As a mid-1990’s kid, I remember being jealous of Americans when I was younger. They got all the big movies before us. They knew how the story ended before British kids knew how they began. As I grew up and the movie studios discovered this release schedule invited piracy, the blockbusters received simultaneous releases worldwide, and, apart from Oscar-wannabes that release early in the US to qualify, this is the new world order. Except when the FIFA World Cup is on.
Hollywood has learnt not to compete with a bunch of men running around a field and moves most of the European releases to avoid scheduling clashes. For example, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was pushed forward a few weeks in the UK and Europe to avoid the tournament. This is a rare move, and as this month and next month show, many releases are delayed. So, what treasures does this summer month hold?
The first major release is The First Purge (4 July), a horror flick looking to capitalise on how crazy the world is right now. The Purge franchise revolves around one genius yet stupid premise: to quell crime, one night a year all crime is legal. A person can murder, rape or rob on this night and get away with it. These films have become increasingly political (the release date isn’t coincidental) with each instalmentand it might be mildly amusing to see how this version draws lines between our current political climate and brutal killing sprees.
Horror movies have changed since Boris Karloff’sFrankenstein, a film that plays more like a doomed romance than a terrifying monster movie. Focusing on the woman who created the monster, Mary Shelley (6 July) explores a woman’s fight for acceptance within a male world. Elle Fanning plays the famous author and she is supported by an upcoming British cast featuring Bel Powley, Douglas Booth and Maisie Williams.
A week later, Dwayne Johnson flexes his muscles both literally and figuratively as he reminds audiences why he is the biggest movie star working today. On paper, Skyscraper (12 July) looks like Die Hard on steroids as the artist formerly known as ‘The Rock’ plays a paraplegic security expert who tries to save his family while trapped in the world’s tallest building. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber is moving away from comedy and hopefully with a cast that also includes Neve Campbell and Noah Taylor, he’ll make his genre switch a success.
Opening on a smaller scale, First Reformed (13 July) is the prolific, and prolific experimenter, Paul Schrader on top form with his tale of a priest who becomes doubtful after meeting a radical environmentalist. Ethan Hawke gives one of his strongest performances as the priest and Amanda Seyfried is rather touching as Mary, the wife looking to save her husband. It is a nuanced tale unafraid to ask upsetting questions.
In a change of pace, The Incredibles 2 (13 July) features the welcome return of everyone’s favourite superhero family. Already record breaking at the North American box office, Brad Bird’s movie is a cinematic delight filled with kinetic action set pieces, slapstick moments and observations about family. If the recent Coco was Pixar at their finest, this is Pixar at their funnest, delivering a superhero romp that puts all the recent live action output to shame.
Another long-awaited sequel is Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! (20 July), a follow up to the time Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan murdered ABBA’s finest hits. The whole cast is back with the addition of Lily James as a younger version of Meryl’s character, Donna. After Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) realises she is pregnant, her journey is contrasted with her mother’s to the soundtrack of Sweden’s greatest hitmakers. Oh, and Cher is in it.
Looking to steal some of this sequel’s cash is Hotel Artemis (20 July), a film craving cult status. Sterling K Brown, Sophia Boutella and Jeff Goldblum are criminals trapped in a hospital for criminals and are looked after by Jodie Foster and Dave Bautista. Naturally, it all goes wrong, and while Drew Pearce’s directorial debut is narratively unfulfilling, it has enough elements to make it someone’s favourite movie.
Ending the month is Mission: Impossible – Fallout (25 July), Tom Cruise’s latest excuse to do something bafflingly dangerous. This time he performed a real life HALO jump and learned to fly a helicopter to a professional level. Fallout also has the marketing credo of being the film that finally broke Cruise, as the actor broke his ankle while filming. After the exemplary Rogue Nation, Chris McQuarrie returns to the director’s chair and seems suited to framing the action in a way that brings out the best in his lead actor. Hopefully, they’ve got another success on their hands.