Here’s what to expect at the theaters this month.
The big one: Guardians Of The Galaxy
The latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been earning great early reviews, and has been tracking for a mammoth opening weekend. But the real story of this film is going to be told after Disney sees how well it does overseas, and over succeeding weekends. The better Guardians does, the higher likelihood that major studios will produce more funky blockbusters with personality. So far, the outlook is good.
Calvary* … Changing gears a bit from his low-key cop comedy The Guard, writer-director John Michael McDonagh tells the story of a devoted Catholic priest (Brendan Gleeson) whose troubled parishioners offer him plenty of chances to express forgiveness.
Child Of God* … Noted performance artist “Franco” takes a break from scandalizing the doctors and mobsters of Port Charles to write and direct an adaption of Cormac McCarthy’s ultra-violent 1973 novel.
Finding Fela* … The Alex Gibney Documentary Mill grinds on, this time spitting out a film about the life and music of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti.
Get On Up … The Help director Tate Taylor stays on the scene, like a James Brown biopic-making machine.
Rich Hill* … A sensation on the festival circuit earlier this year, Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo’s impressionistic documentary follows a trio of boys who live below the poverty line in a Missouri small town.
The Strange Little Cat … Compared to Jacques Tati and Bela Tarr, Ramon Zurcher’s off-kilter domestic dramedy looks at an ordinary Berlin family through alien eyes.
And: The Almost Man*, Around The Block, Behaving Badly*, Cabin Fever: Patient Zero*, 4 Minute Mile*, Frontera, Louder Than Words*, Rabindranath Tagore: The Poet Of Eternity*, Slugterra: Return Of The Elementals*, War Story, What About Me*
The big one: What If*
Originally known as The F Word when it won acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall, What If stars Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan as two young people who get along fantastically, but can’t become boyfriend and girlfriend due to extenuating circumstances. Directed by Michael Dowse (who previously helmed the crackling cult comedy Goon), What If is reportedly smart enough about the lives and relationships of contemporary twentysomethings to overcome its plot’s overt resemblance to When Harry Met Sally….
About Alex* … The first of two Aubrey Plaza movies out this August stars the Parks And Recreation actress as one of a circle of old friends who reunite, Big Chill-style.
The Dog* … The man who inspired Al Pacino’s character in Dog Day Afternoon is revealed in this documentary as a complicated man, both embraced and shunned by New York’s gay community in the 1970s.
Fifi Howls From Happiness* … Mitra Farahani introduces American audiences to Bahman Mohasses, a gay Iranian artist who lived a fruitful and fascinating life.
The Green Prince* … Nadav Schirman’s documentary tells the story of a Shin Bet agent and a Hamas honcho who became unlikely collaborators.
The Hundred-Foot Journey … Sure to be popular among the same crowd that loved Salmon Fishing In The Yemen and made The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel into a hit, this cozy culture-clash comedy stars Helen Mirren as a restauranteur who feuds with her new Indian neighbors.
Into The Storm … A found-footage Twister, minus Bill Paxton.
The One I Love … Indie stalwarts Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss play squabbling spouses who go on a couples’ retreat, where they have a freaky encounter that helps them reassess their relationship.
Step Up: All In … Here comes the latest installment of the popular dance franchise, following Step Up: Check, Step Up: Bet, Step Up: Call, and Step Up: Raise.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles … Reboot in a half-shell.
And: After, At The Devil’s Door, The Calling, James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge 3D*, The Maid’s Room
The big one: Frank*
Based on writer Jon Ronson’s experiences with eccentric British art-pop performance artist Frank Sidebottom, director Lenny Abrahamson’s twisted rock ’n’ roll comedy Frank stars Domhnall Gleeson as an amateur musician who joins a bizarre American band and then can’t understand why they don’t want to be more famous. A knowing and frequently hilarious study of how the creative impulse today is being shaped by social media, Frank also stars Maggie Gyllenhaal as a cranky artist and Michael Fassbender as a man who wears a papier-mâché head at all times to mask some serious emotional problems. Frank goes in circles after a while, but it ends with one of the most moving scenes in any film this year, and that finale alone stands to make Frank a cult favorite.
Abuse Of Weakness* … After making a pair of beguiling adaptations of Charles Perrault fairy tales (Bluebeard and Sleeping Beauty), Catherine Breillat adapts her own autobiographical novel about her succession of medical and financial woes.
Dinosaur 13 … Todd Miller’s documentary digs into the long legal battle over who owns a T-Rex’s bones.
The Expendables 3 … The great action stars of our time return: Stallone! Schwarzenegger! Grammer!
The Giver … Director Phillip Noyce brings some visual style to this adaptation of Lois Lowry’s kid-lit favorite, starring Jeff Bridges as the man who knows the dark secrets of a utopian society.
Jealousy … Philippe Garrel’s latest stars his son Louis as actor who has a tenuous romantic and professional relationship with a peer.
Let’s Be Cops … Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans, Jr. take a break from playing man-children on the TV sitcom New Girl to try playing man-children in writer-director Luke Greenfield’s comedy, about two doofuses whose lives are changed by a couple of costumes.
Life After Beth* … The second Aubrey Plaza movie of August has the monotone comic actress playing a zombie whose living boyfriend gets too clingy.
Moebius* … Kim Ki-duk reportedly gets back to the bizarre, repellant, and transgressive experiments of his earlier films with this dialogue-free study of a criminally dysfunctional family.
The Trip To Italy* … Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon continue to play versions of themselves—and to do dueling Michael Caine impressions—while touring gastronomical hot-spots.
And: Desert Dancer*, Found, Jake Squared, Septic Man
The big one: Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
It’s been nearly a decade since Robert Rodriguez and comic-book writer-artist Frank Miller turned an assortment of Miller’s Sin City stories into a hit movie of the same name. The belated sequel brings back a few of the characters from the earlier film—played by Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Powers Boothe, and Rosario Dawson—for another interlocking set of stories about about detectives, gangsters, strippers, and stylized black-and-white backdrops.
Are You Here* … Owen Wilson plays an Owen Wilson-type, trying to squeeze some money from his newly rich, mentally unstable best friend (Zach Galifianakis, playing a Zach Galifianakis-type) in a very un-Mad Men-like dramedy from Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner.
If I Stay … Documentarian R.J. Cutler makes his narrative-feature-directing debut with this adaptation of Gayle Forman’s young-adult novel about a comatose teenage girl (played by Chloë Grace Moretz) who reflects on her life and considers whether she wants to live or die.
Love Is Strange* … In writer-director Ira Sachs’ latest, Alfred Molina and John Lithgow play longtime romantic partners whose lives get ripped apart when they decide to get legally married.
The Prince … In the latest game of low-budget-thriller Mad-Libs™, Jason Patric plays [Desperate Father], John Cusack plays his [Estranged Friend], and Bruce Willis plays the [Manipulative Crime Boss] who sets an unwelcome reunion in motion with a [kidnapping].
Web Junkie* … The Chinese government’s effort to end Internet addiction is the subject of this documentary, which was well-received at Sundance.
When The Game Stands Tall … Based on a true story (though isn’t everything, if you really think about it?), this sports drama stars Jim Caviezel as a high-school football coach who rallies his team and notches a decade-long winning streak, raising questions about what’s going to happen to these kids when they finally lose.
And: Cam2Cam, Kabbalah Me*, K2: Siren Of The Himalayas*, The Liberator*, The Possession Of Michael King, Salvo*
The big one: The November Man
Pierce Brosnan returns to the realm of cloak-and-dagger in Roger Donaldson’s adaptation of Bill Granger’s novel There Are No Spies. There’s a Granger book actually called The November Man, which introduced the character Brosnan plays here: Peter Devereaux, ex-agent of “R Section,” a division of the U.S. intelligence community tasked to spy on the CIA. This movie catches up with Devereaux when he’s even older and more worn down from being called back into service over and over. Even with the ho-hum Donaldson directing, this could be another in what’s been a series of rich late-career roles for Brosnan.
Jamie Marks Is Dead* … A teenager named Adam becomes obsessed with an anonymous classmate, whose mysterious death leads Adam to consider his own alienation.
The Last Of Robin Hood* … Kevin Kline plays the legendary actor Errol Flynn, in a film about Flynn’s scandalous fling with a teenage actress (played by Dakota Fanning) and the publicity-hogging of the actress’ mother (Susan Sarandon).
Life Of Crime* … Based on Elmore Leonard’s novel The Switch, this caper comedy recounts the early adventures of Jackie Brown/Rum Punch’s Ordell Robbie (Yasiin “Mos Def” Bey) and Louis Gara (John Hawkes).
Starred Up … David Mackenzie directs this gritty British drama about a juvenile delinquent who gets transferred to an institution for violent adult criminals.
The Strange Color Of Your Body’s Tears* … Bruno Forzani and Hélène Cattet, directors of the giallo riff Amer, return for another arty mystery/thriller.
And: American Cheerleader, As Above So Below, Here Comes The Night, Last Weekend, The Notebook*, Sordid Lives, Through A Lens Darkly: Black Photographers And The Emergence Of A People, The Two Faces Of January