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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

And so we come to August, that magical month when the studios release all the movies they're only semi-proud of, the ones that still could break out but probably won't and aren't expected to; and after a summer that was not remotely as exciting in reality as it looked like it was going to be on paper (the frustratingly routine The Avengers and the clumsy and cluttered The Dark Knight Rises being only the headliners of a season that witnessed one of the smallest Pixar films ever, a criminally redundant Spider-Man picture, and whatever the hell Prometheus was - if not for the Soderbergh movie about male strippers, I'd be content to call the whole three-month period a complete wash). So a breakout film is more necessary now than in most years; though by the same token, we've had good luck with the last several Augusts, and hopefully buried in all of this somewhere will be another diamond in the rough.


First up, we have a pair of rather minor attempts to counter the Batman juggernaut that didn't end up materialising the way it was supposed to: a remake of Total Recall that is probably going to be completely awful, but I've been stumping for it all summer, on the grounds that, what the hell, Colin Farrell is sometimes awesome, and it's pretty great to see a Philip K. Dick adaptation run with the aesthetic of Minority Report, assuming that's what's going on (the addled trailer makes it appear possible, but who can tell?); and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, and if I'm being honest, I find the Wimpy Kid franchise to be sufficiently simple and honest, as far as children's entertainment goes, that I don't think I'll even mind seeing it. Kids' movies that aren't nightmares of speed and fart jokes are always welcome, n'est-ce pas?


You know what is TEH FUNNY? Old people being awkward about having sex! This is, near as I can tell, the sole perspective that shall be offered up by Hope Springs, which re-teams Meryl Streep with the director of The Devil Wears Prada, which is anyways better than another Phyllida Lloyd picture. Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carrell are on hand, because there's no obvious reason for them not to be. I'faith, I fairly enjoyed Prada, but not because of its direction, and the trailer makes this one look about as broad as a particularly desperate sitcom.


I bet there are lots of people who aren't completely sick of anything to do with Zach Galifianakis, and I bet those people are going to have a grand time with The Campaign, teaming up with Will Ferrell in a political comedy that, something tells me, isn't going to have quite the bite or intelligence to qualify as a "satire". By the way, if you'd told me three years ago that there'd one day be a Ferrell/Galifianakis vehicle, and I'd be more enthusiastic to see what Ferrell was up to, I'd have said you were deranged.

I bet there are also lots of people whose affection for the Jason Bourne trilogy has absolutely nothing to do with either Matt Damon or Paul Greengrass, and for those exorbitatntly odd souls, we've got The Bourne Legacy, starring Jeremy Renner as an even Bournier spy than Bourne. Confession time: I am not feeling Jeremy Renner as an action star, or any kind of actor at all, really; after blowing the doors off of The Hurt Locker, I'm still waiting for him to do much of anything besides exist in a movie. But Tony Gilroy writes and directs, and that is anyway a good reason to hold out some hope.


Disney has a family fantasy: The Odd Life of Timothy Green, in which a childless couple accidentally creates a magical son by wishing. I'll confess to not being entirely certain who is meant to be the target audience here: can kids actually be expected to care about two parents with a plant boy? I guess if I could answer that question, I'd be a Disney exec.


If there is a film this month that ends up really being worthwhile, my money is on ParaNorman, the next feature from Laika Entertainment, the studio behind the wonderful Coraline, though not, crucially, the same director. It appears to be long on atmosphere and short on a compelling narrative, but stop-motion animation is a treasure no matter how it comes along, and if the quality is nearlyt what it was with Coraline, it will be among the most visually appealling cartoons of the year, hands-down.

With that taking care of the family audiences, there's also one for the boys and one for the women: The Expendables 2 for the former, a ridiculous idea if you ask me (but you didn't), given that the "every action star ever" gimmick that was the single purpose of The Expendables was, after all, a gimmick, and there's no obvious reason to care about it again. For the ladies, Sparkle, a movie about a girl group that seeks to make Jordin Sparks a movie star, and gives Whitney Houston her unexpected swan song.

If you live in one of the only two cities that matter, New York and Los Angeles, this is the week you get to take a peek at David Cronenberg's latest, Cosmopolis, you lucky asshole.


So Dax Shepard still exists, apparently, and to prove it, he's headlining action comedy Hit & Run, if anybody out there cares.


A pair of the most Augusty movies you could ask for, though one of them only got here by being pushed: that would be Premium Rush, in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt fights crime on a bike, and I pray to God there's more to it than meets the eye, because he is a better actor than that. Second: The Apparition, the first genuine horror movie in months, in which ghosts exist because experimenters are stupid.


Every Wednesday but the first of the month has a wide release film opening. Is that weird? It feels weird to me. The last of these is Lawless, the latest from the great Australian stylist John Hillcoat, about moonshiners during Prohibition in the U.S., and there was a time in its life when it had the infinitely better title The Wettest County in the World. Still, Hillcoat has done only right be me - though The Road could have been a lot more right - and I'm at least confident it will be worth watching, if not an instant-classic like The Proposition was, in my eyes anyway.


There's the end of summer for you: months without horror, and then two right in a row. The Possession (I just realised how similar the two titles are) gives off a distinct The Unborn vibe to me, and that is a feverishly terribly vibe for any horror movie to find itself stuck with, but maybe we'll get lucky. It was produced by Sam Raimi after all and he... has never produced a good horror movie that he didn't direct as well. Move along.


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