This Month in Film: August 2017

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Boy, did we need July.

Summer kicked into gear with several critically acclaimed blockbusters and several smaller, yet equally as well received releases finally arriving here in the UK. Traditionally August is thus burdened with being the dead season of the summer; pushed back release date? Ends up in August. Trailers that drop within three months of the movie? August release 101. Strange combination of top billed, non-marketable stars? Of course it’s August. It’s a tough spell for us moviegoers, there’s always a lot of promise, but it’s still tough. But it’s the job I’ve laboured myself with my official job to pick out those movies which may just buck the dreaded August trend of doom… and this year it doesn’t look too bad…

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, dir. by Luc Besson

Starring: Cara Delevingne, Dane DeHaan, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke.
Release date: August 2nd

Here are some interesting facts about Luc Besson’s Valerian which should, from a support-originality/auteurs perspective at least, encourage you to see it:

  • Besson wrote a 600 page book detailing the various species and lore of the film to help the actors properly delve into the world.
  • With a budget of $210 million, it is officially the most expensive French made film of all time.
  • There are 2,734 special effects shots in the film, 14 times the number of effects shots of Besson’s The Fifth Element.

Whilst Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne easily take home the title of 2017’s most baffingly cast blockbuster leads, there is an odd appeal to Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Based on the graphic novel series of the same name, Valerian tells the story of the titular special operative (DeHaan) and Laureline (Delevingne) who are sent on a mission to stop the forces that threaten Alpha, the titular city of a thousand planets. With some bonkers visuals, a likely slightly lacking story and unbridled passion from Besson, Valerian may not turn out to be 2017’s best blockbuster, but it may just be one of the most original and bold; support this, more than anything, so that Hollywood knows they can try to take risks for once and not just vomit out The Nut Job 2 and expect us to be OK with it.

Read The Edge’s first look review here.

A Ghost Story, dir. by David Lowery

Starring: Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck.
Release date: August 11th

A Ghost Story features a five-minute scene of Rooney Mara eating a pie…

…Still with me?

OK, in a month featuring the likes of Valerian and the currently sitting at 8% on Rotten Tomatoes The Emoji MovieA Ghost Story may just be the strangest pick of the bunch. Opening at this year’s Sundance Film Festival (where else?) David Lowry’s intimate portrait of grief and loss features Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck as M and C, a married couple, the latter of whom returns from the dead to reconnect with his wife as a ghost. And I don’t mean Patrick Swayze-in-Ghost-clay moulding-cuddling-ghost, I mean sheet-with-two-eye-holes-cut-in-it ghost.

Told you it was the month’s strangest movie.

It’s original, it’s fresh, it’s got a stellar cast and it’s got stellar reviews. It may be weird, but it will definitely be worth checking out.

The Dark Tower, dir. by Nikolaj Arcel

Starring: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Jackie Earle Haley.
Release date: August 18th

Talk about a project that’s been in development hell, this adaptation of Stephen King’s fantasy series has been gestating for 10 years with both J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard being attached to direct over this period and a whole host of actors reportedly being lined up for the lead roles. But it’s finally here, with Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair) behind the camera and two of the decades most prolific and celebrated actors in front of it, Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. The Dark Tower is an undeniably difficult sell; King’s series features elements of fantasy, sci-fi and westerns, spans over eight instalments, connects to his other works and even features an appearance from the author himself. It’s niche and it’s noninclusive, a heralded series that many couldn’t really tell you anything about; King has proclaimed it as his own magnum opus, the man is veering dangerously into L. Ron Hubbard territory. But as a film this looks like it could stand on its own two feet; Arcel seems like a solid choice as director, Elba and McConaughey are frequently the best thing about any movie they’re in and the trailers have promised some cool visuals and action (hey, at least it’s different). But what will perhaps be most interesting is Tom Taylor, the young man tasked with the co-lead role of Jake Chambers, the protege to Elba’s Roland Deschain (AKA The Gunslinger); the past several years have brought us several fantastic lead performances from young breakout stars (Jacob Tremblay in Room, Dafne Keen in Logan, Julian Dennison in Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Sunny Pawar in Lion), could Taylor be next?

Bushwick, dir. by Cary Murnion & Jonathan Milott

Starring: Dave Bautista, Brittany Snow.
Release date: 25th August

If you haven’t already noticed from July’s piece and those films already discussed in this edition, I’m a sucker for originality. As such, Bushwick offers a very interesting proposition late on in the month. Starring Dave Bautista, who is rapidly becoming one of the more likeable and subtly talented ensemble actors in the modern age (he certainly showed everyone up in the woefully underwhelming Spectre), and Brittany Snow, Bushwick has a very simple premise; a Texas military group invades the neighbourhood of Bushwick, leaving youngster Lucy (Snow) to team up with war veteran Stupe (Bautista). Simple, to the point and, hopefully, effective, Bushwick promises to be a no-nonsense and lean action thriller, an intimate and personal one at that, and certainly a welcome diversion from the endless sky-beam infested, world ending blockbusters of today. Again, see it for the originality if anything, and so that Gnomeo & Juliet 2 knows where it can go shove itself.

Detroit, dir. by Kathryn Bigelow

Starring: John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jason Mitchell, John Krasinski, Anthony Mackie, Jacob Latimer, Hannah Murray, Jack Reynor.
Release date: 25th August

I’ll be honest here – I have not watched any of the trailers for Detroit. It’s the first film in a long time that I haven’t seen any trailers for before seeing it, the last one being Hell or High Water and that was my favourite of last year. So why have I refrained from even the smallest snippet of this one? Well, just look at that crew… it’s obvious that this is gonna be great. Bigelow’s batting average is stellar (it was only two movies ago that she became the first woman to ever win the Oscar for Best Director), Boyega and Poulter are two of the finest young actors working today, Krasinski and Mackie are two of the finest ensemble actors working today, and then there’s the subject matter; the 1967 Detroit race riots. It’s an extremely relevant topic with plenty of emotional heft and social significance in of itself, but turn it into a movie and give it to Bigelow and it becomes an early candidate to be one of the year’s very best films and, dare I say, a sure-fire Oscar contender come January. It’s hard to not get excited at the prospect of this film.

HONOURABLE MENTIONTerminator 2: Judgement Day (3-D re-release), dir. by James Cameron

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick.
Release date: 25th August

From Kathryn Bigelow to her famous ex Mr James Cameron and the definite gem of August, the action classic that is Terminator 2: Judgement Day is returning to screens for a 3-D re-release 26 years on from its initial release in 1991. Yes, yes, yes… I know I’ve been pushing for originality and seeing this isn’t exactly investing in the future or the original, but come one… it’s Mother flippin’ Terminator goddamn 2: holy Moses Judgement Day! It’s one of the greatest action movies OF ALL TIME, and it’s back on the big screen – what’s not to love?!

EDITOR’S PICK: Logan Lucky, dir. by Steven Soderbergh

Starring: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Seth MacFarlane, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterston, Sebastian Stan, Hilary Swank, Daniel Craig.
Release date: 25th August

I flip-flopped on my top pick for August. When planning this one, I had A Ghost Story as my firm choice for a while, then I almost played it safe with Terminator 2 (which is one of my favourite films) and then when writing about it, I almost switched to Detroit. Ultimately though, I’ve gone with Logan Lucky. I’ll put my hand up and admit that I haven’t actually seen a Soderbergh film before… I know, I know, he’s one of the most prolific directors of the last 30 years, I’m The Edge’s Film Editor and I’m a Film student and I haven’t seen a film of his, shameful, yes… but that doesn’t stop me from being damn excited for Logan Lucky, which looks to be one hell of a movie. Pairing Channing Tatum with Adam Driver is a genius move, two of the best actors of the 2010s on screen together, playing dumbass rednecks? Count me in! An ensemble bolstered by Seth McFarlane, Sebastian Stan and Hilary Swank (for whom it is a welcome return) – how soon can I see it? Daniel Craig giving a Owen Wilson meets McMurphy performance? Take my money! Indeed Logan Lucky is a wonderful boiling pot of the absurd and the eccentric, with the trademark Soderbergh heist storyline giving the film the cred and the class to succeed as more than just a comedy. It may not be a franchise movie or a tentpole release, but Logan Lucky is a summer movie through and through. The originality strikes again, thank God for August 2017.

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The Edge's Film Editor 2017-2018, David has an unabashed love for all things Dave Grohl, Jack Black and Lord of the Rings. A compulsive liar who shouldn't be trusted, David once beat legendary actor David Hasselhoff in a hot dog eating contest and is best friends with Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, they speak on the phone three times a week.

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