Nine Hollywood Movies To Watch In July

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A Whitney Houston doc, an Icelandic thriller and an anime romantic drama – just a few of the titles you should check out this month, writes Christian Blauvelt.

Ant-Man and the Wasp 

Avengers:Infinity War ended with as dark and thrilling a cliffhanger as a blockbuster has ever delivered: the Mad Titan Thanos snapped his fingers and killed half of all living beings in the universe in a crazed attempt at achieving “balance” – and inspired a new meme with the vanishing Spider-Man’s “Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good.” Don’t expect any answers about what happens next from Marvel Studios’ new film, however. Ant-Man and the Wasp is set before Thanos killed half the universe, and, just like its heroes, it’s a decidedly small-scale affair. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), who stole a suit that can shrink him to the size of an ant or blow him up to become a giant, teams up with Evangeline Lilly’s Wasp to track down a criminal who can phase through walls. Early word is that it’s a light, frothily comedic affair with Collider’s Steven Weintraub saying it’s “a tonne of fun and had the crowd laughing from beginning to end and Slashfilm’s Peter Sciretta saying it’s “at its best when it’s almost an over-the-top silly comedy.” So no insect repellant required. Released 4 July in Singapore, the Philippines and South Korea, 5 July in Brazil and Australia and 13 July in India. (Credit: Marvel Studios)

Whitney

What happened to Whitney Houston? That’s the question that Kevin Macdonald’s new documentary about the singer tries to answer. As BBC Culture’s Nicholas Barber wrote in his four-out-of-five star review from Cannes, there is indeed a shocking revelation near the end: “But just when Whitney seems to be no more than the latest entry in the ‘little girl blue’ genre, it reaches its ‘Rosebud’ moment.” Along the way Macdonald interviews a number of the people close to Houston, like her ex-husband Bobby Brown and famed record producer Clive Davis. Macdonald, who has made narrative dramas such as The Last King of Scotland, which was criticised for telling the story of Idi Amin through the eyes of a white onlooker, is at his best with documentaries such as One Day in September, Touching the Void and Marley. In Whitney, Macdonald, writes Nicholas Barber, “suggests she was cursed and blessed from the day she was born.” Released 6 July in the US, UK, Ireland, Spain, Sweden and Poland. (Credit: Alamy)

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again

You’ve been haunted by the sight of Pierce Brosnan dancing in flippers too, haven’t you? Well, he’s back along with virtually everyone else in the sequel to the movie version of the musical that grossed $615m (£464m) worldwide in 2008. This time Amanda Seyfried’s Sophie is pregnant and the action shifts back and forth between the present when her mother Donna is played by Meryl Streep and a few decades earlier when her mother was pregnant with her – and played by Lily James. A number of the songs from the first film are being recycled for this one, but a few new additions are in the mix too, such as One of Us, Fernando, Knowing Me, Knowing You – but alas probably not this writer’s favourite, Tropical Loveland. This sure-to-be smash tops a big year for Abba: the reformed group has promised new music, while Abba’s Benny Andersson and Björn have been trying out a revival of their 1986 musical Chess in the UK and US. These pop superstars have not yet met their Waterloo. Released 19 July in Australia, the Netherlands and Brazil and 20 July in the US, UK, South Africa and Vietnam. (Credit: Universal Pictures)

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

James Bond has met his match in Ethan Hunt: the previous two entries in the Mission: Impossible series, subtitled Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation, have been more works of kinetic art than traditional action film – and, apart from the exceptional Skyfall, have flown (and motored and swum and parachuted) circles around the 007 franchise – and basically every other Hollywood film series too. In this sixth movie, Fallout, Rogue Nation director Christopher McQuarrie is back, and so are many actors from previous films, including Michelle Monaghan (who was Ethan Hunt’s fiancée in Mission: Impossible 3) and Sean Harris. But the undiminished star of these films is Tom Cruise, who comes up with more and more elaborate stunts for each film and, risking life and limb, shows how unsatisfying the rest of the CGI-filled action-movie landscape really is. Released 26 July in the UK, Israel, Russia and Saudi Arabia and 27 July in India, Pakistan, the US and Canada. (Credit: Paramount Pictures)

Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot

Ten years ago Gus Van Sant was riding high. His film Milk was a smash with critics and won two Oscars – one for best original screenplay and a best actor award for Sean Penn. But he followed it with three critical and commercial disasters. This latest effort, which was an official selection at the Sundance and Berlin film festivals earlier this year, looks to correct all that. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot tells the story of John Callahan, an addict who was paralysed in a car crash in his early twenties and went on to become a famous, and famously controversial, cartoonist. Callahan’s drawings sometimes earned charges of insensitivity but his response to The New York Times in 1992 was “My only compass for whether I’ve gone too far is the reaction I get from people in wheelchairs, or with hooks for hands. Like me, they are fed up with people who presume to speak for the disabled.” Joaquin Phoenix plays the artist, who died in 2010. Screen International’s Tim Grierson wrote at Sundance that Phoenix’s “raw, wiry performance never strives for greatness, which only makes it all the more affecting” and that “the movie radiates considerable compassion”. Released 13 July in the US, 20 July in Canada and 27 July in Estonia. (Credit: Amazon Studios)

Generation Wealth

Photographer and film-maker Lauren Greenfield won acclaim in 2012 for her laser-sharp documentary The Queen of Versailles, about an extravagantly wealthy couple trying to build the largest privately-owned home in the US on the verge of the 2008 financial collapse. Now she’s widening her focus in Generation Wealth, a non-fiction essay-film about what it means to be rich in the US today, how the very definition of wealth keeps shifting and how the US public’s enchantment with public displays of wealth helped get Donald Trump elected president. Screen International’s Nikki Baughan writes, “The result is both a compelling, damning cultural observation and testament to Greenfield’s own visual artistry.” But will Greenfield have resisted the temptation to feature Ludacris’ Money Maker on the soundtrack at some point? For that question alone, it’s worth a watch. Released 20 July in Canada and the US. (Credit: Amazon Studios)

Under the Tree

The 2015 film Rams, which played at the Sundance Film Festival, marked a new era for Icelandic cinema: dramatic, psychologically complex works that stand alongside any of the better-known films coming out of Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Now comes Under the Tree by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson, a gripping look at an escalating feud between neighbours on account of the possible removal of a tree. Variety’s Guy Lodge writes, “It has the escalating, claustrophobic structure of the darkest farce, but humour doesn’t pile up in Under the Tree so much as it bleeds out,” while The Hollywood Reporter’s Deborah Young adds, “The film’s near-perfect calibration between family drama and black comedy… projects a distinctive voice.” Released 5 July in Denmark and 6 July in the US. (Credit: Magnolia Pictures)

A Prayer Before Dawn

Liverpool-born criminal Billy Moore spent 15 years of his young adulthood in prisons, including a three-year stint in Klong Prem in Thailand. He turned his experience into a memoir called A Prayer Before Dawn, which has now become a film about his experience competing in boxing matches at Klong Prem. The actor who plays Moore, Peaky Blinders’ Joe Cole, learned the Muay Thai boxing style directly from Moore in Liverpool, for maximum authenticity. And the critical response so far has been rhapsodic. Screen International’s Fionnuala Halligan says of Cole’s performance that “he gives everything to this role… with a] deep internal reach to deliver a complex, defiantly self-sabotaging character.” [Leslie Felperin of The Hollywood Reporter praises the film-making itself: “It dwells with almost swooning rapture on the bodies of young men as they mete out brutal violence on one another, and features a cast composed mostly of unknowns, impressively coached in order to deliver arresting turns onscreen.” Released 19 July in Portugal and 20 July in the UK. (Credit: A24)

Fireworks

A television play by director Shunji Iwai from 1993 inspired this animated re-make: a love triangle unfolds among boys Norimichi and Yûsuke and the girl Nazuna. She’s about to leave town with her squabbling parents when she challenges the two boys to a swimming race – whoever wins will have to do whatever she asks, and she plays to run away from home. Time travel and other fantasy elements pop up along the way in this imagining of the story from director Akiyuki Shinbo, which leans heavily towards a mood of trance-like reverie. The Japan Times’ Mark Schilling said that this is a “pure-hearted love story” that “nails it again and again.” Released 3 July in the US and Canada. (Credit: Toho)

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