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Monday, July 1, 2013

Silver Screen Surprises Coming in July

Behind the Fireworks: This Month's More Mature Movies

By Chris Sabga

Are you looking forward to Grown Ups 2? Me neither.

Here are some of the more, ahem, grown-up options that you might otherwise overlook in the midst of the hot summer blockbuster season. As always, many of these will be limited releases, which may make tracking them down a chore fun treasure hunt.

The Way, Way Back (July 5th): Steve Carell plays a bullying jerk and Sam Rockwell is a good guy who mentors a lonely young teenager over the course of a summer. In any other movie, it would be the other way around. It's a different type of role for both actors, and that's always fascinating to see. Rockwell told Entertainment Weekly that this coming-of-age tale set in the 1980s is a mix of "Ordinary People" and "Meatballs" with a dash of "The Bad News Bears" and "Bustin' Loose." Sign me up!

Absence (July 5th): The "found footage" gimmick is beyond stale at this point, but a woman whose pregnancy disappears – well, that's a pretty intriguing hook. The end result – quality-wise – is anyone's guess, but the potential is certainly there.

Pacific Rim (July 12th): Is it cheating to list a big budget movie about giant robots doing battle in a list of potential Silver Screen Surprises for the summer? Maybe if Tom Cruise was still set to star in it, but Charlie Hunnam and Idris Elba aren't exactly household names in the U.S. As always with this type of concept, it will either be fantastic fun or a complete wreck. With Guillermo del Toro ("Pan's Labryinth") in the director's chair, it's easy to get excited about the potential of "Pacific Rim."

Fruitvale Station (July 12th): Set on the final day of 2008, this film is based on the true story of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old African-American from the San Francisco Bay Area whose encounter with police officers at a BART subway station made headline news. This is said to be a star-making role for young Michael B. Jordan. Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer ("The Help") is also in the cast.

Terms and Conditions May Apply (July 12th): Whenever we sign up for a website, how many of us blindly click "I Agree" without reading the lengthy and labyrinthine list of terms and conditions? Guilty as charged! Of course, that's exactly what these companies are banking on – for all of us to ignore the "fine print" and blindly consent to having our information shared and privacy violated. That's the concept behind this new documentary, which exposes the practice and will undoubtedly increase our paranoia in the process. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and controversial author Orson Scott Card and are among the names featured. 

Killing Season (July 12th): Stardom is a fickle thing. Ten years ago, a movie co-starring John Travolta and Robert De Niro would have been a summer event. Now it's a limited release. Is this actually any good? Travolta's goofy goatee casts some doubts, and he plays a Serbian. Oh boy! But I have to admit, I'm insanely curious.

The Conjuring (July 19th): The idea of yet another "paranormal" movie quite frankly bores me, so why is this one here? Because it's about a pair of real-life "ghostbusters" from the '70s – played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga – and there's no one better at handling this type of material than director James Wan ("Saw" and "Insidious"). Ron Livingston ("Office Space") also stars.

Only God Forgives (July 19th): Mercilessly booed at the Cannes Film Festival, the reunion between "Drive" star Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn has toxic buzz. That only makes me all the more curious. After all, the legendary "Taxi Driver" received a similarly chilly reaction at Cannes too, so what do they really know? Then again, Gosling is said to have only 17 lines of dialogue.

R.I.P.D. (July 19th): Even though this may not technically be considered a hidden gem, it scores points with me for originality – and it's facing stiff competition that week from "Turbo," "Red 2," and "The Conjuring." In "R.I.P.D.," Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds play cops who have to work together. If that sounds like another typical formula flick, consider this: they're from different centuries. That concept alone is enough to sell me on the movie. Do I really need to say anything else? Nope, so I won't!

Ways to Live Forever (July 19th): Just reading about it will make you cry. A 12-year-old boy wants to solve some of the mysteries of life: UFOs, ghosts, death, and – of course – girls. In other words, a typical kid – except, he has Leukemia. Where are the damn tissues?

The To Do List (July 26th): A stuffy valedictorian wants to let loose before college and makes a list of goals – sexual and otherwise – to liven up her image and experience what she missed out on in high school. All of the "teens" are played by adults, which was supposedly done on purpose for comedic effect. It remains to be seen how well that will work (I have my doubts, even if it "Beverly Hills 90210" did manage to get away with it). But with an early '90s setting and a cast that includes Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Donald Glover, and Andy Samberg, there's certainly no shortage of funny people for star Aubrey Plaza to play off of. Johnny Simmons, Rachel Bilson, Connie Britton, and Clark Gregg are among the other familiar names in the lineup.

Blockbusters: The Lone Ranger (July 3rd), Despicable Me 2 (3rd), Grown Ups 2 (July 12th), Turbo (July 17th), Red 2 (July 19th), The Wolverine (July 26th), The Smurfs 2 (July 31st)

There are few worse moviegoing experiences than watching a group of friends laugh hysterically while you sit there in a dark theater wondering what the hell is so funny. That was "Grown Ups" for me.  It wasn't a total loss though. My ticket, food, and drinks were bought for me, and I didn't have to do the driving! When those are the best things I can come up with about something I've seen, it goes without saying that I won't be turning up for the sequel. I love a good dumb comedy as much as the next person, but it actually has to make me laugh. I don't think that's too much to ask!

Out of this group, I'm most interested in "The Wolverine." I've somehow seen all of the others, despite having very little interest in the X-Men. I even enjoyed Jackman's previous solo outing as Wolverine ("X-Men: Origins"), even though its clumsy shifts in tone (it constantly flip-flopped from goofy silliness to serious drama) made for a jarring, inconsistent experience.

Which ones are you looking forward to? Comment below or discuss it on Facebook or Twitter.

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