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History will decide for sure, but it seems likely that F9 sending cars into space at the end of June 2021 will mark the moment summer moviegoing started to return to something like normalcy. The season continues in full swing this month with the release of the first Marvel movie since Spider-Man: Far From Home in 2019 and a long-awaited sequel to a Nineties NBA/Looney Tunes team-up. There’s life beyond blockbusters, on screens big and small, however, thanks to an offbeat Nicolas Cage drama, a love letter to a forgotten music fest, and the return of one of the defining TV shows of the Aughts. Kicking things off: an intriguing crime film from an always busy, seldom predictable filmmaker.
No Sudden Move (HBO Max, July 1)
The latest from Steven Soderbergh finds a cast of the director’s regulars (Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro) and newcomers to the Soderbergh fold (Amy Seimetz, David Harbour, and Jon Hamm) uniting for a crime story set against the backdrop of a troubled 1950s Detroit. If the cast alone wasn’t intriguing enough, consider this: the last time Soderbergh went to Detroit the result was Out of Sight. Watch on HBO Max here.
Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (Hulu, July 2)
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson makes his directorial debut with this look back at 1969’s Harlem Cultural Festival, a six-week concert series that featured everyone from Stevie Wonder to Sly and the Family Stone to Nina Simone. Thompson mixes scorching, never-before-seen performance footage with interviews that put the event in the historical context of New York at a turning point. Watch with a free trial to Hulu here.
The Tomorrow War (July 2)
What if aliens invaded Earth and we needed to fight them? That’s a pretty well-explored premise, but this first live-action feature from director Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie) offers a twist: What if aliens invaded Earth 30 years in the future and the only hope for survival came from recruiting fighters from the past? Chris Pratt stars as one such fighter, heading a cast that includes Yvonn Stahovski and J.K. Simmons. Watch with a free trial to Amazon Prime.
Fear Street Part One: 1994 (Netflix, July 2)
With his Goosebumps books, R.L. Stine has struck fear into generations of elementary school readers. With the Fear Street series, Stine aimed for an older, more jaded crowd, the kind that might be interested in, say, a trilogy of horror films about the history of a cursed Ohio town. The three-film series kicks off with an installment set in the Nineties with its sequels — one set in 1978, the other in 1666 — scheduled to appear weekly. Watch on Netflix here.
The One and Only Dick Gregory (Showtime, July 4)
Comedian, author, and activist Dick Gregory lived a life that took him from the Playboy Mansion to the civil rights protests of the 1960s to Tehran, where he launched a hunger strike in an attempt to help free American hostages. This aptly titled documentary, the feature debut of director Andre Gaines, mixes archival footage with interviews of those who knew and were influenced by the singular Gregory. Watch with a free trial to Showtime here.
Gossip Girl (HBO Max, July 8)
One of the signature shows of the ’00s returns, this time with a focus on a new generation of New York teens getting into trouble against a backdrop of wealth and privilege. Kristen Bell still narrates as the unseen Gossip Girl, a character whose blog apparently survived all the changes that have swept through online media in the past decade. Watch on HBO Max here.
Black Widow (Theaters / Disney+, July 9)
Yes, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) died a tragic death in Avengers: Endgame, but that doesn’t mean the movies can’t mine her past for adventures. It’s a troubled past, however: set after the events of Captain America: Civil War, this Cate Shortland-directed film finds Black Widow reckoning with her days as a Russian super-spy, and figures from her past played by Florence Pugh and David Harbour. Watch on Disney+ here.
The White Lotus (HBO, July 11)
With Enlightened, writer/director Mike White mixed satire with a deft character study via the story of a self-destructive woman (Laura Dern) trying her best to live a meaningful life. That series ended too soon, running just two seasons, but White makes a return to HBO with this miniseries set at an exclusive tropical resort designed to pamper the privileged. Murray Bartlett (Looking) heads an ensemble cast that includes Connie Britton, Steve Zahn, and Alexandra Daddario. Watch on HBO Max here.
Dr. Death (Peacock, July 15)
It takes a truly notorious medical career to inspire a hit podcast, much less a hit podcast and a TV miniseries. Adapted from the Wondery podcast, Dr. Death follows the career of Christopher Duntsch (Joshua Jackson), a neurosurgeon who presented himself as a brilliant professional but whose patients habitually ended up in worse shape than before being treated by him (sometimes much worse). Christian Slater and Alec Baldwin co-star as fellow doctors out to stop him. Watch with a free trial to Peacock.
McCartney 3, 2, 1 (Hulu, July 16)
The premise of this six-part series is pretty simple: Paul McCartney talks about and plays his music in conversation with Rick Rubin. Though the world isn’t exactly suffering from a shortage of Beatles-related documentaries, this sounds like a pretty intriguing prospect, particularly since McCartney is reliably open and expansive when talking about his own work. Watch with a free trial to Hulu here.
Space Jam: A New Legacy (Theaters / HBO Max, July 16)
Apparently each generation must send an NBA superstar off to play alongside classic Looney Tunes characters. In this sequel to the 1996 hit, LeBron James takes over for Michael Jordan, this time doing battle against an evil computer intelligence named Al-G Rhythm (Don Cheadle). Expect plenty of cameos from fictional characters from animation and elsewhere and real basketball stars (and a lot of wisecracks and catchphrases). Watch on HBO Max here.
Schmigadoon! (Apple TV+, July 16)
Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key co-star in a miniseries parodying classic American musicals in general (and Brigadoon in particular) playing a backpacking couple who stumble on a mysterious village then discover they can’t leave until they find true love. Barry Sonnenfeld directs all six episodes. Watch on Apple TV+ here.
Pig (Theaters, July 16)
What do you do when you’re a reclusive truffle hunter and thieves steal your beloved pig? If you’re Rob (Nicolas Cage), the protagonist of this first feature by Michael Sarnoski, you reluctantly head into the city, look for the pig, and confront your past. That might sound like the premise of a John Wick-like tale of revenge, but viewers should expect something far more reflective and lyrical (and much less violent) than the set-up suggests.
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain (Theaters, July 16)
Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?) has described his latest documentary as an act of “therapy for the public.” That might sound like overstatement if it were about almost anyone but the late Anthony Bourdain, the chef-turned-author-turned adventurous television journalist whose insatiable curiosity — about food and everything else — made the world seem a little smaller. Spanning the entirety of Bourdain’s career, the doc features interviews with many of Bourdain’s closest friends and collaborators.
The End (Showtime, July 18)
A mother and daughter find themselves on opposite ends of the issue of euthanasia in this dark comedy from Australia starring Frances O’Connor (Locke & Key) as an expert in palliative care and Harriet Walter (The Crown) as her mother with a death wish who reluctantly takes up residence at a nearby retirement home. Watch with a free trial to Showtime here.
Old (Theaters, July 23)
If The End doesn’t provide enough aging-focused entertainment, there’s also the latest film from M. Night Shyamalan. Gael García Bernal leads an ensemble cast playing vacationers who find themselves rapidly aging after spending time on a paradisiacal beach.
Snake Eyes: GI Joe Origins (Theaters, July 23)
Ever wonder what brought G.I. Joe’s man of mystery to join the team? Well, you need wonder no more thanks to this origin story starring Henry Golding. Robert Schwentke (The Divergent Series: Insurgent) directs.
Ted Lasso (Season Two Premiere, Apple TV+, July 23)
One of last year’s biggest surprises returns for a second season that finds the eponymous fish-out-of-water coach (Jason Sudeikis) facing new challenges as he tries to inspire a down-on-its-luck soccer team with his seemingly bottomless sincerity. Watch on Apple TV+ here.
Jungle Cruise (Theaters / Disney+, July 30)
The latest Disney theme park to get the feature film treatment stars Dwayne Johnson hired by a British scientist (Emily Blunt) to search for the Tree of Life. Will their journey be free of adventure? Not if a rival team and a jungle filled with wild animals has anything to say about it. (If nothing else, the movie deserves bonus points for naming its villain “Aguirre.”) Watch on Disney+ here.
The Green Knight (Theaters, July 30)
David Lowery (The Old Man and the Gun, Pete’s Dragon) draws on a 14th-century Middle English poem for inspiration in this story of an Arthurian knight (Dev Patel) who sets out on a perilous journey to meet the challenge of a threatening giant. The source material is famously mysterious, filled with thrilling action and elusive symbolism. The intriguing trailer, trailer, released over a year ago before Covid-19 forced a release date change, suggests the film will draw on its example.
Nine Days (Theaters, July 30)
Speaking of long-delayed films, this debut feature by Edson Oda wowed Sundance viewers back in 2020 with the metaphysical story of Will (Winston Duke), a being charged with deciding which unborn souls will make their way to Earth. (Shades of Soul, though presumably with fewer talking cats.) The intriguing supporting cast includes Zazie Baetz, Benedict Wong, and Tony Hale.
Stillwater (Theaters, July 30)
The latest film from Spotlight director Tom McCarthy stars Matt Damon as an oil worker who travels to Marseilles, France to help his daughter (Abigail Breslin) when she’s falsely accused of murder. But can he fight through the legal system of an unfamiliar country and years of estrangement?