As we prepare ourselves for the Summer blockbuster season, Getintothis’ Nathan Pang looks at the films we can find away from big budgets and Oscar bait.
The summer movie season is upon us once more, and as ever, we’ll be treated to a dizzying array of expansive blockbusters, sequels, spin-offs, reboots and the odd musical.
It’s a few more months until Oscar season, when the shameless palette of Oscar-bait films is released, pleading with a ‘for your consideration’ across their foreheads, but excellent films are released all year round. Case in point, 10 films I haven’t even seen yet!
The third season finale of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has already won cinema, with Infinity War celebrating 10 years dominating the silver screen (by bathing in money). It’s a changing world, where Marvel can make more movies than there are television episodes of Sherlock, make James Cameron jealous, and push the Star Wars execs to panic-produce thirty-eight unnecessary films and series to compensate.
Speaking of which, Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story is fast approaching, to absolutely no anticipation, and despite their last unfortunate instalment, Jurassic World is back too. They’ll probably both clear a billion dollars. But even so, franchise fatigue must clearly be a myth, if the top 10 biggest box office movies list needs a bi-monthly update. It’s starting to feel less impressive when records are cleared like hurdles.
For most of these summer blockbusters, the advertising budgets themselves are larger than 95% of other films’ entire budgets, so it’s a little redundant to sprinkle a bit more free advertising for them on this here site, as long as all of us right-thinking citizens go to see Incredibles 2 anyway.
Instead, let’s take a little look at what else we have to look forward to. For the non-blockbuster, non-franchise side of cinema, here’s 10 other films coming up that may be worth a look. Although the summer movie season seems to span from February to November nowadays, we’ll cap it at August 31st here.
British writer/director Michael Pearce kicks off his film career in style, bringing us the ‘twisted fairy tale’ of Beast. Set in an isolated community in the Channel Islands, it tells the story of our heroine’s undoing, as she struggles with the potentially devastating true nature of her new lover, as well as hidden sides of herself.
You may recognise the rising star of Jessie Buckley as Moll, recently bouncing from one BBC period drama to another (War and Peace, Taboo, recently starring in BBC One’s excellent The Woman in White), or perhaps the frontman of the folk rock band Johnny Flynn & the Sussex Wit, Flynn plays Pascal, the wild and dangerous attraction of Moll. It’s already released, though showing in criminally few cinemas, so you’d better jump to it before it’s gone.
Release date: April 27th
2. Mary and the Witch’s Flower
Fans of Studio Ghibli are already eagerly awaiting the first release of the company’s spiritual successor, in the form of Studio Ponoc. While in anticipation for potentially the final Hayao Miyazaki film, we’ll be treated to Mary and the Witch’s Flower, based on the children’s book The Little Broomstick from British novelist Mary Stewart.
Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (a key player at Ghibli since 1998’s Princess Mononoke) with enchanting visuals, a brave young heroine, and a fantastical hidden world of magic, it’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from the Ghibli/Ponoc anime’s. Ruby Barnhill, Kate Winslet and Jim Broadbent voice the English dub.
Release date: 4th May
3. Lean On Pete
Director Andrew Haigh is responsible for the stirring emotional relationship dramas of Weekend and 45 Years, but this time switches from his native British soil to the plains of America, and from human companions to that of a racehorse, the eponymous ‘Lean on Pete’. Based on Willy Vlautin’s novel, Pete is coupled with the young Charlie Plummer (Boardwalk Empire, All the Money in the World), as Charley, who rescues him from being sold for slaughter.
Haigh is a director who likes to prioritise allowing the space for the performances to breathe to tell a story, above using over-crafted, showy techniques, so we should be expecting a breakout talent in Plummer, bolstered by the supporting performances of Steve Buscemi and Chloë Sevigny.
Release date: 4th May
Charlize Theron jumps from the ball-busting, super-human Atomic Blonde, straight to the weather-beaten mother of Marlo, in Tully, about the grim struggles of postpartum depression, while retaining the humour you’d expect from the writer of Juno. Fighting the “Hollywood” version of the idealised depiction of motherhood, Tully’s raison d’être is to pull no punches in showing the raw experiences that parenthood can create.
The third partnership from the winning combination of writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman (after Juno and Young Adult), I’m optimistic they’ll hit three for three.
Release date: 4th May (yes, again)
5. The Breadwinner
The second animation in this list, the studio Cartoon Saloon (The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea) are keeping the neglected art of 2D animation in cinema alive. Nominated for the Best Animation Oscar earlier this year, The Breadwinner is based on Deborah Ellis’ novel about an 11-year-old girl forced to be the breadwinner in her family in the midst of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. The beautiful animation balances the depiction of the harsh realities of a remote, oppressive environment, and being accessible to children, albeit more mature children, as well as adults. Parents, if you have 11+ year olds, this will be a perfect film to watch to spark their curiosities and empathy for the wider world.
In addition, between the occasional Salt and Malificent, Angelina Jolie has undertaken a tidy career of directing and producing wartime dramas alongside her humanitarian efforts, and executive produced The Breadwinner.
Release date: 25th May
All we’ve heard since its Sundance screening are shrieks, praise, and sincere, traumatised warnings, for what is touted to be this year’s horror standout, Hereditary. The debut feature of writer/director Ari Aster, this supernatural horror stars Toni Collette, as Annie Graham, who unravels an inescapable fate within her family, after her mother dies. 15-year-old Milly Shapiro is Charlie, the next in the time-honoured tradition of creepy horror movie kids.
If you’ve seen any of Aster’s short films, you’ll see all the bubbling evidence of a meticulous, original craftsman. Undoubtedly, his name will be one to watch.
Release date: 15th June
7. Leave No Trace
Another novel adaptation, the director of the truly masterful Winter’s Bone, Debra Granik brings us Leave No Trace, based on the book My Abandonment by Peter Rock. Ben Foster is Will, a PTSD plagued father, who chose to live in seclusion, creating an idyllic home in the forests of Oregon with his 12-year-old daughter Tom (Thomasin McKenzie), until authorities force them to re-enter society.
It’s Oscar nominated Debra Granik’s long awaited next film, after introducing the world to Jennifer Lawrence, perhaps she can do the same with newcomer Thomasin McKenzie.
Release date: 29th June
8. The Children Act
Writer Ian McEwan (Atonement) has two films out in short succession, and it was a toss up between this and On Chesil Beach, but it’s tough to argue with Emma Thompson. Directed by Richard Eyre, Thompson plays Fiona Maye, the high court judge presiding the case of a leukaemia stricken teenager (Dunkirk’s Fionn Whitehead) who refuses a life-saving blood transfusion due to his religious beliefs. Unsurprisingly, Thompson is lauded, for potentially one of her standout performances, bearing the weight and consequences of her decision.
Release date: 24th August
9. The Happytime Murders
Now this looks a treat. A long time in the making, Brian Henson (son of the late Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets) is finally bringing his R-Rated puppet noir comedy to the screens.
Essentially The Muppet version of Roger Rabbit (meets Avenue Q), lead puppet Phil Phillips (Bill Barretta) is the disgraced ex-cop, now PI, investigating the murders of the cast members of a 1980s television show The Happytime Gang, joined by fellow human co-stars Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph and Joel McHale. We’ll be welcomed into the seedy underbelly of LA, but with a healthy dose of puppet sex, puppet drugs, and silly string orgasms.
Release date: 24th August
10. Action Point
Bringing a splash of danger to the table, fans of Jackass and Bad Grandpa have Action Point to look forward to, the next Johnny Knoxville suicide mission. Action Point is inspired by the real life Action Park, the notoriously dangerous, death trap of a water park. Among his latest array of injuries, Knoxville apparently managed to pop his eye out of his socket (twice), all in the name of entertainment. Daredevil, stuntman, lunatic, crash test human; whatever you want to call him, it’s a hell of a show he puts on.
Release date: 31st August
There are a bunch of interesting upcoming films without a release date, that are well worth a look, in case they end up being released in the next few months. If not, then forget you ever saw them.
- The Party’s Just Beginning (dir. Karen Gillan)
- Eighth Grade (dir. Bo Burnham)
- Hearts Beat Loud (dir. Brett Haley)
- A Kid Like Jake (dir. Silas Howard)
- Juliet, Naked (dir. Jesse Peretz)
- Wildlife (dir. Paul Dano)
- Blaze (dir. Ethan Hawke)
- First Reformed (dir. Paul Schrader)