The 2014 summer movie season is in full swing as superheroes, reboots and, gosh, even the rare original property open to ravage our senses. Summer 2014 has already offered us websligners, dragons and rowdy frat boys to whet our appetites for escapist popcorn fun. Join us for a countdown of the most eagerly anticipated movies set for release in the month of July, covering everything from the biggest Hollywood has to offer and the smallest indie flicks (in case anyone needs a palette cleanser). Remember, all release dates are subject to change (so long, Jupiter Ascending – see you next February.)
10. A MOST WANTED MAN
A Most Wanted Man joins the sterling list of films adapted from the works of the great mystery novelist John le Carre. Previous adaptations include The Russia House, The Tailor of Panama and the Oscar nominated The Constant Gardner and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. All are stories constructed through the classic narrative arc of a thriller, but framed in a sea of topical intrigue, hallmarks that will hopefully make A Most Wanted Man into one of the season’s smarter offerings. Unfortunately, a lot of the press revolving around director Anton Corbijn‘s adaptation will mostly be that it features one of the final performances of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, the acting great who passed away this past winter. That sadness undercuts what sounds like a difficult story to begin with – the film revolves around a Chechen Muslin who emigrates to Hamburg only to get caught up in the international war on terror. Hoffman portrays Gunter Bachmann, a gruff, hard-drinking man who runs a covert anti-terrorism team. Aiding him is a roster of top drawer actors including Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Robin Wright and Rush star Daniel Bruhl. Andrew Bovell (Lantana) wrote the screenplay.
Buzzometer: 5/10 – Le Carre’s stories have a way of working on a variety of levels simultaneously, from rudimentary thrill ride to intellectual commentary, and early reviews of A Most Wanted Man seem to indicate the film may work well behind am actorly showcase. The film had its premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival (sitting at 83% fresh on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes) and was acquired by Roadside Attractions. A Most Wanted Man will get its fair share of press when it opens theatrically, but the question is whether or not Roadside can turn the film, admittedly a difficult sell, into an arthouse hit. Corbijn, an interesting director who previously made the critically admired Joy Division bio Control and the George Clooney thriller The American, has yet to really helm anything that’s broken out, but this one, despite being shrouded in sadness, may prove capable.
Release Date: July 25th (limited)
9. DELIVER US FROM EVIL
Inspired by an actual account comes the horror offering Deliver Us From Evil, which hopes to deliver up the frights. Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) directs a grisly story of a New York police officer (Eric Bana) who teams up with a priest (Édgar Ramirez) to combat a series of possessions that are terrorizing the city. Olivia Munn (Magic Mike), Sean Harris (Prometheus), and Joel McHale (Community) co-star. Derrickson co-wrote the screenplay with Paul Harris Boardman (Devil’s Knot, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) based on the book by Ralph Sarchie and Lisa Collier Cool.
Buzzometer: 5/10 – Exorcism films are a dime a dozen, but Derrickson’s 2005 film The Exorcism of Emily Rose was one of the subgenre’s more classy entries, so this might offer a little bit more than mindless scares. It’s been a slow year for horror films (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, a dud that came out in January, is still the highest grossing screamer of the year), so Deliver Us From Evil may benefit from the drift.
Release Date: July 2nd
8. THE PURGE: ANARCHY
Last summer saw The Purge spook up the box office with the novel premise of a future where an annual tradition allows for a 12-hour period in which all criminal behavior goes undisciplined. All hell breaks loose again with The Purge: Anarchy, the sequel from writer/director James DeMonaco. Frank Grillo, last seen on screen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier takes the reins from Ethan Hawke headlining the chiller.
Buzzometer: 6/10 – The first Purge, whether creatively or not, was an absolute success, scaring up more than $30 million on its opening weekend last summer. So a sequel was inevitable. The real test will come if there’s any fan goodwill out there. It may also depend on whether July’s other horror offering- Deliver Us From Evil– is enough to satisfy the appetites of horror fans.
Release Date: July 18th
7. MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT
Like clockwork, every year (typically summer) sees the debut of a new Woody Allen movie. This year, Academy Award winner Colin Firth and Spidey’s main squeeze Emma Stone make their Allen debuts with Magic in the Moonlight, set in France in the 1920s – hey that setting worked wonders for Allen in 2011’s Midnight in Paris. This outing, a comedy, centers around a magician commissioned to unmask a phony psychic. Witty mayhem and, presumably, romance ensue. Blue Jasmine, Allen’s 2013 picture (which won Cate Blanchett an Academy Award) was a mostly dramatic picture, while Magic seems to reside more in a more frothy avenue. While the trailer may not make a resounding impression, there looks to be some fun in store, also some inventive production design courtesy of Anne Seibel (she earned an Oscar nomination for Midnight in Paris.) As always, a vast ensemble cast is in participation. Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden, 2-time Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver, Hamish Linklater (The Future), Eileen Atkins (Gosford Park) and Simon McBurney (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) round out the cast.
Buzzometer: 5/10 – Allen’s output in recent years (decades) has been inconsistent, to put it mildly. While last year, the auteur scored a critical and commercial success with Blue Jasmine, the year before offered the execrable To Rome With Love. It’s hard to gather where Magic in the Moonlight will fall, though Allen does have devotees. Another ugly thread that may possibly rear its head when Magic is released is the gossipy drudge regarding Allen and the never-ending battle with ex Mia Farrow (which played out, yet again this past winter.)
Release Date: July 25th (limited)
6. LIFE ITSELF
One of the big ones of the summer, for film geeks at any rate. Life Itself recounts the life and career of the late Roger Ebert. The ultimate alpha dog in film criticism for nearly half a century, Ebert won a Pulitzer Prize and authored dozens of books documenting his film reviews and analyzing the best films ever made, yet made the biggest impression on America and the world of film itself as part of the Siskel and Ebert team who every week showed up on the television sets of fans and aspiring filmmakers to talk about the movies. Steve James, the filmmaker behind Hoop Dreams (a film that was championed early on by Ebert) and The Interrupters directs this elegy to Ebert’s life and work. Life Itself has already been championed by critics and audiences in showings at the Sundance Film Festival (where the film premiered) and more recently at Cannes Film Festival. Luminaries like Martin Scorsese and Werner Herzog, as well as critics like The New York Times‘ A.O. Scott, are among the many who pay tribute in the film.
Buzzometer: 6/10 – Documentaries seldom breakout at the box office, certainly not niche ones aimed squarely at the cinephile crowd, but expect Life Itself to perform decently because of Ebert’s stature and the kind notices of the film at large. Magnolia Pictures (who picked the film at Sundance) seem confident, and likely have higher hopes that the film will connect well enough to snatch an Oscar nomination for Documentary Feature.
Release Date: July 2nd (limited)
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson roars as Hercules, the hulky son of Zeus, in director Brett Ratner’s swords and sandals take on the Greek myth. After having to endure twelve years a slave, the half god, all muscle he-man is commissioned to defeat a tyrant warlord. Hardly Shakespeare, but the roars in the trailer make the case for a blissfully self-aware piece of baroque showmanship. Hercules was written by Ryan Condal and Evan Siliotopoulos, taking its cues from Steve Moore’s comic. Joseph Fiennes, Ian McShane, Irina Shayk, Rufus Sewell, and 2-time Oscar nominee Jon Hurt round out the ensemble cast.
Buzzometer: 6/10 – It may not have the same gravitas as the Deep Impact vs. Armageddon dueling asteroid movie saga, but Hercules is the second take the Greek myth to play in the cinemas this year – Kellan Lutz and his abs played the character (to poor effect in our – and most audiences’ – opinion) in The Legend of Hercules, a slight beefcake show from director Renny Harlin that premiered this past January. In that sweepstakes, I’m betting on The Rock for the win.
Release Date: July 25th
Think Limitless for the action set. Scarlett Johansson plays a woman forced into a drug trafficking deal that goes horribly wrong (don’t you just hate it when that happens) and morphs into a badass warrior after spillage from the drug gives her the power to use 100% of her brain capacity. Director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita) returns to his action roots after last year’s strained attempt at comedy (the Robert De Niro-Michelle Pfeiffer mob-set fish-out-of-water lark The Family) and gives Johansson a seemingly plum role (Angelina Jolie was first offered). The trailer looks silly fun, but with bristles with exciting (and colorful) visuals and the smoky confidence of Johansson’s movie star charisma. Morgan Freeman co-stars.
Buzzometer: 6/10 – Johansson has recently impressed art house fans with expressive and surprisingly impactful performances in Under the Skin and Her, and has an uber-immense fanboy base due to The Avengers, so the time seems ripe for her to headline a big movie all on her own. While Lucy doesn’t appear likely to be on too many top ten lists come the end of the year, it has potential for one of those dog-days-of-summer moneymakers. With a cool (if absurd) premise, seemingly plenty of spectacle-infused set pieces, and Johansson, Lucy may have the ingredients of a hit.
Release Date: July 25th
Melissa McCarthy stars a down-on-her-luck woman named Tammy. She’s just lost her job and learns that her husband has been unfaithful. What is she going to do? Hit the road with her vulgar, hard-drinking grandmother (played by Susan Sarandon), that’s what she’s going to do. With Tammy, McCarthy adds screenwriter to her checklist of talents – she co-wrote the script with husband Ben Falcone, who makes his directorial debut on the raunchy comedy. Add in a top drawer, supporting cast including Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Dan Aykroyd, Sandra Oh and Kathy Bates, and Tammy looks primed to challenge the likes of Neighbors and 22 Jump Street for the title of best summer comedy.
Buzzometer: 7/10 – The premise might be a touch familiar, but likely the execs at the Warner Bros. didn’t need much more because McCarthy’s, erm, rap sheet: the actress has spent the past few years banging out one comedy hit after another (Bridesmaids, Identity Thief, The Heat.) With a confidence-inducing release date over the Fourth of July holiday, McCarthy will likely have another hit on her hands, but this one may not quite match the dollar grosses of The Heat last year – just a hunch.
Release Date: July 2nd
Already one of the most acclaimed movies of 2014 (read our review here), with a current 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 93/100 score on Metacritic, Richard Linklater’s ambitious new indie tells the coming of age story of Mason (played by newcomer Ellar Coltrane.) The trick is that we actually see Mason grow up over the course of the movie, as in a groundbreaking effort it was shot over the course of twelve years – the narrative counterpoint to Michael Apted’s acclaimed 7-Up documentary series, which follows the same group of characters ever seven years. Audiences and critics have been raving about Boyhood since it premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival for what looks to be Linklater’s most formally inventive and challenging film. Aging in real time alongside Coltrane are Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke (a Linklater native for his work in the beloved Before trilogy) as Mason’s squabbling parents and Lorelai Linklater (Richard’s own daughter) as Mason’s older sister. Boyhood won Linklater the Best Director prize at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival and recently won the top prize at the Seattle Film Festival. The film also played at SXSW.
Buzzometer: 7/10 – While the film has received much acclaim and Linklater sure has a following, it’s still unclear if Boyhood can truly be a breakout outside of the cinephile community. While reviews and general fascination will surely bring in audiences when the film unspools in limited engagements, there’s really no bellweather for success for what may be a challenging movie for some, and it’s nearly three hour running time likely won’t help matters. Still, a rousing opening per-screen average is likely and the film may enter the cultural zeitgeist if distributor IFC Films can successfully parlay the film into the 2014 awards race.
Release Date: July 11th (limited)
1. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
Caesar is back in the sequel to the surprisingly robust 2011 reboot Rise of the Planet of the Apes and things look mighty tense for an epic ape vs. human showdown. Dawn takes place a decade after the last film. A devastating virus has given the landscape a post-apocalyptic flair, and a group of apes led by Caesar fight for supremacy with a band of humans. Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) takes over directing duties from Rupert Wyatt, who shepherded the last film. Motion capture king Andy Serkis returns as Cesar following a visual effects Oscar nom for the last film that can be traced in no small part back to his efforts. As is the case with the recent Godzilla, the human characters draw second billing here. That being said, James Franco and Frieda Pinto (who starred in the last one) are replaced by noteworthy actors that include the Oscar nominated Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty), Judy Greer (The Descendants) and Keri Russell (Mission: Impossible III.) Screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver return as well alongside Mark Bomback (The Wolverine.)
Buzzometer: 8/10 – Expectations seem high for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to becoming one of the biggest releases in July. Fan love of the last film and devotees of the series as a whole will likely come out in droves, marking one of the loftiest opening weekend takes of the summer. If there’s a negative, it may be due to expectations as well. Part of the reason why Rise was such an unexpected pleasure three years ago was due to the sour reception of the 2001 Tim Burton remake, which pivoted the series to an all-time low creatively. Good will helps, but it can be taken away if Dawn doesn’t own up to its promise.
Release Date: July 11th
ALSO OPENING IN JULY:
- AND SO IT GOES: Gordon Gekko and Annie Hall meet cute and fall in love. (July 11th)
- EARTH TO ECHO: Chroncile meets E.T. (July 2nd)
- HAPPY CHRISTMAS: Anna Kendrick disrupts the holidays in this indie. (July 25th- limited)
- I ORIGINS: Indie mindbender about scientists who unearth a cosmic discovery. (July 18th- limited)
- LAND HO!: Sundance hit about former brothers-in-law who find meaning when traveling to Iceland. (July 11th- limited)
- MOOD INDIGO: Romain Duris and Audrey Tautou star as lovers in Michel Gondry’s fanciful bittersweet romance. (July 18th- limited)
- PLANES: FIRE AND RESCUE: Part two of the Planes saga. (July 18th)
- SEX TAPE: Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel make a naughty video and… it leaks. (July 18th)
- STEP UP: ALL IN: 5th (?!?) installment of the dance franchise. (July 25th)
- WISH I WAS HERE: Zach Braff plays another variation of Zach Braff in his directorial follow-up to 2004’s Garden State. (July 18th)
- VERY GOOD GIRLS: Elizabeth Olsen and Dakota Fanning headline as teenagers seeking to lose their virginity. (July 25th- limited)