“Stung” (July 3)
Anyone afraid of bees will want to stay far away from Benni Diez’s horror film, “Stung.” Starring Clifton Collins Jr., Jessica Cook and Tony de Maeyer, the film is set at a fancy garden party where the upper class guests become prey to a colony of killer wasps that have mutated into seven foot tall predators. Hoping to save the day are two employees of the party’s catering staff — Paul and Julia — who fight to save their lives while stumbling into a genre-friendly romance. Mixing comedy with a hybrid of monster movie and gross-out horror, “Stung” is a wicked little indie you shouldn’t stream alone.
“Gabriel” (July 7)
Rory Culkin delivers the best work of his career so far as the titular character in the quietly terrifying “Gabriel,” writer-director Lou Howe’s debut feature. Tense and dramatic, the character-focused thriller follows a troubled young adult as he risks everything in his obsessive search for love. Appearing in every scene, Culkin imbues Gabriel with a wily attitude; while recovering from a meltdown that precedes the start of the story, he’s always on the brink of another one. Like a post-breakdown Holden Caulfield, Gabriel furiously attempts to keep his act together, while everyone walks on eggshells around him. To that end, the film manages great intensity as the mood and story reflect its leading man’s instability.
“Do I Sound Gay?” (July 10)
In addressing the implications of “the gay voice,” writer-director David Thorpe’s “Do I Sound Gay?” addresses the self-consciousness of identity and discusses distinctive vocal sounds and their cultural roots. An exciting and intriguing venture that started out as a personal joke before transforming into a feature-length doc, the movie includes interviews with celebrities such as Margaret Cho, David Sedaris, Tim Gunn and George Takei, as well as talks with scientists and speech pathologists. Given the recent legalization of gay marriage nationwide, the film couldn’t be more timely, and Thorpe’s sensitive approach to exploring his own conformability with his sexuality is both inspiring and helpful no matter your sexual orientation.
“Strangerland” (July 10)
Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes are a grieving couple in Kim Farrant’s emotional Sundance drama, “Strangerland.” After their son goes missing during a massive dust storm in a remote Australian desert town, the family’s secrets begin to unravel as a local cop (Hugo Weaving) heads up the search for their child. With time running out and rumors spreading, the couple are pushed to the edge as they cope with the terrifying uncertainty of their child’s whereabouts. Considering Nicole Kidman has expertly tracked the emotional strife of a parent in the past (see “The Others,” “Rabbit Hole” and more), expect another confident dramatic performance from the Oscar winner.
“Ardor” (July 17)
The Western genre gets a foreign spin in Pablo Fendrik’s “Ardor,” starring Gael García Bernal, Alice Braga and Chico Díaz. The film premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and vied to be Argentina’s Best Foreign Language Oscar submission last year after earning 10 nominations at the country’s Academy of Cinematography Arts and Sciences Awards. Despite losing the Oscar bid to “Wild Tales,” “Ardor” became a hit in its home country and is finally hitting On Demand platforms this month. Bernal stars as Kaí, a mysterious Amazon shaman who goes on a violent offensive to protect a poor tobacco family against ruthless land-grabbers. In the process, he forms a special bond with the family’s daughter, Vânia (Braga), and learns just how far he’s willing to go in order to save his fellow indigenous people.
“Lila and Eve” (July 17)
Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez, who last acted onscreen together in 1998’s “Out of Sight,” reunite for revenge thriller “Lila and Eve,” which closed the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Directed by Charles Stone III (“Drumline”), the film involves two grief-stricken mothers who meet at a support group and take matters into their own hands in order to get revenge on one of their son’s killers. Come for the guns and vengeance, stay for the opportunity to see two powerhouse ladies get the justice they deserve.
“Felt” (July 21)
If you’re unable to catch Jason Banker’s visceral horror-thriller on the big screen, be sure to get it On Demand this month. Based on the haunting true story inspired by artist Amy Everson, “Felt” focuses on a woman who copes with a past sexual trauma by creating a grotesquely costumed alter ego that re-appropriates the male form. While embracing this alter ego empowers the woman, it soon lashes out against her after she finds a good guy and begins to open herself up to him. Exploring sexuality and combating rape culture, the film is a psychological thriller with an unforgettable feminist edge.
“The Stanford Prison Experiment” (July 24)
One of the hottest titles at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s “The Stanford Prison Experiment” recreates the horrifying 1971 psychology project that put innocent students behind bars and their untrained peers in control of them as guards. Led by Dr. Philip Zimbardo, the infamous experiment had unintentionally detrimental results as the students who role-played as guards became increasingly violent. Chilling and exhaustingly intense, the film stars Billy Crudup and a handful of the most talented young actors working today, including Ezra Miller, Tye Sheridan, Olivia Thirlby and Michael Angarano.
“Big Significant Things” (July 24)
“Game of Thrones” star Harry Lloyd takes quite the unusual road trip in writer-director Bryan Reisberg’s “Big Significant Things.” Lloyd stars as Craig Harrison, a 26-year-old who skips house-hunting with his girlfriend in San Francisco in order to hit the road and visit several of the world’s largest roadside attractions. As he ventures farther south, Craig encounters unexpected detours that threaten to steer his life off course.
“Unexpected” (July 24)
Cobie Smulders continues to make waves on the indie film scene as she follows up “Results” with this intelligent and humorous comedy from Kris Swanberg. Starring Smulders opposite Anders Holm, Gail Bean and Elizabeth McGovern, “Unexpected” focuses on the unlikely friendship between two expectant mothers — a passionate inner-city high school teacher (Smulders) and her most promising student (Bean). Balancing their pregnancies with their ambitions for the future, the two leave a lasting impression on each other and their future children.
“Beyond the Brick: A LEGO Brickumentary” (July 31)
“Beyond the Brick: A LEGO Brickumentary” may have many of the ingredients of a glorified infomercial, but it also makes some valid points about the popularity of LEGO today. While owing much to the authorized perspective of various LEGO staffers from the company’s headquarters in Denmark, the film wisely spends much of its running time explaining how sophisticated LEGO users around the globe are (they refer to themselves with the catchy acronym AFOL [Adult Fan of Lego]) and how they singlehandedly resurrected the bricks’ appeal. Narrated by a Jason Bateman-voiced LEGO character, the film is a satisfactory overview of genuine innovation and a love letter to the LEGO builder inside all of us.