Release: May 24 Director: Richard Linklater Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
We’ve arrived at part three of Richard Linklater’s ongoing romantic chronicle, whose second chapter was a rare instance of a sequel topping its original — deeper, richer, more fully felt. It would seem impossible that Before Midnight could follow that upward trajectory, but somehow, it does; it expands and enriches the world of the series, and is also its own wonderful, perfect thing. It’s (as expected) sweet and charming, but with an edge this time, a view of romance that has evolved into something more realistic, and worthy of closer consideration. Or, as Jesse notes near its end, “It’s not perfect, but it’s real.”
Release: May 31 Director: Zal Batmanglij Cast: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page, Patricia Clarkson, Jason Ritter
Zal Batmanglij’s Sound of My Voice follow-up begins working from the same thematic playbook, exploring the dynamics of leaders and followers, this time within an anarchist group engaging in acts of “eco-terrorism,” again penetrated by an outside observer (Brit Marling as an agent for a private security firm lousy with corporate clients). But if the pictures are superficially similar, it’s more like comparing Scorsese’s Who’s That Knocking at My Door with Mean Streets — a case of a filmmaker returning to a theme of interest, but on a bigger canvas and with more sophistication and precision. This is a gripping, challenging, brainy film.
The Kings of Summer
Release: May 31 Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts Cast: Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Megan Mullally, Mary Lynn Rajksub
There’s a wonderful, wistful way about Jordan Vogt-Roberts’s coming-of-age-in-the-woods story, which is an awfully likable movie — eager to please, even. It captures the irresistible appeal of making one’s own way, and the apocalyptic feeling of one’s first heartache, and the photography is lovely (even if there are a couple too many frolicking-to-music montages). If it’s all over the place, tonally speaking, it must be noted that the sidebars (like Nick Offerman and Alison Brie’s encounter with a food delivery man) make for some of its most memorable scenes. And if the whole thing is a bit unruly and undisciplined, well, that’s part of its charm.
Release: May 31 Director: James Marsh Cast: Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough, Gillian Anderson, Aidan Gillen
Man on Fire director James Marsh helms this finely crafted, intelligently acted political thriller/drama with a complexity, subtlety, and depth that immediately recalls Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It doesn’t quite have that film’s skill and precision (or that of Marsh’s nonfiction work), but there’s much in it to admire; Marsh keeps creeping in closer to the action, working up a palpable sense of whispered tension and understated suspense. His rhythms take some getting used to, but his direction is concise, forceful even, and actors Owen and Riseborough (most recently seen in Oblivion) turn in performances both controlled and urgent.