Summer movie season is right around the corner, and with it comes all the Blockbuster spectacles movie fans are expecting. But between “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Incredibles 2” and “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” smaller-budget films might be forgotten. To remedy that, here are five of The PHOENIX’s must-see independent movies this summer.
“First Reformed” — Paul Schrader
From the legendary screenwriter Paul Schrader (“Raging Bull, “Taxi Driver”), “First Reformed” stars Ethan Hawke (“Boyhood”) as a former military chaplain grieving his son’s death. Judging by its bleak, intense and ambiguous trailer, “First Reformed” looks to strike the same tone as Schrader’s classic masterpiece, “Taxi Driver,” and offers a fascinating look at how a man of God deals with violence, sin and a crisis of faith.
“First Reformed” is expected to open in theaters May 18.
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” — Morgan Neville
The highly anticipated new documentary, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” takes viewers through the life of iconic children’s television host Fred Rogers and his overwhelmingly positive impact on countless lives. The film received rave reviews from Austin’s lauded South By Southwest media festival, leaving fans of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” eagerly awaiting the movie’s summer release. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” should provide a much needed dose of wholesome, nostalgic entertainment about one of television’s most beloved and revolutionary personalities.
“Won’t You Be Me Neighbor?” is expected to open in theaters June 8.
“Hereditary” — Ari Aster
“Hereditary,” described as traumatically terrifying by AV Club, is poised to be the next truly great horror film. From the mind of first-time feature director Ari Aster, “Hereditary” stars Toni Collette (“Little Miss Sunshine”) as a mother who discovers horrifying secrets about her family. After screening at Sundance Film Festival in January, “Hereditary” garnered waves of praise from horror and non-horror fans alike for its mature direction, chilling acting and disturbing imagery. Fans of scary movies should line up around the block to see this film opening night.
“Hereditary” is scheduled to open in theaters June 8.
“Sorry to Bother You” — Boots Riley
Bold, fresh and funny, “Sorry to Bother You” has all the hallmarks to be the indie darling of the summer. The film centers around Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a black telemarketer who discovers he can move quickly up the ranks when he uses his “white voice” with customers over the phone. Chicago-rapper-turned-filmmaker Boots Riley wrote and directed the film, which is said to carry shades of Charlie Kaufman (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Adaptation”) in its absurdist tone. With a young, all-star cast consisting of Tessa Thompson (“Creed”), Armie Hammer (“Call Me By Your Name”) and Steven Yeun (“The Walking Dead”) among others, “Sorry to Bother You” could easily become a cult hit for its humor and poignant cultural observations.
“Sorry to Bother You” is scheduled to open in theaters July 6.
“Eighth Grade” — Bo Burnham
YouTuber-turned-comedian-turned-filmmaker Bo Burnham makes his directorial debut this summer with “Eighth Grade,” the story of a 13-year-old girl (Elsie Fisher) trying to survive her disastrous last year of middle school. Part comedy and part drama, Burnham’s first film looks to carry all the trademarks of his versatile stand-up routine. With adolescent dialogue, modern references and a sympathetic lead, “Eighth Grade” should be a strong indication of Burnham’s potential behind the camera.
“Eighth Grade” is expected to open in theaters July 13.