Summertime and the Filmin’ is Easy
2017 continues to fly by and soon we’ll find ourselves in the midst of the summer movie season. Despite some big name franchises already debuting their heavy hitters (like Logan, Beauty and the Beast, The Fate of the Furious, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), the summer movies have yet to begin in earnest. But loyal readers of the site will know that the focus here will not be placed on established mega-franchise IPs. Instead what I’ll highlight is original and interesting filmmakers whose projects will be making a splash in the proverbial cinematic swimming pool over the next few months. From a new Christopher Nolan movie, to psychological thrillers, to movies streaming on Netflix – this summer is shaping up to be an eclectic grab-bag of eccentric and entertaining titles. That beach body will have to wait, there’s plenty of watching to do!
*In chronological order:
1. War Machine – dir. David Michôd
Nothing in David Michôd‘s filmography suggests he’d be interested in directing a satirical comedy about the war in Afghanistan, but that’s exactly what we’re getting with his third outing War Machine. Based on Michael Hastings’s book which documents his time spent with General Stanley McChrystal, War Machine chronicles the unpredictable nature and unorthodox style of one of our nation’s most controversial figures. Brad Pitt stars as a General based on McChrystal and is surrounded by a mix of rising and veteran actors. Throw in cinematography by Dariusz Wolski and a score from Nick Cave & Warren Ellis and there’s a lot to like in this production. Fortunately for us, we won’t have to wait too long because War Machine is being distributed by Netflix and will be available for streaming the end of this month.
U.S. Release date: May 26th on Netflix
2. It Comes At Night – dir. Trey Edward Shults
Trey Edward Shults emerged onto the indie scene in a big bad way with last year’s personal family drama Krisha. Although not the most flashy of debuts, it certainly declared Shults as a talent to watch. Thankfully his follow-up feature is significantly more genre focused and boasts a formidable cast (Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, and Carmen Ejogo among others). When a mysterious event wipes out the world outside, a man (Edgerton) is forced to protect his family from varies threats, known and unknown alike. Shults has already proven himself to be excellent at building tension and setting up well-paced character interactions so to see him operate in the psychological horror realm is a scintillating prospect. Whatever “It” is , it can’t come soon enough.
U.S. Release date: June 9th
3. The Big Sick – dir. Michael Showalter
Romantic comedies often get a bad rap in today’s cinema landscape. From the alpha-male attitude that is allergic to anything reeking of “chick flick” to contemporary critics who cry foul at the slightest hint of sentimentality, rom-coms almost seem destined to disappoint moviegoers. Luckily there are still filmmakers working today who champion the genre and are interested in telling compelling stories at the same time. The Big Sick is a good example of this. TBS tells the story of comedian Kumail Nanjiani and how he met his real-life wife Emily Gordon, who also co-wrote the movie with her husband. Kumail plays himself while Emily is played by the multi-talented Zoe Kazan. Things don’t go smoothly however, as Kumail comes from a traditional Pakistani family while Emily is white. This culture clash of values will ultimately test Kumail and the lengths he’s willing to go to do what’s right by his partner. Produced by Judd Apatow, The Big Sick received a strong reception at this year’s Sundance and won the Audience Award at SXSW. Maybe this summer the genre will be reinvigorated and audiences will be receptive to the intimate power of relationships.
U.S. Release date: June 23rd
4. The Bad Batch – dir. Ana Lily Amirpour
Guns. Cannibals. Texas. That’s all that’s really known about Ana Lily Amirpour’s second feature film The Bad Batch. Following up her wonderful 2014 debut A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Amirpour has jumped head first into the weirdo wasteland with The Bad Batch. Her casting alone is enough to intrigue even the most cynical of cinephiles: Jason Momoa, Giovanni Ribisi, Diego Luna, Keanu Reeves, and yes…Jim Carrey. It’s evident from her previous work that Amirpour has an eye for shot selection and a unique style of storytelling. If this project approaches the same levels of strangeness that its trailer suggests, then we’re in store for one of the oddest and craziest movies of the summer.
U.S. Release date: June 23rd
5. Baby Driver – dir. Edgar Wright
Edgar Wright is in rarefied air in that he’s yet to make a bad film. From his collaborations with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Wright has a knack for physical comedy and is one of the best action-comedy directors of our time. I don’t want to jinx it but his latest film, Baby Driver, appears to continue this winning streak. Ansel Elgort plays the eponymous “Baby,” a getaway driver who relies on his music to do what he does best. He soon falls in love with a young waitress and eventually falls into working for a shady kingpin played by Kevin Spacey. Sporting a killer cast with hopefully an even more killer soundtrack, Baby Driver is one of the most anticipated titles of the summer.
U.S. Release date: June 28th
6. Okja – dir. Bong Joon-Ho
Leave it to South Korean auteur Bong Joon-Ho to bring us an action-adventure tale about a little girl and her struggle to protect her massive pig-dog-hybrid creature from nefarious corporate forces. Bong has captivated the international cinema world for years and most recently cracked American shores in 2013 with his English-language debut Snowpiercer. Okja is currently competing for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, was produced by Brad Pitt’s company Plan B Entertainment, and was picked up for distribution by Netflix. It also stars Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, and Jake Gyllenhaal. Intrigued yet?
U.S. Release date: June 28th on Netflix
7. A Ghost Story – dir. David Lowery
David Lowery’s career path is not the typical Hollywood story. He went from directing his first feature film in 2013’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, which was made for a modest $4 million dollars, to directing Disney’s live adaptation of Pete’s Dragon. Obviously Lowery has experienced tremendous success in a relatively short amount of time for someone with as sparse a résumé as he, but it’s not undeserving I can assure you. Lowery is a smart and sensitive filmmaker who possesses the profound ability to reduce powerful stories to their smallest scale, thereby magnifying their impact on the audience. Reuniting Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara once again, Lowery appears to have found his cinematic muses. Now let’s see if Casey can wear a bed sheet better than he wore his facial hair.
U.S. Release date: July 7th
8. Dunkirk – dir. Christopher Nolan
Joining Edgar Wright in the batting 1.000 club is Christopher Nolan. I’ve always enjoyed Nolan’s non-Batman projects, each one increasingly more ambitious than the one before it. Dunkirk is no exception. There are no shortage of movies about the horrors of WWII but none ever looked so immediately dire and palpably terrifying as Dunkirk. Nolan is rare in that he is an auteur filmmaker with commercial appeal. His movies are cerebrally challenging while simultaneously appealing to a broad range of viewers. Some of Nolan’s usual collaborators are back such as Cillian Murphy, music by Hans Zimmer, and Interstellar DP Hoyte van Hoytema. Billed as an atypical war film (it’s rated PG-13 for starters), Nolan is expected to bring his unique brand of filmmaking to a wrought setting. And as the tagline reminds us, “survival is victory.”
U.S. Release date: July 21st
9. Wind River – dir. Taylor Sheridan
Typically side characters on TV shows don’t go on to solidify themselves as one of the hottest writers in town. But that’s exactly what former actor Taylor Sheridan has done. Having written two incredible screenplays in a row (and becoming Oscar-nominated for the second), Sheridan has now turned his attention to directing his first feature. Enter Wind River. The completion of a sort-of trilogy Sheridan has called the “the American frontier,” Wind River tells the story of a rookie FBI agent played by Elizabeth Olsen who enlists the help of a US Fish and Wildlife Service agent (Jeremy Renner) to help solve a murder in the Wyoming wilderness. The FBI, murder, and the wild west are all familiar themes to Sheridan who is building on one of the more unorthodox trajectory’s in recent memory. May his arrow continue to point up river.
U.S. Release date: August 4th
10. Logan Lucky – dir. Steven Soderbergh
You can never really trust Steven Soderbergh’s word when it comes to his career and when it will end. Having first “retired” from feature filmmaking in 2013, only to go on to un-retire, and then direct a TV series, Soderbergh has found a myriad of ways to stay busy. This summer however he’s unequivocally back with Logan Lucky. LL is about a family of thieves who plan an elaborate heist during a NASCAR event. That’s really all I needed to here. With a wealth of talent on board (including Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Channing Tatum, Hilary Swank, Katherine Waterston, Katie Holmes, Seth MacFarlane, and Sebastian Stan), this seems like the perfect welcome back vehicle for Soderbergh who is no stranger to directing entertaining ensemble heist films. Sometimes a mental break is all we need – good thing Soderbergh is incapable of such respite.
U.S. Release date: August 18th