On Pete's Dragon And The Rest Of August's New And Repertory Film Releases.
Summer's almost over.
It's still scorching outside, sure but the kids are about to head back to school (which means school speed zones for the rest of us, ugh) and there's not a lot left for the big studios to offer.
In fact, I'd say you're better off sticking to your arthouse and repertory theaters, especially the Texas Theatre. Their slate for this month is absolutely ridiculous, especially their 4K Summer Epics series, which features restored versions of Ran, The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia. If you're not feeling quite so high-brow, they've also got a showing of Urban Cowboy, complete with mechanical bull.
They've really stepped up their game over there lately.
Director: David Ayer.
Writer: David Ayer.
Cast: Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Will Smith, Viola Davis.
This team-up of some of DC Comics’ baddest villains is the biggest gamble of the year. Succeed, and it will be a darkly funny antidote to all the other comic book movies out there. Fail, and it will go down as a notorious flop that hobbled the careers of an extremely talented cast. Our own Javier Fuentes was kinder than most critics, but even he acknowledges that it still doesn't get there.
Director: David Lowery.
Writers: David Lowery, Toby Halbrooks.
Cast: Oakes Fegley, Bryce Dallas Howard, Karl Urban, Robert Redford.
Local wunderkind David Lowery made a strong impression with his gorgeous debut, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. Now, he gets to step up to the big leagues with this Disney remake that looks closer to E.T. than the original film.
Kubo and The Two Strings.
Director: Travis Knight.
Writers: Marc Haimes, Chris Butler.
Cast: Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Rooney Mara, George Takei.
Pixar rightly gets a lot of credit for making animated movies that are consistently smart, funny and touching. But in almost every way, the geniuses at Laika are their equals. Their movies are all stop-motion and a lot weirder than those blockbusters, but they're also often more clever and progressive. Their latest is an original story that dabbles in ancient Japanese legends, as a young boy must track down a suit of magical armor to fight off vengeful monsters.
Director: Todd Phillips.
Writer: Todd Phillips, Stephen Chin, Jason Smilovic.
Cast: Miles Teller, Jonah Hill, Bradley Cooper, Shaun Toub.
Based on an incredible Rolling Stone article that still seems too crazy to be true, War Dogs tells the story of two bros who negotiated a massive government contract to sell weapons to coalition troops in Iraq. Unsurprisingly, two twentysomethings with no experience in the arms business made a lot of mistakes. Todd Phillips (The Hangover) spins this disaster into dark comedy.
Hell or High Water.
Director: David Mackenzie.
Writer: Taylor Sheridan.
Cast: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Katy Mixon.
You know what we need more of? Dark fables set in Texas. There's Lone Star, No Country for Old Men and not a lot else. Here, Chris Pine and the vastly underrated Ben Foster team up to commit some heinous crimes in order to save their family farm. Jeff Bridges co-stars as the cop on their trail. The script comes from Taylor Sheridan, who wrote Sicario, one of the most unsettling movies of 2015.
Morris from America.
Director: Chad Hartigan.
Writer: Chad Hartigan.
Cast: Craig Robinson, Carla Juri, Lina Keller, Markees Christmas.
This Sundance hit follows a kid (newcomer Markees Christmas) as he struggles to come of age as a black American living in Germany. Craig Robinson is the dad he sometimes can’t relate to.
Director: Clay Tweel.
This inspirational doc has gotten rave reviews, although I was a little more muted in my enthusiasm. It tells the story of former New Orleans Saints defensive back Steve Gleason, who fought back against a terminal ALS diagnosis. Clay Tweel also directed Finders Keepers, and he's able to find the common human truth beneath larger-than-life figures.
Director: James Schamus.
Writer: James Schamus.
Cast: Logan Lerman, Sarah Gadon, Tracy Letts, Ben Rosenfield.
Oscar-nominated producer-writer James Schamus makes his directorial debut here with the first of two Philip Roth adaptations headed your way this year. (Ewan McGregor’s take on American Pastoral hits theaters in December.) This one's based on Roth's 2008 novel about a Jewish college student struggling with love, faith and the coming Korean War.
Director: Joel Coen.
Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen.
Cast: John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, M. Emmet Walsh.
Playing At: Texas Theatre.
Showing: Friday, August 5; Saturday, August 6.
The Coens' debut is another one of those dark Texas fables I praised above — and in some ways, it's their best film. It's taut, funny and features frequent use of the Four Tops' incredible “It's the Same Old Song.” Frances McDormand, also making her debut, plays Abby, who finds herself in over her head after she and her boyfriend (John Getz) try to cover up a murder.
Director: Quentin Tarantino.
Writer: Quentin Tarantino.
Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah.
Playing At: Inwood Theatre.
Showing: Friday, August 5; Saturday, August 6.
Quentin Tarantino's epic orgy of violence sadly isn't being shown back-to-back or at a reasonable hour. But the Inwood is showing both parts on consecutive nights as part of their long-running Midnight Madness series. The first volume is more fun, but the second volume has the better dialogue. Together, they're yet another great Tarantino film.
Touch of Evil.
Director: Orson Welles.
Writer: Orson Welles.
Cast: Charlton Heston, Orson Welles, Janet Leigh, Joseph Calleia.
Playing At: Alamo Drafthouse Richardson, Alamo Drafthouse Dallas.
Showing: Sunday, August 7.
Even if we never got to see Orson Welles' true vision for this ultra-dark vision of society in the '50s, it would still go down as one of the greatest crime films of all time. In one of the worst casting decisions of all time, Charlton Heston plays a Mexican drug enforcement agent who teams up with Welles' wholly corrupt American police captain to investigate a murder. With all those caveats noted, it's still one of the best thrillers ever made.
The Philadelphia Story.
Director: George Cukor.
Writer: Donald Ogden Stewart.
Cast: Cary Grant, James Stewart, Katherine Hepburn, Ruth Hussey.
Playing At: McKinney Performing Arts Center.
Showing: Sunday, August 21.
So maybe, after all that, you need something a little lighter? The McKinney Classic Film Festival returns after its inaugural year, this time with a focus on screwball comedies. While I wish they were showing Bringing Up Baby, this is still one of the finest comedies from the era, with three of the greatest actors of all time. Jimmy Stewart plays a tabloid reporter in town to cover Katherine Hepburn’s marriage to a wealthy businessman, just as her ex-husband (Cary Grant) shows up to wreak havoc. This is the kind of movie people talk about when they say things like, “They don’t make 'em like they used to.”