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2021 Film Anniversary Retrospectives: August

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In this retrospective series, I will be honouring the history of film by posting a monthly Reel Anarchy article detailing up to five films from the past that are celebrating an anniversary. I try to pick films that are at least 10 years old, but the emphasis is on films that are at least 20 years old. You might see some high-profile classics show up, but you might see some more obscure picks as well.

This year’s films celebrating an anniversary in the month of August . . .

 

Matilda

This 1996 fantasy comedy from Sony and TriStar Pictures saw Danny DeVito star in, direct, and co-produce the project. The film also stars Mara Wilson and Rhea Perlman from a screenplay by Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord. The IMDB plot synopsis states: “This film adaptation of a Ronald Dahl work tells the story of Matilda Wormwood, a gifted girl forced to put up with a crude, distant father and mother.”

One of the film’s supporting actresses, Pam Ferris, suffered numerous injuries during filming, including chalk dust in her eyes and receiving 7-8 stitches on the top of her finger from an incident involving harness wires going through her pigtails and looped around her fingertips. The actress portraying the film’s protagonist, Mara Wilson, lost her mother to breast cancer four months prior to the film’s release. DeVito revealed afterwards that he had shown Wilson’s mother a final edit of the film before her passing.

Matilda suffered a poor box office showing, despite receiving critical acclaim. The film only made $33 million off a budget of $36 million. However, the film sits at 90% on Rotten Tomatoes with their consensus reading: “Danny DeVito-directed version of Matilda is odd, charming, and while the movie diverges from Ronald Dahl, it nonetheless captures the book’s spirit.”

In a November 2019 interview with Comicbook.com’s Brandon Davis for Jumanji: The Next Level, DeVito revealed he wanted to make a sequel to Matilda, stating “I always wanted to do Matilda 2, but when [Mara Wilson] was still a kid, but that was like 20 years ago, 25 years ago. Maybe Matilda has a kid and we can do something that, I don’t know.”


Rush Hour 2

The sequel to the 1998 action-comedy classic brought back the Rush Hour crew for another round in 2001. That included director Brett Ratner and stars Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. The IMDB plot synopsis states: “Carter and Lee head to Hong Kong for a vacation, but become embroiled in a counterfeit money scam.”

Rush Hour 2 went on to surpass the previous film’s box office gross, making $347.3 million worldwide. It became the second-highest-grossing PG-13 film of 2001 and ultimately the highest-grossing martial arts action film of all time.

The film received mixed reviews from critics, though. The sequel to the film that inspired Rotten Tomatoes into existence sits at 52% with the consensus reading: “Rush Hour 2 doesn’t feel as fresh or funny as the first, and the stunts lack some of the intricacy normally seen in Chan’s films.”


The Others

This 2001 Warner Bros. supernatural horror/thriller was scored, written, and directed by Alejandro Amenãbar. The Others stars Nicole Kidman, Fionnula Flanagan, and Christopher Eccleston. The IMDB plot synopsis states: “A woman who lives in her darkened old family house with her two photosensitive children becomes convinced that the home is haunted.”

The film sits at 83% on Rotten Tomatoes with the consensus reading: “The Others is a spooky thriller that reminds us that a movie doesn’t need expensive special effects to be creepy.” It also garnered $209 million worldwide from a $17 million production budget. When it was all said and done, The Others became the first film to ever win Best Film Award at Spain’s national film awards, The Goyas, without having a single word of Spanish spoken throughout the film.

In 2020, Sentient Entertainment teamed up with Universal Pictures to develop a remake of the film set in the present day. The remake is still in pre-production.


The Help

This 2011 period piece drama was written and directed by Tate Taylor – based on the 2009 novel of the same name by Kathryn Stockett. The film stars Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, Cicely Tyson, and Allison Janney. Chris Columbus, director of the first Harry Potter film, served as producer. Here is the IMDB plot synopsis: “An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African American maids’ point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.”

The film was shot in Mississippi, which was the preference of Stockett since that was the setting of the novel. Taylor convinced Dreamworks executives to shoot in Greenwood, Mississippi to make that preference become a reality. In fact, one real-life location in Jackson, Mississippi, Brent’s Drugs, makes an appearance in both the novel and the film. The film would become the most significant Mississippi production since a Coen Brothers film, O Brother, Where Art Thou?

The Help would prove to have legs at the box office. While coming in second place in its opening weekend to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, it would rise to the top of the box office with only a $6 million drop ($26 down to $20), or a 21% drop. The film would go on to top the box office for three weeks in a row. To put that into perspective, that was the first time that situation happened since Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

The Taylor-directed drama would also fair mostly well with critics. The film sports a 76% on Rotten Tomatoes, with the review aggregator stating, “Though arguably guilty of glossing over its racial themes, The Help rises on the strength of its cast – particularly Viola Davis, whose performance is powerful enough to carry the film on its own.” Davis and Howard have both since regretted joining the film over racial concerns.

The film would also be nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actress, and two Best Supporting Actress nominations. Octavia Spencer would win the latter award.


 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The other 2011 film on this list is a sci-fi action thriller reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise. The film was directed by Rupert Wyatt, written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, and stars Andy Serkis, James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Tom Felton, Brian Cox, and David Oyelowo. Here is the IMDB plot synopsis: “A substance designed to help the brain repair itself gives advanced intelligence to a chimpanzee who leads an ape uprising.”

The film that launched Andy Serkis to fame for his motion-capture performances also launched the film to a strong critical reception. Rise of the Planet of the Apes sits at 82% on Rotten Tomatoes, with the site’s consensus reading: “Led by Rupert Wyatt’s stylish direction, some impressive special effects and a mesmerizing performance by Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes breathes unlikely new life into a long-running franchise.”

Rise of the Planet of the Apes also delivered at the box office. The film made $54.8 million in its opening weekend, marking it as the fourth-highest August opening weekend ever. It would ultimately make $481.8 million worldwide.

Verdict

Despite August being known as a weaker month of the calendar year, there are some surprising hits in the month. Matilda appeals to kids and families, Rush Hour 2 is a treat to action-comedy fans, The Others satisfies a thriller/horror film vibe, The Help takes a liking to fans of historical films, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a fresh take on a classic, big-budget film franchise. I think there is something for everyone this month.

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