E: Ah, the end of summer, and the end of the blockbuster season. Is there any reason to hit the multiplexes before the Oscar race starts in October? It depends on what you’re looking for in a movie-going experience. Tense and scary: that’s how I’d sum up most of this month’s offerings. Most, that is, but not all.
M: Um, we have a little something from August to sort out before we get to that, though.
C: Oh my, whatever could that be?
M: Someone here was right and someone was wrong.
C: Who can you mean? Let me think…
E: Fine, fine. I surrender! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a hit. It apparently was as bad as it looked, and it’s already surrendered the box office crown to the gut-bustingly funny Guardians of the Galaxy, but it did make money.
M: Which means…
E: You were right and I was wrong. Happy?
M: I was expecting more of a “You were right, I was … less right” like in Megamind, but yes, thank you.
C: An admission he will never let her forget, dear readers. Just you wait and see.
M: There’s a whole lot going on here, and I don’t think we can put it in one basket.
E: Holy crap, yes. This is a huge, insane premise.
M: We’ve got an Elvis-inspired “poor country boy rises to musical stardom” story line, a Elvis impersonator story line…
E: As in, boy who longs to be a star and write and sing happens to look and sound just like Elvis (but with an invented name) and rises to stardom as “The Identical” — imitating the more famous singer.
M: More words than I was going to use, but yes. Those plots dovetail in a twins-separated-at-birth story line, and underneath it all is a preacher-(Ray Liotta)-trying-to-force-his-son-to-follow-his-footsteps story line.
C: That is a lot.
M: Exactly. Most of those look kind of cliche, but surprisingly, the overall package of it actually looks fairly genuine and compelling.
E: I don’t know. I think I’m just confused. Don’t forget to throw in Ashley Judd as the singer’s mom, and Seth Green as his best friend, and a decades-spanning timeline.
C: Seth Green! Awww. Well, that’s something.
E: Sporting, at one point, long hippy hair and a mustache. It IS something.
M: Let the horror movie season officially commence!
E: Don’t you think that Purge movie last month was the start? And, what was that, the catacombs of Paris?
M: Fair point, but now that kids are back in school and Halloween candy is out in the stores, I think it starts for real.
E: I hate to be the one to tell you, but they start putting Halloween candy out in the beginning of August, too. I’ll stop sniping, however, and agree that September bursts at the seams with horror flicks.
C: They’re here, they’re real (though “realistic” is a different matter, inapplicable here), and they’re poised to take over.
E: At any rate, none of this has anything to do with the movie, which stars Sophie Curtis as Becket, a teenager who’s lost her mother in a surfing accident, and is hustled off to a gorgeous old boarding school filled with spooky students, murderous ghosts, and demonic teachers who apparently feed off the innocence of (some of their) students to retain eternal youth and beauty.
C: That sounds almost interesting. Almost, not quite. Also — Becket?
E: Maybe the mother was a fan of the theologian? Or the playwright? Linus Roach costars as her father, Kelly Reilly as a teacher/love interest for the dad…
M: …who is evil and potentially ageless…
E: …and The Good Wife‘s Graham Philips as Becket’s love interest, Toby.
M: So now we know what E is going to see this weekend!
E: (rolls eyes)
E: Sheriff Ed Harris tries to figure out if illegal immigrant Michael Pena murdered an American or not.
M: Or more precisely, Harris’ wife is killed by Pena, but the real intrigue is that Pena was being shot at by overzealous kids trying to protect the border. I think this may hit a little too close to home for a large portion of the country, but Harris looks as good as ever.
E: Is hitting too close to home a bad thing? If the movie is smart and handles the central tragedy well — which obviously remains to be seen — shouldn’t exploring topical issues be a good thing in a movie?
C: It should certainly raise relevant issues and make people think, if done well. Which is no bad thing.
M: I don’t know, would you have wanted to see a school shooting movie right after Newtown, no matter how well done it was?
E: Although speaking of too close to home, shouldn’t Harris recuse himself?
M: I think his character is retired, actually.
C: Let’s think, should law officers investigate their spouse’s deaths? Um, that would be a no.
God Help The Girl
E: I am all about musicals.
M: Musicals yes, sitcoms no. For those trying to keep track at home.
C: I’m sure there’s some kind of inner, twisted logic to her system…
E: I love it when indie musicians make modern musicals. Begin Again? Loved it. A modern musical about emo bohemian teens in Glasgow? Yes please. Music written by Belle and Sebastian? That happy train comes to a screeching halt.
C: I don’t see the problem. If you like the sound of an adorkable musical about hipster teenagers with a distinctly quirky Instagram vibe, this is for you. Also, it stars Emily Browning, grown up now but known for playing Violet Baudelaire in A Series of Unfortunate Events (and also for being the fan favorite to play Bella Swan, before Kristen Stewart happened).
M: Back in the “pandering to E” column, it’s produced by longtime Wes Anderson producer Barry Mendel, and has a distinct Brit-pop-meets-Wes-Anderson feel to it.
E: Right? And yet, Belle and Sebastian. Ugh. Once I had a coworker who listened to them ad nauseum; I had a life time’s worth of their coy, precious style long ago.
C: Where as I did not, and don’t see that as a detraction.
Last Days in Vietnam
E: Documentary by Bobby Kennedy’s youngest daughter about her family’s war — mostly about their efforts to save 35,000 South Vietnamese before the fall of Saigon.
M: Sounds very… light.
C: Actually, I saw the director on The Daily Show and it seems to be a sort of Schindler’s List of Vietnam documentaries — as in: “mostly this is a shameful event in history, when America abandoned a lot of people we’d promised to support, but let’s focus on the individual heroes who took risks to save some people and help the situation.”
M: How exactly does that make it sound more “light”?
My Old Lady
E: Star Kevin Kline inherits an apartment in Paris. Woohoo! Hold the champagne — the apartment already houses the redoubtable Maggie Smith.
C: Okay, I already like the cast.
M: And her daughter, played by Kristen Scott Thomas, who Kline may or may not fall for. Smith is amazing, and this looks like it could be a heartwarming rental some day.
E: Any movie that gives Smith the room to create one of her legendary grouches wins in my book.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them
C: Wait… Them? The subtitle of this movie is “Them”? Is anyone else confused here?
M: I was, too, but I’ll let E explain.
E: Director Ned Benson made two movies, Him and Her, told from the perspectives of the husband and wife, about the wife’s disappearance. Both are combined into this version (Them) but the full dual version (Him/Her) will be released in October.
C: Okay… I kind of get it.
E: A lot to like here. Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy and a Beatles reference? Not to mention a supporting cast that includes Viola Davis, William Hurt, Isabelle Huppert and Ciaran Hinds?
M: And the suddenly very credible Bill Hader.
E: Yes, when did that happen? Anyway, I’m trying not to get too excited here. And why am I not just letting myself get excited? September. Also, this movie’s got what might be an interesting premise, but might also turn out to be a tortured one.
M: Oh, I don’t think there’s any “might” about it. This has tortured written all over it.
C: Definitely dark. And having it again and again from multiple perspectives won’t exactly make it more cheery.
M: Very neat concept, though. It’s been done on TV and in other films like Vantage Point, but not quite like this, and not with a romance, as best I can remember.
E: I love the general idea, this very literary look at memory and point of view – Chastain has said it was like playing two different characters so the perspectives make a big difference. But that leads us to the big question: will the hybrid work? It’s the editing, and the compromise of the director’s vision that worries me, not the relative darkness of the subject matter. It certainly could work, but that September release date…
Dolphin Tale 2
E: My kids enjoyed the first Dolphin Tale; it was your standard inspiring kids movie. The major players seem to be back for the sequel — Harry Connick Jr, Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd and both kids. Is it necessary? I don’t know. Might be fun for a rainy day, though.
M: We have not had the pleasure of the original, but what I saw of it in its promo material, and what I’ve seen of this look awfully similar. And an awful lot like some of the Free Willy sequels.
E: Brooklyn bartender Tom Hardy runs afoul of the mob in this Dennis Lehane adaptation about the dramas of a drop bar, which features James Gandolfini in his last role as cousin Marv, former bar owner and would-be/might-have-been tough guy.
M: Huh. Who knew Dennis Lehane books were set anywhere other than Boston?
C: Maybe they just changed it for the movie.
E: Since it’s adapted from a short story in an anthology called Boston Noir, I think that’s a safe assumption. Anyway, apparently a drop bar is where criminals pass around dirty money. And also rainbows and unicorns.
C: Passing around rainbows sounds tricky. And unicorns, for that matter.
E: Okay, so maybe that part wasn’t true. But there is Noomi Rapace and a super cute puppy. As long as nothing happens to that puppy, I’m cool.
M: I wouldn’t hold my breath.
No Good Deed
E: Costarring Taraji P. Henson and Idris Elba, who gets to play a villain after spending last fall as the saintly Nelson Mandela. To be more specific, he plays an escaped convict who talks his way into Henson’s lovely house, claiming to need her phone after a car accident. Letting him in is the good deed that she definitely gets punished for.
M: Well, she was great on Person of Interest, and he’s just great. I just wish they could be in something that even remotely interested me.
E: Amen to that!
C: What, home invasion movies aren’t your top choice of entertainment?
M: Surprisingly, no!
E: We know you – and our readers – are shocked to hear this.
The Skeleton Twins
C: Cheery title!
E: Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader star as siblings coping with the aftermath of brother Milo’s suicide attempt. So it’s exactly the kind of sketch comedy you’d expect from these two SNL alums.
M: Given recent events, I’m not down with a suicide-themed comedy.
E: Apparently it does include some funny moments, chief among which are an epic 80s lip sync battle.
M: Okay, that has merit.
E: Dan Stevens, you left Downton Abbey for this? Well, I will give you this much — your part as the troubled stranger stepping into a bereaved family’s life to help and protect them (and, oh yes, bring down a world of trouble and hurt) is a far cry from a restrained costume drama. Stevens is virtually unrecognizable as a hard-body, hard-living former soldier. If he was looking for variety, he got it.
M: And it sounds like you hate him for it.
E: I’m still peeved about the way his character left the show, but that aside I’d rather he left it to make good movies, not run of the mill “a stranger comes to town, and isn’t as good as he seems” pulp.
C: Agreed. When you star in a wildly popular crossover hit series, I feel like you should have a damn good reason for ruining the storyline they’d been building around you for three years. I expected to see him metamorphose into the new Tom Hanks, not fiddle around in low-interest psychological thrillers where they photoshop him to unrecognizability on the poster.
M: So you’re saying he went the David Carusso route. Gotchya.
The Maze Runner
E: Another popular distopian YA series comes to the big screen. 150 teenage boys, trapped in a maze by alien creatures. A new inmate in the maze (Teen Wolf‘s Dylan O’Brien) disrupts the prison population and even the maze itself reacts badly his rebellious tendencies.
C: Actually, to my surprise, this trailer looked pretty compelling.
M: My 11 year old son read and loved the book. I have been meaning to, but just haven’t had the time to get to it yet. It looks good, so I’ve been avoiding the promo material for this to try not to spoil anything.
E: I won’t lie; it looks pretty interesting to me, too. It doesn’t hurt that the always wonderful Patricia Clarkson and pixie-faced Thomas Brodie-Sangster of Love, Actually and Game of Thrones costar. A September highlight, at least based on the trailers.
This Is Where I Leave You
E: Funeral comedy starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Corey Stoll and Adam Driver as estranged siblings stuck in the family house as a condition of their father’s will, and Jane Fonda as their wacky, bereaved, boob-enhanced mother. Then you have Katherine Hahn, Abigail Spencer, Timothy Olyphant, Rose Byrne, Dax Shepard and Connie Britton in supporting roles. Not too shabby.
M: That’s a heck of a cast, and this looks funny, but I have to ask again… who exactly does Adam Driver have compromising pictures of?
E: I’ve seen him on Girls, and then I read these glowing comments from his costars and directors and I just do not get it.
E: It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a Kevin Smith movie, and so I was really intrigued to hear he had a new one coming out. Until I saw the trailer. If that sounds ominous, well, it’s meant to.
M: It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a Kevin Smith movie, too. An even longer time since I’ve seen a good one. That’s not a coincidence.
E: A mustachioed Justin Long wanders Canada…
M: …hang on there a minute. I think we need to just stop an let that wash over everyone. A mustachioed Justin Long wanders Canada. A mustachioed Justin Long…….. wanders Canada. Ok, continue.
E: Ahem, yes, he wanders around interviewing strange and interesting people for a podcast. Leaving aside that he apparently gets paid to do this – a credulity straining premise in itself – it turns out some of them might have a hidden agenda. Like, for example, kidnapping Long and turning him into a walrus through amateur surgeries. So, yeeeeah, maybe not so interested after all.
M: I saw the trailer for this a long time ago, and at first it had my interest piqued. Then we got to the kidnapping and veiled hints at a human walrus.
E: Exactly. I would totally be down for watching Long wander Canada in a mustache. What Smith is showing instead is original, I’ll say that much.
M: So was the Human Centipede. “Original” isn’t good by itself.
E: Agreed. Don’t blink, but that was Haley Joel Osment as Long’s DJ buddy in the trailer.
A Walk Among The Tombstones
E: Dan Stevens costars as a high end drug dealer who hires tragedy-wrecked ex-cop/unlicensed P.I. Liam Neeson to find the creeps who murdered his wife. Neeson, all about those noir kidnappings; Stevens, all about the scum. What happened there? How did that become Oskar Schindler’s thing? How did that become Matthew Crawley’s?
M: One word for you, in regards to Neeson. Taken. Speaking of which, I saw the commercial for this and at first thought it would be Taken 3. I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing.
E: If revenge dramas are your cup of tea, it looks pretty alarming and well done. And big points for that cover of “Black Hole Sun” that plays over the trailer.
E: You guys remember this. Mia Wasikowska. Camels. A journey to find herself while trekking the Australian Outback. Adam Driver as the photojournalist hired by National Geographic to document her story. Guess they changed the release date.
M: This is so the year of Adam Driver. WTF!
C: No answers here, bro.
E: The completely fascinating premise of this film is that a gay rights group helped support striking Welch coal miners in 1984, just to solidarity for another downtrodden group of underdogs, through both finances and kickin’ disco routines. The mind-blowing part is, it’s a true story.
C: Wait, what? For real?
M: Honestly, I don’t think anyone would have bankrolled this if it wasn’t. Can you imagine someone pitching that? Nope, just for solidarity. Uh huh, in the 80’s. No no, in Wales. Call me? Maybe?
E: Definitely aiming for the same heart warming territory as British hits like The Full Monty and Billy Elliot, this looks pretty adorable. It can’t possibly hurt to have Bill Nighy, Andrew Scott, Dominic West, Paddy Considine and Imelda Staunton in your ensemble, either. Some of the scenes in the trailer made me laugh so hard I cried.
The Zero Theorem
E: Get ready for some serious crazy. It’s a new Terry Gilliam flick! Crazy colors, crazy clothes.
M: Will there be an evil, murderous rabbit?
C: I vote for the rabbit!
E: It seems much more urban, but you never know! The film follows a computer programmer – an unrecognizably hairless Christoph Waltz – as he searches for the meaning of life. The supporting cast is just a regular box of British treats — Ben Whishaw, Rupert Friend, David Thewlis and Tilda Swinton — as well as Peter Stormare, Lucas Hedges and oh yes, Matt Damon.
M: The very British Matt Damon.
E: Neither is Hedges or Stormare, that’s why I separated them out. Oh, and least I forget, there’s obviously an age-inappropriate love interest (Melanie Thierry).
The Box Trolls
E: Now this is the one I’m waiting for. And literally, I have been waiting for this children’s movie since the first preview I saw in the spring.
M: Finally! And for the record, who was it that shared that trailer with you?
E: You. You don’t have to be smug about it.
M: Actually, I do. It’s the month for being smug.
C: He’s got you there. And yes, I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while. Creepy and odd but also very, very charming-looking.
E: It looks stunning. I love the trailer that gives you a view into moving these little puppets/miniatures. It’s whimsical and quirky and fun and poignant and just spectacular looking.
M: I know, right? I have little to no clue what it’s about, but the trailer is so magical, so perfect, that I really don’t care.
E: You’ve no doubt seen the ads for this Urban Western revenge drama. I promised someone I love I’d never be this person again, Denzel Washington tells us, but then someone does the unspeakable, and you do something about it because you can.
M: This seems like Denzel’s go-to kind of project over the last 15 years or so.
E: Sadly, yes. I have no interest in seeing this, and would really dismiss it out of hand if not for the recombination of Washington with his Training Day director, Anton Fuqua. As such it might make an interesting rental? I seriously doubt it will factor into this year’s Oscar race.
M: The thing that has me interested is that it’s a remake/reboot of the 1980’s TV show of the same name, which we loved as kids.
E: See, you say that, and I’ve read that, but I have no memory of the show at all.
M: WHAT?!?! Oye. Well, for E, and the rest of those who don’t know (like C who was too young then) the premise was an older guy who moonlights helping those who can’t help themselves, standing on the side of justice, if not necessarily the law. Great, timeless concept. As for the movie, heck, it’s Denzel.
Hector and the Search For Happiness
E: An adaptation of the Francois Leland novel, this film tells the story of a depressed therapist who decides to travel the world and find out what makes people happy. It seems that his real life helping (or not helping) patients, and being married to Rosamund Pike, and flying model planes, isn’t very satisfying.
C: Wow, fulfilling work, lovely wife, hobbies… I guess it doesn’t matter if you have it all, huh? (This is a totally new message no movie has ever addressed before, definitely.)
E: Snort. This costars Toni Collette, Stellan Skarsgaard, Jean Reno and Christopher Plummer.
M: I like all of those people. Most of them a lot.
E: Me too, and I think this could be lovely. It definitely takes aim at heartwarming British indie territory, which makes it nice counter programming to most of this month’s offerings. Seems a bit like what last year’s reimagining of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty wanted to be, don’t you think?
Jimi: All Is By My Side
E: Oscar winning screen-writer John Ridley takes to the directors chair for this story of the year before Jimi Hendrix made it big. I’m mildly curious, but mostly because I respect Ridley. I’ve never really gotten into Jimi Hendrix’s music. I get that he’s amazing, I’ve just never listened to him regularly.
M: I’m mostly curious because, while I’m a more frequent listener than you, I’ve never really gotten into Hendrix back story.
E: I’m definitely taken aback by the casting. Andre Benjamin, of OutKast? I can see him having the musical chops, but isn’t he way old? Whenever you see biopic and pedigreed director, you wonder about Oscar potential, but combined with casting and the month of release, I don’t know. I’ll be super curious to see the reviews of this one.
The Two Faces of January
E: Thriller from the makers of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and the author of The Talented Mr. Ripley, which seems like a telling and potent mix.
M: If not necessarily a good one.
E: Gorgeous 50’s European setting, hero (Viggo Mortensen) who’s not what he seems, gorgeous blonde girlfriend along for the ride, mysterious young man (Oscar Isaacs) who sees more than he should… Yep, the classical reference is intentional.
C: Um, which one would that be?
M: I was wondering, too.
E: The two faces of Janus? Duplicity in Italy? A mysterious past? Never mind.
Two Night Stand
E: Sex comedy starring Miles Teller of The Spectacular Now, preparing for a big year with his Oscar-bait turn as an aspiring jazz drummer in Whiplash, and Analeigh Tipton of Crazy Stupid Love, Warm Bodies, and America’s Next Top Model. I really like Tipton, and I can kind of see the theoretical appeal of this plot; strangers meet for a terrible one night stand, get trapped together in a snow storm, and first irritate, then intrigue each other. What if you could learn from your mistakes by being totally honest with the person you made those mistakes with? I don’t think it’s enough to make it watchable, but honesty interests me. There will be no Oscar talk for this flick, though.
M: When you can cite America’s Next Top Model in the credits of one of the main stars, there never is.
C: Seems unlikely, anyway!
E: Actually, you would be wrong. Ivy league-educated Top Model alum Yaya DaCosta costarred in The Messenger and The Kids Are All Right, both of which were excellent movies and earned Oscar nominations. And DaCosta was good in them, too, if not actually a lead. Which means – say it with me, M – that I was right…
M: …and I was less right.
C: You should have seen that one coming.