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40 Films to See This Summer

Written by on April 24, 2019 

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 very 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.

Knock Down the House (Rachel Lears; May 1)

Rachel Lears’ Knock Down the House is a fun, emotionally powerful, inspiring look at the incredible wave of would-be politicians that sought, in 2018, to challenge status quo Democrats and enact meaningful change—all while refusing money from Wall Street fat cats and big business super PACs. Jake H. (full review)

Non-Fiction (Olivier Assayas; May 3)

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Who needs a middle man’s subjectivity when you have algorithms predicting what people will like? Critics don’t matter much in Olivier Assayas’ talkative Non-Fiction, but they are not the only supposedly anachronistic relic to be thrown out of the window in this gentle and profoundly compassionate human comedy that draws from the ever-widening rift between old and new trends in the publishing industry to conjure up a tale of societal changes and those caught in between them. – Leonardo G. (full review)

Shadow (Zhang Yimou; May 3)

With its gorgeously choreographed sword duels, sabers slicing through paddles of blood and rain, watercolor bi-chromatic palettes and sumptuous costumes, Zhang Yimou’s Shadow (Ying) is a film of visual charms. To enter into the Fifth Generation maestro’s latest period piece is to be invited to marvel at a 116-minute long dance – a stunning return to form from a director who’d previously ventured into semi-autobiographical terrain with the 2014 moving Coming Home, and later veered into the bombastic Chinese-cum-Matt Damon blockbuster epic letdown The Great Wall (2016). Shadow brings heart and spectacle together, and the result is a bombastic martial arts wuxia replete with duels of breath-taking beauty that will please longtime Zhang acolytes and newbies alike. – Leonardo G. (full review)

The Biggest Little Farm (John Chester; May 10)

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After getting evicted from their apartment in Los Angeles due to taking in a stray dog, filmmaker John Chester and food writer Molly Chester decide to try and cultivate a storybook farm in The Biggest Little Farm. The latest entry into the canon of films exploring food and ecosystems, like Aube Giroux’s Modified and Andrew Grace’s Eating Alabama, the documentary works as well as it does because of a reliance on its relatable subject and the director as its narrator. – John F. (full review)

Pasolini (Abel Ferrara; May 10)

“Cinema is a never-ending long take,” Pier Paolo Pasolini once said. “And death is a form of instant editing of a whole life, picking and arranging our most significant moments.” There’s a lot of cinema and one devastating death in Abel Ferrara’s Pasolini, but instead of a series of “most significant moments,” this unconventional biopic limits its scope to the last day in the life of a writer, poet, director, and leading intellectual voice in Italy’s post-war era. – Tommaso T. (full review)

The Third Wife (Ash Mayfair; May 15)

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It’s 19th century Vietnam and fourteen-year-old May (Nguyen Phuong Tra My) has just been married to a wealthy landowner named Hung (Long Le Vu). She wears a genuine smile on her face, this next chapter in life as hopeful as it is scary. She has two other women to help steer her through womanhood, motherhood, and sexual pleasure (Nu Yên-Khê Tran’s first wife Ha and Mai Thu Huong Maya’s second wife Xuan) and a future of comfort awaiting her with but one goal: bearing a son. A bloody sheet is displayed to represent consummation; a growing belly to prove no time was wasted for conception. And as the days progress with less and less to do thanks to servants, May’s eyes and mind begin to gradually wander. – Jared M. (full review)

The Souvenir (Joanna Hogg; May 17)

The Souvenir melds two well-trodden subgenres and through Joanna Hogg’s refreshingly unique vision makes each feel entirely original. Her much-anticipated return after 2013’s Exhibition tells both a painful addiction story and a behind-the-scenes look at film school struggles as we follow Julie (a beautiful debut performance by Honor Swinton Byrne). The daughter of Tilda Swinton (who also briefly turns up), Swinton Byrne is in every scene, and steals them all. Akin to the revelatory introduction to Tom Hiddleston in Hogg’s first two films, Unrelated and Archipelago, she is the lifeblood of The Souvenir, which follows doomed lovers in a story that is conveyed with feels mined from achingly personal memories.Jordan R. (full review)

Asako I & II (Ryusuke Hamaguchi; May 17)

Following his riveting five-hour-plus drama Happy Hour, Ryusuke Hamaguchi is back with Asako I & II, in which he employs more stylistic flourishes in an absorbing riff on Vertigo. Based on Tomoka Shibasaki’s novel Netemo Sametemo, it follows a woman who falls in love, but her significant other disappears. Two years later, another man appears with a striking resemblance to her former lover. Less melodramatic than that plot synopsis sounds, Asako is fascinating in its use of surreal touches and enveloping playfulness, making for one of 2019’s most delightful cinematic experiences. – Jordan R.

Aniara (Pella Kågerman & Hugo Lilja; May 17)

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The title shares its name with a city-size spacecraft ferrying humans from Earth to Mars in barely three weeks. It’s a routine trip that’s never run into problems with many passengers already having family on the red planet to greet them upon arrival. But there’s a first time for everything as a small field of debris forces Captain Chefone (Arvin Kananian) off course. Unfortunately a screw breaches their hull anyway, pushing their nuclear fuel supply to critical mass. Expelling it may save them for the moment, but without it they cannot steer. So despite having enough self-sustaining electricity and algae (for air and food), there’s no way to return onto their necessary trajectory. Either a celestial body interrupts their path to slingshot back or they simply drift forever. – Jared M. (full review)

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (Chad Stahelski; May 17)

John Wick is back, and for the first time he’ll be doing his business during the summer movie slate. Once again directed by Chad Stahelski, the story follows Keanu Reeves’ character on the run after the cliffhanger that ended the last chapter, which featured a global call-out that put a price on his head. Also starring Laurence Fishburne, Lance Reddick, Jason Mantzoukas (!), Anjelica Huston, and Ian McShane, we’re only a few weeks away from what’s shaping up to be the action spectacle of the summer. – Jordan R.

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