Film Film News Lists

The Way, Way Back, Fruitvale Station, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints & 7 Other New or Upcoming Cures to the Summer Movie Blues

Tired of this especially long-seeming Summer of big budget blockbusters in which collectively countless skyscrapers have fallen, untold millions have perished, and logic and emotional catharsis seem to continually take the day off?  Heck, it’s not even necessarily that all of the films have been bad; it’s more that there have just been so many of them that seem so similar.  The entire country China took a stance against it yesterday by disallowing Despicable Me 2 to play in its theaters mostly just because they were tired of so many dang American animated films.  That is certainly on the extreme side of possible responses to the Summer Movie blues.  However, if we just wait a little longer, in some cases mere days, there is cinematic relief on the way.

Remember romantic comedies?  Or touching, coming-of-age dramedies?  How about thought-provoking, gonna-make-you cry dramas?  There is all of that and more and coming to us over the next 30 or so days.  Here are 10 such movies to keep an eye on, arranged by release date with “limited” meaning God knows when it’ll actually come to those of you not in big markets and “wide” meaning even Grandma Debbie in rural Kansas should be able to see it (all release dates are domestic):

1) The Way, Way Back – July 5 (Limited), July 26 (this Friday) (Wide)

Synopsis: An awkward 14-year-old kid (Liam James) on a Summer vacation struggles to fit in with his own family, which includes his mother (Toni Collette), her a-hole boyfriend (Steve Carrell), and the boyfriend’s daughter (Zoe Levin).  However, a Bill Murray-esque manager of the local water park (Sam Rockwell) helps the kid come out of his shell, and coming-of-age hilarity ensues.  The cast also features Allison Janney, Amanda Peete, and Rob Corddry.  The guys who co-wrote last year’s The Descendents (Jim Rash, Nat Faxon) directed it, and the people responsible for Little Miss Sunshine produced it.  Like Sunshine, it has sleeper Summer hit written all over it, and has already come close to cracking the top 10 at the domestic box office in only limited release. 


2) Fruitvale Station – July 12 (Limited), July 26 (This Friday) (Wide)

Synopsis: The true story of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident trying to put things right with his daughter, girlfriend, and various other related loved ones before being gunned down in cold blood, either accidentally or intentionally, by police officers.  The event caused riots in California when it occurred New Years morning 2009, and the film based upon it caused a near riot among critics earlier this year who could not praise it enough upon its separate premieres at the Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals.  The film stars Michael B. Jordan, best known as part of the superpowered trio in last year’s Chronicle, as Grant, and is the directorial debut of Ryan Coogler.


3) The To Do List – July 26 (this Friday) (Wide)

Synopsis:Parks & Recreation‘s queen of deadpanned snarkiness, Aubrey Plaza, stars in what is generally being regarded as American Pie for girls.  Set in 1993, Brandy (Plaza, playing a role 10 years her junior) is a high school valedictorian who is book smart but carnally ignorant and deficient.  Inspired by her lust after an adonis-like blonde lifeguard at the local pool, she makes a to-do list of sexual achievements she must make before going to college.  Similar to The Heat, it is a female-centric movie set within an historically male-centric genre, i.e., the sex comedy, that is ultimately not any better than its male counterparts but just as good and revolutionary for existing at all.    


4) The Spectacular Now – August 2 (Limited), August 23 (Wide)

Synopsis: Like The Fruitvale Station, The Spectacular Now was among the films to wow critics at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.  The story is centered on Sutter (Miles Teller), a high school senior whose present seems awesome so why think about the future, and Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a girl whose future seems awesome but whose present kind of sucked until she met Sutter.  What results is a film which may very well be this year’sPerks of Being a Wallflower.  It is from the guy who directed last year’s brilliant-but-tough-to-watch Smashed, and written by the guys who used their crappy love lives to give us (500) Days of Summer a couple years back.  Sundance awarded both Teller and Woodley acting awards for their lead perfromances.


5) We’re the Millers – August 7 (a Wednesday) (Wide)

Synopsis: If you’ve already seen the trailer, then you know this the movie in which Jennifer Aniston does an incredibly hot-most definitely gratuitous, but undeniably hot-strip tease.  There is a plot, though.  Jason Sudeikis (who, in unrelated news, is now officially gone from SNL) is a drug dealer hired by a client (Ed Helms) to smuggle a crap-ton of marijuana from Mexico.  He hires a stripper (Aniston) and two local kids (Emma Roberts, Will Poulter) to pose as his family, reasoning no one would suspect a seemingly normal looking American family in an RV as being drug smugglers.  Of course, nothing goes according to plan, and, dare I say it, bawdy hilarity ensues.  It’s definitely debatable if this will end up being anything more than rental-not-see-it-in-theaters quality, but it is a comedy at a time desperate for one.


6) I Give It a Year – August 9 (Limited)

Synopsis: A British guy (Rafe Spall) and girl (Rose Byrne) get married so hastily their friends give the relationship one year before it implodes.  The film then chronicles the first year of the marriage, using marriage counseling sessions (with Olivia Colman as the counselor) as a framing device.  The guy is tempted by an ex-girlfriend (Anna Farris) with whom he appears to have far more in common and better sexual chemistry whereas the girl is tempted by Simon Baker because, well, he’s Simon f’n Baker (to be clear, Baker is not playing himself, but his signature handsomeness is on full display).  We here in the U.S. are late to the party on this one, as it was first released in the U.K. in February and has already opened in many other major foreign markets.  It grossed $9 million in the U.K., $11 million worldwide.  Critics seemed to like the general concept and central characters, but disliked broad side characters who seemed airlifted in from sitcoms (Stephen Merchant, Minnie Driver).  So, it has a good-but-not-great reputation.  You can actually already rent it for $10 on Amazon or through iTunes, but if you want to wait it is getting a limited release in early August.


7) In a World – August 9 (Limited)

Synopsis: Children’s Hospital star Lake Bell directs, writes, and stars (oh, a triple threat) as an aspiring voice over artists struggling to overcome gender biases (but movie trailer voice overs are done by men!) and father-daughter drama (her character’s father is a giant of the movie trailer voice over industry).  Film School Rejects reviewed it last month, concluding, “While certainly funny and goofy, In A World… also imparts an important message about the power of voice, and Bell is clearly a voice to be heard.”  It kind of has a “it’ll never come close to me, but if they put it on VOD I’d order it” vibe to it at the moment.  However, comedy nerds must be intrigued by the presence of Bell, Demetri Martin, Ken Marino (Party Down, Children’s Hospital), Rob Corddry, Nick Offerman (Parks & Recreation), and cancer-comedian Tig Notaro in the cast.


8) Ain’t Them Bodies Saints – August 16 (Limited)

Synopsis: Another Sundance Film Festival baby, this one focuses on Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara as a young couple in love who run afoul of the law in tiny town Texas in the 1970s.  In a shootout with the cops, Mara wounds an officer, but Affleck takes the blame and goes to prison.  He repeatedly attempts to break out to reunite with her, but in the ensuing years she has maybe formed a relationship with the very officer she wounded, played by Ben Foster.  The resulting film has been compared to Terrence Malick meets The Coen Bros. meets Robert Altman while still feeling completely original.  Based upon the trailer, it appears as if it will certainly be gorgeous to look at. To some it will seem navel-gazing and meandering whereas to others it will be one of the richest cinematic experiences of the year to date.


9) Lee Daniels’ The Butler – August 16 (Wide)

Synopsis: Hot off the heels of The Help comes The Butler, another alternate take on a period of American history from the point of view of the African-American hired help.  This one focuses on a butler in the American White House (Forest Whitaker) who serves multiple Presidents, beginning with Eisenhower (Robin Williams) and ending with Reagan (Alan Rickman).  It’s loosely based on the true story of Eugene Allen.  It’s from the guy who directed Precious (Lee Daniels), the guy who wrote the HBO Film Game Change and will write the last two Hunger Games films (Danny Strong), and features a bevy of African American actors (Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Oprah Winfrey, Nelsan Ellis) and truly random-sounding collection of notable American actors (Melissa Leo, James Marsden, Minka Kelly, Liev Schrieber, John Cusack, Jane Fonda).  The trailer gives the air of a slightly self-serious, “big important” film begging for Oscar consideration, which it will get by being distributed by The Weinstein Company.


10) The World’s End – August 23 (Wide)

Synopsis: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost reunite with director Edgar Wright in the latest end-of-the-world comedy to hit in 2013 (It’s a Disaster, Rapturepalooza, This is the End).  As such, it may sound like more of the same and by no means a cure to the Summer movie blues.  However, Pegg/Frost/Wright has been a killer artistic trio since the TV show Spaced and into the films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.  In The World’s End, five friends (Pegg, Frost, Patty Considine, Martin Freman, Eddie Marsan) return to their home town in the U.K. to do a pub crawl, but quickly discover that the town doesn’t seem different because they’ve gotten older – the town is the site of an alien invasion threatening the end of the world.  It’s already opened in the U.K. where it has done pretty well financially, and critics appear to love it (at 91% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes).


Not listed but also of interest is Woody Allen’s well-reviewed latest, Blue Jasmine (very limited release tomorrow), Amanda Seyfried’s Linda Lovelace biopic Lovelace (8/9), the Kerri Russell romantic comedy Austenland (8/16), the Jake Johnson/Olivia Wilde/Anna Kendrick comedy Drinking Buddies (8/23).   Big movies like The Wolverine (7/26), Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (8/7), Elysium (8/9), and Kick-Ass 2 (8/16) were excluded mostly because they’re too similar to the type of film we’ve seen plenty this Summer.  By that logic, The World’s End shouldn’t be listed because it is similar to This is The End, but we loved Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz and can’t wait to see this new one.  So, we made an exception.

What do you think?  Any film you are looking forward to?  Don’t quite get the Summer movie blues and wish movies like Man of Steel came out every other weekend?  Let us know what you think.

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