Late summer is an odd time in the moviegoing calendar, when the last gasps of blockbuster season share cineplex marquees with left-of-center indies and slightly off-beat studio projects. August brings a varied slate of new releases, from a fantastical children’s stop-motion wonder to a true story dramatized as a wartime bro-out to a comedy showcase for the cream of the sitcom crop. Pretty much every taste can find something worth investigating this month, so read on for a full briefing on what’s to come:
Suicide Squad (8/5)
It’s good to be bad in DC’s wild-card release about a group of supervillains collared by a no-nonsense government handler (Viola Davis) and forced into black-ops crimefighting work. Early word is that Margot Robbie is a blast as the screw-loose hellraiser Harley Quinn, and she’s joined in the intriguing cast by Will Smith, Joel Kinnaman, Cara Delevigne, and Jared Leto giving his, shall we say, idiosyncratic take on the Joker. The early trailers showed trace amounts of levity in this demented spin on the superhero template, which could be a welcome change of pace for fans after the joyless, po-faced Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Join the movement: Make DC Movies Fun Again.
An assortment of faces from just about every good sitcom in the last five years get their Big Chill on in this Sundance-feted indie comedy. Josh (Silicon Valley‘s Thomas Middleditch) won’t let his fiancée abandoning him cancel his bachelor party, and so he collects his pals Greg (Brett Gelman), Adam (Listen Up Philip director Alex Ross Perry), Eric (Nick Kroll) and Ari (Adam Pally of Happy Endings fame) for a leisurely, drug-fueled weekend getaway. Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie, Jenny Slate, Jake Johnson, and Lauren Graham round out the stellar cast in this low-key. all-star ensemble piece.
Pete’s Dragon (8/12)
The 1977 original combined live-action, animation and a handful of jaunty tunes for a off-beat childhood staple; Ain’t Them Bodies Saints director David Lowery apparently ditched the songs entirely and swapped the clipped-out cartoons for smoothly integrated CGI in his earthy, naturalistic reimagining of the Disney film. Oakes Fegley takes up the mantle of Pete, with Bryce Dallas Howard, Karl Urban, Wes Bentley, and Robert Redford portraying the adults that can’t possibly understand the primal bond between a boy and his dragon. Expect a more dialed-down, gentle vibe than most of Disney’s recent output.
Sausage Party (8/12)
Audiences and critics at South by Southwest were split down the middle over this Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg-scripted “Toy Story, but with foulmouthed food” animated raunchcom about groceries staging a revolution in the produce aisle when they find out what awaits them in the world outside the whooshing doors. But with a stable of vocal talent including Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Michael Cera, James Franco, and Danny McBride, the pedigree’s all there. Your appreciation of the middle-school sexual innuendo in the title should be a good litmus test.
Hell or High Water (limited release 8/12, nationwide 8/19)
David McKenzie’s latest slow-burn action picture uses the story of a pair of bank robber brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster, both surprisingly great) and the lawmen hunting them down (Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham) to comment on the rural fallout of America’s economic crisis. In this morally compromised Texas, crime is a symptom of a changing, hostile world that has no use for the salt-of-the-earth types trying to carve out a living for themselves. Keenly attuned to its time and place (McKenzie even gets the brand of beer the characters drink right), this thriller pairs cops-and-criminals brawn with brain.
Kubo and the Two Strings (8/19)
From Laika, the stop-motion funhouse behind Coraline and Frankenweenie, comes the mystical new fable of a Japanese boy and his shamisen. Young Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson) uses the stringed instrument like a magic talisman while searching for his father’s armor, conjuring beautiful swarms of origami birds and tiny warriors to aid him in his battle against monsters. Featuring the vocal stylings of Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, and Ralph Fiennes, this magical-realist fantasy is expected to uphold the studio’s spotless track record. And in no other film this summer will you find Matthew McConaughey playing a warrior/gigantic beetle.
War Dogs (8/19)
In 2007, a pair of twentysomething slackers named David Packouz and Efraim Diveroli received a check from the federal government for $300 million. All they had to do to square up was provide the American military with a gigantic shipment of weaponry procured semi-legally from Afghanistan. Miles Teller and Jonah Hill take on the two boys, in over their head but blinded by green, in this comedic dramatization of the too-bizarre-to-be-fake story. With The Hangover director Todd Phillips on board, viewers can expect bro-humor, but the film also takes a walleyed look at America’s longest, messiest war.
Morris from America (8/19)
Putting the “short” back in ‘shorty,’ aspiring pint-size rapper Morris (newcomer Markees Christmas) feels out of place. An American lost in his new German school and a hip-hop-head in an age of EDM, he’s a misfit several times over. Chad Hartigan’s crowd-pleasing coming-of-age tale follows the precocious MC as he uses his rhymes to make a name for himself, get the girl, and earn himself a spot alongisde Tupac and Biggie. An added bonus: Craig Robinson as Morris’ father Curtis, in a performance that won raves from audiences at Sundance.
Hands of Stone (8/26)
Edgar Ramirez (Carlos) takes a shot at redemption in this athletic drama based on the life and times of lightweight champion Roberto Durán. An overnight sensation in the boxing world, Durán laid out everyone from Jack Johnson to Sugar Ray Leonard over a career spanning five decades; portraying his longtime trainer Ray Arce is one-time raging bull Robert De Niro. Together, they’ll bring the requisite leathery toughness to this chronicle of an extraordinary fighter that many still consider to be one of the greatest to have ever laced up the gloves.
Don’t Breathe (8/26)
Uruguayan-born horror upstart Fede Alvarez kept it simple for his second feature-length project: A trio of thieves (Jane Levy, Daniel Zovatto, and Dylan Minnette) break into the home of a local rich blind guy (Stephen Lang, the merciless space Marine from Avatar). The tables turn, however, when they discover he’s a serial killer with batlike hearing. Before you can say … well, nothing, because talking will get you killed, they’re frantically trying to escape with their lives, all in perfect silence. It’s a hell of a concept for a low-budget indie chiller, and so everything hangs on Alvarez and his no-name cast’s execution. Pun intended.