Bryce Dallas Howard film

Bad Singing, Fuzzy Dragons, Scared Food: August 12, 2016 Movies

Friday, August 12, 2016 Rob Samuelson

We’re in another weird part of the Hollywood release schedule. All the big summer movies are behind us (and most of them were bad, like, way worse than most years), but the fall prestige pictures are still weeks or months away. This might seem like a time to tune out, check out whatever new binge-worthy series is on Netflix, and chill out at home. But fun, wonderful stuff can sneak in during this in-between August period. This weekend’s wide releases offer three such possibilities.

Florence Foster Jenkins
Director: Stephen Frears
Writer: Nicholas Martin
Starring: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson, Nina Arianda

Karaoke bars are wonderful. It is a place for people without vocal talent to belt out whatever pop or rock songs they wish and it is perhaps encouraged to be terrible -- I am rather partial to singing Grand Funk Railroad’s “Some Kind of Wonderful.” The opera is not a place that has $10 bucket specials on Coors Light. Yet the opera is where one Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep) goes to test out her (very poor) pipes.

In the latest from the reliable Stephen Frears (High Fidelity), Streep plays an English woman with a dream to sing opera songs for the masses. The only issue is that she has a horrible voice. Yet once she gets up on the stage, people love her anyway. There is fun to be had, it appears.

Pete’s Dragon
Director: David Lowery
Writers: David Lowery, Toby Halbrooks
Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Oakes Fegley, Oona Laurence

In a summer that featured an actual new Steven Spielberg film, it’s odd to see the trailer for Pete’s Dragon and think it might be the most wonder-filled (there is a semantic difference between that made-up word and “wonderful” in my brain) movie of the warm months. Young Pete (Oakes Fegley) is a feral child in the woods whose best friend is a surprisingly fuzzy dragon. Pete gets found and entered into a foster situation with Bryce Dallas Howard, but what’s to come of his favorite fuzzy green buddy? An adventure, that’s what! With airborne barrel rolls and everything!

Director David Lowery, who also co-wrote the script, comes from the indie film world, with only one feature to his name, 2013’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. He has a solid reputation for his approximately 800 short films and his work on Sundance TV’s melancholy Southern Gothic series Rectify.

Sausage Party
Directors: Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon
Writers: Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Jonah Hill
Starring: Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Alistair Abell

[NSFW trailer]

We all want to feel like we have a purpose in our lives, like we’re meant for something special. The foods at the grocery store in Sausage Party live their whole lives yearning to be picked off the shelf. Once they get to their new home -- someone’s refrigerator or pantry -- they learn the horrifying truth: They will be slaughtered by uncaring humans. Once the Seth Rogen-led crew of hot dogs and other groceries learns of their fate, they organize a prison break, heading back to their store of origin to warn everyone of the dangers of the outside world.

It’s a knockout concept that may or may not be able to sustain itself over the course of a feature length movie. The trailer certainly works, but I’ve heard from a couple people in recent days that it’s not so excellent when stretched out to 90 minutes. Rogen and Evan Goldberg partially wrote the script, and they have been responsible for some of the funniest movies of the decade, especially This Is the End. You know the drill: some optimism, some skepticism.

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