After looking at the first half of 2018 and highlighting the best films of the year so far, it’s time to enter the back half of the year. July brings our most-anticipated blockbuster of the entire year, more festival favorites, a few essential documentaries, and a handful of curiosities.
Matinees: Fireworks (7/4), The First Purge (7/4), White Fang (7/6), The Night Eats the World (7/13), Whitney (7/6), McQueen (7/20), Generation Wealth (7/20), Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings (7/27), Hot Summer Nights (7/27)
15. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (Gus Van Sant; July 13)
Synopsis: On the rocky path to sobriety after a life-changing accident, John Callahan discovers the healing power of art, willing his injured hands into drawing hilarious, often controversial cartoons, which bring him a new lease on life.
Why You Should See It: If you’ve read my review from Sundance, you’ll know I was mixed on Gus Van Sant’s rather shapeless biopic, yet for Joaquin Phoenix completists, it is still worth seeking out for another worthwhile performance. And you’ll also get a strong turn from Jack Black and a delightful brief role from Jonah Hall.
14. The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter (Jody Hill; July 6)
Synopsis: The great hunter Buck Ferguson and his trusted cameraman Don set out for an epic weekend adventure to reconnect with Buck’s young son.
Why You Should See It: By most all accounts based on its SXSW reactions (including our own), The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter was a disappointment. However, I’ll eagerly watch anything from the director of Observe & Report and creator of Eastbound & Down and Vice Principals. And with Jody Hill’s comedy starring Josh Brolin and Danny McBride arriving straight to Netflix this week, it’s accessibility makes it that much easier a decision.
13. Ant-Man and the Wasp (Peyton Reed; July 6)
Synopsis: As Scott Lang balances being both a Super Hero and a father, Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym present an urgent new mission that finds the Ant-Man fighting alongside The Wasp to uncover secrets from their past.
Why You Should See It: A lighthearted breather for the MCU, Ant-Man and the Wasp is the ideal summer diversion. I said in my review, “Peyton Reed doubles down on the comedic charms of his cast, playing up Rudd’s aloofness and winning reactions to the quantum-related craziness going on around him, while also providing inventive new perspectives into their size-adjusting quarrels.”
12. What Will People Say? (Iram Haq; July 13)
Synopsis: The life of a Norwegian teenager of Pakistani descent collapses when her traditional parents kidnap her and send her to Pakistan.
Why You Should See It: One of our TIFF favorites makes its way to theaters this month. Jared Mobarak said in his review, “This is a film about oppression wielded behind closed doors. It’s about hypocrisy, mistrust, and the struggle felt by second-generation immigrants everywhere. And Haq pulls no punches in depicting just how devastatingly bad things can get when a child’s mind is torn between a community built on archaic ideals and another entrenched in a present where such stringent rules prove impossible to uphold.”
11. Blindspotting (Carlos Lopez Estrada; July 20)
Synopsis: Lifelong friends Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal co-wrote and star in this timely and wildly entertaining story about the intersection of race and class, set against the backdrop of a rapidly gentrifying Oakland.
Why You Should See It: Uneven, but no less impactful the Sundance opener Blindspotting will arrive this month. Daniel Schindel said in his review, “Blindspotting is a mess that is likely to lessen in your mind as soon as it’s over, even if you may be utterly absorbed in it in the moment (which I often was). A lot of it is provocation which belies a lack of a real message, or story turns that feel unearned even in the heightened context the movie establishes. But there is undeniable craft here, and an impossible-to-ignore signal that everyone involved in the project deserves attention going forward. What does work is strong, sometimes powerful.”
10. Scarred Hearts (Radu Jude; July 27)
Synopsis: Emanuel spends his days at a sanatorium. Falling in love with another patient, he narrates his and his fellow patients’ attempts to live life to the fullest as their bodies slowly fade away, but their minds refuse to give up.
Why You Should See It: A few years after its initial premiere at Locarno Film Festival, Radu Jude’s drama finally arrives in theaters. Back then, Ethan Vestby praised it, saying in his review, “Like another two-and-a-half-hour Romanian dry comedy about the medical process, Cristi Puiu’s The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Scarred Hearts plays up the control doctors hold over us in a critical state for maximum absurdity, of course the joke of antiquated health care emphasized in director Radu Jude’s case.”
9. Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda (Stephen Nomura Schible; July 6)
Synopsis: A portrait of a genius music composer Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Why You Should See It: The genius artist Ryuichi Sakamoto is not only responsible for elevating the films of Nagisa Oshima, Bernardo Bertolucci, Brian De Palma, Pedro Almodóvar, and more, but he’s as prolific as they get, releasing over 20 solo albums in the last decade, not to mention many other contributions to the world of music. He’s now the subject of a new documentary and following a premiere at Venice, it’ll open this week.
8. Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (Matt Tyrnauer; July 27)
Synopsis: A portrait of unsung Hollywood legend Scotty Bowers, whose bestselling memoir chronicled his decades spent as sexual procurer to the stars.
Why You Should See It: Diving into the sex lives of Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Lana Turner, Ava Gardner and many more Hollywood icons, this documentary was one of our TIFF favorites. Jared Mobarak said his review, “This film becomes a crucial complement to the book for no other reason than putting a face to the stories. But that’s not its only value either. Tyrnauer’s work is also a resonant and funny portrait of a large-than-life character delving into his unorthodox psychology in order to understand his motivations. ”
7. The Third Murder (Hirokazu Kore-eda; July 20)
Synopsis: A well-known attorney takes on the defense of a murder suspect who freely admits his guilt. As he digs deeper into the case, he begins to doubt whether his client is the murderer.
Why You Should See It: Hirokazu Kore-eda found the grandest reception of his career at Cannes this year, taking home the Palme d’Or for Shoplifters, but before that drama arrives this November, his crime drama The Third Murder will bow in the United States. Despite not being received with the greatest acclaim after its fall festival tour, a new film from Kore-eda always warrants a look.
6. Unfriended: Dark Web (Stephen Susco; July 20)
Synopsis: A teen comes into possession of a new laptop and soon discovers that the previous owner is not only watching him, but will also do anything to get it back.
Why You Should See It: One of the more inventive, intense horror films of the modern age, Unfriended is among Blumhouse’s greatest achievements, and fittingly a sequel has now arrived. A stand-alone sequel from a different director (Stephen Susco), I’ve heard this one actually darker and more terrifying than the original.
5. Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley; July 6)
Synopsis: In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success, propelling him into a macabre universe.
Why You Should See It: Bursting with creative energy, hip-hop artist-turned-director Boots Riley’s directorial debut Sorry to Bother You made a splash at Sundance and now will arrive this week. I said in my review, “Sorry to Bother You is a bold debut–in every sense of the word–for rapper-turned-director Boots Riley. There are truly radical, thrilling ideas both in the script and on screen, and also his boldness sometimes undercuts the character- and narrative-building aspects as we jump from compelling idea to idea. Mixing the droll comedy of Office Space with the race-backed satire of Putney Swope, and adding an imaginative dash of Michel Gondry (who gets a parody shout-out in an animated bit), at least something in Sorry to Bother You will surely strike a chord with any viewer, even if it doesn’t fully cohere.”
4. Puzzle (Marc Turtletaub; July 27)
Synopsis: Agnes, taken for granted as a suburban mother, discovers a passion for solving jigsaw puzzles which unexpectedly draws her into a new world – where her life unfolds in ways she could never have imagined.
Why You Should See It: Proving that a crowdpleaser doesn’t need to pander to succeed, Puzzle was one of the better films I saw at Sundance this year. Featuring a great Kelly Macdonald performance, I said on my review, “With its methodically tidy structure and a script that, beat for beat, lays the pieces to be a quintessential crowd-pleaser, Puzzle fits together like a perfect, well… you know. Directed by Marc Turtletaub, the powerhouse indie producer behind Little Miss Sunshine, Safety Not Guaranteed, Loving, and more, it’s easy to see the appeal of Oren Moverman’s unchallenging, but no less compassionate script, and he found the perfect actress to carry it. Kelly Macdonald’s Agnes prioritizes every need before her own, mostly those of her husband Louie (David Denman) and their two teenage sons. However, when she sparks a newfound obsession with puzzles, it opens up an unforeseen world, and, as with any heart-warming tale, a path of self-discovery that will change her forever.”
3. Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham; July 13)
Synopsis: A teenager tries to survive the last week of her disastrous eighth-grade year before leaving to start high school.
Why You Should See It: If comedy is best pulled from trauma, there are few moments in one’s life more distressingly rich to mine from than middle school. With his directorial debut Eighth Grade, comedian-turned-director Bo Burnham, now more than a decade removed for proper reflection, depicts the specific time period with all the spot-on crippling anxiety and all-consuming awkwardness. I said in my review from Sundance, “Burnham’s comedy has always been adept at exploring human insecurities, so it’s no surprise he zeroes in on the overwhelming emotional vulnerability that afflicts young teens. For Kayla, it’s not so much that the more popular kids bully her, but rather it’s a lack of self-esteem that drives the pathos of the drama.”
2. Good Manners (Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra; July 27)
Synopsis: Clara, a lonely nurse from the outskirts of São Paulo, is hired by mysterious and wealthy Ana to care for and protect her son after he is born not looking like a human.
Why You Should See It: Not since the Polish cannibal horror mermaid musical The Lure has there been another genre melting pot as winning as the Brazilian lesbian werewolf horror melodrama Good Manners (which also throws in a musical element as well). One of the best films I saw at New Directors/New Films earlier this year, Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas’s fable is finally getting a release this month. “Contrasts abound in Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra’s terrifyingly captivating Good Manners, a horror-meets-children’s-movie that uses all the tropes at its disposal to conjure up a piercing discussion of class, race, and desire in present-day Brazil,” Leonardo Goi said in his review out of ND/NF.
1. Mission: Impossible 6 – Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie; July 27)
Synopsis: Ethan Hunt and his IMF team, along with some familiar allies, race against time after a mission gone wrong.
Why You Should See It: With the trailer alone packing more intense action and thrills than the entirety of other summer blockbusters this season, the sixth film in the Mission: Impossible franchise is our most-anticipated film of the month. Featuring the first time a director has returned to the franchise, Christopher McQuarrie is back after his supremely well-oiled Rogue Nation. Add in a supporting turn from Henry Cavill, who seems to be waking up after his dour DC days, and a review embargo that lifts a whopping 15 days before release, and it seems like Paramount knows it has another winner on their hands.
What are you watching this month?