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This August has made for a tricky must-see guide to compile. If this were any other year, the honorable mentions alone would’ve made the final cut. There’s a lot of quality competition. As such, I’m both pleased and disappointed I couldn’t include Brie Larson’s performance in Short Term 12; a blood-drenched fun home-invasion movie, You’re Next; a new film from the director of Boy A; and more.

Then again, having too many good movies on the horizon is a bit strange to complain about.

Last month I called July the most promising month of this summer season, and I was wrong. I must’ve forgotten this loaded August, the fantastic lineup of major and specialty releases this month make it. If you were underwhelmed by this summer’s offerings, there’s more than a few here to make you feel more satisfied about this (extended) season.

The Spectacular Now

Opens August 2nd

Director James Ponsoldt‘s The Spectacular Now makes for a fine companion piece to his previous film, Smashed. Both movies deal with alcoholism in distinct ways, with Smashed never acting as an ultra-serious PSA and The Spectacular Now not ever even uttering the world “alcoholic.” Alcoholism isn’t at the forefront of this coming-of-age movie, but the lack of discussion over the lead character, Sutter (Miles Teller), having a drinking problem is a reminder of James Ponsoldt’s subtle hand. While the film doesn’t quite stick its landing, The Spectacular Now is a bittersweet movie with standout performances.

Read the review

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2 Guns

Opens August 2nd

A day hasn’t gone by this summer that I haven’t butchered Denzel Washington‘s money one-liner from the TV spots for 2 Guns. You know the line, but just so I can say it again, “Make it rain.”

There’s been a sore lack of one-liners and R-rated entertainment these past few months. The only other buddy action movie this summer is White House Down, a movie not enough people saw. Channing Tatum and Jamie Fox were a compatible pairing, but Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg will undoubtedly top them. Plus, apparently Bill Paxton gives a speech over the enormous size of Washington’s character’s endowed hardware, and that’s reason enough to see 2 Guns this weekend.

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Prince Avalanche

Opens in theaters and VOD on August 9th

Any of those indie arthouse snobs who declare David Gordon Green a sellout after making a few studio comedies, savor this one. I saw Green’s new pic at this year’s SXSW and, to this day, it’s my favorite film of the year. It’s a fantastic movie about two opposites attracting. Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch‘s performances as two lost highway road workers stuck together are completely charming and uniquely comedic. Green, Rudd, and Hirsch hit all the dramatic and comedic beats with grace.

Read the review

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Elysium

Opens August 9th

This is the last major action movie of the summer. Not only that, it’s one of the few original ones, coming from director Neill Blomkamp. Elyisum is his followup to District 9, so expectations for this Matt Damon-starring project have been high since its announcement.

The trailers have sold a dirty, cool sci-fi action epic. It also looks heavy-handed, but don’t be surprised if the heart from District is around to make all those bullets and explosions have some dramatic heft.

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Movies Featuring The “World”

Opening August 9th and August 23rd

Two movies with the word “world” in them? That’s a coincidence you just have to celebrate. 

Edgar Wright‘s The World’s End isn’t the best of the bunch in (the semi-official) Cornetto Trilogy, but, as an ending, Wright could’ve fared far worse than this clever, often exciting, and hilarious Invasion of the Bodysnatchers-esque ensemble comedy. Nobody shoots or paces comedy or action the way Wright does. The third act may lose some of its spark, but there’s plenty of laughs to be had.

Speaking of talented directors, Lake Bell is soon going to impress some of you behind the camera. The Children’s Hospital actress’s feature debut that deals with the voiceover world, and from what I gather, it is an extremely pleasant independent comedy. It’ll be interesting to see what Bell can do with his amount of creative control.

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Kick-Ass 2

Opens August 16th

Right next to White House DownKick-Ass 2 is one the true surprises of the summer. What Matthew Vaughn brought to the first movie remains intact with Jeff Wadlow‘s sequel, keeping in touch with the first film’s softer side, while also taking its darker notes to another level.

Anyone who wasn’t a fan of the trailer will be won over by the final product, especially with Jim Carrey‘s terrific turn as Colonel Stars and Stripes, a big performance built out of small, smart choices.

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Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

Opens August 16th

Whenever critics say “Terrence Malick-esque,” Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is the type of movie they’re usually referring to. It’s no Malick knockoff, though. David Lowery‘s film is its own kind of quiet, dark, and surprisingly sweet film about an imprisoned husband (Casey Affleck) trying to get back to his wife (Rooney Mara) and daughter.

This is a movie to see fresh, so avoid all the trailers out there (like that one up there) and see the performances by Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Keither Carradine, and Nate Parker on the biggest art house screen available.

Read the review

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The Masters At Work

Opening August 23rd and August 30th (now on VOD, as well)

Brian De Palma‘s Passion has already received its critical lashings ever since it screened at Venice and the NYFF. That’s the way it goes for De Palma, but if you’re into what the filmmaker is selling – a funny and deranged thriller – then you should take joy in this vibrant dark comedy. There’s some novel De Palma touches here to make this more than a typical whodunnit. The answer is obvious, but how De Palma, and Rachel McAdam’s snarling performance, get there is a fun and stylish. Then again, I also find Femme Fetale to be up there with his best work, so cinephiles, critics, and fans may feel otherwise about Passion; it’s not for everyone, which goes without saying.

There’s also a new picture Wong Kar-wai, The Grandmaster. I’m unaware of anyone who has seen Kar-wai’s film and have spoken any ill of it. His martial arts epic has been earning rave reviews, and I’m excited about finally seeing it next week.

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Honorable Mentions: Drinking Buddies, Closed Circuit, Short Term 12You’re Next, I Give it a Year


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