The summer movie season is upon us, which means a seemingly endless pile-up of superheroes, reboots, and sequels will crowd the multiplexes. While a select few show some promise, we’ve set out to highlight a vast range of titles — 40 in total — that will arrive over the next four months, many of which we’ve already given our stamp of approval.
There’s bound to be more late-summer announcements in the coming months, and a number of titles will arrive on VOD day-and-date, so follow us on Twitter for the latest updates. In the meantime, see our top 40 picks for what to watch this summer below, in chronological order, and let us know what you’re looking forward to most in the comments.
Berlin Syndrome (Cate Shortland; May 5)
While the recent 10 Cloverfield Lane and Room told stories of captivity with various hooks — science-fiction and the process of healing, respectively — Cate Shortland’s approach in her latest, harrowing drama Berlin Syndrome makes room for more nuance and depth. Locked in a Berlin apartment, there is little hope for our protagonist for nearly the entire runtime. And while some of the story’s turns can feel overtly manipulative, Shortland finds a bracing humanity in depicting the perverse situation of Stockholm syndrome. – Jordan R. (full review)
Violet (Bas Devos; May 12)
After a success festival run, which included winning at Berlinale for Best Feature Film, Violet, the feature directorial debut of writer-director Bas Devos, will finally hit stateside. The drama follows a young boy (Cesar De Sutter), the sole witness to the stabbing of his friend by a BMX gang. Now, Jonas, who stood silent and passive as his friend was murdered, must process the dark journey of coping and turmoil of childhood on the cusp of adulthood. Shot by Nicolas Karakatsanis (The Drop, Bullhead) — partially with gorgeous 8-perf 65mm film — Violet looks to be a lush, harrowing portrait of trauma and youth, and a startling debut for Devos. – Mike M.
Hounds of Love (Ben Young; May 12)
Director Ben Young’s feature debut is the kind of film you wish you could un-see – except not really. Sure, its extended depictions of physical and psychological abuse will upset/offend many. At the same time, there’s no denying the level of craft and performance involved that probes human depravity so compellingly, you’re left with much more than just rattled nerves and a taste of bile. – Zhou-Ning Su (full review)
Paris Can Wait (Eleanor Coppola; May 12)
With her last feature directorial credit being contributions to 1991’s Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, Eleanor Coppola is perhaps better known as Francis Ford Coppola’s wife than a filmmaker. Yet, she triumphantly returns this year with one of the sexiest and most joyful road movies in some time with Paris Can Wait. – Jordan R. (full review)
The Woman Who Left (Lav Diaz; May 19)
Lav Diaz’s Golden Lion winner from this year’s Venice Film Festival feels like something of a surprise because, for all its extended shots, luminous black-and-white photography, and socio-historical weight, The Woman Who Left is ultimately an unostentatious work. Compared to, say, Norte, The End of History’s remarkably grim ending, with its reaches into fantasy / metaphysics (don’t forget that Tarkovsky-esque levitation), there doesn’t seem to be quite the same need to impress or belabor the point. – Ethan V. (full review)
Alien: Covenant (Ridley Scott; May 19)
In the Alien franchise, it’s difficult not to seem old hat. That even goes for creator Ridley Scott, who managed to bungle the long-awaited and subsequently frustrating Prometheus, a not-quite return to form for a series long overdue for one. While Covenant (which follows the crew of the titular ship bound for a planet in the far side of the galaxy, only to stumble upon a dark and dangerous world) has the potential to feel like more of the same, its initial trailers are boasting some serious creep factor (shower aliens, back bursting, eww) – something that Scott has proved he can still excel at. – Conor O.
The Survivalist (Stephen Fingleton; May 19)
Post-apocalyptic thrillers don’t come much leaner or meaner than Northern Irish director Stephen Fingleton’s gripping debut feature The Survivalist. The world’s population has polluted the earth to the point of extinction – a fact snappily brokered by an opening graph comparing increasing oil production to a rapid decline in the worldwide population – with the few survivors living off the scraps that the land provide. Our rugged unnamed hero (Martin McCann) lives in a rural shack surrounded by woodland, spending his days growing crops in his garden and whiling away his time looking over photos of his past, presumably long dead, wife. – Ed F. (full review)
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (Steve James; May 19)
Steve James’ filmography has long been about finding entry into larger conversations through intimate portraits. The director’s landmark debut, Hoop Dreams, and latter-day efforts like 2014’s monument to critic Roger Ebert, Life Itself, don’t have much in common on the surface, but they both use their central characters to tell larger stories about big picture topics like structural dysfunction and the purpose of film criticism. – Michael S. (full review)
Hermia & Helena (Matías Piñeiro; May 26)
For beginning with a dedication to Setsuko Hara, recently departed muse of Ozu and Naruse, Hermia & Helena — the new film by Viola and The Princess of France director Matías Piñeiro — perhaps aligns us to be especially attuned to the Argentinian auteur’s use of female collaborators. One to already emphasize the charisma and big-screen friendly faces of frequent stars Agustina Munoz and Maria Villar, he still seems to have an ability to make them points of representation, not fetish. – Ethan V. (full review)
War Machine (David Michôd; May 26)
Brad Pitt has gone back to World War II a handful of times in the last decade or so, but this summer he’ll be taking on a more modern battle with War Machine. David Michôd‘s follow-up to The Rover is based on Michael Hastings‘ novel The Operators, which depicts the rise and fall of General Stanley McChrystal, the commanding general of international and U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Also starring Tilda Swinton, Sir Ben Kingsley, Anthony Michael Hall, Topher Grace, Will Poulter, Lakeith Stanfield, Emory Cohen, John Magaro, RJ Cyler, Alan Ruck, Scoot McNairy and Meg Tilly, this satirical comedy will hopefully flex a new muscle for Michôd after his previous films. – Jordan R.
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