30th Jun, 2023

BBC by Nicholas Barber

1. Barbie

Somehow, one of the year’s most anticipated films is a live-action tie-in to a range of Mattel children’s dolls – and they’re not even dolls that everyone likes. “We have to acknowledge that there are a lot of people who aren’t fans of Barbie,” the film’s star and producer, Margot Robbie, told Alyssa Bailey in Vogue. “And in fact, aren’t just indifferent to Barbie. They actively hate Barbie.” Robbie’s solution was to hire Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird, Little Women) to write and direct, along with co-writer – and Gerwig’s partner – Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story, White Noise). In their irreverent comedy, Barbie and Ken (Ryan Gosling) venture beyond the perfect, pink, plastic dreamland they share with dozens of other Barbies and Kens, and find themselves in the real world, much to the annoyance of a Mattel executive played by Will Ferrell. The Lego Movie meets Enchanted, anyone?

On general release from 21 July

2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

The Teenage Mutant Turtles first appeared in 1984, in a small independent comic parodying Daredevil, the X-Men and other mainstream superheroes. Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s creations went on to have their own cartoon series and toy line, followed by six films, but the seventh film looks as if it could be the first to do the characters justice. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is an animation directed by Jeff Rowe, the co-director of The Mitchells vs The Machines; the lead voice actors are teenagers themselves; and the producer and co-writer is Seth Rogen. “As a lifelong fan… weirdly the ‘Teenage’ part of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was always the part that stuck out to me the most,” he told Perri Nemiroff at Collider. “And as someone who loves teenage movies, and who’s made a lot of teenage movies, and who literally got their start in their entire profession by writing a teenage movie [Superbad], the idea of kind of homing in on that element was really exciting to us.”

On general release from 31 July

3. They Cloned Tyrone

Juel Taylor, the co-writer of Creed II, says that his directorial debut is the kind of high-concept science-fiction comedy you might get “if The Truman Show drank a bottle of vodka”. Its three heroes, played by John Boyega, Jamie Foxx and Teyonah Parris, discover a secret laboratory beneath a convenience store where government scientists are conducting cloning experiments. But They Cloned Tyrone is a knockabout homage to 1970s blaxploitation movies, so the three of them aren’t solid citizens or crusading investigators: they’re a drug dealer, a pimp and a sex worker. “Me and my writing partner [Tony Rettenmaier] always joked about who would make the most ill-fitting detectives,” Taylor said in Empire magazine, “the worst possible candidates to be thrust into the middle of a conspiracy”.

Released on 21 July on Netflix

4. Oppenheimer

Christopher Nolan has long been fascinated by mind-boggling scientific advances, as the likes of TenetInterstellar, Inception and The Prestige demonstrate. But Oppenheimer marks the first time he has channelled that fascination into a biopic of a real person. The person is J Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy), the theoretical physicist who helped develop the first nuclear weapons. Emily Blunt co-stars as his wife, and a stellar supporting cast includes Robert Downey Jr, Matt Damon and Florence Pugh. “It’s just an incredible idea,” Nolan told Maria Shresinsky of Wired, “people doing these calculations, and looking at the relationship between theory and the real world, and deciding there’s a very small possibility they’re going to destroy the entire world. I mean, it’s literally the most dramatic moment in history.”

On general release from 21 July

5. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

In the seventh Mission: Impossible adventure, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his trusty band of globe-trotting secret agents learn about a deadly new weapon that could cause… well, never mind the plot. Mission: Impossible films aren’t really about the story, but about the chance to see Cruise perform ever more hair-raising stunts. In this case, he rides a motorbike off the edge of a cliff in Norway and freefalls 4,000ft before his parachute opens. “Obviously, you hear the idea and you get an idea of what it is in your head,” said Cruise’s co-star, Simon Pegg, who witnessed the stunt. “But it wasn’t until I got up there on the mountain that I realised just how death-defyingly awesome the whole thing was… We could be facing losing our leading man. It was genuinely a fear. But, my god, it was exciting.”

On general release from 12 July

6. My Name is Alfred Hitchcock

This is no ordinary Hitchcock documentary. It’s written and directed by Mark Cousins, the maker of The Story of Film: An Odyssey, and his approach is to examine six themes that run through the Master of Suspense’s thrillers. The boldest part, though, is that the documentary is narrated by Hitchcock himself – or so it seems: Cousins wrote a script from the director’s perspective, and impressionist Alistair McGowan read it in a voice which is uncannily close to the real thing. “Even if you’ve seen all the clips and heard many of the stories before, the new film is refreshing, even bracing, due to Cousins’ deep knowledge of his subject and the clever way he devised to allow the audience to bask anew in deep-dish Hitchcockiana,” says Todd McCarthy on Deadline. “One senses something resembling a meeting of the minds between Hitchcock and Cousins, stemming, at least in part, from both men’s obsessiveness, deep understanding of the medium and a mutual delight they take in quirks and pranks.”

Released on 21 July in the UK

7. Talk to Me

Danny and Michael Philippou are infamous for their YouTube channel, RackaRacka, but the Australian twin brothers’ excellent debut film proves that they’re accomplished writer-directors, as well. Talk to Me introduces Mia (Sophie Wilde), a young woman mourning the loss of her mother. To cheer herself up, she goes to a party where the entertainment involves holding a ceramic hand and using it to contact the spirits of the dead. The trouble is that Mia is so keen to be reunited with her mother that she keeps playing the game long after it starts letting evil ghosts into our world. “Talk to Me is a terrifically scary horror offering thanks to powerful performances, creepy creature designs, a splash of blood and gore, and practical effects that’ll blow your mind and chill your spine,” says Kristy Puchko at Mashable. “If you’re looking for some freaky frightening fun, be sure to reach out and touch this one.”

On general release from 26 July

8. The Miracle Club

One of 2023’s most popular sub-genres is the heartwarming comedy about female friends of a certain age going on a trip together. Following 80 For Brady and Book Club: The Next Chapter, the latest example is The Miracle Club, directed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan. Set in 1967, Maggie Smith and Kathy Bates star as working-class Dubliners who sing in a local talent contest, winning a pilgrimage to Lourdes in France. Also on the bus is a once-close buddy, played by Laura Linney, who has been in the US for the past 40 years. “What really enthralled me about the story is how three strong characters confront one another and then, by embracing truth, they understand that the miracle they have all been looking for is right in front of them: in the strength of their friendships and unshakeable togetherness,” said O’Sullivan. “What we have achieved together is to make an emotional movie that is truly joyous, uplifting, and aspirational.”

Released on 14 July in the US and 29 September in the UK

9. Joy Ride

Oscar-nominated for her role as a universe-jumping supervillain in Everything Everywhere All at Once, Stephanie Hsu returns to the big screen in a gross-out road-trip comedy directed and co-written by Adele Lim (the co-writer of Crazy Rich Asians). Hsu plays one of four friends on a trip to China. One of them (Ashley Park) is there on business, but after a meeting takes a disastrous turn, she sets out to find her birth mother instead. “Joy Ride is a prime example of how important representation is on screen and proves that Asian American comedians can be just as funny, raunchy, and successful as their white male counterparts,” says Marisa Mirabal at Indiewire. “Aside from the thematic elements surrounding identity and friendship, Joy Ride delivers sizzling hot comedy by embracing sex, drugs, cultural immersion, and bridging the gap between young generations and their elders.”

On general release from 6 July

10. Insidious: The Red Door

This month, there are two horror films to choose from in which malevolent spirits possess the bodies of the living. Aside from Talk to Me, there’s Insidious: The Red Door, the fifth film in James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s hit franchise. The first two Insidious films were about Josh and Renai Lambert (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne), whose young son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) made contact with a realm called The Further. After two prequels without the Lamberts, the family is back, and this time Wilson makes his directorial debut as well as playing Josh. “They went through some very, very traumatic experiences in the second movie,” he told Jim Vejvoda at IGN. “This for me started with the story of, what’s the trauma? What are they dealing with?… As long as you build on that, yeah, then we can have some crazy scares. But it starts from a very emotional perspective.”

On general release from 5 July