10 films to beat the 2014 blockbuster fatigue

Fed up of blockbusters? Mark has some suggestions if you're after something a little quieter this August...

Last summer, we thought that the summer blockbuster season had started a little early with April’s Iron Man 3 and that people might feel a little worn out by the time August rolled around. Thus, we presented ten films playing in cinemas that would give you ears a rest after the smashy-bangy noise of the tentpole movies.

This year, the quality of those movies has generally been up on last year’s roster, but we started even earlier. There was a trio of huge comic book sequels – Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Days Of Future Past – released within about six weeks of each other, starting at the end of March. All of those were out before the summer season had even started in earnest. If it’s seemed even longer than usual, that’s because it has been.

The effect has been that a lot of mid-range franchise movies are coming out towards the end of the summer. Marvel has its second phase two movie of the summer, Guardians Of The Galaxy, out in cinemas now, and sequels like The Inbetweeners 2, Planes: Fire & Rescue, The Expendables 3 and Sin City: A Dame To Kill For are amongst August’s fodder in UK multiplexes.

We’re still looking forward to the bigger movies, but as with last summer, we’re writing this list in the interests of helping seek out interesting counter-programming, now that the saturation releases have ebbed away.

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Of course, you might just plan on going outside and maybe taking a little time off the cinema, if the weather is nice enough. But if not, here are ten potential palate cleansers to seek out in UK cinemas this August.

Begin Again

This one has been out in cinemas for a few weeks now, but seeing as how it was quite underappreciated, we think it’s worth a shout-out. John Carney follows up Once with another musically inflected drama, this time starring Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley as a depressed music producer and a jilted singer-songwriter who find a platonic bond by recording an album around New York.

It’s not as trite or as quirky as it might sound from that synopsis, but it is definitely worth a look for its quietly ecstatic moments, including a Bedknobs & Broomsticks-style orchestration of backing instruments, and its effortless feel-good quality.

Where can I see it?

It’s still showing in selected cinemas nationwide- check your local arthouse cinema listings over August to see if it’s showing near you.

Boyhood

Also out in cinemas, but it’s the kind of film that we write these lists to highlight. Richard Linklater’s 166 minute chronicle of growing up had the misfortune to battle for cinema screens in the same week as Transformers: Age Of Extinction, Michael Bay’s 166 minute testament to not having grown up at all.

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The film has expanded nationwide over the last couple of weeks, so it’s definitely worth checking out. Unless Linklater decides to film the next 12 years of Ellar Coltrane’s life too, (and we wouldn’t put it past him) then this is a staggeringly personal one-off and as complete a cinematic experience as you’ll see all year.

Our review is here.

Where can I see it?

In cinemas nationwide now.

Mood Indigo

Who’s up for a surreal romantic melodrama from the director of Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind? The latest from Michel Gondry is about an inventor who falls in love, only for the woman of his dreams to be stricken with an unusual illness.

Reviews have been mixed on this one, but it’s a fantastical and surreal treatment of a potentially downbeat subject, and not to be missed if you enjoyed the eccentric and self-contained quality of Eternal Sunshine, or other Gondry works such as The Science Of Sleep or Be Kind Rewind.

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Our review is here.

Where can I see it?

In selected cinemas nationwide now. If all else fails, it’s released on DVD and Blu-ray on November 24th.

God’s Pocket

Mad Men’s John Slattery makes his directorial debut with this darkly comic drama starring the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman alongside Christina Hendricks and Richard Jenkins. The story centres around a young man dying at a construction site under mysterious circumstances. His mother (Hendricks) demands to know the truth and his stepfather (Hoffman) aims to get to the bottom of it.

Again, reviews are mixed, but we hold that there’s no such thing as a bad Philip Seymour Hoffman performance and the calibre of the cast as a whole is really promising on this one.

Where can I see it?

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In cinemas nationwide from August 8th.

The Rover

Australian director David Michôd made a huge impression with 2010’s Animal Kingdom, an uncompromising and hugely affecting crime drama that gained universal acclaim. That kind of success is what gets you the chance to move on to a post-apocalyptic western, set in the Outback and starring Robert Pattinson.

Guy Pearce stars as a loner who is making his own way through the world, a decade after a global economic collapse, when he’s ambushed for his car by a gang. Capturing one of the thieves, (Pattinson) he sets out on a journey to recover the car. This one looks a little grim, but we’re dying to see what Michôd will do in a Mad Max-style setting.

Where can I see it?

In selected cinemas nationwide from August 15th.

Hector And The Search For Happiness

Simon Pegg has been talking about this one for a while – he stars as Hector, a psychiatrist who realises his patients’ happiness is being affected by his own ennui. He promptly begins his titular quest by going on an adventure around the world, encountering eccentric and incredible people along the way.

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We’re getting a strong vibe of Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty from this one and it’s getting to the time of year where if you haven’t already booked a holiday and you’re looking to be swept away in a dark room with a screen instead, this is your best bet. It’ll probably make a nice downer-upper double bill with The Rover, which is out on the same day.

Where can I see it?

In cinemas nationwide from August 15th.

What If

The surprisingly sweet Goon is a favourite with Den of Geek writers, and if you’re intrigued to see what director Michael Dowse does with an out-and-out romantic comedy, this is the one for you. What If stars Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan as friends who flirt with the idea of getting together. He’s cynical, she’s attached – so far, so When Harry Met Sally.

While it’s not up to the impossible standard of that film, it takes another Rob Reiner classic, The Princess Bride, as a romantic paragon amidst the more messy sexual politics and the filthy banter of Radcliffe’s roommate, played by an always charming Adam Driver. It’s as good a point as any to kick off a film that is wittier and more complicated than more predictable entries in the “can men and women just be friends?” subset.

Where can I see it?

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In cinemas nationwide from August 20th.

Lucy

You might feel like an action movie has no place on this list – it’s already a hit in the States and seeing as how it stars Scarlett Johansson, some have even said that it might as well be the long-mooted Black Widow solo movie. But you have to concede that this looks like one of the more interesting action movies of the summer, even if its premise is based in the popular misconception that humans only use 10% of their brains.

The title character is a drug mule who winds up absorbing the mind-expanding chemicals that she’s forced to transport and becoming ever more intelligent super-capable. Luc Besson’s script cover page describes the highly visceral film as one part Leon, one part Inception and one part 2001: A Space Odyssey. If it lives up to that description, then we can’t wait.

Where can I see it?

In cinemas nationwide from August 22nd.

Deliver Us From Evil

Horror fans aren’t typically well served over the summer season, although the success of last year’s The Conjuring seems set to change that with Insidious Chapter 3 and Sinister 2 both set for big summer release dates in 2015. But the only horror-ish thing in wide release at the moment is The Purge: Anarchy, which is more of a Carpenter-esque action satire than the first film’s home invasion horror.

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This month’s big new horror offering is Deliver Us From Evil, which opened in the US last month and takes inspiration from New York cop Ralph Sarchie’s memoirs. The new film from Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Exorcism Of Emily Rose) stars Eric Bana as Sarchie, who battles demonic infestation in his city with the help of Edgar Ramirez’s priest.

Where can I see it?

In cinemas nationwide from August 22nd.

Obvious Child

Films about stand-up comedians seem comparatively rare – Martin Scorsese’s The King Of Comedy springs to mind, but other than that, it’s tough to think of any notable recent ones outside of Judd Apatow’s Funny People. Enter Obvious Child, a festival darling that’s been picking up great reviews left, right and centre.

In the film, Saturday Night Live alumnus Jenny Slate plays a stand-up who finds herself single, unemployed and pregnant on Valentine’s Day. The film has attracted praise and controversy alike for its mature and witty take on women’s rights and we expect that this will be a timely bridge to the weightier and worthier fare of the autumn.

Where can I see it?

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In selected cinemas nationwide from August 29th. If you can’t catch it then, you’ll have to wait until 29th January 2015 for the DVD release.

Honourable mentions: There are a couple of re-issues in cinemas this month too, if you fancy checking out some classics on the big screen. Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief returns to cinemas on Friday August 8th, with Cary Grant seeking to make a copycat burglar of Grace Kelly, and the iconic horror The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari is in cinemas for one week from August 29th.

Tell us what you’re looking forward to watching in the comments – be sure to let us know if you think we’ve missed out on any films that might deserve a bit more attention in cinemas this month.