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40 Films to See This Summer

Written by on April 26, 2016 

Indignation (James Schamus; July 29th)


After helping filmmakers such as Todd Haynes, Ang Lee, and Todd Solondz shape their careers, James Schamus has finally made the leap from producer to director with an adaptation of Philip Roth‘s 2008 novel Indignation. The 1951-set feature follows Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman), a Newark-bred Jewish teenager heading to his first semester at a Lutheran college in Ohio. In doing so, he avoids the draft for the Korean War, which is claiming extended family and friends as victims. While a morally sound, eloquent, and confident individual, at college he grapples with sexuality and a distinct indignation, primarily inflicted by Dean Caudwell (Tracy Letts). – Jordan R. (full review)

Pete’s Dragon (David Lowery; August 12th)

Petes Dragon

One of my favorite Sundance films of the last few years was Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, a sublime drama starring Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck and Ben Foster, which marked the break out for director David Lowery. When his follow-up was announced a few years ago, it caught us all by surprise. Yes, he jumped to a reboot of Disney’s 1977 Pete’s Dragon, tasked with reinventing “the core story,” but this time without the musical numbers of the original animated/live-action hybrid family film. If you’ve never seen the Disney original, it follows a orphan kid who brings his magical dragon to a new town and hijinks ensue. With a cast featuring Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Karl Urban, Wes Bentley, this is one of the most promising, and curious, studio features of the year. – Jordan R.

Sausage Party (Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan; August 12th)

Sausage Party

As Seth Rogen expands his brand of comedy (or drama, if we look to AMC soon) to different genres, his latest will find him taking on Pixar with a hard-R animation. Backed by Sony and Megan Ellison‘s Annapurna Pictures, Sausage Party follows a sausage and its quest to discover the truth about his existence. Starring Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, Salma Hayek, Edward Norton, David Krumholtz, Nick Kroll, Michael Cera, Craig Robinson, Bill Hader, Anders Holm, Paul Rudd, Danny McBride, and more, the response out of SXSW was love-it-or-hate-it, but as this list suggests, I’ll take this over a Finding Nemo sequel. – Jordan R.

Kubo and the Two Strings (Travis Knight; August 19th)

Kubo and the Two Strings

Since 2009’s Coraline, Laika Studios has been a rising star to watch in the animation arena; their follow-ups ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls may not have garnered the same box office as the likes of Pixar, but they propelled the team forward as classically styled storytellers and light-bearers for the forgotten art of stop-motion. Although Trolls felt a little slight compared to their previous supernatural fables, that film is never less than beautiful in regards to the loving and feverishly inventive construction of its fantasy world. Now, drawing from the rich and beguiling well of Japanese folklore, Laika embarks upon a film that looks to expand its ambitions and epic, storytelling scope. CEO Travis Knight, who served as animation lead on the previous features, takes the helm for Kubo and the Two Strings and has emphasized that under the fantastical story of a street singer caught up in a quest filled with gods and monsters, there is an heartfelt exploration of how we deal with loss. If that doesn’t draw you in, how about a rich and enticing voice-cast that includes Rooney Mara, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, and George Takei? If you’re still not convinced, there’s the achingly lovely animation that looks to push Laika forward into a whole new league while perfectly evoking the dazzling but melancholic world of this story. – Nathan B.

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World (Werner Herzog; August 19th)

Lo and Behold 1

From the grand, savage outdoors to the inner chambers of those awaiting certain death, Werner Herzog has gone to the ends of the Earth to capture our innermost dreams and fears in his documentaries. For his latest, Lo and Behold: Reveries of The Connected World, he looks to the unwieldy unknown of the Internet and how its evolution has immensely affected the way we communicate, for better or worse.  Told in 10 distinct chapters, from “The Early Days” to “The Future,” each has enough intriguing substance to be the foundation of its own documentary, which makes Herzog’s latest a rapidly entertaining ride through the rise of technology where certain sections might feel thematically underdeveloped. – Jordan R. (full review)

Southside with You (Richard Tanne; August 19th)


Arriving just in time for the end of the Obama era, Southside With You depicts a history-changing summer afternoon in 1989 in which our future national leader took Michelle Robinson out on what would become their first date. Barack Obama (a convincing Parker Sawyers), working at a corporate law farm as an associate from Harvard Law, persuades his co-worker Michelle (Tika Sumpter, also a producer here) to attend a community meeting, which is not a date, according to her. – Jordan R. (full review)

Blood Father (Jean-François Richet; August 26th)

Blood Father

It’s been four years since Mel Gibson last led a feature with 2012’s Get the Gringo, but he’s back this year on both sides of the camera. Later this year we expect his first directorial effort in a decade, the Andrew Garfield-led WWII drama Hacksaw Ridge, to arrive, but first we have Blood Father, an actioner directed by Jean-François Richet (Mesrine). The story concerns an ex-convict father who tracks down and protects his daughter from danger. Also starring William H. Macy, Diego Luna, Michael Parks, and Richard Cabral, it’ll premiere at Cannes next month before a release at the end of the summer. – Jordan R.

The Intervention (Clea DuVall; August 26th)

The Intervention 1

While The Big Chill certainly wasn’t the first of its kind, Lawrence Kasdan’s 1983 hit has become a cultural benchmark for the glut of features depicting a weekend outing between twenty/thirty-somethings in which insecurities are divulged amongst the entertaining banter. With their one-location setting and small-scale drama helping budget costs, Sundance seems to premiere a fair share of them. The latest is The Intervention, coming from actor-turned-director Clea DuVall, an enjoyable, if ultimately muddled character-focused diversion. – Jordan R. (full review)

Kate Plays Christine (Robert Greene; Summer TBD)

Kate Plays Christine Kate Lyn Sheil 2

Actors put themselves in others’ skins — or they put others’ heads inside their own. Television journalists adopt a persona and try to deliver important information. Women erect calculated fronts to navigate environments not built for them. Many people suffering mental illness do their best to maintain a semblance of “nothing’s wrong.” Film directors orchestrate elaborate works of emotional manipulation. Documentary film directors do so with factual material. Such performances often overlap in the course of life and work; all of them intersect in Kate Plays Christine. – Dan S. (full review)

Matinees to See (click titles for available reviews): The Idol (5/6), Holy Hell (5/20), Maggie’s Plan (5/20), Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (5/20), Unlocking the Cage (5/25), The Ones Below (5/27), Viktoria (6/10), Diary of a Chambermaid (6/10), Finding Dory (6/17), Tickled (6/17), Nuts! (6/22) Free State of Jones (6/24), The Fundamentals of Caring (6/24) Equals (7/1), Microbe and Gasoline (7/1), Life, Animated (7/8), The Infiltrator (7/15), Into the Forest (7/22), Equity (7/29), Author The JT LeRoy Story (7/29), Sea Fog (July TBD), The Founder (8/5), The Hollars (8/12), A Tale of Love and Darkness (August TBD)

What are you seeing this summer?

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