Beat the heat, grab a seat and chill out at your favorite movie theater. Hot sequels and superheroes aside, I’m opting for substance and style with this year’s summer picks. The top 10 are …
‘THE TREE OF LIFE’
Get your long-awaited Brad Pitt fix in Terrence Malick’s fifth flick. In the making for decades, surprisingly, plot details are scarce. Sean Penn plays the grown-up version of a boy raised by parents diametrically opposed to one another in their view of the world. It looks as though patience may have been a virtue, having seen the amazing trailer. May 27
The unconventional love story is about a couple on the verge of separating when their son goes on a shooting rampage at school. Needless to say, their lives are drastically altered. Expect intimate performances from Maria Bello and Michael Sheen, master actors. June 3
Dad comes out of the closet at age 75. Finally living the life he was meant to as an openly gay man and really enjoying it, he’s diagnosed with a terminal illness. His son supports, grieves and finds unexpected love throughout the experience. Sound far-fetched? It’s based on the real-life experience of director/writer Mike Mills. Starring Christopher Plummer (who really gets better with age) and Ewan McGregor. June 3
A remarkable documentary about a chimp (Nim), who was the subject of an experiment to ascertain whether he could learn language. Not only a study on Nim, the film reveals volumes about the people who participated in the project. Oscar winner James Marsh (“Man on Wire”) tracked down the family who raised Nim 30 years ago. July 8
The always-profound Kristin Scott Thomas stars as an American journalist researching an article about the Vel’ d’ Hiv Roundup of Jews by French authorities in 1942. She stumbles onto a horrific secret, which evolves into a journey of self-discovery. Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner of the disturbingly brilliant “Pretty Things.” July 22
‘COWBOYS & ALIENS’
This is a sci-fi Western (my only guaranteed blockbuster pick), starring Daniel Craig, aka James Bond, and is described as “ … the ‘Unforgiven’ with aliens landing.” It can’t hurt that Harrison Ford also stars with heavy hitters Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer producing. Directed by Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”). July 29
Based on the best-selling novel by Kathryn Stockett, the film centers on the ability to create change through unlikely friendships. Three courageous women destroy the code of rules in a small Southern town by exposing rampant racist behavior in the 1960s. Nice casting including Sissy Spacek, Viola Davis and Emma Stone just for starters. Tate Taylor, who won an Audience Award for Best Short (“Chicken Party”) in 2003 at our own Sarasota Film Festival, directs. Aug. 12
This is an unprecedented look into the underground world of Iranian youth culture. A family is torn apart by their children’s highly illegal, obsessive and defiant behavior. It’s not often Westerners are privy to such volatile information. “Insightful” would be an understatement. Aug. 19
‘OUR IDIOT BROTHER’
The title alone is a draw. In the opening scene, the title character (Paul Rudd) gets busted selling pot to a uniformed (yes) police officer. I like it so far. Zooey Deschanel, Elizabeth Banks and Emily Mortimer play sisters to idiot brother and score another major draw. Aug. 26
In this espionage thriller, two former Mossad agents capture and kill a notorious Nazi war criminal in 1966 in Berlin. Mission accomplished. Or was it? Director John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”) assembles a dream cast, which includes Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Ciaran Hinds and Sam Worthington. Aug. 31
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