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The best new movie releases in August

There’s still plenty of summer left, with a rebooted Fantastic Four, two big-ticket sequels and Meryl Streep as a leather-clad rocker

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Fantastic Four
1/5

Fantastic Four

To date, Hollywood hasn’t been able to get this one right, but we have faith in the cast, which includes Whiplash’s Miles Teller and House of Cards’ Kate Mara. Director Josh Trank pulled off wonders with Chronicle

Fantastic Four opens August 7.

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2
Ricki and the Flash
2/5

Ricki and the Flash

Meryl Streep could play anything at this point and she’d get an Oscar nomination for it (a Sondheim-singing witch, Julia Child, etc.). Here, she’s a guitar player with an estranged family to reconnect with. Jonathan Demme directs an original script by Diablo Cody.

Ricki and the Flash opens August 7.

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3
The Man from UNCLE
3/5

The Man from UNCLE

Have fond memories of the ’60s spy TV show? Have any memories of it? No matter: The big-screen adaptation looks primed to deliver plenty of Bondian chase scenes and witty banter. Guy Ritchie directs.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. opens August 14.

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4
Sinister 2
4/5

Sinister 2

Come on: How sinister could the first one have been? Sinister enough. Ethan Hawke doesn’t return to do battle with the supernatural in a haunted house, but we’ve got Shannyn Sossamon to keep us company, as a terrorized young mother.

Sinister 2 opens August 21.

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5
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2
5/5

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2

Yep, you’re reading that right. Ang Lee’s first film was a perfect thing, so why not extend the legacy, risks be damned? Regardless, there’s a good chance the fight scenes will be killer, with Kill Bill’s stunt coordinator Yuen Woo-ping in the director’s chair.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2 opens August 28.

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Mistress America

Noah Baumbach’s films are consumed with the terror of becoming, his characters often clinging to the protective embrace of college like a life preserver in shark-infested waters. In the brilliant Mistress America, which begins on the first day of freshman year as Tracy (Lola Kirke) moves into her Barnard dorm, academia is a place where kids are so worried about what they should become that they hardly have time to be themselves. Like Frances Ha on Adderall, Mistress America finds Baumbach working with a manic screwball energy that has more in common with Preston Sturges or Howard Hawks than it does any of his previous films. Things begin with a running start as Tracy crushes on the first boy she meets (Matthew Shear) and pines for acceptance to a pompous literary society, but it’s not until Brooke (Greta Gerwig) enters the picture that the film takes flight. Tracy’s mom is due to marry Brooke’s dad, and so the two girls are forced into a manufactured but mutually beneficial sisterhood.  They’re perfect foils: Tracy is paralyzed by the choices offered by her new life in the big city, and Brooke—a restauranteur-designer-musician–SoulCycle instructor who’s sustained by the sheer inertia of her schemes—has seemingly made all of those choices at once. The siblings-to-be get into a whirlwind of misadventure, and Tracy starts writing a story about Brooke (called “Mistress America”). Eventually the film drops its anchor at a Connecticut mansion, setting the stage for one of the gre

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Ricki and the Flash

From Jonathan Demme, a director with an impossibly rich résumé of female empowerment (Married to the Mob), musical euphoria (Stop Making Sense) and failed American dreams (Melvin and Howard), comes a movie that lets him do everything he’s terrific at. Throw in Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs, too, as scruffy bar-band front woman Ricki Randazzo (Meryl Streep) tears into Tom Petty’s jangly “American Girl” with a dead-eyed survivor’s stare. Sarcastic, bitter and chatty, Ricki barely holds onto her corporate grocery checkout job during the daytime, but those liabilities become assets at night, when her local fans howl appreciatively through the hits. Demme’s never been a hater, and even as Meryl Streep flings off weird sparks to her grizzled band mates the Flash, there’s an underlying realness to her that defies glibness. This zesty, defiantly awkward shambles of a film might be called a domestic drama, as it plucks its penniless main character from her beer-soaked California stage and sends her to the Midwest to deal with her wealthy ex-husband (Kevin Kline, playing off Streep as tenderly as in Sophie’s Choice) and their suicidal adult daughter (Mamie Gummer, Streep's real-life progeny), a victim of Ricki’s long-ago abandonment. Tough stares and words await, very much of a piece with screenwriter Diablo Cody’s earlier credits, especially the underrated Young Adult, to which this feels a similarly arrested cousin. But that hardly does justice to a movie that gives Streep her

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The End of the Tour

Like the black monolith in 2001, late novelist David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest casts a long shadow over the chatty, sharply observed The End of the Tour. The door-stopping 1996 book inspires several running gags: It's more than a thousand pages long, so it must be brilliant. It weighs in at over three pounds and stacks dangerously high. It makes women swoon, alienating them from their jealous writer boyfriends. Paradoxically, though, director James Ponsoldt's brainy comedy is built on the slenderest of spines—an extended interview made up of weaves and dodges—yet still manages to contain a blizzard of heartbreaking insights into loneliness, fame and ambition. Rolling Stone's David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) spent five days with the quirky Wallace (Jason Segel), recording their back-and-forth over car rides, late-night junk-food feasts and speaking engagements. That real-life conversation resulted in Lipsky's 2010 tragedy-tinged memoir Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, but in the hands of Pulitzer-winning adapting screenwriter Donald Margulies, it becomes a spiky cinematic two-hander that rewards those who lean in. Eisenberg is fully within his neurotic element as Lipsky, skulking through NYC's literary hang KGB Bar, lunging at his doubtful editor for the Wallace gig and arriving in the author's snowy Illinois looking like a wet cat. Ponsoldt structures the film out of Lipsky's lingering reaction shots and you can see a riot of emotions on Eisenberg's face

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The Diary of a Teenage Girl

In the unofficial book of Hollywood double standards, only teenage boys are allowed to fumble heroically into the wilds of sex. Most girls are either virginally waiting for Mr. Right or “slutty” supporting characters. So yay for indie drama The Diary of a Teenage Girl, which breaks the rules with Lena Dunham levels of brutal honesty (and humor). It’s the story of precocious 15-year-old Minnie (British actor Bel Powley, terrific), growing up in 1970s San Francisco. Her hippie mom (Kristen Wiig), unwilling to set boundaries, lets her daughter join in her boozy, coke-fueled parties. Dangerously bright and curious, Minnie slips into a sexual relationship with her mother’s easygoing boyfriend, Monroe, played by Alexander Skarsgård (who makes his character likable but never lets you forget that he’s one weak douche bag). At 35, Monroe might actually be less mature than Minnie is.  It’s a squirm-inducing idea to build a plot around, but to the movie’s credit, the sex is dealt with incredibly sensitively, always with a female perspective in mind. Directed by first-timer Marielle Heller, Diary is based on the acclaimed hybrid novel by Phoebe Gloeckner that mixes words with comic strips, as does the film. Minnie is trying to work out what kind of woman she wants to be, constructing herself out of drugs, Iggy Pop and random hookups. I can’t think of another film that nails being a 15-year-old girl, when you sometimes wish the ground would swallow you whole, yet also when you feel mor

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