The summer has arrived — at least if you’re going by Hollywood’s calendar. Our comprehensive preview for all four months will give you a hint as to what we most anticipate — but, for a more in-depth look, today we have our first monthly feature of the season. It should be noted that theatrical re-releases of the Jean-Luc Godard classic Band of Outsiders and Eiichi Yamamoto‘s animation, Belladonna of Sadness, both arriving on May 6th, as well as Fritz Lang‘s Destiny (on May 20th), are essential.
Getting to the new features, perhaps our most-anticipated studio release of the entire summer arrives, along with some of our festival favorites from the last year. To those lamenting the lack of superhero films: we figured it was best not to waste the space, as they are certainly already on your radar if you’re planning to buy a ticket. Check out what we’re most looking forward to below, and let us know what you’re planning to see.
Matinees to See: Elstree 1976 (5/6), Pele: Birth of a Legend (5/6), Kill Zone 2 (5/13), Holy Hell (5/20), Ma ma (5/20), Maggie’s Plan (5/20), Unlocking the Cage (5/25) Chevalier (5/27), and The Ones Below (5/27)
15. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (Nicolas Stoller; May 15th)
Synopsis: After a sorority moves in next door, which is even more debaucherous than the fraternity before it, Mac and Kelly have to ask for help from their former enemy, Teddy.
Why You Should See It: One of the surprise hits of the 2014 summer movie season, Neighbors racked up over $270 million worldwide on a budget under $20 million. It’s no surprise that a follow-up now awaits us, and we’re hoping it can break the streak of disappointing comedy sequels. With much of the original cast returning (including MVP Rose Byrne), they are here matched against the sorority of Chloë Grace Moretz‘s character, hopefully making for an entertaining start to a season of comedies.
14. Dark Horse (Louise Osmond; May 6th)
Synopsis: An inspirational true story of a group of friends from a working men’s club who decide to take on the elite ‘sport of kings’ and breed themselves a racehorse.
Why You Should See It: It’s no surprise Dark Horse won the audience award in its respective category at last year’s Sundance. The ultimate crowdpleaser (and I mean that in the best way possible) tracks the feel-good story of a small Welsh village that banded together at the behest of a local barmaid to breed a racehorse. With each of them pitching in to train it, they would split the profits — if any were to arrive. While one could easily track down the story, we’ll only say that Osmond’s up-and-down tale has one hooked on every word, thanks to the endearing personalities of the townsfolk and their captivating story. I certainly shed a few tears of joy during this one, and I imagine most audiences will as well.
13. Money Monster (Jodie Foster; May 13th)
Synopsis: In the real-time, high stakes thriller Money Monster, financial TV host Lee Gates (George Clooney) and his producer Patty (Julia Roberts) are put in an extreme situation when an irate investor (Jack O’Connell) takes over their studio.
Why You Should See It: Five years after The Beaver — and with a few episodes of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black in-between — Jodie Foster is back in the director’s chair. Money Monster, starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts, follows an irate man (Starred Up and Unbroken‘s Jack O’Connell) who loses his money in a financial investment gone bad, hijacking a live broadcast and taking a Jim Cramer-esque TV personality (Clooney) hostage. While we hope it doesn’t get too heavy-handed (or hopefully it does?), a Cannes premiere has us hopeful, and it’ll arrive in theaters almost immediately after.
12. Almost Holy (Steve Hoover; May 20th)
Synopsis: Gennadiy calls himself “Pastor Crocodile.” He’s known throughout Ukraine for his years working to rehabilitate drug-addicted kids. But he’s also a vigilante who uses any force necessary to carry out his moral vision. Gennadiy believes he has made Mariupol a better place, but now, the violence in Ukraine threatens everything.
Why You Should See It: We likely won’t see a new Terrence Malick film this summer, but one of his executive-producing efforts, Almost Holy, a new documentary from Steve Hoover (Blood Brother), will see a release. Previously titled Crocodile Gennadiy, it follows a Ukrainian pastor, Gennadiy Mohknenko, who has stirred controversy in his attempt to fight child homelessness by abducting street kids to bring to his private rehabilitation center. As quoted on the poster, The Village Voice‘s Aaron Hillis called it “the best superhero vigilante movie of the year,” and Hoover’s picture — also produced by Nicolas Gonda and featuring a score from Atticus Ross — looks like a compelling watch.
11. Jia Zhangke, A Guy From Fenyang (Walter Salles; May 27th)
Synopsis: A documentary of the life and films of of Jia Zhangke.
Why You Should See It: If you listened to us earlier this year, then you’ve already seen one of the best films of 2016: Jia Zhangke‘s Mountains May Depart. Whether it was your first film from one of China’s finest directors or you’ve been a long-time fan, take note of a documentary from fellow accomplished director Walter Salles. The film follows their journey to the subject’s birthplace, the Shanxi province in Northern China, as well as his films’ locations and illuminating conversations therein.
10. Kaili Blues (Bi Gan; May 20th)
Synopsis: In the subtropical province of Guizhou, Chen Sheng embarks on a journey to find his nephew.
Why You Should See It: This is one of the most beautiful films we’ve seen so far this year, and as we said during ND/NDF, “At its heart, Gan Bi’s Kaili Blues is a meditation on the struggle between traditionalism and modernism. Through the story of one man’s journey through Chinese cities — Kaili to Zhenyuan — Bi focuses on characters who lament the people and ideas that they’ve lost as the world’s changed around them. But this is not just another screed against contemporary life; it finds a cruel beauty and gentle soul in the transition between elemental landscapes and the unfinished, industrialized future. And there’s personal serenity for some of these characters in being able to leave behind their old lives.”
9. High-Rise (Ben Wheatley; May 13th)
Synopsis: Life for the residents of a tower block begins to run out of control.
Why You Should See It: Although you can currently rent it on VOD, High-Rise is an experience best-suited for the theater, which you can go to later this month. We were major fans of it, saying in our TIFF review, “As soon as the voice of Tom Hiddleston‘s Dr. Robert Laing was heard speaking narration above his weathered and crazed visage manically moving from cluttered, dirty room to darkened feverish corner, my mind started racing. Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas popped into my consciousness and then his Brazil, after a quick title card shoves us back in time to watch as Laing enters his new concrete behemoth of a housing structure, oppressively standing above a vast and still parking lot. Add the clinical precision of Stanley Kubrick dolly shots and the chaotic, linear social ladder climb of Snowpiercer with a bitingly satirical wit replacing the high-octane action and you come close to describing the masterpiece that is Ben Wheatley‘s High-Rise.”
8. Dheepan (Jacques Audiard; May 6th)
Synopsis: Dheepan is a Sri Lankan Tamil warrior who flees to France and ends up working as a caretaker outside Paris.
Why You Should See It: Despite its unwarranted ending and incongruous climax, there’s more than enough to recommend in last year’s Palme d’Or winner. As we said in our review from Cannes, “Until losing its cool in the third act and ending on a relatively soft note, French veteran Jacques Audiard‘s Dheepan is a muscularly directed dramatic thriller about the difficulties of starting over and the inevitability of violence. Clear-eyed, tightly wound, and cinematically and psychologically immersive, it’s a furious ride of a movie that actually has something to say.”
7. A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino; May 4th)
Synopsis: The vacation of a famous rock star and a filmmaker is disrupted by the unexpected visit of an old friend and his daughter.
Why You Should See It: This is technically the first release of the summer, so we’re starting off the season on a high note with A Bigger Splash. We said in our review from Venice, “Despite a loose script that justifies little, Italian director Luca Guadagnino’s follow-up feature to his glorious melodrama I Am Love is a sweaty, kinetic, dangerously unpredictable ride of a film. One is frustrated by the final stroke of genius that never came, but boy was it fun to spend two hours inside such a whirlwind of desires, mind games, delirious sights and sounds.”
6. Weiner (Joshua Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg; May 20th)
Synopsis: An examination of disgraced New York Congressman Anthony Weiner’s mayoral campaign and the landscape of today’s political landscape.
Why You Should See It: It’s often said that no writer can craft a character as complex and compelling as the subjects in some of our best documentaries. Enter the consummate example: Anthony Weiner, a seven-term former Congressman who became a political pariah following sexting scandals, the second of which occurred during his unsuccessful 2013 run for New York City mayor. Delivering one of the most intimate character studies in some time, Weiner confronts not only the media’s frenzied sensationalism but one’s own participation in the public amusement of an individual’s Greek-like tragedy.
5. Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman; May 13th)
Synopsis: Lady Susan Vernon takes up temporary residence at her in-laws’ estate and, while there, is determined to be a matchmaker for her daughter Frederica — and herself too, naturally.
Why You Should See It: There are few theatrical experiences more delightful than the arrival of a new Whit Stillman feature. One of our favorites of Sundance, we wrote of his new feature by saying, “Master of poisonous tongues and vicious schemes in the world of the rich and the poor, Love & Friendship is perhaps writer/director Whit Stillman‘s most potent mix of comedy and social commentary. He’s got Jane Austen to thank, whose novella ‘Lady Susan’ serves as the inspiration for this tale of Lady Susan Vernon (a pitch-perfect Kate Beckinsale), a widow with a flirtatious reputation, determined to well re-marry well at whatever the cost. Often laugh-out-loud funny and downright mean at the same time, Stillman is in top form here.”
4. Last Days in the Desert (Rodrigo García; May 13th)
Synopsis: An imagined chapter from Jesus’ forty days of fasting and praying in the desert. On his way out of the wilderness, Jesus struggles with the Devil over the fate of a family in crisis.
Why You Should See It: Perhaps the most intriguing feature of last year’s Sundance Film Festival slate, Last Days in the Desert, follows Jesus (and Satan), both played by Ewan McGregor, as he’s in the final steps of his contemplative 40-day journey before returning to civilization in Jerusalem. Far removed from the recent bombastic Biblical tentpoles Noah and Exodus, Rodrigo García‘s beautiful, spare drama can frustrate as much as it allures with its meditations on finding meaning in one’s life (and beyond). Check out my full review of the Emmanuel Lubezki-shot feature.
3. The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos; May 13th)
Synopsis: In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods.
Why You Should See It: Finally arriving in the U.S. after a Cannes premiere nearly a year ago, The Lobster is a one-of-a-kind, love-it-or-hate-it satire. Falling firmly on the former side, we said in our review, “The eminently idiosyncratic films of Yorgos Lanthimos revile the societal constructs that stifle and pervert human interaction. In laying bare these structures’ inherent hypocrisies, the films exaggerate their logic to absurd extremes, with conformity’s noxious ramifications always at the crux of Lanthimos’ critique. His exceptional breakthrough Dogtooth eviscerated the institution of the modern family, representing it as emblematic of society’s greater normative oppression. Dogtooth’s similarly incisive yet less warmly received follow-up Alps exposed the pretence fundamental to the forming of social identity. His newest film, The Lobster, takes on the rigid preconceptions surrounding relationships.”
2. The Nice Guys (Shane Black; May 20th)
Synopsis: A private eye investigates the apparent suicide of a fading porn star in 1970s Los Angeles and uncovers a conspiracy.
Why You Should See It: Hollywood gave the director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang $60 million to make another R-rated crime comedy. There is nothing else you need to know. We’ll see you in the theater later this month.
1. Sunset Song (Terence Davies; May 13th)
Synopsis: The daughter of a Scottish farmer comes of age in the early 1900s.
Why You Should See It: The most beautiful film I have seen to far this year — for both its aesthetic and emotional range — Terence Davies‘ romantic epic will surely be among the best of 2016. As we said in our TIFF review, “Even if the film is somewhat less impressionistic than director Terence Davies’ previous work, many compositions and gestures beyond just the easy-to-praise 70mm vistas feel destined to replay forever and ever in the mind; whether it be the camera hanging on Chris’ beaten brother even after the father has exited the frame, Chris and Ewan’s meet-cute (which is maybe the first ever in cinema history to feature hordes of sheep), or the silent-film-like animalism of Guthrie’s performance in the film’s concluding act. Or just perhaps the motif of Chris glancing at herself in the mirror throughout, seeing her naked now-adult body, or her in her wedding dress.”
What are you watching this month?