The Month in Pop Entertainment: July 2013

Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer in The Lone Ranger (2013)

Blockbusters, summer TV, and a lot of music prove that there's more fun to be had in July than just the 4th.

July is a big month in the music world, as so many major releases are hitting the shelves that discussing them warrants a separate PopMatters article. See: Listening Ahead: Upcoming Music Releases for July 2013

But the next 31 days also feature some TV debuts, big box office hits, and America’s most patriotic holiday. So get comfortable. Open a cold one, and enjoy July's offerings.

Despicable Me 2 July 3rd

If you’ve been wondering why little yellow minions have been popping up in NBC advertisements and insurance commercials, it’s because they’re all back for more craziness in the sequel to the 2011 box office hit. The plot revolves around wannabe supervillain Gru and his three adopted daughters, but people will really be flocking to see what those adorable gibberish-spouting mutants will do next.

The Lone Ranger July 5th

Disney has spent millions of dollars making this update of the classic cowboy legend, featuring Armie Hammer as the masked man and Johnny Depp as his faithful friend, Tonto. Be prepared for racing horses, an epic train crash, and a woman with a shotgun for a leg.

Jay Z Magna Carta Holy Grail album July 7th

Hip-hop fans have been eagerly anticipating the 17th album from Mr. Beyonce himself, which has been promoted via Samsung commercials. Up to one million cellphone buyers will receive a free download three days before the national release date, but that won’t affect how Billboard places it on the charts.

Backstreet Boys In A World Like This album July 30th

It was 20 years ago last week when the Backstreet Boys officially got together as a group, but their voices haven’t aged a bit. On this release, the ultimate '90s boyband co-write songs about their personal lives and welcome back original member Kevin Richardson after an eight-year absence.

Robin Thicke Blurred Lines album July 30th

The star of the most annoying music video of the summer (No, it won’t be embedded here!) brings out more R&B-flavored catcalls on his sixth album. A deluxe edition featuring five extra songs will be available at Target stores.

RED 2 July 19th

Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, and Mary-Louise Parker are back as formerly retired secret agents who team up to defuse a nuclear weapon. The original was better than expected, and plans are already underway for a part three.

A Capitol Fourth (PBS) and Macy’s 4th Of July Fireworks Spectacular (NBC) July 4th

Only two major networks chose to celebrate Independence Day this year. Starting at 7pm Central, NBC will be featuring live performances from Mariah Carey, Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw, and a fireworks display choreographed by Usher. PBS offers their formal event live from the nation’s capital at the same time, but reruns it later depending on your location. They will have performances from Barry Manilow, American Idols Candice Glover and Scotty McCreery, and John Williams scoring a piece from his Lincoln soundtrack.

NBC’s Siberia (July 1st, 9pm central) and Get Out Alive With Bear Grylls (July 8th, 9pm central)

NBC tries the wilderness survivor route with two new shows about facing the elements. In Siberia, 16 “reality show contestants” are dropped in the Siberian wilderness and told some startling information. Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls is a more traditional reality show, featuring the Discovery channel host as a mentor to twenty contestants roughing it in the wilds of New Zealand’s South Island.

Teen Beach Movie July 30th

Disney Channel’s homage to the Frankie & Annette movies of the '60s stars Austin & Aly’s Ross Lynch and The Foster’s Maia Mitchell as two teens who become trapped in a Beach Blanket Bingo-esque movie. On DVD two weeks after making its television debut, it’s shaping up to becoming the next High School Musical.

Mariah Carey The Art of Letting Go album July 23rd

Mimi has been riding high on the charts with her duet with Miguel, “Beautiful”, and her resulting album will feature more duets and collaborations with some of the biggest names in the business. Originally scheduled for release during her tenure as an American Idol judge, industry bigwigs will be keeping an eye out for whether the experience will help or hurt her sales.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

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This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

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​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

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Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

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There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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