From big budget popcorn pics to small, arthouse indies, these are the movies that will shake up Summer 2018, and maybe even stick around for the Oscar season.
The month of May kicks off a new summer film season, bringing with it blockbusters, franchise flicks, and regrettable studio films that will soon be forgotten. While this summer offers plenty of popcorn movies, like Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom and Solo: A Star Wars Story, audiences aren't as susceptible to big budget studio films as in prior years (though box office numbers would argue...Avengers: Infinity War closed out the spring with the highest grossing opening weekend of all time).
The good news is, though, studios are offering some pretty unique fare this summer, starring big names and exciting newcomers.
For every remake and brainless comedy being offered to us, there's an interesting, unique, and fresh offering more worthy of your time and money. So, while Life of the Party and Overboard may tickle your fancy and be worth the air-conditioned escape from the summer heat, check out this list of 18 other, critically-acclaimed and/or anticipated titles hitting cinemas all summer long:
Jason Reitman's latest collaboration with Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody debuted at this year's Sundance Film Festival, earning rave reviews for its refreshingly honest portrait of motherhood and the performance by its star, Charlize Theron. Reitman and Cody were the creative team behind Juno and the same sense of tongue-in-cheek comedy mixed with moving drama is completely present here. Theron stars as a mother of three learning how to cope with the impending normalness of it all while also containing her own identity. While the film may not have the chops to defeat Avengers: Infinity War at the box office, it's a bold move on Focus Feature's part to release it at the start of the summer season. It's a mature comedy that will connect with those who've struggled with parenthood and even those who haven't. It's refreshing to have an adult comedy, of quality, get this type of release treatment.
Saoirse Ronan, fresh off of her third Oscar nomination for Lady Bird, leads the cast of The Seagull, director Michael Mayer's adaptation of Anton Chekhov's stage play. Annette Bening stars as the matriarch of a 19th century estate who matches the young neighbor (Ronan) with a local, successful novelist (Corey Stull). The new love whips up strife in the community, leading to drama and emotions. The supporting cast is stellar, including Elisabeth Moss and Mare Winningham. The buzz is strong around the quirky drama, with awards season sights set on the performances, costumes, and production design.
ON CHESIL BEACH
As if one Saoirse Ronan film wasn't enough for the summer (not to mention the upcoming wintertime release Mary, Queen of Scots), the Academy Award nominee turns up a week after The Seagull with On Chesil Beach, the much-awaited adaptation of Ian McEwan's bestselling novel. The 1962-set film follows a young couple through their courtship, leading up to the fateful wedding night. A study of intimacy and love, the flick is earning critical notice for its cinematography and Ronan's anticipated performance. The supporting cast includes Anne-Marie Duff, Emily Watson, and Billy Howe. Reviews state it's both moving and compelling; an artful debut from director Dominic Cooke.
HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES
A fixture of last year's Cannes Film Festival, John Cameron Mitchell's How to Talk to Girls at Parties is a divisive, punk-rock fantasy of epic proportions. Elle Fanning stars as an alien teenager visiting Earth with an entire group of aliens here to complete a strange rite of passage. Through discovering and experience life in human form, she comes across a teenage human boy and his friends on their own journey of self-exploration and search for identity. Nicole Kidman pops up as the leader of the alien group, in her wackiest role in recent years. From the David Bowie-inspired looks, to the mystical music, this is a ride that isn't for everyone, but is compelling none-the-less. Critics from Cannes are torn, but fans of Mitchell's Hedwig and the Angry Inch will appreciate the spastic form and style.
Screenings of Ari Aster's Hereditary were all the rage at this year's Sundance Film Festival, mostly due to word-of-mouth reviews giving it a massive 'scary as shit' reputation. The story follows a family tormented by cryptic secrets of their ancestors coming to fruition once the matriarch passes away. Toni Collette leads the cast as the daughter of the deceased, leading her own family on a path of discovery and fear as each day brings more and more frights to life. Reviews from Sundance rave at the first-time director's ability to bring about common horror film tropes to the screen in a fresh light. It's unsettling and terrifying, without dipping into overdone gore and silliness. Collette's performance is earning raves for its sincerity. Could it be enough to keep her name around during awards season? It's hard for horror films to make that kind of impact, but it isn't unheard of.
It hasn't brought about the same kind of backlash as the all-female Ghostbusters reboot, thankfully, but there's still some ground Ocean's 8 will have to make to prove that film projects like this are worth it. The cast is stellar, including Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, and Rihanna. Anne Hathaway pops up. As does James Corden. It is set up as more of a franchise-related sequel of sorts, with Bullock's character being the sister of Danny Ocean, the titular Ocean from the first reboot of the film and following series. Set at the MET Gala, this heist flick has earned tons of buzz, especially with the star power behind it. It's disappointingly not screening at Cannes (though, it could end up as a surprise), but it's definitely set to be one of the summer's heftiest blockbusters.
Christopher Plummer and Vera Farmiga star in this family road trip film that had its premiere at SXSW. Director Shana Feste takes an old cinema trope, the road trip cliche, and gives it a clever and unique spin. There's enough substance to elevate it from standard to worthwhile. Farmiga is a single mother tasked with driving her pat-dealing father (Plummer) across California. Reviews from SXSW give it praise, noting Plummer's performance, especially. The recent Oscar nominee (for his two week shoot on All The Money In The World) treats the subtle material so delicately and purposefully. The film rides the line of Little Miss Sunshine territory to great affect. It may not have enough to last through awards season, but it's a gentle enough cinematic escape.
UNDER THE SILVER LAKE
David Cameron Mitchell exploded on the scene with his eye-opening debut, It Follows. In his next outing, he elicits Andrew Garfield and Riley Keough to lead the cast in this rambling, pot-infused thrill ride that recently earned a spot In Competition for the Palme d'Or at the 71st Cannes Film Festival. The story begins simple: a man meets a mysterious woman in an L.A. apartment swimming pool. What begins as a flirty exchange becomes a citywide sleuthing to find the missing woman in the day that follows. It's an L.A. centric tale of loss and wonder. Critics have yet to screen the flick, but its trailer alone is leading to quite the summertime buzz. It may be a long shot for the Palme d'Or, but crazier things have happened.
WOMAN WALKS AHEAD
After its first screening at last year's Toronto International Film Festival, A24 scooped up distribution rights to Susanna White's epic, sweeping western. The reviews out of TIFF gives props to Steven Knight's script, especially in regards to its Native American characters. And, Jessica Chastain looks to be performing in her wheelhouse, offering a female-power element that elevates this beyond its period placement and into the current 2018 conversation of feminism. The trailer dropped this past week giving a boost to other elements of the film including its beautiful cinematography, captured in the wilds of New Mexico.
SORRY TO BOTHER YOU
Situated in a very near future post-apocalyptic Oakland, Boots Riley's Sorry to Bother You lit up this year's Sundance Film Festival with its whack premise, unique screenplay, and dazzling performances from the likes of LaKeith Stanfield (the scene-stealer from Get Out), Tessa Thompson, and Armie Hammer. Stanfield stars as a telemarketer who discovers the magical key to success. The film's trailer promise a wild, pot-fumed ride of absurdity. Reviews are mostly stellar, noting its daring and hilarious commentary on every aspect of life and where we're all headed. While pothead comedies are nothing new to the summer line-up, Riley's film looks to offer something a little more avant-garde and highbrow than your normal Pineapple Express offerings.
Another standout of this year's Sundance Film Festival and SXSW, Bo Burnham's directorial debut, Eighth Grade, is a biting look at adolescence through the eyes of a middle schooler. The flick is currently sitting at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, with reviews commenting on how Burnham handles the material with care while navigating through the cringe of teenagedom and demanding indelible performances from his cast, especially in regards to star, newcomer Elsie Fisher. It looks to fit the nostalgic spots of other, coming-of-age films, like last year's Lady Bird. It may ride the line of being more laugh-out-loud than inward focused, but that might be the key to connecting the trials of an eighth grade girl to a vast audience.
DON'T WORRY, HE WON'T GET FAR ON FOOT
Director Gus Van Sant brings together a masterful cast, including Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, and Rooney Mara, for an edgy drama that looks at life through the eyes of a recovering alcoholic and a path towards redemption. Where the plot could linger on far-too-often covered territory, Van Sant's ability to bring out indelible performances from his cast shines with the help of a sharp script from the director himself. Phoenix stars as the real-life John Callahan in this inspirational piece that earned raves from critics at this year's Sundance Film Festival, where Amazon Studios picked it up for wide release. Look for awards season pushes for the cast and screenplay.
Netflix picked up this delightful coming-of-age flick at the perfect time. This year's Love, Simon was a surprise box office hit, marking a successful entry for the first studio film to feature a gay teen as the protagonist. With Craig Johnson's Alex Strangelove, the trope gets the indie touch, complete with a cast of mostly unknowns. Daniel Doheny stars as the titular Alex, a gay teen keeping his personal life a secret while also seeking out youthful advice from everyone around him. This confusion is the heart of the film, making it feel more realistic than a typical teen laugher, but complete with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Critics who've seen the film give it props for its earnest performances, especially from Doheny. Daniel Zolghardi steals every scene as the hilarious best friend, Dell. This one will be a must-see on your Netflix queue.
HOT SUMMER NIGHTS
Timothée Chalamet blew up last year after his Oscar-nominated performance in the stellar Call Me By Your Name. His youthful look and boyish curiosity feed perfectly into this coming-of-age summer tale of drugs, sex, and new experiences. Those who caught it at SXSW remark how wonderfully director Elijah Bynum directs his cast, weaving through the humor and dark sensibilities to perfection. While it was filmed shortly before Call Me By Your Name, the charm that Chalamet brought to that awards season darling is ever more present here. His 'fish out of water' character indelibly bleeds with an earnest honesty, much like the visually stark cinematography and cues of 80's nostalgia thrown throughout. The supporting cast include Thomas Jane, William Fichtner, and Emory Cohen (for those wondering where he's been since his incredible turn in Brooklyn).
Though Disney has been ambushing live-action versions of its hit animated slate, it really shines when it allows for a unique live-action take on a classic of which we're all familiar. Saving Mr. Banks gave us an interesting glimpse into the beloved Mary Poppins. And, Christopher Robin looks to give us a similar piece of cinematic grace: a moving picture of heart and soul, fit for both children and the child still present in adults. Ewan McGregor stars as an adult Christopher Robin. Now a man, Christopher Robin has seemingly lost his sense of imagination. Enter his old pals from Hundred Acre Wood. The trailer promises an endearing scope of a story, complete with adorable, CGI characters that seamlessly interact in the real world. This year has seen other beloved children's book characters come to life, including Peter Rabbit and the second installment in the Paddington franchise. With Christopher Robin, the trifecta looks to be finding its footing in an even more special, heart-warming way.
In April, the line-up for the 71st Cannes Film Festival was announced, including films by Americans David Robert Mitchell and Spike Lee, whose BlacKkKlansman marks his return to the Croisette since Do The Right Thing. BlacKkKlansman is a crime drama centered around the real-life story of an African-American Colorado Springs police officer (John David Washington) who infiltrates the local Ku Klux Klan chapter, eventually becoming the chapter's leader. It's a wild story, mostly because it's true. Plus, it's wildly relevant. Those on the Cannes circuit are praising it as Lee's return to earnest filmmaking, regarding it as his best work since Do The Right Thing. Adam Driver co-stars in the flick, along with Topher Grace and Harry Belafonte. Notably, star Washington is the son of frequent Lee collaborator Denzel Washington.
THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS
Brian Henson, son of famed Jim Henson, directs this irreverent comedy that finds humans and puppets living simultaneously in a world ravaged by murder. The victims are puppets who star in the family-friendly "The Happytime Gang" television series. Though their TV personas are innocent and carefree, the puppet's lives off-screen are crass and as adult as you can get. Melissa McCarthy stars as a human detective put to the task of investigating the on-going murders next to a down-on-his-luck puppet detective. Imagine Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but with more language, sex, and intrigue. Theater distributors and critics were given an exclusive glimpse of the film at CinemaCon in late April. The buzz is that this flick will surprise and shock, in the best way. Maya Rudolph and Elizabeth Banks co-star.
CRAZY RICH ASIANS
Based on the hit book series, Crazy Rich Asians is on the cusp of becoming a cultural phenomenon. Its trailer sparked excitement, thanks to its clever cast, including Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh, Awkwafina, and Henry Golding, and beautiful visuals. The production design alone elevates it beyond the traditional American romantic comedy. It's colorful, insightful, and culturally-reverent. Rachel Chu (Wu, who many will recognize from TV's "Fresh Off the Boat") travels with her boyfriend (Golding) to Singapore for his best friend's wedding. Once there, she realizes he is more rich and famous than she ever realized, giving a glimpse into the lives of rich Asians and opening the door to a wild ride of comedy. There's slight controversy over the casting, which includes Asian actors of different Asian decent, but outside of that, fans of the book series and studio-head will be closely watching to see how this adaptation comes to fruition. It could change the game for representation in films. Plus, it looks refreshingly funny and entertaining.