This week’s releases are all over the map. Despite what Fox would like you to think, we’re pretty much clear of the big summer guns now; there’s no Rise of the Planet of the Apes or Guardians of the Galaxy this year waiting to break out. So films are crawling out of the woodwork to snap up whatever’s left of those summer dollars in the dog days of August. It doesn’t make for the most exciting slate of films from a box office standpoint, but it does allow for some smaller, more interesting films to have their moment.
Joel Edgerton isn’t the first person that comes to mind when you think auteur. But here he is writing, directing and starring in The Gift, a thriller about the worst high school reunion ever. The trailers have had some ambiguity as to who’s really the bad guy in this, which seems like it could be offering up a nice twist. It doesn’t seem quite like a horror film, so I don’t know if it’ll get the usual horror movie opening bump, but its budget is in the right neighborhood — $5 million — so it’s not like there’s a whole lot at stake here. Of course, that’s not going to get people to care about your movie.
For a film that boasts four Academy Award winners, Ricki and the Flash sure has crept up on us. I don’t think I saw the first trailer until the night I saw Ant-Man, and here’s the film opening already. You’ve got Jonathan Demme directing, Diablo Cody writing, and Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline on screen, and it almost feels like this is getting dumped. Being only on some 1,600 screens doesn’t really help that perception. It looks like a perfectly decent family drama, which might strike some as a nice salve for all the pyrotechnics of the summer. But given that Demme hasn’t even sniffed $100 million since 1991, I wouldn’t exactly hold my breath on this one making a splash.
The Wallace and Grommit shorts, Chicken Run and The Curse of the Were-Rabbit have pretty much earned Aardman Animations a lifetime pass from me, even if I didn’t care too much for their last three feature films. On top of the incredible stop-motion artistry on display, their films have a gentle humor that’s a nice contrast to all the more frenetic animated films we get. Shaun the Sheep Movie spins off from the TV series of the same name (itself a spin-off from one of those Wallace and Grommit shorts, A Close Shave), and looks like it has that same kind of gentleness, particularly in its mostly silent cast of sheep. Which means it probably doesn’t stand a chance this weekend.
Now just because Fantastic Four is last doesn’t mean I’m particularly excited about seeing it. This is a total car crash scenario here, where I want to slow down and see just what happened. And the other studios must smell blood in the water; what was the last summer super-hero film that had so many other films opening up against it? Somebody has to think this thing is vulnerable. Not surprising considering the near-toxic buzz it’s been getting. All indications are this film simply doesn’t understand the characters it’s about. The FF were always about the thrill of exploration. Yes, there was angst about having been transformed, but it was melodrama, not grimdark brooding. Their books were fun. And instead we get all dark colors and scientific explanations for why a guy can stretch. Say what you want about the Disney Marvel films, but they don’t try to run away from their super-hero roots. Fantastic Four almost seems like it wants to apologize for it. So I might very well go check this out. But the interest is purely forensic.
In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation took the weekend again. Oh, there’ll definitely be some curiosity about Fantastic Four, and those who’ll go see anything super-hero will turn out, but 12% on Rotten Tomatoes isn’t going to do any favors. I just hope this doesn’t kill the perception of the FF as viable cinematic characters. There’s so much potential there that I’d hate to see snuffed out because the property has been left in less than capable hands.