We’re all for getting out in the summertime, but there might not be anything more refreshing than cooling off in a movie theater… or seeing a movie in the comfort of your air-conditioned home on demand, on DVD, or online… or better yet catching a classic on the big screen at a nearby repertory theater. With literally hundreds of films to choose from this summer, we humbly present this guide to the season’s most exciting offerings.
The Cast: Bouli Lanners, Fabrice Adde, Philippe Nahon, Didier Toupy, Franise Chichy
Director: Bouli Lanners
Fest Cred: Cannes, Warsaw, Glasgow, Palm Springs,
The Gist: When Elie (Adde), a hapless young thief attempts to rob Yvan (Lanners), a 40-year-old car dealer, the two form a unlikely friendship that leads to a road trip across Belgium in this slight comedy that won the Best European Film at the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes last year.
The Cast: Marcia Gay Harden, Marian Seldes, Michael Gaston, Eulala Scheel
Writer/Director: Mary Haverstick
Fest Cred: Montreal, Cinequest, Boston
The Gist: Harden stars with her real-life daughter Eulala Scheel in this character study about a poet who takes solace in her relationship with her 7-year-old daughter as her marriage falls apart and she faces breast cancer.
“I Can See You”
The Cast: Ben Dickinson, Duncan Skiles, Christopher D. Ford, Olivia Villanti, Heather Robb, Larry Fessenden
Writer/Director: Graham Reznick
The Gist: A sound designer on Ti West’s indie horror flicks “The Roost” and “Trigger Man,” Reznick is finally crunching celery stalks and pounding sugar sacks for his own directorial debut — a thriller about three ad execs whose weekend in the woods formulating a new ad campaign becomes a descent into madness. Longtime low-budget horror producer Fessenden presents and co-stars.
Director: Anne Aghion
Fest Cred: San Francisco, Fargo
The Gist: Even though it’s summer, it may feel like winter for those watching Aghion’s four-month trek across Antarctica, which follows Professor Allan Ashworth and Dr. Adam Lewis as they cross hundreds of miles of tundra for evidence of ancient life. What they find is 14 million-year-old moss fossils that might help researchers learn how warm the earth was before Antarctica became a separate continent.
“The Limits of Control”
The Cast: Isaach De Bankolé, Hiam Abbass, Gael Garcia Bernal, Paz de la Huerta, Alex Descas, John Hurt, Youki Kudoh, Bill Murray, Jean-François Stévenin, Tilda Swinton, Luis Tosar
Writer/Director: Jim Jarmusch
The Gist: Shrouded in the usual secrecy, Jarmusch follows up 2005’s “Broken Flowers” with another road movie, this time with a criminal bent, armed with Chris Doyle cinematography, a sharp-dressed Isaach De Bankolé, a platinum-haired Tilda Swinton and one hell of a supporting cast.
“The Merry Gentleman”
The Cast: Kelly Macdonald, Michael Keaton, Keith Kupferer, Dennis Farina, Bobby Cannavale
Director: Michael Keaton
Fest Cred: Sundance
The Gist: Keaton never intended to helm this crime drama, but when screenwriter and original director Ron Lazzeretti’s appendix burst shortly before production started, the one-time Batman came to the rescue, making it his directorial debut while also starring as a suicidal hit man who finds a kindred spirit in an abused wife (Macdonald).
“Naked Ambition: An R Rated Look At An X Rated Industry”
Director: Michael Grecco
The Gist: Even though the title states the film’s relatively demure intentions in looking at the adult film business, the MPAA slapped a red-band trailer on this documentary that takes place over the four-day Adult Video News Entertainment Expo, as celebrity photographer Grecco compiles portraits of porn stars like Jesse Jane and Ron Jeremy for the film’s companion book.
The Cast: Johannes Krisch, Irina Potapenko, Ursula Strauss, Hannes Thanheiser, Andreas Lust
Writer/Director: Götz Spielmann
Fest Cred: Berlinale, Karlovy Vary, Telluride, Toronto, L.A.
The Gist: When the tastemakers at Criterion and Janus Films are so taken with a film that they make it the first theatrical release from the latter company in 30 years with a Criterion DVD to follow, one has to imagine “Revanche” is pretty special. The Oscar-nominated Austrian film revolves around a bank robbery gone wrong that pits an ex-con (Krisch) against a local cop (Lust).
The Cast: Tim Daly, Tom Arnold, Zoe Saldana, Andrea Roth, Edward Herrmann
Writer/Director: Tennyson Bardwell (“Dorian Blues”)
Fest Cred: Cinequest
The Gist: Daly stars as the titular “Skeptic” whose beliefs are put to the test when he takes up residence in a Victorian mansion that is said to be haunted. The creepy looking children and dolls strewn around the house might just change his mind.
The Cast: Yavuz Bingöl, Hatice Aslan, Rifat Sungar, Ercan Kesal, Cafer Köse, Gürkan Aydin
Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Fest Cred: Cannes, Karlovy Vary, Toronto, Helsinki
The Gist: Turkey’s entry to this year’s Academy Awards, Ceylan’s fifth feature involves a politician (Kesal) who asks his driver (Bingöl) to take the blame when he kills a pedestrian and flees the scene of the crime. Things get particularly dicey when the driver goes to prison and the politician starts having an affair with his wife.
“A Wink and a Smile”
Director: Deirdre Allen Timmons
Fest Cred: Seattle, Port Townsend, Olympia
The Gist: Documentarian Timmons offers a stripped down look at the Seattle Academy of Burlesque where she follows a group of amateurs ranging from a doctor to a taxidermist shed their inhibitions and their clothes over the course of six weeks.
The Cast: María del Carmen Jiménez, Antonio Larreta, Alberto Ledesma, Emilse Roldán
Writer/Director: Carlos Sorin
Fest Cred: Toronto, Valladolid, Portland, San Francisco
The Gist: Argentinean filmmaker Sorín trains his camera on an 80-year-old man (Laretta) who sets about planning the perfect day to welcome home his estranged son and spends much of the day reflecting on his life.
The Cast: Scott Speedman, Rachel Blanchard, Arsinée Khanjian, Noam Jenkins, Devon Bostick
Writer/Director: Atom Egoyan (“Where the Truth Lies”)
Fest Cred: Cannes, Toronto, Atlantic Film Festival, Rio de Janeiro, Vancouver, São Paulo
The Gist: Despite a mixed response from its premiere at Cannes last year, the Canadian auteur’s latest is said to be a return to his labyrinthine work of the ’90s, focusing on a young man who seeks to change his personal history via the internet after learning disturbing things about the death of his parents as part of a class project.
“Audience of One”
Director: Mike Jacobs
Fest Cred: SXSW, Toronto After Dark, Big Sky
The Gist: After collecting jury prizes at SXSW and Silverdocs during its two-year festival run, Jacobs’ doc about Pastor Richard Gazowsky’s mandate from God to make a $50 million biblical sci-fi epic is finally on its way to New York theaters en route to a limited theatrical run and an eventual Sundance Channel premiere in October.
The Cast: Jeffrey Donovan, Leonor Varela, Waylon Payne, Miranda Bailey
Director: Paul Holahan
Fest Cred: Dances with Film, First Glance, Breckenridge
The Gist: A horror film about a young couple (Payne and Bailey) who puts their newborn up for adoption, but find that they picked the wrong couple (Donovan and Varela) a little too late. A DVD release two weeks later awaits.
The Cast: Javier Beltrán, Robert Pattinson, Matthew McNulty, Marina Gatell
Director: Paul Morrison (“Solomon and Gaenor”)
Fest Cred: Raindance, Valladolid
The Gist: Now that the screaming has died down slightly, “Twilight” star Pattinson attempts to take the DiCaprio-“Total Eclipse” route towards artistic credibility with this biopic of the young Salvador Dalí and the bonds he makes with fellow artists Federico García Lorca (Beltrán) and Luis Buñuel (McNulty) in Madrid in the 1920s.
“Love ‘N Dancing”
The Cast: Amy Smart, Tom Malloy, Billy Zane, Betty White, Caroline Rhea, Rachel Dratch
Director: Robert Iscove
Fest Cred: Phoenix
The Gist: Fans of the breakout dance scenes in “She’s All That” and “From Justin to Kelly” rejoice as director Robert Iscove returns for this toe-tapping romance between a former swing champion (Malloy) and an English teacher (Smart), who must shake off her workaholic fiancé (Zane) before potentially competing for a world title.
The Cast: Tilda Swinton, Saul Rubinek, Kate del Castillo, Jude Ciccolella, Aidan Gould
Director: Erick Zonca (“The Dreamlife of Angels”)
Fest Cred: Berlinale, Woodstock, Rio de Janeiro, AFI
The Gist: After being on the flip side of the coin in “The Deep End,” Swinton plays an alcoholic who attempts to extort money from her neighbor’s wealthy father by kidnapping his grandson in the English language debut of “Dreamlife of Angels” director Zonca, who claims “Julia” was inspired by John Cassavetes’ “Gloria,” but is not a remake.
“Kabei: Our Mother”
The Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Takashi Sasano, Sayuri Yoshinaga, Rei Dan
Director: Yôji Yamada
Fest Cred: Berlinale, Hong Kong
The Gist: First, it was Kiyoshi Kurosawa, now “Twilight Samurai” director Yamada is turning his attention towards domestic life with this WWII-set melodrama about a mother who raises her two daughters alone when her husband is locked away for his anti-government views on Japan’s invasion of China.
“Next Day Air”
The Cast: Mike Epps, Donald Faison, Wood Harris, Mos Def, Lauren London, Yasmin Deliz
Director: Benny Boom
The Gist: Music video helmer Benny Boom makes his debut with a comedy starring Mike Epps and Wood Harris as two low-level hoods who mistakenly receive a shipment of cocaine and get tangled in a web of gangsters, police and inept deliverymen (Mos Def and Donald Faison).
Director: Gary Hustwit
Fest Cred: SXSW, Full Frame
The Gist: The spiritual, if not direct, sequel to Hustwit’s fontumentary “Helvetica,” “Objectified” looks beyond the everyday objects we use and interviews the graphic designers behind them, analyzing the form and function of everything from potato peelers to MacBooks and our connections to these objects.
Director: Kirby Dick
Fest Cred: Tribeca, Hot Docs
The Gist: After outing the members of the secretive MPAA board that rates films in his last documentary, “This Film is Not Yet Rated,” filmmaker Dick wondered: why not do the same with gay politicians who push anti-gay legislation? The result is a film he recently told indieWire “could be a game changer in the ongoing battle for same sex civil rights in the United States.”
The Cast: Jessica Biel, Eddie Redmayne, Forest Whitaker, Ray Liotta, Lisa Kudrow, Patrick Swayze, Kris Kristofferson
Writer/Director: Timothy Linh Bui (“Green Dragon”)
The Gist: Perhaps in an effort to capitalize on the online buzz that’s surrounded Jessica Biel playing a stripper, this otherwise high-minded ensemble drama is getting a proper theatrical run before its DVD release in June. Though Christmas-set films don’t usually play well in May, “Powder Blue” brings together a suicidal priest (Whitaker), an ex-hitman (Liotta), a single mother/stripper (Biel) and a mortician in Los Angeles on the eve of the holiday and, as the film’s web site promises, “epiphanies will be had.”
“Prom Night in Mississippi”
Director: Paul Saltzman
Fest Cred: Sundance, Oxford
The Gist: When Morgan Freeman offered to foot the bill for Charleston High School’s senior prom on the condition that it would be integrated in 1997, he was rebuffed by school officials. But 11 years later, he finally got the answer he was looking for and enlisted Canadian documentarian Saltzman to film the proceedings, which isn’t without its problems in the Mississippi town where racism remains an everyday issue.
“Rudo y Cursi”
The Cast: Diego Luna, Gael García Bernal, Guillermo Fracella
Writer/Director: Carlos Cuarón
Fest Cred: Sundance, Tribeca
The Gist: Bernal and Luna reunite on-screen for the first time since 2001’s “Y Tu Mamá También.” Behind the scenes of this drama about rival soccer stars from the same family, the film also marks the launch of Cha Cha Cha, the joint production company of Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Guillermo del Toro.
“Anaglyph Tom (Tom With Puffy Cheeks)”
Director: Ken Jacobs
Fest Cred: Rotterdam
The Gist: If 3D is all the rage, famed avant garde filmmaker Jacobs is right on time to revisit his 1969 film “Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son” with the aid of the red and blue glasses, adding further depth to the original work, which replays a 1905 Biograph short over and over, honing in on certain details by zooming in and out and changing speeds. Not to mention the clown juggler from the 1905 short should look great in red and blue.
“Big Man Japan”
The Cast: Hitoshi Matsumoto, Riki Takeuchi, Ua, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Haruka Unabara, Tomoji Hasegawa
Writer/Director: Hitoshi Matsumoto
Fest Cred: Cannes, Toronto, Pusan, Thessaloniki, Rotterdam
The Gist: One of Japan’s biggest television stars (Matsumoto) crosses over into film and remains big, in the literal sense, for this comedy about a giant superhero tired of the responsibilities and emotional toll that comes with the gig.
“The Big Shot-Caller”
The Cast: Marlene Rhein, David Rhein, Robert Costanzo, Laneya Wiles
Writer/Director: Marlene Rhein
Fest Cred: Sedona, Philadelphia Independent, Bermuda
The Gist: When a workaday accountant finds his life at a standstill, he moves in with his estranged hip-hop dancing sister and reignites his passion for salsa dancing. Real-life brother and sister David and Marlene Rhein star as the dancing duo, with Marlene, an accomplished music video director, making her feature debut.
“The Brothers Bloom”
The Cast: Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rinko Kikuchi, Robbie Coltrane, Maximilian Schell
Writer/Director: Rian Johnson (“Brick”)
Fest Cred: Toronto, Fantastic Fest, AFI, London
The Gist: Seven months and one Festival of Fakery after it was first supposed to be released, Rian Johnson’s sophomore effort will finally be released to the masses, telling the tale of two con-artist brothers (Brody and Ruffalo) and their attempt to outwit a hobby-collecting heiress (Weisz) out of her fortune.
The Cast: Nina Hoss, Benno Fürmann, Hilmi Sozer
Writer/Director: Christian Petzold
Fest Cred: Venice, Toronto, Rotterdam
The Gist: Fresh off the 2007 thriller “Yella,” Petzold’s latest noirish exercise stars Fürmann as a discharged soldier who takes a job driving for a local fast food king (Sozer) and winds up having an affair with his wife (Hoss) before things head south.
The Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Steve Zahn, Fred Ward, Tzi Ma, Margo Martindale, Woody Harrelson
Writer/Director: Stephen Belber
Fest Cred: Toronto
The Gist: In the directorial debut of “Tape” playwright Belber, Aniston stars as a low-rent art dealer whose one night stand with a hotel manager (Zahn) leads to an infatuation that causes him to follow her across the country, convinced he’s her soulmate.
Director: Sergei Loznitsa
Fest Cred: Krakow, Rotterdam, Buenos Aires
The Gist: As he did for his 2005 Siege of Leningrad doc “Blockade,” Loznitsa once again cuts together newsreels, Soviet propaganda films and excerpts from movies and TV shows to create a mosaic of life during the 1950s and ’60s in the Soviet Union, chronicling everything from the growth of agriculture and technological breakthroughs (like the rise of astronaut Yuri Gagarin) to political life and popular culture.
The Cast: Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, Jérémie Renier, Edith Scob
Writer/Director: Olivier Assayas (“Demonlover”)
Fest Cred: Toronto, Rome, New York, São Paulo
The Gist: Working on commission from the Musée d’Orsay (as Hou Hsiao Hsien did for “Flight of the Red Balloon” in honor of the Parisian gallery’s 20th anniversary), Assayas ditches the twists of his last thriller, “Boarding Gate,” for a family drama about three children coming to terms with their mother’s death. Keep an eye out for Kyle Eastwood, Clint’s son, who appears for the first time outside of one of his dad’s films.
Director: Anders Østergaard
Fest Cred: Sundance, One World, Thessaloniki, San Francisco
The Gist: An award-winner at Sundance and the Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival, Østergaard’s film looks into a group of Burmese video journalists documenting the political uprising in their country in 2007, despite strict rules against filming. When Alison Willmore met up with the filmmakers at Sundance, the film’s main subject “Joshua,” maintained his pseudonym for fear of retribution.
The Cast: Jessica Biel, Colin Firth, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Barnes, Kimberly Nixon, Katherine Parkinson
Director: Stephan Elliott (“Eye of the Beholder”)
Fest Cred: Toronto, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, London
The Gist: After an ten-year hiatus, “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” director Elliott trades one kind of costume drama for another with this adaptation of Noël Coward’s social comedy about a young American widow (Biel) who quickly finds a suitor in an impetuous Englishman (Barnes), much to the glee of his father (Firth) and more importantly, to the dismay of his mother (Scott Thomas). Incidentally, Alfred Hitchcock once made a weightier adaptation of the play as a 1928 silent film.
“Ghosts of the Heartland”
The Cast: Allen Blumberg, Phil Moon, Michael Santoro, Rosanne Ma
Director: Allen Blumberg
Fest Cred: Napa-Sonoma, New Filmmakers, Big Apple
The Gist: During the Red Scare of the 1950s, a Chinese-American reporter (Moon) returns home to the small town of Millville, where he’s shocked to discover that the Chinese-American community is under siege to give up their property, and believes that an old journalistic rival is responsible.
“The Girlfriend Experience”
The Cast: Sasha Grey, Christopher Santos, Glenn Kenny
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Fest Cred: Sundance, Tribeca
The Gist: Real-life porn star Sasha Grey was recruited over MySpace for Soderbergh’s latest low-budget effort detailing the life of a high-end Manhattan call girl. Though the film’s stealthy premiere at Sundance was a badly kept secret, far more surprising was the appearance of recent IFC guest critic Glenn Kenny, who plays an online critic of prostitutes.
“Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight”
Director: Wendy Keys
Fest Cred: Chicago, Wisconsin, Woodstock
The Gist: Documentarian Keys interviews friends and family of the influential graphic designer whose achievements range from co-founding New York magazine to creating art all across the Big Apple, including the famed “I Love NY” ad campaign. It is the feature debut for Keys, who once was a programmer and executive producer for the Film Society at Lincoln Center.
“New World Order
Director: Luke Meyer and Andrew Neel
Fest Cred: SXSW
The Gist: This doc from the directors of “Darkon” will make its premiere on IFC on May 26th, but you might need a big screen to see the big conspiracies suggested by Alex Jones, the Austin-based crazy or truthteller, depending on who you believe, as he leads the anti-globalist underground movement.
The Cast: Bård Owe, Espen Skjønberg, Ghita Nørby
Writer/Director: Bent Hamer (“Kitchen Stories”)
Fest Cred: Cannes, Karlovy Vary, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo
The Gist: Following his foray into American film with an adaptation of Charles Bukowski’s “Factotum,” Hamer returns to his native Norway for this light dramedy about a train engineer’s retirement party.
The Cast: Masahiro Motoki, Ryoko Hirosue, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Kazuko Yoshiyuki
Director: Yojiro Takita
Fest Cred: Montreal, Pusan, Hawaii, Deauville Asian
The Gist: Best known in the U.S. as the shocker that beat out “The Class” and “Waltz With Bashir” for this year’s foreign film Oscar, this tearjerker stars Motoki as a cellist who recently lost his orchestral gig and inadvertently takes a job administering the Japanese ritual of “encoffination” to corpses on their way to being cremated. Besides its Oscar, the film also was honored as the year’s best film at Japan’s Kinema Junpo Awards.
“The Maiden Heist”
The Cast: Morgan Freeman, Christopher Walken, Marcia Gay Harden, William H. Macy
Director: Peter Hewitt (“Garfield”)
The Gist: As with all previews involving the now-bankrupt Yari Film Group, the release date of “The Maiden Heist” must be taken with a grain of salt. (After all, we’re still waiting for “Assassination of a High School President.”) But this comedy penned by “You, Me and Dupree” scribe Michael LeSieur is still on the calendar, and stars Freeman, Walken and Macy as security guards at an art museum who become so attached to some of the artwork that when a new curator threatens to ship off their beloved pieces, they start to hatch a plan to steal them.
The Cast: Jeff Rutagengwa, Eric Ndorunkundiye, Jean Marie Vianney Nkurikiyinka, Jean Pierre Harerimana, Narcicia Nyirabucyeye
Director: Lee Isaac Chung
Fest Cred: Cannes, Sarajevo, Pusan, São Paulo, AFI
The Gist: New York-based Korean-American director Chung makes his feature directorial debut with this spare meditation on the Rwandan genocide through the eyes of two teenagers from separate tribes who look for revenge and redemption as they cross the countryside.
The Cast: Simon Baker, Paz Vega, Chloe Moretz, Claire Forlani, Michael DeLorenzo, Melinda Page Hamilton, Ken Davitian
Director: Dror Soref
Fest Cred: Slamdance
The Gist: When his young daughter disappears, a family man (Baker) is forced to confront his violent past and at his wife’s (Vega) behest, seeks counsel from the dead-worshipping La Santa Muerte cult to help track his daughter down.
“Owl and the Sparrow”
The Cast: Cat Ly, The Lu Le, The Lu Le
Director: Stephane Gauger
Fest Cred: L.A., Denver, Rotterdam, Hawaii
The Gist: A 10-year-old runaway becomes the unlikely cupid to a flight attendant and a zookeeper in this Saigon-set romantic drama that took home an audience aware for best feature from last year’s L.A. Film Festival.
The Cast: Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly, Hrant Alianak
Director: Bruce McDonald (“The Tracey Fragments”)
Fest Cred: Toronto, Edmonton, SXSW
The Gist: Taking as his source Tony Burgess’ novel “Pontypool Changes Everything,” McDonald tries his hand at a zombie thriller, sort of, with the story of a radio DJ who becomes the unlikely center of attention when an outbreak occurs in the sleepy Ontario suburb.
“What Goes Up”
The Cast: Steve Coogan, Josh Peck, Hilary Duff, Olivia Thirlby, Molly Shannon
Director: Jonathan Glatzer
Fest Cred: Niagara
The Gist: Formerly known as “Safety Glass,” writer/director Jonathan Glatzer inadvertently took some of the best elements of Sundance 2008 films “The Wackness” (Josh Peck and Olivia Thirlby) and “Hamlet 2” (Steve Coogan interacting with high schoolers) and put together a comedy of his own about a reporter (Coogan) working a story about the first teacher sent to space during the ’80s.