Opening August 24th: Is It Just Me Or Have We Seen This Movie Before?

Kids Are Heading Back To School And Hollywood Is Commencing Its Annual Dumping Of Movies That Are Tried But Maybe Not True

Haven’t We Seen This Before?
There are a lot of theories out there about how many stories really exist. Conflict theory espouses that all stories follow one of only seven plots (man vs. nature, man vs. man, man vs. the environment, man vs. machines/technology, man vs. the supernatural, man vs. self, man vs. god/religion). Other’s say it is only three, some say twenty-four or thirty-six and still others stick with seven, its just a different seven (Neil Perkin wrote a great article about these different theories on his blog Only Dead Fish that you can read here).  The point is that most stories (and this is even more true in film than in literature) follow familiar beats and that is not necesarilly a bad thing. The trick is generally you don’t want the movie to feel like you are just telling the same old story. You want people to say its like XYZ movie, not it’s just XYZ movie with different actors. This week’s movies seem to fail to achieve that distinction which may not be all bad, but it definitely isn’t all good.
Of course this shouldn’t be all that surprising as we find ourselves in the end of August, one of two great dumping grounds for hollywood (the other is January) where they put movies they have little faith in (they generally have little investment in these films as well where even the “big” releases have budgets in the $25 to $30 million range). Genres rule the day at the end of August, movies with core audiences, movies that you can figure out what it is just by seeing the poster, movies like these…

Premium Rush
Interest Level: 5
Can Joseph Gordon-Levitt Be An Action Star: Yes, in the next Batman movie
Quicksilver meets The Transporter meets Marathon Man in this high octane thrill ride (I’m not even sure if that is what they are calling this, but it feels like that kind of a movie, doesn’t it?). JGL plays a bike messenger who is asked to deliver a package that ends up bringing him nothing but trouble as he is forced to run (or ride as the case maybe) for his life through the streets of NYC. Look, if it wasn’t for Gordon-Levitt I can’t imagine there would be much of any interest from anyone, but the afore mentioned JGL is a rising star and has been good in everything he’s been in for the last number of years. Is that enough to get me to go to the movies to watch this? Not a chance. But I may check it out on HBO in less than a year.
Apparition
Interest Level: 4
Does The Involvement of Ashley Green Do Anything For You: Nope
If you believe in the ghost you die! Doesn’t that by definition mean the ghost isn’t real? I mean, if it were real why would it need your belief to do anything? Does anyone care? I didn’t think so. Look, this kind of horror (spooky more than bloody with a good looking young actress) always draws an audience and never goes mainstream. They release 4 or 5 of these every year and will continue to for as long as they make movies I suspect. 
Hit & Run
Interest Level: 5
How Do You Feel About Dax Shepard: eh
Speaking of movies that come out a couple of times a year, here is one of those “B level actor with a number of A level friends who decides he wants to write and direct a comedy” movies. You know the one’s, like that Friends With Kids earlier this year. You kind of recognize the lead, you’ve seen them bouncing around, and you can’t figure out why they are starring instead of the big name who has a bit role (Bradley Cooper in this movie). These movies are generally fine if not great and better caught on TV than at the theater. Oh, I forgot, this is a movie about a guy in witness protection who leaves the program so he can drive the girl he likes somewhere across the country, chases and hilarity ensue.
General Education
Interest Level: 4
Are You Surprised The Guy Who Wrote This Wasn’t Alive In The 1980’s: Very
Why am I surprised at Tom Morris’ age (he is the writer and director)? Because this movie looks and feels like a John Hughes movie from 1987. A guy gets a tennis scholarship to his dream college and has to go to summer school so no one will find out he never actually graduated from high school. Love and life lessons follow. How is this not starring Eric Stoltz and Lea Thompson?
Sleepwalk With Me
Interest Level: 4
Have You Ever Heard Of Mike Birbiglia Before: Heard Him On A Podcast Once
A stand-up comedian turns his one man show into a movie. No doubt it will have very funny parts (probably mostly the stand-up parts), no doubt the stand-up will seem much less convincing in the acting parts. Much like Hit & Run this is a movie that will be best caught on TV. Of course, its release is so limited that TV is likely the only place you could catch it anyway.
Samsara
Interest Level: 4
Did You See Baraka: Yes, Shockingly I Saw It Sober
Ron Fricke made a movie some years ago called it Baraka. He shot it on 70 mm and it is beautiful. It is not a narrative film. Think abstract art (not in its surrealism, but in its disassociation with storytelling) on film. Now he made Samsara which is the same kind of movie. Baraka became very popular with stoners (it plays well with hallucinogens apparently) and no doubt Samsara will be this generations drug movie of choice.
Little White Lies
Interest Level: 4
When Was The Last Time You Watched The Big Chill: 10 Years Ago At Least
While all these movies ring familiar none has overtly said they are just doing a new take on an old movie, until now. Little White Lies is a “fresh take” on The Big Chill. Made in France and released two years ago in Europe this has some of the biggest names in French cinema playing roles overtly similar to the parts played by Jeff Goldblum, Kevin Klein, Glen Close, et. al. If you like The Big Chill and have a thing for French cinema than obviously this is the movie for you, if not, maybe not.
Hermano (Brother)
Interest Level: 4 (man, a lot of 4’s this week)
Are You Surprised That Two Movies Are Being “Released” This Week That Are Two Years Old: Wait, It Gets Better
Yup, another flick that has been bouncing around the international festival circuit since 2010 (it was even Venezuela’s official oscar submission for the 2011 awards) this story of two men who have been raised as brothers and are hoping to use their soccer skills to get out of the slum they live in find an act of violence in their small town threatens to tear them apart has received praise wherever it has gone, just not so much praise as to actually generate buzz.
The Revenant
Interest Level: 4 (why break the streak)
Have You Ever Attended A Horror Convention: No, but it kind of sounds fun
So you thought movies from 2010 were impressive, well The Revenant has been around since 2009, playing at Horror conventions around the world. It has actually garnered a number of awards and accolades from the crowds at those conventions but again, never enough to actually generate broader buzz. This movie is supposed to be graphic. It is about a fallen soldier who returns to LA as a zombie who has retained brain function and needs blood to survive (think vampire without the sex appeal). He decides to team with an old friend to fight the drug lords of LA because they represent a guilt free source of blood (perfectly logical). Did I mention this movie is supposed to be graphic? It is also a comedy (well, it would have to be, wouldn’t it?). FYI, the trailer below is a Red Band Trailer, meaning it is “R” rated like the movie.
Conclusion
It is appropriate that Dax Shepard has a movie out this week because I feel the same way about most of these movies as I do about him, eh. Not bad, not great, nothing exciting. These are all the kinds of movies that you find yourself catching on TV when the mood hits you and there is nothing better on. I guess that sums up the end of August movie selection in a nutshell.
But hey, what do I know, I’m fat.