There are people, we’re told, who just rock up to the theater on Friday night and see whatever is coming on next. We have never been those people. We scan the release calendar weeks, even months in advance, in order to check out what’s coming to theaters, so we know what we’re queueing up for, and when we’ll be seeing it.
But it can be a little overwhelming, when every week sees a half-dozen movies or more released, whether wide or more limited. So to help you along your way, we’ve picked ten films that are unspooling in the next 30 days or so. So with no further ado…
1. “The Dark Knight Rises”
Look, you’ve probably got your IMAX midnight tickets booked, so this is almost unnecessary to say. But it’s certainly the most anticipated film of the month for 90% of the population, and there’s no way this wasn’t going to be atop this list. After all, while he’s had dodgy patches (most notably the third act of “Batman Begins“), Christopher Nolan rarely puts a foot wrong, and trailers so far have been highly promising, suggesting an epic and expansive conclusion to his superhero trilogy. We do have our reservations in advance: will the film suffer from too many characters? Will Bane feel like a disappointment as a villain after the Joker in “The Dark Knight?” Will that two-hour-forty-five running time be indulgent? It remains to be seen. But In Nolan We Trust.
When? July 20th
Yorgos Lanthimos‘ “Dogtooth” was something of a slow-burn; it took over a year from its Cannes premiere to reach U.S. audiences, and even then wasn’t exactly a wide release. But it gained the Greek director plenty of fans, made many year-end top 10 lists, and was even an unlikely nominee for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. His follow-up has had a similarly lengthy path to the U.S, but ten months after its Venice premiere, it will land, and it rocks. About four strangers who operate a service where they stand in for the deceased for those grieving them, it’s stranger, richer and more original than even “Dogtooth,” and it’s beautifully framed construction confirms the director as one of the most exciting talents in world cinema. In a summer that’s been a little thin on decent foreign-language fare, this is one of the real treats. Read our original review from Venice here.
When? July 13th
3. “Ruby Sparks”
Despite the huge Oscar-nominated success of Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris‘ debut feature “Little Miss Sunshine,” they had difficulty mounting a follow-up. Several projects, from an adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s “The Abstinence Teacher” to Demetri Martin’s “Will,” fell apart along the way. But they’re finally back, with a script from indie darling Zoe Kazan (“Meek’s Cutoff“), who stars alongside her real-life boyfriend Paul Dano, Annette Bening and more, and the film’s rapidly becoming a favorite of Playlisters who’ve caught screenings so far. Involving a writer (Dano) who accidentally creates the woman of his dreams (Kazan) by writing about her, the film marries its high concept with a grounded realism, providing an incisive look at relationships and love, with some fine performances, a top class screenplay and gorgeous visuals (from Darren Aronofsky‘s regular DoP Matthew Libatique). Our Katie fell head over heels for it at the LAFF (read her review here), and at least one other team member feels the same. Sleeeper hit? Let’s hope so.
When? July 25th
4. “The Imposter”
There are certain stories that almost have to be told as documentaries, because if you tried to fictionalize them, even a little, no one would believe it. Hit Sundance documentary “The Imposter” is one of those cases. The film, directed by newcomer Bart Layton, follows the case of the Barclays, a San Antonio family whose youngest, Nicholas, disappeared without a trace. Three years later, a man claiming to be Nicholas reappeared in Spain, and despite having different colored eyes, and a French accent, he lived with the Barclays for several months. But as his story starts to unravel, a potentially even more unlikely twist starts to emerge. Compared by many to “Man On Wire” in its blend of interviews and reconstructions, it’s as much a gripping thriller as a documentary, and should prove to be one of the non-fiction highlights of the year. Read our original Sundance review here.
When? July 13th
5. “Shut Up And Play The Hits”
Some might call James Murphy‘s LCD Soundsystem the band that defined the ’00s, or at least certain aspects of it, and their premature disbandment in early 2011 certainly helps that narrative. Whether or not you buy into it, anyone who loved the band should flock to “Shut Up And Play The Hits,” both a document of that final gig at Madison Square Garden, and a portrait of Murphy, one of the smartest and wittiest men in contemporary music. The footage of the concert is visceral and stunning, and while some of the aftermath feels a little manufactured, it’s a real insight not just into Murphy, but also the creative process in general, which means that we can recommend it not just for fans, but for pretty much anyone. You can read our review from Sundance here, and note, like many concert movies these days, it’s getting a special one-night-only release; tickets are available from Oscilloscope here.
When? July 18th
6. “Killer Joe”
Already facing something of an uphill battle, “Killer Joe,” the latest film from “The Exorcist” helmer William Friedkin, is going to have a particularly tough time after landing the dreaded NC-17 rating from the MPAA. But we hope that it does manage to connect with an audience, because if it’s not Friedkin’s best film in decades (that honor probably passes to his other Tracy Letts adaptation, “Bug“) it’s certainly his most entertaining, a darkly funny, taut-as-a-drum piece of work. Among the greatest pleasures, other than Letts’ terrific dialogue, is the cast: a star-confirming turn from Juno Temple, lovely support from Thomas Haden Church and Gina Gershon, and a further confirmation of the renaissance of Matthew McConaughey, in the darkest, most monstrous role he’s ever played, and one that he knocks clear out of the park. It does sometimes struggle to escape its stage origins, but for the most part this is great material in the hands of a master. Read our original Venice review here.
When? July 27th
7. Searching For Sugar Man”
There’s already been more than one excellent music documentary this year (see above), but most believe that “Searching For Sugar Man” transcends the genre and becomes something else. Picking up excellent reviews at both Sundance and SXSW, the film, directed by Malik Bendjelloul, tells the story of ’70s Detroit folk-pop artist Rodriguez, who reportedly killed himself on stage, and the two South African fans who tried to get to the bottom of the life of their mysterious hero. As our Todd Gilchrist said in Park City, the film not only serves as a reminder of Rodriguez’s music, which survives “as much for its social consciousness as its remarkable melodic complexity,” but also a portrait of “a person who felt a need to explore himself creatively, had the talent to do so, and then possessed the grace to deal with his failure in a simple, pragmatic way.” Read that original original review here.
When? July 27th
8. “Easy Money”
Joel Kinnaman is a hot prospect these days. The Swedish-American actor was an early stand-out in AMC‘s “The Killing,” and that part has seen him become one of Hollywood’s hopes for leading men of the future; he’s already cropped up this summer in “Lola Versus,” and next year will star in the title role in the remake of “Robocop.” But later this month, U.S. audiences will get to see where it all started for him, as “Snabba Cash,” the film that saw him come to international attention, arrives two years after it became a box-office smash back in Sweden. The film, now with the English title “Easy Money,” and presented by Martin Scorsese, stars Kinnaman as JW, an economics student in Stockholm who becomes involved in organized crime, crossing paths with a Yugoslav hitman and a Chilean coke smuggler. Future-Robocop aside, there’s another reason to check the film out — it also served as the calling card of Daniel Espinosa, who went on to direct this year’s hit “Safe House.” Plus when we saw it way back at TIFF in 2010, we dug it a lot — read that review here.
When? July 11th
It’s fair to say that Oliver Stone‘s been a little off his game for a while: films like “Any Given Sunday,” “Alexander” and “W” all held promise, but never quite came together, and the less said about “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” the better. But the crime tale “Savages,” seems to mark the return of a side of Stone we haven’t see in a while — the gonzo crime helmer who wrote “Scarface” and directed offbeat material like “Natural Born Killers” and “U-Turn.” Based on Don Winslow‘s best-seller, it concerns two low-level weed dealers (Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch), who after resisting attempts to join up with a Mexican cartel (led by Salma Hayek), have their girlfriend (Blake Lively) kidnapped, and are forced to take up arms to save her. Benicio Del Toro, John Travolta, Demian Bichir and Emile Hirsch are also involved in an A-list cast, and it looks like it could be pulpy crime fun, even if it’s not going to be a return to “JFK” form. We’ve heard mixed word from screenings (look for our review later in the week), but there’s enough positive word that we’re keeping our fingers crossed for it.
When? July 6th
10. “The Watch”
It’s become clear over time that “The Watch” wasn’t the film we were expecting it to be. Starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade in the lead roles, featuring a premise involving a suburban neighborhood watch group fighting off an alien invasion, and with Shawn Levy producing, we were assuming it’d be a PG-13 family-friendly effects comedy, along the lines of “Night at the Museum.” But then we recalled that Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg worked on the script. And that director Akiva Schaffer is a member of Lonely Island, and helmed the underseen “Hot Rod.” And that the casting didn’t just include “Submarine” director in one of the lead roles, but also people like Billy Crudup (as a villain) and the great Rosemarie DeWitt (as Stiller’s wife, and looking like she gets more than you might assume to do). And the trailers have been increasingly funny, looking like it’s loose, profane and genuinely chucklesome. It could still turn out to be a mess — aspects of “Land of the Lost” were promising too, let’s not forget. But we’re getting increasingly good vibes on this, and in a summer without a true home-run comedy (even if “The Dictator” and “Ted” were close), we’ve got our fingers crossed it’ll really deliver.
When? July 27th