By: Daniel Reynolds
Again and again, as the summer movie season tumbles passed us, I am reminded of the old Hollywood adage: Nobody knows anything. William Goldman said this in his book “Adventures in the Screen Trade” as proof that while making a film is hard work, guessing at how it will do financially is impossible. (I admit, I’ve used this line a lot.)
Case in point: This summer has been dominated by one film, and it wasn’t made by Marvel Studios. (Though Avengers: Age of Ultron did make over $400 million.) The film is Jurassic World, which as of this writing has made over $630 million, putting it third all-time in domestic gross behind only Titanic and Avatar. We all knew Jurassic World would make money–it stars Chris Pratt and a bunch of goddamn dinosaurs after all. But over $600 million? For real?
Nobody knows anything.
And so we delve into August, the period of the summer where surprises abound. Last year it was Pratt again and a motley crew of space-faring nobodies who won the day. Who could be the big winner this year? Who knows? But let’s get to the picks.
Winner: Go see Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation again
The latest Impossible film from Tom Cruise made the cut last month as a runner-up. This may have been done in error, given our winner that week, The End of the Tour, has no Canadian release date. I regret this error. (I also am lamenting the absence of Jason Segel as David Foster Wallace; what a world.) So for the first week of August, just go see Rogue Nation again. It’s getting great reviews. Cruise hangs off a plane. What’s wrong?
Runner-Up: OK, Fine, Fantastic Four
Yeah, there’s also the reboot of this semi-misbegotten Marvel franchise to see. How hard does Marvel kick themselves nowadays when it looks back and realizes it had to farm out their three more recognizable franchises (FF, with X-Men and Spider-Man) in order to make enough bank to get solvent again? It’s gotta burn even while Kevin Feige and his guys sit on top of a fortress of money. (This one is currently sitting at 10 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but Rob Liefeld thinks these critics have an agenda.)
Winner: Mistress America
Noah Baumbach has been on something of a tear lately. After his monstrously good The Squid and the Whale, it felt like he might be swept up in bitterness for the rest of his career. Instead, he was swept up by Greta Gerwig instead. Whatever it’s cost him in his married life, Gerwig’s spirit infusion into the Baumbach-verse has made for good-to-great films (see: Frances Ha). Now we get Mistress America, with Gerwig doing her thing once again. Let’s keep the good times going.
Runner-Up: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
I have no real reason to care about Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. It’s based on a TV show I know nothing about. It stars to actors (Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer) who haven’t exactly figured out how they’re supposed to fit into movies. And, come on, it’s about two spies in the 60s – an American and a Russian (played by a Brit and an American, but whatever) – who have to work together to stop some villains during the Cold War. I’ll give a hand to Ritchie for clawing his way back into muscular action filmmaking, but this one still only gets a shrug from me.
Winner: American Ultra
On the surface, trading on the on-screen relationship value of Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart is not a smart move. Adventureland is a good film, but, um, not exactly a money-maker. That said, I like whatever kind of wacky thing American Ultra is doing. (Even if I think writer Max Landis is a bit of doofus.) I’m also pleased to get a “the world is not what it seems, it’s actually filled with crazy stuff” film that’s not made by Mark Millar et. al. But that’s just me.
Runner-Up: Fort Tilden
Two hipsters go tumbling through New York. The twist? They’re women! This is the post-Broad City world, everyone. And it is glorious. Go ahead and watch the trailer and lose it when the girls (Bridey Elliot and Clare McNulty) ask for iced coffee.
Winner: The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Voice over. Banjo music. Interspersed animated effects. Yes, you’re watching an indie coming-of-age story. While it feels cynical to say I feel like I’ve seen this movie already, it is worth noting this is a female coming-0f-age story (starring Bel Powley), written and directed by women (Phoebe Gloeckner and Marielle Heller). We can make jokes (see above) and comment on whatever Alexander Skarsgaard is doing in (and out) of this film, but again: this is progress, people!
Remember Alejandro Amenabar? Sure you do. He made The Others and Open Your Eyes (the basis for Vanilla Sky). Those were good times, right? He’s made one movie in the last ten years (the poorly received Agora) but now he’s back with a movie about… going back! Regression is a mystery movie about memories and horrible crimes and other creepy stuff. Ethan Hawke is in it, and Emma Watson. This one could go either way, but that’s August for you.
August’s Bonus Limited Screening Pick: No Bonus
No seriously, there doesn’t look to be anything new sliding in under the radar to merit a mention here. But then again, remember: Nobody (including me!) knows anything.
So that about wraps it up for our What to Watch summer picks. I hope I’ve guided you into make some interesting film selections over the past few months. Now, on to TIFF and the awards movie season.