By Erik McClanahan | The Playlist August 1, 2014 at 2:03PM
So, another year, another month of August to end the summer movie season with a whimper, amirite? Perhaps, but we here at The Playlist took the tagline to “American Beauty,” way back in 1999, to heart… look closer. There’s still plenty of McMovies to clog your cinematic arteries, but sometimes, those blockbusters are tasty. And if you step outside of the multiplex, there are plenty more movies that give you a more healthy, balanced cinematic diet.
And so, here’s 11 films to see in August that we think (and in some cases, already know) may be well worth your time and dollars. They range from super-sized Marvel offerings, to oddball musical comedies, to comic road trips and zombie rom-coms. Like we said, it's a balanced meal, so read on.....
“Guardians of the Galaxy”
Synopsis: Peter Quill, a seeming Han Solo-type, goes to space jail after stealing a mysterious orb. As villain Ronan hunts down the macguffin, Quill teams up with a ragtag group of alien outlaws to break free and perhaps, just maybe, they guard said galaxy.
What You Need To Know: Touted as the weird, wild cousin to the more standard, “semi-realistic” movies of the MCU, ‘Guardians’ has long been viewed as a potentially risky dip into the more outre realms of Marvel’s deep gallery of heroes and villains. It does look to deliver on this promise, with our own Oli Lyttelton declaring (in his B+ review) it as one of the few films to actually come close to the original “Star Wars” vibe, “as if the Mos Eisley Cantina was spread across a larger universe” (I’ll have what he’s having, please). The reviews are mostly positive and it’s reportedly tracking well, so good on Marvel for stretching a bit. Oli goes on to mention that ‘Guardians’ is fresh because it feels like a “deviation from the Marvel formula, a gloriously, defiant weird movie that nevertheless proves to be an enormous crowd-pleaser.”
Release Date: August 1st
Synopsis: A comedy about a wannabe musician (Domhnall Gleeson) who joins up with a weirdo band led by a frontman who makes music simply for pleasure, and just happens to always be wearing a rather large, cartoonish-looking papier-mâché head. Creative chaos ensues.
What You Need To Know: Our Editor-In-Chief Rodrigo Perez caught the film during its Sundance premiere back in January and kinda, sorta went nuts for it (read his grade-A review here and you can also hear him and contributor Cory Everett tell me all about it on our festival wrap-up podcast). His glowing review described it as “bizarrely brilliant,” proving that “quirkiness need not be a four-letter word in the language of movies.” He does warn “it certainly won’t be for everyone,” but nonetheless declared it to be a “strikingly original film” and “mandatory watching for the adventurous viewer.” That’s all we needed to know to buy our ticket. Well, that and the fact that Michael Fassbender plays Frank(!).
Release Date: August 15th
“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”
Synopsis: A return to Basin City and all its sick and twisted inhabitants, who cross paths and cause all kinds of nasty mayhem. This one should mostly take place before the events of the first film, but will also jump ahead in the timeline to deal with some of its consequences.
What You Need To Know: It’s been nine years since the first “Sin City” was released and went on to do very good business in the spring of 2005. The reviews were mostly good too (Roger Ebert gave it four stars), and, much to the joy of comic book purists, the film proved the exception to the rule that xeroxing a comic book into a movie can actually be done well. So why the long wait between movies? For one, director Robert Rodriguez is always busy, often juggling multiple projects at a time every year. And who knows, maybe he and co-director Frank Miller (also the creator of the seven-volume graphic novel collection and an all-around weirdo) are attempting their own comic book version of the ‘Before’ series or something? Either way, this one promises more blood, boobs and green screen environments created almost entirely on a computer. Whereas the first film was stitched together from three of the graphic novels, achieving a Jarmusch/Tarantino-esque labyrinthine, multi-threaded and overlapping structure, this one is primarily adapted from book 2 (they even share the same subtitle) with additional storylines taken from a short story in book 6 and also some original stories to no doubt make it feature length. So, the resultant jumbled chronology means characters that died in the first film return for this one. One character is even played by a different actor (Josh Brolin steps in for Clive Owen as Dwight this time), but that’s also straight from the books. (If you recall in the first film, it’s mentioned that Dwight had major surgery to alter his face; now you’ll know why.) All of that should do just fine, but there is that sinking feeling the ship may have long sailed on this franchise and its once-innovative, now kinda-tired use of digital technology. We’ll just have to see.
Release Date: August 22nd