Thursday, April 26, 2018

10 mostly small(er) films you might want to seek out this summer


Even if spring hasn’t raised much of its lovely head yet in northeast Ohio, the summer movie season unofficially begins Friday, seemingly earlier than ever, with a little ditty called “Avengers: Infinity War.” (See my movie ratings at left.)
Have you heard of it? Certainly you have. Just as you’re likely aware of such equally anticipated blockbusters as “Deadpool2” (May 18); “Solo: A Star Wars Story” (May 25); “Ocean’s 8” (June 8); “Incredibles 2” (June 15); “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (June 22) and “Mission Impossible – Fallout” (July 27).

McAdams and Weisz star in “Disobedience.”
But how ‘bout some mostly off-the-radar sleepers that will arrive by the time the season hopefully and seriously heats up? Here are 10 to consider:

Disobedience (May 18): Since it’s the only one I’ve seen so far (at last fall’s Toronto International Film Festival), my small summer slate kicks off with knockout performances from two great Rachels – McAdams and Weisz. The girls co-star and flash some surprising chemistry together in a Sebastian Lelio film based on a successful novel. Of course, the Chilean Lelio also wrote and directed last year’s Oscar-winning, Best Foreign Language Film, "A Fantastic Woman." 

The Rider (June 1): Another entry that collected some buzz in Toronto (and last spring at Cannes), it’s an almost mythic tale of a rodeo cowboy (star-in-the-making Brady Jandreau), wondering what comes next after a life-threatening accident. The truth-based film from writer/director Chloe Zhao ("Songs My Brother Taught Me") also earned five Independent Spirit Award nominations.

Upgrade (June 1): This Australian thriller apparently takes techies to a new level of horror, at least according to some feedback from its world premiere at South by Southwest in March. Revenge, superhuman powers, and plenty of blood fill the screen, and its writer/director (Leigh Whannell) arrives with connections to both the successful “Saw” and “Insidious” franchises.

Collette and Byrne do look spooky in “Hereditary.”
Hereditary (June 8): Even more terrifying perhaps – and already being billed in some corners as the year’s scariest movie – this chiller has Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne heading a grief-stricken family which, for some reason, starts tooling around into their questionable ancestry. Festival-goers at both Sundance and South by Southwest embraced it with jumps, screams and standing ovations.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado (June 29): The sequel I’m most looking forward to doesn’t have the great Denis Villenueve back directing it, but brilliant screenwriter Taylor Sheridan is, along with stars Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro. That should mean more action-packed undercover FBI work, based on a reality that simply doesn’t exist in other summer fantasy/comic-book/CGI-based blockbusters.

Sorry to Bother You (July 6): Another film festival hit that ventures into originality is supposedly an often brilliant and funny directorial debut from actor/rap artist Boots Riley. His story, which stars Tessa Thompson and Armie Hammer, spotlights a telemarketer (LaKeith Stansfield from “Get Out”) whose dulcet voice opens up a variety of doors and opportunities. 

Eighth Grade (July 13): A second directing debut, this one from actor/comedian Bo Burnham (one of the best buddies in “The Big Sick”), will show up with top-notch, coming-of-age praise from festivals in Sundance, San Francisco and Sarasota. The title tells it all, but it specifically deals with a 13-year-old girl’s fun-filled last week in middle school. 

The Meg (Aug. 10): Uh, you may not be chomping at the bit to see this one, but any movie with the tagline, “Pleasure to Eat You,” sounds like a dog-days-of-summer lark. Add action heavyweight Jason Statham, as a disgraced submarine captain trying to save his reputation – and  crew -- from something called a Megalodon (allegedly the largest marine predator ever), and well . . . maybe the Meg’s entrance music will become as memorable as that grand stuff in “Jaws.” 

“The Nun” just might end summer for good.
The Little Stranger (Aug. 31): Director Lenny Abrahamson gave us one of 2015’s most honored films, the Best Picture-nominated and Best Actress-winning “Room.” 
Now he’s finally back with a ghost story based on a gothic novel by Sarah Waters and a cast headed by Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, Charlotte Rampling, and Will Poulter.

The Nun (Sept. 7): For the past two years, WB has owned this post-Labor Day weekend (and, subsequently, most of September) by releasing “Sully” and “It,” respectively. “The Nun” could pull the same trick as the latest installment in a franchise of genuinely frightening films that began with Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson portraying real-life paranormal stalkers in  “The Conjuring.” Here, in what might or might not be a telling piece of casting, Farmiga’s lookalike younger sister (Taissa Farmiga) stars as a novitiate investigating the mysterious '50s-era death of the title character.

Holy moly! Bring on that summer heat!

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