Summer allegedly belongs to the blockbusters, but this June’s offering up some spotty pickings in the franchise world, beyond the rise of a long-deserving female superhero and the remounting of a Universal horror landmark. So feel free to ditch Cars 3, Despicable Me 3, and Transformers: Dear God How Many Has It Been Now and give something a little off the beaten path a look. Like, maybe, a boundary-busting romcom, or a musical thrill ride forged from vinyl, or an enigmatic slow-burn horror oddity. Here’s what you need to check out at the movies this month.
All Eyez on Me (June 16th)
Tupac Shakur didn’t even live long enough to make it to the notorious 27 Club, and yet he left an inestimable legacy on hip-hop’s landscape. His story is a film-ready rise-and-fall narrative: a come-from-nothing origin, some jail time, a visionary style that mixed poetics with street-hardened gangsta authenticity, and controversy in every direction. Cops hated him, the FBI kept a file on him, Biggie beefed with him, and now music-video veteran Benny Boom retells the whole hood epic in this long-delayed biopic. Introducing complete unknown Demetrius Shipp Jr. as the late Mr. Shakur, this film joins Straight Outta Compton in the big-screen mythmaking rap-cinema game. If they screw this up, we will be made at cha.
Baby Driver (June 28th)
Living well, they say, is the best revenge: After he and Marvel parted ways over Ant-Man, Edgar Wright regrouped and delivered what may be the most technically accomplished and blazingly original film of his colorful career. Ansel Elgort is an expert getaway driver permanently wired into his earbuds – the music from which transforms this crackerjack crime thriller into something between an opera, a musical and a longform music video. A handful of hyperkinetic action set pieces, some marvelous supporting turns (from Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey) and an untouchably pitch-perfect soundtrack all combine for one of this summer’s best films. Prepare to be floored.
The Beguiled (June 23rd)
A soldier (Colin Farrell) stumbles in, badly hurt, to a girls’ finishing school in the Civil War-torn South. The ladies nurse him back to health; naturally, this strapping specimen of manhood begins to arouse the passions of the cloistered, repressed residents. If this sounds like the first act of some hot-and-humid love affair among the Spanish moss, you got one hell of another thing coming – and even if you’ve seen Don Siegel’s 1971 version starring Clint Eastwood, there are a few new twists and turns in the mix. Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning and Nicole Kidman all attempt to act one another into next week, and [proper southern gentlewoman voice] what’s that? Another story of tortured femininity from Sofia Coppola? I do declare, it’s giving me the vapors!
The Big Sick (June 23rd)
Everyone loves the comforting familiarity of the rom-com: boy meets girl, girl and boy have one-night stand that blossoms into a relationship, strict heritage of arranged marriage in boy’s culture renders future with girl impossible, girl lapses into coma. Kumail Nanjiani and his real-life wife Emily Gordon (portrayed in the film by Zoe Kazan) co-wrote this retelling of their IRL unorthodox courtship, complicated both by culture clashes and a sudden, terrifying health scare. Director Michael Showalter nimbly summons humor and pathos, while Ray Romano and Holly Hunter score major points in supporting parts. Come for the laughter and tears; stay for the fact that this may very well launch Nanjiani’s career as a leading man.
The B-Side (June 30th)
Long before the word “selfie” infiltrated the dictionary, Elsa Dorfman fused portraiture and intimate personal expression in her own unique shutterbug style. Using a large-format instant Polaroid camera, the photographer spent decades shooting herself and the famous figures in her social circle – including Beat Generation figurehead Allen Ginsberg and good ol’ Bob Dylan – and became modestly famous in the process. This documentary from master of the form Errol Morris examines Dorfman’s life and works, and allows time for a call to preserve the dying Polaroid as a photographic medium. Spoiler alert: He does not ask her where she stands on the selfie stick.
The House (June 30th)
Time are tough, belts are tightening and college tuition rates keep mushrooming. Small-town parents Scott and Kate (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) promised their darling daughter that if she could just keep up her grades and get an acceptance letter to her dream college, they’d take care of the rest. Trouble is, they’re short on cash. So they do the reasonable thing and open an underground casino complete with massage parlors (and “massage parlors”) in their stately suburban home. I mean, you had us at Ferrell and Poehler, so ….
It Comes at Night (June 9th)
So, what is the titular “it” that comes at night, anyway? That unease of not-knowing charges the whole of Krisha director Trey Edward Shults’ sophomore feature, in which a family takes refuge in a secluded cabin from an unseen threat in a vaguely postapocalyptic world. When a second couple and their infant stumble in from the woods in search of refuge, the two camps strike an uneasy alliance. It does not last for long – see nature, human. This atmospheric horror film not only cements Shults as a talent to keep an eye on; it may put you off remote cabins, twitchy alpha males and trusting anyone ever again.
The Mummy (June 9th)
It’s summertime, and that means Tom Cruise is back, probably shirtless and definitely running somewhere with no time to lose. And this time around, he’s dead, too! In this high-gloss reboot of the classic horror flick, Cruise plays an Indiana Jones type who unwittingly disturbs the centuries-long rest of one supremely pissed-off Egyptian princess (Sofia Boutella). A mysterious link forms between the pair after Cruise seemingly returns from the grave, and there’s something slightly off about the temperamental Dr. Jekyll (Russell Crowe), too. All questions will be answered in the loudest, biggest, most heavily-CGI’d manner possible when Universal launches the latest chapter in their connected universe of old-school monsters. (Next stop: Bride of Frankenstein.) For now, however, the kid bandages are off and anything goes.
Rough Night (June 16th)
Every bachelorette party eventually hits the point where things go from crazy-in-a-fun-way to just plain old crazy. For Jess (Scarlett Johansson), it comes when she and her galpals accidentally murder the hunky stripper sent over as the night’s entertainment. A booze- and coke-fueled night lurches into a WTF scramble as they attempt to dispose of the body, leaving a path of destruction in their efforts to cover their tracks. The cast includes Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Zoe Kravitz and Ilana Glazer – and the first person to not describe this as Bridesmaids-meets-Very-Bad-Things gets a free shot of flavored vodka, on the house.
Wonder Woman (June 2nd)
Part deity, part superhero, all woman: Diana Prince has finally gotten a big-screen vehicle all to herself in the first step of a long journey towards genre gender-parity. Near the turn of the century, a wayward WWI fighter pilot (Chris Pine) crash-lands on the isolated island that is home to a race of Amazon warriors. He needs to stop some nefarious folks from ixnaying the Armistice; luckily, he meets a young lady armed with indestructible armbands, a lasso of truth and the indefatigable fighting spirit of star-on-the-rise Gal Gadot. The pro-woman ethic goes for both sides of the camera, too; that Patty Jenkins has been placed in charge of a $120 million budget constitutes a stride just as major. Yes, it is as good as you’ve heard.