Perusing the film screenings in the coming month, inSing.com can tell you that August is a month of action, as well as home-grown offerings.
From Angelina Jolie to Dev Patel (of Slumdog Millionaire fame) to a litany of the greatest action icons from the last few decades (Stallone, Schwarzenegger, et al) to Aaron Kwok, Shu Qi and Nicolas Tse, August’s action movies are sure to give you a jolt.
Look out, too, for the return of Avatar – no, not The Last Airbender, but James Cameron’s otherworldly 3D adventure – in the form of a special edition re-release, and a couple of local works by directors Boris Boo (PCK The Movie) and Boo Junfeng (Sandcastle).
Week of 5 August
The Stars: Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, Nicolas Peltz, Jackson Rathbone
The Story: A boy monk named Aang (Ringer) is the last of his race and one who possess the special gift of being able to ‘bend’ or manipulate the element of air. He is also the chosen one, the once-in-a-generation Avatar who has the ability to bend all the elements, including fire, water and earth. It is he who must maintain peace between the Four Nations of his world.
The Buzz: Based on the popular Nickelodeon animated series entitled Avatar: The Last Airbender – ‘Avatar’ was dropped to avoid confusion with Cameron’s film – this film project captured the imagination of legions of fantasy fans when M. Night Shyamalan signed on to write and direct the first of a planned trilogy.
The excitement has since subsided in the wake of controversy over casting – Shyamalan chose a largely non-Asian cast – and initial negative reviews. While most of the cast is unknown, Patel (the protagonist in Slumdog Millionaire) and Rathbone (Jasper from The Twilight Saga) stand out.
inSing.com says: Regardless of the casting furore, one hopes that the special-effects action sequences, of which there are reportedly many, can help lift the film. The visuals from trailers have looked impressive, although the jury is out on the plot and storytelling.
Also opening:Salt, an action-thriller with Angelina Jolie playing a CIA agent accused of being a Russian spy and forced to go on the lam; Berlin 36, about a Jewish athlete forced off the German team during the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and Ocean Heaven, a moving drama about a father (Jet Li) caring for his autistic son.
Week of 12 August
The Stars: Lena Endre, Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace
The Story: A troubled young female hacker (Rapace) surveils an investigative journalist (Nyqvist) for a client, before helping the journalist uncover the truth about a woman who has been missing for 40 years.
The Buzz: Based on the novel of the same name by Swedish author Stieg Larsson, the first of the best-selling ‘Millennium’ crime trilogy, this European co-production has been lauded by critics, with actress Rapace singled out for praise. And Hollywood likes the story enough that there is an American remake on the way, with Daniel Craig already cast and Oscar-nominated director David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) attached to direct.
inSing.com says: The Millennium books have sold 27 million copies worldwide, but this film probably doesn’t have the widespread brand-name recognition of, say, the Twilight books. Still, by all accounts, this is a first-rate crime drama led by stellar performances, one that could really increase the popularity of the novels.Also opening:Phua Chu Kang The Movie, starring everyone’s favourite (well, only) TV contractor with the ubiquitous yellow wellies; Pope Joan, about a legendary female Pope in the Middle Ages; Liar Game, a manga adaptation about a dodgy scam-game; and Love in Disguise, the directorial debut of singer-actor Wang Leehom.
Week of 19 August
The Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, Steve Austin, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren
The Story: A rag-tag team of mercenaries are hired to rub out the dictator of a South American country in a typical regime-change mission. Problem is, the true enemy there is much more powerful than anticipated, one that threatens to destroy this group of diehard operatives.
The Buzz: The brainchild and pet project of Sylvester Stallone, this film – he co-wrote the script and served as director – follows the conventions of the typical 1970s, 1980s action flick and unites the action-thriller stars of yesterday (Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Lundgren, Willis, Rourke) with those of more recent times (Statham, Li, Austin, Terry Crews and Randy Couture). (For those wondering, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kurt Russell and Steven Seagal all turned down roles.) Positive early buzz has fuelled talk of future sequels.
inSing.com says: Even though Willis is still hanging around, the departure of Stallone and Schwarzenegger from the big screen has underscored the lack of charismatic action stars with a penchant for corny/witty one-liners. Their return, along with the galaxy of stars here, promises great fun amid great, big explosions.
Also opening:Step Up 3D, another sequel to the popular dance flick, this time in eye-popping 3D – really; Frozen, a thriller about skiers trapped in a life-or-death situation; and Hong Kong films City Under Siege, with Aaron Kwok and Shu Qi in action mode, and The Jade and the Pearl, a Joey Yung and Charlene Choi period comedy.
Week of 26 August
The Stars: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade, Kevin James, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph, Rob Schneider, Salma Hayek
The Story: A reunion of five old friends, only one of whom is still swinging single, thirty years after they left high school leads to a comedy about friendship, family and love.
The Buzz: An ensemble comedy that features some of today's most popular comic talents, this film also serves as a reunion of sorts for several alumni from the long-running American sketch-comedy series Saturday Night Live. By the looks of early footage, this film features less-than-sophisticated gags, but that won't bother fans of Sandler, James, Schneider and the gang one bit.
inSing.com says: This is a likely case of what-you-see-is-what-you-get. If you’ve come away from watching the trailer thinking that there will be much broad comedy with a crass edge here, then you’re probably right. But who’s to say this won’t be fun?Also opening:Avatar: Special Edition, a 3D and IMAX re-release of the box-office behemoth with eight extra minutes; Stool Pigeon, Dante Lam’s crime thriller starring Nicholas Tse; the French rom-com Heartbreakers with Romain Duris and ‘Mrs Johnny Depp’ Vanessa Paradis; and the acclaimed local indie, Sandcastle, by Boo Junfeng.
The ever-popular Japanese Film Festival, with the timeless theme of Youth this year, returns for eleven days of cinematic celebration. It is to be held at the Gallery Theatre of the National Museum of Singapore from August 19 to 29.
August also sees the 7th Singapore Short Cuts (July 31; August 1, 7, 8) and the 6th Singapore Short Film Festival (August 26 to September 5), as well as a special late-night presentation of Singapore films at the Esplanade’s outdoor theatre from August 6 to 8, just in time for National Day.
(Note: All release dates are subject to change; all information correct as of press time.)