It’s hard to believe we’re halfway through the summer, but no worries because July has fireworks, hot dogs, and movies! June was a soft month with staid comedies like “The Internship” and divisive blockbusters such as “Man of Steel” and “World War Z.” But, the next thirty days or so should have more than enough for you whether your appetite is for explosions or more subtler fare with a bit more substance.
July’s highlights include the latest from Woody Allen, sensations from Cannes and Sundance, compelling documentaries and of course, a few well-placed blockbusters that could do boffo business upon release. Feel free to tell us what we missed, or what else we should be looking forward to this month! Anything in particular that you’re looking forward to?
“The Lone Ranger”
Synopsis: John Reid (Armie Hammer) is a man who believes in the power of the law. As recounted by his Native American compatriot, Tonto (Johnny Depp) narrates how Reid turned into an outlaw desperate to do well in the world, eventually becoming the Lone Ranger.
What You Need to Know: Disney has taken its lumps in the live-action department lately, as last year’s western/sci-fi hybrid, “John Carter,” was a $250 million disaster that barely broke even. Disney hopes to buck that trend with its “Pirates of the Caribbean” dream team of producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Gore Verbinski, screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, and megastar Johnny Depp. One can’t say that the movie isn’t being marketed like mad, with clips and commercials playing en masse, and a splashy, star–studded premiere held at Disney’s California Adventure. It’s got the coveted 4th of July weekend, which could be successful if families want to see a film before shooting off fireworks. Depp’s name still carries some cache, but his last few films have caused audiences to wonder if the man possesses any additional talent outside of wearing a lot of makeup. Hopefully, fans of Depp, the “Pirates” franchise, and/or fans of the original series take all those elements and head out to the theaters to break the western curse. But early reviews, including our C- assessment, suggest otherwise.
Release Date: July 3rd
“The Way, Way Back”
Synopsis: Duncan (Liam James) is a 14-year-old boy spending the summer with his mother (Toni Collette) and her jerk of a boyfriend (Steve Carrell). Hoping to spend as little time with his family as possible, Duncan takes a job at a water park and discovers what family truly means.
What You Need to Know: “The Way, Way Back” is the directorial debut of screenwriters Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, the Academy Award-winning co-writers of the Alexander Payne film, “The Descendants.” The film has gained a significant following since its showing at Sundance, with our own Cory Everett giving it a “B” at Park City, describing it as a film that “aims for the heart;” peppered with a slew of fantastic character actors including Maya Rudolph, Sam Rockwell, Alison Janney, and a dark Steve Carrell. Carrell is taking a gamble by playing against type in a role where audiences will be surprised that you’re not “supposed to be laughing with him.” The film’s had several pop-up screenings throughout the month, and could be a strong sleeper hit.
Release Date: July 5th in limited release with expansion throughout the month.
Synopsis: The true story of the death of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) who was killed on New Year’s Eve 2009 by BART transit police.
What You Need to Know: The buzz on “Fruitvale Station” is immense with early prognosticators being that it’s an awards contender. It nabbed two substantial prizes at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the Audience Prize and coveted Grand Jury Prize, as well as another trophy Cannes, upping its chances come awards season. Directed by first-time director Ryan Coogler and featuring a break-out performance by “Friday Night Lights” alum, Jordan; Jessica Kiang gave the film a “B”at Cannes and praised Jordan’s talent, although she considered the film “heavy-handed” with a “manipulative script.” The events of the movie were widely documented in the news media, particularly on the West Coast, so viewers might not want to relive events culminating in rioting and chaos. Conversely, any movie that touts it’s “what actually happened” could face mixed audiences finding it manipulative. Regardless, “Fruitvale Station” will make a splash upon release.
Release Date: July 12th in limited with a wide release on July 26th.
Synopsis: When evil creatures known as Kaiju rise from the sea, it’s up to a former pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and his untested partner (Rinko Kikuchi) to wield a robot, called a Jaeger, in order to stop the Kaiju.
What You Need to Know: If you’re seeking an original, creative project directed by a legendary fan-favorite director, then go out and support “Pacific Rim.” A $200 million co-production from Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, “Pacific Rim” is the brainchild of Guillermo Del Toro, who has been whetting audiences’ appetite with this film since last year. A mix of “Godzilla” and “Voltron,” the movie is hoping to rely on spectacle in lieu of big name stars (the biggest name is “Luther” star, “Idris Elba“). With footage being spotty, probably to entice audiences to check out the finished product, there’s fear that the movie won’t live up to expectations or pull in enough financially. (Although, with a simultaneous 2D/3D release, it‘s hoped that increased ticket sales will make up the difference.) A recent report mentions that the film is tracking behind the atrocious sequel to “Grown-Ups,” which isn’t going to combat the cries of Hollywood’s fading creativity. If you don’t want sequelitis to be reinforced, head out to see “Pacific Rim.”
Release Date: July 12th
Synopsis: A schoolteacher (Mads Mikkelsen), coping with a divorce and ensuing custody battle, finds his life turned upside down when a rumor in his small town threatens to ruin him.
What You Need to Know: Director Thomas Vinterberg, co-founder of the Dogme movement and director of the 1998 film, “A Celebration,” returns with a “brilliantly unsettling” film, according to Jessica Kiang in her A– review. Leading man, Mads Mikkelsen has gained a following this year with his NBC show, “Hannibal,” and while “The Hunt” has been playing in various film festivals since last year (and gained a place in Kiang’s Favorite of 2012 list), it’ll finally be receiving a wide release. With a swath of strong reviews and Mikkelsen’s growing name recognition, it’s a safe bet that this will be tearing up the arthouse world.
Release Date: July 12th (New York and Los Angeles)
Synopsis: A shocking documentary uncovering the lives and treatment of orca whales, their history in the sea-park industry, and the poor reputation they’ve received over the last few years.
What You Need to Know: Magnolia Pictures presents an expose on the world of the majestic orca whale with “Blackfish.” After a string of attacks at the hand of orcas, or “killer whales,” the question was asked if the animals were to blame, or is the sea-park industry which makes millions by marketing and training these whales to do tricks. Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite lifts the veil, exposing the sea-park industry and the abuse and neglect that orcas endure. Of course, controversy will arise based on the movie‘s thesis, but look for this to stir up a firestorm of criticism akin to the 2009 dolphin documentary, “The Cove,” which caused similar public outcry. “Blackfish” will easily snag animal lovers, although as with any documentary, it will probably make you incredibly angry.
Release Date: July 19th in limited release with plans for expansion.
“Only God Forgives”
Synopsis: An American (Ryan Gosling) living in Bangkok, must hunt down and take revenge on the Thai police lieutenant who murdered his brother.
What You Need to Know: Director Nicholas Winding Refn made waves with 2011’s “Drive,” catapulting star Ryan Gosling even further into the stratosphere, as well as asserting Refn’s style of bloody, uncompromising violence. His latest offering is a reteaming with Gosling, and our own Jessica Kiang, in her review from Cannes, states that while the film is similar to “Drive” it yields “diminishing returns.” Refn, himself, is aware of the raised expectations, with audiences clambering for a spiritual sequel to “Drive,” and he doesn’t particularly worry about expectations. In our interview with the director in May, he explains, “For me, the greatest pleasure is when you make something and everyone argues about it. Because you know it’s the only time that people are actually affected by what they see… so obviously I’ve reached into your deepest soul.” In spite of its lack of “emotional engagement,” audiences who have come to enjoy Refn’s streak of violence and vengeance will definitely flock to this opening weekend.
Release Date: July 19th in limited release.
Synopsis: Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is a wealthy socialite who ends up flat-broke. With no one to turn to, she’s forced to go to San Francisco and move in with her sister (Sally Hawkins).
What You Need to Know: Director Woody Allen has been on a tear of late, directing and releasing at least one movie a year with a diverse range of actors and locations. His last few films (highlights include “Match Point,” “Vicky Christina Barcelona,” “Midnight in Paris“) have been located in the wondrous world of Europe; with “Blue Jasmine,” Allen is returning to the States with a film that’s been puzzling both audiences and critics, not only about where it will stand in Allen’s filmography, but also in its overall tone. The first trailer, released only a few weeks ago, emphasizes the blend of comedy and drama. Might we be seeing something in the vein of Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters”? We’ll find out in a few weeks.
Release Date: July 26th in New York and Los Angeles
Synopsis: Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) is about to enter college, but feels insecure because she’s still a virgin. Her goal during the summer is simple: experience every sexual thing that can be done in order to go to college sexually mature.
What You Need to Know: “The To-Do List” feels like it’s been limping towards release forever. Supporting cast member, Bill Hader (who is married to the film’s director and screenwriter, Maggie Carey) has compared the film to a “raunchy ‘Sixteen Candles‘” which certainly raises expectations. But the red-band trailer is hilarious, and filled with dialogue that would make your grandma blush. Plaza is becoming quite the indie darling, and “The To-Do List” could be enough to propel her into leading lady territory. The movie is set during the summertime, so its late July release seems to be a perfect hit for what should be a pretty naughty diversion.
Release Date: July 26th
Synopsis: “X-Men” regular, Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) goes to Japan in order to take down an enemy from his past.
What You Need to Know: It’s been four years since the troublesome “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” and it’s unknown if audiences have forgotten about it, or not. Leading man Jackman has intimated that “Origins” “could have done better,” and it’s that film’s disastrous shoot that has led him to question whether he’ll wear the claws after “The Wolverine.” Other than Jackman’s name and the “X-Men” connection, there are no big names to sell the film (director James Mangold has crafted an equal number of hits to disappointments). With a release date in late July, and no other comic book films to offer up competition, “The Wolverine” could succeed if comic book fans want something to watch. Let’s just hope it’s a course correction for the character.
Release Date: July 26th