Ah, the dog days of August. Used to be that this month was just another typical dumping ground for films that withered on the vine, but it in recent years, it’s expanded a bit to swallow up some of the summer blockbuster fare crowded out of May-June-July. But the last weekend in August? Yeesh. Kids are going back to school, college students are back on campus, and everyone’s depressed because summer’s ending. That psychological breakdown attempts to explain the box office offerings for this weekend. Katie Holmes gets scared in “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” Sundance comedy “Our Idiot Brother” takes advantage of the roomy playing field, and B-action flick “Colombiana” does the same. If you’re not soaking up the last dregs of summer out of doors this weekend, or battening down the hatches on the East Coast with the arrival of Hurricane Irene, here are the releases available at your multiplex or art house.
The long gestation period of Guillermo Del Toro‘s remake of 70s TV horror flick “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” finally hits theaters this weekend starring Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce and Bailee Madison as a family contending with some creepy creatures in the basement, with Del Toro’s original script and the helmer on board as producer. Our review says comic book artist and first-time director Troy Nixey does an okay job with the material he’s given, but “it feels a little past its expiration” and “it’s hard to imagine general audiences or even horror fans finding anything in there that they haven’t seen before.” Rotten Tomatoes: 56% MC: 56
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The cast of the year stars in “Our Idiot Brother,” including (deep breath) Paul Rudd, Rashida Jones, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, Steve Coogan, T.J. Miller, Adam Scott and Kathryn Hahn. Rudd plays a hippie fuck up who goes to crash with his three sisters and gets tangled up in their lives. Our review says the plot is overly stuffed with characters and storylines, and “it never takes the risks the you want it to and in playing it safe, it locks up its true potential.” RT: 68% MC: 61
Pretty girl blows shit up. A winning combo if you ask me! Zoe Saldana stars in “Colombiana” as a hot chick badass gun for hire seeking to enact revenge on the a-holes who killed her parents. Our review says Olivier Megaton‘s film is pure exploitation flick fun, but lacks the depth and humor to make it either truly remarkable or truly fun, that “with its rapid-fire editing, humdrum supporting cast, and choked knot of superfluous subplots, doesn’t have the thematic incisiveness of an exploitation movie, or the playfully go-for-broke, hands-in-the-air sense of naughty impishness.” RT: 46% MC: 48
Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough and Helen Mirren star in “Brighton Rock,” the 60s set adaptation of Graham Greene‘s novel. Set against the conflict of Mods and Rockers in Brighton, Riley stars as a gangster in a relationship with a murder witness. Our review says the film “is frequently torn between what it wants to be, a romance, a thriller or a tragedy—so it tries them all on, one by one, until it settles down somewhere in the middle. It’s certainly no less interesting or engaging for it, but a little scattered.” RT: 49% MC: 55
Actress Vera Farmiga stars in her directorial debut “Higher Ground,” focusing on a couple’s crisis and questioning of Catholic faith. Our reviewer didn’t have much to say for her inaugural effort, and concludes that the film is “a flimsily directed, bullying strike against Catholicism that is more immature than profound.” RT: 84% MC: 74
Ridiculous family sex comedy (ew, ew, EW) “The Family Tree” gets a generous theatrical bow this weekend, starring Dermot Mulroney in old man drag, Hope Davis, Chi McBride, Christina Hendricks and some teens. I gosh, just don’t know how to describe it. Mom gets amnesia from sex head injury, weird shit ensues. Our review says this bizarre film is “styled for on-the-nose weirdness, but evocative of nothing.” RT: 8% MC: 24
Dear sweet Jesus, I implore you not to watch the “Swinging with the Finkels” trailer. It may ruin Martin Freeman for you, and “The Hobbit” isn’t even out yet! The only antidote is an injection of “Sherlock” on Netflix instant, STAT. Mandy Moore plays his wife with whom he attempts to get his sex life back on track with the use of various hackneyed conceits (women masturbating?!?! WHAT?!). Anyway, our review says it “is one of the worst, cheapest, dumbest and most dishonest films of the year.” So there you go. RT: 0%
“Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure” is a doc documenting the viral audio sensation “Shut Up Little Man” recordings of two old dudes yelling at each other. Our review says what keeps the film from ever being boring is, “the love is apparent and any sort of mean-spirit is absent.” RT: 88%
Also in theaters: Iranian drama “Circumstance” from writer director Maryam Keshavarz RT: 72% MC: 64; Romanian comedy “Tales from the Golden Age” RT: 93% MC: 68; Michael Clarke Duncan and Tom Skerrit in Mario Van Peebles‘ music-soaked journey through the American South in “Redemption Road” MC: 44; documentary “Chasing Madoff” about the team who investigated the Ponzi scheme peddler RT: 40% MC: 50; Ian Ziering as an IRS agent in the strip club dramedy “Stripped Down” MC: 18; Isabelle Huppert as a high class call girl in Jeanne Labrune‘s “Special Treatment” RT: 27% MC: 42; dark serial killer comedy “Buzzkill“; Jesus, Randy Travis in Middle East conflict drama “Jerusalem Countdown“; South Korean doc “Iron Crows” about children working in a ship demolition yard RT: 88% MC: 72; and last but certainly not least… the political rom com “Politics of Love” about a Democrat and a Republican falling in love against the backdrop of the 2008 Presidential campaign. I am not kidding.