Are we done talking about “Avengers: Endgame?”
Look, we get that one character’s death is super-sad and the “Black Panther” bunch totally kicks butt. (Speaking of butts: Captain America, anyone?) But nearly one month into its record-breaking, “Detective Pikachu”-besting box-office run, it’s time that we turn our attention to the many other must-see movies, big and small, coming down the pike this summer.
We’ve already alerted you to the big-screen returns of Brad Pitt (“Once Upon A Time in Hollywood”) and Beyonce (“The Lion King”), among other stars. Now we’d like to direct you to 10 critically acclaimed, low-budget films opening this season (some in select theaters, check local listings), most of which we’ve seen and wholeheartedly recommend.
Anthony (Tom Burke, left) and Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) are in an emotionally fraught relationship in "The Souvenir." (Photo: NICOLA DOVE)
‘The Souvenir’ (in theaters Friday)
Joanna Hogg’s understated British drama is the very definition of a “slow burn.” Set in the 1980s, the film follows a wide-eyed film student (Honor Swinton Byrne) who, against the best advice of her protective mother (real-life mom Tilda Swinton), falls into a passionate romance with a seductive but untrustworthy older man (Tom Burke). What begins as a sumptuously shot memory piece gradually becomes a shattering portrait of addiction, with a sequel already in the works co-starring Robert Pattinson.
Montgomery (Jonathan Majors, left) and Jimmie (Jimmie Fails) are two longtime friends wrestling with legacy, family and home in "The Last Black Man in San Francisco." (Photo: PETER PRATO)
‘The Last Black Man in San Francisco’ (June 7)
Home means different things to different people. That’s the decidedly familiar idea at the heart of Joe Talbot’s stunning film, which picked up best directing honors at Sundance Film Festival. The lush, lyrical drama centers on best friends Montgomery (Jonathan Majors), an aspiring playwright, and Jimmie (Jimmie Fails), an unemployed skateboarder trying to reclaim his childhood home in San Francisco’s heavily gentrified Fillmore District. Propelled by a vibrant score and colorful cast of characters, this meandering buddy comedy eventually peels back the layers to examine much deeper ideas about race, class and belonging.
Zach (Luka Sabbat, left), Zoe (Selena Gomez) and Jack (Austin Butler) are three passers-through in Centerville who may fall victim to the undead in "The Dead Don't Die." (Photo: FREDERICK ELMES/FOCUS FEATURES)
‘The Dead Don’t Die’ (June 14)
If you want to watch all your favorite celebrities hunt and be hunted by zombies, then Jim Jarmusch’s hipster horror comedy is right in your wheelhouse. Bill Murray and Adam Driver lead the star-studded cast as deadpan cops in a sleepy town who are faced with a zombie apocalypse, while Selena Gomez, Tom Waits, Steve Buscemi and Tilda Swinton co-star as kooky denizens fighting for their lives. Reviews were mixed out of Cannes Film Festival (67% positive on Rotten Tomatoes), where the movie premiered Tuesday, although The Guardian credited the clever script and “self-assured performances” for breathing life into the “droll, if directionless riff” on the zombie genre.
Karate students Anna (Imogen Poots, left) and Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) become reluctant allies in "The Art of Self-Defense." (Photo: BLEECKER STREET)
‘The Art of Self-Defense’ (July 12)
A searing critique of toxic masculinity, Riley Stearns’ offbeat black comedy asks what happens when an insecure man is pushed to the edge. Casey Davies (Jesse Eisenberg) is an awkward, mousy accountant who leads a quiet existence with his dachshund until he’s brutally mugged by a group of masked motorcyclists coming home one night. Left paranoid and fearful, he enrolls in a punishing martial-arts class led by a manipulative alpha-male sensei (Alessandro Nivola), who soon entangles Casey in his shady business dealings and power struggle with the dojo’s sole female student (Imogen Poots).
Struggling writer Billi (Awkwafina, center) travels to China to say goodbye to her cancer-stricken grandmother in Lulu Wang's "The Farewell." (Photo: BIG BEACH)
‘The Farewell’ (July 12)
No film so far this year has made us cry more than “The Farewell” – and we mean that as the highest compliment. “Crazy Rich Asians” breakout Awkwafina delivers an awards-worthy dramatic turn as Billi, a puckish, perceptive young New Yorker who travels back to her native China for her cousin’s wedding. The catch? The ceremony has been fast-tracked so the family can gather to say goodbye to her ailing grandma (Zhao Shuzhen), who doesn’t know she’s dying. With rich insight into Chinese tradition, writer/director Lulu Wang tells a semi-autobiographical story that is both deeply specific and universal, effectively capturing the pain of losing both a close relative and one’s cultural heritage.
Bryon (Jamie Bell) struggles to leave his far-right sect in "Skin." (Photo: GUY NATTIV)
‘Skin’ (July 26)
Israeli filmmaker Guy Nattiv won an Oscar earlier this year for his controversial live-action short “Skin,” about a racist white man whose entire body is tattooed black in a gang-related attack. Nattiv tackles different but similar terrain in his English-language feature debut, inspired by the true story of reformed neo-Nazi Bryon Widner, who went on a months-long journey to have elaborate white supremacist tattoos removed from his face and neck. Jamie Bell (“Billy Elliot”) makes a shocking, often moving transformation as a violent Indiana man wrestling with his beliefs, while the film’s message of erasing hate is timely.
Clare (Aisling Franciosi) is a 19th-century woman hellbent on vengeance in "The Nightingale." (Photo: Kasia Ladczuk)
‘The Nightingale’ (Aug. 2)
Writer/director Jennifer Kent created a minor horror phenomenon with 2014’s “The Babadook,” about a monstrous children’s book character who terrorizes a family. With her second feature, the Australian filmmaker takes a hard left turn from campy thrills to bleak period drama, following a resilient young woman named Clare (“Game of Thrones” alum Aisling Franciosi) as she treks across the Tasmanian wilderness in search of the men who hurt her family. The relentless rape and murder of multiple characterscould prove too much to stomach for some viewers, but Franciosi’s well-calibrated rage and pathos make this a revenge tale worth seeing.
After a friend introduces him to the music of Bruce Springsteen, Javed (Viveik Kalra) becomes a full-blown super-fan in "Blinded by the Light." (Photo: NICK WALL)
‘Blinded by the Light’ (Aug. 14)
So saccharine it should come with an insulin pen, this quasi-musical coming-of-age tale is best enjoyed by those who leave any cynicism at the door. Directed by Gurinder Chadha (“Bend It Like Beckham”) and based on a true story, this earnest ’80s-set crowd-pleaser follows a restless British-Pakistani teen (Viveik Kalra) who wants nothing more than to get out of his small English town. After discovering the working-class poetry of Bruce Springsteen’s songs, he musters up the courage to pursue his writing dreams and get a girlfriend (Nell Williams), while also finding common ground with his strict-yet-supportive immigrant father (Kulvinder Ghir).
Cate Blanchett stars as an architect-turned-bored housewife in "Where'd You Go, Bernadette?" (Photo: WILSON WEBB)
‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette?’ (Aug. 16)
Was this movie ripped from our dream journal? On paper, it has everything: a flawless Oscar-winning star (Cate Blanchett), a beloved veteran filmmaker (Richard Linklater, of “Boyhood” and “Dazed and Confused” fame), and a juicy central mystery about a reclusive mom who suddenly disappears. Factor in its riveting source material, and this adaptation of Maria Semple’s 2012 best seller has all the makings of a late-summer hit, if it weren’t for its repeatedly delayed release. Originally planned to land in theaters last May, the film is on its fifth release date, which could bode poorly for its quality.
Flailing box-office attendant Brittany (Jillian Bell) attempts to jump-start her life in dramedy "Brittany Runs a Marathon." (Photo: AMAZON STUDIOS)
‘Brittany Runs a Marathon’ (Aug. 23)
Few comedies get self-empowerment quite as right as Paul Downs Colaizzo’s debut feature, which won the Audience Award at Sundance. Jillian Bell (“22 Jump Street”) stars as the self-deprecating title heroine: a broke, single thirtysomething who takes up long-distance running as a means to lose weight and gain confidence. But even with a slimmer figure and a charming new friend with benefits (Utkarsh Ambudkar), Brittany struggles to be happy and accept love from others, as the movie thoughtfully explores how appearances don’t paint the full picture.
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