“The Childhood Of A Leader”
Synopsis: A chronicle of the World War I era childhood of a future fascist leader.
What You Need To Know: There’s not a lot of heat around this little film, but that can’t stop it from being this month’s most anticipated film, at least by this writer. The trailer looks rather spectacular; even if our critic at Venice last year was mixed, this looks to be channeling a sort-of arthouse version of “The Omen,” and that’s reason enough to be excited. The directorial debut of actor Brady Corbet — who’s been making filmmaking strides as co-screenwriter of “Simon Killer” and “The Sleepwalker” — he’s no doubt been taking notes working with such gifted auteurs and was rewarded for his efforts, to many critics’ surprise, by the Venice festival jury, with several directing awards. “So why is it that despite all its glaring, blaring flaws, there’s something admirable about ‘The Childhood Of A Leader’?” our critic opined. “Perhaps it’s simply that whether one likes it or not, it feels uncompromised, like it’s completely the film that Corbet set out to make… [it’s] not quite something good, but it is quite something.” I for one tend to fall very hard for arty explorations of the nature of evil that still have a deep respect for genre tropes while also subverting expectations, so this looks like just the ticket.
Release Date: July 22nd (Limited)
“Star Trek Beyond”
Synopsis: During a mission to explore the final frontier, the crew of the USS Enterprise are stranded on a distant planet where they’re attacked by a fearsome new enemy.
What You Need To Know: Fans seemed to full-on hate the trailer for the new “Star Trek” film, the first from “Fast and Furious” franchise director Justin Lin, after two entries from J.J. Abrams, who has since found himself preoccupied with a different series of interstellar space-opera blockbusters. It certainly does feel jokier than the terminally turgid second installment ‘Into Darkness,’ but anything that sets it apart from that mess has to be a good thing. And while Lin might seem like a step down from Abrams, actually there’s a good chance he’s got some juice saved up now that he’s slipped the ‘Fast & Furious’ shackles, and we should also remember that while James Wan delivered the most successful incarnation of that franchise, it’s still Lin’s “Fast Five” that remains the best. And with Simon Pegg co-writing and Idris Elba on bad-guy duties (unhampered by any silly “he’s definitely not Khan” red-herring nonsense), we’ll be happy if this is nothing more than a return to the frothy fun of the original reboot.
Release Date: July 22nd
“Don’t Think Twice”
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.
What You Need To Know: Our critic at this year’s SXSW really went for this latest film from Mike Birbiglia, giving at ‘A’ grade. Starring Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Kate Micucci, Tami Sagher, Chris Gethard, and Birbiglia himself, the writer/director/comedian/actor’s follow-up to “Sleepwalk With Me” tracks the lives of six performers and friends in New York City as they chase success, and what happens when some find themselves on the cusp of stardom and others don’t. “On stages at Second City, Upright Citizens Brigade, iO, and more, writers and performers hone the art of comedy improv, chasing funny ideas into the unknown with the hope of arriving somewhere worthwhile. For some the goal is to create their own improv group; for others, the form is just the road to movies and TV. However, failure is also a very real outcome, and it’s a reality superbly captured in comedian Birbiglia’s sophomore directorial effort… it fashions an entertaining, thoughtful portrait of friends in crisis when success is near.”
Release Date: July 22nd (Limited)
Synopsis: After years in hiding, Jason Bourne is forced out into the world again.
What You Need To Know: For a while, it felt like the Bourne movies were going to the great franchise retirement home: Star Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass, the director most associated with the films, had walked away, and attempted continuation “The Bourne Legacy” failed to take off with audiences. But then, two years ago, Damon and Greengrass announced they were returning to the spy series, with a script they’d co-written with Christopher Rouse (who edited Greengrass’s earlier pictures). The new movie promises to bring the former amnesiac hero into a new era, with austerity riots and Snowden-style leaks on the agenda, but with action sequences that seem to be bigger and more thrilling than ever. This doesn’t quite appear to be breaking new ground, but the original films were so good, and Greengrass looks to be bringing the same kind of brains he always has, that we’ll be there opening day, especially if it lives up to the terrific but spoilery recent trailer, which suggested the most action-packed installment yet, while keeping plot details still shrouded in mystery.
Release Date: July 29th
“Phantom Boy” is the latest French animation from the directors behind the wonderful but underseen “A Cat In Paris,” which, if you’ve seen, you’re probably like me and will follow these filmmakers. “The Secret Life Of Pets” is the more traditional CG-animated movie from Universal. And bridging the gap between animation and documentary is “Life, Animated,” the true story of an autistic boy who learns to communicate through his beloved Disney movies.
As for the rest of the month’s notable nonfiction releases, “Gleason” looks like a potential tearjerker about former New Orleans Saints football player Steve Gleason and, after being diagnosed with ALS at 34, discovering his wife is pregnant with their first child. There’s “Don’t Blink – Robert Frank,” which shines a light on the man who became a famous photographer (and director). Ever-prolific Alex Gibney has another release this month in “Zero Days,” about a nasty computer virus — a film we named one of the 20 best docs released this year so far. “Norman Lear: Just Another Version Of You” focuses on the man himself, especially his work as a successful producer and his political activism.
In the genre universe, there’s “Carnage Park,” another low-budget effort in the vein of “Grindhouse.” On the more horror/thriller spectrum, though, there’s “Nerve” from the directors of “Catfish;” and “Lights Out,” a ghost story with James Wan producing. Meanwhile, indie “The Land” is about a group of boys who dream of becoming pro skateboarders, and boasts a strong hip-hop soundtrack.
There’s always time in the summer for prestige pics or foreign fare with no better time to release. “The Infiltrator” is the latest vehicle for Bryan Cranston, in another spin on the Pablo Escobar story. “Our Kind Of Traitor” is the third film adaptation of a John le Carré book in five years. Legendary arthouse producer James Schamus directs “Indignation.” “Tulip Fever” stars Oscar winner Alicia Vikander in a period piece adaptation of the book. Finally, “The Innocents” is a tale about faith during wartime.
Lastly, it’s the comedy front, with “Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates,” starring Zac Efron, Adam Devine, Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza, while “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie” gives the beloved U.K. series the big-screen treatment.