Here's the thing about summer blockbusters: If you're interested in them, then you're probably already sick of reading about them by the time summer preview features roll around.
So rather than join the chorus of echoes, we're suggesting some relatively under-the-radar movies you might like instead. Note that smaller films could reach the Triangle a few weeks after their release dates—or not at all. Check online for digital distribution options; many of these will be streaming or on-demand before summer's through.
Excited about Entourage? Try The Wolfpack (June 12). If, for whatever reason, you're not in the mood for a roving pack of L.A. assholes, check out this fascinating documentary about a pack of homeschooled siblings who spent most of their childhoods watching movies in a small Manhattan apartment. It won the top doc prize at Sundance and was a big hit at Full Frame this year.
Excited about Straight Outta Compton? Try Dope (June 19). I'm dying to see Straight Outta Compton, too, but for a lighter riff on the theme, try this indie comedy about a Harvard hopeful trying to get straight outta Inglewood. The film's tagline: "It's hard out here for a geek." Naturally.
Excited about Trainwreck? Try I Smile Back (local release TBA). Amy Schumer's collaboration with director Judd Apatow, Trainwreck, has a ton of great buzz, but cross your fingers for a theatrical release of I Smile Back, veteran comic Sarah Silverman's first dramatic lead. Silverman has serious chops (check out the indie Take This Waltz) and she was firing off ballsy sex zingers when Schumer was still watching SpongeBob.
Excited about Jurassic World? Try Manglehorn (June 19). Believe me, I don't want to make him mad, but Al Pacino is something of a dinosaur these days, what with the old-school résumé, the stomping and roaring, and the reputation for chewing up scenery. Pacino's new movie, directed by North Carolina School of the Arts alum David Gordon Green, looks like a return to quieter territory—a character study of a heartbroken small-town locksmith.
Excited about Irrational Man? Try Infinitely Polar Bear (May 22). Woody Allen's Irrational Man stars Joaquin Phoenix in the story of—hey, whaddyaknow!—a neurotic intellectual and an attractive younger woman. Frankly, I don't trust Allen or Phoenix anymore, so I'm going to take a gamble on this similarly themed Sundance indie, with Mark Ruffalo as a manic-depressive dad.
Excited about Terminator Genisys? Try Mr. Holmes (July 17). Instead of Arnold Schwarzenegger as an aging cyborg in an aging franchise, consider going with Ian McKellen as an elderly, retired Sherlock Holmes. The film depicts the great detective in his final days, revisiting an old case. I'd rather spend an evening with Ian than Arnold. Actually, I'd rather have dental surgery than an evening with Arnold. —Glenn McDonald
BRAINY BEACH READ
Maggie Nelson's new book-length essay, The Argonauts (Graywolf Press, 160 pp.), is a gorgeous and compulsively readable adventure in redefining modern kinship. In it, Nelson marries a gender-fluid partner and becomes both a mother and a stepmother. She deftly weaves together psychology, queer theory and aesthetics to create a text that's as engaging and warm as it is sharply critical.
The book explores the internal contradictions, for queer partnerships, of institutionally defined forms of family, such as marriage, while remaining fiercely celebratory of motherhood and femininity. In Nelson's hands, these subjects never become sentimental or fall into the easy pieties that writing about children and spouses can inspire. Her desire and sexuality are at the forefront, alongside more domesticated forms of love.
The Argonauts can be seen as a kind of sequel to Nelson's beloved book of personal essay fragments, Bluets. But while Bluets was an elegy for an old life, The Argonauts is a joyful missive from the present that is rightly suspicious of the cultural imperative to happiness. Though the intelligence of Nelson's prose shines through every well-chosen word, it's really the generosity contained therein that makes her essays open up the world. Writing on contemporary issues in a clear, nuanced way, Nelson is exactly the kind of no-bullshit public intellectual we need. —Laura Jaramillo