Must See Movies of August

When it comes to major releases, this summer was somewhat junky. Before this season is even over already A Million Ways to Die in the WestMalificent, Transformers: Age of Extinction feel like distant memories. This summer wasn’t packed with offensively bad movies, but a few too many middle-of-the-road ones. Thankfully, there was enough standout major releases to not make this summer of popcorn eating a total loss. We got Edge of TomorrowDawn of the Planet of the ApesGuardians of the Galaxy, and, a real delightful surprise last week, Lucy.

We also saw a slew of great limited releases with BoyhoodCoherenceThe RoverObvious ChildThey Came TogetherSnowpiercer, and more. They also helped make us forget about the more underwhelming blockbusters that were released these past three months. At first glance, summer 2014 doesn’t seem so hot, but once you look at all the good films that came out, we don’t have too much to complain about. The same goes for this August, which begins with Marvel’s most fun movie yet.

Here are the 8 must see movies of August 2014.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel Studios

How good is Marvel’s 10th film? Good enough for Rob Hunter to declare it’s won summer 2014 in his glowing review. While I wouldn’t go that far, it’s definitely one of this summer’s bright spots. James Gunn‘s (Super) superhero movie is the perfect note to end the season on. His space opera, which features a star making turn by Chris Pratt as a C-level outlaw, Peter Quill, is a massive amount of fun from start to finish. Guardians of the Galaxy may not be the best action movie of the summer, but it’s definitely the best comedy. There’s no shortage of laughs or heart in this movie.

Opens in theaters August 1st.

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Calvary 

Brendan Gleeson and Chris ODowd in Calvary

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Playwright John Michael McDonagh‘s directorial debut, The Guard, was one of the best films of 2011. It’s an impeccably structured dark comedy with with actor Brendan Gleeson doing some of his finest work as a lovably filthy police officer. The two have teamed up again for a character a little less crass with Calvary. This time Gleeson plays a priest rejected by his community. It’s likely best not to know why the priest has been outcasted before seeing Calvary. McDonagh and Gleeson having a second go together is all the convincing one should need to see Calvary.

Opens in theaters August 1st.

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The Giver

The Giver Movie 2014 Black and White

Big Bang Media

Lois Lowry’s book unquestionably inspired the big batch of dystopian YA books and movies we’ve seen over the past few years. Because of that, director Phillip Noyce‘s adaptation of The Giver may not feel as fresh as when we all read first the book in grade school. Lowry’s great story is kind of at a disadvantage because of that, but if the main heart and relationships of The Giver have been adapted correctly, then Noyce’s movie should standout from the herd. The mere presence of Jeff Bridge as The Giver — a keeper of memories in a black-and-white world — should elevate now familiar cinematic material.

Opens in theaters August 15th.

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Frank

Frank the Movie

Magnolia Pictures

Frank is charming enough movie until the very end. The final scene is what elevates director Lenny Abrahamson‘s dramedy about a few damaged buddies creating music together. It’s a beautiful ending with co-star Michael Fassbender giving the scene his all. Fassbender is fantastic as the likable, unpredictable Frank, a musician who never takes off his paper mache head. Admittedly, that idea sounds a little too quirky for its own good. Sometimes the film is too much, but more often than not, it’s hard not to be won over by the film’s charm and often surprising emotion.

Opens in theaters August 15th.

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The Trip to Italy

The Trip to Italy

IFC Films

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are two people we could all watch for hours, which is probably why director Michael Winterbottom made a sequel to 2010’s The Trip, the delightful film that featured Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing versions of themselves on a trip together. Thankfully, it sounds like The Trip to Italy is another entertaining look at a relatable and funny friendship underlined by a comedic tension. Kate was certainly fond of the film back at Sundance: “Winterbottom and the lads have essentially changed locations, mixed around a bit of drama, and served up a film very much like their first one. Luckily, The Trip and The Trip to Italy are not films that rely on large-scale plot movements and big character revelations, and the things that worked well the first time work almost as well the second. The food looks better, too.”

Opens in theaters August 22nd.

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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Rosario Dawson in Sin City

Buena Vista Pictures

Nearly a decade after the release of the first Sin City, you have to ask: Are people still interested in comic book writer Frank Miller’s stylized world? Hopefully, because the first Sin City is director Robert Rodriguez‘s last really good film. This is clearly a world he’s passionate about, and that certainly showed in the first movie. If he wasn’t passionate about this material, he wouldn’t have spent this much time developing a sequel. Let’s hope that enthusiasm translates to screen. That shouldn’t be too difficult, since Rodriguez and his co-director, Frank Miller, have adapted the best book in the series: A Dame to Kill For. They also perfectly cast the film’s stars, Dwight McCarthy (previously played by Clive Owen) and Ava Lord, with Josh Brolin and Eva Green. Those two actors were born to play these characters.

Opens in theaters August 22nd.

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Love is Strange

Love Is Strange

Sony Pictures Classics

Would it be possible to find a more adorable couple than Alfred Molina and Jon Lithgow? That’s doubtful, based on the amount of praise they’ve received for Ira Sach‘s latest film, Love is Strange. The men play a couple that’s been together for over 40 years, but are now finally able to get legally married. Daniel Walber said it was a “remarkable film” during the Tribeca Film Festival and, to no surprise, that Molina and Litghow are wonderful together. We expect nothing less from two of our finest actors.

Opens in theaters August 22nd.

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The Congress

Robin Wright in The Congress

Drafthouse Films

The Congress is a true piece of beauty. As a performance piece, spectacle, drama, comedy, heady sci-fi, and cautionary tale, Ari Folman‘s followup to Waltz with Bashir is an across the board success. This is a mesmerizing experience, showing us a future we’ve never seen before. Robin Wright is moving as Robin Wright, an aging actress who signs over her image. What the world does with that image is funny, horrifying. and surreal, like the film itself. See this film on the biggest screen possible. Each frame of animation is gorgeous.

Opens in theaters August 29th.

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Honorable Mentions: What If, Life After Beth, and The One I Love 

What are you looking forward to the most this month?


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