Blockbuster season heats up in July with Black Widow, Space Jam, and M. Night Shyamalan

Blockbuster season heats up in July with Black Widow, Space Jam, and M. Night Shyamalan

This month's big movie lineup also includes Boss Babies and a G.I. Joe prequel

Clockwise from top left: The Tomorrow War (Photo: Amazon Studios); Snake Eyes: G.I. Origins (Photo: MGM); Jungle Cruise (Photo: Disney); Black Widow (Photo: Disney); Space Jam: A New Legacy (Photo: Warner Bros.); The Green Knight (Photo: A24)
Clockwise from top left: The Tomorrow War (Photo: Amazon Studios); Snake Eyes: G.I. Origins (Photo: MGM); Jungle Cruise (Photo: Disney); Black Widow (Photo: Disney); Space Jam: A New Legacy (Photo: Warner Bros.); The Green Knight (Photo: A24)
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

The summer movie season continues unabated this July. Studios are still hedging their bets on whether audiences are ready to go to the movies, which is why everything from the new Marvel vehicle to the big Space Jam sequel to The Rock’s latest franchise hopeful will stream the same day they hit the multiplex. On the other hand, a few of the month’s biggest movies will indeed land exclusively in theaters, so get ready to shell out for a babysitter if you want to see the latest Purge, G.I. Joe mission, or Shyamalan twist ending. Conversely, you’ll need a subscription, not a ticket, to check out the new Steven Soderbergh movie, Netflix’s Fear Street trilogy, or a time-traveling Chris Platt—all blows struck for a future where movies only stream. Keep reading to find out what’s coming to a theater and living room near you this July.

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No Sudden Move

No Sudden Move

No Sudden Move

HBO Max July 1

It’s been less than four years since Steven Soderbergh un-retired from directing movies, and he’s come back more prolific than ever; No Sudden Move is his sixth post-comeback feature. It’s also one of his periodic returns to a genre he clearly loves: the heist thriller, which he last indulged in 2017’s Logan Lucky. This one starts, of course, with a simple job, to be executed by criminals played by Don Cheadle and Benicio Del Toro: Watch over a family while their associate (Kieran Culkin) takes the man of the house (David Harbour) on a quick trip to steal something from his office. To explain more than “complications ensue” would betray the ’50s-set movie’s twisty, shifty sensibility; suffice to say that Amy Seimetz, Julia Fox, Brendan Fraser, Jon Hamm, Ray Liotta, and Bill Duke all have parts to play in this fun and darkly funny caper.

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The Boss Baby: Family Business

The Boss Baby: Family Business

The Boss Baby: Family Business

Theaters everywhere and Peacock July 2

Anything Pixar can do, DreamWorks can do worse. While the Disney-owned studio has gotten plenty of deserved flak for its over-reliance on franchising, a whopping half of the last 10 DreamWorks cartoons have been direct sequels. The Boss Baby was one of their scant recent originals, so naturally it’s now getting the franchise treatment, as foretold by the first movie’s insanely overcomplicated reality-blurring mythology. In a Look Who’s Talking Too-style addition, Amy Sedaris voices the infant daughter of the first movie’s now-grown protagonist (James Marsden, replacing Tobey Maguire). This new baby reverts her dad and his businessman brother (Alec Baldwin) to their childhood forms for 48 hours to stop a madman (Jeff Goldblum). As we wrote in our review, it’s a little more nimble but not really better than the complicated first entry in what we must now regrettably identify as the Boss Baby saga.

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The Tomorrow War

The Tomorrow War

The Tomorrow War

Amazon Prime July 2

Director Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie) may have gone a little more intense for his live-action debut, but the premise of The Tomorrow War still sounds loopy enough to work as a Lego cartoon: Time travelers from the year 2051 arrive and ask for present-day mankind’s help in fighting off a devastating alien invasion that won’t happen for another 30 years. Former minifig Chris Pratt plays one of the 2021ers who jumps through the swirling portal to join the fight, and presumably more time-travel twists follow, because throwing wave after wave of additional humans at a rapacious alien threat seems like a pretty poor use of time-travel tech on its own.

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The Forever Purge

The Forever Purge

The Forever Purge

Theaters everywhere July 2

In what’s become a tradition not quite as annual as the fictional one the franchise revolves around, audiences are invited to celebrate the birthday of America with a return to the alternate America of The Purge. This dubiously “final” installment dares to ask: What if the Purge happened during the day? That’s the premise of a tired sequel that finds an army of deplorables breaking the already pretty permissive rules of the annual free-for-all and just continuing to Purge after the 12 hours have elapsed. That the good guys this time are a Mexican couple (Ana de la Reguera and Tenoch Huerta) fleeing the frying pan of the cartels for the fire of a United States hostile to their very existence shows that writer James DeMonaco has maintained the political conscience of his hit horror series—just not, sadly, the excitement or the insight.

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Fear Street trilogy

Fear Street trilogy

Fear Street Part 1: 1994

Fear Street Part 2: 1978

Fear Street Part 3: 1666

Netflix July 2, July 9, July 16

The Goosebumps movies mined their kid-lit source material for all-ages mayhem, packing multiple creatures from the bestselling line of books into two PG-rated monster mashes. Netflix is taking a slightly different approach with its adaptation of author R.L. Stine’s earlier and more teen-targeted YA horror franchise. The streaming giant has commissioned a trilogy of connected thrillers set in or around the fictional Ohio town of Shadyside; the installments, released a week apart over the first half of July, are each set in a different time period and follow a different cast of teen characters. The first, which comes out tomorrow, is a glossy but not particularly scary Scream homage.

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Summer Of Soul (Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised...)

Summer Of Soul (Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised...)

Summer Of Soul (Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised…)

Hulu July 2

In 1969, the same summer as Woodstock, a large park in Manhattan played host to the Harlem Cultural Festival, a free, multi-week concert series that brought together some of the era’s biggest names in Black music. Directed by Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (making his feature debut), this Sundance sensation assembles a treasure trove of buried footage from the half-century-old event. The result is a truly joyous concert film, weaving together pristinely preserved performances by a dream lineup (Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly And The Family Stone, and many others) into a snapshot of a major moment in not just American music, but also American culture, too.

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Black Widow

Black Widow

Black Widow

Theaters everywhere and Disney+ July 9

It’s been two whole years since a Marvel superhero graced the big screen. As if making up for lost time, the studio plans to release no less than four new entries in its forever franchise by the end of the year. First on the docket is a long-clamored-for, long-in-development vehicle for resident reformed assassin Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). Set between the events of Civil War and the two-part Avengers finale that took the character out of commission, this prequel follows the one-time Russian agent as she ties up loose ends, reuniting with old comrades played by Florence Pugh, David Harbour, and Rachel Weisz. Directed by Cate Shortland (Somersault), it’s a relatively brisk and “small” MCU adventure—at least until the CGI glut of the final act.

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Summertime

Summertime

Summertime

Select theaters July 9

After he made a splash at Sundance with Blindspotting but before he co-directed Disney’s recent Raya And The Last Dragon, Carlos López Estrada collaborated with a whopping 25 poets for this ensemble dramedy that follows multiple characters across a single, sweltering summer day in Los Angeles. Plainly a valentine to the city and its marginalized residents, the film essentially unfolds as a series of spoken-word performances; it’s about as intermittently inspired and fundamentally uneven as an actual poetry slam, which our correspondent noted from the film’s Park City premiere a year and a half ago.

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The Woman Who Ran

The Woman Who Ran

The Woman Who Ran

Select theaters July 9

The latest film from prolific South Korean writer-director Hong Sang-soo (Right Now, Wrong Then) follows Gam-hee (Kim Minhee), a woman spending time away from her husband for the first time since they got married; over the course of the film, she visits three different figures from her past. These chatty scenes are staged in Hong’s long-take, slow-push-in style, and there are low-key surprises embedded into the movie’s slim 77 minutes—like how a cat manages to steal the most memorable scene, a strained disagreement between two neighbors. It could be just the antidote for mid-summer bombast.

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Gunpowder Milkshake

Gunpowder Milkshake

Gunpowder Milkshake

Select theaters and Netflix July 14

The John Wick influence is palpable in the trailer for Gunpowder Milkshake—until halfway through, when all of a sudden the air is thick with Drive. This Netflix shoot ’em up models itself after some of the most successful exercises in hyper-stylized violence from the past decade, but with a twist: The gun-toting assassins are all female. Karen Gillan stars as a hitwoman whose mission to protect an 8-year-old girl forces her to reunite with her mother, also a dangerous killer; Lena Headey co-stars as said matriarch, alongside Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh, and Carla Gugino as a trio of gun-toting “librarians.”

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Space Jam: A New Legacy

Space Jam: A New Legacy

Space Jam: A New Legacy

Theaters everywhere and HBO Max July 16

The Bugs Bunny/Michael Jordan commercial expansion Space Jam was once considered enough of a commercial disappointment (it did well, but like so many Warner Bros. features before and after, failed to kick off a WB-branded animation renaissance) that various sequel possibilities stalled. 25 years later, this nostalgia-bait reboot returns the Looney Tunes to their classic ’90s roots: befriending professional athletes, playing basketball, and saying things like “It’s on!” and “Well, that happened.” At least LeBron James looks more comfortable on camera than Jordan did; the Tune Squad, meanwhile, mainly looks “expensive,” as Daffy Duck mentions in the trailer— for at least part of the movie, they’ll be rendered with pointlessly realistic 3-D animation. Looney Tunes: Back In Action may come out of this looking better than ever.

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Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions

Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions

Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions

Theaters everywhere July 16

Escape Room, about a group of strangers fighting their way through an elaborately booby-trapped building, was more watchable than your average January horror movie. (Remember Cube? It was like that, but with mediocre CGI.) The film’s relative fun—along with solid box-office and the release-date changes caused by the pandemic—may account for the prime summer real estate afforded its sequel. This one takes the Catching Fire approach, in that it sends a bunch of people who survived the titular death trap (including the stars of the first movie, Taylor Russell and Logan Miller) through a bigger, more treacherous series of puzzles.

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Pig

Pig

Pig

Select theaters July 16

For a certain breed of moviegoer, all that needs to be said about Pig is that it’s a movie where Nicolas Cage goes on a rampage to track down his missing truffle pig. If you need a little more incentive, however, there’s the oddball detail that the film is partially set in the rarified world of haute cuisine, an unusual locale for a revenge thriller. Then there’s the fact that it’s being distributed by Neon, whose recent Oscars streak suggests that this is something a little classier than your average DTV throwaway. But, again: Nic Cage hunts down the people who kidnapped his pig. That’s going to be enough for many.

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Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

Select theaters July 16

Anthony Bourdain has been memorialized many times over since his tragic death three years ago. Now it’s Academy Award winner Morgan Neville’s turn to pay tribute to the beloved celebrity chef and globetrotting author, with this biographical documentary that chronicles Bourdain’s rise to public prominence, as well as his battle against the private demons that followed him on his travels around the world. The film, which premiered to raves at Tribeca last month. tackles his life and work through archival footage and talking-head interviews with those who knew him best, as well as the prolific writer’s own words.

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How It Ends

How It Ends

How It Ends

Select theaters and digital platforms July 20

2020 is over, but we’re still dealing with one aspect of that unfortunate year: movies conceived and then shot during the pandemic. The latest to see the light of day is this self-described “feel-good apocalyptic comedy” about the last day before a comet destroys the planet. Zoe Lister-Jones, who also wrote and directed, crosses the empty streets of Los Angeles en route to one final party, the personification of her younger self (Cailee Spaeny) in tow. Lamorne Morris, Nick Kroll, Olivia Wilde, Fred Armisen, Helen Hunt, Charlie Day, and Bradley Whitford are a few of the famous friends making tossed-off celebrity cameos while Lister-Jones learns to love herself on the eve of Earth’s destruction. Reactions from Sundance, including our own, were less than rapturous.

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Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins

Theaters everywhere July 23

In a season where multiple high-profile releases are still absconding for the safer pastures of streaming, it’s a little bit surprising that Paramount’s Snake Eyes, a prequel to the G.I. Joe movie series most people assumed was defunct—if they remembered it at all—is getting rushed into theaters. What could be so special about an origin story for the masked ninja once played by Ray Park? The trailer does look sleeker and less overblown than either Rise Of Cobra or Retaliation, with Henry Golding flexing some sword-fighting, motorcycle-riding muscles as the badass who hasn’t yet taken his vow of silence (or received the injuries that keep him silent in the cartoon.)

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Old

Old

Old

Theaters everywhere July 23

M. Night Shyamalan trades superheroes for the supernatural, even as he looks to an actual comic book for inspiration. The writer-director’s follow-up to Glass is an adaptation of the graphic novel Sandcastle, about a family whose secluded beach vacation goes horribly awry when they all start rapidly aging. The cast includes Gael García Bernal, Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie, Embeth Davidtz, Ken Leung, and Phantom Thread’s Vicky Krieps. Mothers and fathers, at the very least, will probably get a few chills from the premise, which puts a Twilight Zone spin on that old parental saw about how they grow up so fast.

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The Comeback Trail

The Comeback Trail

The Comeback Trail

Theaters everywhere July 23

Not even a global pandemic could stop Robert De Niro mugging his way through The War With Grandpa, but it could stop him from mugging his way through a more adult-oriented comedy—albeit temporarily. Though the casting of De Niro, Morgan Freeman, and Tommy Lee Jones makes it look like a standard-issue 2010s geezer comedy (serving as a simultaneous reunion for both Last Vegas and The Family), this is actually a period farce about an unscrupulous movie producer (De Niro) plotting to Producers his way out of debt to a gangster (Freeman) by insuring an aging Western star (Jones) and engineering his on-set death, which proves more difficult than it sounds. Zach Braff is the token youngster; maybe he wanted to witness yet another reunion, this one between De Niro and his Midnight Run screenwriter George Gallo, who writes and directs here.

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The Last Letter From Your Lover

The Last Letter From Your Lover

The Last Letter from Your Lover

Netflix July 23

Actress-turned-director Augustine Frizzell takes a right turn from her debut, the stoner comedy Never Goin’ Back, with this Netflix love story based on a novel by JoJo Moyes. The name of the game here is time-jumping, border-hopping romance, with Felicity Huffman in the starring role as a journalist whose discovery of a cache of secret love letters inspires her to hunt down their writers and continue the story of their illicit affair. Shailene Woodley and Callum Turner co-star as the star-crossed midcentury lovers, alongside Nabhaan Rizwan as the archivist who helps Jones in her quest.

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Joe Bell

Joe Bell

Joe Bell

Select theaters July 23

Given his history, Mark Wahlberg isn’t the first actor you’d expect to headline a movie about a guy marching for tolerance. That’s the premise of this ripped-from-the-headlines drama, directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green (Monsters And Men), penned by the Oscar-winning screenwriters of Brokeback Mountain, and starring Wahlberg as a father walking from Oregon to New York, extolling an anti-bullying message on behalf of his gay teenage son (Reid Miller). From last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, The A.V. Club concluded that Joe Bell had its “heart in the right place, but its head is foggy and possibly concussed.”

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Mandibles

Mandibles

Mandibles

Select theaters and VOD July 23

Quentin Dupieux, the French musician-turned-filmmaker, is as prolific as he is unconventional. Just four months after his last absurdist whatsit Keep An Eye Out hit the American market, the Rubber director is back with a zany-looking buddy comedy about a pair of knuckleheads (Grégoire Ludig and David Marsais) who find a fly the size of a dog in the trunk of their car and try to figure out how they can make money from it. Adèle Exarchopoulos, bellowing loudly, costars. The, ahem, buzz from last autumn’s festival circuit was largely positive.

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Jungle Cruise

Jungle Cruise

Jungle Cruise

Theaters everywhere and Disney+ July 30

The success of the first Pirates Of Caribbean seemed to consume Disney for years, as the studio became hellbent on replicating it with four diminishing (though usually quite profitable) sequels. Now that the series is in some kind of limbo, Disney’s live-action division can get back to their original mission: making ill-advised movies out of other old Disneyland attractions. Admittedly, Jungle Cruise seems like their best shot since the first Pirates, simply by virtue of starring Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, and seemingly zero Country Bears. The trailer looks a bit lumbering, but maybe all that heavy synergy will be mitigated by the presence of ace B-movie director Jaume Collet-Serra.

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The Green Knight

The Green Knight

The Green Knight

Select theaters July 30

Dev Patel is Sir Gawain, a.k.a. King Arthur’s nephew, in this by-all-appearances striking take on the 14th-century legend. Excitement for the film has arguably only grown in the year and change since it was set to premiere at SXSW; both the original teaser and the recent full trailer emphasize the supernatural, horror-leaning imagery offered by writer-director David Lowery (A Ghost Story, The Old Man And The Gun). A24 is banking on The Green Knight being worth the wait. If nothing else, it does look like a spectacle built for the big screen, not a casual stream—and the rare Arthurian adaptation that pairs its mythic source material with some true mythological grandeur.

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Stillwater

Stillwater

Stillwater

Select theaters July 30

When an American college student (Abigail Breslin) studying aboard in Marseilles is accused of murdering her girlfriend, her father (Matt Damon, trying out a thick Oklahoma accent) moves to France to fight the case. Judging from the trailer, which emphasizes the danger and urgency of the situation, Stillwater is a change of pace for Spotlight director Thomas McCarthy—though, of course, it also counts as a return to adult drama after his last movie, the Disney+ original Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made. That it’s premiering at this month’s Cannes Film Festival ahead of its U.S. run is a pretty good sign.

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Nine Days

Nine Days

Nine Days

Select theaters July 30

In a rustic cabin situated on the edge of oblivion, a quiet functionary played by Winston Duke interviews candidates for existence itself—literal unborn souls, all vying for a chance to go to Earth and live a life. Though the premise retroactively suggests a live-action, adult-oriented Soul, this first feature from writer-director Edson Oda owes a clearer debt to Kore-eda Hirokazu’s similarly stripped-down After Life, though it’s not nearly as conceptually sound. A strong cast—including Zazie Beetz, Tony Hale, Benedict Wong, and Bill Skarsgård—helped Nine Days rack up some glowing reviews at last year’s Sundance.

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The Last Mercenary

The Last Mercenary

The Last Mercenary

Netflix July 30

He’s not as young as he used to be, but Jean-Claude Van Damme can still do the splits like no one else. Flexibility is just one of the skills the Muscles from Brussels shows off in his new Netflix action-comedy, which takes the Live Free Or Die Hard approach of pairing him with a younger actor, Samir Decazza, cast as the estranged son of Van Damme’s grizzled former French secret service agent. Our hero swoops in to save his progeny from false accusations of weapons and drug trafficking, leading to an adventure we suspect will be a bit of a bonding experience for the duo as well. Just, you know, with car chases and bone-crunching fight sequences.

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Enemies Of The State

Enemies Of The State

Enemies Of The State

Select theaters and VOD July 30

When former U.S. Air National Guard analyst Matt DeHart was convicted on child pornography charges in 2016, he and his family insisted the accusations were false, claiming that they were retaliation for DeHart’s involvement in the hacker group Anonymous. Director Sonia Kennebeck delves into the veracity of DeHart’s story in this documentary that premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The guiding hand of nonfiction legend Errol Morris, who executive produced, can be detected in a shifting approach to the contradictory evidence unearthed in Kennebeck’s investigation.

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Isabelle Huppert in Mama Weed
Isabelle Huppert in Mama Weed
Photo: Music Box Films

Silicon Valley writer Carson Mell penned, directed, and stars in Some Of Our Stallions (VOD 7/2), a dark comedy about two recently institutionalized friends on a quest for love. Being A Human Person (select theaters 7/2) chronicles the making of About Endlessness, the latest meticulously crafted movie from Sweden’s Roy Andersson. The hit SXSW documentary Kid Candidate (digital platforms and VOD 7/2) follows a 24-year-old musician running for city council in Amarillo, Texas. Rafe Spall finds himself suddenly rocketing a year forward in time every few minutes in the horrifying-sounding “comedy” Long Story Short (select theaters, digital platforms, and VOD 7/2). Kelsey Grammer, Julia Stiles, and Janeane Garofalo are doctors struggling with an impossible medical decision in The God Committee (select theaters and VOD 7/2). The relationship between a 1950s Japanese volleyball team and the anime it inspired is the subject of The Witches Of The Orient (select theaters 7/9), from John McEnroe: In The Realm Of Perfection director Julien Faraut. The Loneliest Whale: The Search For 52 (select theaters 7/9; digital platforms 7/16) goes looking for the world’s most famously solitary whale. Vincent London stars as the famed Italian adventurer and womanizer in Benoît Jacquot’s Casanova, Last Love (select theaters 7/14). French crime caper Mama Weed (select theaters 7/16) casts Isabelle Huppert as a translator who gets wrapped up in a wild drug-related misadventure. Ailey (select theaters 7/23) profiles the legendary dancer and choreographer. Europa Europa director Agnieszka Holland returns with Charlatan (select theaters 7/23), a biopic of Czech herbal healer Jan Mikolášek. Settlers (select theaters, digital platforms, and VOD 7/23) is a sci-fi Western starring Sofia Boutella and Jonny Lee Miller as homesteaders on Mars. Ben Platt and Lola Kirke are siblings mourning their father’s death in Broken Diamonds (select theaters and VOD 7/23), while Jake Johnson is a son mourning his mother’s death in Ride The Eagle (select theaters, digital platforms, and VOD 7/30). And the Sundance-winning Sabaya (select theaters 7/30) is a documentary about rescuing young women from the grips of ISIS.

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