Get ready: August will see the releases of a number of female-driven narratives. Furiosa may have driven out of the box office into the sunset — meaning “Mad Max: Fury Road” is now on DVD — but Charlize will grace our cineplex screens again, offering us yet another kick-ass lead character to cling to. In the film adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s sophomore novel “Dark Places” (August 7), Theron plays protagonist Libby Day, the sole survivor of her family’s brutal murder, who later returns to the scene of the crime in an attempt to hunt down the real killer after initially testifying against her brother. As if the synopsis isn’t enough to get your juices flowing, the trailer includes an electrifying montage that introduces an androgynous Theron, clad in a baseball cap and leather jacket, as well as Christina Hendricks — straight out of the sexist ’60s and ’70s “Mad Men” office — armed with a shotgun. Needless to say, we eagerly anticipate the release of this mystery, which will also be available on VOD.
Next month is book-ended by some profoundly explorative, supernatural and conceptual thrillers. “Big Sky” is a dramatic thriller about a young woman (Bella Thorne) suffering from agoraphobia, who must overcome her fear after she and her mother (Kyra Sedgwick) are attacked by a pair of ruthless gunmen. Margot Robbie plays strong survivalist Ann Burden in the post-apocalyptic Sundance hit “Z for Zachariah,” while Elizabeth Moss demonstrates a transition (like that of former “Mad Men” co-star Hendricks) from TV to film in “Queen of Earth” (August 26) — an abstract thriller about two female friends who, after retreating to a lake house together, discover that they have drifted apart. Following her Oscar-nominated performance in “Gone Girl,” Rosamund Pike takes on “Return to Sender,” an unnerving and challenging film about a woman who, after being brutally raped, enacts meticulous revenge upon her attacker.
Dovetailing on that is the release of a film that pays close attention to female familial bonds is “Grandma” (August 21) — a comedy-drama about the relationship between grandmother Ellie (Lily Tomlin) and teen granddaughter Sage (Julie Garner), who needs funds for an abortion. And in “The Second Mother,” a Brazilian film written and directed by Anna Muylaert, confronts hierarchical class structures through the relationship between a house-keeper mother working for a wealthy, upper-middle-class family, and her estranged, outspoken daughter.
Dark Places (Also available on VOD)
Libby Day (Charlize Theron) was only seven years old when her mother and two sisters were brutally murdered in their rural Kansas farmhouse. In court, the traumatized child pointed the finger at her brother, Ben (Tye Sheridan), and her testimony put the troubled 16-year-old in prison for life. Twenty-five years later, a broke and desperate Libby has run through donations from a sympathetic public and royalties from her sensational autobiography, without ever moving past the events of that night. Also starring Nicholas Hoult, Christina Hendricks, Corey Stoll and Chloë Grace Moretz. Based on the novel by Gillian Flynn.
Ricki and the Flash – Written by Diablo Cody
In a film loaded with music and live performance, Meryl Streep stars as Ricki, a guitar heroine who gave up everything for her dream of rock-and-roll stardom, but is now returning home to make things right with her family. Streep stars opposite her real-life daughter Mamie Gummer, who plays her fictional daughter; Rick Springfield, who takes on the role of a Flash member in love with Ricki; and Kevin Kline, who portrays Ricki’s long-suffering ex-husband.
The Diary of A Teenage Girl – Written and Directed by Marielle Heller
Like most teenage girls, Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley) is longing for love, acceptance and a sense of purpose in the world. Minnie begins a complex love affair with her mother’s (Kristen Wiig) boyfriend, “the handsomest man in the world,” Monroe Rutherford (Alexander Skarsgård). What follows is a sharp, funny and provocative account of one girl’s sexual and artistic awakening, without judgment.
The Falling – Written and Directed by Carol Morley
It’s 1969 at a strict
English girls’ school where charismatic Abbie and intense and troubled Lydia
are best friends. After a tragedy occurs at the school, a mysterious fainting
epidemic breaks out threatening the stability of all involved. (IMDB) Starring Maxine Peake, Maisie Williams and Florence Pugh.
Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet (Animated) – Co-Directed by Nina Paley
Set in a Mediterranean sea-side village, Kamila (Salma Hayek) cleans house for exiled artist and poet Mustafa (Liam Neeson), but the more difficult job is keeping her free-spirited young daughter, Almitra, (Quvenzhané Wallis) out of trouble. The three embark on a journey meant to end with Mustafa’s return home — but first they must evade the authorities who fear that the truth in his words will incite rebellion.
The Lost Key (Documentary) – Co-Directed by Belen Orsini; Co-Written by Fernanda Rossi and Sonia Chocron
After a traumatic divorce, Ricardo set out to discover how to attain a fulfilling and lasting marriage. His search took him to renowned author and marriage counselor Rabbi Manis Friedman, whose book, “Doesn’t Anyone Blush Anymore?” boasts a cover quote by the legendary Bob Dylan. The film portrays the dramatic transformation of Ricardo’s new marriage, and the reactions of other couples to this revolutionary way to intimate connection.
Rosenwald (Documentary) – Written and Directed by Aviva Kempner
The incredible story of Julius Rosenwald, who never finished high school, but rose to become the President of Sears. Influenced by the writings of the educator Booker T. Washington, this Jewish philanthropist joined forces with African American communities during the Jim Crow South to build over 5,300 schools during the early part of the 20th century.
Fort Tilden – Co-Written and Co-Directed by Sarah-Violet Bliss
Amidst quarter-life crises, Allie (Claire McNulty) struggles to prepare for the Peace Corps, while Harper (Bridey Elliott) awaits checks from her father to fund her artistic dreams. But the two friends quickly shun responsibilities for the day when a pair of good-looking guys invite them along for a carefree Fort Tilden afternoon. As the two young women board their bikes and embark on a lengthy journey to the beach, they quickly realize that, akin to their confusing, transitioning lives, they neither know where they’re going nor how they plan to get there.
Every night, four boys trick a young, blonde girl into meeting them in the forest for a date with the intention to hunt and kill her for sport. One night, Veronica (Abigail Breslin) is selected and little do they know she is a trained assassin with her own set of tricks for these boys. When the hunt begins, the boys soon realize that they messed with the wrong girl when she turns the tables on them.
Straight Outta Compton – Co-Written by Andrea Berloff
In the mid-1980s, the streets of Compton, California, were some of the most dangerous in the country. When five young men translated their experiences growing up into brutally honest music that rebelled against abusive authority, they gave an explosive voice to a silenced generation. Following the meteoric rise and fall of N.W.A., “Straight Outta Compton” tells the astonishing story of how these youngsters revolutionized music and pop culture forever the moment they told the world the truth about life in the hood and ignited a cultural war.
Return to Sender (Also available on VOD) – Co-Written by Patricia Beauchamp
Miranda (Rosamund Pike) is a dedicated nurse, an exquisite cake maker and an impeccable friend. But when she agrees to a blind date and the wrong man comes to her door…her perfect world is shattered by a brutal assault. Even after her attacker, William (Shiloh Fernandez), is convicted and locked away for the crime, Miranda can’t overcome the fear and trauma enough to put her orderly life back together. Desperate for closure, she reaches out to William — first through letters, then prison visits — and slowly builds a relationship with him. But when William is paroled and comes looking for her, Miranda seizes the opportunity to exact revenge.
Exeter – Co-Written by Kirsten Elms
At an abandoned asylum, six teens tinker with the occult, causing a possession, paranormal mystery and a bloody nightmare that no one could predict. Starring Brittany Curran and Gage Golightly.
She’s Funny That Way – Co-Written by Louise Stratten
A screwball comedy featuring the interconnected personal lives of the cast and crew of a Broadway production. When established director Arnold Albertson (Owen Wilson) casts his call girl-turned-actress Isabella “Izzy” Patterson (Imogen Poots) in a new play to star alongside his wife Delta (Kathryn Hahn) and her ex-lover Seth Gilbert (Rhys Ifans), a zany love tangle forms with hilarious twists. Jennifer Aniston plays Izzy’s therapist, Jane, who is consumed with her own failing relationship with Arnold’s playwright, Joshua Fleet (Will Forte), who is also developing a crush on Izzy.
Mistress America – Co-Written by Greta Gerwig
Tracy (Lola Kirke) is a lonely college freshman in New York, having neither the exciting university experience nor the glamorous metropolitan lifestyle she envisioned. But when she is taken in by her soon-to-be stepsister, Brooke (Greta Gerwig) — a resident of Times Square and adventurous gal about town — she is rescued from her disappointment and seduced by Brooke’s alluringly mad schemes.
Meru (Documentary) – Co-Directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
In the high-stakes pursuit of big-wall climbing, the Shark’s Fin on Mount Meru may be the ultimate prize. Sitting 21,000 feet above the sacred Ganges River in Northern India, the mountain’s perversely stacked obstacles make it both a nightmare and an irresistible calling for some of the world’s toughest climbers. In October 2008, renowned alpinists Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk arrived in India to tackle Meru.
A faith based film about Lane Speer (Paris Warner), a 16-year-old girl who spends her family vacations camping in the mountains. She takes the memories for granted until she loses her father to an unexpected bout with cancer. Only a year later, as Lane is still reeling from her father’s death, her mother remarries a guy that Lane hardly knows. Worst of all, he is a Mormon. To top it off, while they are on their honeymoon, they arrange to have her stay with her Mormon step-aunt who takes her away to a bible-themed girls camp with a bunch of young Mormon girls. Confronted with memories of camping with her family, she tries to find peace with her new surroundings and deal with the death of her father.
Big Sky (Also available on VOD)
A teenage girl who suffers a mortal fear of open spaces, is enrolled in a high-end treatment facility by her mother in the hope that they can find a cure. When the van they are travelling in is suddenly attacked by two masked gunmen, she must confront her biggest fear and fight for her survival. Starring Bella Thorne, Kyra Sedgwick, Frank Grillo and Aaron Tveit.
A young orphan girl, Molly Moon (Raffey Cassidy), comes across a book ‘Hypnotism, An Ancient Art’. Learning its lessons, she hypnotizes her way to stardom in London and becomes rich and famous. But little does she know that an unscrupulous man wants her book. He tracks her to London, kidnaps her dog, Petula and blackmails Molly. In order to get her dog back, she must rob Shorings Bank of all its jewels! And then she must find the friends she has lost from her hypnotic journey.
Amnesiac – Co-Written by Amy Kolquist
A man who wakes up in bed suffering from memory loss after being in an accident, only to begin to suspect that his wife (Kate Bosworth) may not be his real wife and that a web of lies and deceit deepen inside the house where he soon finds himself a prisoner.
“Dangerous Company” follows Pauline Mitchell (Alicia Leigh Willis), a successful businesswoman whose life is seemingly in a good place. But when she finds herself misplacing things, losing track of time and unable to recognize her husband on one occasion, her biggest fear is that she has inherited Alzheimer’s disease, the same illness that killed her mother. However, all is not as it seems, and whether she’s really fallen prey to a debilitating disease or if something else is causing her memory lapses and other issues comes into question. Pauline is faced with a desperate fight to prove her sanity to the police, her doctor and even herself.
Slow Learners – Co-Directed by Sheena M. Joyce
Jeff (Adam Pally) and Anne (Sarah Burns), two close friends and co-workers who are embarrassingly unlucky at love, hatch a plan to transform themselves over the course of a sex-and-alcohol-fueled summer. (Tribeca)
Elle (Lily Tomlin) has just gotten through breaking up with her girlfriend when Elle’s granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) unexpectedly shows up needing $600 bucks before sundown. Temporarily broke, Grandma Elle and Sage spend the day trying to get their hands on the cash as their unannounced visits to old friends and flames end up rattling skeletons and digging up secrets. Also starring Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer and Laverne Cox.
After Words (Also available on VOD)
A romantic adventure focusing on Jane (Marcia Gay Harden), a librarian who attempts to escape her mid-life crisis by traveling to Costa Rica. There she meets a younger man named Juan (Oscar Jaenada) who takes her on an unexpected journey filled with adventure and romance.
Learning to Drive – Directed by Isabel Coixet; Written by Sarah Kernochan
Isabel Coixet’s slice-of-life comedy/drama “Learning to Drive” stars Patricia Clarkson as Wendy, a middle-ages book critic who is shattered when her husband Ted (Jake Weber) leaves her. In order to visit her daughter (Grace Gummer), who lives upstate, Wendy begins taking driving lessons from Darwan (Ben Kingsley) an American citizen originally from India who makes a living as a cabbie and giving driving lessons. The two strike-up a friendship that helps her learn to take control of her life, and him adjust to his new life after an arranged marriage.
The Park Bench – Written and Directed by Ann LeSchander
Emily (Nicole Hayden), a librarian-to-be, is assigned to tutor Mateo (Walter Perez), a rogue Latino undergrad, in American Lit. — but like any classic story, things grow complicated when they share more than a good book.
Top Spin (Documentary) – Directed by Sara Newens and Mina T. Son
Set against the backdrop of one of the most under-appreciated sports in America, three teenagers battle their way through the world of competitive ping pong. While facing the unusual challenges coming of age in a niche sport, their journey reveals the passion it takes to pursue their Olympic-sized dreams.
In The Game (Documentary) – Directed by Maria Finitzo
Through the stories of a Hispanic girls soccer team at Kelly High School in Chicago, “In the Game” illustrates the enormous challenges facing inner-city girls in their quest for higher education and, most importantly, success in life.
Queen of Earth
Two women who grew up together discover they have drifted apart when they retreat to a lake house together. (IMDb) Starring Elisabeth Moss, Katherine Waterston and Patrick Fugit.
My Voice, My Life (Documentary ) – Directed by Ruby Yang
“My Voice My Life” follows an unlikely group of misfit students from four Hong Kong middle and high schools cast in a musical theater performance. From low self-esteem to blindness, each student confronts unique personal challenges in the process of developing his or her character.
The Second Mother – Written and Directed by Anna Muylaert
“The Second Mother” centers around Val (Regina Casé), a hard-working live-in housekeeper in modern day Sao Paulo. Val is perfectly content to take care of every one of her wealthy employers’ needs, from cooking and cleaning to being a surrogate mother to their teenage son, who she has raised since he was a toddler. But when Val’s estranged daughter Jessica (Camila Márdila) suddenly shows up the unspoken but intrinsic class barriers that exist within the home are thrown into disarray. Jessica is smart, confident and ambitious, and refuses to accept the upstairs/downstairs dynamic, testing relationships and loyalties and forcing everyone to reconsider what family really means.
We Are Your Friends – Co-Written by Meaghan Oppenheimer
Set in the world of electronic music and Hollywood nightlife, an aspiring 23-year-old DJ named Cole (Zac Efron) spends his days scheming with his childhood friends and his nights working on the one track that will set the world on fire. All of this changes when he meets a charismatic but damaged older DJ named James, who takes him under his wing. Things get complicated, however, when Cole starts falling for James’ much younger girlfriend, Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski). With Cole’s forbidden relationship intensifying and his friendships unraveling, he must choose between love, loyalty and the future he is destined for.
Turbo Kid – Co-Written and Co-Directed by Anouk Whissell
In a post-apocalyptic future, The Kid (Munro Chambers), a young solitary scavenger obsessed with comic books must face his fears and become a reluctant hero when he meets a mysterious girl named Apple (Laurence Leboeuf). Despite their efforts to keep to themselves, Zeus (Michael Ironside), the sadistic and self-proclaimed leader of the Wasteland, plagues The Kid and Apple. Armed with little more than blind faith and an ancient turbocharged weapon, The Kid learns of justice and friendship and embarks on an incredible journey to rid the Wasteland of evil and save the girl of his dreams.
Zipper – Directed and Co-Written by Mora Stephens
A family man (Patrick Wilson) who has it all until he risks losing everything due to his inability to fight off his obsessive temptation for other women. Starring Maya Muralidhar, Mansi Gaur, Lena Headey and Dianna Agron.
Z For Zachariah
In the wake of a nuclear war, a young woman survives on her own, fearing she may actually be the proverbial last woman on earth, until she discovers the most astonishing sight of her life: another human being. A distraught scientist, he’s nearly been driven mad by radiation exposure and his desperate search for others. A fragile, imperative strand of trust connects them. But when a stranger enters the valley, their precarious bond begins to unravel. Starring Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Chris Pine.
When Animals Dream
A teenage girl’s sexual awakening unleashes something primal within, revealing a dark family secret. On the run and in mortal danger, embracing a century’s old curse will be her only way to survive. Starring Sonia Suhl, Sonja Richter and Lars Mikkelsen.
I Touched All Your Stuff/A vida privada dos hipopótamos (Documentary) – Co-Directed and Co-Written by Maira Bühler
Christopher Kirk recounts his relationship with a mysterious woman of Japanese-Colombian descent and his fascination with Escobar’s hippos.
When car trouble strands track star Reagan Farrow (Murray Gray) in the Florida boondocks, she accepts an offer of help from a pair of charming strangers (Rusty Joiner and James Gaudioso) only to find herself trapped in a brutal backwoods nightmare. Held captive in an isolated cabin, Reagan manages to escape and take refuge in the forest. Relentlessly pursued by the savage sociopaths who kidnapped her, Reagan will need all of her inner strength and resourcefulness in order to survive.
Windsor Drive – Directed by Natalie Bible
River Miller (Tommy O’Reilly) is a mentally unstable 27-year-old haunted by the death of his girlfriend, Jordana (Jillian Murray). Trapped by the voices and visions in his head, River’s world begins to crumble forcing him to move to new surroundings hoping to calm his demons, but when he moves in with Wulf and Ivy, two vampy hipsters with an agenda of their own. Everything falls apart and the murders start again…