Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to August

august

August may officially be part of the summer movie season, but with the exception of a few titles (“Fantastic Four,” “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”), many of the new films being released this month are very un-summer-like. Not that it’s a bad thing, of course, as audiences are likely experiencing blockbuster fatigue at this point in the year, but while there are some promising movies on the schedule, you probably shouldn’t set your expectations too high. After all, in the past five years alone, there have been only a handful that we’d ever want to watch again.

“Fantastic Four”

Who: Miles Teller, Kata Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell and Toby Kebbell
What: Four young outsiders teleport to an alternate universe which alters their physical form in shocking ways.
When: August 7th
Why: After going the lighter, more family-friendly route with its first two Fantastic Four movies, Fox has done a complete 180 with this gritty, super-serious reboot from director Josh Trank that surely marks the studio’s last chance to get it right. Unfortunately, that hasn’t shielded the project from the inevitable fanboy criticism, whether it’s the casting of Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm/The Human Torch, or recent rumors of the film’s troubled production. And while the casting debate is a non-starter (not only is Jordan an excellent actor, but he’s a great choice for the role), the latest trailer doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence that “Fantastic Four” is going to be any better than its predecessors. Different, yes, but not better.

“Ricki and the Flash”

Who: Meryl Streep, Mamie Gummer, Sebastian Stan and Kevin Kline
What: A musician who gave up everything for her dream of rock-and-roll stardom returns home, looking to make things right with her family.
When: August 7th
Why: On paper, “Ricki and the Flash” sounds like a surefire hit. It boasts Oscar-winning talent in the form of star Meryl Streep, director Jonathan Demme and writer Diablo Cody, and is perfectly positioned as a clever piece of counterprogramming to the barrage of superhero movies and action films. What’s not to like, right? As it turns out, an awful lot judging from the trailer. Not only has the whole rock star/estranged parent story been done countless times before, but nothing about the film suggests that it’ll bring anything new to the table, either. Though Streep’s recent trend of turning bad movies into awards contenders (see: “Into the Woods, “August: Osage County”) is certainly impressive, it’s hard to imagine that continuing here.

“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”

Who: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Jared Harris and Hugh Grant
What: In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization.
When: August 14th
Why: Though director Guy Ritchie has admitted that he wasn’t an avid viewer of the 1960s TV show on which his new movie is based, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is the perfect property for a filmmaker like Ritchie, because it allows him to take the best bits from the show and put his own spin on it without stepping on too many feet. It worked really well with the “Sherlock Holmes” movies, so here’s hoping it has the same effect here. Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer are both great choices for the lead roles (even if it’s a little strange that the Brit is playing the American and the American is playing the Russian), while the trailers promise Ritchie’s trademark supply of fun and clever action sequences.

“Straight Outta Compton”

Who: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchel and Neil Brown Jr.
What: The group NWA emerges from the streets of Compton, California in the mid-1980s and revolutionizes pop culture with their music and tales about life in the hood.
When: August 14th
Why: It’s fitting that a movie about the rise of 80s rap group NWA is being released during a time when racial tension has resurfaced across the country. But while the setting of the story no doubt shares some parallels with racially-charged current events like Ferguson, it’s hard to imagine the movie having a positive effect on the movement in the same way as Ava DuVernay’s “Selma.” Also working against it is the fact that two of the group’s members (Dr. Dre and Ice Cube) are attached as producers, which means that audiences could be in for a very one-sided account of what really happened. That would be a shame if true, but it wouldn’t be the first time that a watered-down musical biopic was made to protect the legacy of its subjects.

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