“Grandma” and “Mistress America”: Ten Films to see in August

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Welcome to August folks! As always, I like to take a look at the month in advance to see what cinematic offerings are coming our way. This time out, it’s obviously the August releases that I’m going to be prepping you for, and once again as an added bonus, I’ve seen a couple of them already. Despite the reputation that the month gets for being a summer dumping ground, there are reasons to be optimistic here. In fact, August is potentially shaping up to be a very solid month overall for cinema, so you’ll likely have multiple things to see starting later on this week. Take a look below and obviously stay tuned for more on many of these…

Here now are the ten best bets for movies in August:

10. Fantastic Four – The superhero reboot has my curiosity, despite the original outings being poor, at best. The cast is excellent (including Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, and Miles Teller), the behind the scenes talent is solid, and the Trailers so far have been strong. I see it in two days, so I’ll have a better idea then if this is an early August gem or not, but I have a hunch it’s going to be a well liked comic book film.

9. American Ultra – Last time we saw Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart share the screen, it was in the deeply underrated Adventureland, so I’m very hopeful that this will feature the same strong chemistry between them. This time it’s a stoner action comedy, not a coming of age dramedy, but my hope springs eternal. It’s definitely an X factor for now, but the potential is certainly there.

8. Ricki and the Flash – I see this one tonight, so I’ll know then if Meryl Streep is an Oscar lock again (look for an article before the week is out), but the combination of Streep with scribe Diablo Cody and director Jonathan Demme is more than enough to make me look forward to this evening. Throw in a potentially juicy supporting role for Kevin Kline and this could be right up the Academy’s alley. Stay tuned…

7. Shanghai – One of the surprises this month is that we’ll actually see this John Cusack period piece. A half decade ago I first started looking forward to this one, wondering if Cusack could score a Best Actor nod for it. That nom didn’t happen, but the film also didn’t come out, with the end of this month having it finally hit a few screens, likely so the Blu-Ray/DVD can come out. Hey, I’ll take it. I just want to watch it at last in its theatrical entirety.

6. Cop Car – This little thriller is what got filmmaker Jon Watts the Spiderman reboot gig, so you know there’s something very interesting here. Kevin Bacon looks to play a great bad guy, while the concept of kids over their heads in danger but only partially aware of the weight of the situation does fit in with a Peter Parker vibe. Seeing this one is almost like Spidey prep work folks!

5. She’s Funny That Way – The main reason that this indie is of note to me isn’t the solid cast, which includes Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson, but the fact that it’s from legendary director Peter Bogdanovich. Having Bogdanovich put out new work should get some cinephiles in theaters, regardless of the middling early reviews for this one. It’s a small scale cinematic event.

4. Z for Zachariah – A great looking post apocalyptic tale featuring basically just three characters in Chiwetel Ejiofor, Chris Pine, and Margot Robbie, this is something I’ve been wanting to see since it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. It was a bit divisive, but a lot of my favorite things from Sundance tend to be that way, so I hardly mind. Perhaps a dark horse for some Oscar attention? We shall see…

3. Digging for Fire – I’m a fan of indie filmmaker Joe Swanberg, so seeing him finally get access to A list cast members like Jake Johnson and Anna Kendrick as well as slightly bigger budgets has been great. He’s retained his artistic sensibilities while getting to tell stories that more people will see. It’s a win-win, with this dramedy looking to be another example of this new stage in his career.

2. Mistress America – An absolutely hilarious film reuniting filmmaker Noah Baumbach with Greta Gerwig, it’s a real joy to watch. Baumbach is having a blast directing while Gerwig co-stars (in addition to co-writing the script with Baumbach) with up and comer Lola Kirke in a small comedy that generates big laughs. It might not appeal to awards voters like Frances Ha almost did, but when something is this funny, do you really care that much about all that?

1. Grandma – One of my favorites of the year so far, this is August’s best release by far. Lily Tomlin deserves a Best Actress nomination for this dramedy role, while Sam Elliot turns in one of, if not the, best supporting roles I’ve seen all throughout 2015. It can make you laugh and cry in equal measure, which is always the mark of a top notch movie. Do not miss this one, I can’t stress that enough to you all.

Honorable Mention: 6 Years, The Gift, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Sinister 2, and Straight Outta Compton

Be sure to check these films out all throughout August!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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