August 7th - 9th-
There were a lot of parties that benefited from the failure of Fantastic Four this weekend. One of them was Joel Edgerton's directorial debut The Gift. In addition to directing the movie, Joel Edgerton also wrote it and starred alongside Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall. Don't let the title on this one deceive you as it's not some sort of happy holiday-themed movie. It's in fact an intense thriller about a young couple who moves into a home in California and soon after gets visited over and over by a mysterious man who seems to know Jason Bateman's character from high school. The movie has definitely been a crowd-pleaser thus far as it came out of nowhere to earn $11.8 million this past weekend, which is excellent considered it had a very small marketing push and a production budget of only $5 million. It's score of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes definitely played a huge role in it's success and these strong reviews should help it to play very well throughout August as more and more people become aware of its existence.
The third movie of the weekend has Meryl Streep gunning for her 20th Oscar nomination with Ricki and the Flash. Many actresses would be ecstatic to get just one Oscar nomination. The fact that Streep has received 19 is absolutely stunning. That most certainly puts her in at least the conversation for best actresses in the history of cinema. Although word on the street has it that she may have to wait another year for that 20th nomination. In Ricki and the Flash, Meryl Streep has a lot of fun playing the guitar and singing as she plays the lead singer in a fictional band called Ricki and the Flash. As the story plays out in this musical drama, the band isn't the most successful and Streep's character has to learn to balance her career with her family as she struggles particularly with her daughter. It may seem cliche, but apparently it doesn't quite follow the cliches, although it also doesn't do the best job of pleasing audiences as critics are split with the movie being 61% on the tomato meter. Thus is why Meryl may have to wait to get her next nomination. But I'm sure she's not broken up over it. She got to have fun playing a guitar in a movie.
Finally we have Shaun the Sheep Movie, which is the latest stop-motion animation movie by Aardman Animation, creators of Chicken Run and Wallace Gromit. The movie is based off the Shaun the Sheep TV series, which is a UK-based TV show consisting of short 7-minute episodes. Neither the TV show nor movie has any dialogue, so this is essentially a silent animated film with only grunts and animal noises. The story follows a flock of sheep on a farm who come up with a plan to get rid of their owner. After succeeding, they quickly learn that they want him back, so they go to the big city to rescue him. In terms of reception, this has been very well received as it stands at a stunning 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. That didn't quite translate into tickets, though, as it hasn't even made it to $10 in a week of release so far. But that's okay in this instance as it's already earned $60 million overseas, which included a strong $20 million in its home country. It will be interesting to see if it ends up earning more in the U.K. than in the U.S. Considering the population of both places, that would be a very impressive feat.
August 14th - 16th-
Competing with Straight Outta Compton this weekend is the spy thriller The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Advertising on this has been very aggressive recently as they have focused heavily on statements from some critics that have claimed that the movie rivals Bond and Bourne in terms of quality. The movie follows CIA agent Napoleon Solo, played by Henry Cavill, and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin, played by Armie Hammer as they join forces to stop a secret organization that is working on mass producing nuclear weapons. The movie is also starring Alicia Vikander, who is having herself quite the year following her acclaimed performance in the sci-fi hit Ex Machina. The director here is Guy Ritchie, who directed both of the Robert Downy, Jr. Sherlock Holmes movies, so he has experience with this type of movie. It's also been a very successful year for this genre following enormous success of Kingsman: The Secret Service, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. The success should continue later this year with latest Bond movie Spectre. So that bodes well for The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
August 21st - 23rd-
Speaking of action movies, just a week after The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is released, the U.S. gets another action movie with Hitman: Agent 47. At first glace this movie feels a little bit troubling. While the advertising from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. has been pretty aggressive, I've seen very little from Hitman: Agent 47. Do people know this movie is coming out? And if they do, are the willing to go to two action movies back to back? The other disadvantage this movie has is the rating. While The Man from U.N.C.L.E. has more of a user friendly PG-13 rating, Hitman: Agent 47 is a strong R. While that didn't effect Kingsman or Mad Max much, it will take a really good movie in order to breakout. The other flag is that director Aleksander Bach has only one credit to his name. This movie. There's also almost no big name actors. The biggest one that I recognize is Zachary Quinto, but that's pretty much it. I've seen a lot of late August releases get completely ignored and this might be another candidate
And last but not least we have American Ultra, which you could say makes for three action movies in two weeks. Something's gotta give right? Or since it's August, it's possible that all three of them will fail. However, American Ultra is actually more of an action/comedy hybrid, so it could be seen as different than the other two and thus attract a different crowd. The big draw here is the cast, which is led by Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. Eisenberg plays a stoner who is secretly a government agent. He gets seen as a liability and is targeted to be killed, but of course he is pretty much unstoppable, thus the wild ride begins. Kristen Stewart plays his girlfriend in all of this and if you rolled your eyes when I mentioned her name, it's time for you to educate yourself because the girl has been on quite the roll recently, making movie after movie where her acting abilities have been praised, proving that Twilight was the exception, not the rule when it comes to her acting. Although this may or may not be the project to boost her resume. American Ultra is directed by Nima Nourizadeh, who's only other directing effort was Project X, which isn't the best sign.
August 28th - 30th-
The final movie of the month is the action/thriller movie No Escape, which stars Owen Wilson and Pierce Brosnan and is actually released on Wednesday the 26th. In the movie, Owen Wilson moves his family over to the other side of the world to start over and of course nothing good comes of it as he finds himself in the middle of some huge conflict where foreigners are getting shot and killed. The movie was shot in Thailand and a lot of Thai people who have seen this trailer aren't exactly the happiest as this appears to be an extreme exaggeration of the conflict happening right now in that area of the world done for entertainment so that we Americans can get a "fun" action/thriller. I've been noticing that the marketing push by the Weinstein Company has been greater than some of the other movies I've mentioned here. We'll see if that actually translates into tickets, though.