Much Ado About Nothing
Say you've just finished directing (and writing) one of the highest-grossing movies in history — a superhero super-epic that super-redeems you from past underperformers. How do you possibly follow up that kind of astronomical success? ... Well, fine, you work on a TV spin-off of your franchise. But in addition to that, you conceive a microbudget adaptation of a Shakespeare comedy and shoot it in black-and-white. At your house.
Joss Whedon's new Much Ado About Nothing is pure, uncut catnip for his fans. From Buffy, there's Alexis Denisof and Tom Lenk. From Angel (in which Denisof also starred), there's Amy Acker (also of Cabin in the Woods). From Firefly, there's Nathan Fillion and Sean Maher. From Dollhouse (and Cabin), there's Fran Kranz. And from The Avengers, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., and all the movies that led up to The Avengers, there's your old friend Clark Gregg. Should he have played Benedick instead of Denisof? Probably. But you can't have everything.
New and Notable
The Kings of Summer
Even though I worked all summer and am an adult, just watching this trailer made me sad that it's fall ... or maybe nostalgic for the jobless summers of my youth. Not only are the three titular teenage boys enjoying a summer apparently free of responsibilities and troubles (other than nice parents who show their love by getting on their case about pretty innocuous stuff), they're spending the season pursuing a cool, consuming project: stealing away to the woods near their homes to build their own house.
Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts makes his feature-film debut here; along with the three summer kings (Nick Robinson, Moises Arias, and Super 8's Gabriel Basso), the film features the ubiquitous Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally as parents (though, unlike real life, not a couple), as well as a cornucopia of comedy-nerd favorites: Alison Brie, Marc Evan Jackson, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Kumail Nanjiani, Tony Hale, Gillian Vigman (OK, some of those names are obscure, but you'll know them when you see them). It's the rare festival darling that actually looks like fun.
"In Theaters"/Early Release Picks
When Lamb, a sheltered young woman living in a conservative Christian community, survives a plane crash, the experience jolts her out of the life she knew and leads her to question everything. Before long, she has scandalized her congregation by threatening to vote Democrat and fled to Las Vegas, where she intends to sample all sorts of sins.
In her fifth movie role, Julianne Hough headlines as Lamb; the all-star cast includes Nick Offerman and Holly Hunter as her parents, her Rock of Ages costar Russell Brand as a Vegas bartender, and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer as the friend who helps Lamb cross items off her sinful list. Diablo Cody — whose last script was Young Adult, and who won an Oscar for writing Juno — wrote the screenplay and makes her directorial debut.
A Night in the Woods
Scoot McNairy and his awesome name have been everywhere lately: getting in over his head in Killing Them Softly, being held hostage in Argo, and in Oscar bait like Promised Land and the upcoming 12 Years a Slave. It's probably thanks to his newly elevated profile that A Night in the Woods — which was made in 2011, according to IMDb — is getting released now (first on VOD; later in theaters).
In this found-footage thriller, McNairy plays Brody, who heads out on a camping trip with his girlfriend and her cousin to a location in which a demonic killer is said to hunt sinners. If the trailer is to be believed, the cousin is not a cousin ... and things kind of degenerate from there.
Available on VOD before it's in theaters, Mr. Nobody finds Nemo, the last mortal man on Earth, looking back on his life and telling his extraordinary story: By never making any choices, he made every choice, and thus lived multiple parallel lives.
Playing our protagonist is Jared Leto, a man whose ageless beauty makes him uniquely suited to play someone who manages to get multiple women (including Sarah Polley and Diane Kruger) in multiple realities to marry him and have his multiverse babies. And while the human race, once it achieves universal immortality, will obviously be interested in the last human being who'll actually die, it stands to reason that a Jared Leto character would be an object of particular concern. Who could sit idly by as the world lost those cheekbones?