The summer's 30 must-sees

Forget big and dumb: TONY's got you covered for warm-weather coolness.



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Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (July 21)
This Sundance documentary stunned the crowd with its full-bodied impression of the late painter, a meteoric art star with serious demons. But it’s director Tamra Davis’s personal take on the man (they knew each other; much of this footage was shot when she was part of his inner circle) that sweetens the profile into more than a mere tribute. Davis gets at what was delicate and haunted about the man, as well as the attitude that came from overwhelming praise.—JR

Dinner for Schmucks (July 23)
Already, we like it. But then, go ahead and make it unmissable by putting Paul Rudd and Steve Carell in what appears to be a pitch-black corporate satire, about a desperate ladder-climber (Rudd) hoping to curry favor with his mean-spirited boss. His unusual task: Bring along the biggest doofus (you know who) to a private party for everyone’s amusement. Given its source material (France’s The Dinner Game), we’re there.—JR

Life During Wartime (July 23)
Director Todd Solondz has never been an easy sell, but he’s taken a huge step toward the bulk of the human race with this Florida-set sequel to his breakthrough indie hit Happiness. All the actors have been recast, but still in attendance are pet topics like pedophilia and class warfare, leavened with extraordinary performances and—what’s this?—hope.—JR

Salt (July 23)
Poor Angelina Jolie. (Bear us out.) Her crazy-sexy appeal is being chipped away by a younger model, Megan Fox. Meanwhile, when Mrs. Pitt lands a plum part in a Clint Eastwood movie, Changeling, it’s a rare dud. Hopefully, this CIA thriller about an agent gone rogue (Jolie) will remind us why we cared in the first place.—JR

Get Low (July 30)
You might need to be reminded just how good an actor Robert Duvall is. There’s no shame in that; we all do. He plays a bushy-bearded Depression-era hermit who emerges from his solitude to quietly arrange his own funeral. The performance, already being whispered about as an Oscar contender, is tinged with humor and guilt—so expertly that Bill Murray is forced to simply gawk and play it straight.—JR

I Killed My Mother (July 30)
That title is a mistake—especially since this French-Canadian comedy is loaded with empathy and heartache (and zero matricide). Written and directed by its then-teenaged star, Xavier Dolan, the movie develops fierce tensions between a Quebecois single mom and her surly, artistic son into a full-throated catharsis.—JR

Down Terrace (August 13)
“It’s The Sopranos, directed by Mike Leigh” trumpeted pundits on the fest circuit, where this British indie about a family in the organized-crime racket has been racking up fans. While that particular nugget of praise is a wee bit reductive, Ben Wheatley’s debut does blend elements of kitchen-sink realism with crime-drama thrills into the kind of genre mash-up that screams sleeper hit.—DF

The Expendables (August 13)
If you felt shorted on the bastards in Inglourious Basterds (not enough badass exploits!), here’s an action flick sure to correct the imbalance. Director-cowriter Sylvester Stallone (hey, he scripted Rocky!) assembles a blammo fan’s dream team—Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham and others—to make a revenge picture bound to bring the firepower. Humor, too, we hope.—JR

Lebanon (August 13)
This stunning Israeli production takes place entirely within the confines of an armored tank rolling north into the battle zone. As with that other claustrophobic classic, Das Boot, tensions escalate and the intimate drama suddenly takes on metaphysical dimensions. You can rely on seeing hardware in summer movies, but this movie really makes it count.—JR

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (August 13)
We were all ready to give up on Arrested Development’s Michael Cera—how many lovelorn dorks can one man play?—until we saw the trailer for Edgar Wright’s adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic book, about a dude who must fight seven of his new love’s exes in order to find romantic bliss. If anyone can make us want to see a Cera joint again, it’s the director of Shaun of the Dead.—DF


Summer arts preview
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