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40 Films to See This Summer

Written by on April 18, 2017 

Okja (Bong Joon-ho; June 28)

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After providing thrills solely on a train with Snowpiercer, Bong Joon-ho is expanding his scope with the monster movie Okja. Starring Ahn Seo-hyun, Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Devon Bostick, Byun Hee-bong, and Shirley Henderson, we shouldn’t expect another creature a la The Host, rather something more shy. The Netflix-produced and distributed feature tracks the struggle to stop a multinational corporation from kidnapping the titular monster; it certainly has the makings of the most entertaining film of the summer. – Jordan R.

A Ghost Story (David Lowery; July 7)


The premise is a simple one. A man only credited as C (Casey Affleck) dies after a head-on car accident in front of his house, leaving behind his wife, M (Rooney Mara). After examining his corpse at the hospital, she leaves the room, and, covered by the white cloth over his body, his ghost rises up and returns home to observe the grieving widow he left behind. If one thought only a spooky, small-scale haunted house tale is to follow, David Lowery’s latest is proof that a premise is merely a foundation. Beginning with the beauty, patience, and humor of an Apichatpong Weerasethakul movie before segueing into the existential musings reminiscent of Richard Linklater dialogue, and then infinitely expanding its scope to become a stunning meditation on the passage of time, A Ghost Story is one of the most original, narratively audacious films I’ve ever seen. – Jordan R. (full review)

City of Ghosts (Matthew Heineman; July 7)


Cut together with gut-wrenching intensity and packed with footage that feels equal parts remarkable and horrifying, Cartel Land director Matthew Heineman returns to Sundance with City of Ghosts, a 90-minute documentary chronicling the lives of the head members of Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS). A campaign made up of activists based in the Syrian city of Raqqa and around the world, these young men risk their lives to garner intel on and about ISIS, what they’re doing and what they plan to do. As the Arab Spring brought revolution to countries like Syria, the vacuum of potential democracy was filled by a militant group calling themselves the Islamic State (ISIS). – Dan M. (full review)

Lady Macbeth (William Oldroyd; July 13)


Before William Oldroyd‘s first foray on the silver screen with Lady Macbeth, he was an experienced theater director, which clearly has aided his adaptation of Nikolai Leskov’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. The gothic allure of this period piece about a woman forced into marriage and deciding to take things into her own hands is both refreshing and captivating, and make no mistake: there is nothing theatrical or stiff about the film. – Jordan R. (full review)

Landline (Gillian Robespierre; July 21)


Although it was marketed as an “abortion romantic comedy,” Obvious Child went beyond that basic moniker, using the set-up to mine humor from the fears and anxieties tied with such a personal decision. Writer-director Gillian Robespierre and star Jenny Slate have now reteamed in Landline, a 1995-set drama about the dysfunctional lives of one family in Manhattan. Refreshingly scraggly in its structure and plotting, with an enormous heart and affecting honesty permeating every scene, it marks an impressive step up for the duo. – Jordan R. (full review)

Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan; July 21)


Any new film from Christopher Nolan is a reason to celebrate. Among the top tier of Hollywood blockbuster directors, no one has a visual sense or narrative mind quite like Nolan. Almost all of his films since Insomnia have involved some fantastical element, but with Dunkirk he turns his eye to history, telling the story of the British retreat from France in the opening years of World War II. With an immense cast and a sweeping canvas, time will tell what the primary story and arc of this film is, but with the evocative trailers we’ve seen so far, it’s certain that the aesthetic pedigree of this film is unparalleled. – Brian R.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Luc Besson; July 21)


One of the bigger gambles of the summer movie slate is The Fifth Element director Luc Besson‘s return to the futuristic space epic. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, clocking in at an eye-popping $180 million budget, is full of inventive imagery and an eye-popping color palette that seems all-too-rare in Hollywood today, judging from its trailers. Starring Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, and John Goodman, the adaptation of Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières‘ comic series hopefully contains a portion of the gleeful madness Besson exuded in Lucy. – Jordan R.

Atomic Blonde (David Leitch; July 28)


Charlize Theron is back to kick some serious ass in Atomic Blonde. The latest feature from John Wick co-director David Leitch, the action-thriller finds Theron’s Lorraine Broughton as an undercover MI6 agent during the Cold War who is tasked with hunting down a secret agent-killer. Teamed up with another agent (James McAvoy), Lorraine must fight her way through hordes of bad guys to save the day. Penned by Kurt Johnstad (300) and lensed by Jonathan Sela (John Wick), Atomic Blonde looks to showcase Theron’s ferocious energy displayed in Mad Max: Fury Road with the now-signature stylings of John Wick. – Mike M.

Detroit (Kathryn Bigelow; August 4)


Following up her pair of Oscar-winning dramas, The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark ThirtyKathryn Bigelow is going from international war to conflict in the heart of America with her next project. Re-teaming with Mark BoalDetroit is set during the 5-day riots that took place there in 1967, and will explore the systemic racism of the city. The citizen uprising left 43 people dead, nearly 1,200 injured, and over 2,000 establishments destroyed.  Starring John Boyega, Jack Reynor, Will Poulter, Anthony Mackie, Jason Mitchell, and more, this will surely be one of the highlights of the summer. – Jordan R.

Columbus (kogonada; August 4)


The path to becoming a director is one generally accompanied by a profound knowledge of film history, but that passion is rarely more public then when it comes to kogonada. After years of working on visually detailed video essays for The Criterion Collection, Sight & Sound, and more, he’s now made his directorial debut with Columbus, an impeccably composed drama of quiet humanity and curiosity. If his nickname wasn’t enough of a hint, traces of Yasujirō Ozu’s influence can be found, but this first-time director has created something distinctly his own. – Jordan R. (full review)

Ingrid Goes West (Matt Spicer; August 4)


With a generation now largely measuring their self-esteem by the amount of likes on their Instagram feed, the veneer of a perfect life is a sought-after badge of approval. Call it a cynical observation, but the rush of personal achievement via double taps is an addicting one, especially so for Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza), a mentally unstable woman filling the lonely void left by her recently deceased mother with social media stalking. Upon reading an article in Elle, she sets her sights on Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), an Instagram influencer who gets paid by companies to hawk their latest fashionable products. Using the $60,000 left by her mom’s will, she sets off to Los Angeles to hopefully make a new friend and thus begins the escalating deception of Ingrid Goes West. – Jordan R. (full review)

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