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Monthly Watch List: August 2012

August may not feature any can’t wait/must-see films as May, June and July, but it certainly presents a number of interesting choices, albeit many of which are limited.  August 2012’s list has a large number of Sundance limited releases, many of which I didn’t see while at this year’s Festival but are still possibly worth checking out.  Despite the lack of major hype-inducing releases, several Highly Anticipated Films find their way into theaters this month.  As far as Augusts go, this isn’t a terrible way to bridge the dog days of summer duds and sleepers with awards-worthy films in September on.  Read on to see what’s worth checking out or skipping this month, and also check out previous Monthly Watch List entries for possible limited releases expanding into more theaters (or simply see The Dark Knight Rises for the nth time).

Also don’t forget to vote for your most anticipated film of the month at the bottom of the post!!!

[MWL Purpose: Not all of the following movies are highly anticipated or worth a viewing at all, let alone in theaters.  Still, the purpose of these monthly watch lists is to present what is available and offer a conclusion on whether or not to see the film, usually based on the filmmakers’ pedigrees and current consensus about it.  Also important to note while reading or skimming the list is that not all the movies will be released in a theater near you on the mentioned date; take note of the “Limited” label.]

August 3 – Total Recall

IMDB Synopsis: A factory worker, Douglas Quaid, begins to suspect that he is a spy after visiting Rekall – a company that provides its clients with implanted fake memories of a life they would like to have led – goes wrong and he finds himself on the run.

Director: Len Wiseman

Stars: Colin Farrell, Bokeem Woodbine, Bryan Cranston, Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale, Bill Nighy

Should you see it? – Maybe as a matinee (Highly Anticipated Film)

  • The original 1990 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger has become a cult classic despite its many flaws, and an update at least in terms of production value and special effects seemed like enough justification for a remake.  As such, it is a fringe highly anticipated film, but the previews and early mixed reviews have me less excited.  It looks like almost any other CGI-driven action flick in this day and age, despite the intriguing plot and possible Inception-like twists and turns of reality.  It should be an entertaining diversion but check it out only as a matinee if at all in theaters.

August 3 – Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

IMDB Synopsis: School is out and Greg is ready for the days of summer, when all his plans go wrong. What on earth is he going to do all summer?

Director: David Bowers

Stars: Zachary Gordon, Robert Capron, Devon Bostick, Steve Zahn, Rachael Harris

Should you see it? – Unless you’ve become hooked to this series, no.

  • This is the third film in a series of books, so it should have an even narrower audience.  Unless you’ve grown up with or have become addicted to the franchise story, there’s not much reason to check this out in theaters or at all.  Better kids flicks are out there (new and old).  Skip this one.

August 3 – Celeste and Jesse Forever (limited)

IMDB Synopsis: A divorcing couple tries to maintain their friendship while they both pursue other people.

Director: Lee Toland Krieger

Stars: Rashida Jones (also co-writer), Andy Samberg, Elijah Wood, Ari Graynor, Eric Christian Olsen

Should you see it? – If you enjoy indie rom-com dramas, then yes. (Highly Anticipated Film)

  • This Sundance 2012 Film Festival graduate has received generally positive reviews for solid writing and acting.  Star Rashida Jones makes her screenwriting debut with this feature.  It looks fairly straightforward as far as rom-com drama tones go, but that doesn’t make it any less amusing, especially with a talented cast and intriguing, less-than-ordinary premise.  Check it out as a matinee ifyou enjoy these kinds of movies, or comedies in genera, and check to see if it plays in a theater near you (limited release at first).

August 3 – 360 (limited; already on VOD)

IMDB Synopsis: A dramatic thriller that weaves together the stories of an array of people from disparate social backgrounds through their intersecting relationships.

Director: Fernando Meirelles

Stars: Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, Ben Foster

Should you see it? – Maybe, but probably only as a VOD.

  • From the director of the Oscar nominated foreign language film City of God (2002) comes this stylistically structured drama of multiple storylines.  Early reviews have unfortunately been mixed-to-generally negative due to the overwhelming structure, despite a great cast.  Since it’s already available on VOD, that is probably where you should check it out, if at all (besides, it will probably only have a limited release).

August 10 – The Bourne Legacy

IMDB Synopsis: An expansion of the universe from Robert Ludlum's novels, centered on a new hero whose stakes have been triggered by the events of the previous three films.

Director: Tony Gilroy

Stars: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Scott Glenn, Stacy Keach, Corey Stoll, Albert Finney, Zeljko Ivanek, Oscar Isaac, David Strathairn, Joan Allen

Should you see it? – Yes, especially if you enjoyed the Damon trilogy (Highly Anticipated Film)

  • The first three films were a very good action trilogy.  Given the success of the trilogy and the continuation of the story in books, it was a matter of time before movie studios greenlit more sequels.  Since its inception, its new star Jeremy Renner has become a star and almost a household name for his emergence as an awards-nominated actor and appearances in a couple blockbusters (The Town, Ghost Protocol, The Hurt Locker, The Avengers); he may not be Matt Damon, but he should do just fine carrying the Bourne series onward (especially with a great cast around him).  The main question mark with this installment is how far they’re pushing his super-human abilities with changes to two chromosomes; it has been a series about a highly skilled assassin in heightened reality, not blatant super-powered killers.  Apart from that possible hiccup, this looks pretty exciting; check it out as a matinee.

August 10 – The Campaign

IMDB Synopsis: In order to gain influence over their North Carolina district, two CEOs seize an opportunity to oust long-term congressman Cam Brady by putting up a rival candidate. Their man: naive Marty Huggins, director of the local Tourism Center.

Director: Jay Roach

Stars: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, Brian Cox, John Lithgow, Dan Akroyd, Dylan McDermott

Should you see it? – Yes, but only if you can take/enjoy Will Ferrell comedies (Highly Anticipated Film).

  • Will Ferrell’s last major comedy blockbuster The Other Guys was a slight return to form for the famous comedian (since then he made the solid indie drama Everything Must Go, which is worth checking out,

    and the absurd Casa de mi Padre, which is not all that worth checking out).  With a Zach Galifianakis pairing, Ferrell could add another notch to his belt of successful and absurdly amusing comedies.  It looks ridiculous but fun; check it out as a matinee if you enjoy his types of comedies.

August 10 – Hope Springs

IMDB Synopsis: After thirty years of marriage, a middle-aged couple attends an intense, week-long counseling session to work on their relationship.

Director: David Frankel

Stars: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carrell

Should you see it? – Maybe, but as a matinee at most, if that.

  • Well, before writing this snippet and watching the preview, I was hesitant to even give it a “see as a matinee” rating, but the trailer won me over – this looks to be quite a charming little dramedy with two incredible lead actors.  Meryl Streep just won her third Oscar for The Iron Lady and is likely a lock for nomination talk in any film she’s in, so she should be a pleasure to watch again (especially in this down-to-earth role).  Tommy Lee Jones has certainly proven his comedic chops in the Men in Black series, and he looks great in this kind of role, busting out comedic timing like a pro in the preview (odd extra tidbit: he looks like Carl from Up, as one YouTube commenter wrote).  It may target a more adult audience, but it looks pretty entertaining with such amazing lead actors; check it out as a matinee.

August 10 – 2 Days in New York (limited; already on VOD)

IMDB Synopsis: Manhattan couple Marion and Mingus, who each have children from prior relationships, find their comfortable family dynamic jostled by a visit from Marion's relatives.

Director: Julie Delpy

Stars: Julie Delpy, Chris Rock, Albert Delpy

Should you see it? – Maybe, but probably on VOD.

  • Writer-director-actress Julie Delpy (of Before/After Sunset fame) brought this film to Sundance and left with generally positive reviews for this dramedy.  It’s actually a sequel of sorts to 2 Days in Paris, but it seems like a fine standalone film that most viewers can see first.  It looks like a funny, lighthearted, well-acted and written piece of entertainment.  See it on VOD if interested, since a limited release will restrict many from seeing it in theaters anyway.

August 10 – Red Hook Summer (limited)

IMDB Synopsis: A middle-class boy from Atlanta finds his worldview changed as he spends the summer with his deeply religious grandfather in the housing projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Director: Spike Lee

Stars: Jules Brown, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Toni Lysaith

Should you see it? – Maybe, but only if you enjoy Spike Lee’s indie films.

  • This Sundance film polarized viewers for its ideological issues and spurts of violence, but many critics have praised Lee for returning to his grassroots type of indie filmmaking.  Early reviews have been mixed-to-generally positive, noting its uncompromising exploration of character and ideological themes and issues.  It doesn’t exactly grab me, but it ought to be an interesting, stylistically directed piece of indie filmmaking.  Very interested viewers only.

August 17 – The Expendables 2

IMDB Synopsis: Mr. Church reunites the Expendables for what should be an easy paycheck, but when one of their men is murdered on the job, their quest for revenge puts them deep in enemy territory and up against an unexpected threat.

Director: Simon West

Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth

Should you see it? – Yes, if you like action movies then definitely (Highly Anticipated Film).

  • The first movie was a solid guilty pleasure of action mayhem.  This time around, Stallone and crew make it even more epic and exciting, especially with Bruce Willis and former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger expounding upon their cameo roles.  Also, with Jean-Claude Van Damme onboard this time and Chuck Norris in on the fun, what more could you ask for in an all-out action movie?  Check it out as a matinee.

August 17 – ParaNorman

IMDB Synopsis: A misunderstood boy who can speak with the dead, takes on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old curse.

Director: Chris Butler, Sam Fell

Stars: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, John Goodman, Casey Affleck

Should you see it? – Yes, especially if you enjoy animation films.

  • This looks like another hit animation feature from a dynamic directing duo of the genre.  With a solid voice acting cast to boot, kids and adults should enjoy this one.  Check it out as a matinee if interested in this genre or have kids.

August 17 – Sparkle

IMDB Synopsis: Set in the 1960s, three sisters form girl group and soon become Motown sensations, but fame becomes a challenge as the close-knit family begins to fall apart.

Director: Salim Akil

Stars: Jordin Sparks, Carmen Ejogo, Whitney Houston

Should you see it? – Probably not in theaters.

  • Nothing about this screams see in theaters, but it is a bittersweet farewell to the late great Whitney Houston, instead of being part of her comeback tour.  Check it out if you absolutely loved Whitney and/or enjoy these kinds of dramas, but as a matinee at most if in theaters; otherwise, a home viewing would be fine.

August 15 – The Odd Life of Timothy Green

IMDB Synopsis: A childless couple bury a box in their backyard, containing all of their wishes for an infant. Soon, a child is born, though Timothy Green is not all that he appears.

Director: Peter Hedges

Stars: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, C.J. Adams, Rosemarie DeWitt, David Morse, Ron Livingston, Diane West, Common

Should you see it? – Maybe as a matinee at most, otherwise a home viewing is okay.

  • Charming cast- check.  Intriguing premise- check.  This family-friendly movie looks a bit ridiculous but entertaining.  Furthermore, it should feature some important lessons and themes for the younger audiences about differences, growing up and relationships.  Check it out as a matinee at most, or else a rental/TV viewing.

August 17 – Cosmopolis (limited)

IMDB Synopsis: Riding across Manhattan in a stretch limo in order to get a haircut, a 28-year-old billionaire asset manager's day devolves into an odyssey with a cast of characters that start to tear his world apart.

Director: David Cronenberg

Stars: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Sarah Gadon, Jay Baruchel, Paul Giamatti, Samantha Morton

Should you see it? – Maybe, if you like Cronenberg’s other films (Highly Anticipated Film).

  • Cronenberg is one of the greats, but in such a long, storied career he has a few duds.  This one looks intriguing but not particularly hype-inducing.  With Pattinson, who looks to move beyond his Twilight career, Cronenberg has fashioned a stylized crime drama that has thus far received mixed reviews on the side of positive.  It is sure to be graphic, both in terms of violence and sex, as is always with his films.  With a limited release that isn’t guaranteed to expand into a wide release, check this out on VOD if it comes to that or as a rental (besides, Cronenberg’s films have typically had a niche audience).

August 17 – Compliance (limited)

IMDB Synopsis: When a prank caller convinces a fast food restaurant manager to interrogate an innocent young employee, no-one is left unharmed. Based on true events.

Director: Craig Zobel

Stars: Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, Pat Healy

Should you see it? – Yes, but prepare for a polarizing film (Highly Anticipated Film).

  • This Sundance film was so polarizing that the first Q&A session caused a mini-riot that the police had to shut it down.  Many people have cried out that this premise would never happen, but the film’s story is based on a true story of not just one instance but many over the past few decades.  It looks to be an uncompromising psychological drama.  Check it out if possible, but beware of its graphic intensity.

August 17 – The Awakening (limited)

IMDB Synopsis: In 1921, England is overwhelmed by the loss and grief of World War I. Hoax exposer Florence Cathcart visits a boarding school to explain sightings of a child ghost. Everything she believes unravels as the 'missing' begin to show themselves.

Director: Nick Murphy

Stars: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton

Should you see it? – Maybe, if you enjoy low-budget horror films.

  • This film has received generally positive reviews, especially considering it has Rebecca Hall who has been on the edge of her breakout role to become a household name (she’s appeared in several blockbusters but yet to become a fully-fledged star despite her talents).  The premise seems like Red Lights but tighter and in a period piece setting.  It looks like a well-acted, intense atmospheric horror drama, but reviews have indicated its convoluted plot and silly ending take away from it a bit.  Check it out as a matinee if possible, otherwise a VOD/rental viewing would be good.

August 24 – Premium Rush

IMDB Synopsis: In Manhattan, a bike messenger picks up an envelope that attracts the interest of a dirty cop, who pursues the cyclist throughout the city.

Director: David Koepp

Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Jamie Chung

Should you see it? – Maybe, but as a matinee at most; VOD/rental seems more apt.

  • The premise and plot looks a bit silly and clichéd, but with a premiere screenwriter directing the film and the incredible actors of JGL and Michael Shannon involved, there’s hope for this action thriller.  Given its late summer release, the studios probably didn’t believe in it to pull in many audiences in prime summer times, but it still looks somewhat entertaining, or at least pulse-inducing.  Check it out as a matinee if looking for a solid diversion.

August 24 – The Apparition

IMDB Synopsis: A couple is haunted by a supernatural presence that is unleashed during a college experiment.

Director: Todd Lincoln

Stars: Ashley Greene, Sebastian Stan, Tom Felton

Should you see it? – Matinee at most, but VOD/rental seems more apt.

  • Daniel Radcliffe made a solid effort to move on from the Harry Potter world in the horror movie The Woman in Black, and Tom Felton continues his life after HP (first in Rise of the Planet of the Apes) with this low-budget, B-movie horror flick.  It seems somewhat intriguing and perhaps worth a matinee, especially for horror fans, but a VOD/rental seems more fitting for this kind of B-movie.

August 22 – Hit and Run

IMDB Synopsis: Former getaway driver Charlie Bronson jeopardizes his Witness Protection Plan identity in order to help his girlfriend get to Los Angeles. The feds and Charlie's former gang chase them on the road.

Director: David Palmer, Dax Shepard

Stars: Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell, Bradley Cooper, Beau Bridges, Kristin Chenoweth, Tom Arnold

Should you see it? – If you like crude comedies, yes.

  • This is a wildcard in terms of popularity and comedic success, as August releases can be either late summer sleeper hits or simply snooze-fests.  Apart from B-Coops’ ridiculous hairstyle, this looks pretty funny actually, though its raunchy humor may be off-putting to many viewers.  Check it out as a matinee, especially if you’re a comedy or Dax Shepard fan, otherwise a VOD/rental viewing would be suitable.

August 24 – Robot & Frank (limited)

IMDB Synopsis: Set in the near future, an ex-jewel thief receives a gift from his son: a robot butler programmed to look after him. But soon the two companions try their luck as a heist team.

Director: Jake Schreier

Stars: Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, Peter Sarsgaard (voice), Liz Tyler, Jeremy Strong

Should you see it? – Yes, if possible.  A matinee would be fine, as would VOD/rental (Highly Anticipated Film).

  • This Sundance film charmed audiences with a great lead performance and genuine emotion in the quirky, low-budget sci-fi story.  It has decent mainstream appeal, but the limited release is a precaution incase it doesn’t fare too well in theaters – if that’s the case, check it out as a VOD/rental release.

August 29 – Lawless

IMDB Synopsis: Set in the Depression-era Franklin County, Virginia, a bootlegging gang is threatened by authorities who want a cut of their profits.

Director: John Hillcoat

Stars: Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman

Should you see it? – Yes (Highly Anticipated Film).

  • Now that the world has seen how brutal Tom Hardy can be (i.e. Warrior, The Dark Knight Rises, Bronson), he should certainly be a highlight of this period piece.  Then again, with a great supporting cast that features two incredibly underused/underrated stars in Guy Pearce and Gary Oldman, this should be a pretty awesome crime drama.  Besides, with Australian director John Hillcoat at the helm, it should be entertaining, interesting, and striking to look at.

August 31 – The Possession

IMDB Synopsis: A young girl buys an antique box at a yard sale, unaware that inside the collectible lives a malicious ancient spirit. The girl's father teams with his ex-wife to find a way to end the curse upon their child.

Director: Ole Bornedal; Sam Raimi (producer)

Stars: Natasha Calis, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgewick,

Should you see it? –  Matinee at most, but VOD/rental seems just as suitable.

  • Horror guru Sam Raimi has produced this based-on-a-true-story horror film.  The cast may not be totally recognizable or outstanding but they’re pretty dependable and the preview looks decent if fairly ordinary.  Horror fans will probably want to check it out, but either as a matinee or wait for VOD/rental release.

August 31 – For a Good Time, Call… (limited at first)

IMDB Synopsis: Former college frenemies Lauren and Katie move into a fabulous Gramercy Park apartment, and in order to make ends meet, the unlikely pair start a phone sex line together.

Director: Jamie Travis

Stars: Ari Graynor, Lauren Miller, Justin Long, Mark Webber, Seth Rogen

Should you see it? – Yes, but only if you like crude/raunchy comedies (Highly Anticipated Film).

  • This is yet another Sundance film I missed but wished I had the time to see this year.  Now with a wide release in the near future probably, I’ll get the chance to see this absurdly raunchy but hilarious comedy that also features some thematic depth some of my classmates and fellow Sundance moviegoers discussed.  It should be a sleeper hit.  Check it out as a matinee.




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