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Critic's summer film picks

Escape the heat and check out these must-see summer movies.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. May 22, 2019
"The American Woman" stars Sienna Miller. Courtesy photo
"The American Woman" stars Sienna Miller. Courtesy photo
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Sometimes big isn’t better. Our summer picks look destined for recognition rather than breaking box office records. Catch the wave of substance over style in the following list of subtle sizzlers.


‘American Woman’

Opens June 14 

Sienna Miller stars in this drama about a woman who’s forced to re-evaluate her life when her daughter goes missing. Forced to raise the granddaughter left behind, she never loses hope for her daughter to return over the course of many years. Miller’s performance is being hailed as “electrifying” and “magnificent.” Directed by Jake Scott. 


‘The Dead Don’t Die’

Opens June 14

Wonderfully quirky director Jim Jarmusch star studs this zombie comedy with the likes of Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Adam Driver and Steve Buscemi. It’s being tagged as “The Greatest Cast Ever Dissembled.” The film garnered a Palme d’Or nomination for Jarmusch at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.


‘The Art of Self Defense’

Opens July 12

“Macabre, dark and offbeat” are adjectives being tossed about to describe this comedy about a loser’s attempt to fight back. Jesse Eisenberg’s character enlists the services of a martial arts instructor (Alessandro Nivola) in hopes of exacting revenge on bikers who beat him up. Writer-director Riley Stearns’ use of dry wit and unexpected curve balls beckon a watch. 


‘The Farewell’

Opens July 12

Writer-director Lulu Wang’s comedy is about a ruse perpetrated by a family to conceal a terminal cancer diagnosis from their beloved matriarch. Awkwafina plays the granddaughter who travels to China to help stage a sham wedding so that her family can be reunited. The story is “based on an actual lie” experienced by Wang. 


‘Mike Wallace is Here’

In this relevant documentary only archival footage is employed to dissect the life and times of the legendary newsman. For more than 50 years, Wallace interrogated infamous, celebrated and controversial figures with veracity and clever musings. Director Avi Belkin goes straight to the sources sans a narrator, relying solely upon the subjects to speak for themselves. A must-see. 


‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’

Opens July 26

Talk about a draw: How about pairing Leonardo DiCaprio with Brad Pitt in a Quentin Tarantino flick? As an ode to Hollywood, Tarantino teases that this film is the closest to replicating “Pulp Fiction.” Set in 1969, it delves into an era as seen through the eyes of an aging movie star and his stunt double who just happen to live next door to Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate. So Tarantino! 


‘Brian Banks’

Opens Aug. 9

When a rising football star (played by Aldis Hodge) in his junior year of high school is falsely accused of rape, he’s ill-advised to cop a plea. Promised probation, Banks is astounded when he receives a harsh prison sentence. With the aid of California’s Innocence Project, he’s exonerated and able to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL. Also starring Greg Kinnear and directed by Tom Shadyac. 


‘Cold Case of Hammarskjold’

Opens Aug. 16

In this intense documentary, director Mads Brugger examines the death of United Nations Secertary-General Dag Hammarskjold. When his plane crashed in 1961 all 16 passengers on board perished. But his was the only body found completely intact. About 60 years later, Brugger teams up with Swedish aid worker Goran Bjorkdahl to explore a slew of conspiracy theories. Will it be a waste of time or historically revelatory? We get to be the judge.


‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette?’

Opens Aug. 16

Cate Blanchette plays a former renowned architect who gave it up to raise a family. After 20 years, she suddenly disappears. Her 15-year-old daughter (Emma Nelson) and husband (Billy Crudup) get wind of her being in Antarctica and set off to find her. Richard Linklater directs and also scripts this adaptation of the New York Times best seller by novelist Maria Semple. The trailer looks hilarious. 


Dates are subject to change.


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