September 7, 2006

Movie Recap for August 2006: World Trade Center

August is over, the Fall Oscar season is ahead of us, and in between we have a month of leftovers and early awards season hopefuls. But before we move into the future, let's take a look back on the final month of the summer season. August historically does not have any blockbusters, they are generally confined to mid-May through early July. What August does have are those last minute sleeper hopefuls, and perhaps one or two, early in the month, with higher aspirations for box office success.

The month started out with the last of the potential summer hits with the Will Ferrell comedy Talladega Nights. This was the last best chance for a $100 million grosser for the summer period, and it did with ease. Also opening that weekend were the UK horror flick The Descent and the kiddie movie Barnyard. Both of them achieved success, but at different levels. The former is quite possibly the scariest film so far this year, while the latter showed surprising legs at the box office.

As we move to the second week of the month we have a rare August mid-week opener. Oliver Stone's 9/11 tribute, World Trade Center was unleashed on the world. It ended up being the strongest film of the month, in spite of the rather generic direction. Two days later the J-horror remake, Pulse, the dance drama, Step Up, and the family superhero fantasy, Zoom, were released to your friendly neighborhood multiplex. None of them were expeced to be hits, and in some cases, rightly so.

Now, according to the promotional campaign, New Line cinema would have you believe that this weekend of 8/18 was when summer begins. It brought the release of internet sensation Snakes on a Plane, and while being a fun cheese-fest, probably showed the upper limit of internet hype. We also were graced with the presence of the Duff sisters in their first movie together, and the surprisingly decent college comedy, Accepted.

The final weekend of August brought beer, football, worms, and dancing. Everything you need for a late summer party. None of them proved to be all that great, but generally there was no outright disappointments either.

Now for what I saw last month:

Best of the Month: World Trade Center
Worst of the Month: The Night Listener

Below is a chronological listing of the films I went to see during August.

  1. The Descent. The month got off to a great start with this relentless fright-fest. The tale of a group of friends who embark on a cave diving adventure, with no idea of what was in store for them. This is the scariest film so far this year. It may not have a strong story, but there is enough there to build the scares and drama on. ***.5
  2. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Will Ferrell toplines this funny look into a man whose only ambition is to "go fast." Not the funniest thing I have seen, but it is was solidly laugh inducing. ***
  3. Art School Confidential. The director of Bad Santa turns from the holidays to the pretentious world of art. He turns out an entertaining film that is, unfortunately, saddled with a preposterous murder subplot. On the upside, there is plenty to like and laugh at. ***
  4. World Trade Center. Oliver Stone has directed a carefully recreated, uplifting tribute to those who lost their lives thatfateful day. It may structured in a straightforward manner, it was nevertheless very emotionally effective. ****
  5. Zoom. Awful. There were a few entertaining and/or comical moments, but this movie does not know what it wants to be, and ends up being a pale imitation of last years far superior Sky High. **
  6. Pulse. The latest J-horror film to be remade for the American audience has arrived. It appears to have suffered much from studio tampering before arriving on the big screen. Still, I loved the creepy, apocalyptic atmosphere that was built. ***
  7. Snakes on a Plane. The best cheese-fest of the year. Samuel L. Jackson leads the charge to get those motherf--king snakes off that motherf--king plane. It was a wonderful ride through the absurd. ***
  8. Accepted. This turned out to be a surprisingly strong movie, not great, mind you, but considerably better than I had expected. It centers on a loser trying to make his parents believe he is in school, by creating a fake school. He ends up leading a charge in favor of non-traditional education, standing up to the old school ways. ***
  9. Little Miss Sunshine. One of the most satisfying films of the year. This little film that could has had a great campaign of word of mouth buzz that is fueling the slow rollout to theaters. It tells the story of a fractured family that learns much about itself while on a trip to a beauty pageant. ***.5
  10. Invincible. Disney's lock on the inspirational sports drama remains intact with this surprisingly compelling tale of Vince Papale. Mark Wahlberg stars and holds the fort down. Worth seeing, but do not expect anything revolutionary. ***
  11. Beerfest. The BrokenLizard crew returns to take us on a journey through a sports film gone horribly awry. It is probably about 20 minutes too long, but it still has enough comedy to deliver plenty of belly laughs. **.5
  12. The Night Listener. The month ends on as our note as this Robin Williams thriller fails to deliver the goods. The premise could have been worked into something strong and compelling, but all we get are a couple of good performances in a story that ultimately doesn't matter. *.5

So, what did you think of August at the multiplex?


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