for the sequel on opening day.
    Part of me wants to say that the impoverished summer lineup gives me more time to read and do other things, but I am saddened by what is happening to modern cinema. Going to the movies is still one of my biggest pleasures, but I have to put up with a lot.

    1. The blockbusters were disappointing but there were/are actually a lot of great movies out this summer. Modern cinema is fine. The only thing happening is that the blockbuster market is shrinking, which is not a bad thing.

      1. The blockbuster market is shrinking, but I am not sure the suits know it yet. Hopefully they will see the error of thier ways at some point in the near future. With the billions of dollars they spent on five or six colossal bombs this summer, they could have funded any number of smaller films. The films would not have each made 500 million dollars, but maybe, if the filmmakers were talented and the stories were compelling, they would have found an audience. What audience did Disney possibly think would flock to see The Lone Ranger?
        The best film I’ve seen all year is Joss Wheadon’s Much Ado About Nothing. If I wanted to introduce a kid to Shakespeare, it’s the film I would use. I want Wheadon to spend the rest of his life making movies like that, but unfortunately the bulk of his career will be spent making Avengers sequels.
        There are still good mainstream films. Last year I loved Skyfall, Lincoln, Life of Pi, Cloud Atlas, and Silver Linings Playbook. I just feel like the good ones are getting fewer and farther between.

      2. Some of the execs get it, some don’t. The mainstream industry is fighting it for sure, but there are enough people that see the writing on the wall that the shift is inevitable. Another thing I hear a lot that is just not true is “they could have spent all that money on smaller films”, but that’s not really how film financing works. If anything, the presence of one big dumb blockbuster on a slate secures financing for smaller films that otherwise wouldn’t get made. It’s a symbiotic relationship–blockbusters are not parasites sucking the marrow from smaller films. Studios are making less small films simply because audiences don’t go see them (which is why they’re starting to show up more and more on VOD), not because blockbusters are “taking their money”.

        As for Whedon, he’s only making 2 Avengers movies so far, #1 and #2, and it’s given him the opportunity to do whatever he wants when he decides he’s done with Marvel. He’s totally in control of that ship, he’s calling his own shots–if he ends up spending his career making Marvel movies, then it’s because that’s what he wants to be doing, not because he’s some kind of indentured servant. So the issue there may be that he wants to do something you’re not particularly interested in, not that his career is being wasted in any way.

  2. I thought that The Avengers was the greatest popcorn movie ever made, and I am a huge fan of Wheadon’s sci-fi output, particularly Firefly and Serenity. And have you seen Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog? It’s wonderful.
    I understand that Wheadon is not an indentured servant, and that the vast majority of people have no interest in watching Shakespeare. I just wish that all this money was being spent on something other than CGI explosions. With today’s technology, they could be adapting all the greatest science fiction novels even written. Instead, we get interchangeable mediocrity.
    My problem is not that the studios put out big budget movies. My problem is that the studios spend so much money on weirdly unappealing big budget movies. Any normal, rational human being could tell that Jack the Giant Killer would be a bomb long before it was released. Any sane human being could tell that After Earth was a bad idea. The money being wasted is staggering.

    1. I have seen Dr. Horrible. IT’S THE BEST.

      That’s the part that’s got to change–how they put the blockbusters together. One of them has a hit and the rest try and chase it and you end up with increasingly derivative and boring movies. Or you have a star that still has some power, like Johnny Depp and Will Smith, who pushes through a passion project regardless of what the actual market will bear. But that’s also the stuff that is changing. The Movie Star is dead and now even that last generation isn’t able to guarantee butts in seats, so hopefully that “well Will Smith wants to do it” way of thinking will die with them.

      The biggest problem with blockbusters, though, is that they try to make them appeal to everyone. Like Jack the Giant Killer–that could have been an excellent live-action kids movie or a super dark R-rated action movie (like Hansel & Gretel except hopefully less shitty), but they tried to split the difference to appeal to everyone and it ended up too dark for kids but too kiddie for adults. They just need to stop trying to please everyone and make good movies–the audience will show up if it’s a good movie, regardless of rating or genre.

      1. The PG-13 rating is a big culprit. I love Spielberg, but he is at fault for suggesting it after the fallout from Gremlins and the second Indiana Jones movie. IMO, they should have to choose between a PG rating and an R. PG-13 is a marketing ploy.
        As long as businesspeople rather than artists run things, Hollywood will not change. Everyone was so excited over the formation of DreamWorks… the buck was going to stop with Speilberg! But Speilberg was too busy making movies.
        Film directors do not want to run businesses. Suits will always be in charge.

      2. The suits always have been in charge, and they always be. At no point in Hollywood’s history was there not business people running the show. The vast majority of filmmakers are not good business people, and vice versa. It takes both to get shit done. And to an extent, Hollywood will never change–there will always be shitty mass-marketed movies (there always have been). What’s happening now, though, is that technology is making it easier for outsider voices to break through, and filmmakers are emerging faster (and younger) than ever before. We’re in a director-rich environment and it will only get better. But that doesn’t mean there won’t still be stupid stuff, too. There will still be a lot of stupid stuff.

        PG-13 in and of itself doesn’t bother me, it’s when movies are cut off at the knees in order to attain the PG-13 that I get annoyed. If you make a movie that happens to not have a lot of sex or swearing but has some violence and it’s PG-13, fine. But if you make an R-rated movie that is then cut down to PG-13? That’s obnoxious.

  3. It’s not the fact that they cut things out to obtain a PG-13 that bothers me. To cite but one example of the kind of thing that gets on my nerves: You can use the F word once and still get a PG-13 rating. So all you have to do is use that word once, then pile on as many of the “acceptable” obscenities as possible. I ask you which is worse: the F word twice or constant profanity throughout an entire movie?
    Of course the suits have always run things. And it’s not the concept of the remake (sorry, reimagining) or the sequel (sorry, reboot) that bothers me. People have always retold the same stories over and over. If anything, we put more of a premium on originality than people did for most of human history.
    And yes, there has always been a lot of stupid stuff. We tend to only remember the old films that were good.
    I still maintain that the film medium is in a downward spiral. The studio heads of the past might have been egotists who could barely read, but they were also master showmen with intuition. Films, and the actors who inhabited them, used to be larger-than life. Today most films are pandering and crass, and the actors who inhabit them are interchangeable.
    I still love going to the movies. There are still magical films to discover. Hugo, Life of Pi, No Country For Old Men, The Dark Knight, Wall*E, Zero Dark Thirty, Inception…these recent mainstream films are amazing, but they are getting fewer and farther between, and I am going to the movies less and less.
    Hopefully the egalitarian revolution you speak of will come to pass.

  4. Damian

    Have you always had a Rebecca Hall problem or is it just Lay the Favorite? She was great in Red Riding, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Prestige. However, I wouldn’t hold it against you if you deducted points for stealing Kate Winslet’s husband…

  5. Dammit. I just typed out a novel with my thoughts on a lot of these and it seems to have been lost logging into WordPress. Boo.

    My main reason for commenting was that you seem to have left out one of my fave films of the year so far- Short Term 12. I can’t yell loud enough how fantastic I thought this was.

      1. Thanks! THIS is Brie Larsen’s breakout film though, hands down. If I remember right, she was just the bitchy ex girlfriend in The Spectacular Now, a movie I wanted to and really thought I would love, but thought was just ok. Her one-line (but hilarious) part in Don Jon had me confused too. Why all the tiny parts? I’m not a long-time super fan, I hadn’t given her any thought until Short Term 12. I’m definitely on the Brie train now.

        How can you not be excited about You’re Next?! I’ve been waiting almost two years, get to see it tomorrow, yay!

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