One film journalist’s stream-of-consciousness cinematic journey through the pandemic, Part 94
By Laurence Lerman / New York City
Some folks feel that with the arrival of August, the best days of summer are behind them, that the countdown to Labor Day and the unofficial wrap-up of the season is only a few weekends away.
I never really felt that way. Maybe it’s a little too forward thinking for me at a time when I’m enjoying the high season for sweet corn, tomatoes and cantaloupe. Still, while the end isn’t upon us yet, warnings of its arrival are in the mail, that’s for sure. Summer clothing is on sale in store windows; the sunburns of your friends and family have by now turned into tans; local TV ads and CVS circulars are hawking back-to-school products; and the final month of the summer movie release schedule has begun!
While I enjoy being out and about during August, I’m also very content to lounge in a cool indoor movie house. That’s particularly true this summer, when I’ve begun to go to the theater semi-regularly again. Not during the busy nighttime screenings, mind you, but rather the late morning/early afternoon weekday showtimes, when the theater is bound to be at its mellowest and I can sit comfortably with my mask—and other attendees are hopefully doing the same.
My wife and I have caught a handful of summer releases in this manner, all of which I’ve previewed in The Insider—Top Gun: Maverick, Elvis, Thor: Love and Thunder. The first two were very lively and fun; the latter, well, it was entertaining enough.
The superhero saga Thor was the second of a pair of Marvel Comics Universe (MCU) behemoths released to theaters this summer, following Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in late May. When preparing my Reel Streaming column on the movies of August, I’ll admit I was sort of pleased that there weren’t any more Marvel flicks on tap. But there are plenty of other August big screen premieres to consider for these dog days. So many, in fact, that you probably won’t be barking up the wrong tree when you decide. (A little summer humor…)
Here are ten pics on tap for August that are new and refreshing:
Brad Pitt gets physical in the action-comedy based on Japanese author Kōtarō Isaka’s 2010 Japanese novel Maria Beetle. He portrays a nearly retired hit man who is convinced to take on one final job: collect a briefcase from an operative on an assassin-laden bullet train heading from Tokyo to Kyoto. John Wick helmer David Leitch directs a colorful cast that includes Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Michael Shannon, Zazie Beetz, Karen Fukuhara and Masi Oka.
In her highest-profile project since HBO’s Girls, writer/director Lena Dunham’s latest is an off-center comedy about a naïve 26-year-old woman living on the fringes of Hollywood who begins an affair with her considerably older employer, launching her long-delayed sexual awakening. Kristine Froseth and the considerably older Jon Bernthal star.
I Love My Dad
In this comedy, Patton Oswalt is a hopelessly estranged father whose desperate attempts to reconnect with his troubled son Franklin (James Orosini) lead him to impersonate a waitress online just so he can check up on him. Things to begin to spiral out of control when Franklin falls for the imaginary girl and wants nothing more than to meet her in person. The story was inspired by a real-life experience of writer/director/star Morosini.
From writer/director Andrew Semans, this psychological thriller follows a seemingly capable woman with a college-bound daughter, who attempts to maintain control of her life when an abusive ex-boyfriend re-appears on the edge of her neighborhood. Star Rebecca Hall has been receiving raves for her performance as the film has weaved through the festival circuit.
Back to the Drive-In
Though drive-in theaters staged a temporary resurgence when the pandemic hit, behind the scenes it remains a struggle for their owners to keep their businesses alive. In her latest documentary, April Wright, whose previous features include Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story (2020) and Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace, examines 11 very different drive-ins in eight states around the country and what the future may hold for them.
Mack & Rita
When 30-year-old homebody writer Mack Martin joins her gal pals on a Palm Springs bachelorette trip, her inner 70-year-old is released—literally--in the form of her physically transforming into a considerably older woman. This magic-infused comedy-drama features Elizabeth Lail as the freaked-out young Mack and Diane Keaton as "Aunt Rita," the name Mack adopts when her younger self turns into an older soul.
A recently widowed father and his two teenage daughters travel to South Africa on a journey of healing that turns into a nightmare when they find themselves hunted by a ferocious rogue lion intent on ridding his corner of the Savanna of any intruders. Icelandic auteur Baltasar Kormákur directs and Idris Elba stars in this intense and violent adventure-thriller.
Three Minutes – A Lengthening
A found snippet of 16mm color film shot in 1938 offers a glimpse into the lives of the unsuspecting Jewish citizens of the small Polish village of Nasielsk on the precipice of World War II and the Holocaust. Filmmaker Bianca Stigter uses the existing three minutes to unravel the stories of the town and inhabitants hidden on the celluloid. Helena Bonham Carter provides the narration.
Originally called 892 when it first played at Sundance, this hostage drama, based on a real-life incident, centers on a troubled Marine war veteran (John Boyega) who takes bank workers hostage after not receiving benefits he was due. Nicole Beharie, Connie Britton and Jeffrey Donovan co-star, along with the late Michael K. Williams, as a negotiator in one of his final roles.
Three Thousand Years of Longing
Tilda Swinton is a lonely academic attending a conference in Istanbul; Idris Elba (he’s busy this summer!) is the djinn (genie) who offers her three wishes in exchange for his freedom. Tilda’s problem? First, she doubts he is real, and second, as a scholar of mythology, she knows all the cautionary tales of wishes gone awry! The fiercely creative George Miller of Max Max and Babe fame is the director and co-writer of this darkly fantastical concoction adapted from A.S. Byatt’s short story The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eyes.
Laurence Lerman is a film journalist, former editor of Video Business--Variety's DVD trade publication--and husband to The Insider's own Gwen Cooper. Over the course of his career he has conducted one-on-one interviews with just about every major director working today, including Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Clint Eastwood, Kathryn Bigelow, Ridley Scott, Walter Hill, Spike Lee, and Werner Herzog, among numerous others. Once James Cameron specifically requested an interview with Laurence by name, which his wife still likes to brag about. Most recently, he is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the online review site DiscDish.com.