By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist August 1, 2012 at 11:04AM
There are people, we're told, who just rock up to the theater on Friday night and see whatever is coming on next. We have never been those people. We scan the release calendar weeks, even months in advance, in order to check out what's coming to theaters, so we know what we're queueing up for, and when we'll be seeing it.
But it can be a little overwhelming, when every week sees a half-dozen movies or more released, whether wide or more limited. So to help you along your way, we've picked ten films that are unspooling in the next 30 days or so that will likely to be worth your time and hard earned dollars. So with no further ado...
The last mega-blockbuster of the summer, "The Bourne Legacy" comes with some lofty expectations. The original trilogy, starring Matt Damon, was remarkably consistent in quality, and ranks among the most influential and visceral action franchise ever made. However, director and franchise writer Tony Gilroy was the man behind the multi-Oscar-nominated "Michael Clayton," a film that's only gotten better and richer in the five years since it was released. With Damon leaving the series, Gilroy's created a new character, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), a more advanced graduate of a similar program to Operation Treadstone, who goes on the run with a CIA doctor (Rachel Weisz) after Bourne's antics cause head honcho Edward Norton to try and terminate all the agents in the field. Oscar Isaac, Stacy Keach and Corey Stoll also join the party, with returning actors including Joan Allen, Albert Finney and David Strathairn, for a plot that weaves its way through "The Bourne Ultimatum," while also heading to new territory, including the Philippines and South Korea, as well as including the franchise's trademark kick-ass action sequences. Some Playlisters have seen the film at this point, and while you'll have to wait for our full review, let's just say there's a reason it sits atop this list. In the meantime, you can read our exclusive and extensive interview with Gilroy about the movie here.
When? August 10th
When it premiered at Cannes back in May, John Hillcoat's prohibition crime flick "Lawless" wasn't that enthusiastically received by the international press, but we suspect its pulpy, hugely entertaining stylings will be better received away from the festival bubble. The director's adaptation of novel "The Wettest Country In The World," penned and scored by regular collaborator Nick Cave, and telling the story of the Bondurant Brothers (Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Jason Clarke), the women in their life (Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain) and the man out to bring them down (Guy Pearce), might be less substantial than his last film, "The Road" -- as we said in our Cannes review, "it never elevates into anything more than great entertainment." But then, great entertainment is not to be sniffed at, particularly when it's meaty, grown-up entertainment like this. The film's unlikely to be a serious awards player, but given the presence of a post-"Dark Knight Rises" Hardy and LaBoeuf, The Weinstein Company has a decent chance at a modest box office hit here. And at the very least, it has one of the coolest soundtracks of the year, supervised by Cave and Warren Ellis, and featuring the likes of Mark Lanegan, Emmylou Harris and Leila Moss, covering songs by, among others, The Velvet Underground and Townes Van Zandt.
When? August 29th
The surprise success of "Inside Man" promised the start of a serious comeback from Spike Lee, but the director's next film, 2008's "Miracle At St. Anna" was a critical and commercial flop (in fact, it's somewhat underrated, we reckon), and the director's found it hard to get things made since. While his "Oldboy" remake should be gearing up shortly, Lee got tired of sitting on his hands, and went back to his roots for "Red Hook Summer," a project that serves as something of a spiritual sequel to "Do The Right Thing," following Flik (Jules Brown), a boy from Atlanta who comes to stay with his grandfather, a firebrand preacher (Clarke Peters), in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Peters' fellow "The Wire" alums James Ransone and Isiah Whitlock Jr. are also among the cast, along with Nate Parker and Lee himself, reprising the role of Mookie for the first time in 25 years. The film was highly divisive when it premiered at Sundance in January, some adoring it, some loathing it, with even its fiercest supporters conceding it's a little rough around the edges. But our man Todd Gilchrist liked the film quite a bit, saying that "Lee's clarity of vision hasn't been this sharp or unique since before 'Crooklyn,' " and noting Peters gives a "tour-de-force" performance. Keep your eyes peeled in the coming weeks not just for our verdict on the finished film, but also our interview with Lee, and a retrospective on the director's work.
When? August 10th
Among moviemakers and cinephiles, the debate over film vs. digital is one of the most heated and interesting around; the march of progress seems to point towards digital, with those like David Fincher and James Cameron long since having converted, and yet some of the most interesting filmmakers in the mainstream -- Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino to name a couple -- have vowed to keep fighting the battle for good old 35mm. But it's taken Keanu Reeves, of all people, to get this debate on screen, producing this feature documentary that presents the two sides of the argument, and questions where we're heading. The A-lister has assembled a diverse who's who of filmmaking names, including Steven Soderbergh, George Lucas, Joel Schumacher, Lena Dunham, Robert Rodriguez, Martin Scorsese, Lars von Trier, David Lynch, Richard Linklater, Wally Pfister and Danny Boyle, to examine their views, and the film's been winning rave reviews ever since it premiered at Berlin back in February. Our own Jessica Kiang saw it there, and said that the film is "stacked with gossipy, informal anecdotes and opinions from many of the most respected directors, cinematographers, editors, execs, VFX artists and digital wizards in the industry, proves... to be highly entertaining and informative, and by its close has presented a thoroughly diverting overview of the debate." It's obviously not going to be for everyone, but Reeves and director Chris Keneally have created a doc that is pretty much a must for anyone who cares about movies.
When? August 17th, before hitting iTunes on August 22nd.
After a decade in which he only made three films, getting two films in two years from David Cronenberg is surely cause for celebration, and only nine months after premiering "A Dangerous Method" at Venice last year, Cronenberg bowed his Don DeLillo adaptation "Cosmopolis" at Cannes back in May. And for anyone who found last year's effort a little staid and conventional for the director, "Cosmopolis" certainly seems to be more in the director's traditional wheelhouse. Starring lead Robert Pattinson alongside Paul Giamatti, Samantha Morton, Juliette Binoche, Sarah Gadon, Mathieu Amalric, Jay Baruchel and Kevin Durand, among others, it sees the "Twilight" star play a fresh-faced billionaire struck by existential dread as he tries to travel across jam-packed Manhattan in a bid to get his hair cut. The film was highly divisive at Cannes, and has continued to cleave opinion elsewhere around the world so far; our man in Cannes adored it, but more than one Playlister has been less than impressed when catching up with the film since. But as ever with Cronenberg, the divisiveness is part of the fun, and it's certainly likely to cause more debate than almost anything else this month.
When? August 17th