August usually means backpacks, school, and the slow slog to the holidays and the end of the year (can you tell we’re not looking forward to summer‘s end?). One place where the end isn’t apparent is at the local multiplex, where there is so much going in August that we’re throwing in an additional three films on top of the requisite ten. August used to be a dumping ground for films that weren’t bombastic enough for summer but lacked the Oscar clout for the winter; now it’s that special time where independent films can flourish and audiences can remember why they love movies in the first place.
Synopsis: A group of Hollywood wannabes live and love in Los Angeles while a young couple (James Deen and Lindsay Lohan) struggle to deal with infidelity and other relationship issues.
What You Need to Know: Lindsay Lohan’s out of rehab, so prepare for an onslaught of press about that in preparation for “The Canyons,” a weird piece of pulp cinema starring the former Disney-darling-turned-train-wreck that has had myriad production issues on par with “Heaven’s Gate.” Strange stories came out over the last few months ranging from star Deen saying he was “disrespected” during filming, to director Paul Schrader refusing to sell the movie to The Weinstein Company. In the end, the movie is receiving attention because of Lohan’s presence, and oddly some early reviews are actually praising her. Could we be witnessing the birth of a cult classic? The resurgence of Lindsay Lohan’s career? Who knows, but it’ll be fun to watch and discuss with friends. Meanwhile, you can read our take on the movie right here.
Release Date: August 2nd on VOD and NYC with an LA premiere on August 9th
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“The Spectacular Now”
Synopsis: Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) is a popular high school student recently dumped by his girlfriend, Cassidy (Brie Larson). When Sutter strikes up a relationship with the responsible Aimee Finicky (Shailene Woodley) he starts to worry that a rebound relationship for him could end up breaking Aimee’s heart.
What You Need to Know: People have been in love with this film since it hit the Sundance Film Festival and garnered a Special Jury prize for the ensemble cast. Our own Rodrigo Perez showered it with love in his Sundance review, calling it “wise beyond its years.” The cast have been hitting the rounds in anticipation of the release, and there’s even been talk of Woodley garnering an Oscar nomination.
Release Date: August 2nd in limited release
Synopsis: In the year 2154, the world is divided into two classes: the wealthy live on the beautiful space station Elysium, while the poor live on the overpopulated planet Earth. Max (Matt Damon) volunteers to go on a mission to gain entry into Elysium and hopefully save mankind.
What You Need to Know: “Elysium” is the last big-budget actioner of the summer, and it’s also a pet project for “District 9” director Neill Blomkamp. Blomkamp’s first film created a world not too removed from our own; “Elysium” appears to be treading on similar territory focusing on the 99% vs. the 1%. Matt Damon heads the cast along with Jodie Foster who moves into villainous territory playing a role that was originally written for a male. The various clips are doing an amazing job of selling the world, but a few people have mentioned failing to understand what the actual story is, which could hurt business. In a summer that’s already seen a few sci-fi films come and go (the recently released on DVD, “Oblivion,” being one), “Elysium” could rise high or be one that gets lost in the shuffle.
Release Date: August 9th
Synopsis: The first queen of porn, Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) gets the biopic treatment, focusing on her life leading up to the creation of her legendary porn film, “Deep Throat.” As Lovelace rises to superstardom, she’s continually abused at the hands of her husband, Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard).
What You Need to Know: The Linda Lovelace story was a hot property a few years back, with two competing projects about the eponymous porn queen. “Lovelace” went through a bevy of young ladies vying for the role, including Lindsay Lohan at one point. Of course, there can be only one tale about Lovelace and this is the first, and currently only, movie to make it to theaters. The second film, “Inferno” starring Malin Akerman, remains in development hell with little interest in being revived. Regardless, reactions to “Lovelace” have been rather muted. Playlist writer Jessica Kiang felt the movie was entirely disinterested in Lovelace’s story and relied too often on “things that happen to Linda Lovelace,” giving the film a C+ during its Berlin run. Other reactions to the film mention the weird transitions and lack of anything that isn’t formulaic, calling it a “survivor’s story” (and several books and people have called the real Lovelace’s depiction of events into question). No matter, because the porn industry is filled with a rich history, and even if “Lovelace” ends up faltering, it could revive interest in Lovelace herself and her crazy career. Just don’t type her name into Google at work.
Release Date: August 9th in limited release and VOD
Synopsis: Alvin (Paul Rudd) is a tightly wound, type-A personality forced to spend time with his girlfriend’s slovenly brother, Lance (Emile Hirsch) when the two get a gig painting lines on a highway. Along the way, they learn more about each other than they ever thought possible.
What You Need to Know: Director David Gordon Green has had a rough go of it in the last few years. After a successful turn directing the stoner comedy “Pineapple Express,” he was riddled with divisive reviews for his follow-ups, “Your Highness” and “The Sitter.” Thankfully, reviews mark “Prince Avalanche” as a return to form. During its Sundance run, our own Rodrigo Perez gave it an “A-,” praising Green who finds “the sadness in beauty, the loveliness in destruction, the comical in the unpredictable moment.”
Release Date: August 9th in limited release
“In a World…”
Synopsis: Carol Solomon (Lake Bell) is a struggling vocal coach with aspirations of being a voice-over star. It doesn’t help that she’s the offspring of one of the most legendary movie trailer voices out there. With the help of her sister, Carol nabs a chance to achieve her dreams, only to discover that ego, pride, and sexism comes with it.
What You Need to Know: Lake Bell’s directorial debut is a fascinating look at a person we’ve all heard, but never seen: the movie trailer voice. It could have just as easily become the source for a documentary, but Bell decides to lift the veil and explore sexism wrapped in the morass of a narrative film. The movie has gotten its fair amount of praise. During Sundance, Cory Everett gave it a “B,” calling it a “low-key charmer,” while Katie Walsh bumped it up to an “A-” during its L.A. Film Fest run for its “strong statements” about women. Here’s hoping it doesn’t fly under the radar because its praise is warranted and Bell’s intentions are pure and unique.
Release Date: August 9th in limited release
“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”
Synopsis: Bob (Casey Affleck) and Ruth (Rooney Mara) are young lovers-turned-outlaws who decide to go on a crime spree. Bob is sent to jail with Ruth making plans to wait for him. When Bob escapes, he follows the plan, only to discover that Ruth has taken up with another man.
What You Need to Know: “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” lit up the Sundance Film Festival when it played, sparking a serious bidding war and winning a Jury Prize for its cinematography. When Rodrigo Perez saw it during the festival, he gave it an “A-” for its “top notch” performances and other critics have offered up Mara for possible awards consideration. It even secured a place on our list of the Best Movies of the Year, So Far. The flick has been compared to Terrence Malick’s take on young outlaws, “Badlands,” which should create interest in Malick fans or those who like quiet, reflective pictures.
Release Date: August 16th in limited release
“Lee Daniels’ The Butler”
Synopsis: An all-star cast tells the story of an African-American butler who saw the rise and fall of eight American presidents over three decades. Through it all, he takes note of various social changes going on within his own family.
What You Need to Know: Almost everyone knows of the debacle involving the newly retitled, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” In a very public lawsuit, Warner Bros. sued The Weinstein Company for copyright infringement. Apparently “The Butler” was also the title of a WB short from the early 1900s, and shockingly, the Weinsteins lost and were forced to make a last-minute title change. Really, the title is unimportant and the lawsuit only ended up making the players involved look silly. What’s selling the film is the all-star cast of people dressing up and acting like some of the most important political icons of the day: John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan, and James Marsden as JFK. Director Lee Daniels certainly needs a hit after the travesty of “The Paperboy,” and while he’s sort of bashed the film, calling it a “work for hire” project, it could restore his credibility. If anything, it’s an early awards possibility.
Release Date: August 16th
Synopsis: The heroes from the first “Kick-Ass” film return, only this time they have friends. Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) and Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) meet up with a group of similarly masked vigilantes led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), all with the intent of taking out their old adversary, Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), now known as The Mother Fucker.
What You Need to Know: The first “Kick-Ass” was a surprise success when it came out in 2010 and despite an overabundance of clips, several of the red-band variety, there’s just something that’s off about the marketing, as if a lot of audiences still aren’t aware this is coming out soon. Could it have anything to do with Carrey’s diatribe a while back about his distaste for the violence in the movie, and his commitment to avoid promoting the film? Bad PR like that could sink the film, but that’s if people remember all the way back to June when Carrey’s comments were made. Regardless, the film has all the original cast members, and 20th Century Fox seems to have faith in director Jeff Wadlow since they’ve given him the power to helm another superhero movie with the “X-Men” spin-off, “X-Force.”
Release Date: August 16th
“The World’s End
Synopsis: A group of friends are determined to finish a legendary pub crawl they started in their youth. Problems arise when they discover that reaching the final pub, appropriately called The World’s End, could be the final hurdle between life and the destruction of humanity.
What You Need to Know: Back in 2004 a little film called “Shaun of the Dead” took the world by storm and brought the trio of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost to the forefront of popular culture. Since then, they turned their debut film into part one of a trilogy that continued with 2007’s “Hot Fuzz,” and concludes with “The World’s End.” To say the group has high audience expectations to live up to is an understatement, and early reviews have agreed that “The World’s End” provides a satisfying wrap-up to the trilogy.
Release Date: August 23rd
Synopsis: Two couples, with varying levels of love for each other, have their relationships tested over a weekend.
What You Need to Know: The mumblecore movement hasn’t caught on, but the various originators of it are hoping to move away from shiftless narratives and instead place their focus on spontaneous acting and other elements that could bring in audiences. Director Joe Swanberg’s “Drinking Buddies” is said to be a move in the right direction. The movie made our 15 Most Anticipated Indies of the summer list and when it played at SXSW it got a “B” review from Cory Everett. In his appraisal, Everett praised Swanberg for turning a corner, “even winning over critics who had previously written him off.” The chemistry between Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson is said to be intense, so if you want to get an early start, “Drinking Buddies” is now available to watch on VOD.
Release Date: August 23rd in limited release and available to watch now on VOD
“Short Term 12”
Synopsis: This chronicle of the residents and workers at a short term foster care facility stars Brie Larson as Grace, a supervisor who struggles to balance her work with her own personal issues at home. When a new resident, Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), moves in, Grace is forced to confront her troubled past.
What You Need to Know: Writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton‘s second feature—his first, “I Am Not A Hipster” debuted at Sundance in 2012—”Short Term 12″ took the Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature at this year’s SXSW Film Festival, where Katie Walsh described it as “a roller coaster of every emotion, managing to be both heartwarming and heartrending at once.” Heading up an outstanding cast, including John Gallagher Jr., Rami Malek, Kaitlyn Dever, and newcomer Keith Stanfield, Brie Larson gives a riveting performance as Grace, who takes the weight of this world on her shoulders. The film balances its pitch and tone perfectly, imbuing serious issues with heart and humor, and the storytelling is deliberately structured in a way that the film slowly reveals itself to you. “Short Term 12” has been universally praised during its festival circuit and is not one to be missed.
Release Date: August 23rd
Synopsis: Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) is a dissatisfied housewife hoping to reinvigorate her sex life. Her therapist suggests Rachel visit a strip club, and during the trip she meets a stripper, McKenna (Juno Temple). McKenna fascinates Rachel, and when the young stripper is kicked out of her home, Rachel takes her in, complicating things for her and her family.
What You Need to Know: At Sundance, director Jill Soloway walked away with a directing award in the drama category for her tale of a bored wife and the stripper she meets. The trailer plays up the sexiness of Temple and the unintentional comedy embodied in her relationship with Rachel. When Playlist writer Cory Everett saw it at Sundance he took note of the “strong supporting players” and Hahn’s downright “incredible” performance before giving the film a “B+” It continues to be rare to find a movie with a female cast directed by a female, so if you’re looking for something smart and sexy, seek out “Afternoon Delight.”
Release Date: August 30th in limited release
The month was filled with so much awesome, we were unable to mention the Adam Wingard-directed horror film, “You’re Next,” which opens on August 23rd that you also should check out.