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It's definitely the dog days of summer, with all the big blockbuster releases behind us, back-to-school shopping in full swing, and the promise of cooler weather just behind the corner. But before you write off this summer movie season entirely, wait! There are still good movies left to come to theaters, even if it just seems like there's nothing but horror movies and that Joseph Gordon-Levitt bike messenger movie. Below we've got five movies that we've seen and loved and think you will too, all of them due to hit theaters before September rolls around. Don't give up on summer! Check out one of these movies before you put away your cutoffs and flip flops this year.
The best part about this particular upcoming August movie? It’s coming out this weekend. Even better? It’s one of the best films that we’ve seen so far this year. As you may have already figured out from Katey’s rave review, ParaNorman is an absolutely stunning piece of cinema that deserves recognition for being both visually spectacular and having a heartfelt, bold and important message at its core. It’s a fun adventure, a thrilling horror story, an entertaining fairy tale and laugh-out loud comedy combined into one film. The plot, written by co-director Chris Butler, is constantly snaking in unexpected directions, making it all feel fresh and new.
But you could watch ParaNorman on mute and still have a great appreciation for the film. Developed by Laika Studios, the company that brought us Coraline back in 2009, the stop-motion animation effort is jaw-dropping. The range of facial expressions that the characters are able to make is impressive and the production design, from wooded areas made of corrugated cardboard to Norman’s horror-poster filled room, will make you want to see the movie more than once just so that you can fully appreciate it. Don’t dismiss it as just another children’s movie: this is art.
OK, so Compliance isn't exactly the breath of fresh air you might expect from a summer movie, and given the way it hearkens back to Stanley Milgram's famous psychological experiment and real-life news stories, it's likely to lead you diving into even more uncomfortable research when you get home. But Compliance has more power to make you think than most movies this summer, depicting with clinical detail a story based on real-life events, when a prank caller phoned a fast food restaurant posing a cop. He accused one of the employees of stealing, and had the manager detain her in a back room… then interrogate her… then strip search her. It only gets more uncomfortable from there.
Compliance is opening in limited release this weekend but will be available on VOD soon, and at the rate its director Craig Zobel is picking up new projects, you'll want to catch this one so you can say you knew him when. Compliance is an uncomfortable movie to watch, yes, but also an example of how terrific performances and a strong director behind the camera can make any tough experience worth seeing on the screen.
Sleepwalk With Me
Mike Birbiglia has performed stories about his life for years onstage in New York, and excerpts have run from time to time on the radio show This American Life, but you've really never heard his story dreaming of a pizza pillow until you've seen the pizza pillow (you're also going to wish someone would manufacture it, but that's another story). Birbiglia's inimitable sense of humor, as well as his truly bizarre sleepwalking affliction, means this movie about relationships and breakups and pursuing your dream is like none other you've ever seen. If you don't want to take my word for it, take the Sundance audience's-- Sleepwalk With Me won the Audience Award in its category at the festival earlier this year.
Written and directed by Birbiglia, who also stars as himself, Sleepwalk With Me could have felt way too personal and amateur, but it's pretty much the opposite, taking a very specific and weird story and making it into a universal tale about growing up, figuring out exactly what you want to do with your life, being good to the people who love you (Lauren Ambrose is great as his long-term girlfriend) and recognizing a problem that you can't take care of. Also, it's hilaroius-- way funnier than any of that made it sound. What can we say, Birbiglia tells the story better than we can.
There’s only a small window left in the summer season and choices seem slim, but John Hillcoat’s Lawless, based on Matt Bondurant’s family portrait “The Wettest County in the World,” is most definitely worth a taste. Even without my recommendation, the prospect of seeing a Hillcoat-directed, Nick Cave-scripted, Depression-era, rural-set crime story should be enough-- after all, their last collaboration produced The Proposition, the most worthwhile Western since Unforgiven. Not to mention that the filmmaker, in the interim, continued his streak of beautifully bleak pictures without the singer-song-screenwriter with an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy The Road.
Then there’s Lawless’ stellar ensemble of Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikows ka, Guy Pearce and the Gary Oldman with everyone in absolute top form, even though Hardy once again steals the show with a ferocious yet humor-filled turn as Forrest. Lawless is an intense, often vicious look at the ‘Bondurant Boys,’ moonshiners in Franklin County, Virginia facing a hostile big city takeover of their family-run operation. Even before the bootlegging, people said the Bondurants were impossible to kill and well, you don’t get that title without plenty trying.
For A Good Time Call...
Lauren Miller has been best known until now as Seth Rogen's girlfriend, now wife, but that's all about to change with For A Good Time Call…, the new comedy she stars in and co-wrote, specifically in response to the lack of strong roles out there for young women. Starring opposite the always-hilarious Ari Graynor, Miller plays a girl who is struggling to come up with the rent, and eventually joins her new roommate (Graynor) in starting a phone sex line. Yes, it's as dirty as it sounds, but also really, really funny, and a strong story about friendship between women that, I promise, still feels nothing at all like Bridesmaids.
Like a lot of these late-summer gems, For A Good Time Call… premiered at Sundance, and was one of the best-received comedies of the festival. The girls at the center don't steal all the good jokes though-- Justin Long and Mark Webber are both strong in supporting roles, and if you look closely you might catch some cameos from Miller's husband Seth Rogen and maybe a few other familiar faces. Don't see it for the big names, though-- catch it for Miller and Graynor, two rising stars who prove serious comedy chops and make this film their own.