— Michael O'Sullivan
Lee Grant will be the first to tell you she’s a woman of nearly insatiable appetite. Her acting career nearly fatally interrupted by being blacklisted in the 1950s and 1960s, Grant came roaring back and, to quote the title of her memoir, said yes to everything. Eventually, that included directing, and since the 1980s she’s made a string of candid, politically engaged documentaries that have proven to be astonishingly prescient. The six-film program “20th Century Woman: The Documentary Films of Lee Grant,” beginning July 29 and running through Sept. 9, includes the highlights of Grant’s nonfiction career, including the Oscar-winning “Down and Out in America” (1986), about Reagan-era poverty and alienation that feels queasily of-the-moment; “The Willmar 8” (1981), a stirring account of a tiny band of women who dared to fight for their rights against the small-town Minnesota bank where they worked; and “What Sex Am I?” (1985), a compassionate portrait of transgender men and women that, archaic language aside, was decades ahead of its time. Grant brings all her gifts to bear in each of these fascinating films, which reflect the alert intelligence, intuitive instincts and deep wells of empathy needed to be a great actress. It’s a bonus — and should surprise no one — that Grant is a great director as well. Unrated. Available at afisilver.afi.com.
— Ann Hornaday
Vinnie Jones, Malcolm McDowell and Ron Perlman star in the “The Big Ugly.” According to the Guardian, this macho, West Virginian-set crime thriller feels like “something that got cooked up after a bender guzzling a Sam Peckinpah box set.” R. Available July 31 on various streaming platforms. Contains violence, strong language throughout, some sexuality and brief drug use. 105 minutes.
“The Cuban” is a story about a pre-med student (Ana Golja) working part-time in a nursing home, whose unexpected friendship with a near-catatonic patient — a once-famous Cuban guitarist played by Academy Award winner Louis Gossett Jr. — reignites her love of music. According to Indie Pulse Music, the film is “a carefully crafted creation weaving together neuroscience, romance, coming of age and a bit of cultural conflict with the threads of trumpets, congas, guitars and vocals.” Unrated. Available July 31 at themiracletheatre.com and angelikablog.com/support-the-angelika. 109 minutes.
After multiple suicide attempts, a young man finds himself still very much alive — yet simultaneously in the company of several deceased versions of himself — in “Dead Dicks.” According to the Austin Chronicle, the dark comedy is at heart a “touching [science fiction] drama about the dysfunctional relationship between siblings.” Unrated. Available on various streaming platforms. 83 minutes.
Inspired by true events, and taking place during the outset of the Georgian Civil War, the drama “Dede” revolves around a young woman who rejects the brokered marriage arrangement set up by her family. The film marks the feature debut of director Mariam Khatchvani, who demonstrates a “sure hand with actors and a taste for natural beauty,” according to the Chicago Reader. Unrated. Available on various streaming platforms. In Georgian with subtitles. 97 minutes.
The quiet routine of a home-care nurse (Mariko Tsutsui) is upended following a kidnapping in “A Girl Missing.” Variety calls the Japanese thriller a “disappointing and unmoving drama of how a good woman’s life is shattered by keeping quiet.” Unrated. Available July 31 at afisilver.afi.com. In Japanese with subtitles. 112 minutes.
A reporter investigates the murder of a young prostitute in 1936 Hungary in “Budapest Noir.” Unrated. Available at jxjdc.org. In English and Hungarian with subtitles. 94 minutes.
“Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind” is a documentary about the life and career of the Canadian singer/songwriter. Now Toronto calls the portrait of Lightfoot “candid, revealing.” Unrated. Available at themiracletheatre.com and cinemartstheatre.com. 91 minutes.
The demise of the studio system and the rise of the independent musician armed with social media and a smartphone — along with, presumably, talent — is explored in the documentary “InstaBand.” Unrated. Available on various streaming platforms. 98 minutes.
Real-life couple Yvan Attal and Charlotte Gainsbourg play a couple in crisis in “My Dog Stupid,” a bittersweet French comedy about a writer with writer’s block (Attal, who also directed) and how his newly adopted dog disrupts his family. The Hollywood Reporter calls it a “well-written and -played remarriage dramedy that explores the Attal-Gainsbourg duo as they hit middle age and their kids gradually, and sometimes reluctantly, leave the nest.” Unrated. Available July 31 at theavalon.org and afisilver.afi.com. In French with subtitles. 99 minutes.
The restaurant drama “Nose to Tail” tells the story of an abrasive, narcissistic chef and his struggle to save the high-end bistro he has poured his life into. Putting his back into the role, Aaron Abrams gives the character a “swelling desperation that’s surprisingly touching,” according to the New York Times. Unrated. Available on various streaming platforms. 82 minutes.
Director Ron Howard’s “Rebuilding Paradise” takes a documentary look at efforts by the community of Paradise, Calif., to start over after the devastation of the Camp Fire, a 2018 wildfire that killed 85 people, displaced 50,000 residents and destroyed 95 percent of local structures. The film, according to Variety, is “dunked in a sentimental glow about what ‘paradise’ is, a reverence that seems, by the end, as insular as it is inspiring.” PG-13. Available July 31 at afisilver.afi.com and themiracletheatre.com. Contains intense scenes of peril, mature thematic elements and some strong language. 95 minutes.
A 16-year-old Catholic girl in the Midwest (Natalia Dyer) discovers sin and sexuality in “Yes, God, Yes,” sending her to a faith-based retreat for a “cure.” According to the New York Times, the film is slight and sweet, and without much of an edge, “using the pursuit of climax as an opportunity to take a gentle dig at religious humbug and holier-than-thou hypocrisy.” R. Available on various streaming platforms. Contains sexuality and some nudity. 78 minutes.
Set in Johannesburg, the romantic comedy “Seriously Single” tells the story of two female best friends: one happily single, the other desperate to find a romantic connection. TV-MA. Available July 31 on Netflix. 107 minutes.
“Stockton on My Mind” is a personal and political documentary portrait of Stockton, Calif., Mayor Michael Tubbs, who, in 2016 at 26, became the youngest mayor of a major American city, and the first African American mayor of his beleaguered hometown. Unrated. Available on HBO and HBO Max. 95 minutes.