August 2014 Film Releases: Big-Ticket Items

By on August 7, 2014
The turtles get psyched up for battle in "TMNT."
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Well, it’s nearly the end of the summer, so most of the big-ticket items are behind us. However, there’s still a few potential goodies in the basket. August has gotten off to a solid start with the well-received “Guardians of the Galaxy” and the impressive James Brown biopic “Get On Up,” but there’s plenty more where that came from. Let’s take a look at some of the other big-ticket items August has to offer!

First up: be afraid, be very afraid…it’s Michael Bay’s reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”! No seriously, those things look pretty creepy, you know?

Though advance buzz has gone from abject horror from die-hard fans to begrudging acceptance to mild surprise, the trailers weren’t completely horrible-looking. There’s no denying that people are at least talking about the film one way or another, and like they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? Bad reviews, on the other hand, are different, so we’ll just have to wait and see how it goes when the film opens Friday, August 8th.

The film stars Megan Fox in the iconic April O’Neil role, with Will Arnett as Vernon Fenwick. It’s worth mentioning that the film also marks the first time that Fox and Bay have worked together since their infamous fall-out after the second “Transformers” film, when she referred to him as being like Hitler on the set, which didn’t go over well with producer Steven Spielberg. Insert “What did the Fox say…?” joke here.

Uh, I'm sure you guys are nice and all, but I'll take the one in the middle, thanks. Megan Fox tries to stand out in the crowd in "Teenage Mutatnt Ninja Turtles." Courtesy of

Uh, I’m sure you guys are nice and all, but I’ll take the one in the middle, thanks. Megan Fox tries to stand out from the crowd in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
Courtesy of


On the plus side, while I was a mild fan of the show/movies, it tickles me that some people are so invested in the quality of the film. I mean, we are talking about a show with pizza-loving, kung fu-fighting, sword-wielding amphibians, last I checked. How seriously can you take it in the first place?

I get the impulse to hate on anything Bay is involved with, but oftentimes the films he produces tend to be at least a little better than the ones he directs, so I’m willing to give this the benefit of the doubt, especially because I have no hardcore attachment to the original cartoon, anyway.

If you can film this, you're definitely too close- some intrepid storm chasers in "Into the Storm." Courtesy of

If you can film this, you’re definitely too close- some intrepid storm chasers in “Into the Storm.”
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Opening the same day, however, is “Into the Storm,” which looks to be disaster porn at its finest. Granted, no self-respecting critic considers the likes of “2012” or “The Day After Tomorrow” to be high art, but let’s face it: it’s fun watching stuff get destroyed and blow up and what have you. Just ask Michael Bay.

At least if it’s a manageable length, unlike the typical Bay fare, that is. This one is, clocking in at a swift 89 minutes. It basically looks like “Twister”-meets-“Storm Chasers,” but with better effects and a lesser cast than the former.

Yes, there’s former “The Walking Dead”-star Sarah Wayne Callies (though she was more hated than beloved amongst some fans of the show) and the oft-amusing Matt Walsh (“Veep,” “Ted”) as one of the storm chasers in question, but beyond that, I didn’t recognize a single name in the cast.

Clearly, the budget primarily went to the effects, and it looks it. In a film like this, though, that’s definitely a good thing because, much like our previous entry, you don’t go to it for the stars.You go for the disaster, and who doesn’t love a good disaster flick? Well, unless you’ve actually been through one, in which case, probably not high on your must-see list. The trailer makes it look like a lot of fun, though, so I’m in for better or worse. I have only one question: will these tornadoes come with cows? Or sharks?

Also on the 8th is the latest from producer Steven Spielberg and the Queen herself…Oprah Winfrey. You thought I was going to say someone else? Oh, yeah, there’s also Oscar-winning actress, and an erstwhile Queen herself, Helen Mirren. “The Hundred-Foot Journey” features Mirren as the owner of a French restaurant, who’s miffed when an Indian family moves onto her turf and opens a restaurant of their own. A full-on rivalry ensues, as things go from there.

Let the food porn begin! Can you sell what Helen Mirren is cooking in "The Hundred-Foot Journey"? Courtesy of

Let the food porn begin! Can you sell what Helen Mirren is cooking in “The Hundred-Foot Journey”?
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Expect a whole lot of food porn, and with “Chef” a surprising sleeper hit, you never know- this might just be a more viable counterprogramming offering for those not too interested by giant anthropomorphic turtles or disaster flicks.

The cast is mostly made up of unknowns (at least in the States), but the pedigree of the producers and Mirren should help with that, as should the presence of another class act, director Lasse Hallström, who knows a thing or two about magical foodie movies, having done the excellent “Chocolat” back in 2000. It won’t be a huge hit, under the best of circumstances, but it should do alright with the art-house crowd.

Lastly on the 8th, there’s “Step Up All In,” the latest in the seemingly unstoppable “Step Up” series of films, which did admittedly reach a nadir of sorts with the surprisingly entertaining “Step Up Revolution,” which benefited enormously from 3D effects and a clever plotline involving flash mobs using dance as a form of protest. (I know, right? That’s why I ended up watching some of it one day on cable when there was nothing else on.)

The hook on this one isn’t nearly as intriguing as that, as it simply involves an epic dance battle in Vegas, featuring stars from all of the previous installments, including Briana Evigan, Disney girl Alyson Stoner, Izabella Miko, and “tWitch,” of “So You think You Can Dance” fame. I’m gonna pass, personally, but I’m sure it will find its intended audience, if not in theaters, then surely on rainy afternoons when there’s nothing else on. Dance on, brothers and sisters.

Say, you don't look so expendable to me! Ronda Rousey dares you to make her angry in "Expendables 3"- you wouldn't like her when she's angry. Courtesy of

Say, you don’t look so expendable to me! Ronda Rousey dares you to make her angry in “Expendables 3″- you wouldn’t like her when she’s angry.
Courtesy of

None of the above your cup of tea? Then maybe you’ll be all in for “The Expendables 3,” opening on August 15th. It is the latest installment of the all-star franchise that’s to action fans what “Step Up” is to dancers, in that it features everyone you can think of  that’s ever headlined a successful action flick.

We’re talking- deep breath- Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Antonio Banderas, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Kellan Lutz, Randy Couture, Victor Ortiz and, um, Kelsey Grammer. Because when I think butt-kicking, I always think of TV’s “Frazier.”

Also joining in the fun for the first time, is MMA champ Ronda Rousey, whose presence alone kinda makes me want to see it, as she is kinda awesome. And smokin’ hot. Expect lots of gunfire, explosions and general butt-kicking. So, basically, more of the same as the first two. See, it’s not so different from “Step Up” after all, at least in terms of formula! I can’t believe Michael Bay isn’t involved in this as well.

But Mark, you say, as if you know me, what if I’d like to laugh? With all this action and eating and dancing, is there any room for someone to bring the funny? As a matter of fact, there is. Glad you asked!

In “Let’s Be Cops,” two guys who go the extra mile for a costume party by dressing as cops- and even going so far as to secure a cop car to better emulate their source of inspiration- are actually mistaken for cops and decide to run with it. At first, they become beloved local heroes, but eventually the imitation becomes all too real, when they run afoul of actual gangsters and the like. Not to mention real cops who aren’t too keen on being imitated by these two doofuses.

The cast is admittedly intriguing, including the “New Girl” vets Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. as the would-be “cops” in question, “Vampire Diaries”-star Nina Dobrev, Keegan-Michael Key of “Key and Peele” fame, former “Daily Show” correspondent Rob Riggle, and the oft-hilarious stand-up comedian Natasha Leggero, of “Chelsea Lately” round table fame. The premise is also amusing, and the trailer is moderately funny, though this looks to be one of those films that might actually save the bigger, nastier laughs for the movie, a la “Neighbors.” Let’s hope. It opens on the 15th as well.

Jeff Bridges is "The Giver" and Brendon Twaites is the receiver. Courtesy of

Jeff Bridges is “The Giver” and Brendon Twaites is the receiver.
Courtesy of

However, arguably the most-anticipated release in August is “The Giver,” the long-awaited adaptation of the young-adult favorite. With YA-adaptations all the rage, this one has the potential to be huge, at least if they don’t screw it up.

The big-name cast is certainly reassuring, though. We’re talking Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges (as the “Dude”…um, “The Giver,” I mean), Katie Holmes (who knows a thing or two about cult-like communities), “True Blood” vamp Alexander Skarsgård, freaking Taylor Swift (!), and up-and-coming star Brendon Thwaites (“Maleficent”) as Jonas, the main protagonist.

I loved this book as a kid, so I’m hoping they don’t mess this one up, but the cast is solid, and so is the director, Phillip Noyce, of “Patriot Games” and “Salt” notability, among others.

Also of note is the presence of Alabama native Odeya Rush, who was in a recent horror favorite of mine, “We Are Who We Are,” and will be one of the leads in the forthcoming “Goosebumps” movie, which I can’t wait for, having loved those books and the show as a kid. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that “The Giver” won’t suck, and I’m guessing a lot of other fans are too. Find out for yourself on August 15th.

However, the film I’m most looking forward to is the somewhat belated follow-up to Robert Rodriguez and graphic novel royalty Frank Miller’s classic “Sin City,” the self-explanatory “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” opening August 22nd. The brilliant original was deservedly praised for its unique format, which primarily combined black & white film with clever touches of color here and there for effect.

Hey, buddy! My guns are up here! Jessica Alba sizzles in "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For." Courtesy of

Hey, buddy! My guns are up here! Jessica Alba sizzles in “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.”
Courtesy of

Much of the first film’s cast will be involved, including Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Mickey Rourke, and Bruce Willis. New faces include Josh Brolin (as the character played by Clive Owen in the original film), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“Don Jon”), Eva Green (“Casino Royale”), Lady Gaga, and Juno Temple (“Maleficent”), who I kind of adore. Those ladies are definitely worth dying for, if not necessarily killing over. I loved the original, so count me in, with a bullet.

Opening the same day is “When the Game Stands Tall,” the latest in a long line of football-themed flicks. As with most sports flicks, this one is based on the true story of a legendary coach, Bob Ladouceur, who led an obscure high school team to an unprecedented- and still unmatched- 151 game winning streak.

Jim Caviezel, aka the most-abused Jesus in film history (“The Passion of the Christ”), plays the coach in question, with Laura Dern as his wife, and former “The Shield” star Michael Chiklis as his assistant coach.

Thomas Carter, who previously helmed another sports drama, “Coach Carter,” directs, and the film looks to be taking more of a “Friday Night Lights”- type approach to the movie than the typical sports-themed film, which is to say, the focus is on the characters more than the game itself. I’ve seen enough sports-themed films to last a lifetime, personally, but who knows? It could be a cut above the rest, you never know.

Also hitting the big screen on August 22nd, is “Are You Here,” the latest from “Mad Men” mastermind Matthew Weiner, an atypical venture into comedy, with quite the line-up of actors on board. Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis play two best friends from childhood who travel back to their hometown after one of them learns his father has passed away and he’s inherited a sizable fortune.

Rounding out the main cast are Amy Poehler (“Parks and Recreation”), Jenna Fischer (“The Office”), Lauren Lapkus (“Orange is the New Black”), Melissa Rauch (“The Big Bang Theory”) and Laura Ramsey, who had a memorably sexy turn on “Mad Men,” as well as being featured in another one of my horror faves, “The Ruins.” The plot sounds like the typical road trip movie, but the presence of Weiner makes one think that this might be better than your average road movie, so I’m suitably intrigued.

Old spies die hard in "The November Man," with Bond vets Pierce Brosnan and Olga Kurylenko. Courtesy of

Old spies die hard in “The November Man,” with Bond vets Pierce Brosnan and Olga Kurylenko.
Courtesy of

Closing out the month on August 27th is “The November Man,” the latest from director Roger Donaldson, of “The Bank Job” and “Species” fame. Donaldson can be spotty at times (i.e. “Cadillac Man” and “The Getaway” remake), but when he’s in the zone, he’s a solid enough director, and the advance buzz on this one is very positive, so much so that the studio involved is already fast-tracking a sequel.

It’s based on the popular book series of the same name, and features former James Bond, Pierce Brosnan, as retired spy Peter Devereaux, code name “The November Man.” By all accounts, this could be quite the sleeper hit, and I’m always up for a slam-bang spy thriller, so I’m in. It’s also nice to see Brosnan in spy mode again, especially since this is a film he’s wanted to make since he bought the rights in 2006, shortly after retiring as Bond.

That about does it for August, but be sure and join me in September for that month’s movie preview and keep an eye out for my August indie preview later this week.

Thanks for reading, and see you in the aisles!



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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
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