Welcome to my monthly movie preview! This July studios are serving up fourteen new nationwide releases to a theater near you. Adventure awaits audiences with dogs, giants, aliens, and two flavors of ghost! Here are the highlights.

In Theaters July 1

The Legend of Tarzan

At a Glance: Years after leaving the African jungle behind for Victorian high society, Tarzan returns unknowingly at the center in a game of greed and revenge that puts his beloved Jane in danger.

Why I'm Ambivalent: Any movie about Tarzan is going to rely heavily on special effects, and there are plenty of them on display in its theatrical trailers. But the only thing that's impressed me is how unremarkable the effects on both our vine-swinging hero or the stampeding animal are. After being blown away by "The Jungle Book," I'm not sure I'm looking forward to a film built on effects that live firmly in the uncanny valley.

Why My Wife Is Excited: Shirtless Skarsgård swiftly swinging to save sweetie.


At a Glance: "The BFG" is the latest film adaptation of classic children's books by Roald Dahl. In "The BFG," orphan Sophie meets and befriends a dream-catching giant. But not all his people are so friendly and the two set off on an adventure to stop the bigger people-eaters who want to snack in the human world.

Why I'm Excited: Disney is poised to have one of their best of recent years and all signs point to "The BFG" being another feather in an already impressive 2016 cap. The film's screenplay is the last written by the late Melissa Mathison, who previously worked with director Steven Spielberg on an obscure little piece called "E.T." Starring Oscar-winner Mark Rylance as BFG and Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement as the bone crunching Fleshlumpeater, "The BFG" boasts talented cast and crew that, with a bit of Disney magic, is sure to delight.

The Purge: Election Year

At a Glance: The third installment about the Purge, an annual bloodletting where no crime goes punished, goes political and seems somehow more unsettling in today's climate. In "The Purge: Election Year," a presidential candidate campaigns on ending the national horror and finds herself targeted in a conspiracy to ensure she does not survive to see the election.

Why I'm Excited (but Scared): I haven't seen any of the previous "Purge" movies. I assumed they were mostly gore porn, the least interesting sub-genre in the horror movie umbrella. Still, "The Purge: Election Year" has really piqued my interested with it's visual direction and themes (at least as presented in marketing materials, for what they're worth). And recently, two good friends have insisted the films aren't very gore-porny. I didn't expect to brave theaters to see this, but who knows? Stranger things have happened.

In Theaters July 8

The Secret Life of Pets

At a Glance: Spoiled jack russell terrier Max's life is turned upside down when his owner brings home a new dog: slobbery, sloppy, clumsy Duke. Each plots to rid themselves of the other, but their schemes go awry when they both are scooped up by the city dog catcher. As Max and Duke try to escape, the neighborhood pets band together to save their friends.

Why I'm (Cautiously) Excited: This is the sixth film by Illumination Entertainment, the production company best known for the "Despicable Me" series and its spin-off, "Minions." While these staples earned the studio critical praise, it's non-franchise pictured fared less well. Even so, audiences seem to appreciate "Hop" and "The Lorax" when critics didn't. I wonder at the release timing though. Sandwiched between "Finding Dory," "The BFG," and the next "Ice Age" movie, there will be no shortage of movies for kids and families. Will "The Secret Life of Pets" be good enough to hang with the big kids?

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

At a Glance: Hoping to prevent their reckless immaturity from ruining the big day, brothers Mike and Dave must find dates to attend their sister's destination wedding. A viral ad campaign to find suitable women brings them Tatiana and Alice, party girls whose respectable facade melts away as soon as they reach the beaches of Hawaii.

Why I'm Excited: As shocked as I am to say this about a movie starring Zac Efron, I love this cast. The brains behind "M&DNWD" (as I'm sure it will come to be called) are the same duo responsible for "The 40 Year Old Virgin" and the two "Neighbors" films. Nothing makes me feel better about a comedy than proven comic chops on and off the screen.

In Theaters July 13

The Infiltrator

At a Glance: "The Infiltrator" is an adaptation of the autobiography of Robert Mazur, a US Customs special agent who spent five years undercover as a money launderer gaining access to the secrets of the world's most deadly drug cartels including the empire of the "King of Cocaine," Pablo Escobar.

Why I'm Excited: Movies about cartels have a certain alluring darkness, perhaps because there is almost no limit to how evil they can be depicted as and still be rooted at least in some semblance of fact. It's also nice to see Bryan Cranston continue to take a range of interesting roles. Hopefully this thriller is a further boost to a still rising career.

In Theaters July 15


At a Glance: The highly anticipated girl-power reboot of "Ghostbusters" is finally here! I don't need to explain the story. Who ya gonna call?

Why I'm Excited: A year of frantic internet speculation is about to come to an end: will the new "Ghostbusters" live up to the hype? I for one have faith in our new heroines. Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wigg have built solid film resumes at this point, while Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones remain two of the brightest spots in a dimming SNL line-up. Even if the trailers give an obnoxious amount away, I'm optimistic that director Paul Feig has a few surprises up his sleeves.

In Theaters July 22

Star Trek Beyond

At a Glance: The third entry in the rebooted series and the thirteenth (!) "Star Trek" film, "Star Trek Beyond" pits a stranded Enterprise crew against an unknown alien threat.

Why I'm Beaming Up, Scotty: The new films may not have the spirit of exploration that defined the franchise's earlier generations, but no one can deny that they're a heck of a lot of fun. And although the film suffered from some studio infighting that led to the departure of its writer/director, the result was that writing duties were handed over to Simon Pegg. After some of the more eye-roll inducing moments in "Into Darkness," giving a Pegg a fresh crack at the material may be a good move.

Lights Out

At a Glance: "Lights Out" is the feature debut of David Sandberg, based on his 2013 short film by the same name. It centers on a family stalked by a creature which can only be seen in the dark.

Why I'm Excited (Safely Near a Night Light): I remember the short (linked above) making waves when it first hit YouTube. It's one of the creepier YouTube shorts out there, thanks to how it preys on natural fears that many of us experience at some point or another. That said, I worry that the gimmick may run a bit thin when spread out over a full feature length, particularly if it falls back on cliché origin stories for its monster. Still, as a fan of the original I'm keen to support Sandberg in his debut.

Ice Age: Collision Course

At a Glance: "Ice Age: The Fifth One" threatens Pleistocene pals Manny, Diego, and Sid with extinction as meteors bear down on earth. They and their friends band together and undertake an adventure to survive.

Why I'm (Not) Excited: I may be the only person on the planet who missed the first through fourth "Ice Age" films. Perhaps some history with the character would help find some humor in the trailers, which otherwise seem laden with lazy gags.

In Theaters July 27


At a Glance: Video games, social media, and reality television meet with dangerous results in "Nerve," a movie about a student engaged in an online game of truth-or-dare controlled by its anonymous watchers. "Nerve" is an adaptation of the 2012 novel by Jeanne Ryan.

Why I'm (Mildly) Excited: I love the premise and even the trailer but have zero faith the director, whose most noteworthy credits are the later "Paranormal Activity" films. There are some burning embers of hope, though. Writer Jessica Sharzer has done some work on the acclaimed "American Horror Story," and Emma Roberts, who stars as player "Vee," delivered campy fun on FOX's "Scream Queens" last fall.

In Theaters July 29

Bad Moms

At a Glance: Pushed to the breaking point by high standards and no appreciation, Amy and two other stressed-out moms rebel against the impossible expectations of the perfect mothers in her community.

Why I'm (Cautiously) Excited: This movie could really go one of two ways. It could go the way of "Trainwreck," a movie that wrapped raunchy, care-free indulgence around a touching, heart-felt sentiment. Or it could lapse into a movie about irresponsible people doing unlikeable things with no meaningful depth. I laughed at the trailer, but trailers can lie.

Café Society

At a Glance: The story of an on-and-off romance between a New Yorker who comes to Hollywood looking for excitement and falls for his uncle's mistress.

Why I'm Excited: I've never seen a Woody Allen movie, so my interest is in no way based on his merit as a filmmaker. The period interests me and I like the cast. Steve Carrell's continued evolution in his post-"The Office" years is fascinating, and I feel like I owe Jessie Eisenberg another chance since our break up over "Batman v Superman." Same for Kristen Stewart, whom I've unfairly written off despite not seeing her in a film since "Twilight."

Jason Bourne

At a Glance: July ends with a bang as Matt Damon returns to the Bourne series, reclaiming his rightful place from nobody's favorite leading man, poor Jeremy Renner.

Why I'm Excited: This release gives me an excuse to go back and watch the entire Bourne series, which I've never actually seen! Holy moley!

Thank you for reading! Now tell me what you think. What are you most excited to see? Sound off in the comments!

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