Including The Kitchen and Blinded by The Light, Nicholas Barber picks the films not to miss this month.
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Blinded by the Light
Queen, Elton John and The Beatles have all been given hefty sales boosts lately by crowd-pleasing jukebox films. Now it’s the turn of Bruce Springsteen. Loosely based on a memoir by journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, Blinded by the Light is a comedy-drama about Javed (newcomer Viveik Kalra), a Pakistani-English teenager in the 1980s who dreams of being a writer, but who is discouraged both by his strict family’s objections and by the Luton locals’ racism. Then he hears the tough but tender rock anthems of the Boss. Entertainment Weekly has sung the film’s praises, saying that Gurinda Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) has made “a Technicolor ode to the power of music so deeply tender and heartfelt that it disarms even the most misanthropic critic’s instincts”.
Released 9 August in the UK and Ireland, 14 August in the US and India and 22 August in Germany
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A year on from the release of Steve McQueen’s Widows, here comes a film with a similar concept: three women with no criminal experience take over their husbands’ crooked activities. But the stellar cast and distinctive period setting should ensure that The Kitchen cooks up an identity of its own. Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss star as a trio of Farrah Fawcett-haired gangsters’ wives in 1970s New York. While their husbands are behind bars, the women muscle in on the family business, and soon discover that they are better racketeers than the men ever were. Adapted from the DC Comics series by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle, the film’s feminist credentials are bolstered by its writer-director, Andrea Berloff, who was Oscar-nominated for her Straight Outta Compton screenplay.
Released on 9 August in the US, 21 August in France and 29 August in Australia
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Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
With all due respect to Vin Diesel, the best thing about the last Fast & Furious film was the bickering banter between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham’s rival secret agents, Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw. Now the follicularly-challenged frenemies have their own spin-off, in which they team up against Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), a villain who may sound like a self-published book of south London anecdotes, but who is actually a ‘cyber-genetically enhanced international terrorist’. Adding to the fun, Helen Mirren cameos as Shaw’s cockney mum Queenie, Vanessa Kirby is his sister, and the whole thing is directed by David Leitch, whose CV – John Wick, Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2 – suggests that no one is better at making ridiculously over-the-top action extravaganzas.
On general release from 1 August
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Dora and the Lost City of Gold
Now that Indiana Jones is as ancient as the relics he unearths, and it’s game over for the Lara Croft franchise, the time is right for a younger tomb raider, namely Dora the Explorer. In the first live-action film to be adapted from the long-running Nickelodeon cartoon, Dora (Isabela Moner) enrols in an American high school. But when her parents (Michael Peña and Eva Longoria) go missing, she returns to the jungle with her backpack, her knife and Boots the monkey (voiced by Danny Trejo). One of the few Hollywood children’s films to have a Latina heroine, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is directed by James Bobin, who made the two recent Muppets films and co-created the Flight of the Conchords TV show, so it could be comedy gold.
Released on 1 August in Brazil and Hong Kong and 9 August in the US
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Pain and Glory
Does the gay, grey-bearded, disco-shirted, Madrid-based writer-director in Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film remind you of anyone? Yes, Pain and Glory is Almodóvar’s most autobiographical offering, a gentle comedy drama in which an ageing auteur (Antonio Banderas) ruminates on his career, reconnects with old colleagues and lovers, and reminisces about his mother, who is played in flashbacks by, of course, Penélope Cruz. It’s a charmingly modest collection of murmured conversations and nostalgic reflections. The film premiered at Cannes, where Banderas won the best actor award for his “warm and nuanced” performance.
Released on 23 August in the UK, Ireland, and Poland
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Luce Edgar is a US high school’s star pupil. Played by Kelvin Harrison Jr, he’s an inspirational all-rounder whose academic and athletic achievements are all the more impressive given that he was a child soldier in Eritrea before he was adopted by his liberal American parents (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth). But maybe he isn’t so perfect. One teacher (Octavia Spencer) argues that he harbours violent tendencies and Luce’s parents have to question whether they have made his life better or worse. Directed by Julius Onah and adapted from JC Lee’s stage play, this tense, intelligent and provocative film is, according to The Guardian, “a drama that moves like a thriller with a stark, uncomfortable score and a series of seat-edge confrontations heating up a difficult debate over trust, expectation and racial stereotypes”.
Released on 2 August in the US and 9 August in Canada
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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
A spookier teen horror than the recent Goosebumps films, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is inspired by the trilogy of nightmare-inducing children’s books written by Alvin Schwartz in the 1980s. Set in 1968, it tells the creepy tale of some small-town teenagers who find a book in an abandoned mansion… a book in which all the horror stories are about them. The director is André Øvredal, who made the terrific Norwegian found-footage horror comedy, Trollhunter. But the most exciting name on the credits is the film’s co-writer and co-producer, Guillermo del Toro: this is his first big-screen project since his Oscar-winning creature feature, The Shape of Water. If nothing else, The Toe Monster, Jangly Man, The Pale Lady and Harold the Scarecrow should provide some excellent Halloween costume ideas.
Released on 8 August in Denmark and the Netherlands, 9 August in the US and Spain and 23 August in the UK
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The Peanut Butter Falcon
No, The Peanut Butter Falcon isn’t a film about sandwich spreads or birds of prey. The title is the name that a 22-year-old wrestling fan (Zack Gottsagen) plans to use when he becomes a professional wrestler himself. The tricky part is that he has Down’s syndrome, and is kept under supervision in a Virginia nursing home. When he decides to learn the ropes in a Florida wrestling school run by his idol (Thomas Haden Church), he has to escape and set off through the swampy South, helped by a fugitive fisherman (Shia LeBeouf), and pursued by a nursing home attendant (Dakota Johnson). A Mark Twain-like backwoods odyssey, this warm-hearted buddy movie from Mike Schwartz and Tyler Nilson is “deeply moving”, says The Playlist. “By keeping the humour rooted in the performances and only letting sentimentality creep in when necessary, Nelson and Schwartz have crafted a film that feels refreshing, unique, and emotional.”
Released on 9 Aug in the US and 29 Aug in Portugal
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Where’d You Go, Bernadette
Richard Linklater has a vastly varied filmography, ranging from children’s comedies (School of Rock, Bad News Bears) to psychedelic sci-fi cartoons (A Scanner Darkly), and from romantic trilogies (Before Sunrise and its sequels) to true-crime docudramas (Bernie). But his twentieth film still seems like a departure, partly because it’s his first to focus on a female character, and partly because it ranges all the way from the US to the Antarctic. Based on Maria Semple’s bestselling 2012 novel, Where’d You Go, Bernadette stars a dark-bobbed Cate Blanchett as Bernadette Fox, a sardonic suburban mother who shocks her family when she rediscovers her passion for architecture – and then disappears. Kristen Wiig, Judy Greer and Billy Crudup co-star in a mid-life crisis comedy with a mysterious twist.
Released 16 August in the US and Poland and 29 August in the Netherlands and Portugal
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What You Gonna Do When The World’s On Fire?
In the summer of 2017, a poverty-racked Louisiana community was shaken by a string of racist killings. Italian writer-director Roberto Minervini was there to film the meetings and marches that followed. His urgent documentary, beautifully shot in stark monochrome, shows its cast of bar owners and blues singers being attacked by the Ku Klux Klan, ignored by the authorities, and shunted from the neighbourhood by gentrifying landlords. But there is some hope to be found in their love and solidarity. There is also so much energy and memorable dialogue in What You Gonna Do When The World’s On Fire? that you could easily mistake it for a fictional drama. One Room With A View calls the film “heart-breaking, essential and inspiring”. And it feels even more important now than it did two years ago.
Released 16 Aug in the US
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