In many ways, July is literally the hottest month of the summer, not just due to the actual heat outside but also due to the number of big movies still being released this late in the summer, and considering how well June has been, there’s a good chance that we’re going to see another strong month at the box office even if there are a few movies that seem to be getting released with very little fanfare. Things kick off with the 4th of July weekend which always sees a couple of big releases and then things sort of slow down until the end of the month.
Mere days into the month, Universal Studios and Illumination Entertainment roll out the sequel to their surprise hit animated comedy with Despicable Me 2 (Universal – July 3) featuring Steve Carell returning to the role of master villain Gru, who this time is asked to join the Anti-Villain League to deal with a powerful new criminal. Like the first movie, the popularity of the sequel comes down to how much everyone loves Gru’s adorable Minions and this is likely to be one of if not the biggest movies of the month as fans of the movies and families flock out to see it.
At the very tail end of the month, Sony Pictures Animation releases The Smurfs 2 (Sony July 31) with the equally popular blue characters created by Belgian artist Peyo and based on the $142 million domestic and $563 million worldwide, we think there will be a lot of family audiences who make this their first choice after seeing Despicable Me 2 and into the slower month of August.
Ryan Reynolds appears in his second DreamWorks Animation film for the year after The Croods providing the lead voice for Turbo (DreamWorks Animation/Fox – July 17), a snail who gets turbo charged in what seems to be a gastropod knock-off of DisneyPixar’s popular “Cars” series. It comes out directly between those other two family movies which puts it in a weird position where it may not find the audience of other DWA movies just by the nature of odd release scheduling.
July isn’t just about family movies though and superhero and comic fans will have a couple of heroes to look forward to including the return of Hugh Jackman as The Wolverine (20th Century Fox – July 26), which loosely adapts the popular Chris Claremont-Frank Miller comic book arc that brought the mutant Logan to Japan. This seems to be coming out at just the right time to take advantage of a couple of slower July weeks and there’s no denying the popularity of this character, not only among comic book fans but also mainstream audiences. Being directed by a strong filmmaker like James Mangold (Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma) won’t hurt either, so fingers crossed that this will be a great lead-in to next year’s new X-Men movie from Bryan Singer.
Johnny Depp takes on the sidekick role of Tonto to Armie Hammer’s The Lone Ranger (Walt Disney – July 3), while reuniting him with original “Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski to tackle the Pulp Western hero for what looks be a fun action-comedy in the vein of “The Pirates movies. It’s kind of strange releasing a Western over 4th of July, remembering how badly Will Smith’s Wild Wild West did over that time frame and a lot of attention is going to be paid to the film’s exorbitant budget, but Depp’s star power should do the trick to get people to check this one out even if it’s going to be taking a back seat to Despicable Me 2 over that weekend. (We’ll be talking about this in next week’s Weekend Warrior, of course.)
Genre and comic fans will have a lot of other choices in the month of July with the Weekend Warrior’s #1 most anticipated movie being Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim (Legendary/WB – July 12), one of the summer’s few non-sequels/non-remakes that has giant robots fighting giant monsters, which is exactly the kind of movie we’ve been waiting to see all our lives. It has an eclectic cast that includes Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman and Rinko Kinkuchi but really it’s the giant battle sequences that will get guys into theaters.
A week later, Saw and Insidious director James Wan takes on the real-life supernatural terrors of the Warren Files in The Conjuring (Warner Bros. – July 19), what is likely to be the scariest movie of the year until Insidious 2 comes out in September. This one stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as the Warrens exploring a haunted farmhouse and the mix of true facts from the case and the type of sheer craziness Wan excels at should make this one of the surprise hits of the month.
Bruce Willis and the aging CIA agents played by John Malkovich and Helen Mirren are back for RED 2 (Summit – July 19), the sequel to the hit action-comedy based on the Warren Ellis comic book. This time, they’re joined by Sir Anthony Hopkins and “G.I. Joe star Byung Hun-Lee, and surely some people will want to see it. It’s directed by Galaxy Quest‘s Dean Parisot, his first movie since 2005’s Fun with Dick and Jane remake starring Jim Carrey.
The exact same weekend as both those movies, Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges are zombie cops in another comic book-inspired movie called R.I.P.D. (Universal – July 19), a movie that seems to have been “in the can for a while. What’s kind of funny and ironic is that it’s directed by original RED director Robert Schwentke, who has the unenviable task of opening his follow-up against the sequel to his previous hit.
Those looking for comedy will probably have to make do with the latest from Adam Sandler as he reunites all his friends for Grown Ups 2 (Sony – July 12), the sequel to the 2010 comedy hit that grossed $162 million domestic and $272 million worldwide. He’s once again playing in his sandbox with Chris Rock, Kevin James and David Spade–noticeably absent is Rob Schneider who has appeared in so many of Sandler’s earlier movies–and the movie’s likely to bring in the same group of man-children that made the first movie a hit. Having endured Grown Ups, I’ll probably be skipping it.
If that’s too much testosterone for you then Aubrey Plaza stars in Maggie Carey’s directorial debut The To Do List (CBS Films July 26) playing virginal high school valedictorian Brandy Klark, who decides to catch up on everything she’s been missing by going through a sexual to-do list before college. It co-stars Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, Sarah Steele, Rachel Bilson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Donald Glover and Clark Gregg.
It’s been a while since we’ve had a major comedy concert movie, but Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain (Summit July 3) follows the popular actor and stand-up’s 2012 comedy concert tour, one of the most successful comedy concert tours of the past few years with sold out shows at Madison Square Garden (from which this was taken) and other places.
As far as limited releases, we’re excited that Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt (Magnolia Pictures – July 12) is finally being released here, starring Mads Mikkelsen (“Hannibal) as a schoolteacher accused of molesting a child and becoming the bane of his once friendly community. It’s another fantastic performance from one of Denmark’s top dramatic actors.
Mads’ countrymate, director Nicolas Winding Refn, and his Drive star Ryan Gosling reunite for Only God Forgives (TWC-Radius), a movie that takes the both of them to Bangkok where Gosling plays a gangster and kickboxer trying to get revenge for his murdered brother.
Another welcome reunion this month is that of director Michael Winterbottom and his 24 Hour Party People and The Trip star Steve Coogan with The Look of Love (IFC Films) as they tell the story of club owner and porn publisher Paul Raymond, best known as the “King of Soho.
Veteran filmmaker Woody Allen’s release for the year is Blue Jasmine (Sony Pictures Classics – July 26), this one starring Cate Blanchett as a New York housewife returning to her family after a life crisis with the character loosely based on Mrs. Bernie Madoff. As with his past movies, Allen has assembled another great cast including Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgaard and Michael Stuhlbarg.
Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s documentary Blackfish (Magnolia Pictures – July 19) takes a frank look at the treatment of killer whales at sea parks across the country, which is already being compared to the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove.
Normally a movie with big name stars like John Travolta and Robert De Niro might get a wide release, but Killing Season (Millennium Films – July 12), the new movie from Ghost Rider director Mark Steven Johnson, which has the two of them befriending each other and then facing off in the Appalachian Mountains, will be released in select cities this month.
Because I missed the Sundance Film Festival, I still haven’t had a chance to see The Way, Way Back (Fox Searchlight), the directorial debut by Oscar-winning The Descendants co-writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, a coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old boy (newcomer Liam James) who spends summer with his mother (Toni Collette) and her new boyfriend (Steve Carell)–yes, it’s a mini-Little Miss Sunshine reunion!–but he finds solace by spending time with the manager of a local water park, played by Sam Rockwell.
Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station (The Weinstein Company – July 12) was at the center of a pretty major bidding war at the Sundance Film Festival this year where it won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Awards. It stars Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle) as a 22-year-old San Francisco resident who spends the last day of 2008 trying to get a head start on his New Year’s resolutions. There have already been raves for Jordan’s performance and the movie, so hopefully it will be able to break out of the indie art film houses and find a larger audience.
I also haven’t seen Farren Blackburn’s Hammer of the Gods (Magnet Releasing – July 5), the latest attempt at a big Viking epic on a small budget, but it stars Charlie Bewley (“The Vampire Diaries) as a Viking warrior sent on a quest and we hope it’s better than Nicolas Refn’s Valhalla Rising.
VHS2 (Magnet Releasing – July 12) is the second horror anthology based around an abandoned house filled with VHS tapes with the individual shorts directed by the likes of Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard (You’re Next), Edúardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project), Gareth Evans (The Raid), Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun) and more.
Fresh from its Tribeca Film Festival debut, Dutch filmmaker Richard Raaphorst’s Frankenstein’s Army (MPI Media Group – July 26) is a crazy World War II found footage steampunk action-thriller that involves Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s attempts to resurrect fallen Nazi soldiers to fight the Russians.
We’ll also give a special rock doc shout-out to Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (Magnolia), a great doc about the seminal rock band fronted by Alex Chilton, which we caught at DOC-NYC last year.
That’s it for July and while there are a couple of exciting movies coming out in August, we’re also looking to get hit soon by the “Dog Days of Summer.”