With the summer movie season underway, Cannes now on the horizon, and Tribeca kicking off this month, the film industry turns its gears again after an unprecedented near-dormancy. This month’s lineup of new releases is an eclectic mix of bold horror, mysterious romances, riveting documentaries, and much more.
15. Werewolves Within (Josh Ruben)
After making a delightful impression on Veep and I Think You Should Leave, Sam Richardson is becoming a leading man with the horror-comedy Werewolves Within, which comes from Scare Me director Josh Ruben. Also starring Milana Vayntrub, Harvey Guillén, Cheyenne Jackson, Michaela Watkins, and Michael Chernus, the film follows a small community that becomes trapped by a snowstorm and newly arrived forest ranger Finn (Richardson) and postal worker Cecily (Vayntrub) must uncover the truth behind a mysterious creature.
Where to Watch: Theaters (June 25) and VOD (July 2)
14. Sweat (Magnus von Horn)
A Cannes Film Festival selection last year, the Polish-Swedish drama Sweat follows a fitness influencer who is forced to confront her deepest insecurities and the exhaustive demands of her lifestyle. Orla Smith said in our summer preview, “Sweat is one of the best films about an influencer—while other works about social media dismiss their characters as vapid, Magnus von Horn’s latest has so much empathy for fitness influencer Sylwia (Magdalena Kolesnik). Von Horn places blame on the mechanisms of social media for Sylwia’s sadness. It’s a film that peels back the masks we wear online and questions whether we ever stop performing for our followers.
Where to Watch: Theaters (June 18) and MUBI (July 23)
13. Censor (Prano Bailey-Bond; June 11)
A horror stand-out at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Prano Bailey-Bond’s debut feature Censor follows a film censor Enid (Niamh Algar), who discovers an eerie horror video that speaks directly to her sister’s mysterious disappearance and unravels a haunting puzzle. Christopher Schobert said in his review, “The closer to the truth Enid comes, the looser Censor’s hold on the narrative becomes. Yet we are drawn to Enid’s story even as it descends into a predictable denouement. A key reason for this is the performance of star Algar. The Irish actress is utterly mesmerizing onscreen—complex, worried, coldly intelligent but also deeply wounded. It’s a star-making performance, to be sure. Just as commendable is the direction of Prano Bailey-Bond, who has crafted a horror film that disturbs but is also emotionally engaging. She also crafts the finest smashed-TV-as-metaphor since the opening credits of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.”
Where to Watch: Theaters (June 11) and VOD (June 18)
12. Summer of ’85 (François Ozon)
Already proving divisive since its festival run last year, François Ozon’s tragedy-tinged romance Summer of 85 will arrive this month. In our summer preview, Joshua Encinias was a fan, saying the film “has the sex, intrigue, and death that Call Me By Your Name left on the cutting room floor.” Meanwhile, Christopher Schobert was more mixed at TIFF, saying in his review, “It’s a visually lovely, occasionally heartfelt trifle that fails as a compelling drama and can verge on self-parody. “
Where to Watch: Theaters (June 18)
11. Akilla’s Escape (Charles Officer)
A premiere at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, Charles Officer’s latest feature Akilla’s Escape follows poet, musician, and actor Saul Williams as our title character as he navigates the criminal underworld of Toronto. With a soundtrack by Saul Williams and Massive Attack’s 3D, Christopher Schobert said in his TIFF review, “There is a palpable sense of exhaustion and an air of dread over nearly every scene in Akilla’s Escape. It’s no wonder that despite the legalization of marijuana in Canada, Toronto-based drug dealer Akilla Brown is desperately trying to leave the trade. After all, in the film’s first thirty minutes, Brown has watched as a man is hacked to death before his eyes, was held at gunpoint, and was forced to knock out said gunman with a shocking act of quick-thinking. Meanwhile, his decision to exit the dealer life has drawn consternation from his colleagues. And he still has to break the news to “The Greek”––who, we can infer, is most likely not going to be happy. Oh, and Akilla must also step in to save the adolescent gunman’s life before he is suffocated to death by one of the Greek’s henchmen.”
Where to Watch: Theaters and VOD (June 11)
10. The Real Thing (Koji Fukada)
After landing on our radars with the carefully observed family drama Harmonium, Koji Fukada’s A Girl Missing received a U.S. release from Film Movement last summer, and now the distributor has picked up the Japanese auteur’s latest project, the whopping 232-minute drama The Real Thing. The Cannes 2020 selection, which aired on TV in Japan, is an adaptation of Mochiru Hoshisato’s manga, following a floundering toy salesman who rescues a beguiling woman whose car was stuck on the train tracks as a series of epic misadventures begin.
9. The Power of Kangwon Province (Hong Sang-soo)
Long available only on a pitiful, now-out-of-print DVD, Hong Sang-soo’s second feature—and the point wherein his preoccupations and mastery begin presenting themselves—has been given a restoration and will release this summer via Grasshopper Film. Early stills present an unfathomable upgrade from what fans have known all this time and a strong primer before his newest film, The Woman Who Ran, arrives next month.
Where to Watch: Projectr.tv (June 11)
8. The Amusement Park (George A. Romero)
George A. Romero’s The Amusement Park, shot in 1973 for television but never released, has now been recently discovered and restored. Christian Gallichio said in his review, “Produced by the Lutheran Society at a point in Romero’s career post-Night of the Living Dead and pre-Dawn that saw the infamous horror director in a period of commercial and critical decline, The Amusement Park is a damning, if not exactly horrifying, condemnation of the ways in which society marginalizes and others its elderly.”
Where to Watch: Shudder (June 8)
7. I Carry You With Me (Heidi Ewing)
Accomplished documentary director Heidi Ewing has made her narrative debut with I Carry You With Me, a tender story of immigration and love set in Mexico and New York City. Joshua Encinias said in his review, “I Carry You With Me contains multitudes: the immigrant’s dilemma of leaving the life they know behind, cultivating true love, the American Dream, and things between that words don’t capture. The picture opens with Espitia as Iván wandering a dusty road when the real Iván is shown reflecting on a quiet subway ride on the MTA. In one sense, the film is a series of flashbacks to Iván and Gerardo’s early years in Mexico City and Puebla City. It’s also Iván recalling and coming to terms with his memories. He punctuates them with occasional narration that’s at the same time poetic and concrete. There’s real symbiosis of Ewing’s recreations and the men they’re based on. I Carry You With Me is the victorious marriage of fiction and documentary.”
Where to Watch: Theaters (June 25)
6. Slow Machine (Joe DeNardo and Paul Felten)
Billed as a thriller-of-sorts upon its NYFF premiere last fall, Joe DeNardo and Paul Felten’s Slow Machine indeed contains trappings of the genre, but its excitement is derived more from traversing unexpected narrative tendrils than any standard heart-pumping sensations. Following an actress and counter-terrorism specialist whose connection soon unravels, the tactile 16mm gives a lived-in feeling to ground the many ideas bouncing around every corner of the Rivettian odyssey. Featuring a startling performance by newcomer Stephanie Hayes, forthcoming Killers of the Flower Moon player Scott Shepherd, and memorable brief turns by Chloë Sevigny and Eleanor Friedberger (one-half of the Fiery Furnaces), it sets a high bar for the fertile experimental New York indie scene.
Where to Watch: Metrograph’s Virtual Cinema (June 4)
5. The Sparks Brothers (Edgar Wright)
Few documentaries exude as much love and care for their subject as Edgar Wright’s first non-fiction film, The Sparks Brothers. Following the overlooked yet hugely influential music duo Ron and Russell Mael, who are about to have a major summer with Annette as well, Michael Frank said in his Sundance review, “At 135 energizing minutes of gushing interest, there’s no denying the exhaustive nature of Wright’s project. At times, it feels like the film doesn’t skip over any portions of the band’s 50-year career, and it makes one wonder how much footage the director actually cut from the film. Any sort of anger or frustration with the extended runtime or the constant praise dissipates the more one frames the documentary within their own passions, secret idols, and heroes. If the opportunity to tell the world about your favorite band presented itself, it’s hard to imagine not snapping up the chance.”
Where to Watch: Theaters (June 18)
4. Zola (Janicza Bravo)
Twitter is Shakespeare for the 21st century and, as Zola proves, Janicza Bravo is the director best adept at bringing all the peculiarity, hilarity, and ugliness of social media mayhem to the big screen. If you were on Twitter in October 2015, you likely saw A’ziah “Zola” King’s massive thread recounting the bizarre journey she took from Detroit to Tampa accompanied by Jessica, a new acquaintance that wanted to utilize their pole dancing skills to make serious money in Florida strip clubs. What follows was a treacherous two-day adventure of turning tricks, one-upping pimps, witnessing a murder, attempted suicide, and no shortage of strange characters. Based on Zola’s 150 or so tweets and David Kushner’s Rolling Stone article (which revealed some of the story was embellished for the sake of entertaining storytelling), Bravo and co-writer Jeremy O. Harris (Slave Play) have now delivered a surprisingly faithful adaptation while bringing endless invention and energy to the proceedings. Continue reading my full review.
Where to Watch: Theaters (June 30)
3. Siberia (Abel Ferrara)
After delivering one of the best performances of last year with the Abel Ferrara collaboration Tommaso, Willem Dafoe has once again teamed with the director. Their dark, dreamy character study Siberia, which premiered at last year’s Berlinale, is arriving this month. Logan Kenny said in his review, “Siberia is about the horror of nothing being there, nothing concrete in the past, present, or future––just darkness, suffering and the desperation for something else. Nothing we see in the unnerving middle act where dreams and memories blend together with frightening unease comes across as real. This is not the retelling of a once lived life; this is a broken dreamscape filled with all the images and characters that he ran away from, with the surrealism getting darker and stranger as the film’s terror progresses.”
Where to Watch: Theaters and VOD (June 18)
2. All Light, Everywhere (Theo Anthony)
Seemingly birthed from some kind of virtuosic computer algorithm or beamed directly from outer space, Theo Anthony’s debut feature Rat Film was a peculiarly engaging, wholly fascinating documentary. Using the population of rats to chart the history of classism and systemic racism throughout Baltimore over decades, it heralded an original new voice in nonfiction filmmaking. When it comes to his follow-up All Light, Everywhere, Anthony casts a wider focus while still retaining the same unique vision as he explores how technological breakthroughs (and pitfalls) in filmmaking have reverberated throughout history to both embolden and trick our perceptions of perspective. To thread these strands and see its modern-day effects, the majority of the film looks at the engineering behind police body cameras, and the extensive use of those devices and other surveillance equipment to support officers in cases where evidence might otherwise come down to only verbal testimonies. Continue reading my full review.
Where to Watch: Theaters (June 4)
1. Undine (Christian Petzold)
After a stellar body of early work, Christian Petzold earned greater attention with Phoenix and Transit, and now he’s back with Undine. In this mythological melodrama, the German master’s touch is orchestrated to a pitch-perfect degree, imbuing each note with the ideal amount of strange mystery. Rory O’Connor said in his review, “One of Petzold’s most enduring qualities as a filmmaker has been his unapologetic nostalgia for romantic cinema (Transit’s echoes of Casablanca were certainly not coincidental) and it’s difficult not to smile at the thought of him coming up with this meet-cute–as Christophe and Undine lie on the floor awash with water and reeds; boy picking pieces of glass from girl’s blouse. The film is at its best in such moments: playfully comic and surrealist but still hard-wired to one of cinema’s fundamental truths: when done right, it remains simply irresistible to watch beautiful people in close-up falling in love.”
Where to Watch: Theaters and VOD (June 4)
Bad Tales (June 3)
Take Me Somewhere Nice (June 11)