It’s already been a fantastic summer for action fans with the likes of “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” providing roller-coaster style thrills in theaters. Heading into August and there’s no sign of letting up on the blockbuster front, with the world of Jurassic Park being resurrected and Tom Cruise returning to do what he does best in the latest “Mission Impossible.” Throw what’s bound to be the most visually spectacular Japanese entry of the year, “Attack on Titan,” into the mix and it adds up to one of the hottest summers on record at the cinemas.
By Christopher O’Keeffe
Jurassic World—August 5
It’s been 22 years since “Jurassic Park” first roared onto screens, shredding box-office records and stirring up a worldwide explosion of dino-fever amongst 90s kids. With its groundbreaking Industrial Light and Magic–produced CGI dinosaurs the film proved a landmark in special effects, setting the standard for the all that would follow. The moment in which a gigantic Brachiosaurus first strides across the screen, the fearsome hunt of the velociraptors and of course, the night-time terror of the T. rex are just some of the iconic scenes from that first film. But that was then. In these jaded times where gods, monsters and, more often than not, superheroes, are regularly seen to do the impossible on our screens, is Jurassic Park better left extinct? With a fresh twist to the story leading to a host of new creatures—and children’s unending fascination with the prehistoric beasties, the answer, it seems, is a safe “no.” In “Jurassic World,” the fourth sequel in the franchise, the park has now been open for 10 years. In an effort to provide new attractions and keep the visitors flooding through the gates, a new species of genetically modified dinosaur, Indominus Rex, has been created. When the fearsome new predator escapes, as these things tend to do, all hell breaks loose. Chris Pratt, enjoying superstar status after his role in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” stars as Velociraptor wrangler Owen Grady. He’s accompanied by Bryce Dallas Howard as park operations manager Claire Dearing, who is more concerned with pleasing investors than worrying about the dangers of playing God. While the story may still be as flimsy as it ever was, “Jurassic World” offers the same spectacle, excitement and roller-coaster style thrills; and it’s left the broken box office records to prove it.
Attack on Titan—August 1
Smash-hit manga “Attack on Titan” began life in 2009 garnering considerable success before it was turned into an anime series in 2013. The series has accumulated a sizable foreign fan base with its release abroad and shown crossover pop-cultural appeal after its main antagonist, a monstrous giant, appeared in a stunning Subaru car commercial. Inevitably, all this has led to a live action film. It is set to be released in two parts: the first this month and the second following immediately after in September. The story, written by Hajime Isayama, takes place in a world where the human race has been decimated after the appearance of gigantic “titans,” humanoid monsters who attack and eat humans without reason or remorse. This has led to the survivors shutting themselves in cities barricaded behind enormous stone walls. After living somewhat peacefully for the past 100 years, society is shattered after the appearance of a new skinless 60-foot tall titan that breaks through the outer city wall, reintroducing the inhabitants to the monstrous threat. After a titan eats his mother, young Eren Yaeger, along with his adopted sister Mikasa Ackerman and childhood friend Amin Arlert join the army to combat the menace. “The Eternal Zero’s” Haruma Miura stars as Eren, “Norwegian Wood’s” Kiko Mizuhara is Mikasa and “The Prince of Tennis” star Kanata Hongo plays Amin. With its epic storyline and ambitious scope, “Attack on Titan” is bound to be the most ambitious Japanese film to come out this year.
The film was released in October of last year throughout most of the world, picking up awards and rapturous reception in the process, but it’s been a long wait for this dark gem. “Nightcrawler” stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom, a desperate man of questionable morals who, in a desperate attempt to find work and success, gets into the nocturnal world of L.A. crime journalism. Crawling the streets in the pursuit of accidents, crime and tragedy, Lou finds his niche in the seedy realm of freelance TV journalism. A neon-lit slice of grimy noir, the ever-impressive Gyllenhaal gives one of his best performances to date as unnerving insomniac Lou. Rene Russo’s also on the scene as an unscrupulous TV news director with Bill Paxton, a veteran at creating characters of sleazy charm, as cameraman Joe. The directorial debut of Dan Gilroy, who earned himself an Academy Award nomination for his script, “Nightcrawler” is must-see for anyone looking to step out of the light this summer and take a tour of L.A.’s dark underbelly.
“Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation”—August 7
“Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” sees Tom Cruise return as IMF agent Ethan Hunt in the fifth installment of the high-octane action series. Having started life in the 60s as a TV show with an unforgettable theme tune, the IMF, or Impossible Mission Force, were revived for cinema screens with the first installment dropping in 1996. After achieving phenomenal success over the years, the series has managed to avoid suffering from the law of diminishing returns faced by most sequels by constantly upping the ante in the death-defying stunts department. With its dedication to old-school action, staggering set pieces, and undoubted charisma and star appeal of Cruise, the brand is a solid bet for big screen entertainment. We rejoin Ethan as he calls the team back together to take on the Syndicate, a legendary organization of assassins and rogue operatives who are out to take down the IMF. Back in the fold are Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames in a film directed by Christiopher McQuarrie, who got a taste for the action trade working with Cruise on “Jack Reacher”.
Ted 2—August 28
In a country that doesn’t normally embrace foreign comedies, 2012’s “Ted” proved an unlikely success. Most likely down to the cutesy appeal of the film’s cuddly protagonist than the foul-mouthed humor of writer and director Seth MacFarlane, Ted toys became a common sight around Tokyo, dangling from smart phones and peering out from backpacks across the capital. Showing a surprising amount of heart amidst the sex jokes and crudity, the film proved a hit for the “Family Guy” creator, making a sequel only a matter of time. In “Ted 2,” the foul-mouthed bear has married his girlfriend Tami-Lynn, and the pair are looking to have a child to save their troubled relationship. For this he needs the help of his old pal John, Mark Wahlberg, for a little help on the physical side as well as the services of lawyer Amanda Seyfried in order to win a court battle to prove that the formerly inanimate stuffed toy is a person in the eyes of the law. If you’re a fan of MacFarlane and his brand of quick-fire, smutty humor, “Ted 2” offers up more of the same.
Love and Mercy—August 1
As the leader of 60s pop legends The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson earned worldwide acclaim for his songwriting talents and studio mastery but his later life was marred by breakdowns and deteriorating mental health. Biopic “Love and Mercy” documents the musical great at two distinct points of his life: riding high yet slowly starting to lose grip in the 60s, and struggling to break free from the clutches of a shady psychotherapist and regain control in his later life. Moving away from the format of a traditional biopic, two different actors are used to portray the musician at these vastly different periods of time. Paul Dano puts in a stellar performance as Wilson in the early days of success as he fiendishly sets out to produce the “greatest album ever made” with Pet Sounds, while screen veteran John Cusack steps into his shoes for the middle years. Paul Giamatti co-stars as quack doctor Eugene Landy and Elizabeth Banks plays Melinda Ledbetter, a Cadillac saleswoman determined to rescue Wilson from the doctor’s clutches. Praised for its accurate representation of the singer’s history, “Love and Mercy” offers a thoughtful look into the troubled life and times of a musical genius.
Best of the Rest
Big Game—Action adventure with the absurd factor dialed up to 11 as Samuel L. Jackson stars as the President of the United States who is stranded in the wilderness of Finland after Air Force One is shot down by terrorists. (August 15)
Wild—Reese Witherspoon picked up an Oscar nomination for her performance as Cheryl Strayed, a woman who treks across America on a quest for self-discovery and healing after personal tragedy. (August 28)
Round Trip Heart—A starring role for AKB 48’s Yuko Oshima as a train attendant on the “Romance Car” train service to Hakone who becomes stuck in the pretty onsen town with a shady passenger after an onboard altercation. (August 29)
The Final Member—Oddball documentary in which the Icelandic curator of the world’s only penis museum tries to obtain the one thing his museum is currently missing: a human specimen. (August 8)
The Gallows—Uninspired found-footage horror in which a pretty group of teens are chased around a school at night by a vengeful spirit. (August 22)