Pacific Rim

We’re now halfway done with the summer movie season, and thus far, it’s been a good one. This month is the most exciting of the bunch, as July usually is, but June was no slouch. Man of Steel wowed audiences while dividing critics, but best of all, World War Z became the surprise, if modest, hit of the summer. Not only that, director Marc Forster proved the negative buzz wrong with a clever and efficient action thriller.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for White House Down. Shame on me for not including it on last month’s list, because, according to plenty of trusted sources, it’s a boatload of fun. I still haven’t had the time to see it for myself, but it sounds like the type of self-aware, focused blockbuster Roland Emmerich‘s career has been building up to. Thankfully people turned out for This is the End, so Sony has that going for them.

Let’s hope none of these must-see films of July meet the same box-office fate as the rocket launcher-wielding president:

The Way, Way Back

Opens July 5th

This is a sweet a coming-of-age movie that plenty of people who grew up with divorced parents will relate to. If that isn’t your background but you spent a large chunk of your childhood/teenage years as an awkward introverted kid, then The Way, Way Back will still work its magic on you.

Jim Rash and Nat Faxon‘s directorial debut is an honest movie with light and deft touches. There’s a lot to love here, especially the performances, and it shows Rash and Faxon are talents to continue watching.

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Pacific Rim

Opens July 12th

There’s an unmistakable giddiness to Guillermo del Toro‘s films. With Pacific Rim, his sense of playfulness is intact, but his toy chest has grown larger with Jaegers and Kaijus, mammoths who face off in equally gigantic ways. Del Toro delivers on the possibility of these two opponents facing off, in a variety of different scenarios.

I can’t say much more than that, but even though the film is lacking in certain dramatic regards, del Toro’s movie doesn’t skimp out on thrills, humor, or scope.

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Dealin’ with Idiots

Opens July 12th in theaters and on VOD

If you were a fan of Jeff Garlin‘s first time behind the camera, I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With, then Dealin’ with Idiots should be in your wheelhouse. Garlin pulled together an excellent cast – Gina GershonRichard KindTimothy Olyphant, and Fred Willard, to name a few – for his film about a comic, played by Garlin, who gets to know the parents involved in his son’s little league team. I remember a few of those parental types when playing baseball as a kid, and Garlin captures them in all their awkward, comical, and bizarre glory.

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Fruitvale Station

Opens July 12th

Most critics I know who’ve seen Fruitvale Station left the theater with plenty of tears. The film, which focuses on the real-life police shooting of an unarmed man, Oscar Grant, has been described as a powerful drama.

Rob Hunter wasn’t as much of a fan of it at this year’s Sundance Festival, but he concluded in his review that, “The film is at its best when it focuses on his life with friends and family and his drive for a life that he could be proud of, and the inevitability of it all is a powerfully emotional reminder to do our best each day instead of planning for a future that may never come.”

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The Hunt

Opens July 12th

Mads Mikkelsen picked up the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival last year for this one, and since then, Mikkelsen and The Hunt have gone on to earn heaps of praise.

After seeing Mikkelsen on this past season of Hannibal, I’m further convinced he’s an actor with zero limitations. In The Hunt he plays a down on his luck former teacher who is falsely accused of touching a student. This kind of thing could turn into a stuffy courtroom drama, but apparently it couldn’t be further from it.

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The Conjuring

Opens July 19th

James Wan is really developing as a filmmaker. It seems that with each film he advances in one way or another. As a result, The Conjuring feels like his most accomplished picture yet, where all his strengths come together in the right way.

There’s a reason why Warner Bros. moved this film to the summer, and that decision is going to payoff. Wan’s movie is eerie as hell, almost relentlessly so at times. He lets each scare play out, with a nice emotional backbone to make those scares more frightening.

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Only God Forgives

Opens July 19th in theaters and on VOD

Nicolas Winding Refn unquestionably divided audiences at this year’s Cannes film festival. Drive saw its share of criticism there as well, but not to the extent Only God Forgives did. Based on the previews, that’s understandable. Refn looks to have made a movie that is very much doing its own thing.

His second collaboration with Ryan Gosling will likely see more panning coming its way, but gain a vocal devoted fanship as well. Any movie that achieves that level of love and hate is certainly a must-see, especially one with Gosling and Refn involved.

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Broken

Opens July 19th in theaters and on VOD

Cillian Murphy and Tim Roth is a terrific pairing. Both actors can make sparks fly even when they’re in small roles, so seeing the two of them in the same film is rather exciting.

They star in Broken, a coming-of-age drama about family with strong performances all around.

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The Wolverine

Opens July 26th

X-Men Origins: Wolverine was garbage. A condescending, safe, and moronic blockbuster, and all those adjectives simply don’t suit the character. The Wolverine may make up for the many mistakes made my its predecessor. With James Mangold at the helm, that’s a genuine possibility.

Mangold is a reliable director who can do horror, action, and drama. From Identity to 3:10 to Yuma, he knows how to serve the material at hand. For The Wolverine, he has the best piece of material ever written for the veiny mutant.

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Blue Jasmine

Opens July 26th

The trailer for Woody Allen‘s latest reeks of Allen charm. Whether it’ll be one of Allen’s standouts or, as some critics are so fond of saying, “Allen light,” that doesn’t matter so much. Even a less than stellar Woody Allen movie is better than most filmmakers’ best efforts.

It probably helps him that he continues to attract casts on par with the one we’ll see in Blue JasmineCate BlanchettAlec BaldwinMichael StuhlbargSally HawkinsPeter SarsgaardLouis C.K., and more. Seeing them all together through Woody Allen’s prism should be a real treat.

Honorable Mentions: Despicable Me 2, The Act of Killing, Girl Most Likely, and Blackfish 

And an important final note: Hell Baby is having a VOD release on July 25th, but will be included on the September must-see list for its theatrical release.

What are you looking forward to the most?


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