(WOMENSENEWS)–"Minions" is an irreverent bit of summer silliness that pokes fun at 1960s English culture and lifestyle; movies of mass destruction; and notions of heroism, loyalty and commitment. This delightfully clever film marks the third outing for animation auteur Pierre Coffin’s hugely popular troop of yellow pill-like animated characters who soared to stardom in "Despicable Me" and its sequel. Minions are for some inexplicable reason addicted to serving evil masters, each of whom eventually self-destructs. Determined to find a new master, a trio of adventuresome Minions (all voiced by Coffin in completely understandable gibberish) set out to connect with super-bad Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock) who is intent on dethroning Queen Elizabeth II and ruling Britannia. Hilarious family fare.

"What We Did on Our Holiday" is a British dramedy that tackles the subject of family dysfunction against the backdrop of the Scottish highlands. Abi (Rosamund Pike) and Doug (David Tennant), a couple heading towards divorce, take their kids to a family reunion to celebrate Grandpa’s (Billy Connolly) birthday. The outspoken kids inadvertently reveal their parents’ marital distress to the assembled clan. That instigates amusing efforts at cover-up by Abi and Doug and a torrent of sage advice and aphorisms from Grandpa. The script is crisp and smart. Performances are terrific. Glorious scenery provides an ideal setting for this entertainingly humorous and sweet summertime escape.

"10,000 Km," an engaging Spanish romantic comedy about long-distance relationships and the difficulties of keeping things going in cyberspace, is cinematically innovative and socially provocative in a very pleasing way. Alex (Natalia Tena) and Sergi (David Verdaguer) are happy together in Barcelona until they decide that she should take a year-long residency in Los Angeles to pursue her photography career, which is at a standstill. Off she goes and the beautifully rich intimacy of their relationship becomes purely digital, acted out via the Internet. Inevitably we get drawn into the conflict of a woman torn between love and work. The cameras convey both closeness and distance.

"Tangerine," set on the streets of Los Angeles, delves into the world of Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), a fresh-out-of-prison drag queen hooker who is on an intense manhunt to find and confront her pimp/fiancé, Chester (James Ransone), who’s been cheating on her with another hooker, a natural-born female; a detail that particularly enrages her. That’s the plot, plain and simple. But what happens along the way is absolutely gripping, thanks to the intriguing gender interplay, the ensemble cast’s compelling and nuanced performances and writer-director Sean Baker’s special shooting technique. He shot the film, along with co-cinematographer Radium Cheung, on an iPhone 5s, framing shots at random angles and saturating color, all of which adds up to surprising, galvanizing verite immediacy. It’s fascinating. A must see.

"Boulevard" also revolves around sexuality and gender identity. In this drama, Nolan (Robin Williams) has been married to Joy (Kathy Baker) for decades. All that time, he’s been hiding from everyone – including himself – that he’s gay. The façade cracks under the pressure of a chance encounter with a young male hooker (Roberto Aguire). That causes a rather agonizing and self-realizing change in lifestyle. The cast is superb and it’s particularly poignant to watch Robin Williams’ last performance before his untimely death last year.

"Do I Sound Gay?" is filmmaker David Thorpe’s documentary that explores the social effects of the stereotypically gay voice, identified by a combination of intonation and speech patterns. Margaret Cho, George Takei, Tim Gunn and other well-known voices join Thrope on screen to comment on the audio preconception and what it has meant in their own lives and struggles for equal rights and opportunities. The film gives gender issues an important voice. Outspoken Margaret Cho is a powerhouse female spokesperson for women whether they identify as lesbian or straight.

Stay tuned for more July openers.

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