Beat the heat: 11 movies actually worth watching this month (and not just as an excuse to stay cool)
Seeing Whitney one more time is reason enough to watch Sparkle.
Everyone knows August is like the graveyard month for movies (after January, of course). All the big, exciting ones have already opened (see also: “What to Watch in May, June, and July”) and the real awards season contenders are saved for the fall. Now we’re left with, amongst other things, a remake of Total Recall. The good news is, you have choices.
Here are some flicks worth watching because a) they don’t suck, and b) they’re actually good! Bonus: they’ll keep you indoors this month, which is all that really matters.
Just buy us some popcorn next time and we’ll call it even.
Celeste & Jesse Forever (out now in NY and LA)
In Celeste & Jesse Forever, the lovely Rashida Jones (who co-wrote the film) plays a career-driven woman who decides to separate from her unemployed artist-husband (Andy Samberg) after the two grow apart. After the split, they don’t exactly move on. The quirky rom-com (currently playing in New York and Los Angeles) explores the question that’s still being debated: is it possible for you to remain friends with your ex? Do let us know if you find the answer to that one. Celeste & Jesse Forever is currently open in New York and Los Angeles and is set to open up in more select cities throughout August - check out the full list here.
REC 3: Génesis (out now on video-on-demand)
We don’t know what it is about the Spaniards, but they’ve always known how to scare the crap out of us — there’s a reason Hollywood keeps biting off them (the first REC was turned into Quarantine here in the U.S and wasn’t nearly as good). Paco Plaza’s third film in the original REC franchise takes place at a wedding that goes from pure bliss to a bloody massacre (chainsaws, baby!) and where guests start showing signs of a strange illness. And yes, there will be a fourth REC. Obviously. Out now on video-on-demand, the film is set to open in select theaters on Sept. 7.
Red Hook Summer (out now in NY)
Spike Lee’s newest joint Red Hook Summer follows a young Atlanta-bred boy named Flik who travels to Brooklyn one summer to stay with his deeply religious grandfather. Flik’s summer starts off disastrously after his grandfather tries to convert him, but things start to pick up after he meets a girl his age. Red Hook Summer is currently showing in NY, but will open up to select cities by the end of August.
2 Days in New York (out now)
48 hours… that’s all it takes to test a relationship. At least that’s the time frame that applies to Julie Delpy’s comedy 2 Days in New York, which stars the director as a French woman whose outrageous family flies to the Big Apple for a short visit. The film is a follow-up to the director’s 2007 2 Days in Paris, but this time her boyfriend is played by the always hilarious Chris Rock. 2 Days in New York opens up to other cities through December 2012.
Bachelorette (out on VOD & iTunes now)
If you loved Bridesmaids, then you must RSVP to Bachelorette, cause it’s a party. The guest list: the naive bride (Bridesmaids’ Rebel Wilson), the coke-snorting snob (Isla Fisher), the cynic/closeted romantic (Lizzy Caplan), and the control-freak maid of honor, Kirsten Dunst. Bachelorette opens in theaters on Sept. 7.
ParaNorman (August 17)
It’s “John Hughes meets John Carpenter”. That’s the best way to describe this masterpiece, only the second stop-motion film to be made in stereoscopic 3D (the first being LAIKA’s Oscar-nominated Coraline).
Our misunderstood hero is Norman, an 11-year-old boy who sees and talks to the dead (including his grandma) and whose duty it is to save his small town from zombies. Half of the fun comes from the voices (Casey Affleck, John Goodman, Anna Kendrick, Leslie Mann, and others).
What’s stop-motion, you ask? Don’t worry, we didn’t know either, until we saw it up close during a set visit to the LAIKA Studios in Portland earlier this year, which might’ve been the coolest field trip we’ve ever experienced. There were separate hair, make-up, and wardrobe departments for the puppets. As in, puppets! We tried to bring one home with us but got caught.
The easiest way to explain stop-motion is, in the words of producer Arianne Sutner, “it’s an art form wherein the characters are tangibly real, the sets surrounding them are hand-built, and you are envisioning everything in three dimensions.”
Bare with us as we get a little technical on you, but stop-motion is really that cool:
Essentially, you’re shooting single frame by single frame (and there are 24 frames per second in a motion picture), so animators must subtly and painstakingly manipulate tangible objects (puppets, props, sets, etc) on a working stage. Each frame is photographed for the motion picture camera, and when the thousands of photographed frames are projected together sequentially, the characters and environment are animated in fluid and continuous movement.
Here’s a video to help you visualize it.
Trust us, you’ll be able to tell the difference between CGI animation (what you usually see in films from Dreamworks or Pixar) and stop-motion when you see the follicles in Norman’s hair. Quite simply, it’s movie magic.
Sparkle (August 17)
Sparkle, a remake of the 1976 classic film about three sisters who form a singing group in 1960s Detroit (the Motown era), stars everyone we love — Derek Luke, Mike Epps, Jordin Sparks, Cee-lo Green, and, of course, Whitney Houston as the matriarch, Effie.
Whitney also served as executive producer, and had originally wanted Aaliyah in the lead role, before her untimely death. “She was our Sparkle,” Whitney told Access Hollywood back in 2011. “Unfortunately, it just didn’t go that way. I put it down,” Whitney added, “I said, ‘My Sparkle has gone to a better place,’ and we just left it alone.”
After shelving the project for a while, the quest was on for the right girl to fill Aaliyah’s shoes. They found that girl in Jordin Sparks, who more than delivers.
R.Kelly contributed to the soundtrack, which retains many of Curtis Mayfield’s classic tunes from the original.
Cosmopolis (in NY and LA starting August 17)
We love that Robert Pattinson challenges himself. Remember him as Salvador Dali in Little Ashes, or as the sneaky yet seductive social climber Georges Duroy in Bel Ami? And this just in: he’s been cast as Lawrence of Arabia in Werner Herzog’s next film. If all else fails, there’s always that little franchise about vampires. What’s it called, again?
Here, he plays a young billionaire who takes us for a crazy ride all over Manhattan in a stretch limo. Let’s just say, business goes awry. It’s David Cronenberg, so expect insanity.
You’ll get your dose of R-Patz this week, as he has a whirlwind week of promo for Cosmopolis. First up: The Daily Show on Monday night, where he and Jon Stewart ate Ben & Jerry’s and Pattinson admitted that he needs to hire a publicist, badly (though we find his awkwardness endearing, we couldn’t agree more). Never once did he bash his scandalous, cheating ex, K-Stew. Gotta admire that.
Side by Side (on VOD starting August 22)
You ready for some reel talk? For the past century, there was only way to make movies — you know, with actual photochemical film. The advent of digital filmmaking changed everything. Watch as Keanu Reeves puts on his director hat and interviews everyone (from Martin Scorsese to Lena Dunham) about the process of filmmaking — from capture to edit, visual effects to color correction, distribution to archive — and how the old vs new way of making movies can co-exist. Side by Side will open in select theaters this month, starting this Friday in New York City.
The Good Doctor (Currently on VOD and in NY starting August 31)
After watching this, you may never want to be left alone with your doctor, no matter how hot he/she is. In The Good Doctor, Orlando Bloom stars as the Creepy McCreeperson who falls for a patient and resorts to some pretty shady behavior to keep her close. Michael Peña has a small role as a pill-popper who wishes he hadn’t messed with the good doctor. We saw this at Tribeca Film Fest last year and we’re still haunted by it. But we might just watch it again cause Bloom is so freaking perfect-looking. The Good Doctor is set to open in NYC’s Cinema Village on August 31, and in select cities in September.
For a Good Time, Call… (in select cities starting August 31)
Set in New York City, For a Good Time, Call… centers on polar opposites and high school enemies Katie and Lauren, who move in together after they find themselves unable to afford their dream apartment. Lauren soon discovers that her new roommate works as a phone-sex operator and comes up with what seems like a promising business opportunity for both. It’s like a white Girl 6, with a cameo by Seth Rogen.
(Lead Photo: Facebook.com/Sparkle)