Summer Movie Guide: August

Late summer brings a high-profile showdown.

August is more crowded than ever, beginning with a head-to-head battle between The Bourne Legacy and Total Recall during its first weekend. (By grossing $442.8 million worldwide in 2007, The Bourne Ultimatum proved that August, once considered a graveyard, could produce a tentpole hit.) The future of Universal's Bourne franchise is riding on the latest installment, which features Jeremy Renner in the lead instead of Matt Damon, who didn't want to star in the fourth installment if Paul Greengrass wasn't returning to direct. Instead, Tony Gilroy, who wrote the first three Bourne movies, claims the director's chair for the spy tale. And Sony has franchise hopes for Total Recall, a remake of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi movie now featuring Colin Farrell in the lead role. Directed by Len Wiseman (the Underworld franchise, Live Free or Die Hard), the remake follows a different storyline and is set in a dystopian future when Euroamerica (formerly the U.S.) battles New Shanghai (formerly China) for global power. Kate Beckinsale, Wiseman's wife, stars opposite Farrell. With that combination of talent, Recall is generating plenty of heat on the Internet and in social media circles. As the month gets under way, Fox will bring out its sequel Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. Although August isn't usually a stomping ground for kid pics, Disney on Aug. 15 will open The Odd Life of Timothy Green, and two days later Focus Features rolls out the animated ParaNorman, from the filmmakers behind Coraline. Then there's the usual August crush of genre titles, including The Apparition and Premium Rush on Aug. 24, followed by 7500 and The Possession on Aug. 31, when John Hillcoat's Depression-era drama Lawless (formerly known as The Wettest County) also is due.

AUGUST AT A GLANCE

August 3:

  • The Bourne Legacy (Universal)
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (Fox)
  • Total Recall (Sony)

August 10:

  • The Campaign (Warner Bros.)
  • Hope Springs (Sony)

August 15:

  • The Odd Life of Timothy Green (Disney)

August 17:

  • The Expendables 2 (Lionsgate)
  • ParaNorman (Focus)
  • Sparkle (Sony)

August 24:

  • The Apparition (Warner Bros.)
  • Premium Rush (Sony)

Augst 31:

  • 7500 (CBS Films)
  • Lawless (The Weinstein Co.)
  • The Possession (Lionsgate)

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AUGUST 17: Sparkle

In the wake of Whitney Houston's death, Sony's Sparkle -- which Houston stars in and executive produced -- suddenly finds itself in the spotlight. The original Sparkle, released in 1976, told the tale of a Supremes-like group. Houston and her former producing partner Debra Martin Chase were the driving force behind the redo, with Houston originally wanting the singer Aaliyah to play the title character before she died in 2001. Once the picture moved to Sony, American Idol winner Jordin Sparks was selected to make her film debut, with Houston playing her mother. This Sparkle is set in 1960s Detroit, where three young women in a local church choir become a singing sensation. Also producing is T.D. Jakes, the influential minister of a Texas megachurch, which suggests the film could play to faith-based audiences as well as Houston fans.

AUGUST 17: The Expendables 2

Can lightning strike twice? Lionsgate is betting it can as it preps The Expendables 2, a toast to the biggest action stars of yesterday and today. Written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, the first Expendables became an unexpected sensation in August 2010, grossing $274.5 million worldwide. This time, while Stallone penned the script, Simon West takes the directing reins. Opening Aug. 17, the follow-up marks the return of Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren and Bruce Willis, along with fresh blood Yu Nan, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris. Liam Hemsworth, who was supposed to appear in the first Expendables until his part got cut, also makes the team this time.

LATE-SUMMER LAUGHS: Hope Springs

Meryl Streep is back in theaters Aug. 10 in Sony's dramedy Hope Springs, starring opposite Steve Carell and Tommy Lee Jones. The film reteams her with David Frankel, director of The Devil Wears Prada, and tells the story of a longtime married couple who attend a marriage counseling retreat where Carell pops up as their counselor. Fresh off her best actress Oscar win for The Iron Lady, Streep is a huge draw for adult moviegoers, and Hope Springs could tap into the female moviegoers who last summer flocked to The Help, which opened in the same time frame. In fact, the weekend could see a gender divide with guys opting for The Campaign, a comedy headlining Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as North Carolina political rivals with presidential aspirations. The Warner Bros. film could provide comic relief from real-life presidential politics because it opens just weeks before the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and the Democratic gathering in Charlotte, N.C. -- if its TV ads can cut through all those political messages.

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BITE OUT OF THE FOREIGN BOX OFFICE?

The Summer Olympics in London, which run July 27 through Aug. 12, are likely to distract moviegoers in Europe and thus hurt studio tentpoles. Euro 2012, the continental soccer tournament that takes place June 8 through July 1 in Poland, also is expected to impact box office.

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