This, the first weekend of August, is the congested and desperate sign that summer fun is decidedly behind us.
Marvel is the hot topic of big budget cinematic blockbusters right now. Sony’s piece of Marvel property (‘The Amazing Spider-Man’) didn’t break box office records, so the studio finally caved and partnered with the Disney-funded behemoth. At the same time, Fox has done quite well with one of its pieces of Marvel’s treasure, the ‘X-Men’ franchise. On the other hand, Fox has had nothing but struggles with the ‘Fantastic Four’. Why Fox hasn’t asked the ‘X-Men’ creatives to work on the ‘Fantastic’ series is beyond me. Unfortunately, the über-negative word on the street about the latest reboot attempt is all true. It’s friggin’ awful.
From the (once) up-and-coming director of surprise hit ‘Chronicle‘ comes the new ‘Fantastic Four‘, which – believe it or not – is actually worse than the last two. The lifeless superhero flick tells the new origin story of its completely flat and one-note characters. When four young brainiacs and their interesting-as-a-rock friend accidentally create a temporary rift between two dimensions, they’re blasted with energies that leave them mutated. One gets the power to conjure the unstoppable destructive forces of terrible CGI. Another turns into Stretch Armstrong. One become Bubble Girl. Another turns into a fallen angel from ‘Noah’. And the last turns into Nicolas Cage from ‘Ghost Rider’. Like the original ‘Iron Man’, a weak villain is haphazardly thrown into the third act just to give the movie some forced (anti)climactic tension. Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Micheal B. Jordan, Jamie Bell and Toby Kebbell star.
Many comic book movies pull in kid audiences these days, but ‘Fantastic Four’ probably isn’t going to steal any families away from the new Aardman Animations release, ‘Shaun the Sheep Movie‘. The non-verbal claymation kids’ television character heads out on a wild journey when he decides to take a personal day for supposed rest and relaxation. With an amazing 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this looks like the best family film since ‘Inside Out’.
The third wide release of the week is a conflicting one. Based on the trailers alone, there’s absolutely nothing in my blood that makes me want to sit through Meryl Streep’s karaoke performance in ‘Ricki and the Flash‘. However, Jonathan Demme is one hell of a director and I don’t see him as the type to pump out a shameless bad movie just to help Streep get an obligatory Oscar nomination. Then again, Diablo Cody is a piss-poor, self-indulgent writer, so this tale of a rock star who gives up her glamorous life in an attempt to patch up her broken family might be just as bad as it looks. Reviews are mixed at best, so proceed with caution.
As if three wide releases weren’t enough, there’s actually a fourth this weekend – and it even comes with a surprising 93% score on Rotten Tomatoes! It’s always fun to watch actors play against type, and you get that in two ways with ‘The Gift‘. Not only do you get to watch Jason Bateman in a serious and creepy-looking role, but you get to see actor Joel Edgerton stretch his directorial muscles. Bateman and the fantastic Rebecca Hall play a couple whose lives are thrown off when a friend from the husband’s past (Edgerton) comes out of the woodwork prior to strange, trust-busting events. For what it’s worth, this thriller has my attention.
One year after the adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s ‘Gone Girl’ created a huge buzz around Hollywood, another of the author’s novels has been adapted for the cinema – only this one doesn’t have much going for it. Starring Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Christina Hendricks, Corey Stoll, Tye Sheridan and Chloë Grace Moretz, it’s surprising to learn that – while A24 may be pushing ‘Dark Places‘ onto 151 screens this weekend – it’s actually been available On Demand for the last couple months. Theron plays the now-grown-up sole survivor of a massacre that occurred in her family’s home as a child. The movie follows her as she works up the courage to return to the scene of the crime and discover what really happened that tragic night. Thank heaven that ‘Dark Places’ isn’t the week’s screenplay written by Diablo Cody. If so, the clichéd final-act twist would probably be that Theron comes to the realization that she’s the one who murdered her own family.