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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to July

“RED 2″

Who: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren
What: Retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses reunites his team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device.
When: July 19th
Why: As far as action franchises go, “RED” may not seem like a natural candidate for a sequel, especially when you consider that it only made $90 million at the domestic box office; respectable, but hardly blockbuster-sized money. The movie did have one thing going for it, however, and that’s its incredible ensemble cast, many of whom are returning for this follow-up to the 2010 original. Unlike the first film, however, “RED 2” isn’t based on a pre-existing comic book, but instead features a new story created by series writers Jon and Erich Hoeber. And if the talent involved is any indication – not only in front of the camera with screen vets like Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anthony Hopkins and Brian Cox, but behind it as well with “Galaxy Quest” director Dean Parisot – than this could be even more fun than the last one.

“R.I.P.D.”

Who: Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Mary-Louise Parker and Kevin Bacon
What: A recently slain cop joins a team of undead police officers working for the Rest in Peace Department and tries to find the man who murdered him.
When: July 19th
Why: Though it may sound like a blatant “Men in Black” rip-off in many ways, “R.I.P.D.” isn’t quite as similar to the sci-fi action comedy than it appears. Sure, both movies originated from comic books, and they both involve secret organizations that deal with supernatural beasties, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Not only does “R.I.P.D.” boast a much darker sense of humor, but it doesn’t look like something you could take the kiddies to see either. The special effects aren’t quite as polished as you’d expect from a big summer movie, but I’ll take Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges over the “Men in Black” duo any day of the week – particularly the latter, who seems to be having an absolute blast playing the Western lawman. And to think that Zach Galifianakis was originally cast in the role. They certainly dodged a bullet there.

“ONLY GOD FORGIVES”

Who: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas and Vithaya Pansringarm
What: Julian, a drug smuggler thriving in Bangkok’s criminal underworld, is coerced by his mother to track down and kill the man responsible for his brother’s death
When: July 19th
Why: When it was announced that Ryan Gosling would be reteaming with his “Drive” director, Nicolas Winding Refn, for “Only God Forgives,” the film immediately shot to the top of my must-see list. But if the early reviews from its premiere at Cannes are to be believed, the Thailand-set thriller isn’t very good. In fact, for as loved as Refn is in the arthouse community, the backlash against this movie is pretty surprising, especially since it seemingly delivers everything that fans of “Drive” loved and wanted more of, including the kind of brutal violence present in a lot of the director’s work. Still, despite the bad buzz, the film looks gorgeous, and I’ll watch anything with Gosling playing a badass, even if I have to lower my expectations to curb the chance of disappointment.

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