Ah, the dog-days month of summer moviegoing! This August is pretty light on potential blockbusters (save a certain long-awaited fantasy-Western by one Stephen King), leaving room for a number of counter-programming indie curios worth investigating. Robert Pattinson, Channing Tatum and Aubrey Plaza all do some major-league acting in three respective, remarkably offbeat films; Kathryn Bigelow zeroes in on some historical racial tensions and riots in the 1960s Motor City; and a documentary reckons with more recent ones in Ferguson, Missouri. Here’s what you need to see this month.
Beach Rats (Aug. 25th)
Frankie (Harris Dickinson) is young, ripped and closeted; he’s also prone to messaging older men online and cruising his local boardwalk to dabble in sex work. What happens if his lunkhead Coney Island buddies and his girlfriend find out? Can he reconcile his desires with how he’s supposed to act in his dude-centric environment. A sleeper hit at this year’s Sundance, Eliza Hittman’s sensitive coming-of-age/coming-out story turns its lo-fi character study into a smeary, woozy indie gem. And Dickinson feels like a star in the making from frame one.
Crown Heights (Aug. 25th)
The preternaturally talented and current contender for the hardest working man in showbiz (under-30 division) Lakeith Stanfield stars in this dramatization of a This American Life podcast about one man’s lifelong quest to prove his wrongly imprisoned friend’s innocence. The Atlanta star plays Colin Warner, a Brooklynite incarcerated for two decades for a crime he did not commit; former football player Nnamdi Asomugha is his devoted defender. Prepare to leave the theater both uplifted and enraged.
The Dark Tower (Aug. 4th)
After innumerable production delays, personnel changes and release date switch-ups, it’s a testament to sheer willpower that this Stephen King adaptation exists at all. But the Western-inflected fantasy is finally here, in all its gunslinging glory. A young boy tumbles into a nether-dimension known as Mid-World, where he falls in with desperado hero Roland Deschain (Idris Elba). The pair embark upon a quest to protect a mysterious, powerful structure securing the fabric of reality itself; a bad-hombre sorcerer known as The Man in Black (a decidedly less-chill-than-usual Matthew McConaughey) has other, much more evil plans in mind. The sizable cult surrounding this densely mythologized series of novels have been patient long enough. It’s time to see whether their faith will be rewarded.
Detroit (Opens wide on Aug. 4th)
As national racial tensions threaten to boil over at any given moment, Kathryn Bigelow returns to toss a stick of dynamite into the powder keg. It’s the summer of 1967, the 12th Street riots are in full effect and the National Guard occupy the streets of Detroit. At the Motor City’s Algiers Motel, police officers respond to a call that shots have been fired. By the end of the night, three black men are dead; nine more occupants have been tortured, beaten and interrogated by cops; and the morality of everyone involved has been permanently compromised. The Oscar-winning filmmaker chronicles the events of that fateful night with the queasy inevitability of a horror film, as well as collapsing the distance between yesterday’s atrocities and today’s headlines.
The Glass Castle (Aug. 11th)
Indie director Destin Daniel Cretton launched Brie Larson’s big-screen career by casting her as a sensitive group home supervisor in 2013’s Short Term 12. Now that she’s an Oscar-approved star, the actress is returning the favor by lending her wattage to his adaptation of Jeannette Walls’ best-selling memoir. Part of the film centers on the future New York columnist’s tumultuous childhood with her alcoholic father (Woody Harrelson) and unorthodox mother (Naomi Watts); the other part centers on the adult Walls finding her folks in dire straits. Ten thousand book clubs can’t be wrong, right?
Good Time (Aug. 11th)
Bleached-blonde hoodlum Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) is scrambling to put together $10,000 over the course of one long, scuzzy night so he can spring his brother from Riker’s after a bank robbery. Early ads for this dirty wonder from New York’s own Joshua and Ben Safdie dare to compare the former Twilight star to Mean Streets-era Robert De Niro; incredibly, he’s good enough to follow through on the self-generated hype. Trust us when we say this will scratch your gritty outer-borough crime-thriller itch.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard (Aug.18th)
When one of the world’s deadliest contract killers gets a summons to testify at the International Court of Justice, he instantly shoots to the top of the organized-crime community’s most wanted list. The heat is turned up a little too high for comfort, however, so he hires a protection agent — who, as the best in the business, happens to also be his sworn enemy. Samuel L. Jackson plays the gun-for-hire and Ryan Reynolds steps in as his paid muscle in this odd couple action-comedy; director Patrick Hughes will have to bust out all the tricks he picked up helming The Expendables 3 for this destructive, demented buddy flick.
Ingrid Goes West (Aug. 11th)
Observing friends’ seemingly perfect lives from afar via Instagram can drive anyone crazy – Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) just takes it harder than most. Following a psychotic break and surprise cash windfall, she blazes a path for California to methodically befriend a photogenic social-media maven (Elizabeth Olsen). Soon, she’s pining to wear her new bestie’s carefully curated existence like a designer infinity scarf. This is what splitting the difference between a dark comedy and an unsettling character study looks like; as for Plaza, you get to watch her brutally deconstruct the awkward, misfit girl-type that first made her famous.
Logan Lucky (Aug. 18th)
The one true Michael Jordan of cinema, Steven Soderbergh has emerged from retirement (a break from features during which he merely directed two seasons of a TV show, executive-produced another based on a film of his and shot Magic Mike XXL) with a laid-back caper flick. Channing Tatum is the newly unemployed miner with a scheme to fleece the Charlotte Motor Speedway; Adam Driver is his soft-spoken one-handed brother; Riley Keough is their speed-demon getaway driver sister; and Daniel Craig is the snippy demolitions expert they spring from the clink. This modestly scaled Ocean’s Eleven riff goes down as easy as the first swig of a cold beer in a North Carolina summer.
Whose Streets? (Aug. 11th)
Filmmakers Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis had no interest in the hear-both-sides approach for their documentary about Mike Brown’s murder at the hands of Ferguson, Missouri’s police department. This is nonfiction film as protest, a desperate plea for an end to the violence from a community that’s lost too many members. The cameras follow the Black Lives Matter protestors in their hectic, heartrending reaction to Brown’s death, as a militarized police force turns Ferguson into a war zone. It’s a time-capsule document of a racial tipping point.