As we approach the halfway point of the year, this month was so particularly strong that we’ve opted to extend our normal selection of ten. The fifteen recommended films this month range from an iconic classic to festival favorites to a welcome return to form, but that’s not even the half of it. Check out what we’re looking forward to below and, in the comments, let us know what you’re seeing.
Matinees to See: An Open Secret (6/5), Spy (6/5), Testament of Youth (6/5), Madame Bovary (6/12), Set Fire to the Stars (6/12), Infinitely Polar Bear (6/19), Burying the Ex (6/19) and A Little Chaos (6/26)
15. The Third Man (Carol Reed; June 26th)
Synopsis: Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, black-market opportunist Harry Lime.
Why You Should See It: While this one is certainly a better film than anything on the rest of the list, considering it’s a restoration, we’ll make a note of it at the top. After going through a remastering from a fine-grain master positive struck from the original negative — in which release prints were used as a reference for the grading — this 4K restoration will actually be getting a fairly nice release across the country.
14. Manglehorn (David Gordon Green; June 19th)
Synopsis: Left heartbroken by the woman he loved and lost many years ago, Manglehorn, an eccentric small-town locksmith, tries to start his life over again with the help of a new friend.
Why You Should See It: Currently enjoying a comeback of sorts with leading roles in The Humbling, Danny Collins, and the forthcoming Harmony Korine-directed The Trap, Al Pacino here finds him working with one of the more adaptive directors in the business, David Gordon Green. While we were far from fans after viewing it at Venice last year (review), we do note that “it’s one of the better performances in the last few years for the legendary actor – restrained, pissed-off and spaced-out at the same time.”
13. Dope (Rick Famuyiwa; June 19th)
Synopsis: A coming of age comedy/drama for the post hip hop generation. Malcolm is a geek, carefully surviving life in The Bottoms, a tough neighborhood in Inglewood, CA filled gangsters and drugs dealers, while juggling his senior year of college applications, interviews and the SAT. His dream is to attend Harvard. A chance invitation to a big underground party leads Malcolm and his friends into a, only in Los Angeles, gritty adventure filed with offbeat characters and bad choices. If Malcolm can persevere, he’ll go from being a geek, to being dope, to ultimately being himself.
Why You Should See It: As I said in my review, “Dope opens with a sense of energy proclaiming that writer-director Rick Famuyiwa has something to say, and he’s going to do it in his own particular way. Difficult to quantify, the Sundance drama is many things: a love letter to the 1990’s era of style and hip-hop, a coming-of-age story, a crime drama, a romance, an examination of social media, and an offbeat comedy. While some of these strands don’t entirely excel, Dope is often a refreshingly lively and passionate work of filmmaking.”
12. Jurassic World (Colin Trevorrow; June 12th)
Synopsis: Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as originally envisioned by John Hammond. After 10 years of operation and visitor rates declining, in order to fulfill a corporate mandate, a new attraction is created to re-spark visitor’s interest, which backfires horribly.
Why You Should See It: With a release coming in less than 10 days and barely any advance word, we remain hesitant if Jurassic World will be a worthwhile entry into the franchise. Despite a mostly unproven director at the helm, hopefully it’s a return to the original’s form, and without relying too heavily on the nostalgia factor. Regardless, if all the dinosaur action fails to live up, we imagine the charms of Chris Pratt will get one by.
11. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Alfonso Gomez-Rejon; June 12th)
Synopsis: A teenage filmmaker befriends a classmate with cancer.
Why You Should See It: Any film earning multiple top awards at Sundance arrives with some hesitation, at least with regard to its lasting impact, and while it’s not one of the year’s best films, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is still worth a watch. I said in my review, “With the glut of shapeless and uninspired teenage dramas hitting the marketplace, a breath of fresh air arrives with Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon with remarkable control, creativity and fervor, the film is equal parts a homage to classic cinema and a heart-wrenching romantic comedy with earned emotion.”
10. The Princess of France (Matías Piñeiro; June 26th)
Synopsis: After the death of his father, Victor returns to Buenos Aires to produce a radio play with five women he is involved with romantically.
Why You Should See It: We were rather laudatory of the film at TIFF. “Although his films are rarely filled with the obvious cinematic references that color the works of Tarantino, Matias Piñeiro’s films are a different type of cinephile’s delight, engaging essential questions of how we watch and think about movies. His approach — relaxed, inconspicuous, playful, and, at times, perhaps mystical — makes their engagement of these issues feel revelatory. Then again, Hitchcock didn’t make Rear Window as a film directly about screen-based scopophilia, and Piñeiro’s films are up the same alley. His first four followed young lovers in and around Beunos Aires, shape-shifting their way through the texts of Shakespeare, their country’s own history, and, most importantly, their own romantic relationships. The Princess of France, his fifth endeavor, is decidedly his most complex, an investigation into the idea of the off-screen — though that’s only scratching the surface.”
9. Felt (Jason Banker; June 26th)
Synopsis: A woman creates an alter ego in hopes of overcoming the trauma inflicted by men in her life.
Why You Should See It: While it won’t be getting the widest of releases this month, Felt is perhaps one of the most intriguing films of June. We said in our review, “Mixing slow-building dread and mental health issues, Felt arrives as a needle prick of chaos. This is the kind of film that many will receive the main actress with open arms for giving things like a “brave” performance and more, but will shirk off the film as a whole as a bit too downtrodden to have much commercial or critical appeal. However, any time a film revolves around a creative person’s dealing with trauma, likely sexual in nature in Felt, and the ramifications it can have, you get a sense of who is in for a film that isn’t exactly a pleasure to watch but might offer insight or perspective in a way other directors shy away from.”
8. The Wolfpack (Crystal Moselle; June 12th)
Synopsis: Locked away from society in an apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the Angulo brothers learn about the outside world through the films that they watch. Nicknamed, ‘The Wolfpack,’ the brothers spend their childhood reenacting their favorite films using elaborate homemade props and costumes. Their world is shaken up when one of the brothers escapes and everything changes.
Why You Should See It: The Wolfpack, shot over five years, is a captivating new documentary from director Crystal Moselle that picked up the top award at Sundance this year. I said in my review, “As a modern update on Grey Gardens with an added tribute to the love for filmmaking, The Wolfpack is an endlessly fascinating documentary, but it’s not quite a great one.” Issues aside, it’s unlike anything one will see this year.
7. Love & Mercy (Bill Pohlad; June 5th)
Synopsis: In the 1960s, Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson struggles with emerging psychosis as he attempts to craft his avant-garde pop masterpiece. In the 1980s, he is a broken, confused man under the 24-hour watch of shady therapist Dr. Eugene Landy.
Why You Should See It: A worthwhile biopic on Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson, Love & Mercy follows both Paul Dano and John Cusack playing different iterations of the legendary musician. Directed by Bill Pohlad, the accomplished producer behind The Tree of Life, 12 Years a Slave, and Brokeback Mountain, we said of it in our review, “With strong performances and unique insight that above all feels emotionally and artistically honest, Love & Mercy is a bittersweet triumph with a lot of pain along the way.”
6. The Overnight (Patrick Brice; June 19th)
Synopsis: Alex, Emily, and their son, RJ, are new to Los Angeles. A chance meeting at the park introduces them to the mysterious Kurt, Charlotte, and Max. A family “playdate” becomes increasingly interesting as the night goes on.
Why You Should See It: Things get weird, and then some, in Patrick Brice‘s engaging and bizarre new comedy The Overnight. I said in my review out of Sundance, “Told on an small scale mostly in one house, The Overnight is an entertainingly swift watch, with more or less a single book-ended punch line and a substantial deal of offbeat humor in the middle. Outside a very specific sequence, it’s hard to imagine the experience staying with one for much longer than its duration, but Brice is able to engineer enough endearing fondness in his characters that no matter how preposterous the night gets, we’re rooting for the quartet to solve their individual insecurities.”
5. Hungry Hearts (Saverio Costanzo; June 5th)
Synopsis: The relationship of a couple who meet by chance in New York City is put to the test when they encounter a life or death circumstance.
Why You Should See It: One of our must-see films of the summer, we said, “My only piece of advice: don’t watch the trailer. Such is the power of co-writer and director Saverio Costanzo’s work that those who go in knowing nothing are going in unprepared. Third-act issues notwithstanding, this is a terrifying, brutal film that aspires to the close-quarter tension of Polanski and, at certain turns, can consider itself worthy of such company. It’s also a great actor’s showcase — Adam Driver and Alba Rohrwacher, who are often the only people on-screen, won Venice’s prestigious Volpi Cup for Best Actor and Best Actress, respectively — visually and structurally defined by dream- and nightmare-like ellipses, off-center angles, wide-angle lenses, and grainy 16mm stock. Hungry Hearts is a film that will be both remembered and discovered for years to come.”
4. Inside Out (Pete Docter; June 19th)
Synopsis: After a girl moves to a new home, her emotions are plunged into chaos as they compete for control of her mind.
Why You Should See It: While the early trailers for Pixar’s latest sold a slightly obnoxious, overly kid-friendly experience, Inside Out is anything but. We said in our review from Cannes, “Inside Out might not be in the same bracket as Toy Story, Wall-E, and Up, but it is still more than simply a return to their glory days. It is a thoroughly funny, sad, and profound piece of work, with plenty of comforting things to say about growing up and feeling down. The Cannes crowd was rapturous. One can only imagine the effect it might have on a young child.”
3. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Roy Andersson; June 3rd)
Synopsis: Sam and Jonathan, a pair of hapless novelty salesman, embark on a tour of the human condition in reality and fantasy that unfold in a series of absurdist episodes.
Why You Should See It: Finally closing out his trilogy, we said in our review, “Roy Andersson‘s films are a rare Swedish treat, only coming after we patiently wait for him to carefully assemble those meticulous Studio 24 sets necessary for his peculiar works. His latest, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, doesn’t stray from the template of 2000’s Songs from the Second Floor or 2007’s You, The Living — the first two parts of a ‘living trilogy’ now concluded — but stagnation is hardly an issue with Andersson. All three films are collections of modern-life tableaux, ranging from the trivial to the absurd and often merging the two. They invariably display tremendous wit and unsettling undertones during elaborate fixed shots where people barely move – yet the sketch is often over before you’re done processing the rich details and the amount of information it contained.”
2. The Tribe (Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy; June 17th)
Synopsis: A deaf teenager struggles to fit into the boarding school system.
Why You Should See It: One of the most acclaimed films of the year, our review said, “Devoid of any spoken words, music, voice-over or even subtitles, Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy‘s debut feature film The Tribe is communicated through sign language, for all the characters are deaf. This provides a unique challenge for any audience member not versed with how to sign, as the filmmaker provides no direct explanation of what characters are actually saying. While this may initially seem daunting, a viewer’s patience and keen observation is rewarded by a haunting cinematic experience that truly is unlike anything else this year.”
1. Eden (Mia Hansen-Løve; June 19th)
Synopsis: The life of a French DJ who’s credited with inventing “French house” or the “French touch,” a type of French electronic music that became popular in the 1990s
Why You Should See It: My favorite film of 2015 — since I viewed it at the New York Film Festival all the way back in October — Mia Hansen-Løve‘s Eden is a simultaneously sprawling and intimate journey of ambitions and community within the then-emerging electronica scene. We said in our review, “Rather than 131 minutes of a throbbing soundtrack complemented by extravagant club-lighting schemes, Eden is indeed un film de Mia Hansen-Løve: its aesthetic dressings are both spare and precise; its language, as both written and performed, is quiet (even the glut of music isn’t played to high-decibel levels); and its formalism is, by certain definitions, ‘low-key,’ the camera-eye acting almost exclusively as a means of digging out characters’ psychological processes via captured glances and gestures.”
What are you watching this month?