May kicked off the summer movie season, but June brings some studio tentpoles actually worth seeing (yes, we didn’t like that one everyone else did last month). Along with popcorn entertainment, there’s some of the finest independent films of the year, ranging from a long-delayed final feature from a late master to Sundance favorites and more. We should also note that, despite getting a release last year, IFC seems to be putting the Palme d’Or-winning I, Daniel Blake back in theaters this week, and we recommend seeking it out if you missed it.
Matinees to See: Past Life (6/2), Band Aid (6/2), My Cousin Rachel (6/9), Megan Leavey (6/9), SCORE: A Film Music Documentary (6/16), Maudie (6/16), Harmonium (6/16), The Journey (6/16), All Eyez on Me (6/16), Lost in Paris (6/16), Pop Aye (6/28), The House (6/30), and The Little Hours (6/30).
15. It’s Only the End of the World (Xavier Dolan; June 30)
Synopsis: It would have been a lovely family dinner. If it weren’t the last.
Why You Should See It: This pick is certainly more of a curiosity than anything else. After quickly earning cachet with films such as Laurence Anyways and Mommy, Xavier Dolan‘s drama It’s Only the End of the World picked up an award at Cannes last year despite a negative reception overall (we found some things to appreciate) and now it’ll head straight to Netflix at the end of the month. With a cast consisting of Gaspard Ulliel, Nathalie Baye, Marion Cotillard, Léa Seydoux, and Vincent Cassel, we’re intrigued to see it nonetheless.
14. Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press (June 23)
Synopsis: The trial between Hulk Hogan and Gawker Media pitted privacy rights against freedom of the press, and raised important questions about how big money can silence media. This film is an examination of the perils and duties of the free press in an age of inequality.
Why You Should See It: One of our favorite documentaries from Sundance this year was Brian Knappenberger‘s follow-up to The Internet’s Own Boy, which looks at the trial between Hogan and Gawker, as well as the free press at large. “Knappenberger crafts a compelling and infuriating tale of big money flouting freedom of speech in an era where freedom of speech (thanks in part to social media) has become more democratized and, perhaps, more dangerous than ever,” we said in our review.
13. The Bad Batch (Ana Lily Amirpour; June 23)
Synopsis: A dystopian love story in a Texas wasteland and set in a community of cannibals.
Why You Should See It: After a debut as impressive as A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, we’ll watch anything from the director, even if it didn’t arrive with quite the same response. We said in our review, “Ana Lily Amirpour’s second feature shoots for Harmony Korine meets Mad Max and would have nearly almost hit the mark were it not for the gratingly aloof attitude and the swaths of directorial license being taken. The Bad Batch — an ambitious, expansive dystopian sci-fi western which features partying, drugs, and cannibals — might come as music to the ears of diehard fans of films like Spring Breakers and Gummo (a kid doesn’t quite eat spaghetti in a bathtub, but a kid does eat spaghetti after being in a bathtub). However, beneath its dazzlingly hip surface the script and characters leave much to be desired. It’s like taking a trip to Burning Man: a pseudo-spiritual, uniquely punky experience perhaps, but one that’s full of annoying rich kids and ultimately emotionally shallow.”
12. The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography (Errol Morris; June 30)
Synopsis: A look at the life and work of photographer Elsa Dorfman.
Why You Should See It: This month brings a new film from Errol Morris, which means essential viewing. The Thin Blue Line and Fog of War director’s latest is The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography, which depicts his own friend and neighbor. With a career beginning in the 1960s, Dorfman has mastered the large-format Polaroid Land 20×24 camera and, judging from the preview, this looks to playfully honor her craft.
11. It Comes at Night (Trey Edward Shults; June 9)
Synopsis: Secure within a desolate home as an unnatural threat terrorizes the world, a man has established a tenuous domestic order with his wife and son, but this will soon be put to test when a desperate young family arrives seeking refuge.
Why You Should See It: The threat of the unknown lurks behind every door, every parcel of darkness, and every character motivation in It Comes at Night. While the world writer-director Trey Edward Shults hints at is larger than in Krisha, it’s a similarly scaled exercise in wringing out tension, one that’s more patient than his debut, even if the whole is not as great as the sum of its formally impressive parts.
10. Dean (Demetri Martin; June 2)
Synopsis: A comedy about loss, grief and the redemptive power of love, Dean is an NY illustrator who falls hard for an LA woman while trying to prevent his father from selling the family home in the wake of his mother’s death.
Why You Should See It: The most piercing comedy is often mined from the darker aspects of life, presenting our fears in a new, hopefully amusing light. While Demetri Martin‘s stand-up has tinges of this, represented in his lo-fi sketches and carefully constructed one-liners, his writing-directing debut Dean effectively melds, both on the page and stylistically, a dramatic backbone with his personal brand. Check out my full review.
9. Beatriz at Dinner (Miguel Arteta; June 9)
Synopsis: A holistic medicine practitioner attends a wealthy client’s dinner party after her car breaks down.
Why You Should See It: If you could sit face-to-face with Donald Trump, what would you say? Beatriz at Dinner doesn’t imagine exactly that, but the scenario it presents is undeniably analogous, even if the character crafted in POTUS’ likeness is far less insecure and destructive to humanity. Presenting a clash of socio-economic classes and the ensuing discourse of morals and politics, the latest dramedy from Miguel Arteta is an observant, but not entirely successful outcry for the agency of the under-represented. Check out my full review.
8. Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins; June 2)
Synopsis: Before she was Wonder Woman she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained warrior. When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, she leaves home to fight a war to end all wars, discovering her full powers and true destiny.
Why You Should See It: Not only has the post-Nolan DC universe finally delivered its best superhero movie, but Wonder Woman is one of the most highly regarded in the genre overall. As we said in our review, “Throughout Wonder Woman there is an earnestness in tone that plays well, and rarely as saccharine. Part of this success must be credited to the very real dangers present throughout. A common and qualified criticism of many films in this genre is a pronounced lack of stakes. That is not the case here: our hero wins and loses plenty, growing in the process. Many have been waiting for Wonder Woman for a long while. She’s present, and it would appear she’s not going anywhere.”
7. The Big Sick (Michael Showalter; June 23)
Synopsis: A couple deals with their cultural differences as their relationship grows.
Why You Should See It: While the term “Sundance crowdpleaser” has been watered down to signal a fairly unmemorable cinema-going experience, this year we got one that breathes some new life into it. We said in our review, “From start to finish, The Big Sick, directed by Michael Showalter, works as a lovingly rendered, cinematic answer to the dinner party question: ‘So how did you two meet?’ Based on comedian Kumail Nanjiani‘s real life (he co-wrote the screenplay with his wife Emily V. Gordon), we meet Kumail (Nanjiani) as he finishes a stand-up set in Chicago. He becomes fast friends with a wooting heckler named Emily (Zoe Kazan, lovely), and a relationship begins to blossom.”
6. The Hero (Brett Haley; June 9)
Synopsis: An ailing movie star comes to terms with his past and mortality.
Why You Should See It: One of our favorite films from this year’s Sundance, we said in our review, “It’s commonplace for a fan to say of an actor or actress they like: “I would watch him or her in anything.” The Hero, written and directed by Brett Haley, makes the case that one could watch Sam Elliott do most anything and be enraptured. Mind you, this is in no way a backhanded compliment. There’s plenty to grab on to here.”
5.The Ornithologist (João Pedro Rodrigues; June 23)
Synopsis: Fernando, a solitary ornithologist, is looking for black storks when he is swept away by the rapids. Rescued by a couple of Chinese pilgrims, he plunges into an eerie and dark forest, trying to get back on his track.
Why You Should See It: Ever since its debut at Locarno last year, we’ve been waiting for The Ornithologist to make its way to theaters and it finally will this month. As we said in our review, “Publicly stated by its director to concern Saint Anthony, the Portuguese priest and friar who legend calls the most supernatural of saints, The Ornithologist luckily manages to see the profane outweigh the sacred — no white elephantine “spirituality,” but rather a progression of set-pieces. We have something of a return for João Pedro Rodrigues to his debut feature Fantasma, a nocturnal “erotic thriller” of sorts that moved by the logic of its own images, this in opposition to more character-driven films such as Two Drifters and To Die Like a Man or his most recent The Last Time I Saw Macao, a tad too much an academic exercise in mirroring post-colonialism through a deadpan ‘non-mystery.'”
4. In Transit (Albert Maysles, Lynn True, David Usui, Nelson Walker III, and Benjamin Wu; June 23)
Synopsis: Journey into the hearts and minds of passengers aboard the Empire Builder, America’s busiest long-distance train route.
Why You Should See It: One of the best films of 2017 is something I actually saw more than two years ago. The last work from the legendary director Albert Maysles will finally arrive this month, first opening at Metrograph. “Ripe with rich source material each worthy of their own feature films, In Transit provides a glance into various lives and narratives. Some intersect and interact with each other, if only for a brief moment, others are singular: they opt to tell their story to us directly as we share an aural overview of a whole life, relationships, connections, missed opportunities and narratives yet to be written, each in transit,” we said in our review.
3. Baby Driver (Edgar Wright; June 28)
Synopsis: After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.
Why You Should See It: Following rapturous response at its South by Southwest premiere, Edgar Wright‘s Baby Driver thankfully moved up from its mid-August bow and will arrive at the end of this month. With Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Eiza González, Jon Hamm, and Jamie Foxx in tow, Wright looks to be having a blast with this music-infused action comedy, and we can’t wait to experience it.
2. Okja (Bong Joon-ho; June 28)
Synopsis: Meet Mija, a young girl who risks everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend – a massive animal named Okja.
Why You Should See It: After providing thrills solely on a train with Snowpiercer, Bong Joon-ho is expanding his scope with the creature movie Okja. One of our favorite films of Cannes, we said in our review, “A dystopian story about a genetically engineered beast with overt anti-capitalist connotations, Bong Joon-ho’s Okja represents a synthesis and an upgrade – in scale as well as quality – of the director’s previous outings The Host and Snowpiercer, confirming him as one of the finest contemporary craftsmen of intelligent, ambitious blockbusters.”
1. The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola; June 23)
Synopsis: At a girls’ school in Virginia during the Civil War, where the young women have been sheltered from the outside world, a wounded Union soldier is taken in. Soon, the house is taken over with sexual tension, rivalries, and an unexpected turn of events.
Why You Should See It: Having recently seen the original Don Siegel / Clint Eastwood picture, the material of The Beguiled seems tailor-made for Sofia Coppola to bring her specific vision and create something immensely special. It sounds like she did just that, according to our Cannes review: “Shooting in New Orleans, Coppola and her production team — including The Grandmaster cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd — have created a fully realized world of eroticism, humidity, and Southern Gothic atmosphere. The characters are simply engulfed by it, almost to the point that even the twisted willow trees appear to be reaching out to grab them.”
What are you watching this month?