In case you weren't aware, we're in the dreaded dog days of summer. I say dreaded not only because it tends to be a bit gross out this time of year (at least here in otherwise lovely New York City) but also because we call them the dog days, which is kind of embarrassing for everyone — especially our dogs. They deserve better than getting these muggy days saddled with their good name, don't they?
Another consequence of this time of year is often a dearth of fine moviemaking at your local cinema. Traditionally, if you've got a summer blockbuster worth beating your chest about (and let's face it, summer is all about chest-beating fare at the movies), it's come and gone by now. So we're left with films starring people like Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Sylvester Stallone. And that's just one movie, my friends.
However, if only to render my initial premise immediately irrelevant, I can prove to you that there is plenty at the multiplex that is worthy of your time. Take a gander.
"Red Hook Summer" — Admittedly, I haven't seen this since January (when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival) and I understand it's a different cut now, but that's probably a good thing, as the initial offering felt more than a bit bloated. But there's no denying some powerful sequences (love it or hate it — the third act will make your jaw drop at Lee's audacity as a filmmaker) and captivating performances (Clarke Peters delivers) in this return to Brooklyn for one of the borough's favorite sons. Provocative Spike is good Spike.
"Cosmopolis" — I won't lie. This is not top-notch Cronenberg, in my view, but what's the adage about pizza or sex or ice cream? This one is still worth your time. There ain't much of a narrative here, but the words can be pretty hypnotic, and there's a perverse novelty in seeing Robert Pattinson jump headfirst into such an anti-commercial mood piece. Let me know when you see it, so you can explain to me what it's really about.
"The Bourne Legacy" — From the second Jeremy Renner emerged shirtless out of the icy Alaskan waters at the beginning of the film, I thought two things — I need to go to the gym and this guy looks the badass he needs to be to carry a movie this sort. It takes a little while to get going after that but once Rachel Weisz's extremely unlucky scientist starts running for her life, it all feels sufficiently Bourne-ish to warrant the title. Edward Norton does a lot while staring intently at monitors too.
"The Campaign" — You'll get what you pay for with this one. Will and Zach do their thing and do it well. What you might not expect? Dylan McDermott stealing a few choice moments.
And there are no less than three films opening in the next two weeks I can vouch for. "Sleepwalk with Me" is a witty and fresh tale from the minds of comedian Mike Birbiglia and "This American Life" creator Mike Birbiglia. "Lawless" is a muscular bit of bootlegging, blood and boys (Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy to name just two in the impressive ensemble). That's one of my favorites of the year — no surprise as it's directed by John Hillcoat ("The Proposition"). And if you want to just geek out on the state of moviemaking with the greatest living filmmakers for 100 minutes you need to seek out "Side by Side." Produced by Keanu Reeves (who also serves as the on-camera interviewer and guide) and directed by Christopher Kenneally, it's a brainy state of affairs on the inevitable technological shift from film to digital, featuring interviews with the likes of Christopher Nolan, James Cameron and Martin Scorsese. Whatever these films were shot on, they're well worth your time.
What's your favorite movie of the summer? Let me know in the comments!