15 Under-The-Radar Movies You Won’t Want To Miss This Summer

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Now that “Captain America: Civil War” has introduced summer movie season, we’d like to spotlight a few titles that won’t drum up $182 million in opening-weekend grosses. Which isn’t to say they shouldn’t: These 15 films, mostly independent projects, are antidotes to the big-budget spectacles that will flood theaters across the next four months. 

Instead of another gaudy “Alice in Wonderland,” try the shape-shifting dystopia of “The Lobster.” Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson have a bro comedy coming in June, but we suspect you’ll laugh far more at “Love & Friendship,” “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” and “Don’t Think Twice.” And as global threats take hold in “Independence Day: Resurgence” and “Jason Bourne,” you might opt to see Bryan Cranston bring Pablo Escobar to his knees in “The Infiltrator” and Michael Keaton bring McDonald’s to its feet in “The Founder.” You can even have your blockbusters and eat the indie gems too. Best of both words! Here are 15 smaller releases to prioritize this summer. Sorry to all the Angry Birds who were harmed in the process.

  • “The Lobster” (May 13)
    A24

    Written byYorgos Lanthimos andEfthymis Filippou Directed byYorgos Lanthimos

    Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw, La Seydoux andAngeliki Papoulia

    What to expect:With “Dogtooth” and “Alps,” Yorgos Lanthimoscreated surreal worlds one step removed from functioning society. But in “The Lobster,” he fashioned a full-fledgeddystopian commonwealth in which all single people are given 45 days to find a partner before they are transformed into an animal of their choosing. The stunning dark comedyscoredthe jury prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. One year and several festivals later, the public will finally get to lay eyes on it. [Trailer]

  • “Love & Friendship” (May 13)
    Roadside Attractions

    Written and directed by Whit Stillman

    Starring Kate Beckinsale,Chlo Sevigny, Xavier Samuel, Stephen Fry, Emma Greenwell and Jemma Redgrave

    What to expect:The urban haute bourgeoisie in Whit Stillman’s debut film, “Metropolitan,” fiercely debated the work of Jane Austen. It’s taken Stillman 26 years to adapt one of Austen’s storieshimself, and the wait is worth it. “Love & Friendship” is a bitingcomedy based onLady Susan, a lesser-known Austen work that is concertedlyunromantic. The movie will premiere on Amazon shortly after its theatrical opening. Pick one and see it.[Trailer]

  • “Weiner” (May 20)
    IFC

    Directed byJosh KriegmanandElyse Steinberg

    What to expect:When disgraced New York Congressman Anthony Weiner optedto run for mayor in 2013, he invited a documentary crew to capture what he thought would be a comeback. Instead, another sexting scandal led to his swift political demise — and the cameras tracked it all. We’re now gifted with a juicyportraitof a public collapse. [Trailer]

  • “Holy Hell” (May 27)
    FilmRise

    Directed byWill Allen

    What to expect:Will Allen joined a West Hollywood cult in 1985, becoming the group’s de facto documentarian.Now he has blended stunning footage and revealing interviews with former members to craft a chilling look at a soul-sucking spirituality that imploded amiddark allegations aboutits leader. [Trailer]

  • “Swiss Army Man” (June 24)
    A24

    Written and directed byDan Kwan andDaniel Scheinert (collectively known as Daniels)

    Starring Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe and Mary Elizabeth Winstead

    What to expect:At Sundance, “Swiss Army Man” was dubbed the “farting corpse movie.” Believe the hype. In this bizarre dramedy, Paul Dano plays a loony dude marooned on an island. He’s lost all hope, until a dead body washes ashore. They form a surreal connection that could help him find his way home. We saw the movie in January, and trust us: It’s at once hilarious, poignant and infuriatingly stupid. You won’t want to miss it. [Trailer]

  • “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” (June 24)
    The Orchard

    Written and directed byTaika Waititi

    Starring Sam Neill,Julian Dennison, Rhys Darby,Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House and Stan Walker

    What to expect:This comical manhunt of a yarnrevolves around an insolent city kid who has child services on his tail after fleeinghis cantankerous foster uncle’s home. The movie has already broken New Zealand’s record for the biggest opening weekend. It also marks another interesting transition for an indie auteur, as Taika Waititi will go from “Wilderpeople” and 2014’s “What We Do in the Shadows” to 2017’s “Thor: Ragnarok.” [Trailer]

  • “The Neon Demon” (June 24)
    Amazon Studios

    Written byNicolas Winding Refn, Polly Stenham and Mary Laws Directed byNicolas Winding Refn

    Starring Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Abbey Lee, Karl Glusman, Christina Hendricks and Keanu Reeves

    What to expect:In “Drive” and “Only God Forgives,” Nicolas Winding Refn made antiheroes out of angsty male criminals in neon-lit metropolises. In the thriller “The Neon Demon,” he transposes thatlens toa distinctly feminized fable, casting Elle Fanning as an aspiring model terrorized by Los Angeles’ vanity-starved theatrics. [Trailer]

  • “Captain Fantastic” (July 8)
    Bleecker Street

    Written and directed by Matt Ross

    Starring Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Frank Langella, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn, Ann Dowd, Erin Moriarty and Missi Pyle

    What to expect:You know Matt Ross from “Silicon Valley,” “Big Love” and “American Horror Story.” But he’s a director too, and his second venture behind the camera presents Viggo Mortensen as a beatnikraising his six kids in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. When his wife dies, the clan leaves their haven and reintegrates with society, to whimsical and moving results.”Captain Fantastic” earned a standing ovation at its Sundance premiere in January. [Trailer]

  • “The Infiltrator” (July 13)
    Broad Green Pictures

    Written byEllen Brown Furman Directed by Brad Furman

    Starring Bryan Cranston, Yul Vaxquez, John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger, Benjamin Bratt, Amy Ryan, Olympia Dukakis and Sad Taghmaoui

    What to expect:Bryan Cranston is best known for playing a drug kingpin. In “The Infiltrator,” he’s batting for the other team. Cranston portraysRobert Mazur, a DEA agent who went undercover in the 1980s to bust Pablo Escobar’s money-laundering operations. Maybe your best course would be to tread lightly, Pablo Escobar. [Trailer]

  • “Don’t Think Twice” (July 22)
    The Film Arcade

    Written and directed byMike Birbiglia

    StarringMike Birbiglia, Gillian Jacobs, Keegan-Michael Key,Chris Gethard,Tami Sagher andKate Micucci

    What to expect:Mike Birbiglia set 2012’s semi-autobiographical “Sleepwalk with Me” inside the often crushing world of stand-up comedy. His directorial follow-up, “Don’t Think Twice,” ventures to the oftencrushing improv scene.When one member of a tight-knit New York troupe is cast on an “SNL” analog, the other five must learn how to move forward without their makeshift family intact. The outcome is at once rollicking and somber. [No trailer available]

  • “Little Men” (Aug. 5)
    Magnolia Pictures

    Written by Ira Sachs andMauricio Zacharias Directed by Ira Sachs

    StarringTheo Taplitz,Michael Barbieri, Greg Kinnear, Paulina Garcia, Jennifer Ehle and Alfred Molina

    What to expect:Ira Sachs madetwo of the decade’s richest romances: 2012’s gritty “Keep the Lights On” and 2014’s graceful “Love is Strange.” In “Little Men,” he shifts thecentral love story to that of two platonic teen boys. But gentrification has swept Brooklyn, and when their parents’ rent dispute threatens to split the pals apart, “Little Men” explores the melancholy clash between companionship and commerce. Adolescent devotion is rarely depicted this delicately. [No trailer available]

  • “The Founder” (Aug. 5)
    The Weinstein Company

    Written by Robert Siegel Directed by John Lee Hancock

    Starring Michael Keaton, Laura Dern, Nick Offerman, Patrick Wilson, John Carroll Lynch, B.J. Novak and Linda Cardellini

    What to expect:John Lee Hancock’s specialty is sentimental biopics (see: “The Rookie,” “The Blind Side,” “Saving Mr. Banks”). He’s sticking to that terrain with “The Founder,” though he appears to be trading some of the bathos for unbridled ambition. Specifically, it’s about the ambition of Illinois businessman Ray Kroc, who met two brothers by the name of McDonald and started the globe’s biggest fast-food chain. Maybe you’ve heard of it? [Trailer]

  • “Nine Lives” (Aug. 5)
    EuropaCorp

    Written byGwyn Lurie,Matt R. Allen,Caleb Wilson,Daniel Antoniazzi andBen Shiffrin Directed byBarry Sonnenfeld

    Starring Kevin Spacey, Jennnifer Garner, Christopher Walken, Robbie Amell, Cheryl Hines and MarkConsuelos

    What to expect:This is a movie where Kevin Spacey is transformed into a cat. He has one week to make amends with his family or he will stay that way forever. This is a real movie. We know because it took five whole people to finish the script. [Trailer]

  • “Florence Foster Jenkins” (Aug. 12)
    Paramount

    Written byNicholas Martin Directed by Stephen Frears

    Starring Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg and Nina Arianda

    What to expect:Florence Foster Jenkins was an early-20th-century heiress who self-financed a career in opera. The only problem? She was delusional about hersinging abilities, becoming famous for her amateurish performances. Now Meryl Streep will play Jenkins in a biopic from the director of “High Fidelity” and “The Queen.” The movie has already opened to glowing reviews in the United Kingdom. [Trailer]

  • “Southside with You” (Aug. 26)
    Miramax

    Written and directed byRichard Tanne

    StarringParker Sawyers, Tika Sumpter andVanessa Bell Calloway

    What to expect:Ever wondered what Michelle and Barack Obama’s first date was like? “Southside with You” attempts to tell us. The biopic chronicles the future president’sinitial efforts to woo Michelle, whichincluded a trip to see “Do the Right Thing” and a smooch outside an ice-cream parlor. Apparently his efforts worked. [Trailer]

  • (All release dates are subject to change.)

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