Sunday, August 2, 2009

An August to remember?

Used to be, August was about the second-worst month of the year for a movie to come out. Okay, maybe the third. January is certainly the worst, then let's call September the second worst. August was definitely #3.

Defies logic a little bit, doesn't it? After all, August is one of two core months we associate with summer, the other being July. June is pretty summery, but technically speaking, all but nine days of it are in the spring.

The summer movie season, on the other hand, has an entirely different definition. Summer movies start coming out in May -- some years, even in April. May and June are the primary months, and by July, it already feels like it's late in the season -- like there might be something wrong with the movie that prevented it from coming out earlier. By August, the movie has a definite taint to it, a definite whiff of a would-be blockbuster that they knew was no good. To save face, they still have to release it in summer, but the only chance for it to make any money is to go up against others like it that came up short. August is the month in which such classics as The Avengers (1998) and Dukes of Hazzard (2005) were released. Movies like that.

But two weeks after Dukes of Hazzard, things changed, thanks to a little movie called The 40 Year Old Virgin. (I feel like I'm writing about that movie a lot this week). Virgin was released on the 19th of August in 2005, and it made big bucks. Another Judd Apatow-produced movie, Superbad, pulled the same trick on August 17, 2007. Last year's Apatow entry was Pineapple Express, slightly earlier on August 6th, followed a week later by the better and funnier Tropic Thunder.

All that must have been preparing us for this August, when I feel like the month has truly rehabilitated its public image back to "desirable" status. Can you ever remember an August featuring so many movies you were excited about, or at least curious about? I can't. In fact, I'd argue that the movies coming out this month interest me more than in any month since May. It gets even better if you consider yesterday's release of Funny People to be the first pseudo-August release. (Though I'm starting to hear not such things about that movie, so maybe not).

In order of release date, here are the movies I'm interested in this month, and why:

Julie & Julia (August 7th). This may be a chick flick, but it stars two pretty delightful chicks -- national treasure Meryl Streep and spunky not-quite-newcomer Amy Adams. Both are a joy to watch, and I have a special affinity for celebrity impersonations, so I'm looking forward to what Streep does with Child. I may not catch it in the theater, but that's just because it will be a busy month.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (August 7th). I expect this to be craptastic -- this is one of those "old August" releases. However, I did play with G.I. Joe figures when I was a kid. In fact, I played with them tons more than Transformers, amassing four or five dozen of them, plus a fleet of tanks, all-terrain vehicles and aircraft. I'll see it just for my own personal nostalgia, and I must say, the trailers leave me interested enough.

District 9 (August 14th). This might be the movie I'm most excited about this month, even if some friends tried to make me wary of it when we were discussing it at a 4th of July BBQ. That's when they told me this was supposed to be the Halo movie, but it went belly-up, so they hurriedly turned it into District 9. I thought that meant they were using the old, already-shot Halo footage and turning it into something else, but reading some more on it, I'm not so sure -- if I interpreted producer Peter Jackson's words correctly, I think it's a different project altogether because the first failed. Well, we'll see. Barring negative word of mouth that's so loud that I can't possibly escape it, I'll be at this one opening weekend.

The Time Traveler's Wife (August 14th). Another chick flick here -- more counter-programming. But I have a personal stake in this one, as I read (and really liked) the novel, and have been waiting for this to come out for it seems like two years since I first heard it was nearly finished. I guess it wasn't nearly finished, because Gus Van Sant was attached to direct back then. (Robert Schwentke is now the director -- let's hope he does better here than he did in Flightplan). I guess the delay is not a good sign, but consider me still very curious anyway.

Paper Heart (August 14th). A pseudo-documentary about an actress in the Apatow troupe (Charyle Yi, who appeared in Knocked Up) searching for her definition of love, or something. Perhaps of more interest, Michael Cera is the co-star as her (real-life?) boyfriend, or something. Could be twee, but could also be a lot of fun.

It Might Get Loud (August 14th). A documentary featuring three guitar luminaries discussing their craft: The Edge, Jack White and Jimmy Page. It might get seen. Then again, it might not. Inconvenient Truth director Davis Guggenheim directs.

Inglourious Basterds (August 21st). This is the one most people are probably looking forward to -- Quentin Tarantino's first film since his half of Grindhouse (Death Proof). The timing of this one may indicate more than any of these other films that "August is back." Tarantino's movies usually come out in the fall. Then again, it could also indicate that Basterds is just not very good.

Taking Woodstock (August 28th). Ang Lee's film about Woodstock, featuring one of my favorite comedians, Demetri Martin, as the kid whose farmland is used for the festival as a way of saving his family from financial ruin. Lee is always interesting -- he's one of our most unpredictable directors in terms of his subject matter -- and I'm interested to see what Martin can do off the stand-up stage.

The Final Destination (August 28th). Okay, this is probably "old August" as well -- a high-concept horror with a high body count. But it is in 3-D. And I've seen all the other Final Destination movies. Why stop now?

So will this be an august August?

I guess we'll have to tune in to see.

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