A corpse farts, a director gets his due, tickling conspiracies are unearthed, pop culture gets skewered, a shark attacks, a fitting swan song arrives, and more this month. Check out our top 15 picks below and let us know what you are looking forward to most.
Matinees to See: The Witness (6/3), Approaching the Unknown (6/3), Len and Company (6/10), King Jack (6/10), Diary of a Chambermaid (6/10), Genius (6/10), Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story) (6/17), Free State of Jones (6/24), The Duel (6/24), and Les cowboys (6/24)
15. The Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn; June 24th)
Synopsis: When aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has.
Why You Should See It: Save for Sean Penn’s belly flop, Nicolas Winding Refn‘s The Neon Demon was far and away the worst film we saw at Cannes, yet that doesn’t make me any less curious to see what the director has in store. With a wide range of reactions following its premiere, Winding Refn’s return to Los Angeles following Drive looks to be a deliciously bloody, deranged dive into the world of beauty — and as with any of his films, it sounds like you’ll either love it or hate it.
14. Finding Dory (Andrew Stanton; June 17th)
Synopsis: The friendly-but-forgetful blue tang fish reunites with her loved ones, and everyone learns a few things about the real meaning of family along the way.
Why You Should See It: While the creative brilliance of Inside Out signaled a return to form for Pixar, The Good Dinosaur seemed like a missed opportunity and now four out of their next five films are a step back into sequel territory. The first out of the gate is Finding Dory, a follow-up to Andrew Stanton’s 2003 hit. While the trailers thus far haven’t really sold us on it being a must-see, hopefully this one swims close to the route of the Toy Story franchise than that of their Cars and Monsters follow-ups.
13. Swiss Army Man (Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan; June 24th)
Synopsis: A hopeless man stranded in the wilderness befriends a dead body and together they go on a surreal journey to get home.
Why You Should See It: It’s rare we’d offer a recommendation of a film we didn’t love, but the mere fact that you won’t witness any other film like Swiss Army Man in this calendar year — or any other, for that matter — makes it worth a watch. Affectionally dubbed the “farting corpse drama” at Sundance this year, it finds Hank (Paul Dano) on a remote island by himself after a boating trip stranded him. Seconds away from ending this desolate existence by hanging himself, he spots a washed up body on the beach, “played” by Daniel Radcliffe. I said in my review, “This set-up could easily make for one of the silliest, off-putting films that has ever graced Sundance — in U.S. Dramatic competition, no less — yet the directing duo bring an unexpected layer of emotion to the story, even if it ends up getting eventually repetitively muddled. As Hank and “Manny,” as Radcliffe’s corpse is later dubbed, progress on their journey, themes of loneliness, isolation, true love, and more emerge.”
12. Tickled (David Farrier, Dylan Reeve; June 17th)
Synopsis: Journalist David Farrier stumbles upon a mysterious tickling competition online. As he delves deeper he comes up against fierce resistance, but that doesn’t stop him getting to the bottom of a story stranger than fiction.
Why You Should See It: One may have to soon redefine what constitutes a sports movie. At Sundance earlier this year, New Zealand entertainment reporter David Farrier (and co-director Dylan Reeve) premiered Tickled, a film that dives into the “competitive endurance tickling.” However strange that may sound, they go on to unravel a web of conspiracy and intrigue in this underground world. We said in our review, “Tickled gradually turns out to be about how even the most random phenomenon can become an instrument of extortion and manipulation.”
11. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer; June 3rd)
Synopsis: When it becomes clear that his solo album is a failure, a former boy band member does everything in his power to maintain his celebrity status.
Why You Should See It: For what’s technically their first official movie, The Lonely Island look to be staying true to their absurdist, bite-sized form. We said in our review, “Samberg and company are keen observers of pop culture and every facet of its insanity, doing their very best to out-size that which already feels larger than logic. They don’t always succeed, but when they do, it’s more than worth it.”
10. Nuts! (Penny Lane; June 22nd)
Synopsis: The mostly true story of Dr. John Romulus Brinkley, an eccentric genius who built an empire with his goat-testicle impotence cure and a million-watt radio station.
Why You Should See It: On virtually any page on the internet, you are one accidental click away from getting sucked into the scheme-filled underground of odd pills and procedures that promise a quick fix to any health issue. The closest equivalent of this back in 1917 can be found with Kansas doctor John Romulus Brinkley, who said he could cure impotence by transplanting goat testicles into men. Our Nixon director Penny Lane is now exploring the story in the partially animated Nuts!, which premiered at Sundance. We said in our review “A wild and sympathetic look at medical quackery, Brinkley devotes much of his career to magical cures, some of which we might commonly think of as placebo. Lane’s touch is lighter and more playful than its subject matter may require, added by the rough animation, articles and narration provided by Gene Tognacci.”
9. The Wailing (Na Hong-jin; June 3rd)
Synopsis: A stranger arrives in a little village and soon after a mysterious sickness starts spreading. A policeman is drawn into the incident and is forced to solve the mystery in order to save his daughter.
Why You Should See It: While horror features will crowd multiplexes throughout the summer, we can bet there won’t be a freakier, better-directed genre offering than The Wailing. We said in our review, “This technical finesse combined with an utter fearlessness to go extreme — which has consistently helped propel Korean genre films to dizzying heights — culminated in a prolonged later scene of dueling cultish rituals that’s mad in all the right ways. Designed and choreographed with stupendous pizzazz, it’s an explosion of colors, noises, and murderous zest that floods the senses, reminding you in a (skipped) heartbeat how frightfully entertaining these supposedly artless horror flicks can be.”
8. From Afar (Lorenzo Vigas; June 8th)
Synopsis: Armando, a 50 year man, seeks young men in Caracas and pays them just for company. One day he meets Elder, a 17 years boy that is the leader of a criminal gang, and that meeting changes their lives forever.
Why You Should See It: The Golden Lion winner of the 72nd Venice Film Festival, From Afar will get a limited theatrical run this month. We said in our review, “This film tells a moving if deeply unpleasant story with a significant ick factor that’s going to put many people off. It’s discerning because, as contained and particular as the film’s subject matter and as unassuming as its approach, From Afar delivers an incisive, poignant, surgically precise character study that deals a fatal blow in one crisp, clean stab.”
7. The Fits (Anna Rose Holmer; June 3rd)
Synopsis: While training at the gym 11-year-old tomboy Toni becomes entranced with a dance troupe. As she struggles to fit in she finds herself caught up in danger as the group begins to suffer from fainting spells and other violent fits.
Why You Should See It: One of our favorites of Sundance, we said in our review, “an exploration of movement, motion, liminality, childhood and racial politics, The Fits is a fascinating psychological study of Toni (fearlessly played by Royalty Hightower), an 11-year0old living in Cincinnati’s West End. Set almost entirely within the walls of the neighborhood Lincoln Rec Center, we first find Toni taking up boxing, trained by older brother Jermaine (Da’Sean Minor). Abandoning the rigor of the boxing — requiring sprints across an overpass after hitting the speed-bag — Toni finds herself drawn to the dance troop practicing across the hall, where what she finds is nothing short of her voice.”
6. Hunt For the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi; June 24th)
Synopsis: A national manhunt is ordered for a rebellious kid and his foster uncle who go missing in the wild New Zealand bush.
Why You Should See It: If one imagines a real-life version of Up with a bit of Thelma & Louise thrown in, they get Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Taika Waititi‘s charming on-the-run adventure comedy. Based on Barry Crump’s book “Wild Pork And Watercress,” the story follows Ricky (Julian Dennison) as a rambunctious foster child on his last straw before juvenile prison. An expert in stealing, graffiti, kicking things, and many more offenses, he’s yet to find a foster family that can put up with him. Check out my full review.
5. The Shallows (Jaume Collet-Serra; June 29th)
Synopsis: A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills.
Why You Should See It: Over 40 years after Steven Spielberg created the blockbuster with Jaws — and fostered a global fear of sharks — Hollywood is still using it as a scare tactic. Following Open Water, Deep Blue Sea, and many more thrillers, it’s now Jaume Collet-Serra‘s turn to terrify audiences with this summer’s The Shallows. Starring Blake Lively, it looks to be a one-location thriller as she’s stranded on the small portion of land in which a Great White Shark is circling. With Jaume Collet-Serra proving he’s one of the most under-appreciated directors in terms of engineering thrills after Non-Stop, Run All Night, and Unknown, even without Liam Neeson, we can’t wait to see what he has in store here.
4. Cosmos (Andrzej Żuławski; June 17th)
Synopsis: Two friends discover mysterious items in a countryside guesthouse, including a hanging cat.
Why You Should See It: Upon seeing Cosmos last year at the Camerimage Film Festival, little did we know it would be Andrzej Żuławski‘s final film. Thankfully it’s a fitting swan song for the Polish director, who passed away this February. We said in our review, “Might some sense of long-awaited release account for its why and how — the intensity of its performances, the force of its camera moves, the sharpness in its cuts, the bombast of its emotions? I’m inclined to think so, but it’s possible I’m only proposing this in search of a “what” — what’s going on, what he was thinking, and what we’re meant to take from any and all of it. Answers, if they do come at all, will only gradually present themselves, and they won’t arrive via exposition or, with some exception, clearly stated themes. A filmmaker who values the power of shock, but not necessarily thrills for thrills’ sake, Żuławski elucidates material with tools that announce themselves in their presentation — surprising camera dollies, fast pans, sudden cuts, overly prominent music cues — and raise complex questions about their relation to one another.”
3. Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong Sang-soo; June 24th)
Synopsis: A film director falls for a young painter – twice.
Why You Should See It: Seemingly a rare occurrence, a Hong Sang-soo feature will actually get a U.S. release this month. One of his “most immediately relatable endeavors,” we said in our review, “Right Now, Wrong Then is a terrific example of Hong’s talents, which means it also sounds massively uninteresting: visiting an unknown city to present a screening of his film, a director, Ham Cheon-soo (Jeong Jay-yeong) meets a woman, Yoon Hee-jeong (Kim Min-hee), who he immediately takes a liking to.”
2. Wiener-Dog (Todd Solondz; June 24th)
Synopsis: Chronicles the life of a dog as it travels around the country, spreading comfort and joy.
Why You Should See It: As uncomfortable a viewing experience it may be, the best films from Todd Solondz slowly reveal themselves with their character intricacies and distinct touches, burrowing deep inside as they replay in one’s mind. In his latest feature, Wiener-Dog, he’s crafted a series of incisive, perceptive vignettes mutually connected by the shifting owners of his title character. Aptly described by Solondz as Au Hasard Balthazar meets Benji, there’s no denying it bears his brand of humor and heartbreak in every scene. Check out my full review.
1. De Palma (Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow; June 10th)
Synopsis: A documentary about writer and director Brian De Palma, chronologically exploring each of his films through only his eyes.
Why You Should See It: Brian De Palma finally gets his due in one of the best documentaries about a filmmaker (and filmmaking in general) one is bound to see. We said in our review, “Over the last five years, fellow directors Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow shot over 30 hours of interviews with the movie icon and have distilled them down into this rich feature-length documentary. De Palma is a fascinating, revealing and compelling overview of a remarkably eclectic career, but it’s also a seldom-heard first-hand account of what it’s like to work inside and outside the Hollywood system.”
What are you looking forward to this month?