written by: Christopher McQuarrie
produced by: Tom Cruise, J. J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg & Don Granger
directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
rating: PG-13 (for sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity)
runtime: 131 min.
U.S. release date: July 31, 2015
There’s a lot going on in “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”. Like any great spy movie, there’s a complex and loosely convoluted plot of who’s who and what’s what and to whom does who owe which allegiance and – look, the inner doings of the plot may elude some people. That’s an occupational hazard of the spy genre, of which this movie pays loving homage.
August is typically considered the last month of the summer movie season and in recent years there have been surprises at the box office. Back in the 90’s Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven” was released in August as was “the Fugitive” starring Harrison Ford, both of which turned out to be some of the best films of their respective years. So, what about this year? Will there be any movies that will wind up on the year-end list of 2015 or at least become sleeper hits? Well, I have a few August releases on my radar that I definitely want to share. I’m ignoring any sequels or superhero flicks (sorry “Fantastic Four” reboot), since those already have a fan base and I would much rather discover something different. Alright, so mark these down fellow film enthusiasts….
produced by: James Gay-Rees
directed by: Asif Kapadia
rating: R (for language and drug material)
runtime: 128 min.
U.S. release date: July 3, 2015
“The more people see of me, the more they’ll realize that all I’m good for is making music.”
When Amy Winehouse died from a lethal combination of alcohol poisoning and complications due to bulimia in the late summer of 2011, I was one of the first to jump on the “kick her while she’s down” bandwagon. I recognized the inherent tragedy in the situation, but she had been such a punching bag in the media that I assumed she must have been a casualty of her own success. The media has a way of turning everything into a circus, and the one they concocted around Amy was one of the most outrageous spectacles we’ve seen in modern times. Thankfully, the new documentary “Amy” sets out to right a lot of misconceptions about the chanteuse, and the way that director Asif Kapadia (“Senna”) lets words and images speak for themselves gives the brutality of her life all the more guttural an impact.
written by: Kurt Sutter
produced by: Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch, Peter Riche, Alan Riche, Antoine Fuqua & Jerry Ye
directed by: Antoine Fugua
rating: R (for language throughout, and some violence)
runtime: 123 min.
U.S. release date: July 24, 2015
Originality isn’t a necessary condition for quality movies, but it does help. “Southpaw”, the latest movie by “Training Day’ filmmaker Antoine Fuqua, is a telegraphed paint-by-numbers boxing drama you’ve seen a hundred times before. Perceptive (or just bored) viewers may leave the theaters in a cloud of prophetic glee having predicted it beat by beat by beat. The formula, as surely taught in screenwriting 101, is rise, fall, and rise again, complete with the expected furnishings.
written by: Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling
produced by: Adam Sandler, Chris Columbus, Allen Covert, Mark Radcliffe & Michael Barnathan
directed by: Chris Columbus
rating: PG-13 (for some language and suggestive comment)
runtime: 105 min.
U.s. release date: July 24, 2015
I’ve been purposefully avoiding Adam Sandler comedies and unintentionally not watching Adam Sandler movies. Is that confusing? Let me clarify. While realizing I’ve outgrown the stagnant man-child comedies he’s churned out under his Happy Madison productions for years now, I’m fully aware he has a baffling fanbase that will consume anything from his production house (even the “Paul Blart” comedies), but I’ve been content dismissing his dire and insulting humor. I also haven’t gotten around to Sandler’s more dramatic turns, but from what I heard I haven’t missed out on much (that guy from “Punch Drunk Love” has to be in there somewhere!). So, how is it I found myself checking out “Pixels”, the latest from the Happy Madison assembly line?
written by: Screenplay by Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay & Paul Rudd
produced by: Kevin Feige
directed by: Peyton Reed
rating: PG-13 (for sci-fi action violence)
runtime: 117 min.
U.S. release date: July 17, 2015
Marvel Studio’s “Ant-Man” is a reminder that there can be superhero movies that don’t involve immense world-saving heroics. It’s also a reminder that such a movie can be kind of choppy with an unoriginal screenplay and in need of a director a little more creative than Peyton Reed (“Bring It On” and “Down with Love”) and yet still be an entertaining, enjoyable viewing experience that’s different enough from the usual entries we’ve grown accustomed to in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s not a giant-size extravaganza, but it proves that a little-known second-tier can provide a fun breather from all the bombastic “events” viewers associate with superhero movies.
written by: Amy Schumer
produced by: Judd Apatow & Barry Mendel
directed by: Judd Apatow
rating: R (for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use)
runtime: 125 min.
U.S. release date: July 17, 2015
“Don’t try and spin this as a way to not go down on me as much, that’s ridiculous.”
When Judd Apatow came on the scene as a director with 2005’s “The 40-Year Old Virgin,” he very quickly established a loose, improvisational style which has come to dominate American comedy. It worked well for a grand total of two films, but “Why do one joke when you can cram in four or five?” has now become his de facto style, and it’s getting very, very tired. The prospect of him working for the first time from a script he did not write himself, therefore, held some promise for “Trainwreck,” a new comedy written by and starring Amy Schumer. The only real problem is that he basically ported over all of his worst tendencies into someone else’s film, and the once hilarious, never-ending riff has overtaken character and plot as the most important thing in his films.