Summer is winding down, and with it goes the last vestiges of the blockbuster season. But there are still a few tentpole movies left which, along with some offbeat choices, make for an interesting August at the theaters. There’s only one sequel and two remakes in this month’s offerings, and the rest are refreshingly off-kilter originals that hold a lot of promise for entertainment. Laika returns to deliver astonishing visuals with their latest, while the DC Comics movieverse tries to rebound from “Batman v Superman” with “Suicide Squad.” And the whole thing is capped off by one of the most enjoyable, intense thrillers released this year. It’s an intriguing and original list of films for August, so let’s get to it!
Who: Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Jared Leto, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Cara Delevingne, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje What: A secret government agency recruits imprisoned supervillains to execute a dangerous black ops mission in exchange for clemency. When: August 5th Why: “Suicide Squad” looks like an absolute barrel of fun that mixes everyone’s love of antiheroes with a dash of “The Dirty Dozen.” Based on the hit comic book of the same name, the film finds a bunch of colorful supervillains riffing off each other while trying to save the world (or just themselves). The trailers make it look like a promising blockbuster, though writer/director David Ayer (“Sabotage,” “Fury”) isn’t exactly known for delivering fun films, usually preferring the grittier side of things. Perhaps he’s found the perfect balance between the ultraviolent, grim world he normally inhabits and a more heightened experience that’s actually enjoyable to sit through.
Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles, Riz Ahmed, Ato Essandoh, Bill Camp
There are film franchises where each installment comes with a checklist of the beats the film will hit. A chase, a shot, a musical cue, a line of dialogue, a plot device, those sorts of things. “Jason Bourne” takes that idea to an absurd level. This is a film where the audience isn’t just reminded that they’re watching a Bourne film (though they are, constantly); at times, they’re watching a featurette on the making of a Bourne film. Several scenes are staged in such a manner that they look like test runs of the final shot, rather than the final shot. The plot is rather threadbare for a series that prides itself on convoluted story lines, but the most damning thing about “Jason Bourne” is what a bloodless, cold viewing experience it is. From start to finish, I was not emotionally invested in a single thing that took place. In fact, I couldn’t wait for it to be over – definitely a first for a Bourne film.
Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is living off the grid, making money in underground fighting. He receives a visit from former operative Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), who tells Jason that she has hacked the CIA database and has uncovered information on Treadstone, the now-defunct program of which he was a part, as well as their latest program, which involves surveillance. The database hack draws the attention of Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), a talented and ambitious coder who works for CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones). Dewey enlists an assassin, known only as The Asset (Vincent Cassel), to find and kill Bourne. As Lee listens to Dewey talk about Bourne, she starts to question Dewey’s motives and volunteers to run point on Bourne’s capture (or death) in order to discover if there is more to the story.
Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Applegate, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jay Hernandez, David Walton
Jon Lucas & Scott Moore
From mall Santas, to school teachers, to spelling bee contestants, Hollywood has a penchant for bringing out the worst in people we don’t normally associate with bad behavior. But while the premise behind “Bad Moms” is certainly ripe for comedy, as is usually the case with these films, it’s not lewd enough to justify its title. “Bad Moms” is an R-rated raunch-com that’s surprisingly short on both raunch and comedy. In fact, apart from its countless F-bombs (because apparently, nothing says “bad” quite like grown women cursing), it’s really a PG-13 movie at heart, failing to push the boundaries as far as you’d expect from the guys who wrote “The Hangover.” The film sorely lacks the insight that a female voice would offer.
Amy Mitchell (Mila Kunis) is sick and tired of trying to be the perfect mom. When she’s not being overworked at her part-time job, she’s busy maintaining her household and driving her two kids (Oona Laurence and Emjay Anthony) back and forth between school and their various extracurricular activities. Her slacker husband (David Walton) is practically a child himself, and after Amy catches him cheating with another woman over the internet, she promptly kicks him out of the house. The next day, everything that can go wrong does, causing Amy to finally crack under the pressure during a late-night PTA meeting. In the aftermath of her meltdown, she befriends two fellow mothers who share her frustration – bawdy single mom Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and docile stay-at-home mom Kiki (Kristen Bell) – and together, they agree to be bad moms for once and have a little fun. But when Amy’s antics make an enemy of uptight PTA overlord Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate), she decides to challenge her presidency and alter the status quo.
Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Mike Birbiglia, Chris Gethard, Kate Micucci, Tami Sagher
Writer/director Mike Birbiglia’s first two movies have drawn comparisons to early Woody Allen, and for the most part, they’re well founded. The comedian turned filmmaker excels at telling human stories that combine humor and pathos with an unfiltered authenticity you don’t normally see in mainstream comedies. His 2012 debut “Sleepwalk with Me” is a witty, sharply written film about professional rejection and the fear of commitment, and although Birbiglia doesn’t quite hit the same highs with his follow-up “Don’t Think Twice,” it’s arguably a more mature piece of filmmaking that expands on some of the same themes while cutting even deeper emotionally.
The movie centers on a New York City improv troupe called The Commune whose members – including co-founder Miles (Birbiglia), Jack (Keegan-Michael Key), Samantha (Gillian Jacobs), Bill (Chris Gethard), Allison (Kate Micucci) and Lindsay (Tami Sagher) – learn that the building where they perform their weekly shows is being shut down. Further complicating matters is the announcement that romantic couple Jack and Samantha have both been invited to audition for the popular TV sketch show “Weekend Live” (basically “Saturday Night Live” in all but name), which unearths a deep-seated jealously and resentment among the rest of the group. When one of them lands the coveted job, the other members must cope with the sting of rejection as their tight-knit community begins to unravel.
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WHAT: In 1980s Dublin, a young teenager named Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) starts a band with his new schoolmates in an attempt to impress the beautiful and mysterious Raphina (Lucy Boynton).
WHY: Writer/director John Carney specializes in making musical fairy tales for the soul, with each film functioning like its own album. If “Once” is his critically acclaimed debut, and “Begin Again” is the more mainstream (but less successful) follow-up, then “Sing Street” is the personal album that gets back to his roots. A semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale that ranks as one of the most pleasant moviegoing experiences in recent years, “Sing Street” features Carney at his very best. Although there’s not a lot of meat to the story, the film does a good job of tracking Conor’s artistic awakening as he discovers his own identity through experimentation with different musical styles and the awful fashion trends that accompany them. The mostly unknown cast is great, especially Jack Reynor as Conor’s older brother/musical guru, while the original songs (each one better than the last) are catchy enough to believe that the titular band could actually succeed. Though their progress happens a little too easily to be realistic, Carney makes the whole fantasy go down so smoothly that you won’t mind.
EXTRAS: There’s a making-of featurette, cast auditions, and an interview with writer/director John Carney and songwriter Adam Levine.