This August brings The New Mutants to theaters (maybe) and two Seth Rogens to your living room

Illustration for article titled This August brings iThe New Mutants/i to theaters (maybe) and two Seth Rogens to your living room
Graphic: The A.V. Club

Another month, another round of studios scrapping their plans to bring some movies to the big screen. A few films are actually still scheduled to hit theaters later this month—including, as of the publish date of this feature, the long-delayed X-Men spinoff The New Mutants. But at this point, all such release dates should be considered extremely subject to change. Otherwise, August brings another rush of new titles to streaming platforms, digital services, VOD, and virtual theaters; keep reading to find out what’s coming to a living room—and just maybe, a few theaters or at least drive-in screens—near you.

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An American Pickle

An American Pickle

HBO Max August 6

Ah, the classic fish-out-of-water (but into brine) premise: Man works in 1920s pickle factory, man falls in pickle vat, man emerges 100 years later to teach his descendent important lessons about life and love. An American Pickle follows veritable Rip Van Pickle Herschel Greenbaum (Seth Rogen) as he finds himself unexpectedly waking up in the 21st century, where he reconnects with isolated great-grandson Ben (also Seth Rogen). Given the concept, is it any wonder that Brandon Trost’s movie is based off a story—and a screenplay—from modern magical realism master Simon Rich? It’s also a change of pace for its star, though not one that always puts his talents to the best use.

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La Llorona

La Llorona

Shudder August 6

For his take on the weeping woman of Mesoamerican folklore, director Jayro Bustamante does everything last year’s subpar The Curse Of La Llorona didn’t—prioritizing creeping dread over cheap jump scares, for one, as well as placing the La Llorona myth in the context of the genocide of Maya peoples during the Guatemalan Civil War. The result is a politically charged slow burn that will follow you for days, much like a certain wet-eyed spirit we could name.

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The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden

VOD August 7

Based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 novel about a mysterious bit of real estate that seems to bring out the best in British brats, Marc Munden’s melancholic adaptation casts newcomer Dixie Egerickx as Mary Lennox, one such prepubescent work-in-progress, grappling with the death of her parents. Moving to stay with her cold, wealthy uncle (Colin Firth), she discovers and frequently escapes into the eponymous oasis of imagination. It’s a handsome, well-acted take on the transporting kid-lit classic, albeit one with a rather dull supporting cast of child companions keeping Mary company.

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Howard

Howard

Disney+ August 7

One-time Disney producer Don Hahn follows his Waking Sleeping Beauty, about the animation house’s late ’80s/early ’90s “renaissance,” with a biographical doc on one of the minds behind it: the late Howard Ashman, whose songs with composer Alan Menken formed the backbone of The Little Mermaid, Beauty And The Beast, and Aladdin. Exploring the creative process but also the life of this revered lyricist, who died of AIDS-related complications in 1991 (before Beast was even finished), the film is an ideal fit for the fan’s paradise of Disney+, even if its style sometimes fails to match the vibrancy of its subject’s work.

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The Tax Collector

The Tax Collector

Select theaters, drive-in theaters, digital platforms, and VOD August 7 

David Ayer, writer-director of such misbegotten blockbusters as Bright and Suicide Squad, returns to the crime-ridden Los Angeles of Training Day—which he scripted a lifetime ago—for this trashy crime drama about a gangster (Bobby Soto) trying to balance his home life with his life of crime. Only Shia LaBeouf, in a committed performance as the hero’s tough-guy partner, injects much of a personality into the movie’s generic macho posturing. “Subtlety is in short supply,” our full review noted. Fun too.

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Psychomagic, A Healing Art

Psychomagic, A Healing Art

Alamo On Demand August 7

Alejandro Jodorowsky, the art mystic behind the classic midnight freakouts El Topo and The Holy Mountain, has always mixed occultism, trippy psychoanalysis, and self-indulgent cosmology—to the point where it can be difficult to tell whether he’s a cult director or a cult leader. For his first documentary, the 91-year-old delves into his long-time sideline as an esoteric therapist and spiritual guru; the result plays like a two-hour, very unconvincing advertisement for his practice, complete with a bunch of clips from other Jodorowsky movies. Even diehard fans may feel ripped off.

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Boyz In The Wood

Boyz In The Wood

Amazon Prime August 7

The Scottish highlands can be inhospitable even when you aren’t being pursued by murderous aristocrats intent on wiping out the lower classes. So imagine the predicament of the Boyz In The Wood, a group of spectacularly ill-prepared teenage boys who are faced with exactly that problem on a wilderness challenge. Low on both wits and survival skills, they must depend on locals high on psychedelic rabbit poop to survive in this absurdist black comedy, which won the audience award for midnight movies at last year’s South By Southwest.

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Sunless Shadows

Sunless Shadows

Virtual theaters August 7

In his moving 2016 documentary Starless Dreams, director Mehrdad Oskouei went inside an Iranian detention center, interviewing teenage girls about their lives behind bars. His follow-up returns to the same milieu (and, in fact, the same facility) but narrows its focus to women convicted of a specific crime: killing a male family member. Sunless Shadows is, in some respects, a retread of the earlier movie, but the subject matter is powerful enough to justify another trip to the setting—especially when Oskouei simply plops his camera down in the shared dormitory space and observes the personalities of the imprisoned.

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Project Power

Project Power

Netflix August 14

A pharmaceutical giant develops a pill that grants users random superpowers that only last for five intense minutes. Jamie Foxx plays a father out to rescue his daughter from this nefarious drug company, receiving an assist from cop Joseph Gordon-Levitt on the way. Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who directed the documentary Catfish before moving on to clever genre exercises like Paranormal Activity 3 and Nerve, sit behind the camera of this non-comics-based superhero flick, which looks like a quick-hit version of X-Men. If nothing else, the B-movie-by-way-of-music-video vibe of the trailer promises something that doesn’t look much like the Marvel visual template.

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Boys State

Boys State

Apple TV+ August 14

Every year, a thousand Texas teenagers convene for a one-week crash course in American democracy—a “politics camp” in which the lucky few selected get to create their own state government and hold mock elections. Boys State, which shares its name with the prestigious program, follows a recent class of participants, tracing the ups and downs of a contentious gubernatorial campaign between two fake political parties. It’s easy to see why the film won the Grand Jury Prize for documentaries at Sundance this year: It’s a real crowd-pleaser that nonetheless finds, in the tactics of its ambitious young subjects, some troubling implications about the nature of our political system.

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Happy Happy Joy Joy: The Ren & Stimpy Story

Happy Happy Joy Joy: The Ren & Stimpy Story

Digital platforms and VOD August 14

One of the most demented visions to ever pass itself off as children’s entertainment, The Ren & Stimpy Show rode a wave of controversy to big ratings, cult adoration, and the faithful fandom of cheering grade-schoolers in the early ’90s. This documentary chronicles the ups and downs of the influential series (which Comedy Central announced this week it would be reviving), including creator John Kricfalusi’s battles with Nickelodeon and the censors—though, if reviews from Sundance are to be believed, the film only grazes the disturbing allegations that have tarnished the show’s legacy.

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Unhinged

Unhinged

“Theaters everywhere” August 21

Already a modest success in Europe (where theaters are open but not showing much in the way of new titles), Unhinged seems determined to be the first movie to hit the big screen in America since March—a goal complicated by the fact that, in most parts of the country, the multiplex remains closed. Having already abandoned two release dates in July, distributor Solstice Studios is now eyeballing the third weekend of August, when several chains will supposedly resume operations, for this road-rage thriller about a gravel-voiced psychopath (Russell Crowe) who decides to go full The Hitcher after a young mother (Caren Pistorius) honks her horn at him one too many times. Speaking of unhinged: Is it really worth risking infection to see this movie in a theater?

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Tesla

Tesla

Select theaters and VOD August 21

Michael Almereyda returns to the deconstructive distancing effects of his Stanley Milgram biopic, Experimenter, with a drama about the widely mythologized inventor and electrical futurist Nikola Tesla. An offbeat, irreverent director of ideas, Almereyda makes a good match for the notoriously eccentric Tesla. It helps that he’s also reunited with Ethan Hawke, who previously starred in the filmmaker’s idiosyncratic Shakespeare adaptations, Hamlet (that’s the one where “To be, or not to be” is delivered in the aisles of a Blockbuster) and Cymbeline. Intriguing casting has always been an Almereyda specialty, and the ensemble here includes Kyle MacLachlan as Thomas Edison and the comedian Jim Gaffigan as George Westinghouse.

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Train To Busan: Peninsula

Train To Busan: Peninsula

Select theaters August 21

Following the animated prequel Seoul Station, South Korean action-horror sensation Train To Busan finally gets a proper live-action sequel. Picking up four years after the events of the first film, Peninsula finds the country reduced to a post-apocalyptic world ruled by mercenaries and zombies; against this backdrop, returning director Yeon Sang-ho stages a heist thriller in a multilingual blend of Korean, English, and Chinese. Whether the film actually hits U.S. theaters this month will likely depend on how much our actual world resembles the disease-ravaged wasteland depicted on screen. In other words, don’t rush out to buy your ticket just yet.

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The New Mutants

The New Mutants

“Theaters everywhere” August 28

Wouldn’t it be funny if, after years of delays, The New Mutants was the only major movie to hit theaters this summer? As of today, Josh Boone’s teen- and horror-centric X-Men spinoff, which has been endlessly kicked around the calendar by Fox and Disney, is still slated for a late August theatrical run. But though the Mouse House has officially denied rumors that it will instead drop the film on Disney+ or Hulu, the recent announcement that Mulan is skipping theaters has many wondering if a rerouting to streaming platforms isn’t inevitable for this lost franchise picture, starring noticeably younger versions of Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Charlie Heaton. That assumes, of course, that The New Mutants actually exists, and isn’t just some echo of a memory from another timeline where Apocalypse rules the world…

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The Personal History Of David Copperfield

The Personal History Of David Copperfield

Select theaters August 28

There have been more than a dozen screen adaptations of Charles Dickens’ beloved, loosely autobiographical David Copperfield, but most of them either severely abbreviate the text or faithfully replicate its every detail across several hours (or episodes) of running time. Veep creator Armando Iannucci takes a different tact, streamlining all 600 pages of source material into a two-hour speed run through the life and times of the eponymous orphan (played with great pluck by Dev Patel). The results, as one might guess, are a little stretched thin, though Iannucci compensates with some signature banter, volleyed by a dense supporting cast that includes Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Gwendoline Christie, Benedict Wong, and Thick Of It star Peter Capaldi, among others.

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Matthias & Maxime

Matthias & Maxime

MUBI August 28

Casting himself in the lead for the first time since 2013’s Tom At The Farm, Québécois multi-hyphenate Xavier Dolan takes on the role of Max, a shiftless twentysomething grappling with his feelings for longtime, possibly closeted buddy Matt (Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas). Dolan’s work, like the belatedly released The Death And Life Of John F. Donovan, can be exhaustingly manic and overstuffed, but that might be preferable to this decidedly minor drama. Those on the hunt for new meme material, however, should know that it does feature a scene where Harris Dickinson, from Trust and Beach Rats, dabs.

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Plus

Plus

Micheál Richardson and Liam Neeson in Made In Italy
Micheál Richardson and Liam Neeson in Made In Italy
Photo: IFC Films

The disturbing documentary A Thousand Cuts (virtual theaters August 7) examines the attacks on the press by president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte. A bereaved Liam Neeson travels to scenic Tuscany with his teenage son in James D’Arcy’s Made In Italy (VOD and select drive-in theaters August 7). Embrace Of The Serpent director Ciro Guerra makes his English-language debut with the literary adaptation Waiting For The Barbarians (VOD and digital platforms August 7), starring Johnny Depp, Robert Pattinson, and Oscar winner Mark Rylance. Comedy pros Gillian Jacobs and Jemaine Clement anchor Kris Rey’s indie comedy I Used To Go Here (VOD August 7). Val Kilmer hits DTV action Paydirt (VOD and digital platforms August 7) as a grizzled sheriff hunting an ex-convict. Sabrina Carpenter has to form her own dance crew to get into college for some reason in Work It (Netflix August 7). A widowed Stellan Skarsgård reflects on his adolescence in Out Stealing Horses (VOD August 7). Black-and-white Cannes contender Song Without A Name (virtual theaters August 7) retells a harrowing true story of infant kidnapping in Peru. For anyone who thought Dolittle wasn’t inspirational enough, here’s kid-lit adaptation The One And Only Ivan (Disney+ August 14), with Sam Rockwell as a talking gorilla mounting an escape from captivity. Long-delayed family comedy Magic Camp (Disney+ August 14), featuring Adam Devine and Jeffrey Tambor, is finally seeing the light of day. Endless (VOD and digital platforms August 14) pairs Alexandra Shipp and Nicholas Hamilton in a life-after-death romance. A famous fashion designer gets the documentary profile treatment in Martin Margiela: In His Own Words (virtual theaters August 14). A Soviet cosmonaut returns to Earth with something inside him in the Alien-ish thriller Sputnik (VOD and digital platforms August 14). The Silencing (VOD and digital platforms August 14) pits Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Annabelle Wallis against a serial killer; it is apparently unrelated to same-day-release The Bay Of Silence (virtual theaters, VOD, and digital platforms August 14), featuring The Square’s Claes Bang searching for his mysteriously missing family. French actor and singer Jeanne Balibar makes her directorial debut with the comedy Wonders In The Suburbs (MUBI August 19). Speaking of movies by actors, Jay Baruchel has adapted horror comic Random Acts Of Violence (Shudder August 20) for the screen. Lili Reinhart and Austin Abrams are teenage lovebirds in Chemical Hearts (Amazon Prime August 21). The Sleepover (Netflix August 21) looks a lot like Spy Kids, except Mom is a thief instead of a secret agent. The “magical realist documentary” Anbessa (MUBI August 26) follows an Ethiopian mother and son displaced by the construction of condominiums. Bullied teens see a sinister application for the vampire they stumble upon in The Shed (Shudder August 27). Years after playing the love interest in the Transformers films, Megan Fox finally gets her own action vehicle with Rogue (VOD and digital platforms August 28). In the vein of Frozen—no, not the Disney one—comes the based-on-a-true-story thriller Centigrade (VOD, digital platforms, and select drive-in theaters August 28), about a Norwegian couple trapped in their car during a snowstorm. And writer-director Brett Haley (Hearts Beat Loud, The Hero) returns with the coming-of-age drama All Together Now (Netflix August 28).

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Postponed

Postponed

Janelle Monáe in Antebellum
Janelle Monáe in Antebellum
Photo: Lionsgate

Having been nudged around the late-summer calendar in hopes that we’d have this whole pandemic thing under control by now, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet will now hit a bunch of international markets in late August, before (tentatively) opening in some American theaters on September 3. Mulan, meanwhile, will skip theaters entirely—it’ll be available for a whopping $30 on Disney+ come September 4. Sony has also abandoned its dream of having a movie in theaters this summer, taking rom-com The Broken Hearts Gallery off the calendar entirely. Same goes for the Janelle Monáe horror movie Antebellum and James Wan’s Malignant, both of which are awaiting new release dates, while fellow creepfest The Empty Man has moved to December. Those hoping to watch Gerard Butler flee a comet will now have to wait until at least September 25, when the disaster movie Greenland is presently scheduled to open. And poor, pardoned Dinesh D’Souza will have to settle for VOD, as Trump Card, his latest “documentary” attack on the evils of the Democratic Party, won’t be making it into theaters after all. (Finally, a silver lining in these dark clouds.)

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