KEEP AN EYE OUT
Christopher Nolan’s atomic biopic, an Afrofuturist Disney show, and the Durban Film Fest
Here is our non-exhaustive list of films and series to look out for in July on Netflix, Showmax, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, Disney+ and in cinemas.
Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire: 5 July on Disney+
Considering the global success of Black Panther, it’s surprising that Afrofuturism hasn’t had its moment yet in animation — this may be it. It’s a 10-part Disney anthology of stylised animated sci-fi films from creators across Africa, inspired by various cultures of the continent. Half of the episodes are created by South Africans, the others by creators from Egypt, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Uganda. With Peter Ramsey, Oscar-winning director of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, serving as one of the executive producers, it has the potential to become a new benchmark for a genre that has been arguably untapped in this medium.
Foundation Season 2: 14 July on Apple TV+
Based on one of the most influential pieces of sci-fi literature by Isaac Asimov, it was finally adapted for the screen in 2021. With Apple’s lavish budget, it’s opulent and epic, but with the insistence on broad appeal, it lacks the intellect of the saga on which it is based. The story follows the lives of four crucial people transcending space and time as they navigate calamities and political shifts that will define the future of humanity.
They Cloned Tyrone: 21 July on Netflix
Director Juel Taylor describes his black, off-the-wall, era-mixing comedy thriller by saying, ‘If The Truman Show drank a bottle of vodka’. John Boyega, Teyonah Parris and Jamie Foxx, play a drug dealer, a sex worker, and a pimp, respectively, all trying to get to the bottom of a sci-fi government conspiracy.
Unknown: Killer Robots 10 July on Netflix
Unknown is a four-part docuseries event that explores mysteries of our world, with a feature-length documentary premiering each week in July. The first documentary, The Lost Pyramid, is already streaming, and this week’s, Killer Robots, focuses on the acceleration of the use of artificial intelligence in warfare. The film follows the soldiers and scientists racing to build these technologies, and the activists on a mission to expose their dangerous potential. The films still to come are Cave Of Bones, in which Lee Berger attempts to persuade us that the remains he’s found at The Cradle of Humankind are indeed humans, and Cosmic Time Machine, which focuses on Nasa’s construction of the James Webb Space Telescope.
The Secrets of Hillsong: 12 July on Disney+
In 2016, Carl Lentz, the heartthrob celebrity pastor of Hillsong Church baptised Justin Bieber in NBA player Tyson Chandler’s bathtub. The megachurch was a pinnacle of religious consumerism. A few years later, Lentz’s admission of having had “extramarital affairs” saw the entire organisation crumble to pieces. Based on Vanity Fair’s reporting of the scandal, this four-part documentary series empathetically examines the outcome of this fall from grace and what it’s meant for Lentz, and the musicians, athletes, actors, and hundreds of thousands of other congregants who were part of the flock.
Durban International Film Festival: 20 – 30 July
This year, South Africa’s longest-running film festival is taking place in Durban, coupled with online screenings that will be geo-blocked and limited to audiences in South Africa. The line-up includes films produced by filmmakers from 15 countries, which will compete for R250,000 in awards across various categories. The film that wins the Best Documentary Award will qualify for the Oscars.
True stories with a few creative liberties
Oppenheimer: 21 July 2023 in cinemas
Christopher Nolan directs a grand-scale biopic about the reluctant “father of the atomic bomb”, American theoretical physicist J Robert Oppenheimer played by Nolan’s frequent collaborator, Cillian Murphy. The clout that Nolan built from the Batman films never wore off — his films are grand-scale events that attract not only a massive audience but all-star actors. Oppenheimer’s supporting cast includes Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jnr, Matt Damon, Rami Malek, Florence Pugh, Kenneth Branagh, and more.
Muru: 24 July on Showmax
Inspired by actual events, a local Police Sergeant ‘Taffy’ Tāwharau is forced to decide whether to prioritise either his badge or his people when the New Zealand government orders an armed raid on Taffy’s remote Urewera community on a school day in the name of anti-terrorism. The tension between the perspectives of both these worlds which he has access to is far more interesting than a good vs bad story of outright police oppression would have been.
The Beanie Bubble: 28 July on Apple TV+
A comedic biopic starring Zach Galifianakis as Ty Warner, a frustrated toy salesman who collaborated with three women to turn their plushie dolls into the biggest toy craze in history. The rarer of these extremely popular collectable 90s toys are still worth thousands of dollars — this is the witty, cynical, character-driven story of why, and the people who figured out how to make that happen.
To keep your heart rate up
Black Snow: 7 July on Prime Video
Fans of the popular historical TV drama, Vikings, might find it amusing to watch Australian actor Travis Fimmel performing with an Ozzy accent, but there’s little to laugh about in this character-driven North Queensland-based mystery drama. The discovery of a time capsule in a small Australian town unearths information about an unsolved murder of a student 25 years ago. The narrative is split between 1994, from the perspective of the victim, and 2019, where a dead-eyed detective (Fimmel) is digging for answers. The show had its Australian release on New Year’s Eve – this is its international debut.
The Beta Test: 17 July on Showmax
A black comedy-thriller about a Hollywood agent whose life unravels when he accepts an anonymous invitation to a no-strings-attached sexual encounter weeks before his wedding. Jim Cummings (Thunder Road, The Wolf of Wolf Hollow) co-directs, co-writes and co-stars — a hateable and yet relatable character whose existence satirises lamentable Hollywood.
Paradise: 27 July on Netflix
A German series set in the not-too-distant future about a biotech start-up that enables people to transfer years of life from one person to another, opening up a squirming can of ethical worms and irreparably transforming the economy. A happy couple finds themselves in serious debt and one of them is forced to “pay” 40 years of her life. Her partner does everything in his power to fix the shards of their future, but it can never be as it was before.
This is not the first time this premise has birthed a movie. In 2011, Justin Timberlake starred in a plot-hole-ridden action flick called In Time that gave it a go. Maybe the reason Black Mirror hasn’t tackled it yet is that it’s simply too far-fetched.
Don’t Worry Darling: 31 July on Showmax
Florence Pugh and Harry Styles star as a picture-perfect 1950s couple living in an idyllic company town. Pugh’s character begins to pick up on strange inconsistencies in their isolated utopia and suspects that her husband’s company is concealing darker truths about their reality. This psychological thriller, directed by actress Olivia Wilde had a rough time with critics — it’s exciting, erotic, and visually glamourous, but the whirlwind of twists and exposition dumps as the plot reaches a climax cheapens the premise and makes it feel derivative of more memorable films. Ignore what it says on the packaging — watch this for a good time, not a deep think. DM
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