As I mentioned in my last post, August is a below average month for ticket sales at the box office. Accordingly, August is one of the months that movie distributors use to dump movies that they don’t expect to do well. The historical exception to this is promising small movies with modest budgets. It is possible that there is a second exception.Two years ago we saw the successful launch of Guardians of the Galaxy on the first weekend in August. The gamble was that the first weekend in August was more like July, the blockbuster mecca, than the rest of August.
In selecting my August “really like” prospects, the trick is to separate the wheat from the chaff. I need to find the movies that fit the exceptions noted above and avoid the dumps. With that in mind, consider the following five movies:
Suicide Squad Release Date: August 5, 2016 “Really Like Probability” 45%
One of the classic movies released in the 1960’s was The Dirty Dozen, in which twelve criminals with special skills were recruited for a black-ops mission during World War II. The success of The Dirty Dozen hinged on humanizing these “bad men” so that the audience would root for them. The movie succeeded in doing this by infusing a liberal dose of humor. Suicide Squad is a comic book version of the same story. Coming out of last week’s Comic-Con in San Diego, the movie is riding a positive buzz. I’m betting on the buzz being because the movie is good and not just hype. Because nobody has seen this movie so far, the probability reflects a little better than average probability for an August movie. As we get closer to opening weekend we’ll gain a better handle on whether this movie earns the buzz.
Hell or High Water Release Date: August 12, 2016 “Really Like” Probability: 45%
This western, which premiered at Cannes this year, is very promising. Director David MacKenzie was nominated at Cannes for his work on the film. The screenplay was written by Taylor Sheridan, who made an impressive screenwriting debut last year for the hit Sicario. And, Chris Pine and Ben Foster play brothers who rob banks to save their farm while trying to avoid the dogged pursuit of a Texas Ranger, played by Jeff Bridges. Based on 15 reviews, Hell or High Water is already 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. With 200 votes on IMDB, it has an early average rating of 7.6.
Florence Foster Jenkins Release Date: August 12, 2016 “Really Like” Probability: 40%
Meryl Streep is renowned for her ability to assume the accents of the many characters she has played in her distinguished career. In Florence Foster Jenkins, Streep, an accomplished singer, has to assume the singing voice of a woman who can’t sing a lick. This movie has already been released internationally and so we already have more feedback on it than is typical before a U.S. release. With 49 reviews in, it is 92% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s average rating on IMDB is a 7.1, but is 7.4 for voters over 45. Even without the positive feedback, though, any movie with Meryl Streep qualifies as a prospect. You can throw in Hugh Grant as the husband of Florence Foster Jenkins if you need more convincing.
Southside with You Release Date: August 26, 2016 “Really Like” Probability: 35%
I’m a big fan of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise trilogy. The dialogue driven movies have an authenticity that are unusual in the Romance genre. Director and screenwriter Richard Tanne modeled his approach to the romance portrayed in Southside with You on Linklater’s work. That has me intrigued. The fact that the movie portrays the first date of Barack and Michelle Obama is an added dimension. Because this movie has taken the movie festival route including an opening at Sundance, there has been some feedback from critics, receiving an 88% fresh so far from 24 critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Given that we are in the middle of a heated political season, don’t be surprised if some political passions seep into the IMDB voting.
Little Men Release Date: August 5, 2016 “Really Like” Probability” 30%
This is not an adaptation of the Luisa May Alcott novel, but it is similar in its coming of age themes. Two young men, growing up in Brooklyn, develop a friendship while their parents feud. I’m kind of a sucker for good coming of age flix. This one opened in January at Sundance and has been shown domestically and internationally at a number of additional festivals since then. It has been favorably reviewed so far. Rotten Tomatoes is at 94% fresh based on 16 reviews. It is the kind of small movie that can do well in August.
For a month that isn’t favorable for good movies, there seems to be enough “really like” movies to look forward to if you stick mainly to small packages.