With what feels like a blink of an eye and August has come and gone. While the month has been a dumping ground for summer blockbusters that didn’t quite measure up to the hype or expectation of May through July, there were still a few films that were really good (and a bunch that were mediocre and/or downright disappointing).
Let’s start with the good:
Favorite Movie of August 2018: BlackKklansman
I originally had Searching in here as my favorite for the month, but decided it belonged in the Most Surprising category along with the equally good (and surprising) Alpha.
BlackKklansman though stood out on several levels. First off, it’s just a well-paced film that mixes in comedy and drama so well. It certainly ranks as one of director Spike Lee‘s best films and could quite possibly be his best film ever. That’s no shade thrown at classics like Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, Jungle Fever, and He Got Game, it’s just that good.
The casting is also spot on in this film. Adam Driver, Topher Grace, and John David Washington are fantastic in their roles and should certainly garner award season attention, along with Lee.
Least Favorite Movie of August 2018: Operation Finale
Holocaust movies have pretty much become a dime a dozen in the past decade, but the prospect of Oscar Isaac and Sir Ben Kingsley trading lines with one another certainly lent hope that this might be an early season awards contender. In that sense, Operation Finale also belongs in the Most Disappointing category as well.
While the two actors and much of the supporting cast are fine, the trouble with Operation Finale involved the script and the pacing (especially the agonizingly slow first 30 minutes). What should have been compressed into a 90 minute movie gets extended into over two hours of boring drama.
Most Disappointing Movie of August 2018: Mile 22
Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg have collaborated previously on three other films – Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, and Patriot’s Day. It seems now the trend with this duo is a series of diminishing returns. While Survivor was fantastic and Deepwater was interesting enough, we’ve gradually begun a downward spiral in quality.
Mile 22 has a promising, yet well-worn concept of covert government operatives executing missions that stay off the books. While generally well-cast, the story is so unnecessarily convoluted and the editing does little justice in the action scenes, particularly Iko Uwais‘ fight scenes. In the end, the story devolves into a watered down version of The Raid (Uwais’ breakout movie).
There’s also the unnecessary hint of a potential sequel while also wrapping up much of the story that has unfolded over the previous 94 minutes. Thankfully, there appears to be no mention of a follow-up film at the moment which should hopefully give Berg and Wahlberg time to away from one another to work on other projects.
Most Surprising Movie of August 2018: Alpha and Searching
This category is a split of two very good movies with very different tones.
Going in, the only thing I knew about Alpha was that a dog was involved. That’s it. So when the lights went down and the visual splendor began to unfold before me, I was almost instantly hooked in. Kodi Smit-McPhee and Johannes Jóhannesson are absolutely magnetic in their performances. This film will likely get overlooked for award consideration but it’s definitely worth checking out on the biggest screen possible, even if you don’t like movies with subtitles.
I had a better grasp on Searching before going in and had high expectations. I must say that it certainly delivered. If BlackKklansman hadn’t released this month, this would easily have been my favorite movie of the month. John Cho is fantastic as a father who grows increasingly frustrated in trying to track down his missing daughter. Debra Messing also gave a really subtle performance that helped set up one of the film’s big twists (I had goosebumps).
Searching is very well-paced and the unique concept of the entire film being shown from some type of screen (computer, phone, etc.) doesn’t feel gimmicky at all. Instead, it’s a very well-executed Hitchcockian thriller that I can’t wait to watch again.
The Rest of the Releases:
Crazy Rich Asians – The August hype-baby and box office leader for much of the month relies heavily on rom com tropes. Constance Wu was fantastic though and the Asian representation was a nice change of pace. Let’s see if Hollywood gets the hint.
Christopher Robin – Disney’s live action take featuring Winnie-the-Pooh and friends felt like two films squeezed together – the first half was rather gloomy and slow while the second half piled on the charm and Pooh one-liners. Among the list of Disney Studios releases this year, it’s certainly near the bottom but that’s only because Avengers: Infinity War, The Incredibles 2, and Ant-Man and The Wasp are at the top of the list.
For my money, I can watch Jason Statham take on just about anything. He has the bad-ass charm to conquer all challenges. When it comes to movie quality though, that’s a different story. The Meg is just another in a series of films funded by China that have invaded cinemas this year and while the spectacle of “The Meg” is cool, the film falls short with a bland subplot featuring its two Chinese leads, and the rest of the cast pretty much exists to see who makes it to the end credits. In essence, this film is like Skyscraper (another China-funded feature) only instead of our hero jumping off cranes and ripping off Die Hard, he’s facing down a giant shark and ripping off Jaws.
To Be Seen Later:
The Spy Who Dumped Me and The Happytime Murders (if I’m feeling particularly masochistic)