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All The Great Stuff Coming To Hulu In July

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July on Hulu offers an embarrassment of riches as far as familiar favorite films are concerned.  A person could consider the month well spent watching “Stand By Me,” “Beetlejuice,” “The Mask,” “Robocop,” “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” and “The Terminator.”  The more artful cinema minded would substitute such films as “Take Shelter” and “The Conversation” in this list.

So why not spend part of July adding to your viewing schedule something a bit off the beaten path?  “R100,” for example, partly involves a bondage-loving salesman regretting hiring beautiful women to give him surprise beatings.  That Hitoshi Matsumoto film doesn’t stick the landing, but some slightly less wild offerings this month do.  They include: an acclaimed documentary about the music festival unfairly overshadowed by Woodstock, Kristen Stewart as a personal assistant who’s also a spiritual medium, a mashup of the English Civil War and magic mushrooms, the story behind a fan film version of “Raiders Of The Lost Ark,” and a documentary partly involving two men fighting for the honor of claiming first bragging rights of having their wang preserved for posterity.

 

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Now Available

78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene–The shower murder sequence in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” lasted about three minutes and consisted of 78 camera setups and 52 edits.  In time it would become one of cinema’s most seminal homicide scenes.  Learn how Hitchcock put this sequence together.  And listen to such film buffs as Guillermo del Toro, Danny Elfman, and Karyn Kusama (among others) discuss why the killing of Marion Crane achieved cinematic immortality.

Dealt–This SXSW Audience Award Winner for Best Documentary offers a portrait of card technician Richard Turner.  Inspired by the James Garner series “Maverick,” Turner developed over the years card skills so dazzling that he knows the specific cards he deals each player in multiple hands of poker and blackjack.  These skills are even more remarkable once the viewer learns that Turner is blind.  However, the card technician has spent years developing workarounds to avoid coping with his blindness.  But eventually Turner’s stuck in a situation where he finally has to live with being blind.

Dear White People

Dear White People–Justin Simien’s provocative comedy follows a far from homogenous group of Black college students at an Ivy League school.  They’re bound by the challenges of navigating the “civilized” racism of the school’s white students.  The Black characters include militant in-your-face radio host Sam (Tessa Thompson), the dean of students’ son Troy (Brandon Bell), and gay outsider Lionel (Tyler James Williams).  Through these characters’ different viewpoints and experiences, some thorny questions about race relations in America get dramatized.

I, Daniel Blake–Ken Loach’s Cannes Palme d’Or winning film pissed off quite a few British public welfare system bureaucrats.  The outrage probably comes from Loach’s heavily researched and highly unflattering portrait of a system demonically dedicated to humiliating people who’ve fallen on hard times.  The titular Blake is a man pushed by the system to look for another job despite having had a heart attack that’s left him unable to work.  He befriends single mother Katie and her family.  The system moved the small family far from London and froze their benefits for “reasons.”  Now both Daniel and Katie try to retain their integrity and honesty while navigating a deliberately dehumanizing bureaucracy.

Last Days Here–Bobby LIebling had the potential to hit the big time with his heavy metal band Pentagram.  But the singer’s abrasiveness and drug addiction cost the band many opportunities for success.  Fortunately, despite Liebling’s addiction problems, Pentagram’s still well regarded by diehard metal fans.  One day, the film subject’s manager Sean Pelletier gets the singer to sign a contract saying that he’ll forfeit his prized record collection if he fails to stay sober.  Will Liebling finally get it together or has he passed the point of no return?

Open Range–Kevin Costner directs and stars in this callback to classic Westerns.  Boss (Robert Duvall) grazes his cattle on the open range.  Among his assistants in the crew is Charley (Costner), who’s trying to tame the behavior he developed as an expert killer during the Civil War.  A stop outside a town run by the powerful rancher Baxter portends trouble, as the rancher passionately hates free grazers like Boss.  Baxter has a gang of hired guns available to make his displeasure very clear.  A gunfight is in the offing, but is there a way for Boss and his men to win against Baxter’s far bigger force? 

Personal Shopper–In this Cannes sensation, 20-ish Maureen Cartwright (Kristen Stewart) serves as a personal shopper for supermodel Kyra.  Her job entails buying designer clothes or expensive jewelry for her boss.  What Kyra doesn’t know about Maureen is that the assistant is a medium able to commune with the dead.  The young medium hopes to make contact with the spirit of her twin brother, who died of a heart attack the previous year.  Yet who’s been sending Maureen the creepy texts that have popped up on her smartphone?  Director Olivier Assayas won the Cannes Best Director award for this film. 

A Field In England

Sightseers–Ben Wheatley directs this dark comedy about a camper tour of the British Isles that turns quite bloody.  The unworldly Tina asks her nerdy lover Chris to take her on a road trip to visit his favorite sites around the country.  But the duo wind up doing more than just visiting the National Tram Museum or seeing Keswick’s Pencil Museum.  On their travels, they kill annoying people ranging from a litterbug to a bride-to-be. 

Summer Of Soul–If you hate great music and/or Black people, then yes this Questlove documentary is not for you.  For everybody else, why aren’t you grabbing your recreational marijuana of choice and kicking back with this film?  The 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival delivered a summer concert series that featured jazz, gospel music, R&B, and more from such artists as Sly and the Family Stone, Mahalia Jackson, Stevie Wonder, The Staple Singers, and Nina Simone.  However, this New York City festival wound up being forgotten in favor of (the heavily white, cough cough) Woodstock Festival happening 100 miles upstate.  Now the Harlem Cultural Festival finally gets its cinematic due thanks to reminiscences by its concertgoers and performers.  But the real prize is a generous use of festival performance footage that has been unseen for literal decades.  Questlove’s film won both the Audience and Jury Awards for Best Documentary at the recent Sundance Film Festival.

July 4

Leave No Trace–Military veteran Will and his 13-year-old daughter Tom live off the grid in a forest located not far from Portland, Oregon.  Despite their best efforts to avoid being seen by the outside world, the father and daughter eventually do get spotted.  Despite being brought into Portland, should Will and Tom still stay together?   Will has a pronounced inability to live in “civilization.”  Tom’s getting curious about such things as kids her own age and the 4-H Club. 

Leave No Trace

July 9

This Way Up Season 2–It’s the return of this British comedy/drama starring Aisling Bea as Aine, a woman recovering from a “teensy nervous breakdown,” and producer Sharon Horgan (“Catastrophe”) as supportive sister Shona.  The new season sees Aine leaving rehab life behind and trying to decide whether to move beyond her working relationship with her single dad boss Richard.  Meanwhile, Shona may be engaged to Vish, but what does the kiss she steals from business partner Charlotte mean?

Grown-ish Season 4–The new season of this comedy/drama about a group of college students navigating life at the fictional Cal U begins with the gang taking a joint trip to Mexico before starting their senior year.  However, some things have changed since the S3 finale.  Aaron’s graduated college.  Zoey Johnson has decided to temporarily abandon the world of celebrity hair styling to finish her degree.  Also, Aaron and Zoey decide to give their relationship another try.  The big consequence of the Mexico trip, though, will be seeing who gets married and what happens when they get back to school.

In A World…–Lake Bell directs and stars in this comic tale set in the world of commercial voiceover work.  Underachieving Carol (Bell) longs to follow her legendary voiceover artist father Sam Sotto into the world of professional voiceovers.  However, the very male-dominated voiceover field makes Carol’s realization of this dream difficult.  Sam’s continual discouragement of Carol’s attempts to break in definitely don’t help.  But when a “Hunger Games”-like film series needs voiceover talent, Carol’s hard work lands her a front-runner spot for the gig.  The furious Sam then decides to compete with his daughter for the job.

July 15

20,000 Days On Earth

20,000 Days On Earth–In this fictionalized documentary, iconic rocker Nick Cave takes stock of his life after passing the titular milestone.  So the film follows a heightened version of the Bad Seeds frontman on a supposed day in his life.  This day includes a therapy session, a live concert, and in-car conversations with actor Ray Winstone and singer Kylie Minogue.

The Act Of Killing–What’s the connection between Hollywood style musicals and a 1965 massacre campaign that claimed the lives of over 1 million Indonesians?  Director Joshua Oppenheimer answers that question by focusing on subjects Anwar Congo and his friends.  These small town gangsters got a “promotion” thanks to the 1965 Indonesian military coup d’etat.  The military made these criminals death squad leaders tasked with killing “Communists,” ethnic Chinese, and intellectuals.  Despite the many killings they performed, none of these death squad leaders were ever punished for their crimes.  Oppenheimer invites Congo and his friends to make Hollywood-style films dramatizing their murders, and the results will be extremely disturbing. 

A Field In England–Director Ben Wheatley delivers a spectacular bit of cinematic mind-mangling with this mix of historical drama and 1960s psychedelia.  It’s 1648, and the English Civil War is raging.  During a battle, the scholar Whitehead, the scavenger Jacob, and the recruit Friend decide to desert the fighting.  Cutler, another deserter, leads the trio to a field encircled by magic mushrooms.  It’s a trap, as the trio becomes the prisoners of the would-be magician O’Neil.  For the craven Whitehead to stand up to O’Neil, he’ll need to power up on ‘shrooms.

American Horror Stories–This spinoff from Ryan Murphy’s “American Horror Story” series features stand-alone stories looking into horror myths, legends, and lore.  Appearing in this series are such familiar AHS staples as the Rubber Woman and the Murder House.  In addition to some re-visits to old “American Horror Story” storylines, expect to see such AHS series stars as Sarah Paulson, Matt Bomer, and Taissa Farmiga among others to be involved either in front of or behind the camera.

The Congress–Director Ari Folman (“Waltz With Bashir”) mixes together live-action and animation in this adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s The Futurological Congress.  Actress Robin Wright plays a heightened version of herself.  Wright’s trying to resist movie studio Mirimount’s pressure to allow them to scan and use her likeness in any project they want for the next 20 years.  But her career’s in the toilet, and affording medical care for her son has started becoming difficult.  It’s when Wright gets invited to the restricted animated zone of the Futurist Congress that things truly start going loony.

The Final Member–Need something real-life and weird to spice up your summer?  “Siggi” Hjartarson wanted to build a complete collection of penises from every mammalian species.  What began as a joke became a 40-year project that has resulted in the Icelandic Phallological Museum.  Now the only dong Hajartarson hasn’t acquired is one from a human male.  However, trouble erupts when two different men vie for the honor of being the first to bestow on Hajartarson’s museum their huge endowment. 

The Final Member

Men & Chicken–Try this darkly comic family dysfunction/mad scientist story directed by Anders Thomas Jensen.  Gabriel (David Dencik) and Elias (Mads Mikkelsen) are brothers estranged by their constant propensity for bickering.  When the brothers learn at their father’s funeral that they have a trio of half-brothers living on the very isolated Oak Island, they travel there to meet them.  It turns out the previously unknown siblings live in a dilapidated sanitarium with lots of chickens, ducks, and goats…and their “household” follows some really strange rules.   

Pieta–Kim Ki-Duk’s unusual crime film begins with anti-hero Lee Kang-do on the job.  He may be a “loan collector,” but more frequently he cripples the debtors who can’t pay him back.  Into Kang-do’s life comes a somber woman claiming to be the man’s long-missing mother.  She persists in staying by his side despite his attempts to drive her away, whether it’s “accidentally” losing her or repeatedly trying to physically humiliate her.  Eventually, Kang-do does form a bond with his returned mother and starts to emotionally warm up…which is when he’s finally forced to realize what he’s made of his life.

Raiders! The Story Of The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made–When Mississippi teens Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala, and Jayson Lamb were 11, they were so dazzled by the Steven Spielberg adventure film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” that they decided to do a shot-for-shot remake of Spielberg’s film.  After seven summers of work, the film remained uncompleted thanks to one crucial missing scene and the boys’ mutual friendship having burnt to the ground.  Fast forward a few decades later.  Well-received festival screenings of the still uncompleted “Raiders Of The Lost Ark: The Adaptation” lead director Eli Roth, Ain’t It Cool News founder Harry Knowles, and Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League to find the now adult trio behind this adaptation.  This documentary tells the story of how that fan film came to be as well as Strompolos and Zala’s efforts to finally finish their homage.

July 16

Mc Cartney 3, 2, 1–For decades, singer-songwriter Paul McCartney has created culture-defining music.  Now in this docuseries, he sits down with producer Rick Rubin to talk about the entirety of his career.  This means McCartney will talk about his time with The Beatles, his fronting the band Wings, and his own solo career work.  In addition, the stories behind some of McCartney’s most well-known songs will also be discussed.

July 26

The Artist–Michel Hazanavicius’ ode to 1920s silent film was the first nearly silent film in decades to win an Oscar.  George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a Hollywood silent film star (and egotistical ham) who uses his pull to help kickstart the film career of Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo).  Eventually, Miller becomes a star in her own right.  But the arrival of the talkies sets off a series of events which cumulatively cause Valentin’s career to take a serious downturn.  Can anything help Valentin regain his mojo? 

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Peter Wong

Peter Wong

I've been reviewing films for quite a few years now, principally for the online publication Beyond Chron. My search for unique cinematic experiences and genre dips have taken me everywhere from old S.F. Chinatown movie theaters showing first-run Jackie Chan movies to the chilly slopes of Park City. Movies having cat pron instantly ping my radar.

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