August 15, 2022


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July 2021 Film Preview | Women and Hollywood

16 min read

By Kara Headley and Vicki A. Lee

Women kick ass. This is something that we know and we witness on the news, in our friends and relatives, and even in ourselves — but it’s always nice to be reminded how fearless women can be, by way of the big screen. When you think “action movie,” you probably envision a hypermasculine, high-octane scenario with a buff and brawny male lead who saves the day and the inevitable damsel in distress. But, in recent years, women are less likely to be relegated to peripheral roles of the action genre, and have become unapologetic heroines who shatter both generic and gender roles to define heroism for themselves.

As cities gradually reopen and return to normalcy, reunite with your friends to enjoy this month’s titles featuring real-life and fictional women who work together to conquer a common obstacle or oppressor. These films remind us that even though we are our own saviors, sometimes it helps to forge alliances with other women and reject the imaginary competition the patriarchy has imposed between us. After all, we are stronger together.

Opening this month is the long-awaited “Black Widow” (July 9), directed by Cate Shortland. In this latest addition to the MCU, we learn more about Black Widow aka Natasha Romanoff’s (Scarlett Johansson) backstory and what led her to the Avengers. “Black Widow” also introduces Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) to the MCU and reveals the fraught history she shares with Natasha.

“Till Death” (July 2) sees the return of Megan Fox to the horror genre — she stars in this thriller as Emma, a woman handcuffed to her husband’s corpse who must fight off two revenge-seeking killers. “Haseen Dillruba” (July 2), written by Kanika Dhillon, follows a widow while she is under investigation for the murder of her late husband.

In “Gunpowder Milkshake” (July 14), Karen Gillan stars as Sam, a hit-woman who finds herself with a target on her back and must team up with an elite group of women assassins known as The Librarians. “Mama Weed” (July 16) follows a translator in the Paris anti-narcotics unit turned drug dealer as she tries to stay one step ahead of the very police she works for.

Two documentaries premiering this July feature badass women in sports. “Platform” (July 9), directed by Sahar Mosayebi, follows three Iranian sisters as they compete in the international championships of the Chinese martial art Wushu. “The Witches of the Orient” (July 9) recounts the story of a Japanese women’s volleyball team from the ‘50s who would earn a recording-setting winning streak at the 1964 Summer Olympics and become wildly popular feminist role models.

Here are the women-centric, women-directed, and women-written films debuting this July. All descriptions are from press materials unless otherwise noted.

July 1

“Dynasty Warriors” – Written by Christine Chi-long To and Li Rui (Available on Netflix)

“Dynasty Warriors”

Warlords, warriors, and statesmen wage a battle for supremacy in this fantasy tale based on the hit video games and the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms.”

July 2

“Cousins” – Directed by Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace-Smith; Written by Briar Grace Smith (In Theaters; Available on Netflix July 22)


“Cousins” follows three Māori cousins — Mata, Missy, and Makareta — who lead separate lives, yet are bound together forever. Orphaned Mata believes she has no whānau (family) and lives out her lonely childhood in fear and bewilderment. Back home on the land in New Zealand, driven and educated Makareta flees an arranged marriage to study law and begin the search for her missing cousin. She leaves behind cheeky yet dutiful Missy, who takes on her role of kaitiaki (guardian) of the land. As the years pass and land surveyors begin to encroach, their promise to bring their stolen cousin home seems more unlikely than ever, until a chance encounter changes everything.

“Fear Street Part 1: 1994” – Directed by Leigh Janiak; Written by Leigh Janiak and Phil Graziadei (Available on Netflix)

“Fear Street Part 1: 1994”

A circle of teenage friends accidentally encounter the ancient evil responsible for a series of brutal murders that have plagued their town for over 300 years. Welcome to Shadyside.

“Till Death” (In Theaters and Available on VOD)

A woman (Megan Fox) is left handcuffed to her dead husband as part of a sick revenge plot. Unable to unshackle, she has to survive as two killers arrive to finish her off.

“Haseen Dillruba” – Written by Kanika Dhillon (Available on Netflix)

“Haseen Dillruba”

Under investigation as a suspect in her husband’s murder, a wife reveals details of their thorny marriage that seem to only further blur the truth.

“Kid Candidate” (Documentary) – Directed by Jasmine Stodel (Available on VOD)

“Kid Candidate” captures a unique political story in real time — one that is even more relevant in an election year where young Americans are embracing the importance of local government. Through the lens of one particularly unique candidate, the film exposes the systemic problems that face communities across the country and provides a funny, disarming example of how any of us, even the most unlikely characters, can make positive changes for the world around them. Hayden Pedigo is the outsider candidate for the meme generation — simultaneously ridiculed and serious, artistic and pragmatic — a politician with a vision for the future who has already inspired people in Amarillo and around the country.

July 7

“Major Grom: Plague Doctor” – Written by Valentina Tronova, Vladimir Besedin, Evgeniy Eronin, Artyom Gabrelyanov, Aleksandr Kim, Roman Kotkov, and Nikolay Titov (Available on Netflix)

Police Major Igor Grom (Tikhon Zhiznevskiy) is known for his penetrative character and irreconcilable attitude towards criminals of all stripes. But everything changes with the appearance of a person in the mask of the Plague Doctor. Having declared that his city is “sick with the plague of lawlessness,” he takes up “treatment,” killing people who escaped punishment with the help of money and high status in society. For the first time, Igor faces difficulties in the investigation, the outcome of which may determine the fate of the whole city.

July 9

“Black Widow” – Directed by Cate Shortland (In Theaters and Available for Rent on Disney+)

“Black Widow”

In Marvel Studios’ action-packed spy thriller “Black Widow,” Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.

“Platform” (Documentary) – Directed by Sahar Mosayebi (In Theaters and Virtual Cinemas)


A “Rocky”-esque tale of determination and grit, “Platform” follows three Iranian sisters as they compete to become international champions of Wushu, a Chinese martial art. The sisters’ thrilling underdog story explores not only their dedicated training, but also their surprising place in society as they challenge traditional gender roles on the path to success.

“Scales” – Written and Directed by Shahad Ameen (In Theaters)

“Scales” is a visually stunning feminist parable set in a dystopian landscape. It follows the story of a strong-willed young girl, Hayat (Basima Hajjar), whose poor fishing village is governed by a dark tradition: every family must give one daughter to the mermaid-like sea creatures who inhabit the waters, to ensure the village can continue their fishing expeditions. When Hayat’s father refuses, the girl becomes a pariah, considered a curse by the village and urged to sacrifice herself — but Hayat has her own plans for her destiny.

“The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52” (Documentary) – Written by Lisa Schiller and Joshua Zeman (In Theaters; Available on VOD July 16)

“The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52” is a cinematic quest to find the “52 Hertz Whale,” which scientists believe has spent its entire life in solitude calling out at a frequency that is different from any other whale. As the film embarks on this engrossing journey, audiences will explore what this whale’s lonely plight can teach us — not just about our changing relationship to the oceans, but to each other.

“The Witches of the Orient” (Documentary) (In Theaters)

“The Witches of the Orient”

How does a Japanese women’s volleyball team from the late 1950s become an international sensation, feminist role models, the subject of a wildly popular comic book and a still-influential anime? A group of Osaka textile workers are transformed into a fiercely competitive volleyball team by their astonishingly ruthless coach, whose unconventional techniques emphasize speed and aggression. A record-setting winning streak and a dramatic 1964 Tokyo Olympics triumph follow. 

“The Woman Who Ran” (In Theaters)

“The Woman Who Ran”

While her husband is on a business trip, Gamhee (Kim Min-hee) meets three of her friends on the outskirts of Seoul. They make friendly conversation, but there are different currents flowing independently of each other, both above and below the surface.

“Fear Street Part 2: 1978” – Directed by Leigh Janiak; Written by Leigh Janiak and Zak Olkewicz (Available on Netflix)

Shadyside, 1978. School’s out for summer and the activities at Camp Nightwing are about to begin. But when another Shadysider is possessed with the urge to kill, the fun in the sun becomes a gruesome fight for survival.

“Love Type D” – Written and Directed by Sasha Collington (Available on VOD)

How can someone love you yesterday and not today? Shortly after her boyfriend sends his 12-year-old brother to break the news that she’s dumped, Frankie Browne (Maeve Dermody) discovers that she has a loser in love gene. Every man she goes out with will inevitably break up with her. Facing a lifetime of romantic failure, Frankie turns to the only genetics expert she knows: her former nemesis, Wilbur, a schoolboy science prodigy. Wilbur develops a maverick theory to reverse her romantic fortunes that sets into motion an unexpected and comic journey into Frankie’s past of questionable romantic choices.

“How I Became a Super Hero” – Written by Mélisa Godet, Charlotte Sanson, and Douglas Attal (Available on Netflix)

Paris 2020. Superheroes are perfectly assimilated and want to be famous at all costs — a drug that gives superpowers to mortals spreads over town. Lieutenants Moreau (Pio Marmaï) and Schaltzmann (Vimala Pons) are investigating the case with two ex-superheroes, Monte Carlo (Benoît Poelvoorde) and Callista (Leïla Bekhti). They’ll do whatever it takes to dismantle the traffic. But Moreau’s past resurfaces, and the investigation becomes more complicated.

“Meander” (In Theaters)

A woman gets locked in series of strange tubes full of deadly traps.

July 14

“Gunpowder Milkshake” (In Theaters and Available on Netflix)

“Gunpowder Milkshake”

Sam (Karen Gillan) was only 12 when her mother Scarlet (Lena Headey), an elite assassin, was forced to abandon her. Now, 15 years later, Sam has grown into a fierce hit-woman, using her “talents” to clean up The Firm’s most dangerous messes. But when a high-risk job goes wrong, Sam must choose between serving The Firm and protecting an innocent eight-year-old girl, Emily (Chloe Coleman). With a target on her back, Sam has only one chance to survive: Reunite with her mother and her lethal associates, The Librarians (Michelle Yeoh, Angela Bassett, and Carla Gugino).

“Casanova, Last Love” – Written by Chantal Thomas, Benoît Jacquot, and Jérôme Beaujour (In Theaters)

London, the 18th century. Casanova (Vincent Lindon), famous for his affinities for sexual pleasure and gambling, arrives recently exiled from Paris. Living in a new city completely foreign to him, Casanova meets the beautiful young prostitute, Marianne de Charpillon (Stacy Martin). He becomes enamored with her to the point where he loses interest in all other women. The legendary lover is willing to do anything to seduce her, but Charpillon has other plans and refutes his advances. With her challenges to Casanova — “You will only have me if you stop desiring me!” — he must adopt a new philosophy to achieve the love he so desires. Told in flashbacks, the film exposes Casanova’s lifelong secret that Charpillon was the one true love of his life.

July 16

“Mama Weed” – Written by Hannelore Cayre, Antoine Salomé, and Jean-Paul Salomé (In Theaters; Available on VOD July 23)

“Mama Weed”

A translator for the Paris police anti-narcotics unit, Patience Portefeux (Isabelle Huppert) interprets the conversations between the city’s drug dealers. When she overhears the son of one of her mother’s nurses on the wiretap, Patience is moved to protect him. But she soon finds herself in possession of a huge store of hash and the insider knowledge required to move it. Patience transforms into Mama Weed, a savvy saleswoman capitalizing on her field experience to earn the extra income she so desperately needs while doing her best to stay one step ahead of her colleagues at the precinct. 

“The Night House” (In Theaters)

“The Night House”

A widow (Rebecca Hall) begins to uncover her recently deceased husband’s disturbing secrets.

“No Ordinary Man” (Documentary) – Directed by Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt; Written by Aisling Chin-Yee and Amos Mac (In Theaters)

American jazz musician Billy Tipton developed a reputable touring and recording career in the mid-20th century, along with his band, The Billy Tipton Trio. After his death in the late ’80s, it was revealed that Tipton was assigned female at birth, and his life was swiftly reframed as the story of an ambitious woman passing as a man in pursuit of a music career. “No Ordinary Man” seeks to correct that misrepresentation by collaborating with trans artists. 

“Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters” (Documentary) – Directed by Rosalynde LeBlanc and Tom Hurwitz (In Theaters and Virtual Cinemas)

“Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters”

In 1989, “D-Man in the Waters” gave physical manifestation to the fear, anger, grief, and hope for salvation that the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company felt as they were embattled by the AIDS pandemic. As a group of young dancers reconstructs the dance, they learn about this oft-forgotten history and deepen their understanding of the power of art in a time of plague. Through an extraordinary series of interviews, archival material, and uniquely powerful cinematography of movement, this 90-minute, lyrical documentary uses the story of this dance to illustrate the triumph of the human spirit in art and in the community. 

“Fear Street Part 3: 1666” – Directed by Leigh Janiak; Written by Leigh Janiak, Kate Trefry, and Phil Graziadei (Available on Netflix)

The origins of Sarah Fier’s curse are finally revealed as history comes full circle on a night that changes the lives of Shadysiders forever.

“How to Deter a Robber” – Written and Directed by Maria Bissell (In Theaters)

In a desolate town in Northern Wisconsin, a stubborn young woman and her naïve boyfriend face off against a pair of amateur burglars.

“Space Jam: A New Legacy” – Written by Celeste Ballard, Juel Taylor, Tony Rettenmaier, Keenan Coogler, Terence Nance, and Jesse Gordon (In Theaters and Available on HBO Max)

Welcome to the Jam! Basketball champion and global icon LeBron James goes on an epic adventure alongside timeless Tune Bugs Bunny with the animated/live-action event “Space Jam: A New Legacy.” This transformational journey is a manic mashup of two worlds that reveals just how far some parents will go to connect with their kids. When LeBron and his young son Dom are trapped in a digital space by a rogue A.I., LeBron must get them home safe by leading Bugs, Lola Bunny, and the whole gang of notoriously undisciplined Looney Tunes to victory over the A.I.’s digitized champions on the court: a powered-up roster of professional basketball stars as you’ve never seen them before. It’s Tunes versus Goons in the highest-stakes challenge of his life, that will redefine LeBron’s bond with his son and shine a light on the power of being yourself.

“Escape Room: Tournament of Champions” – Written by Maria Melnik, Will Honley, Oren Uziel, and Daniel Tuch (In Theaters)

Six people unwittingly find themselves locked in another series of escape rooms, slowly uncovering what they have in common to survive. Joining forces with two of the original survivors, they soon discover they’ve all played the game before.

July 20

“How It Ends” – Written and Directed by Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein (In Theaters and Available on VOD)

“How It Ends”

In this feel-good apocalyptic comedy, Liza (Zoe Lister-Jones) embarks on a hilarious journey through L.A. in hopes of making it to her last party before it all ends, running into an eclectic cast of characters along the way.

“The New Bauhaus” (Documentary) – Directed by Alysa Nahmias; Written by Alysa Nahmias and Miranda Yousef (Available on VOD)

When radical Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy moved to Chicago in 1937, he spearheaded “The New Bauhaus,” a movement descended from the famous German school. An original Bauhaus member, Moholy-Nagy took a pioneering interdisciplinary mixed-media approach to art and design that was vastly ahead of its time. Featuring intimate interviews with Moholy-Nagy’s daughter and an in-depth exploration of his groundbreaking work, “The New Bauhaus” offers an illuminating portrait of a visionary teacher and thinker.

July 23

“The Last Letter From Your Lover” – Directed by Augustine Frizzell; Written by Esta Spalding and Nick Payne (Available on Netflix)

“The Last Letter From Your Lover”

“The Last Letter from Your Lover” follows Ellie Haworth (Felicity Jones), an ambitious journalist who discovers a trove of secret love letters from 1965 and becomes determined to solve the mystery of the forbidden affair at their center. As she uncovers the story behind Jennifer Stirling (Shailene Woodley), the wife of a wealthy industrialist, and Anthony O’Hare (Callum Turner), the financial journalist assigned to cover him, a love story of Ellie’s own begins to unfold with the assistance of an earnest and endearing archivist (Nabhaan Rizwan) who helps her track down more letters. 

“Playing With Sharks” (Documentary) – Written and Directed by Sally Aitken (Available on Disney+)

“Playing with Sharks”: Sundance Institute

A true pioneer in both underwater filmmaking and shark research, Valerie Taylor is a living legend and icon in the underwater world, whose life’s work has become the basis for much of what we know about sharks today. Through remarkable underwater archival footage, along with interviews with Valerie herself, “Playing With Sharks” follows this daring ocean explorer’s trajectory from champion spearfisher to passionate shark protector. From the birth of cage diving to “Jaws” hysteria, to the dawn of cageless shark diving, Valerie became a trailblazing advocate for the ocean’s most maligned and misunderstood creatures.

“Jolt” – Directed by Tanya Wexler (Available on Amazon Prime Video)

Lindy (Kate Beckinsale) is a beautiful, sardonically-funny woman with a painful secret: Due to a lifelong, rare neurological disorder, she experiences sporadic rage-filled, murderous impulses that can only be stopped when she shocks herself with a special electrode device. Unable to find love and connection in a world that fears her bizarre condition, she finally trusts a man long enough to fall in love, only to find him murdered the next day. Heartbroken and enraged, she embarks on a revenge-filled mission to find his killer, while also being pursued by the police as the crime’s prime suspect.

“Ailey” (Documentary) – Directed by Jamila Wignot (In Theaters)


Many know the name Alvin Ailey, but how many know the man? Ailey’s commitment to searching for truth in movement resulted in pioneering and enduring choreography that centers on African American experiences. Jamila Wignot’s resonant biography grants artful access to the elusive visionary who founded one of the world’s most renowned dance companies, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

“Sweat” (Available on MUBI)

Beloved fitness influencer Sylwia (Magdalena Koleśnik) seemingly has it made: hundreds of thousands of social media followers, endorsement deals, photo spreads in magazines. But as she starts to share more and more online, the rising pressure from concerned sponsors and increasingly obsessive fans forces her to confront her deepest insecurities and the exhaustive demands of her lifestyle.

“Blood Red Sky” (Available on Netflix)

“Blood Red Sky”

A woman with a mysterious illness is forced into action when a group of terrorists attempts to hijack a transatlantic overnight flight.

“Joe Bell” – Written by Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry (In Theaters)

The true story of a small-town, working-class father who embarks on a solo walk across the U.S. to crusade against bullying after his son is tormented in high school for being gay.

“Snake Eyes” – Written by Anna Waterhouse, Evan Spiliotopoulos, and Joe Shrapnel (In Theaters)

An ancient Japanese clan called the Arashikage welcomes tenacious loner Snake Eyes (Henry Golding) after he saves the life of their heir apparent. Upon arrival in Japan, the Arashikage teach him the ways of the ninja warrior, while also providing him something he’s been longing for: a home. However, when secrets from Snake Eyes’ past are revealed, his honor and allegiance get tested — even if that means losing the trust of those closest to him.

July 29

“Resort to Love” – Written by Dana Schmalenberg and Tabi McCartney (Available on Netflix)

“Resort to Love”

Erica (Christina Milian) ends up as the entertainment at her ex-fiancé’s wedding after reluctantly taking a gig at a luxurious island resort while in the wake of a music career meltdown.

July 30

“Enemies of the State” (Documentary) – Directed by Sonia Kennebeck (In Theaters and Available on VOD)

“Enemies of the State”

“Enemies of the State” investigates the strange case of Matt DeHart, an alleged hacker and whistleblower, and his former Cold War spy parents who believe they are at the center of a government conspiracy and are ready to do anything to save their son from prison. With extraordinary access to all lead characters and key sources, this film presents many contradicting viewpoints as it attempts to solve a mystery that has kept attorneys, activists, and journalists occupied for over a decade. 

“Never Gonna Snow Again” – Written and Directed by Małgorzata Szumowska and Michał Englert (In Theaters and Virtual Cinemas)

A masseur named Zhenia (Alec Utgoff) enters the lives of the wealthy residents of a gated community. With his hypnotic presence and quasi-magical abilities, he gets a residence permit and starts plying his trade. The well-to-do residents in their cookie-cutter suburban homes seemingly have it all, but they all suffer from an inner sadness, some unexplained longing. The attractive and mysterious newcomer’s hands heal, and Zhenia’s eyes seem to penetrate their souls. To them, his Russian accent sounds like a song from the past, a memory of simpler times.

“Masquerade” (In Theaters)

Eleven-year-old Casey (Alyvia Alyn Lind) is home alone — until a group of intruders, led by Rose (Bella Thorne), break in. Their plan is to steal her family’s priceless collection of artwork, but their own reckless ambition is outmatched only by Rose’s opportunism. Casey must struggle to survive as the stakes grow ever higher and the invaders show they’re willing to stop at nothing to get what they want.

“Twist” – Written by Sally Collett and John Wrathall (In Theaters and Available on VOD)

Inspired by Charles Dickens’s iconic novel “Oliver Twist,” this action-fueled crime-thriller set in contemporary London follows the journey of Twist (Raff Law), a gifted graffiti artist trying to find his way after the loss of his mother. Lured into a street gang headed by the paternal Fagin (Michael Caine), Twist is attracted to the lifestyle — and to Red (Sophie Simnett), an alluring member of Fagin’s crew. But when an art theft goes wrong, Twist’s moral code is tested as he’s caught between Fagin, the police, and a loose-cannon enforcer (Lena Headey).

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