Here's a look at 10 titles opening in July, from blockbusters to artier titles and everything in between.
A Hijacking: Somali pirates hijack a Danish cargo ship and contact the government in Copenhagen, threatening to kill crew members if its monetary demands are not met.
Why see it: I’ve heard tons of positive buzz about this thriller, which looks like it hews closer to the Hollywood action-film paradigm than the art-house gloom of many Danish imports. I happen to enjoy art-house gloom, but a heart-stopping marine thriller along the lines of “Dead Calm” is always welcome.
Why skip it: Trailers have a way of dumbing down their own stories to sell them to as mass an audience as possible, and the tense exchanges between the suited authorities back home, the helpless on-board victims and the anonymous pirates seem like Action Cinema 101; hopefully the full product reveals a bit more depth.
Midnight’s Children: Salman Rushdie’s 1981 novel becomes a movie epic about India’s tumultuous independence from Britain, filtered through the stories of two children born within moments of the transition.
Why see it: Expect this film to be, at least, visually stunning, with the sensitive hand of acclaimed Indian director Deepa Mehta (“Fire,” “Water”) guiding the action, which runs the emotional gamut while avoiding typical summer-movie sensationalism.
Why skip it: Rushdie may be one of those writers whose words should never leave the page. It’s difficult even for an accomplished director like Mehta to translate all the substance and nuance of a Rushie tome into a manageable film length, and early reviews of “Midnight’s Children” have been decidedly mixed.
Pacific Rim: Talks of a sequel are already underway for this gazillion-dollar sci-fi spectacle, in which soldiers pilot giant robots against a newly risen, subterranean alien race.
Why see it: This should be the No. 1 water-cooler movie for some time, and unlike most summer-movie escapisms, it has a visionary director behind it: Guillermo Del Toro, the mind behind “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Hellboy.” Expect the visual effects to be second-to-none.
Why skip it: It took a while for me to realize this wasn’t the latest “Transformers” movie. I’d hate the think Del Toro was slipping into Michael Bay-style audience-pandering.
Grown Ups 2: Another round of juvenilia, recasting Adam Sandler, Kevin James, David Spade and Chris Rock as former high-school buddies reunited during mid-life crises.
Why see it: I suppose if the apocalypse really did strike, and the only way to prevent eternal damnation was to sit through the 101 minutes of “Grown-Ups 2,” I would consider seeing this, but I’d have to think about it a while; when films like this open on 1,000 screens, it’s pretty clear that we’re already doomed.
Why skip it: Has there been a less apropos title for a film than this apparent franchise? What grown-ups does this movie actually appeal to? It’s “Return of the Secaucus 7” for the pubescent male demographic. I think I lost brain cells just sitting through the trailer, but the sad part is, this will make a lot of money.
Fruitvale Station: The true story of a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who rode a fateful subway on the last night of 2008, capping off a dramatic day in which friends and enemies crossed his path.
Why see it: This has the potential to be the best film of the summer, having already snagged two major awards at Sundance earlier this year. It looks dramatic, moving and enraging, and since I already have a penchant for films set in a single day (“Last Night,” “Before Midnight”), I’m there with bells on.
Why skip it: Don’t skip it! I’ll eat my hat if this film sucks.
Augustine: This French import from a debut director explores the real-life relationship between pioneering French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot and a 19-year-old housemaid named Augustine, whose epileptic fits become fodder for the doctor’s latest study of “hysteria.”
Why see it: I’ve already seen it, and for the most part, this psychosexual drama really works, pulsating with feminist rage. As she is reduced, at various times, to puppet and pet, international singer Soko plays Augustine with deep conviction and a lack of self-consciousness, and Vincent London ably plays a doctor torn between a genuine desire to help troubled women and his own misguided lust.
Why skip it: The film’s thematic territory is similar to “A Dangerous Method,” that other mental-health bio-story from recent times, and while I found this one more engaging, it certainly drags in the middle. It’s not the shortest two hours I’ve ever experienced.
Red 2: Those old guys just can’t stay retired: onetime black-ops agent Bruce Willis reunites with John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker and Helen Mirren to recover a stolen portable nuclear device. Much wisecracking will ensue.
Why see it: If you liked the first one, this one looks even redder. Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Asian star Byung-hun Lee and the great character actor David Thewlis are now part of the stellar ensemble, and with a genuine comedy director behind the project (Dean Parisot), it definitely won’t take itself too seriously.
Why skip it: Then again, if you didn’t like the first one, you’ll probably like this one even less. The opening shots of the trailer depict Willis and Malkovich reuniting while pushing carts in a Costco; frankly, I’d rather watch them spend a couple of hours there than blowing a bunch of stuff up.
R.I.P.D.: Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds play members of the elite “Rest in Peace Division” of undead cops dispatched to save the living from zombie infiltrators.
Why see it: In something of a ballsy move, director Robert Schwentke, who gave us the original “Red,” goes head-to-head against the franchise he helped create with another action-comedy co-starring Mary-Louise Parker. This one, I must say, looks like a lot more fun, in the ridiculous, possibly even iconic “Men in Black” mold.
Why skip it: Ryan Reynolds and “good movie” are rarely used in the same sentence together. Hopefully his unrepentant annoyingness won’t plummet what looks like a subversively funny take on what has already been a zombie-filled summer.
The Wolverine: The adamantium-clawed bruiser returns for another Marvel Comics blockbuster, in which he wrestles with own immortality in modern-day Japan.
Why see it: The Wolverine series, both in print and onscreen, has always been darker and thornier than the rest of his X-Men kin, and this moody actioner looks to follow this trend. With any luck, it will even have a few things to say about our culture’s desire to live forever in a finite universe.
Why skip it: Those who may be comic book-fatigued this summer won’t have this one on the top of their list, but for a seriously grim popcorn thriller, this looks like a heavy and emotional antidote to the lightness of “Red 2,” “R.I.P.D.” and even “Pacific Rim.” My hopes are high.
The Hunt: In the summer’s second Danish import, a lonely teacher whose luck may be changing is about to become the victim of a small lie that blossoms into a life-shattering quagmire.
Why see it: The trailer is mysteriously vague as to the nature of the “lie,” which only makes this film even more alluring. Suffice it to say that some sort of alleged molestation of a child is at the center of the drama, a compelling subject for a serious art film. With talented director Thomas Vinterberg (“The Celebration”) behind it, this has the potential to be a gripping story about the damaging effects of secrets, lies and rumors.
Why skip it: Only if you’re opposed to a lot of reading. Vinterberg makes talky foreign films for a certain crowd, but if you like this kind of thing, this will be a must-attend movie this summer.