The discerning summer movie guide: Look past the blockbusters and there’s lots to see on the big screen this season

Practically everybody knows that Shaft, The Lion King and Toy Story 4 are hitting theatres this summer. After all, giant Hollywood studios have been pumping fist loads of cash into multimillion-dollar TV spots, press junkets and marketing for weeks now leaving barely a crumb of advertising space left for the rest of the film world. It’s no wonder the four biggest Hollywood studios owned over 68 per cent of the market share in all of 2018! Those massive studio-backed tent-pole blockbusters will surely score the biggest box-office returns again this summer so why give them even more attention? Instead, we’ve decided not only to help out the little guy but also give discerning movie fans a look at 10 of this summer’s less-hyped but certainly more-inventive movies that could go unnoticed in the shadow of giants. After all, not every film has Men in Black’s advertising juggernaut behind it to help spread the word! 

The Dead Don’t Die (June 14)

Legendary indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch (Broken Flowers) returns to the big-screen with this eccentric take on the all-but-dead zombie genre. The Cannes Film Festival opener casts Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny and Adam Driver as cops in sleepy Centertown, which suddenly finds itself besieged by the walking dead. A zombie comedy for the Trump-era, expect eco-satire, self-awareness and a ton of cool cameos from Jarmusch-alumni like Tom Waits, Steve Buscemi and Iggy Pop.

Mouthpiece (June 21)

Acclaimed Canadian filmmaker Patricia Rozema (Into The Forest) tackles this tale about an aspiring writer whose psyche heads into a tailspin after the death of her mother. Struggling to craft the eulogy, her inner turmoil is portrayed by two women (Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava) each respectively representing the varying conflicts raging in her head. As Los Angeles Times film critic Katie Walsh wrote, “there’s no denying the bracing, honest nature of Mouthpiece, a truly revolutionary piece of filmmaking.”

Wild Nights with Emily (June 28)

Molly Shannon may still be best known for crafting the armpit-sniffing Catholic school-girl Mary Katherine Gallagher on Saturday Night Live in the ’90s, but these days the comic-actor has been earning accolades for her bold portrait as Emily Dickinson. Exploring the mid-19th Century poet’s lengthy romance with a childhood friend and eventual sister-in-law, this film not only attempts to re-contextualize Dickinson’s life – it may even reassess our perception of the SNL alumnus.

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love (July 12)

Filmmaker Nick Broomfield cut his teeth making controversial documentaries on everyone from Kurt Cobain to serial killer Aileen Wuornos, but his latest is a decidedly more intimate movie. Exploring the romantic relationship between folk icon Leonard Cohen and his Norwegian muse Marianne Ihlen, Broomfield crafts perhaps his most personal film to date — given his personal connection to Ihlen goes back decades. In fact, the director even shows up in some of the archival footage in the movie. 

Wild Rose (July 12)

This acclaimed British musical drama has been turning heads ever since it made its debut at the Toronto International Film Fest last September. Now poised to be a breath of fresh air among a mob of mega-budgeted sequels and reboots, Wild Rose tackles the complex tale of an aspiring country singer hell-bent on making it to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville while raising her children in Scotland and overcoming her dark past as a jailbird. Sure, it’s got a bit of a “Glaswegian Star Is Born” angle going for it, but the movie has been winning critics over and even has young actor Jessie Buckley flagged as one of this year’s hottest rising stars.

The Farewell (July 26)

This Sundance Film Festival hit from sophomore filmmaker Lulu Wang (Posthumous) focuses on a multigenerational Chinese family that’s brought together in the wake of their grandmother’s terminal cancer diagnosis. Bonded by the traumatic event, the family attempts to slap together an impromptu wedding before delivering the dire news to the matriarch. The film was based on a 2016 episode of This American Life from Wang’s own experiences. 

Push (July 26)

This groundbreaking film follows Leilani Farha as the UN representative for the Right to Housing travels the globe in her crusade to designate affordable housing as a human right. Along the way, she exposes how giant financial players are turning affordable housing markets into tradable commodities and leaving cities as exclusive havens for the rich. As one film critic wrote, Push will “leave audiences feeling engaged, enraged and with plenty to discuss.” If that turns you off, well, Spider-Man will still be playing in theatres, too.  

Where’d You Go, Bernadette (August 16)

Based on Maria Semple’s hugely popular bestseller, this comic drama from indie stalwart Richard Linklater (Boyhood) follows an agoraphobic architect who seemingly goes missing before a family trip to Antarctica. Linklater told Entertainment Weekly he “concentrated on what (he) felt the book was really about at its emotional core, which was an intense portrait of motherhood.” With Oscar winner Cate Blanchett in the lead, the film should feature an equally intense performance as well.

Rush: Cinema Strangiato (August 21)

Canada’s beloved prog-rock icons, Rush, come to Cineplex cinemas with a limited theatrical event that is being called the first “Annual Exercise in Fan Indulgence.”  Mixing performances from the band’s final tour along with exclusive backstage footage and interviews with the likes of Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins) and Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters), this intimate concert film will surely bring in The Big Money for fans of the illustrious trio.

Paris Is Burning (August 31)

This landmark 1990 film gets a re-release just in time for Calgary Pride. Newly restored, Jennie Livingston’s classic documentary provides a vibrant look at the 1980s through the eyes of New York’s African-American and Latin Harlem drag-ball scene. Featuring legendary drag queens, trans women and “voguers,” the film is a moving portrait that continues to celebrate an inspiring subculture born out of society’s fringes. 

Stuber (July 12)

Okay, so this big-budget action-comedy about an Uber driver who unwittingly becomes partners to a stone-cold cop certainly hasn’t been short on promotion, but with Calgary’s own Michael Dowse (Fubar, Goon) at the helm, it’s still surely worth a bit of hometown love!

(Note: Films will be screening at various theatres in Calgary and dates are subject to change. Please check your local listings.)

Steve Gow has spent a good amount of his time conducting interviews for a variety of publications as well as on television. Most notably, he was a film reporter for The Movie Network/HBO Canada and his written stories that were regularly featured in Calgary’s former “go-to guide” FFWD weekly, as well as Metro, Toronto Star and more.