As you catch up on our list of the best 20 films from the first half of the year, it’s also time to look at what the latter half brings. While July may be a bit lighter in worthwhile cinematic offerings, it does provide a few promising wide releases, some of the year’s best documentaries, and a few TIFF and Sundance favorites finally arriving.

13. Eno (Gary Hustwit; July 12)

One of the most curious experiments to premiere out of Sundance this year was Gary Hustwit’s Eno, which uses generative technology to produce an entirely new movie every single time it’s screened. That experiment’s now being put to a major test as it opens at Film Forum with new versions every day. John Fink said in his review, “So what we’re left with is a random series of threads, some organized quite well (by Hustiwit and editors Marley McDonald and Maya Tippett) as episodic sketches of Eno’s time working with U2, Bowie, Roxy Music, and for freelance clients. The film also unpacks his current work and previous interests wondering what makes a certain note or rhythm more emotionally appealing than another while working on new compositions using generative technology to randomly change pitch, tempo, and rhythms.”

12. Twisters (Lee Isaac Chung; July 19)

With its director and star combination––Minari‘s Lee Isaac Chung and Glen Powell, respectively, the latter proving there’s still some A-list charisma out there––Twister$ has our curiosity in a way most other sequels this summer simply lack. It may just be the dearth of superhero capes or animated minions, but this three-decades-later “continuation” looks to be the blockbuster to beat this month. Here’s hoping Jan de Bont’s eye for spectacle isn’t too missed.

11. Only the River Flows (Wei Shujun; July 26)

Premiering in the Un Certain Regard section at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Wei Shujun’s stylish neo-noir Only the River Flows became one of the highest-grossing independent films in China and now it’s coming to the U.S. and Canada starting next month. The Zhu Yilong-led film will open in the U.S. from KimStim starting at NYC’s Metrograph on July 26, LA a week later, and followed by select cities.

10. MaXXXine (Ti West; July 5)

Capping off his horror trilogy, Ti West’s MaXXXine arrives in theaters this week. Alistair Ryder said in his review, “If knives weren’t already being sharpened for Ti West prior to MaXXXine––the third installment in his X series of exploitation throwbacks––they likely will be at the ready once discerning horror fans experience it. On the surface, this is West returning to the same bloody ground as his terrific 2009 breakout The House of the Devil, only with a much starrier cast in tow for this 1985-set slasher mystery. Like that movie, the backdrop here is Reagan-era Satanic Panic, a fitting bedfellow for a story that begins in the adult entertainment industry––that other key scourge for social conservatives in the decade that style forgot. Wider ties between The House of the Devil and MaXXXine, beyond their shared cultural contexts, are few and far between, yet it’s hard not to regard this movie as something of a self-aware victory lap for its director; West isn’t just returning to a milieu that will remind long-term fans of where it all began, but telling a rags-to-riches Hollywood story that knowingly carves out his place within the genre’s storied history.”

9. Dìdi (弟弟) (Sean Wang; July 26)

It wouldn’t have been Sundance without at least a handful of coming-of-age stories. Sean Wang’s audience award winner Dìdi (弟弟) proves that, with a new perspective, there are still emotions to be mined from a tried-and-true formula. Exploring the everyday life of a Taiwanese-American boy growing up in Fremont, California, wherein issues of friendship and potential crushes can seem to consume every waking moment, the film is most impressive for how it completely nails its 2008 milieu. From trading AIM messages to being obsessed with MySpace Top 8s to looking up how to kiss through YouTube tutorials, it’s remarkable how these nostalgic touches are conveyed with more fondness than cringe.

8. Kill (Nikhil Bhat; July 4)

Writing about the action highlight at TIFF last year, Jared Mobarak said in his review, “Comparisons to The Raid might seem surface-level––the carnage is dealt from left to right on this train, rather than up and down an apartment complex––but Gareth Evans’ film was an intentional bit of inspiration. The way Midnight Madness programmer tells it, producer Guneet Monga approached him about putting Kill into the festival by using that precise analogy. An an Indian Raid was what she sought to make; writer-director Bhat more than complies. He simply adds a monster to the mix too––à la another comparison point in Project Wolf Hunting. Only this time the hero holds that title.”

7. National Anthem (Luke Gilford; July 12)

After exploring the American frontier in Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete, Charlie Plummer returns to the terrain with Luke Gilford’s directorial debut National Anthem. Premiering at last year’s SXSW, the film follows a construction worker who joins a community of queer rodeo performers searching for their own version of the American dream. Jake Kring-Schreifels said in his review, “National Anthem is an offshoot of Gilford’s 2020 photographic series, which showcased the beauty of America’s Queer Rodeo by foregrounding softly lit and often-hidden subjects against expansive New Mexican vistas. At a time of political polarization and in a space typically reserved for a more traditional, patriarchal idea of a cowboy, Gilford’s portraits paint a subversive, tender depiction of bull riders and lasso twirlers co-opting an environment that has always felt exclusionary. As a remedy, their events cater to families, and while they maintain the same rigor and skill of standard rodeos, they promote a belonging and openness that gives someone like Dylan a chance to embrace all of his personhood.”

6. Hollywoodgate (Ibrahim Nash’at; July 19)

One of our favorite films coming out of Venice Film Festival last fall is finally getting a release this month. Rory O’Connor said in his Venice review, “If you witnessed the chaos unfold in Kabul airport two years ago, it probably won’t come as much of a surprised to learn the US Army left a helicopter or two in Afghanistan. More alarming might be the news, calmly delivered at the start of this profoundly unreassuring documentary, that the cache of weapons and equipment that remains is estimated to be worth somewhere in the region of $7,000,000,000. In Hollywoodgate, an out-of-competition premiere at the Venice Film Festival this week, the Egyptian journalist and filmmaker Ibrahim Nash’at risks life and limb to achieve the improbable: nestling his way in with the Taliban fighters in charge of an abandoned U.S. base and observing their attempts to utilize what the Army left behind. ‘The Americans left us an enormous treasure,’ one General observes; Nash’at’s film offers a worrying insight into what they might decide to do with it all.”

5. Longlegs (Oz Perkins; July 12)

In an era of marketing where most studios just drop a full-length trailer on YouTube and in theaters, hoping viewers will be impressed enough to buy tickets––even though they’ve often already unveiled the best parts––it’s refreshing to see when distributors go a different path. Such is the case for Oz Perkins’ forthcoming horror mystery Longlegs, which NEON has been carefully teasing since the start of the year. While pre-selecting only a few journalists to review the film early brings Marvel-like worry that the film doesn’t actually have the goods, here’s hoping that trepidation doesn’t pan out.

4. La Práctica (Martín Rejtman; July 23)

While its release this month is unfortunately digital-only, we’re excited that many months after seeing it at the New York Film Festival, Martín Rejtman’s first film in a decade arrives in a few weeks. Nick Newman said in his NYFF review, “You’re plenty absolved for not knowing the deal. It’s been 30 years since Martín Rejtman’s debut feature (Rapado), almost 10 from his last (Two Shots Fired), and nearly everything he’s made is only accessible through darkweb torrent networks I wouldn’t name here for fear of losing membership. In recent years, still, a small-even-by-small’s-standards cult has emerged, a just-enough status for this master of incident, image, and interactions––hilarious as in funny-ha-ha, not the dread ‘arthouse humor.’ If there’s anything to account for a non-pareil comedic director falling so out-of-step with means of exposure, consider what the landscapes––financing, exhibition, distribution––roundly not-great for just about anybody would do to a sui generis Argentinian. A near-decade’s absence hasn’t futzed with skill: La Práctica continues Rejtman’s reign as Argentina’s purveyor of mirthful chuckles, his characteristically patient and absurdity-spotted lens now trained on the lives of recently divorced yoga practitioners.”

3. Sing Sing (Greg Kwedar; July 12)

We are here to become human again.” This is the mantra of the Rehabilitation Through the Arts program, founded in Sing Sing Correctional Facility, a prison just north of New York City, and the subject of Greg Kwedar’s emotionally restorative new feature. While led by a stellar Colman Domingo with an equally great supporting turn from Paul Raci, the majority of Sing Sing‘s cast knows the program all too well, either as alumni or currently going through it. That authenticity in casting carries through every frame and every line, as if Kwedar has walked these halls and been in these rooms, an observer to the intimate conversations he’s scripted alongside Clint Bentley. – Continue reading my full review.

2. Marianne (Michael Rozek; July 16)

50 years, 150-something films, and a stable of auteurs that beggars belief would suggest Isabelle Huppert has done it all––hence my surprise she’s not yet starred in a one-woman performance. Thus making all the more novel Michael Rozek’s Marianne, a new feature that finds the icon performing a metatextual, near-Brechtian monologue for 90 minutes. Though it’s not yet received U.S. distribution, Marianne will stream on Eventive from July 16 to July 23, featuring my hour-long interview with Rozek about the film, its history, and Huppert’s genius. – Nick N.

1. Made in England: The Films of Powell and Pressburger (David Hinton; July 12)

There’s an argument to be made that the single image which best exemplifies pure cinematic wonder is the Archers logo. The introductory title reel belonged to the production company of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, a guarantee that whatever film followed would whisk the viewer away to a world of ecstatic imagination. The British filmmaking duo delivered sweeping, epic tales on a vibrant cinematic canvas painted with a style uniquely their own, and often found themselves on the periphery of their country’s popular cinema during their careers. While they came to be appreciated in the decades that followed the peak of their creative output, they have long passed, so David Hinton’s riveting new documentary Made in England: The Films of Powell & Pressburger brings the most qualified voice possible to speak on their contributions to the medium: Martin Scorsese. Continue reading my full review.

More Films to See

  • Mother, Couch (July 5)
  • The Nature of Love (July 5)
  • Dandelion (July 12)
  • Fly Me to the Moon (July 12)
  • Sisi & I (July 12)
  • Touch (July 12)
  • Skywalkers: A Love Story (July 12)
  • Widow Clicquot (July 19)
  • Crossing (July 19)
  • Great Absence (July 19)
  • Oddity (July 19)
  • Scala!!! (July 19)
  • Starve Acre (July 26)

No more articles