Richard Linklater's spiritual successor to Dazed and Confused is a cheerful, wonderfully acted drama about a group of college baseball players getting ready for another year of dating, sports and personal growth. The cast is fantastic and the depiction of male bonding is some of the best in years.
The Coen Bros. were playing to a smaller crowd this Hail, Caesar! but anyone who loves the Golden Age of Hollywood will have a blast with this spirited comedy. Josh Brolin plays a studio fixer who juggles a kidnapped movie star, a cowboy who can't act and a pregnant starlet who needs to adopt her own baby in this smart, hilarious throwback.
J.G. Ballard's vicious social commentary, about a self-sufficient skyscraper that devolves into literal class warfare, has been adapted into a brutal satire by filmmaker Ben Wheatley. The chaos emerges so gradually it's almost hard to tell when, exactly, this movie goes from strange to apocalyptic. Tense, impressive stuff.
Tom Hanks slipped under everyone's noses with a slight, sweet dramedy about a salesman trying to peddle hologram technology in Saudi Arabia. A Hologram for the King is kind-hearted look at the ways all our cultural differences make us, unexpectedly, very much the same.
Karyn Kusama's brilliant psychological thriller is a pressure cooker, and for the longest time you don't even know for sure if anything really is cooking. A man is invited to his ex-wife's dinner party, and begins to suspect something is terribly amiss. But maybe the point isn't what he's anxious about, but the fact that he's anxious...
A major release but one that failed to find a major audience, Keanu is a raucously funny comedy about two dweeby guys who are forced to act like badasses in order to rescue their kidnapped kitten, named "Keanu," from violent criminals. Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are incredibly funny together, and the absurd plot keeps this lovable comedy moving briskly.
Christian cinema has been capturing headlines over the last few years, and yet the best film tackling the subject came and went very quickly in May. Ewan McGregor gives one of his best performances as Jesus Christ, who accepts the devil's challenge (the devil also played by Ewan McGregor) to fix the problems of a small family. But sometimes life's little plights are just as impossible as the big ones.
Whit Stillman takes his trademark wit and transports it back in time with Love & Friendship, an adaptation of an unpublished Jane Austen novel. Kate Beckinsale is sublime as Lady Susan, who is such a master manipulator that it's hard to tell if she's the movie's hero or villain. Uproarious and classy.
Mud and Take Shelter director Jeff Nichols tried his hand at the sci-fi/fantasy genre earlier this year, and the result felt just as independent as earlier, critically acclaimed dramas. Michael Shannon plays a father who must protect his superpowered son from the government and a dangerous cult, and although the plot evokes classic 1980s cinema, the way Nichols lays the story out feels fresh and exciting.
A character-driven 1970s private detective story in the vein of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang? It's as good as it sounds but it was never going to set the summer box office on fire. Ryan Goslin and Russell Crowe are fabulous as mismatched partners trying to solve a mystery involving porn. Very funny stuff!
One of the most original and meaningful horror films in years, Nina Forever is the sad story of a man who can't get over the death of his girlfriend, because every time he tries to have sex with someone else his ex's corpse appears and judges them. Gory without being violent, shocking but impressively sensitive.
What was supposed to be a major comeback for Paul Reubens ended up coming to Netflix, and without much publicity. But this impossibly adorable film about Pee-wee meeting actor Joe Manganiello (playing himself) and traveling across the country to attend the True Blood star's birthday party is an absolute joy.
Sweet and sad, all wrapped up together, Fernando León de Aranoa's film stars Benicio Del Toro, Tim Robbins, Olga Kurylenko and Mélanie Thierry as aid workers trying to remove a corpse from a well in what used to be Yugoslavia. It turns out to be a nearly impossible challenge in a story that would be Kafkaesque if it wasn't so very hopeful. (Fortunately, it is.)
Another major summer release and ambitious comedy that barely got off the ground, the new film from Lonely Island (Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg, and Jorma Taccone) features wall-to-wall laughs at the expense of contemporary celebrity and nonsensical hit songs. Give this one time. Audiences will find it and fall in love with it eventually.
One of the most interesting horror anthologies in recent memory, Southbound tells interlocking stories of people on the desert highway, meeting monsters on the side of the road or becoming monsters themselves. All the installments are solid, but David Bruckner's story about a hit-and-run gone wrong(-er) is an unforgettable pulse-pounder.
Very few horror films play out like The Wailing, a strange Korean import about a hapless cop who gets involved in a murder investigation that might just be supernatural in origin. Na Hong-jin's film uses humor to suck you into the hero's life, so that the horror seems even more tragic when it pops up (usually in unexpected ways).