Are you all caught up with the best films of 2016 so far? It’s now time to turn to the other half of the year and July kicks things off with a promising slate of festival favorites and hopefully a decent summer blockbuster or two. It should be noted that the Coens‘ debut Blood Simple, recently restored, is getting a theatrical release ahead of a Criterion bow in the fall, so make sure to seek that out if it’s playing near you.
Matinees to See: Our Kind of Traitor (7/1), Men Go to Battle (7/8), The Infiltrator (7/13), Don’t Blink – Robert Frank (7/13), Tulip Fever (7/15), Seventh Fire (7/22), Summertime (7/22), The Land (7/29), Into the Forest (7/29), Gleason (7/29), Equity (7/29)
15. Cafe Society (Woody Allen; July 15th)
Synopsis: Set in the 1930s, a young Bronx native moves to Hollywood where he falls in love with the secretary of his powerful uncle, an agent to the stars. After returning to New York he is swept up in the vibrant world of high society nightclub life.
Why You Should See It: I stand by my sentiment that Woody Allen has yet to make a truly awful film, so even if he doesn’t hit out of the park, there’s always something to enjoy. His latest seems to fall in that camp as we said in our Cannes review, “Café Society is a quintessential later-period Woody Allen film. That is to say, it’s thoroughly mediocre. It’s by now a sad truism that the octogenarian auteur is more interested in maintaining his prodigious output of at least one feature per annum (he hasn’t missed a beat since 1982) than to strive for the supreme heights he reached time and again in his first three decades as a filmmaker.”
14. Ghostbusters (Paul Feig; July 15th)
Synopsis: Ghosts get busted.
Why You Should See It: At this point, I’m eager for the discussion around Ghostbusters to move beyond noxious man-children trolling the internet as much as I’m looking forward to the movie itself. Led by Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones, Paul Feig has gathered the ideal comedic quartet to continue the franchise. While the trailers have been a bit of a let-down, that was the case for the director’s previous films, yet they mostly all managed to deliver in their final form, and hopefully that continues here.
13. Our Little Sister (Hirokazu Koreeda; July 8th)
Synopsis: A story that revolves around three sisters who live in their grandmother’s home and the arrival of their thirteen-year-old half sister.
Why You Should See It: While he just debuted one of our favorites from Cannes, After the Storm, Hirokazu Koreeda‘s previous feature will finally get a release soon in the United States thanks to Sony Pictures Classics. Adapted from Akimi Yoshida’s highly successful manga Umimachi Diary, Our Little Sister is an examination of the dynamics amongst the members of a damaged family.While we were mixed on it back at Cannes last year, there’s no way I’ll be missing out on seeing a new film from the director.
12. The BFG (Steven Spielberg; July 1st)
Synopsis: A girl named Sophie encounters the Big Friendly Giant who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kindhearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because, unlike them, he refuses to eat children.
Why You Should See It: Steven Spielberg adapting Roald Dahl sounds like an ideal match, and indeed, the director brings a level of directorial precision, wonder, and imagination missing from the rest of the summer slate thus far. While it often feels whizpoppingly flat, dramatically speaking, it’s still worth seeing. We said in our review, “CGI loses the day in Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, a partly motion-captured, eco-minded adaptation of Roald Dahl’s adored children’s book that leans so heavily on green-screen trickery that even Mark Rylance’s kind eyes — squinting out from that computer-generated abyss — can’t save it from mediocrity.”
11. Zero Days (Alex Gibney; July 8th)
Synopsis: Documentary detailing claims of American/Israeli jointly developed malware Stuxnet being deployed not only to destroy Iranian enrichment centrifuges but also threaten attacks against Iranian civilian infrastructure.
Why You Should See It: With an output so rapid, we don’t blame you if you’ve missed the last few documentaries from Alex Gibney (Going Clear, Taxi to the Dark Side). His next one, however, you’ll certainly want to pay attention to. We said in our review, “With its focus on the U.S. government’s covert advances into the field of cyberwarfare, Zero Days resembles Gibney’s Oscar-winning Taxi to the Dark Side, an equally searing indictment of the U.S. military’s government-sanctioned use of torture during the Iraq War. Although his scope is much more ambitious this time around, the writer-director handles this expansive, technically complex, and ethically abstract subject matter with remarkable cogency, crafting a documentary that’s as enlightening as it is disquieting.”
10. Star Trek Beyond (Justin Lin; July 22nd)
Synopsis: The USS Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a mysterious new enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test.
Why You Should See It: After breathing life into the Fast and Furious franchise, director Justin Lin will attempt to do the same thing with Captain Kirk and company with Star Trek Beyond. The third film in the J.J. Abrams-launched franchise looks to be another rollicking adventure with this time Idris Elba taking on a villain role. Sadly, it’ll hopefully be a fitting send-off for Anton Yelchin in the role he’s best known for.
9. Microbe and Gasoline (Michel Gondry; July 1st)
Synopsis: Two young friends embark on a road trip across France in a vehicle they built themselves.
Why You Should See It: Yes, you heard that right. A new film from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry will arrive in theaters this week. While it unfortunately hasn’t been as publicized as much as it should, the coming-of-age buddy comedy of sorts has been well-received since debuting in France last summer, and we’re looking forward to checking it out.
8. The Innocents (Anne Fontaine; July 1st)
Synopsis: In 1945 Poland, a young French Red Cross doctor who is sent to assist the survivors of the German camps discovers several nuns in advanced states of pregnancy during a visit to a nearby convent.
Why You Should See It: Captured on cinema since it commenced, if a filmmaker doesn’t find a new angle in which tell the horrors of World War II, then it can perhaps seem like a futile effort. The Innocents, the latest film from Coco Before Chanel director Anne Fontaine, digs up such an example of a compelling, true story from Philippe Maynial. Its title, translated as Lamb of God from its Latin origin, most commonly refers to the sacrificial giving that Jesus offers. However, specifically in the Old Testament, it can refer to a person who succumbs to the punishment of sins without willing to do so, which is clearly where Fontaine more specifically draws from. See my full review.
7. Life, Animated (Roger Ross Williams; July 1st)
Synopsis: A coming of age story about a boy and his family who overcame great challenges by turning Disney animated movies into a language to express love, loss, kinship and brotherhood.
Why You Should See It: Many of us can name more than a few Disney classics that left an imprint on our childhood in remarkable ways. However, for one family they were more significant than even the animators would have imagined. Life, Animated, which premiered at Sundance this year and won the Best Directing award, follows the story of a a boy who used Aladdin, The Jungle Book, The Lion King, and more to cope with autism. We said in our review, “An optimistic portrait of a family and personal struggle with autism and adulthood, Life, Animated is a unique exploration of themes we’ve seen in several other documentaries on the subject.”
6. Jason Bourne (Paul Greengrass; July 29th)
Synopsis: Jason Bourne, now remembering who he truly is, tries to uncover hidden truths about his past.
Why You Should See It: As much as I didn’t need to see where Jason Bourne went after their last collaboration, a new Paul Greengrass movie is enough reason to look forward to a return to the spy franchise. With Matt Damon back, bringing along a few promising newcomers, including Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, and Vincent Cassel, the first trailer sold some enticing action and just enough mystery to have us intrigued.
5. Captain Fantastic (Matt Ross; July 8th)
Synopsis: In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.
Why You Should See It: Viggo Mortensen further proves he’s one of the best actors working today with his latest role. We said in our review, “A common trope at Sundance is the star-led indie, painted top-to-toe with eccentricities that are meant to represent/replace both story and character development. Relatively straightforward narratives that stand out thanks to shock-and-awe details that usually fade not too long after the well-regarded premiere. Captain Fantastic, written and directed by Matt Ross (28 Hotel Rooms), threatens to reinforce the expectation, before rising above and standing on its own.”
4. Phantom Boy (Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli; July 15th)
Synopsis: A super-powered boy helps a wheelchair-bound policeman in his attempt to bring down a mob kingpin.
Why You Should See It: After earning an Oscar nomination a few years back for their animated feature A Cat in Paris, directors Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol are back with Phantom Boy. Following its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, we named it one of our favorites of the festival and thankfully GKIDS have picked it up for a summer release.
3. Don’t Think Twice (Mike Birbiglia; July 22nd)
Synopsis: When a member of a popular New York City improv troupe gets a huge break, the rest of the group – all best friends – start to realize that not everyone is going to make it after all.
Why You Should See It: For his first feature Sleepwalk with Me, comedian-turned-director Mike Birbiglia adapted his semi-autobiographical one-man show, picking apart his anxieties and fears when it comes to the most personal aspects of his life. His follow-up, Don’t Think Twice, presents a perhaps even more insular world, that of the New York improv comedy scene and more specifically, the shifting dynamics of a single group. Check out my full review.
2. The Childhood of a Leader (Brady Corbet; July 22nd)
Synopsis: A look at the childhood life of a a post-World War I leader.
Why You Should See It: He can be seen in films from Michael Haneke, Lars von Trier, Olivier Assayas, Mia Hansen-Løve, Noah Baumbach, Bertrand Bonello, Ruben Östlund, and more, but Brady Corbet finally got on the other side of the camera for his feature debut, The Childhood of a Leader. With a top-notch cast featuring Bérénice Bejo, Liam Cunningham, Stacy Martin, Yolande Moreau, Robert Pattinson, and Tom Sweet, we said in our review, “The film is a huge psychological and tonal balancing act that could crumble at each turn, and yet never does.”
1. Indignation (James Schamus; July 29th)
Synopsis: In 1951, Marcus, a working-class Jewish student from New Jersey, attends a small Ohio college, where he struggles with sexual repression and cultural disaffection, amid the ongoing Korean War.
Why You Should See It: After helping filmmakers such as Todd Haynes, Ang Lee, and Todd Solondz shape their careers, James Schamus has finally made the leap from producer to director with an adaptation of Philip Roth‘s 2008 novel Indignation. I said in my review, “Indignation is a thoughtful examination of romantic courtship and educational routines that’s best when its writer-director prioritizes characters over plot. As punctuated by a dark, transcendent ending, Schamus captures many wistful echoes of an era long past.”
What are you looking forward to this month?