Top Ten Films to be Released in August

The Little Prince

James Franco, Marion Cotillard and Benicio Del Toro are among the stars who lend their voices to this animated telling of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic 1943 novella. Kung-fu Panda director Mark Osborne and screenwriters Irena Brignull (The Boxtrolls) and Bob Persichetti have transposed the children’s tale to a modern setting, in which a little girl listens to her neighbour, a grisly old aviator (voiced by Jeff Bridges), recount his adventures in the desert. At that point, the style shifts to stop-motion animation, with images drawn from Saint-Exupéry’s own watercolours. These scenes were praised by Variety as “a joy to behold – a bliss-out of brightly coloured paper and hand-moulded clay”; the reviewer added that the animated tale “stays true to its timeless depiction of childhood wonderment at odds with grown-up disillusionment”. Released 29 July in France, 7 August in Poland and 20 August in Brazil.

The Man from UNCLE

Director Guy Ritchie reboots the 1960s TV series with this action adventure. Henry Cahill (Man of Steel) stars as CIA agent Solo, who teams up with KGB agent Kuryakin (played by The Social Network’s Armie Hammer) against a shady international criminal organisation. Ritchie collaborates again with Lionel Wigram for the screenplay, following their two-part re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes. In a year filled with spy flicks, it seeks to make its mark as a stylish update on the Cold War classic. Released worldwide from 13 August.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

This adaptation of Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel was a hit when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January; British newcomer Bel Powley’s starring role made her “the toast of Sundance, its breakthrough star of 2015,” according to the Daily Telegraph. The 23-year-old even manages to eclipse co-stars Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood) and Kristen Wiig (The Skeleton Twins) in a coming-of-age tale from director Marielle Heller that mixes live action and animation. Following a girl as she navigates an affair with her mother’s boyfriend, the film is set in 1970s San Francisco, and has been described as a “thorny The Ice Storm-esque drama”. Released 7 August in the US, 8 August in Australia and 13 August in the Netherlands.

Straight Outta Compton

Telling the story of ground-breaking hip hop group NWA – which included Dr Dre and Ice Cube – has not been easy. The making of the film has been mired in feuds, rewrites and controversy: on the day the promo trailer was shot, there was a fatal hit-and-run near the set that landed music mogul Marion ‘Suge’ Knight with a murder charge. The biopic’s release is timely, resonating with recent events in Ferguson and LA – Ice Cube told The Hollywood Reporter: “It shows that we were not only ahead of our time, but right on time.” As he says in the trailer: “We put it all in the music, all our frustration and anger. Our music was like our weapon.” Released 13 August in Iraq, 14 August in Russia and the US, and 27 August in Austria.

Z for Zachariah

Robert C O’Brien’s 1974 science-fiction novel comes to the big screen – finally bringing to life a screenplay that had languished on the Hollywood Black List, an annual survey among studio executives of their most-rated movies not yet produced. It tells the story of a small-town girl (played by Margot Robbie) who lives in the only valley with breathable air after a nuclear war, who encounters a stranger when he wanders out of the forest (a second stranger has been added to the film). Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine co-star in the post-apocalyptic love triangle directed by Craig Zobel (Compliance), which has been praised by Screen Daily as a “quiet but evocative drama [that] has a slow-burn effect”. Released 13 August in Denmark, 27 August in Macedonia and 28 August in the US.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

The fifth in the indefatigable franchise eschews irony and complicated back-stories for old-fashioned edge-of-the-seat entertainment. Tom Cruise has thrown off controversy surrounding his association with Scientology, stepping back into the shoes of superspy Ethan Hunt as he defuses bombs, jumps off buildings and parachutes from Russian cargo planes with a load of nerve gas. Director Christopher McQuarrie takes the reins from Brian de Palma, John Woo and JJ Abrams and delivers show-stopper after show-stopper with a steady hand. According to Empire, it “dispenses with the dead weight of realism or relevance for state-of-the-art thrill-making in a classical mould”. Released worldwide from 30 July.

Mistress America

Writer-director Noah Baumbach teams up again with Greta Gerwig (co-writer and lead) for this follow-up to his 2012 critical hit Frances Ha. Gerwig plays girl-about-town Brooke, who takes lonely student Tracy (Lola Kirke) under her wing in what Variety called “one of Baumbach’s warmest and purely funniest films”. The film tumbles along at such a pace it’s been compared to the farces of Howard Hawks: according to one critic, this is Baumbach’s Bringing Up Baby. Released 14 August in Ireland and the US.

Arabian Nights: Volume 1, the Restless One

Despite a hefty total running time of 338 minutes (it has been split into three parts), Arabian Nights won the top prize at the 2015 Sydney Film Festival. The comedy-drama from director Miguel Gomes is loosely inspired by the classic folk tales, bringing them into present-day Portugal. While at times sprawling, its vignettes are frequently funny and wryly perverse, according to The Guardian;The Hollywood Reporter called it a “frequently fascinating collage of stories”. One performance in particular has drawn praise from critics: that of Lucky, a, Maltipoo (half Maltese and half miniature poodle) who won Palm Dog at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival – the top prize for canine performance. Released 27 July in Poland, 2 August in Australia and 27 August in Portugal.

When Animals Dream

When it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014, Jonas Alexander Arnby’s debut feature was described by The Hollywood Reporter as a “polished Danish thriller about a sensitive female werewolf… full of restrained horror and tastefully Scandinavian carnage”. Less Teenwolf and more Let the Right One In, it’s a coming-of-age tale as timid teenager Marie (Sonia Suhl) learns to unleash the creature within. Exploring issues of small-town claustrophobia and father-daughter relationships, Arnby is not afraid to pump up the gore as Marie embarks on a Carrie-style revenge killing spree. Released 6 August in Chile.

45 Years

At the other end of the scale from Mission Impossible, this low-key British drama delivers strong performances and slow-burning intensity. Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay star as a couple about to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary when some unexpected news disturbs the cosy order of their happy marriage. It picked up the prize for best British feature film at the Edinburgh international film festival, described by the jury as “a quietly explosive film which represents classic film-making at its best… a measured yet provocative film, a masterclass in understated acting”. Based on a short story by David Constantine and directed by Andrew Haigh (Weekend), it’s been praised by The Guardian as “a wonderfully acted minor-key study in anxiety and regret”. Released 28 August in the UK and Ireland.

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