It’s been an incredible summer for action fans.
By Christopher O’Keeffe
First, “Mad Max: Fury Road” tore onto screens before being swiftly followed by big-budget sequels “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Jurassic World.” The blockbusters just keep coming as September scales down with Marvel’s microscopic Ant-Man providing this month’s dose of superhero action. If “Ant-Man” is not big enough for you, man-mountain The Rock is on hand to save the day in “San Andreas.” Action-comedy seems to be the theme of the month as “Kingsman” and “Pixels” round out the releases from stateside, polishing off a hot summer of massive movies.
Pixels—Out September 12
Ever since ”Super Mario Bros.” was adapted into a disastrous big screen flop in 1993, the relationship between movies and games has never been easy. Could “Pixels” be the movie to change all that? Well, seeing as it’s an Adam Sandler vehicle, probably not. Sandler aside, there’s some great talent in the cast and an interesting premise based on an award-winning 2010 short film. Aliens are attacking the earth after picking up feeds of 80s arcade classics and misinterpreting them as an act of war. Now the aliens have mobilized in the form of Pac-Man, the Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Galaga and other villainous sprites. Formerly arcade-obsessed youths—Sandler, Kevin James, Josh Gad, and Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”) are called up to battle the intergalactic menace. Even Japan’s own Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani turns up for a cameo. Chris Colombus, who was busy writing “The Goonies” and “Gremlins” at the time these games were around, directs the action as the game characters descend on the world’s major cities. Nostalgic fun and colorful effects may not be enough to save the film if the human characters are as 2D as the pixels of a retro-arcade unit.
San Andreas—Out September 12
“San Andreas” offers old-school disaster movie action in the mold of 70s classics “The Towering Inferno” and “The Poseidon Adventure” as California is torn apart by a devastating earthquake. Never fear, air rescue pilot Duane “The Rock” Johnson is on the scene, navigating the collapsing city with estranged wife Emma (Carla Gugino) in tow as they attempt to find and rescue their daughter. Forget the lightweight plot: this film is all about the spectacle as buildings crumble and whole cities are destroyed by the high-magnitude earthquakes ripping along the San Andreas fault. Johnson, currently enjoying his status as one of Hollywood’s biggest stars thanks to successful appearances in the “Fast and Furious” films, gets to flex his muscles and save the likes of Ioan Gruffudd, Paul Giamatti and Kylie Minogue.
Gonin Saga—Out September 26
Director Takashi Ishii returns to his most famous film, 1995’s blood-soaked cult thriller “Gonin,” for a second sequel. The original saw five men, all victims of Japan’s post-bubble economic collapse, band together to take on the yakuza thugs making their lives hell. The film notably starred an eye-patch wearing Beat Takeshi—a consequence of the real-life motorcycle accident that happened prior to filming. “Gonin Saga” sees five more unfortunates brought together for another tale of sex, violence and revenge. While some of the original cast return, starring roles have been passed on to the next generation. Masanobu Ando plays ambitious gang member Seiji while Tasuku Emoto appears as a journalist investigating the events of the previous film. Singer, actress and model Anna Tsuchiya and “The Wolverine’s” Rila Fukushima also appear.
St. Vincent—Out September 4
It’s been a while since “Ghostbusters” legend Bill Murray had a full starring role to which he could lend his full comedic talents, so “St. Vincent” comes as a timely reminder of his deadpan cool and sardonic wit. Murray plays Vincent, an unpleasant, chain-smoking, heavy-drinking old man with a taste for strippers and gambling. When new neighbor and single mother Melissa McCarthy (“Bridesmaids”) is forced to leave her young son Oliver in the care of the bitter old curmudgeon, he turns out to be an unlikely friend and mentor to the boy. The pair are joined in their adventures around various strip clubs, bars and racetracks by Naomi Watts’s pregnant stripper Daka, as Vincent reveals himself to be a better man than he first appears.
Ant-Man—Out September 19
Ant-Man may not be the sort of impressive moniker you’d expect Marvel to be bringing to the big screen, but he has been a comics mainstay since his inception in 1962 and was even one of the founding members of super-group the Avengers when they premiered the following year. In this first film incarnation it’s up to Scott Lang to don the hero’s helmet. Lang (Paul Rudd) is a well meaning, down-on-his-luck thief who takes the wrong job and winds up behind bars. After a visit from genius inventor Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) Lang gets the opportunity to turn his life around. Putting on Pym’s special suit allows the would-be-hero to shrink down to microscopic size, control ants and get to places no other super-being can reach. Espionage action ensues as the suited-up Ant-Man must infiltrate Pym’s former company and take on his mentor’s villainous protégé, Darren Cross. “Ant-Man” plays on the character’s stature—there’s plenty of tongue-in-cheek comedy—while retaining the fast-paced mix of drama and action expected of Marvel.
Kingsman: The Secret Service—Out September 11
Filmmaker Matthew Vaughn has a good track record of comic-book adaptations with “Kick-Ass” and “X-Men: First Class” under his belt. He returns to doing what he does best with “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” an adaptation of a comic series from “Kick-Ass” scribe Mark Millar and “Watchmen” artist Dave Gibbons. A fast-paced action comedy, “Kingsman” sees consummate British gent Colin Firth star as Harry Hart, an elite member of a top-secret intelligence agency. Newcomer Taron Egerton plays “Eggsy,” an aimless street youth Hart recruits into the spy organization to train for a place amongst the agents. When a twisted villain emerges to threaten global security it’s up to young Eggsy and crew to save the day. Michael Caine, Samuel L. Jackson, and Mark Hamill join the cast in this action-packed send-up of Bond and Bourne.
The Best of the Rest
No Escape—Action thriller in which Owen Wilson and his family are trapped in the middle of a coup d’état where foreigners are being executed on sight. Pierce Brosnan lends a hand in getting them to safety. (September 5)
Danny Collins—Al Pacino is a hard-living 70s rocker who decides to change his ways on discovery of a 40-year-old undelivered letter from John Lennon. (September 5)
The Virgin Psychics—Sion Sono’s fifth film of the year stars Shota Sometani as a geeky virgin who develops psychic powers, which he must use to save the girl of his dreams. (September 4)
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night—Iranian vampire flick that’s causing a stir on the world cinema scene. (September 19)
Attack on Titan: End of the World—Following on from last month’s underperforming first installment, this is the conclusion to the tale of grinning giants terrorizing the inhabitants of a post-apocalyptic world. (September 19)