July turned out to be fairly good. We had critical and commercial darlings ranging from Dunkirk to War for the Planet of the Apes to The Big Sick, as well as Valerian to remind us why so many franchises crash and burn and The Emoji Movie to highlight what cynical cash grab nonsense movies actually are. August 2017 lives up to its reputation as a slower month, with little in the way of major movies (nothing approaching Suicide Squad this year) but a few movies that may end up breaking through.
AUGUST 4, 2017
THE DARK TOWER v. DETROIT v. KIDNAP
The Dark Tower – After many false starts, Nikolaj Arcel’s long-awaited adaptation of Stephen King’s epic book series (of which I am not entirely familiar) finally hits the big screen. The series, which took Stephen King nearly 25 years to complete, apparently has so much lore and mythology that there was once talk of an accompanying TV series (that may or may not still be happening). Unfortunately, nothing about this movie says ‘sweeping epic'; it barely says ‘average action movie’. The eternal conflict between The Gunslinger (Idris Elba) and The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) is boiled down to platitudes, creative ways to reload a six shooter, and CGI blue lasers. Compare its marketing material to the genuinely effective trailers for It (in September). Other points of concern are the 95-minute running time, PG-13 rating, no reviews 24 hours before the film is released, and reports detailing its behind the scenes nightmare. On top of this, we have features playing up The Dark Tower‘s connection to Stephen King’s entire oeuvre (such as this horrible one)… many of which are not owned by Sony, the studio behind this film. Burying the product your advertising in favor of highlighting more popular and unconnected properties owned by other studios? How long before the “we made this for the fans, not the critics” excuses start flying?
Detroit – Academy-Award winning filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) returns to theaters with another socially relevant film, this one dealing with the 1967 Detroit riots. Bigelow has proven herself adept at finding the humanity in hot button political stories, and she appears to be doing the same with Detroit. Currently at 96%, 7.9/10 average rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this could be an easy Awards contender – but since it probably doesn’t end with a fight against a generic CGI monster on an abandoned tarmac, is it really worth consideration?
Kidnap – Soon to be seen in the far higher profile Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Halle Berry stars in Kidnap, another of those films that should be straight to cable but somehow got a major theatrical release. (E.g. Unforgettable with Katherine Heigl and Rosario Dawson from earlier this year.) The classic tale about a woman racing to rescue her abducted child, Kidnap might be campy fun, but probably not.
Wind River – Taylor Sheridan, whose screenplays for Sicario and Hell or High Water has made him one of Hollywood’s most notable scribes in recent years, takes to the director’s seat for Wind River (starring the MCU’s Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen). Also the writer of the film, Sheridan continues in his crime wheelhouse with a story about an FBI agent investigating a murder on a Native American reservation. Sheridan has consistently done a great job at looking at mostly ignored societies, and reviews are already positive with an 84%, 7.3/10 average rating.
AUGUST 11, 2017
ANNABELLE: CREATION v. THE GLASS CASTLE v. THE NUT JOB 2: NUTTY BY NATURE v. INGRID GOES WEST v. THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK
Annabelle: Creation – That a prequel to a creepy doll movie is one of August 2017’s highlights should tell you all you need to know about this month. A spin-off of The Conjuring series, the first Annabelle made over $250 million worldwide on a $6.5 million production budget in October 2014. Will the earlier release date and different time period hurt this one’s success, or will the ongoing popularity with the franchise push it past the financial disappointment of Wish Upon? (Early reviews are quite positive, so maybe this will be a Ouija: Origin of Evil situation.)
The Glass Castle – Brie Larson re-teams with her Short Term 12 director Destin Daniel Cretton for another seemingly intense personal drama. Based on the memoir by Jeannette Walls, Castle stars Larson as a grown woman coming to terms with her dysfunctional, poverty-ridden upbringing by nomadic parents Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts. So kind of a sequel to Captain Fantastic?
The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature – It should be glad The Emoji Movie got all the slings and arrows for animated features.
Ingrid Goes West – Legion stand-out Aubrey Plaza stars as a woman who befriends and stalks a social media star played by Elizabeth Olsen (of the previous week’s Wind River). Often times, films about our relationship with modern technology misses the mark, and films attempting to be darkly satirical either play it too broad or too toothless. But Ingrid, directed and co-written by Matt Spicer, won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance so maybe it has an edge to it.
The Only Living Boy in New York – Marc Webb, former whipping boy behind The Amazing Spider-Man series, hits theaters with his second small film of this year following April’s Gifted (starring Chris Evans). Callum Turner (Green Room) stars as a recent college graduate trying to figure out what to do with his life, so he sleeps with his father’s mistress. It has an impressive older cast with Jeff Bridges, Kate Beckinsale, and Pierce Brosnan, but will it be able to overcome the inevitable comparisons to The Graduate - it’s even titled after a Simon and Garfunkle song. It’s a story/concept as played out as Bridges’ wise alcoholic writer mentor character.
AUGUST 18, 2017
LOGAN LUCKY v. THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD v. PATTI CAKE$
Logan Lucky – Steven Soderbergh is undersold as one of our most interesting major filmmakers, if only because he was able to overcome the stench of his Ocean’s sequels. He has relished in unconventional casting (MMA fighters, adult film actresses), made Channing Tatum relevant (Magic Mike), completed films without anyone knowing (the upcoming Unsane), and took on TV with the fantastic period medical drama The Knick. These might not always be successful, but they highlight his willingness to experiment. With Logan Lucky, he seems to be attempting a 1970s throwback crime comedy with Tatum, Adam Driver, and a Daniel Craig who is excited not to be playing Bond attempting to rob a NASCAR race. While the trailers sell it well, another movie about a car-centric heist might be coming too close on Baby Driver‘s heels.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard – Ryan Reynolds’ non-Deadpool work is generally more miss than hit, but teaming him with proven scenery chewers Samuel L. Jackson and Gary Oldman could be a step in the right direction. Fun action-comedies might be making a comeback this year.
Patti Cake$ - The indy urban film of the month, Patti Cake$ is a debut feature from Geremy Jasper about a bigger girl seeking to become a rap star and defeat haters along the way. Smaller, grittier films about underdogs whose trailers have a lot of glowing words from advanced reviews are often not as groundbreaking as the ads want to make it seem. Reviews thus far are mixed/positive, but it could be the smallest film of interest this month.
AUGUST 25, 2017
ALL SAINTS v. POLAROID v. TULIP FEVER
All Saints – This month’s big Christian movie is All Saints. It stars John Corbett as a minister who takes over a failing church, but uses the power of farming to bring God to his parishioners.
Polaroid – Teen girl finds a mysterious Polaroid camera and horrible things happen. It’s like Wish Upon, but with a camera.
Tulip Fever – Testing our patience for how much we’re able to stand in period pieces is Tulip Fever. From director Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) and writer Tom Stoppard (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead) and based on Deborah Moggach’s novel, Tulip Fever falls back on that old favorite, unrequited love. A 17th century Dutch painter (Dane DeHaan, whose lack of screen presence torpedo’ed Valerian) falls in love with his subject (Alicia Vikander), but she is married to a predictably menacing Christoph Waltz. The film also stars DeHaan’s Valerian co-star Cara Delevingne, and Zach Galifianakis, who is genuinely great in Baskets but whose appearance in this film easily takes you out of it. Just look at him up there.
So that’s August. Nothing huge (could Detroit be the biggest movie of the month?), but there are a few films that could sneak through and be respectable and/or entertaining. Then onto a far more solid September.