August at the Movies

A host of genres and highly anticipated films are coming out this month. A whopping ten films that fall somewhere in the science-fiction/fantasy/horror/action range (otherwise known as eligible for a Saturn Award nomination) are hitting theaters, and beyond that, the next films from visionaries David Cronenberg, Spike Lee and Marjane Satrapi.

Some of these films began showing off promotional trailers and photos over a year ago and many others have been killing on the festival circuit, while there are one or two you probably haven't heard of until now. It's a diverse month that could boast plenty of strong box office reports and critical praise -- and these movies may even get audiences in the theater twice a week. For cinephiles, at least, there's entirely too much coming out to merely pick five. But if you had to, which would be your choice each weekend? Educate yourself on what exactly August has to offer, and sound off below on which movies are on your to-see list. (Descriptions provided by IMDb.)

August Action

Total RecallTotal Recall

Director: Len Wiseman

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

Release date: August 3rd

Description: "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."

This remake of the 1990 sci-fi classic has been making its mark on the convention publicity scene for over a year, appearing at last year's Comic-Con, New York Comic-Con CinemaCon and this year's Comic-Con. Wiseman can be very hit and miss, with as many dedicated fans (have you seen the "Underworld" box office numbers?) as he has detractors (have you seen the "Underworld" Rotten Tomatoes scores?). However, all of the screened footage  has been pretty fantastic, nodding to the original not only in content but in execution, featuring more practical effects and sets than one might expect. Remember that 360 shot from the trailer of Colin Farrell taking down a room full of baddies? 100% practical. And for the precisely two of you that don't know, the story is based on a Philip K. Dick story like other popular sci-fi outings "Blade Runner," "Minority Report" and "The Adjustment Bureau." Still a Doubting Thomas? Bryan Cranston's in it, and we all know that even when a movie is horrible, Cranston's performance makes the 12 bucks worth it.

The Bourne Legacy

Director: Tony Gilroy

Stars: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton

Release date: August 10th

Description: "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."

This is the fourth installment of the "Bourne" franchise, and the first to be directed by regular Bourne screenwriter Tony Gilroy, whose previous directorial credits include 2009's "Duplicity" and 2007's "Michael Clayton." In "Legacy," we meet a new operative played by Jeremy Renner who's also entangled in a secret government program. Extended footage at CinemaCon showed  off intense action, a tight script and intriguing chemistry between Renner's Aaron Cross and Rachel Weisz' mysterious companion Marta. Expect the "Bourne Legacy" to be a strong contender for box office king of August releases.

The Expendables 2

Director: Simon West

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

Release date: August 17th

Description: "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."

The Expendables are reunited for more Expendabling! Although director West did not helm the first Expendables, he did direct the pilots for "Human Target" and "The Cape," so you know you're in for a treat. Okay, fine, he also directed "Con Air," so everyone calm down. Theory: Every human aware of "Expendables 2" has already decided whether or not he is seeing it and committed to that decision so intensely that nothing will change his or her mind.

Premium RushPremium Rush

Director: David Koepp

Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Jamie Chung, Aasif Mandvi, Dania Ramirez

Release date: August 24th

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

We knew that riding a bike in NYC is dangerous, but this is a new one. The always amazing Michael Shannon plays a bad cop (what else?) who chases bike messenger Joseph Gordon-Levitt through the streets of the Big Apple. If you've ever almost been run over by one of these guys, you'll understand just how formidable they can be. JGL is on a very hot streak with "The Dark Knight Rises" and the upcoming "Looper," which will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, so even if the premise is a little weird, there will definitely be some butts in seats. Koep wrote a host of action/thrillers like "Spider-Man," "Panic Room," "Carlito's Way" and "Jurassic Park" so this is familiar turf. Hopefully, it will be a better directorial outing for him than 2008's "Ghost Town."


Director: John Hillcoat

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

Release date: August 31st

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

After a mostly positive debut at Cannes, "Lawless" was picked up for US distribution by the Weinstein Company and screened for perhaps a more appropriate audience at Comic-Con, in association with Ain't it Cool News. The consensus there seems to be that while the film is one note and more junk food than awards bait, it's still a rousing, bloody shoot-'em-up and a fantastic time at the movies. That said, Hillcoat's Western "The Proposition," also with fellow Aussie Guy Pearce, had its fans  It's Hillcoat's first film since 2009's "The Road," although he did make a short film for the video game "Red Dead Redemption." The screenplay was adapted by formidable writer and musician Nick Cave from a novel by Matt Bondurant.

For The Family

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

Director: David Bowers

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

Release date: August 3rd

Description: " 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?"

There's a third one of these already? Well, when you're a family movie based on a popular kids series that makes a ton of money, no reason to stop making them for the rest of ever, right? The latest in the "Wimpy Kid" series is actually a combination of two books, "Dog Days" and "The Last Straw," and considering the two previous movies pulled in poor to mixed reviews, we can all start feeling bad for our friends with kids right about now.

The Odd Life of Timothy GreenThe Odd Life of Timothy Green

Director: Peter Hedges

Stars: Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Garner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ron Livingston, CJ Adams, Dianne Wiest, Common, David Morse

Release date: August 15th

Description: "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."

While the trailers for this is-it-as-schmaltzy-as-it-seems? family dramedy might be off-putting for some (okay, a lot of) moviegoers, it's important not to overlook writer/director Peter Hedges' body of work. Hedges made a splash with his screenplay for "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," was nominated for an Oscar alongside Chris and Paul Weitz for their adapted screenplay for "About a Boy," swept the festival circuit with "Pieces of April" starring Katie Holmes, and most recently wrote and directed the highly underrated "Dan in Real Life. Plus, "Timothy Green" is based on a story by Ahmet Zappa! Add in the mere presence of actor David Morse and things really start to look up. It's possible that "Green" is even hindered by its trailer and marketing, something fairly common with Disney properties these days. This fantasy film, which first debuted footage at D23 2011, may be a lot more than meets the eye.


Directors: Chris Butler and Sam Fell

Stars: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, John Goodman, Casey Affleck, Tucker Albrizzi, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Tempestt Bledsoe, Elaine Stritch

Release date: August 17th

Description: "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."

Chris Butler, an art department staple on films like "Corpse Bride" and "Coraline," co-directs this meticulously handcrafted stop motion film with BAFTA nominee Sam Fell ("Flushed Away," "The Tale of Despereaux"). "ParaNorman" had a strong showing at Comic-Con with a panel that actually delved into the film-making process, which, given the nature of the animation, is a fascinating topic. In addition to the "ParaNorman" characters appearing at various events across the country and a cool multimedia marketing campaign, the film is perfectly poised to hit kids, animation lovers and the genre crowd.

The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure

Director: Matthew Diamond

Stars: Cary Elwes, Christopher Lloyd, Jaime Pressly, Cloris Leachman, Chazz Palminteri, Toni Braxton

Release date: August 29th

Description: "It's Schluufy's birthday, and the Oogieloves (Goobie, Zoozie and Toofie), along with their friends J. Edgar, Windy Window and Ruffy, are organizing a party. (Shh! It's a secret.) Everything is going along just perfectly until J. Edgar trips and loses the last five magical balloons in all of Lovelyloveville..."

This inexplicable movie from the creators of "Teletubbies" is made for children, but it looks perhaps more frightening than any of the horror movies coming out alongside it. It stars a bunch of giant puppets. One of these puppets is named J. Edgar. And the film engages in "interactive storytelling" that involves the audience singing and dancing. With the lowest want-to-see rate on Rotten Tomatoes of any film on this list, an abysmal 19%, who knows what kind of records this bizarro-fest could set? Prediction: More adults on 'shrooms will see this than children will because no adult in their right mind would subject themselves, let alone their child, to something as horrific-looking as this film, which is opening not in August, by the way, but Oogust.

Get That Horror Fix

The Apparition

Director: Todd Lincoln

Stars: Ashley Greene, Sebastian Stan, Tom Felton, Julianna Guill

Release date: August 24th

Description: "A couple are haunted by a supernatural presence that is unleashed during a college experiment."

If you need that Sebastian Stan fix after "Political Animals" ends its run (it's okay, we're all in this together), then look no further than "The Apparition." The supernatural horror film starring "Twilight" actress Ashley Greene marks the feature length directorial debut of Todd Lincoln. Lincoln was also involved in an early draft of the "Hack/Slash" comic book adaptation, and, at one time, was attached to Fox's remake of "The Fly." The film seems to mix found footage with more straightforward story telling, and it combines a few different horror genres into one to create a story that maybe, just maybe, hasn't been told already. As the biggest horror release of August with a fairly unsettling trailer, expect the film to pull in a healthy audience opening weekend.

The PossessionThe Possession

Director: Ole Bornedal

Stars: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick, Madison Davenport, Matisyahu

Release date: August 31st

Description: "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."

This strange horror story is based on the story of the Dybbuk Box, which the current owner offered to send to the set, much to the terror of everyone involved. The film's trailer, which features a haunting soundtrack and plenty of Hebrew, is almost too terrifying to watch. A horror story based on Jewish lore may cater to a smaller audience than a teen ghost story like "The Apparition," but it also may be a hell of a lot more disturbing. "The Possession" has also got some horror cred with Sam Raimi on board as a producer for Ghost House Pictures and a decent cast, so who knows? (Plus, Matisyahu!)

Having A Laugh

The Campaign

Director: Jay Roach

Stars: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, Sarah Baker, Dylan McDermott, Katherine LaNasa, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd

Release date: August 10th

Description: "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."

This timely comedy, coming out a mere three months before the next presidential election, brought the house down at Comic-Con, and not even not necessarily because of the extended trailer, though the CG baby punch was right up there with Comic-Con's best footage. The twenty minutes they spent with the Comic-Con crowd was tear-inducingly funny, so ninety minutes must be at least a little bit funny, right? This late summer comedy slot often brings in solid box office numbers, but is the buzz strong enough to reach "Superbad" levels of success, or will it disappear in "30 Minutes or Less"?

Hit and Run

Directors: David Palmer and Dax Shepard

Stars: Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard, Bradley Cooper, Tom Arnold, Joy Bryant

Release date: August 24th

Description: "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."

Real-life couple Shepard and Kristen Bell star alongside Bradley Cooper sporting dreads in this under-the-radar comedy that features a whole lot of naked old people, talk of anal sex and vague racism in its red band trailer. The film is from the producers of "Wedding Crashers" but seems nowhere near as appealing, and considering the track record of Shepard, who also wrote and directed, it would be no surprise to see the film exit theaters as quietly as it seems to be entering, barring any giant marketing push over the next couple weeks.

For a Good Time, Call…

Director: Jamie Travis

Stars: Ari Graynor, Lauren Miller, Justin Long, Nia Vardalos, Mark Webber

Release date: August 31st

Description: "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."

Ari Graynor playing drunk is always a sign of a good thing, or at least a sign that she's about to the best thing in something mediocre (see: "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist," the off-Broadway debut of "Dog Sees God"), and that is exactly how the trailer for this indie begins. Ultimately, the material looks comedically strong in all its raunchy glory, and features a lead performance from co-writer Lauren Miller. (Her husband Seth Rogen makes a brief cameo.) The buzz out of Sundance was mostly positive, praising above all the chemistry between Miller and Graynor.

On the Dramatic Side

Hope SpringsHope Springs

Director: David Frankel

Stars: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell, Jean Smart, Ben Rappaport

Release date: August 10th

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

Following in the footsteps of romantic dramedies "Something's Gotta Give" and "It's Complicated," "Hope Springs" is aiming for a slightly older and oft-ignored demographic. This film was the clear winner at this year's CinemaCon, providing some insight into the faith movie theater owners have in the Meryl Streep/Tommy Lee Jones joint to bring in the big bucks. Plus, it doesn't hurt that director Frankel's credits include major successes "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Marley & Me."


Director: Salim Akil

Stars: Whitney Houston, Jordin Sparks, Carmen Ejogo, Tika Sumpter, Mike Epps, Derek Luke, Cee-Lo

Release date: August 17th

Description: "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."

This "Dreamgirls"-like drama starring "American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks is notable primary for featuring Whitney Houston's final acting performance. The strong supporting cast is promising, as is screenwriter Mara Brock Akil ("The Game," "Girlfriends") but can a movie with a singer with no proven acting chops in the lead role really be any good? We all remember "Glitter," right? Then again, "American Idol" alum Jennifer Hudson snagged an Oscar for her performance in "Dreamgirls."

Cream of the Indie Crop

Celeste and Jesse Forever

Director: Lee Toland Krieger

Stars: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Ari Graynor, Eric Christian Olsen, Elijah Wood, Chris Messina, Emma Roberts

Release date: August 3rd

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

After garnering loads of fans at Sundance and LA Film Fest, "Celeste and Jesse Forever" finally hits theaters this week. This sad, sweet, authentic tale about what happens when love just isn't enough is the latest entry in the new and very welcome genre of movies that are both funny and romantic, but not romantic comedies per se (see: "500 Days of Summer," "Ruby Sparks"). Anyone who has experienced moving on from a great love will find something to identify with in this lovely piece, which is packed with solid performances and stand-out work from co-writer Rashida Jones. Andy Samberg's low-key charm as Jesse may not work for everyone, but the film itself is strong enough to work whether you find yourself longing for him alongside Jones' Celeste or not.

Red Hook Summer

Director: Spike Lee

Stars: Jules Brown, Clarke Peters, Toni Lysaith

Release date: August 10th

Description: "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."

Every intellectual in the country will be rolling out opening weekend to see Spike Lee's latest in lieu of raunchy comedies, romances or action thrillers, so it should bring in a stellar per-screen amount. This long-awaited drama, which received mixed reviews at Sundance, is the sixth in Spike Lee's "Chronicles of Brooklyn" series. It also marks the first time Lee is acting in one of his films since 1999's "Summer of Sam." Lee appears briefly as Mookie, the main character in 1989's "Do the Right Thing." "Red Hook Summer" has a cast of mostly unknown actors, although fans of "The Wire" will spot some familiar faces.


Director: David Cronenberg

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

Release date: August 17th

Description: "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."

David Cronenberg's newest film, which the director adapted from the Don DeLillo novel of the same name, finally hits theaters after being the talk of Cannes earlier this year. The film stars Robert Pattinson in a role that, according to word on the street, will finally get him out of his "Twilight" pigeonhole, something that he fumbled with in past attempts like "Water for Elephants" and "Bel Ami." Reviews may be mixed, but the talky Wall Street film may turn out to be a lot more important than we expect.

Chicken with Plums

Directors: Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi

Stars: Mathieu Amalric, Maria de Medeiros, Golshifteh Farahani, Chiara Mastroianni, Jamel Debbouze, Isabella Rossellini, Edouard Baer

Release date: August 17th

Description: "Nasser-Ali, a talented musician, loses the will to live after his wife breaks his beloved violin during an argument. He searches for a replacement, and finding none that sounds quite the same, he vows to die. Eight days later, he does. This is the story of his last week of life, where we see flashbacks and flash forwards of his previous life and his children's futures. As we see his life, we realize exactly why he chose to end it and the profundity of this choice."

Although it's mostly live action, "Chicken with Plums" does have the same whimsy one would expect from the directors of "Persepolis." A sweet and melancholy fairy tale, "Chicken with Plums" has received positive reviews from TIFF, Venice and Tribeca that suggest that this story is every bit as wonderful as its predecessor. Besides its gorgeous direction, animation and production design, it also features a strong cast and a beautiful soundtrack. It also marks Amalric's second movie release on one month.

Robot and Frank

Director: Jake Schreier

Stars: Frank Langella, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, Susan Sarandon, Peter Sarsgaard, Jeremy Strong

Release date: August 24th

Description: "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."

"Robot and Frank" is a wonderful debut for Schreier and one of many films opening in August after spending the first part of the year garnering solid reviews at festivals around the country. The film, which features an outstanding performance from Frank Langella as Frank, is a smart indie flick that uses science fiction in a clever, minimalist way, proving that tropes and catalysts rather than special effects are where the value lies in sci-fi. It's a lovely and poignant piece of filmmaking.

Sleepwalk with Me

Director: Mike Birbiglia and Seth Barrish

Stars: Mike Birbiglia, Lauren Ambrose, Carol Kane, James Rebhorn, Ira Glass

Release date: August 24th

Description: "A burgeoning stand-up comedian struggles with the stress of a stalled career, a stale relationship, and the wild spurts of severe sleepwalking he is desperate to ignore."

From its roots as a one-man Broadway show and bestselling book, an impressive cast made up of comedians and indie actors, Ira Glass as a co-producer, to its Sundance award for "Best of Next!", pretty much everything about "Sleepwalk with Me" screams modern intelligentsia. Reviews out of every festival from SXSW to Provincetown to Just for Laughs have been stellar, landing the film a solid 100% on Rotten Tomatoes - for now, at least.

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