Summer blockbuster season hits its peak in July, with Paul Feig’s rebooted Ghostbusters, a fifth installment of the mega-successful Ice Age franchise, and the much-hyped Star Trek Beyond all on deck. But there’s plenty to take in this month, from a scrappy superspy franchise with something to prove to a handful of intriguing, lower-stakes indie releases. Whether you’re looking to get your fix of spectacle or searching for some much-needed counter-programming, read on for five releases to keep an eye on over the next few weeks.
Café Society (limited release 7/15, nationwide 7/29)
Woody Allen is like rain: Regardless of whether you find his movies charming or if his mere appearance puts you in a sour mood, he’s there, year in and year out. Back in screwball-comedy mode after the lumpy philosophizing of last year’s Irrational Man, Woody jumps back to Thirties Hollywood for a frothy romance between his latest avatar Jesse Eisenberg and new muse Kristen Stewart. The fizzy showbiz confection has also enlisted one powerhouse of a supporting ensemble, including Steve Carell, Blake Lively, Corey Stoll, Parker Posey, and Jeannie Berlin. A small wonder of meticulous period art design and feather-light one-liners, it’s a classed-up antidote to blockbuster fatigue.
Tulip Fever (7/15)
This handsomely mounted romance has traveled a long, strange path to your neighborhood mulitplex. After shuffling around stars and directors for a few years (eventually landing on a high-wattage lineup including Alicia Vikander, Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Zach Galifiankis, Judi Dench, Christoph Waltz, and Jack O’Connell), this account of a forbidden love between an artist and his subject in 17th-century Netherlands screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015, then ground to a halt while dissatisfied power-producer Harvey Weinstein made extensive edits. The movie has been delayed now for over a year; it’ll be curious to see what the final form of this odd project looks like. But with a cast like that, what’s the worst that could happen? (Don’t answer that.)
Lights Out (7/22)
The element of the unknown makes darkness inherently creepy; anything could be going on in there, and in this feature-length extension of an award-winning 2013 short, it’s best to assume the worst. A spirit in the form of a malevolent female lurks in the shadows, terrorizing a young woman (Teresa Palmer) and her eerie brother (Gabriel Bateman) in David Sandberg’s directorial debut. With horror maestro James Wan (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring) on board as producer, a bloody good time is virtually guaranteed, but be forewarned – the jump-scares shall be plentiful, and we are not responsible for any popcorn spilled during late-night screenings.
Don’t Think Twice (7/22)
There’s no shortage of movies about people following their dreams, but what about people who have the self-awareness to know when to abandon their dreams? Writer/director/star Mike Birbiglia is here to sing those heroes’ praises in this ensemble comedy about struggling improv comedians facing down the tail end of their thirties. With TV stalwarts Gillian Jacobs, Keegan-Michael Key, Chris Gethard, Kate Micucci, and Tami Sagher rounding out the cast list, this film ekes sober-minded laughs from professional disappointment and jealousy. The virtues of settling might sound like somber material, but Birbiglia finds generous humor in the little indignities of life off-off-off-off-Broadway, and even arrives at a comforting conclusion about maturing and the difficult realities that go along with it.
Jason Bourne (7/29)
The Bourne Legacy (2012) made a go of reinventing the popular espionage franchise with a new star in Jeremy Renner, a new director in Tony Gilroy, and a departure from original director Paul Greengrass’ hard-nosed realism. Despite working with the largest budget of the series, that film underperformed at the box office — and now the fifth installment attempts to right the ship by bringing back Matt Damon and Greengrass for a return to form. Superspy Jason Bourne will keep on in his search for the secrets of his past while the CIA continues its pursuit of the rogue agent; whether the magic is still there has yet to be seen. But you can expect lots of close-quarters hand-to-hand combat, analog stunt work and enough shaky camerawork to require pre-screening doses of Dramamine.