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40 Films to See This Summer

Written by on April 18, 2017 

Dean (Demetri Martin; June 2)

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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 directing and writing debut Dean effectively melds, both on the page and stylistically, a dramatic backbone with his personal brand. – Jordan R. (full review)

The Hero (Brett Haley; June 9)

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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. – Dan M. (full review)

Beatriz at Dinner (Miguel Arteta; June 9)

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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. – Jordan R. (full review)

It Comes at Night (Trey Edward Shults; June 9)

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After crafting one of the most overlooked films of last year, Krisha, writer-director Trey Edwards Shults is sticking with A24 for his next feature. His upcoming thriller It Comes at Night stars Joel Edgerton as a father who will stop at nothing to protect his wife and son from a malevolent, mysterious presence terrorizing them right outside their doorstep. With Edgerton recently impressing in two Jeff Nichols films, to see him collaborate with Shults on a horror film sounds downright incredible. – Jordan R.

In Transit (Albert Maysles, Lynn True, David Usui, Nelson Walker III, and Benjamin Wu; June 23)

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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. The final film by master vérité filmmaker Albert Maysles, the filmmaker and team (including co-directors Lynn True, Nelson Walker, David Usui, and Ben Wu) spend a few days aboard the Empire Builder, Amtrak’s long-distance line carrying passengers from the Midwest to the Northwest en route to Portland. – John F. (full review)

The Ornithologist (João Pedro Rodrigues; June 23)

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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.” – Ethan V. (full review)

The Bad Batch (Ana Lily Amirpour; June 23)

The Bad Batch

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. – Rory O. (full review)

The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola; June 23)

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Beyond the immensely intriguing notion of director Sofia Coppola helming a western-of-sorts, albeit a remake of a lesser-known Don Siegel / Clint Eastwood picture, The Beguiled contains a plethora of reasons to entice curious audiences. As per usual, Coppola has assembled a stellar cast, including Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst, Nicole Kidman, and Angourie Rice, who we recently saw as Ryan Gosling’s daughter in The Nice Guys. On the opposite side of the gender scale, Colin Farrell is taking on the Eastwood role: a wounded Union soldier imprisoned at a Confederate girls’ boarding school. This marks Coppola’s first big-scale directorial effort since The Bling Ring, unless you count A Very Murray Christmas. Thankfully, we’ve only got to wait until June to see it. – Tony H.

The Big Sick (Michael Showalter; June 23)

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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. – Dan M. (full review)

Baby Driver (Edgar Wright; June 28)

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Its scenario sounds like the sort a director would invent for themselves so as to indulge their basest desires for sound and image: a getaway driver who powers his daring escapes with music gets involved in a heist that’s destined to go badly. When that director happens to be Edgar Wright, though, that likely indulgence is a gateway to our excitement and, we assume, pleasure. And if the 2003 music video that supposedly served as Baby Driver‘s springboard actually indicates what we’re getting — or, rather, even scratches its surface, since that whole work is essentially stationary — this will be one to remember. If its SXSW reaction is something to be trusted, it certainly will be. – Nick N.

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