Perhaps due to climate change, or maybe just the last two Avengers movies, summer season at the cinema has been kicking off earlier than usual in recent years. After Endgame decimated all competition back at the end of April, a decidedly mixed bag of tentpole releases have followed over the past few months. While the likes of Rocketman and Aladdin surprised with their fresh takes on old material, there have been a number of high-profile misfires – namely Godzilla: King of the Monsters, X-Men: Dark Phoenix and Men in Black International – that have seemed to regurgitate rather than reimagine. Now we’re reaching the peak of summer, preparing to jet off and lather on the Factor 50, the on-screen trend of the dead being raised anew – in more ways than one – doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Here are the top picks for July…
THE BLOCKBUSTER: The Lion King, dir. Jon Favreau
Release Date: 19th July
Starring: Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, James Earl Jones
There may be a new Spider-Man movie coming out this month, but it’s hard to look past The Lion King as the biggest film of the summer – if not the year. The beloved 1994 original was the highest-grossing release of that year and sits proudly as the crown jewel of the Disney Renaissance period. In 2016 Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book appeared to usher in proper this phase of Disney ‘live-action remakes’, arguably the first to hit a strong note with both audiences and critics after the divisive experiments Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent and Cinderella. Favreau has been reinstated as director for this similarly toothy tale, though it’d be disingenuous to label either of his Disney remakes as live-action. From the trailer alone, the level of detail in the photorealistic animation really makes an impression. It’s absolutely stunning. With such a reliable pair of hands at the helm of a proven IP, The Lion King has the perfect formula to be a box-office juggernaut. All that without mentioning the presence of Donald Glover and Beyoncé in the voice cast, the two supreme musical talents lending their voices to the iconic songs of Elton John and Tim Rice. We might groan every other time one of these remakes comes around, but this one feels essential.
THE ALTERNATIVE: The Dead Don’t Die, dir. Jim Jarmusch
Release Date: 12th July
Starring: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi
Mixed reviews coming out of Cannes do little to dampen the excitement surrounding indie darling Jim Jarmusch’s latest genre flick. Reteaming with former stars Bill Murray (Broken Flowers), Adam Driver (Paterson) and Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive), as well as frequent rock star collaborators Iggy Pop and Tom Waits, to form “The Greatest Zombie Cast Ever Disassembled” – there’s a hell of a lot of eclectic talent involved in this particular zom com. On the surface, The Dead Don’t Die doesn’t appear to be trying to revolutionise or dramatically subvert the conventions of the zombie genre. Put simply: the dead are taking over the small rural town of Centerville, the only thing standing in their way being police officers Robertson (Murray), Peterson (Driver) and Morrison (Chloë Sevigny). Oh, and Swinton as a katana-wielding Scotswoman. After offering his own idiosyncratic take on vampires with Only Lovers Left Alive, Jarmusch is now applying his droll sensibilities to a different kind of classic monster. With a cast full to the brim of game comic personalities, expect deadpan laughs aplenty. It certainly promises to be a curious addition to the zombie canon.
EDITOR’S PICK: Midsommar, dir. Ari Aster
Release Date: 5th July
Starring: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Will Poulter
With one shocking thud, writer-director Ari Aster announced himself as a potential horror master. If you’ve seen 2018’s Hereditary, you’ll know the scene. That unnerving movie, and especially that scene, lingers long in the deep, dark depths of memory. The tension Aster managed to create throughout is palpable, unrelenting, making Hereditary the chiller on everyone’s lips in the same year that saw both A Quiet Place and the Suspiria remake hit our screens. Aster hasn’t taken long to follow it up, with horror aficionados eagerly anticipating the aptly titled Midsommar (mid-summer, geddit?). Ironically, what Hereditary was lightly criticised for – an ending that slipped into cliché cultish madness – is at the centre of the narrative here. Rising star Florence Pugh plays Dani, a young woman in a dying relationship with Jack Reynor’s Christian. Christian and his buddies are planning on attending a mysterious Swedish festival, only held once every 90 years, and invite Dani along for the ride. Soon enough, the locals start enacting some violent pagan rituals and things get bloody. That’s about all we know, and that’s all we need to know. Twists are a guarantee, but what is really exciting is the prospect of Aster exploring relationship struggles in the same deformed, thoroughly affecting manner that he tackled familial grief in Hereditary. As an added bonus, it also stars William Jackson Harper – aka Chidi from The Good Place. There’ll be fun for all the family!