IMDb Picks: July 2014

by IMDb-Editors | created - 23 May 2014 | updated - 27 Jun 2014 | Public

IMDb's editors share the movies and TV shows they recommend for July 2014.

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1. Drunk History (2013– )

TV-14 | 22 min | Comedy, History

Historical reenactments by A-list talent are presented by inebriated storytellers.

Stars: Derek Waters, Bennie Arthur, Craig Cackowski, Maria Blasucci

Votes: 8,333

Absolutely my favorite TV surprise of the past year, "Drunk History" jumped from web show to Comedy Central series last July, and after the first episode won me over as essential summer viewing.

The title tells you most of what you need to know: the show visits a different city each episode, a personality is plied with liquor of their choosing, and then attempts to recount a story from the history of the city. As we listen to this tipsy narrator relate their bit of history, we see a word-for-word re-enactment of that story brought to life by comedians, actors, musicians of every sort - last season's highlights included Will Forte and Adam Scott as Edwin and John Wilkes Booth, Aubrey Plaza as Sacagawea, Owen and Luke Wilson as the Kellogg brothers and Lisa Bonet as Mary Ellen Pleasant. This is not Deep Thought Theater. It is simply ridiculous, endless giggle-inducing viewing perfect for a summer evening. I cannot wait to see which cities they visit this season, and who the creators have wrangled to act out these gleefully wobbly takes on history. --Heather Campbell

Season Premiere: 10pm Tuesday, July 1st on Comedy Central.

2. Life Itself (2014)

R | 121 min | Documentary, Biography

87 Metascore

The life and career of the renowned film critic and social commentator, Roger Ebert.

Director: Steve James | Stars: Roger Ebert, Chaz Ebert, Gene Siskel, Martin Scorsese

Votes: 14,449 | Gross: $0.81M

It's a bittersweet role reversal, this chance to see the life of film critic Roger Ebert on the big screen, his work discussed by the filmmakers whose work he spent a lifetime watching and examining - one that shouldn't be missed by anyone who finds film an indispensable part of their own life. I'm especially pleased that Steve James directs this documentary, in light of Mr. Ebert having been a passionate, vocal champion of Mr. James' seminal documentary Hoop Dreams, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. -- Heather Campbell

Life Itself opens in theaters July 4th.

3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

PG-13 | 130 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

79 Metascore

A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier.

Director: Matt Reeves | Stars: Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Andy Serkis, Kodi Smit-McPhee

Votes: 400,931 | Gross: $208.55M

2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was so good that it managed to revive a franchise considered dead following Tim Burton’s ill-advised remake. For sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Andy Serkis is once again lending his motion-capture skills to bring the ape Caesar to life. Meanwhile, Jason Clarke is replacing James Franco as the human lead.

Trailers for the movie set up a post-apocalyptic world in which apes and humans have established an uneasy truce. Of course, there’s no way that lasts, and the prospect of seeing apes (on horses, with machine guns) facing off against a ragtag group of human survivors is an enticing one indeed. Here’s hoping that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes lives up to – or even exceeds – the high bar set by its predecessor. -- Ray Subers

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opens in theaters July 11.

4. Boyhood (I) (2014)

R | 165 min | Drama

100 Metascore

The life of Mason, from early childhood to his arrival at college.

Director: Richard Linklater | Stars: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Elijah Smith

Votes: 325,223 | Gross: $25.38M

It may have cost a tiny fraction of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Transformers: Age of Extinction, but for my money the most ambitious movie of the summer is Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. The movie follows a boy from the age of 5 to 18; in order to achieve this, Linklater shot the movie with the same actors over more than a decade. The result is a 166-minute movie that received phenomenal reviews out of the Sundance Film Festival (it currently has a 93 rating on Metacritic).

Could this wind up being a box-office hit? Probably not – Linklater’s Before Midnight barely made it past $8 million last year despite being part of a well-liked "franchise." Still, those who do seek it out seem to be in for something truly special that will stand the test of time in ways that many of the bigger movies won't. -- Ray Subers

Boyhood opens in limited release July 11, and expands to more theaters July 18.

5. The Strain (2014–2017)

TV-MA | 43 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller

A mysterious viral outbreak with hallmarks of an ancient and evil strain of vampirism ravages the city of New York.

Stars: Corey Stoll, David Bradley, Kevin Durand, Jonathan Hyde

Votes: 73,324

When you think about it, vampires have much more in common with parasites than beautiful people. They drink blood and perpetuate their kind by infecting suitable hosts. They are, in a word, disgusting.

Guillermo del Toro takes that idea one step further with this series, which is based on books he co-wrote with Chuck Hogan. Yes, they're unappealing, but they also have a plan...unlike another type of undead TV viewers happen to be obsessed with.

FX has high hopes for "The Strain", which is the first original program that the channel has scheduled in the highly competitive Sunday primetime slot. Clearly the hope is that FX can drink in the kind of ratings AMC is getting with "The Walking Dead". It just might.

Helping del Toro to realize his vision on FX is executive producer Carlton Cuse ("Lost ","Bates Motel"), and some viewers may joke about the fact that the horror kicks off in a plane, of all places. But it doesn't take long for any comparisons to Cuse's previous work to fall away, and for del Toro's visceral style to take hold.

Granted, one episode is never enough to predict whether a series will become a hit, but the pilot achieved just the right balance of sinister and creepy to sink its teeth in and leave me wanting more. --Melanie McFarland

Series Premiere: 10pm Sunday, July 13 on FX.

6. Masters of Sex (2013–2016)

TV-MA | 60 min | Drama, Romance

Drama about the pioneers of the science of human sexuality whose research touched off the sexual revolution.

Stars: Michael Sheen, Lizzy Caplan, Caitlin FitzGerald, Teddy Sears

Votes: 33,608

For me, this show is all about the secondary characters. The clinical story of Masters and Johnson's landmark sexual research is definitely interesting, and undoubtedly draws the audience to tune in; that said, it's the careful development of the wide variety of people that orbit around William and Virginia's research (and relationship) that makes this series compelling. Watching how work, science, romance, love (and the lack of it) affected characters like Margaret Scully (Allison Janney's award-worthy turn as the provost's long-unfulfilled wife) and Dr. Lillian DePaul (Julianne Nicholson as a stringent researcher whose work becomes terribly personal) makes this must-watch television. -- Heather Campbell

Season Premiere: 10pm Sunday, July 13th on Showtime.

7. I Origins (2014)

R | 106 min | Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi

57 Metascore

A molecular biologist and his laboratory partner uncover evidence that may fundamentally change society as we know it.

Director: Mike Cahill | Stars: Michael Pitt, Steven Yeun, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Brit Marling

Votes: 109,778 | Gross: $0.33M

Mike Cahill’s Another Earth is one of my all-time favorite films so I was psyched to check out his new film at Sundance. The film got mixed reviews at the festival but I was really moved by this modern sci-fi approach to the science-versus-faith debate. I am looking forward to seeing this film again on the big screen. -- Michelle Nelson

I Origins opens in limited release July 18.

8. Lucy (I) (2014)

R | 89 min | Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller

61 Metascore

A woman, accidentally caught in a dark deal, turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.

Director: Luc Besson | Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi, Amr Waked

Votes: 422,649 | Gross: $126.66M

Luc Besson is known for his kick-ass female characters in The Professional, Le Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element, and Colombiana, and it’s safe to say we’ll be adding Lucy to that list. The concept reminds me of a cross of Nikita meets "Chuck", and I think Scarlett Johansson will be excellent as this seemingly normal woman who becomes superhuman.

Added bonus, the film also stars the always excellent Morgan Freeman and Analeigh Tipton, who you may remember from "America’s Next Top Model". I was rooting for her when was on "Top Model", so it’s really nice to see her doing so well in her acting career. -- Michelle Nelson

Lucy opens in theaters July 25.

9. Very Good Girls (2013)

R | 91 min | Drama, Romance

35 Metascore

Two New York City girls make a pact to lose their virginity during their first summer out of high school. When they both fall for the same street artist, the friends find their connection tested for the first time.

Director: Naomi Foner | Stars: Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Olsen, Sterling Jones, Lenny Platt

Votes: 13,901

When I first read the synopsis for Very Good Girls, I had zero interest in seeing the film. Haven't we had enough films about teenage girls and boys vowing to lose their virginity before they go to college? But after learning this is the directorial debut for Naomi Foner (screenwriter of Losing Isaiah and Running on Empty, as well as the mother of Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal) I was intrigued. The film also has boasts a strong cast, including Elizabeth Olsen and Dakota Fanning, as well as Peter Saarsgard and Richard Dreyfuss. I will definitely check this one out. -- Michelle Nelson

Very Good Girls opens in limited release July 25.

10. Manhattan (2014–2015)

TV-14 | 55 min | Drama, History, War

In 1943, in Los Alamos, New Mexico, a team of government scientists is working on the top secret Manhattan Project in a race to produce an atomic bomb before the Nazis. Meanwhile, their families adjust to a life on the military base.

Stars: Rachel Brosnahan, Michael Chernus, Christopher Denham, Katja Herbers

Votes: 7,434

Genius has a sex appeal to it. Put too many geniuses in one tightly controlled area, however, and the world could end. Sounds like the makings of brilliant television, though.

WGN America hit the mark with its first scripted series, "Salem", showing that it takes its scripted offerings seriously, helped along by its wise decision to employ creatives with solid track records. "Manhattan's" creator Sam Shaw wrote a few episodes of the aforementioned "Masters of Sex", but having Thomas Schlamme ("The West Wing", Sports Night", ) on board as an executive producer makes one hopeful that the writers will find a soulful balance between the heady subject matter and the emotional strain of living in a 1940s community ruled by secrecy, under a mushroom-shaped cloud of anxiety. -- Melanie McFarland

Series Premiere: 10pm Sunday, July 27 on WGN America.

11. Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014 TV Movie)

TV-14 | 95 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

Fin and April are on their way to New York City, until a category seven hurricane spawns heavy rain, storm surges, and deadly Sharknadoes.

Director: Anthony C. Ferrante | Stars: Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Vivica A. Fox, Mark McGrath

Votes: 17,315

You can say out loud that you will never, ever watch such dreck. But one day you're going to be alone... all alone. Just you, your TV, your remote, and this movie sitting on your DVR.

Draw the blinds. Turn the photos of Mother, Father, and your favorite science professor from university toward the wall. Snuggle into your softest blanket. Have a few of your favorite junk food items and seasonally appropriate beverages within arm's reach. Laugh at this glorious madness. Laugh! Or, cry a little. It's OK. This is not a day of judgment. Sharknado 2: The Second One, does not judge. Honestly, how could it? It's called Sharknado 2: The Second One.

Then, my friend, dive in and enjoy the chum.

Enough said. -- Melanie McFarland

Premieres: 9pm Wednesday, July 30 on Syfy.

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