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New in Theaters August 19: Kubo and the Two Strings, Ben-Hur, War Dogs

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By Chris Kavan - 08/18/16 at 06:47 AM CT

Suicide Squad may have had one good week and one decent follow-up, but something tells me the third time is not going to be the charm for the anti-hero league. Three films are coming out swinging, including Laika Entertainment's latest animated offering that even if it doesn't match the returns of Disney, still looks like one of the year's best. We also have a comedic look into the horrors of war and a remake of classic film - I think something about chariot races or something. It should be interesting to see, but I have a feeling the combined efforts will be more than enough to dethrone the current box office champion.

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS In the past few years Laika Entertainment has held their own in the animated field often dominated by Disney, Dreamworks and Illumination. Plus, their films have a very unique look, using a combination of stop-motion and cel animation rather than strictly CG. Because of that Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls have all been unique and enjoyable. I have to say that the upcoming Kubo and the Two Strings looks like their best effort yet. This a a grand adventure following Kubo (Art Parkinson) as he searches for his father's magical armor as a vengeful spirit looking to re-ignite a feud turns his world upside down. He won't be alone as Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) will be there to help him on his journey. Other voices include Rooney Mara voicing a pair of sinister sister, Ralph Fiennes as The Moon King and George Takei as Hosato. The film looks very exciting and also a lot of fun. Even though it is rated PG, this may be one that the youngest set may have to wait on but I think it looks great for families and, coming at the end of summer, should make some waves just before school starts (or shortly after it has started for others). I want this to succeed, but we'll see if it can bring in the families where films like The BFG and Pete's Dragon have failed recently.

WAR DOGS It's hard to mix war and comedy. Sure, you have classics like MASH, Stripes and Good Morning, Vietnam - but what do we have recently? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot was a bust as was Our Brand is Crisis (more political than war, but close enough). In fact, the last time we had decent war comedies was back in 2008-2009 when we got Tropic Thunder, Inglorious Basterds and The Loop. Can War Dogs turn things around? It helps that Jonah Hill and Miles Teller are the leads - both have proven adept at action, drama and comedy in the past, so a send-up of two war profiteers who find themselves in over their heads when they take on a $300 million contract to arm the Afghan military. Now, this isn't a straight comedy - there are high stakes here and I'm sure (much like Good Morning, Vietnam) there will be plenty of serious moments as well. The things is, this is based on a true story - and that might be the scariest part of all. I don't know how well this will do in theaters (I doubt the conservatives will like this one at all) but I'm putting it on my streaming wish list.

BEN-HUR That leaves us with the most perplexing movie of the weekend. Now, director Timur Bekmambetov has been a pretty steady director ever since Night Watch. I loved Wanted and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was delightfully campy fun. But he seems like such a strange choice for the Ben-Hur remake. This is a man of action - and by that, I mean he loves action in his films. Ben-Hur does have the chariot race but, come on, this is supposed to be a serious story here. And how can you top the epic with Charlton Heston? The truth is, you can't - you won't - and I have a feeling this remake is going to be one of the biggest misses of the year. The cast has some big names - Morgan Freeman, Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Moises Arias, Rodrigo Santoro and James Cosmo among them - but nothing that screams blockbuster. In fact, early forecast have this making only $12 million (though Sony is hoping for $20 million - good luck) but, in any case, this is looking easily like the riskiest prospect of the weekend.

It should be a bang-up weekend with hopefully a new box office champion. I'm pulling for Kubo and the Two Strings - we'll see if the animated film can top Suicide Squad in its third weekend.


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