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40 Films to See This Summer

Written by on April 26, 2016 

Summer-2016-The-Film-Stage

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.

A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino; May 4th)

The Bigger Splash

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. Based on the 1969 French drama La piscine (The Swimming Pool), the story essentially begins as Marianne (Tilda Swinton) and Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) – a couple vacationing on an Italian island – get an unexpected visit from her former lover and record producer Harry (Ralph Fiennes), along with his daughter Penny (Dakota Johnson). Harry, a raging bohemian who still harbors affections for Marianne, and Penny, a confident Lolita-type who has her sights set on the hunky Paul, will make sure feelings old and new get kindled, leading to frictions that may end up being more than harmless. – Zhuo-Ning Su (full review)

Dheepan (Jacques Audiard; May 6th)

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 8.14.37 PM

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. – Zhuo-Ning S. (full review)

Dark Horse (Louise Osmond; May 6th)

Dark Horse

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 village in Wales who 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’d imagine most audiences will as well. – Jordan R.

The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos; May 13th)

The Lobster 1

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. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

High-Rise (Ben Wheatley; May 13th)

High-Rise header

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. – Jared M. (full review)

Money Monster (Jodie Foster; May 13th)

Money Monster 1

With it being five years since The Beaver — and a few episodes of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black in-between — Jodie Foster is now 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 theaters almost immediately after. – Jordan R.

Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman; May 13th)

Love Friendship

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. Planned for a spring release, keep your eyes peeled for this one, and for a slightly more reserved take check out our full review. – Dan M.

Sunset Song (Terence Davies; May 13th)

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A tension is formed by a cut, quickly transporting our heroine from an expansive wheat field to a confined classroom. We’re not just talking the difference of 70mm for the former and the Ari Alexa for the latter, but that of, to quote Kate Bush, the “sensual world” versus the punishment of destiny. Based on a mainstay of Scottish classrooms, Sunset Song is a triptych of sorts chronicling farmgirl Chris’ (Agyness Deyn) womanhood; the first deals with her abusive father (Peter Mullan) and the pain he inflicts on her and the others in the family, the second follows her falling in love and marrying Ewan (Kevin Guthrie), while the third sees Ewan enlisting to fight in World War I and coming back a violent man that resembles her father. – Ethan V. (full review)

Last Days in the Desert (Rodrigo García; May 13th)

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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 ExodusRodrigo García‘s beautiful, spare drama can frustrate as much as it allures with meditations on finding meaning in one’s life (and beyond). – Jordan R. (full review)

The Nice Guys (Shane Black; May 20th)

The Nice Guys

When the trailer for The Nice Guys debuted, we found there were many things about which to get excited. For starters, the cast, which includes Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, playing their ’70s tough guy protagonists with more than a hint of irony. Another highlight is the film’s writer-director Shane Black, delivering his first original film (I’m still madly in love with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) in over a decade. An incredibly influential genre screenwriter, Black’s script for Lethal Weapon still remains a pivotal entry of ’80’s action films. All fine reasons for anticipation, yet the element which intrigued me more than any other was the film’s R-rating. Black’s previous feature foray, Iron Man 3, was a decidedly underwhelming use of the larger, mainstream canvas. For my money, Black’s at his best when his creative sensibilities are free from restrictions, allowing his loose-cannon characters to curse and kill as they please. – Tony H.

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