Synopsis: On a drug-fuelled road trip through Chile and planning the ultimate high weekend, Jamie (Michael Cera) encounters bohemian free spirit Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffman). The end up as unlikely companions with their wildly divergent world views clashing, as Jamie searches for the perfect mescaline cactus.
What You Need To Know: Not in fact the next in the "My Little Pony" franchise, title notwithstanding, "Crystal Fairy" is in fact only the first of three Michael Cera movies due for release this year -- the others being the end-of-the-world comedy "This is the End" in which he plays himself, and "Magic Magic," also for his "Crystal Fairy" director, Sebastian Silva. So with those as well as the dizzily anticipated return of "Arrested Development," it seems Cera is ending his self-imposed temporary exile in a big way. And this is a welcome return vehicle for him, playing just enough to type to be familiar, but just enough against to be new, but he's not the only reason to check it out: it also boasts a scene-stealing and vanity-less performance from Gaby Hoffmann in the title role. Our Sundance review here.
When: July 12th
Synopsis: Wrongly accused of child molestation when his best friend's daughter lashes out at him, kindergarten teacher Lucas' (Mads Mikkelsen) old life slowly crumbles around his ears as friends and neighbours accord him pariah status, and as more children start to "remember" abuse.
What You Need To Know: Sometimes it only feels like we've been talking about a film for a year, but in the case of "The Hunt" we really have -- it premiered last year in Cannes. And Thomas Vinterberg's film actually divided us from the get-go, with our man in Cannes walking out of the screening, while our woman in Karlovy Vary found herself rooted to the screen and utterly gripped by the films descent-into-madness vibe (our review is here). One point of agreement, however, is the quality of Mikkelsen's performance which rightly won him the Best Actor prize in Cannes, and it really is a masterful portrayal of understated decency coming into conflict with the frightening excesses of mob mentality. By no means an easy watch, but a great conversation starter for those who have experienced its uncanny intensity.
When: July 12th
Synopsis: Based on the true story of the last day in the life of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) which is also the last day of 2008, as he interacts with family and friends and strangers, all the while feeling something strange is in the air, before he encounters the police on a BART train full of New Year's Eve revelers at Fruitvale Station.
What You Need To Know: Along with David Lowery's "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" (see below) debut director Ryan Coogler's "Fruitvale Station" proved the massive breakout of this year's Sundance Film Festival, scooping both the Grand Jury Prize and the Dramatic Audience award there, and snagging itself a spot on the Un Certain Regard line up in Cannes in the process. But festival buzz is only one reason to be anticipating this film, with an apparently stellar, star-making performance in the central role by "Chronicle" star Michael B. Jordan and an assuredness of tone from its young director also putting this high on our radars, and making it already a possibility for Oscar consideration next year. It also, seemingly "makes everyone cry."
When: July 12th
"Ain't them Bodies Saints"
Synopsis: Bob (Casey Affleck) escapes from the prison where he's serving a stretch for shooting a police officer (Ben Foster), to reunite with his wife Ruth (Rooney Mara) and the daughter with whom she was pregnant when he got sent down. But time and the responsibilities of motherhood have changed Ruth to the point that she may no longer welcome his return.
What You Need To Know: The second bona-fide Sundance hit on this list, David Lowery's lyrical drama was a revelation to our reviewer there who called it "a wholly engrossing and impressive piece of work that the movie world will be talking about all year long" (the full review is here). Spiritually indebted to both Cormac McCarthy and Terrence Malick, the film not only boasts terrific performances from the leads but also has some choice supporting turns from Keith Carradine and, especially Nate Parker. With relative neophyte director (who is also an editor, helping to cut "Upstream Color") Lowery now in line to take over directing duties on one-time David Fincher project "Torso,"it's also a chance to catch a filmmaker destined for huge things, right at the beginning of that upturn.
When: August 16th
Synopsis: An odd-couple duo of road workers Lance and Alvin (Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd) spend months in isolated rural Texas, repairing roads damaged by wildfire. Tightly wound Alvin enjoys the time out from city life, while Lance, his girlfriend's dumb brother just wants to get wasted and get laid.
What You Need To Know: A remake of Icelandic film "Either Way," "Prince Avalanche" finds cast and director David Gordon Green in pleasantly dialed-down form to deliver a rambling but oddly affecting tale of how the bonds of brotherhood can spring up between the least probable of candidates. Our A- review out of Sundance called it "an eccentric examination of unlikely friendships that illuminates the absurd and lovely corners of life," as well as "a deeply enjoyable, wondrous delight" (read the full review here, we also called it one of Sundance's 5 Best Films earlier this year) and with so much summer bombast happening in your multiplexes, this pleasant and contemplative little film could prove distinctly therapeutic.
When: August 16th
Synopsis: Brewery manager Kate (Olivia Wilde) and her boyfriend (Ron Livingston) take a weekend break with Kate's brewer friend Luke (Jake Johnston) and his uptight girlfriend Jill (Anna Kendrick), which mainly serves to highlight how well suited Kate and Luke are.
What You Need To Know: For those a bit gunshy, or put off by the pejorative label, now might be the right time to get into mumblecore, as a lot of the godfathers of that particular movement are evolving away from its more irritating aspects (hurriedly shot digital ugliness, formless narratives) and bringing its strengths (performance, spontaneity) to bear on more accessible projects. Joe Swanberg is one such godfather, the almost-notorious author of 12 films in just eight years, but "Drinking Buddies" marks one such evolution, with our SXSW review noting how the loose rhythm belies some real editing discipline and the photography feels intimate and naturalistic, as opposed to slapdash. Better than that though, are the performances from the talented cast, with Wilde and Johnston in particular boasting "crazy chemistry," and the quips and barbs of the improvised script proving especially winning and enjoyable. It may not change your world, but it's a nicely observed relationship piece in which no choice is simply black or white, as in life.
When: August 23rd.
There are a few other films that just missed the cut but are all worthwhile, firstly "The Way, Way Back" which is out on July 5th. It's maybe a little too amiable to really be a standout, but still Jim Rash and Nat Faxon's directorial follow up to their scripting duties on Alexander Payne's "The Descendants" does have a terrific cast including the eternally good value Sam Rockwell, an against-type Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Amanda Peet in it. Full review of the coming-of-age comedy here. "The Kings of Summer," formerly known as "Toy's House" is also definitely worth checking out. We already included it as one of our 5 highlights from the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, so that should more than prove its worth. It co-stars Nick Offerman and Alison Brie, and features a trio of mostly unknown up-and-coming teen actors. It's also the feature length directorial effort from Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who we featured in our Director's To Watch list of 2013.
Similarly, "The Spectacular Now," out on August 2nd, from "Smashed director James Ponsoldt is a film we called "valuable and honest" that features strong, mature performances from its young leads Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, while May 31's "The East," from "Sound of my Voice" duo Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij is stylish and starry (Marling, Ellen Page, Patricia Clarkson, Alexander Skarsgård, Toby Kebbell, Shiloh Fernandez) but our reviewer felt it slightly lost its way by its third act, but it's still worth tracking down.
Neil Jordan's modern vampire fable "Byzantium" did not impress us wildly, outside of Gemma Arterton's committed performance but is out on June 28th, while Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine," out on July 26th did not figure in our main lineup because we've learned the hard way that where latter-day Allen is concerned that it's best to keep our expectations in check.
So that's the round-up of what we'll be watching this summer, even as the noise of colliding spaceships seeps through the wall from the screen next door. What else has caught your eye?