July was another month of Disney domination at the box office, with Toy Story 4, Spider-Man: Far From Home and The Lion King all bringing in the megabucks as temperatures reached crazy heights, England lifted the Cricket World Cup and Boris Johnson became our new Prime Minister. You win some, you lose some, I guess. August is shaping up to be more of a low-key time cinema-wise, unless Playmobil: The Movie or Dora and the Lost City of Gold sound like your idea of a wild time. Some of the releases this month are downright weird; besides the aforementioned titles, there’s also a second Angry Birds Movie and another sequel in Gerard Butler’s Has Fallen series coming out – these are franchises now?! Do not despair just yet though, as there are some potential gems hidden in there amongst all the lifeless cash grabs. After all, it’s not every month that you get a new film from Quentin Tarantino. Here are the top picks for August…
THE BLOCKBUSTER: Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, dir. David Leitch
Release Date: 1st August
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Helen Mirren
It might seem hypocritical to bemoan corporate cash grabs and then hype a Fast & Furious spin-off movie, but if that appears the case to you there’s little chance you’ll have seen the trailer for Hobbs & Shaw. It looks bloody bonkers, to say the very least. Two years after the events of Fast 8, Hobbs & Shaw finds federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and mercenary Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) teaming up to take on Brixton Lore – played by none other than Idris Elba, one of few actors who would be able to pull off that character name. Brixton has a bone to pick with Deckard’s sister, MI6 agent Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), because she’s taken a deadly virus from him and, naturally, he wants it back. Oh, and he’s a genetically enhanced supersoldier who calls himself “black Superman”. Naturally. Of course, you’ll know all this if you’ve watched the trailer. It pretty much reveals EVERYTHING about the film, including the presence of fellow WWE pro wrestler Roman Reigns as one of Hobbs’ brothers. The adoption of Johnson’s Polynesian background as Hobbs’ own feels like an addition to the actor’s liking, but, in a universe that has exponentially stretched the realms of believability, it could make for a charming, more grounded climax having a bunch of burly Samoans brawling hand-to-hand with Brixton’s goons. That’s what passes for grounded in the Fast & Furious universe these days. Then again, Hobbs & Shaw seems just as likely to go off in a completely different, entirely batshit direction. Whatever happens, we’ll be there opening night.
THE ALTERNATIVE: Blinded by the Light, dir. Gurinder Chadha
Release Date: 9th August
Starring: Viveik Kalra, Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydon, Kulvinder Ghir, Nell Williams
Gurinder Chadha is one of the unsung heroes of British cinema, despite the director already having an OBE to her name. Her latest feature deals in familiar territory, with much of her work concerning the lives of British Asians as they grow up in the UK (Bend It Like Beckham the go-to example), but Blinded by the Light comes with a twist of a distinctly American flavour. Based on the memoirs of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, the film follows Javed (Viveik Kalra), a British Pakistani teen surrounded by the troubles of late Thatcherite Britain, who finds solace in unexpected places when a friend introduces him to the music of Bruce ‘The Boss’ Springsteen. As a tribute to an artist, Blinded by the Light is more Yesterday than Rocketman or Bohemian Rhapsody. Rather than chronicling the life of the musician with the standard formula of sex, drugs and rock & roll, the film focuses on the power of music to the ordinary listener – it gives the songs back to the people. With positive reviews out of Sundance, Chadha looks to have offered another empowering culture portrait that gets to the heart of what makes Springsteen so affecting for so many. Though The Boss isn’t as big over here as he is in the US – where he’s practically worshipped as a God – anyone can recognise the potency of good music. We all have that artist that gets to our soul in a way no other artist can. By recognising and celebrating that, Blinded by the Light looks to be onto a winner.
EDITOR’S PICK: Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, dir. Quentin Tarantino
Release Date: 14th August
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino
DiCaprio. Pitt. Robbie. Pacino. ’60s Hollywood. A cast and setting like that is enough to guarantee a great time, but when the list of talent is topped off by director Quentin Tarantino… you’re looking at something transcendent. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the self-proclaimed 9th film from the American provocateur, though only on the technicality that he himself considers Kill Bill as one big movie when it was released as two separate volumes. Tarantino only has one more left in the tank after Hollywood – he’s said he’ll retire after shooting his 10th movie. Whilst it’s tempting to jump for joy at the prospect of as much Tarantino as possible, the public’s relationship with the director has definitely changed since his last release, The Hateful Eight, in 2015. The #MeToo scandal broke in October 2017, with QT’s long-time collaborator Harvey Weinstein accused of numerous accounts of rape, sexual harassment and assault. There may not be similar accusations levelled towards Tarantino, but it is clear he did not do enough to bring Weinstein’s behaviour to light earlier and stop it from continuing for decades.
It’s a tricky discussion to have considering Weinstein’s bullish demeanour and stature in the industry. Thus, Tarantino has come out of the whole thing relatively unscathed. Now, we look forward to his new film with more dubious eyes than before, wary of the exploitation tropes that define his cinema in light of #MeToo, especially because Hollywood features Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate – the heavily pregnant actress murdered by members of the Manson Family in August 1969. The manner in which Tarantino chooses to handle this sensitive subject matter remains to be seen. Whether he sticks true to the tragic reality or takes the Inglourious Basterds alternate history route, it’s probably going to cause controversy. There’s only one thing Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is certain not to change: Quentin Tarantino is and always will be a Marmite figure.