This month’s selections, spread across four platforms, include a landmark document of Black music history, a crime thriller from one of America’s great directors, and an alien-invasion blockbuster just in time for Independence Day.
Summer of Soul
Any trailer that uses Gil Scott-Heron’s seminal spoken-word track “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” already has me at hello. This landmark music documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival was culled by its director—Questlove, of hip-hop standard bearers the Roots—from some 40 hours of raw footage unseen until now. While Woodstock, hosted the same year, captured the public imagination and defined a moment in history, the Harlem Cultural Festival has mostly languished in the pop consciousness. But the lineup, which spread across six free concerts over six weeks, featured a stupefyingly stellar selection of genre-crossing talent, now captured under Questlove’s curated vision, including Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight, Mahalia Jackson and BB King. What’s more, Questlove interviewed many of the still-living performers, and situates the Black music of 1969 within the social and racial troubles around it—underlining what has changed, and what hasn’t. Catch this one in theaters as well.
ON HBO MAX
No Sudden Move
Steven Soderbergh’s second movie for HBO Max in two years finds the chameleonic director in a vintage Coen Brothers mode, deftly weaving crime, humor and biting commentary into a two-hour barn-burner. It’s set in Detroit in 1955, where Don Cheadle’s weary criminal is enlisted to join underworld colleagues Benecio del Toro and Keiran Culkin in a deceptively easy theft of a document. When that simple plan naturally goes horribly awry, the small-time hoodlums are roped into a larger conspiracy, set against the backdrop of a rapidly changing and race-torn city. Soderbergh, who boasts an enviable Rolodex, has amassed another stunning ensemble, including Jon Hamm, Ray Liotta, Brendan Fraser and Matt Damon.
Available July 9
The Water Man
A fantasy grounded in empathy and grief, “The Water Man” is the directorial debut of actor David Oyelowo, who stars as the father of the precocious teenager Gunner. Gunner’s mom, played by Rosario Dawson, is ailing, but Gunner has heard folktales about a being in the forest, known as the Water Man, who can grant immortality. Joined by a local girl with a supposed inside line to the Water Man (Amiah Miller), Gunner escapes from home and plunges deep into a cinematic canopy of magical realism and infinite possibility. Alfred Molina and Maria Bello costar.
ON AMAZON PRIME
The Tomorrow War
Glamorous people are once again invited to save humanity from its existential destruction, in what appears to play out as a shoot-‘em-up, rah-rah hybrid of “Independence Day” (the timing is certainly right), “Edge of Tomorrow” and “Starship Troopers,” without the latter’s satirical subtext. When a cadre of time travelers appears in 2021 to warn humans of a global war against alien invaders some 30 years into the future, an intrepid few are called upon to visit 2051 and wipe them out. This includes Chris Pratt’s high school teacher, a beautiful scientist/love interest (Yvonne Strahovski) and—because why not?—his estranged father J.K. Simmons, far removed from “Whiplash” territory. Break out the popcorn and earplugs.