The best movies to see this month

These films are topping our must list this month

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Guardians of the Galaxy

Based on one of Marvel Comics’ lesser-known franchises dating back to 1969, this is the tale of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), an earthling abducted as a boy who, a quarter of a century later, is working as a Han Solo–style outlaw for hire under the self-ordained nickname Star-Lord. When his quest for a mysterious orb attracts the attention of some intergalactic troublemakers, Quill throws in with a team of fellow outsiders, including green-skinned warrior princess Gamora (Zoe Saldana), genetically enhanced raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), comically literal man-mountain Drax (Dave Bautista) and a self-regenerating, semisentient walking tree named Groot (Vin Diesel, typecast again).

  1. Opens August 1

Calvary

What do you tell a priest whom you plan to shoot point-blank between the eyes? “Say your prayers,” of course. John Michael McDonagh’s follow-up to 2011’s The Guard is a wickedly funny and Tarantino-esque black comedy—all fatalism and gallows humor but with a beating heart and an inquiring mind beneath its tough-guy bluster. The mighty Brendan Gleeson, a visibly weathered actor, plays Father James. In the confession box, a man tells him how he was raped by a priest at the age of seven. That cleric is now dead, so it’s Father James who must pay. The mystery voice gives James seven days to put his affairs in order; the murder is set for next Sunday. The film then becomes a sly, shaggy-dog mystery. McDonagh (whose brother, Martin, wrote and directed In Bruges) casts the best of Irish talent as the insane locals, a lineup of oddballs. Any one of them might be the would-be culprit.

  1. Opens in limited release August 1

What If?

The reinvention of Daniel Radcliffe continues apace. This Canadian romcom adapts popular stage play Toothpaste and Cigars into a low-budget but, according to early reviews, highly enjoyable tale of friendship and its complicated offshoots. Radcliffe plays Wallace, a young man who develops an increasing crush on Chantry (Zoe Kazan) who, unfortunately, already has a perfectly good boyfriend of her own. Director Michael Dowse did a great job with the goofy, unexpectedly heartfelt hockey comedy Goon, so expect a similar blend of swearing, slapstick, insight and emotion here. Reviews out of Toronto likened the film to 500 Days of Summer, so expect an old-school romantic comedy with a hipster twist.

  1. Opens in limited release August 8

Let's Be Cops

New Girl co-stars Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. headline this riff on the buddy cop comedy playing two friends who don police uniforms for a costume party and quickly get caught up in the excitement of pretending to be law enforcement officers.

  1. Opens August 15

Frank

Dazzlingly strange art rock pours out of Frank, both the movie, a dark comedy from Irish director Lenny Abrahamson, and the title character, a singer devoted to lyrics about random tufts of string and terrifying litanies that might have freaked out Joy Division's Ian Curtis. Granted, these noises must penetrate a thick, muffling wall of papier-mâché: Frank always wears an unblinking false head onstage (as did the film's real-life inspiration Chris Sievey, a British comic and musician who died an enigma in 2010). From behind the mask's blue eyes comes the menacing purr of Michael Fassbender.

  1. Opens in limited release August 15

The Trip to Italy

"Second-album syndrome" is how co-star Steve Coogan, in a meta moment of self-critique, describes his impending food tour with also-slightly-fictionalized Rob Brydon in director Michael Winterbottom's sequel to 2010's The Trip (which existed as both a film and a BBC series). This time, the duo is headed to Italy's glorious Amalfi Coast and several ridiculously good-looking plates of pasta. But if the new film is, indeed, a follow-up to what's now looking like an essential comedy of middle-age desperation, they haven't laid an egg as lackluster as, say, the Stone Roses's Second Coming. All the expected notes are hit, and if the company has shoehorned in a bit of filler, there's still another side of impressive, transitional maturity.

  1. Opens in limited release August 15

The One I Love

A couple (Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss) whose marriage is crumbling have a surreal experience during a weekend getaway at a house recommended by their therapist (Ted Danson).

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

It’s been nine years since gritty graphic-novel adaptation Sin City hit screens. Fans can now rejoice as the long awaited sequel hits this summer. Jessica Alba takes the lead role, with supporting appearances from Rosario Dawson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mickey Rourke and even a cameo by Lady Gaga as the imaginatively titled "Waitress." The first film divided audiences—some found its stark visual style and graphic violence riveting and original, while others bemoaned the lack of decent characters and a serious mean streak when it came to the portrayal of women. Lets hope writer-directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez can strike a less problematic balance with the new movie.

  1. Opens August 22

One Chance

Tenor Paul Potts (James Corden) becomes a singing sensation after appearing on the TV show Britain's Got Talent in 2007.

  1. Opens in limited release August 29

Life of Crime

Based on the late Elmore Leonard's novel The Switch, the film follows the kidnapping of a wealthy man's wife. The trouble is, he's not in a hurry to pay the ransom to get her back.

  1. Opens August 29


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