The Coming Thing: August Movie Previews
So, wasn’t July exciting? We had a killer robot from the future return to life, a man who couldn’t die, and a man who could shrink, and also a woman who couldn’t marry but could drink. The summer blockbuster season is coming to a close and now we have to pay the piper: a month full of films that waited for the hits to be played out before plunging into the pool. We have a poor-man’s James Bond, a couple of animated features that don’t make a whole lot of sense, a super hero team that really desperately needs a rebound, and disturbing amount of films about survivors of sexual assault. At least we also have a biopic about the fathers of gangsta rap to restore our faith in humanity!
Director: Josh Trank. Studio: Fox. Starring: Low Expectations. Rated: Unrated.
There are Russian KGB agents with more information online than this movie. The standard boiler-plate is that four youngsters are given strange powers after a botched science experiment involving inter-dimensional travel and are thrust into the roles of heroes when Dr. Doom comes knocking. Beyond that, nothing much is being said about this flick due to a ridiculously tight embargo. That, my friends, is never a good thing.
Neil’s Take: See it…after reading our review. You know what, everyone thinks this is going to suck. Review embargoes = suck. Untested cast = suck. No major plot synopsis prior to launch = suck. But…I’m kinda on board. The first couple trailers had me strangely interested, and several blockbusters that should have sucked this year have turned out to be fun. I think this may be fun, despite its dark tones and ominous lack of transparency. Hey, it can’t be worse than the night-club scene in F4: Rise of the Silver Surfer.
Erik’s Take: See It. What are the odds that F4 makes the trifecta of suck? I’d say slim with Marvel being involved in this project. I love the casting of the talented Michael B. Jordan as the Human torch, and despite the pressure to use the term “slam dunk”, I’m predicting F4 will clobber the competition.
Director: Joel Edgerton. Studio: STX. Starring: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall. Rated: R.
The past comes back to haunt a successful yuppie and his perfect life in the form of an old school acquaintance. The mysterious man from the past starts leaving cryptic gifts for the unlucky couple, ultimately revealing a shocking crime from their shared history.
Neil’s Take: Rent it. The characters in this film feel dynamic and the dialogue seems good, but the premise is flimsy and seems to rely too much on horror movies you’ve seen a dozen times. The plot feels a bit recycled from better films like Old Boy, but the creep factor and visual flair feels pretty believable. The studio and director are both extremely green, and that seems to a show in the predictable nature of the scares and the hokey masked killer conceits.
Erik’s Take: Netflix it. Going to the theater to watch a thriller/horror is a lot like going to McDonald’s to try their new menu. You think you want to go, but when you do you realize it tastes just like everything else they made and you feel like crap. You are better served to make something at home.
Ricki and the Flash
Director: Jonathan Demme. Studio: Tristar. Starring: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline. Rated: PG-13.
Pursuing a modestly successful career in music has caused Ricki (Meryl Streep) to miss out on the experience of having a family. She is divorced, alienated from her children, and despised by her larger family. When tragedy strikes in her daughter’s life, she is given one last chance to make the same connection to her family that she has managed to make with audiences of her live performances.
Neil’s Take: Skip it. The performances look like they’re going to be the redeeming factor in this film, but you can only do so much with a tired premise. The second chance genre is pretty formulaic, especially since the message is always “no matter how you fucked up, just keep doing that thing, harder, and eventually you won’t be a fuck up.” It’s going to take a spectacular cast to make that seem fresh, which this film fortunately has, but it just seems like too much work to make it worthwhile.
Erik’s Take: Skip it. I am not sure if I had a seizure during the 2 minutes and 31 seconds it took to play the trailer of if I fell asleep, but it has happened twice in a row now and I’m not tempting fate a third time.
Shaun the Sheep
Director: Richard Starzak. Studio: Lionsgate. Starring: Cotton balls, play-doh. Rated: PG.
Shaun is a sheep, and the head of his flock. He pretty much has life where he wants it: he’s always one step ahead of the farmer and his sheep-dog, and can do whatever he likes. Unfortunately, one day his constant pranks go wrong and the farmer gets accidentally bundled off to the big city. Flock and sheep-dog in tow, Shaun has to brave the big city and try to find his missing master before the terrors of city life ruin the farms idyllic pattern.
Neil’s Take: See It…if you’ve got kids. From the makers of Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep has a distinct look, fun (if predictable) story, and a fair amount of adult humor smuggled in to keep you entertained while the wee ones laugh at all the poop jokes.
Erik’s Take: See It. You don’t need kids to see it as Shaun the Sheep has enough charm and clever jokes to entertain the adult crowd. If you aren’t sure if this is your cup of tea you can check out the TV episodes to test the waters first.
Director: Keith Miller Studio: Up the Street Films. Starring: James ‘Primo’ Grant Rated: R
James “Primo” Grant (an actual long-time gang member) plays a long-time gang member and family man in Brooklyn who is teaching the next generation of hustlers how to make a living, stay living, and keep your family separate from your business.
The hook to Five Star, besides the authenticity of Primo’s character, is that the film dwells heavily on the home lives of gang members, giving audiences a look at these type of characters that is rarely, if ever, presented. Instead of just sensational violence or a melodramatic riff on “life in the game,” Five Star is more concerned with how gang life is handled by individuals when they’re not on the street. Hopefully, this will be a film to change perceptions and start dialogues.
Neil’s Take: See it. We like our gangsters in only two flavors: glorified or demonized. It will be interesting to see them as just people trying to make it through the day.
Erik’s Take: See it! The trailer gave me goosebumps. The authenticity of this film stands out for me, and paints a portrait of the economical trap that “Primo” exists in, and how he perpetuate the cycle by teaching another fatherless child the only way how he knows how to be successful. Five Star looks like a great snapshot into the ghetto mindset and realities.
As a young child, Libby Day (Charlize Theron) barely survived the brutal murder of her family, supposedly at the hands of her troubled teenage brother. Decades later, a group that specializes in solving bizarre crimes seeks her out with the news that her brother may not have been the murderer. Now she has to confront her demons, and her brother on death row, in order to discover the truth.
Neil’s Take: Rent it. An interesting premise with a strong leading actress, the trailer just misses giving a “must see” vibe. There are aspects of the story that seem to be playing more towards a standard horror thriller instead of a mystery thriller, and the rest of the cast is a bit green compared to Ms. Theron. Catch it on a discount.
Erik’s Take: Skip it. The premise is OK, but Dark Places looks to be better suited as a TV show. The kill club? Come on…
The Man from U.N.C.L.E
Director: Guy Ritchie. Studio: Warner Bros. Starring: Henry Cavill Rated: PG-13
Henry Cavill plays a dashing undercover agent of the James Bond ilk, operating during the height of the cold war. When a threat larger than US/Soviet aggression rears its head, he must team up with a KGB agent who hates his guts in order to get to the bottom of the mysterious situation.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. felt like a bit of stretch when announced last year. Henry Cavill still needs to go a long way to convince that he is more than a pretty face with a stomach you could do your laundry on. The trailer shows a much more focused project that leans heavily on the rogue charm and campier antics of Roger Moore when he was the face of 007, and recalls the definite feel of those good old cold war spy action flicks. The action is nonstop, but looks mixed: the vehicular mayhem is eye-popping, but the fight scenes look a bit sloppy compared to Daniel Craig or Matt Damon.
Neil’s Take: Rent it. While the action begs to be seen on the big screen, the plot feels a bit corn-ball and this franchise is definitely unproven.
Erik’s Take: Rent it. Nothing really exciting here, I never even knew this was a TV show..
Straight Outta Compton
Witness the rise and fall of the progenitors of gangsta rap: N.W.A. Eazy, Dre, Cube, Ren and Yella were young men who took the burgeoning hip-hop scene by storm, shocking many with their raw and revolutionary blend of tight beats, explicit lyrics, and a style that epitomized the experiences of gang and street life in L.A. From an insurgent group of young musicians, through their rise in both popularity and infamy, to their many fights with authority and censorship, and their ultimate dissolution due to internal conflicts, Straight Outta Compton explores the complex situations that catapulted the group to stardom and made gangsta rap into a nationally recognized phenomenon.
Neil’s Take: See It. Looks like a hard-hitting musical biopic with a great director and tons of swagger. Not to be missed.
Erik’s Take: See It, and see it again. Probably one of the most important groups in music history finally has their own biopic. Casting seems on point and I absolutely love Paul Giamatti as Jerry Heller. This is truly a riveting story, don’t miss it.
Director: Christian Cantamessa Studio: Starring: Rated: PG-13
A young loner finds solace in the one activity he excels at: table soccer. When his skills at the table helps him to overcome the town bully and win friendship, it seems like all of his troubles are solved…
Fast forward a decade, the life hasn’t much changed for our hero. He still has his friends, he still lives a pretty low-key life in his home town, and he still loves to play Foosball. Unfortunately, his old rival has not been idle, and returns to town to even the score. Rich, handsome, and sporting the deed to THE ENTIRE TOWN! the one time bully is set to destroy our hero’s life, unless he can somehow manage to win a preposterous soccer match against a team of world-wide elite players. When his old table soccer figures mysteriously come to life, it turns out he may just have the team he needs to save the town.
Neil’s Take: Skip it. What the flying hell is this movie even about? I typed that entire summary of the film, watched the trailer twice, and even I can’t fathom how this absolutely cockamamie story got made into an animated movie. Have we literally run out of “come from behind sports movie” plots that we needed to create one about 6 inch tall animate Foosball players? Who was smoking what at the studio that said to give this one a roll?!
Erik’s Take:Burn it with fire. Unless you are European.
In the not too distant future, humanity has fouled up the atmosphere to such a monumental degree that the entirety of the survivors live in suspended animation deep below the surface. Every few months, two technicians are revived to test the air and see if human kind is able to go back up topside. With the limited reserves of breathable oxygen, the two are only given a brief window to get their tests done before being put back to cryo-sleep. A circuit malfunction causes a small fire…leaving the pair with nearly no oxygen left and only one pop left to hybernate in. Rather than snuggle up real tight for the foreseeable future, our heroes attempt to race the clock in order to repair the damage and live to sleep another day.
Neil’s Take: See it (which, since its releasing on VOD means Rent it.) I love me some dystopian Sci Fi, and Air looks like it has a tense plot, good pacing, and an excellent cast (seriously, can Djimon Hounsou be in everything from now on? Please?) I’m excited about this project.
Erik’s Take: See it. Stage 6 films has been on a roll as of late with the Raid series, Her, and Insidious 2 & 3. Air appears to be well poised to be another cult hit for all the reasons Neil stated above, and for 4 bucks can you really go wrong?
Return to Sender
After a brutal sexual assault, Rosamund Pike has been unable to put back together the pieces of her life. As a last attempt at closure, she begins to correspond via letters to the man who raped her, who is currently serving a lengthy sentence in prison. Things change drastically when the rapist is given an early parole and takes their correspondence as an invitation to enter the personal life of the woman who he attacked all those years ago. It may turn out that this outcome is not entirely to the woman’s detriment as it allows her to exact vengeance…
Neil’s Take: Netflix it. I like Rosamund Pike, and the horror/thriller motif of a victim turning the tables on her attacker is one that is often interesting, if done well, or at least cathartically entertaining if just done for a gory spectacle. I’d need to see more from this film to elevate it to a VOD rental instead of giving it six months to hit your inbox for free.
Erik’s Take: Netflix it. This story has been done before and the trendiness of rape revenge fantasies as of late is kind of sickening. Return To Sender does have an excellent cast that is why I am cautiously optimistic that it’ll be worth a freebie viewing.
A slacker discovers that he may be a highly trained sleeper agent when a robbery at his all-night convenience store ends with him brutally murdering the three men who attack him. Along with his equally stoned-out girlfriend, he must now evade the police, the federal government, and a shadowy organization that may be behind his lethal brain-washing.
Neil’s Take: Burn it with fire. A Bourne Identity for losers, this might have rated a rental except for the cast. Jessie Eisenberg is only mildly entertaining in small doses, and I would rather gargle glass than watch Kristen Stewart “act.” No thank you. Also, can we please legalize pot so we can stop pretending that stoners are interesting counter-culture figures?
Erik’s Take: Rent it. I am a bit tired of Jessie Eisenberg being in every movie these days, but the tongue in cheek nature of American Ultra lends itself to his style as did Zombieland. I’m banking that there will be enough laughs and mindless fun to make American Ultra worthy of a rental.
Another sleeper agent with murderous skills, Agent 47 does not need high potency weed to awaken his killer instincts, just his trusty silverballers pistols and a BIC razor to keep his dome perfectly shiny. Genetically engineered to be the perfect assassin, now Agent 47 is turning his skills against the company that holds his DNA before they can breed an army of killers that will make him obsolete.
Neil’s Take: See It. The quality of the action set-pieces shown in the trailer really impressed me. The subplot of a rogue cop and the daughter of the man who created Agent 47 racing to outwit the killer gives this film a definite Terminator 2 vibe, which is refreshing, because it would be nice if the mass murderer was the bad guy instead of the hero for once. The fact that this is not only a video game adaptation, but the second adaptation after the disastrous Hitman (2007) cratered at the box office, gives me pause, though. Be safe and catch this on a bargain matinee.
Erik’s Take: Skip it. It could be a fun time for sure, but Hitman: Agent 47 certainly has flaws and clearly lacks substance. Much like a Tinder date, It will get you excited but ultimately disappoint. You will hate yourself in the morning.
Some killers are not created, they are simply born evil. The Boy tells the story of a very young sociopath whose emotionally crippled father fails to spot the warning signs. As the 9 year-old child begins to increasingly act out his deadly fascinations, the appearance of a mysterious stranger could be the spark that ignites a storm of murder and depravity.
Neil’s Take: See It. Holy creepy as all hell Batman, The Boy looks positively terrifying. Mirroring the broken cognition of the young fiend, the film has skewed visuals, jarring audio, and a thoroughly malevolent atmosphere. Just avoid any birthday parties after watching, because if you see a toddler with a cake knife, you’re going to lose your shit. And probably miss having some of the cake.
Erik’s Take: See It. Creepy as shit. I have an inherent dislike of small children, and The Boy drives it home. I will be throwing holy water in the faces of any child under 8 for the foreseeable future. (Side note: Type in The Boy in your Google images search… Yeah lots of dudes in underwear..)
This film explores the life and legacy of Evel Knievel, the flying dare-devil and rogue entertainer who broke as many laws as he did bones. Celebrating his incredible showmanship while exploring the darker aspects of his life and career, Being Evel is at once a tribute and a cautionary tale.
Neil’s Take: Netflix it. Another interesting movie that just seems better suited to the small screen. Plus, I trust the guys who made Bad Grandpa about as far as I can throw them over a stack of school buses.
Erik’s Take: Netflix it. Evel may be worth a rental as it does look very interesting, but I’ll wait on the Cinemascore and buzz on this film before throwing down any cash.
A father approaches a special investigator and admits to committing a heinous sexual assault against his daughter…which he cannot remember doing. In order to learn the truth, the agent (Ethan Hawke) must use hypnotic regression on the victim (Emma Watson) in order to understand the nature of the crime. Her induced testimony creates a story of violence and Satanic worship that threatens the lives of all who hear it.
Neil’s Take: Skip it. An interesting plot that takes a quick detour into crack-pot science and mundane Satanism. I just called Satanism mundane, and that is indeed new ground I’ve broken here at Deluxe Video. Thank you, Regression, its just too bad that you seem like a silly horror thriller pretending to be super serious.
Erik’s Take: Skip it. Regression manages to rattle off every thriller cliche in the book during the trailer, expect more of the same.
After the infamous events of Sinister 1, a young mother moves into a haunted house with her twin sons. The house is currently occupied by a Babylonian murder god who tries to convince one of the sons to murder his family. It is revealed that a whole cult of children who have followed the demons orders have access to the house, and they show their chosen recruit footage of the murders they themselves committed in service to the death god in order to convince him to join their deadly cabal.
Neil’s Take: Rent it. This looks like another Children of the Corn movie…but it also looks like one of the best Children of the Corn movies. Creepy kids have a society that murders outsiders, yet they always recruit the children of the victims to grow the cult. I get it, kids are creepy. At least this film has some really decent visuals and is at least trying to find a novel excuse to use found footage for the bazillionth time.
Erik’s Take: Netflix it. Another retread, but the visual flair is worth a look.
We Are Your Friends
Just outside of Hollywood resides the lost tribes of stardom: young wannabes who can’t afford to chase their dreams of instant fame and fortune in L.A. To make ends meet, on of those up-and-never comers has become a semi-noticed DJ. When a talent scout spots him and takes him under his wing, he may just finally realize his dreams of getting people to dance while wasted. Like, lots of people. More than he currently does.
Neil’s Take: Burn it with fire. A film that flirts with the dangers of obsessing over fame and fortune but instead decides to become an asinine rags to riches story of the basest sort. Yes kids, keep mixing club music, because that is a totally worthwhile endeavor with a lot of growth potential. Maybe you can one day be a hot stud who gets with all of the prettiest celebrities by mixing the sounds of a staple gun with a generic back-beat, and live a fantasy life of never-ending parties. That is totally going to happen.
Erik’s Take: Burn it with fire. The whole premise of this film makes me ill, then add a heaping dose of Zac Efron = projectile vomiting. I’m not so jaded that I can’t enjoy a young against all odds, struggling to achieve your dreams type of film.. Staight Outta Compton for instance.. It’s the fact that these are soft, whiny Beverly Hills brats. Now if they were dropped in the middle of Compton I’d gladly pay the price of admission to see that.
Digging for Fire
The growing tension between a young married couple leads to a weekend apart where each spends the down time with their circle of friends. While the young wife gains solace from her friends and rekindles her sense of desirability after an encounter with a mysterious man, the young husband falls into an obsession over two random bits of junk he finds buried in the hills: a gun and a piece of bone. Recruiting his friends to help him unearth a potentially exciting discovery, he begins to see that he is just avoiding having to grow up, and a weekend with his boys help to make clear that he can’t push away his responsibilities forever.
Neil’s Take: Netflix it. Looks fun and mildly insightful, and as a bonus, includes perspectives and stories that encompass both sexes. Feels a touch childish, but seems self-aware enough to address this failing and to work it into a bonus instead of a detriment. All said though, doesn’t seem Earth shattering enough to rush to catch it before it becomes more widely (and cheaply) available.
Erik’s Take: Rent It. I love character studies, and Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies was mildly entertaining. With a talented cast, Digging For Fire could surprise.