Sally Potter's Movies Stand Out in July Retrospect

Monday, July 5, 2010

July movie releases include a documentary about Hugh Hefner and "The Girl Who Played With Fire." But ahead of all other viewing options, Jennifer Merin says don't miss the re-release of Sally Potter's "Orlando," back in high-def.

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Also opening on July 23, "Mugabe and the White African" is Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson's gripping documentary about Mike Campbell, a white Zimbabwean farmer who, in 2008, challenged President Robert Mugabe's violent grab of white farmers' land. Campbell and family are compelling characters and the film is heartbreaking.

In "Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel," Canadian filmmaker Brigitte Berman profiles the publishing mogul, contextualizing his philosophy, lifestyle and politics. Diverse celebrities, including Joan Baez, Gene Simmons, Ruth Westheimer, Dick Cavett and Jesse Jackson, among others, praise "Hef" for his progressive and liberating approach to sexuality, while noted feminist author and activist Susan Brownmiller speaks out against the exploitive nature of his enterprises. This well made and balanced film, opening on July 30, is full of engaging surprises.

Fictional Films Span Issues

Among July's narrative features, Lisa Cholodenko's rom-com-dramady, "The Kids Are All Right," opens July 7. The engaging film, with screenplay co-written by Cholodenko with Stuart Blumberg, revolves around a lesbian couple, Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), each of whom has birthed a child using sperm from the same donor. When the kids--a girl and boy--seek out their sperm donor father (Mark Ruffalo), he becomes part of their family circle and the couple's random volatilities erupt. Bening and Moore capture the nuances of Cholodenko's characters with their quirky flaws that are, ultimately, forgiven. Young Mia Wasikowska (Tim Burton's "Alice") is lovely as the daughter who's figuring out her identity as she turns 18 and moves away to college.

Opening on July 9, from Sweden, is "The Girl Who Played With Fire," the sequel to last year's "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo." It features novelist Steig Larsson's characters Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), a tough-minded, nonconforming computer wiz, and Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), an investigative journalist, on another thrilling quest for justice.

Lisbeth, a female punk with tons of attitude, uses her significant intellectual and physical skills to find and punish men who behave violently towards women, including the psychotic psychotherapist who abused her when she was a child. The film has a lot of violence, but targeted at men's evildoings. Watching Lisbeth's revenge can be sweet.

"Salt," opening July 23, is a bound-to-be blockbuster in which Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a CIA operative who is accused of being a traitor and who marshals her skills to elude capture and elimination and clear her name. The thriller promises a healthy dose of Jolie in action mode, if that's your summertime pleasure.

Commanding performances by America Ferrera and Melissa Leo secure Ryan Piers Williams' "The Dry Land," opening July 30. The film is a stirring drama about a soldier (Ryan O'Nan), who returns from Iraq and cannot adjust to civilian life and resume relationships with the women in his life. As a fictionalized follow up to "Restrepo," the film shows the devastating effect sending men into combat can have on the women they leave at home.

For kids of all ages, "Ramona and Beezus," opens July 23. This charmer of a family comedy, based on Beverly Cleary's children's books, is directed by Elizabeth Allen. It stars popular teenage songbird Selena Gomez and newcomer Joey King as siblings who experience the challenges and joys of growing up as sisters.

In addition to covering film for Women's eNews, Jennifer Merin writes about documentaries for ( and is president of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists (, a nonprofit organization of the leading women film journalists in the U.S. and Canada. For more information: Alliance of Women Film Journalists (

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