At the tail end of the summer season all the big blockbusters have already appeared, leaving lower-budgeted genre fare – commercial movies that can’t compete with big popcorners but are still commercial movies, not end of the year awards films. This month we have new movies from James Franco, Emma Stone, Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg and Ryan Reynolds.
The Change-Up (Aug. 5) A body-changing comedy that plotwise greatly resembles an R-rated Crazy Stupid Love. Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds play Dave and Mitch, best friends who live opposite lifestyles. Dave is the overstressed, responsible family man with a corporate job, a loving wife and three kids while Mitch live the swinging singles life and avoids responsibility at all cost. Yet the two of them envy each others lives. After barhopping and pissing into a fountain they utter the magic words: “ I wish I had your life.” They wake up in each others’ bodies and the typical body-switching comedy ensues. Unfortunately, with Crazy Stupid Love coming out a week earlier in which suddenly single Steve Carell gets taught to date again by lothario Ryan Gosling, this movie could get lost in the shuffle.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Aug. 5) A reboot of the 70s Apes series, Rise is an origins story on the order of Batman Begins. James Franco, (in his first special effects movie since Spiderman 3) plays Will Rodman, a geneticist bent on finding a cure for Alzheimers. He tests a virus that improves brain function on a test chimpanzee, Caesar (Andy Serkis) resulting in Caesar gaining human intelligence. After being taunted by visitors Caesar manages to escape his cell and spread the virus to the other apes in the government facility. After facility manager Steve Jacobs wants the apes destroyed, the apes escape and a war between apes and humans begins to determine the dominant species. Photorealistic special effects for the apes might be the best reason to see the movie.
The Help (Aug. 10) Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 bestseller about the lives of African-American maids who raise the children of white families in the South comes to the screen with an all-star cast including Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney and Sissy Spacek. Set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 60s, story follows the intertwining lives of Aibileen (Davis), an African-American maid who has spent her life raising white children; Minny (Octavia Spencer), Aibileen’s best friend, whose penchant for speaking her mind has resulted in 19 dismissals; Skeeter (Emma Stone) a young white woman just returned from college who finds that Constantine, the maid that raised her has mysteriously vanished. When snooty social leader Hilly Holbrook suggests that there should be separate bathrooms for coloreds, Skeeter decides to investigate the lives of these women so close to her which she knows very little about.
30 Minutes or Less (Aug. 12) Jesse Eisenberg and Danny McBride star in this day-gone-horribly-wrong comedy. Eisenberg plays Nick, a slacker pizza delivery guy who is kidnapped by would-be criminals Dwayne (McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson). In need of money to pay a hitman to commit a murder, they tie a bomb to Nick and tell him to rob a bank. He has ten hours to get the money to them – or else. Director Ruben Fleischer brings the same off-kilter humor to this story as he did to Zombieland. Eisenberg surprises by ditching his usual deadpan style, bringing manic energy to Nick’s desperate situation. McBride does what he does best – raunchy, crude humor. Michel Peña steals every scene he’s in as the hitman. Although not quite as original as Zombieland, 30 Minutes or Less still manages to make the most of its concept and consistently amuse.
One Day (Aug. 19) Director Lone Scherfig had a surprise hit with her 2009 Academy Award-nominated coming-of-age romance An Education about a teenage girl’s first romance with an older man. She follows up with One Day, the story of one-time lovers whose lives are revisited on the same day for the next 20 years. Based on David Nicholls 2009 novel, story follows Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) as they spend the night together after graduating from the University of Edinburgh in 1988. Emma is working class and idealistic. Dexter is wealthy and a charmer. Life comes easily for him. They separate. Dexter is an immediate success in TV while Emma struggles. But through relationships and the ups and downs of life, they remain friends. In 2001, both are single again, their lives having taken totally different trajectories. Dexter’s career is a wreck while Emma has become a successful writer. He travels to Paris and the two mull rekindling their relationship as lovers.