August movie releases are typically pretty mild, signaling the end of yet another summer blockbuster season. However, this year has been interesting and unpredictable. July’s box office was down quite a bit from last year’s, should-be smash hits underperformed, and only international sales have kept the studios from entirely freaking out. Now this weekend, despite starting off what is typically the so-so final month of summer, features one the year’s most entertaining films yet.
As you probably suspected, I’m referring to Marvel’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy‘. Like many viewers, when this film was announced, I rolled my eyes a little. Who wants to see a gun-wielding CG raccoon and a band of misfit characters nobody’s ever heard of tromping through space? Not me. Having burned out on Marvel, I truly wanted nothing to do with it – that is, until Disney showed 17 minutes of ‘Guardians’ on IMAX screens last month. After seeing that surprisingly spoiler-free segment, I had to eat my words. It won me over. One minute I loathed it, 17 minutes later I loved it. Walking into the press screening of the full film this week, my expectations could only have been higher if I was walking into ‘Interstellar’ (or, for that matter, any other Christopher Nolan film). I’m happy to say that my high expectations were met.
As one of the brand’s lesser-known series amongst non-geeks, I knew nothing of the Guardians. James Gunn’s adaptation stars Chris Pratt as intergalactic thief Peter Quill. Abducted from Earth as young boy, Quill is a loner. With no friends, no family and no allies, when he unknowingly becomes tangled in the web of one of the most relentless and powerful villains in the galaxy, he and a band of similar losers (Zoe Saldana, some WWE wrestler and the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel) come together to protect everything and everyone in their galaxy. For the first time in a Disney/Marvel movie, expect swearing, obscene gestures and a few extremely crude sexual innuendos and references. Full of action, well-earned comedy and quite a bit of heart, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ breathes long-needed life into Marvel’s cinematic universe.
Also opening wide this weekend is the James Brown bio-pic ‘Get On Up‘. Coming from the director of ‘The Help‘, the film stars Chadwick Boseman as the iconic soul musician. It seems like young Boseman is being handed all of the black bio-pic roles these days – which doesn’t appear to be a bad thing considering that ‘42‘ was pretty good and ‘Get On Up’ has mostly received strong reviews so far. Not screened for press in my region, I can’t say how it is, but with a current 81% Rotten Tomatoes rating, other critics are eating it up.
On four screens is Fox Searchlight’s ‘Calvary‘. The dark comedy reunites ‘The Guard‘ writer-director John Michael McDonagh and star Brendan Gleeson. The latter plays a Catholic priest whose life is threatened by a confessor at church. When he digs a little deeper into the possible killer, his own goodness is questioned as he’s morally put to the test. Like the other two major releases of the week, ‘Calvary’ has gotten some strong buzz.
Finally, after a successful week in a tiny number of theaters, Roadside Attractions is expanding Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s spy thriller ‘A Most Wanted Man‘ to 727 screens.