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Guy Pearce and Kylie Minogue in Swinging Safari
Photograph: Becker Film Group / Vince Valitutti Swinging Safari

14 unmissable summer movies

Christmas blockbusters and Oscar hopefuls come together to make a perfect storm of summer cinema viewing

By Nick Dent

From December 2017 through to February 2018, filmgoers will be spoiled for choice. From Jedi masters to close harmony singers, war stories to black comedies, big themes to tiny people, here are Time Out’s top picks, in chronological order – along with our own, made-up, cheesy sell lines.

Feel like watching these out of doors? Read our guide to Melbourne's best outdoor cinemas.

James Franco (centre) in the Disaster Artist
Photograph: Justina Mintz, courtesy of A24 and New Line Cinema

1. The Disaster Artist

Opens: Dec 7

The Room may be one of the worst movies ever made but James Franco’s dramatisation of its making is getting stellar reviews. Franco stars in The Disaster Artist as Tommy Wiseau, the enigmatic, untalented actor and filmmaker whose 2003 vanity project inadvertently became a cult smash hit. Franco’s brother Dave plays The Room co-star Greg Sestero, on whose memoir the film is based.

See this if you liked: Ed Wood

Time Out tagline: “There was certainly ‘Room’ for improvement.”

Adam Driver in Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Photograph: Film Frames Industrial Light & Magic / Lucasfilm

2. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

5 out of 5 stars

Opens: Dec 14

Another Christmas, another adventure in a galaxy far, far away. Rian Johnson (Looper) writes and directs the follow-up to 2015’s The Force Awakens, which has feisty heroine Rey (Daisy Ridley) getting her Jedi training from Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) while the villainous Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his First Order henchmen menace the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher, in her final film role). We also get to meet the shadowy Supreme Commander (Andy Serkis) who’s pulling Ren’s strings.

See this if you liked: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Time Out tagline: “There’s no Snoke without fire.”

The Florida Project
Photograph: A24

3. The Florida Project

5 out of 5 stars
Film Drama

Opens: Dec 21

Following up his shot-on-an-iPhone Tangerine, indie filmmaker Sean Baker tells a new story about people living on the wrong side of the tracks. Children run wild in a shabby, lilac motel on the outskirts of Disney World, while their single parents struggle to make ends meet. At the film's centre is Willem Dafoe as the building’s saintly manager, who looks out for the kids.

See this is you liked: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Time Out tagline: “Not always the happiest place on earth.”

4. Downsizing

Film Sci-Fi

Opens: Dec 26

A financially strapped couple (Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig) decide to undertake a radical surgical procedure and be shrunk to the height of four inches tall and relocate to a facility where life is incredibly cheap. Filmmaker Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways, The Descendants) offers a timely satire of male crisis and global inequality that morphs from high concept comedy into something wholly unexpected with the arrival of a hard-partying Serbian neighbour (Christoph Waltz) and a Vietnamese cleaning woman (Hong Chau).

See this if you liked: Stranger than Fiction

Time Out tagline: “Unhappy? Try a shrink.”

Call Me By Your Name
Foto: Cortesía FICM

5. Call Me By Your Name

5 out of 5 stars
Film Romance

Opens: Dec 26

The director of I Am Love and A Bigger Splash, Luca Guadagnino, working from a screenplay by veteran filmmaker James Ivory, offers a soaring, heartbreaking tale of coming out, based on André Aciman’s acclaimed 2007 novel. In the summer of 1983, the 17-year-old son of a professor of antiquities is swept off his feet by Oliver (Armie Hammer), the chiseled, charismatic grad student flown out by his father for a season of research.

See this if you liked: Carol

Time Out tagline: “Vote yes... to the year’s most seductive romance.”

Rebel Wilson and Anna Kendrick in Pitch Perfect 3
Photograph: © Universal Pictures / Quantrell D. Colbert

6. Pitch Perfect 3

Opens: Jan 1

It’s an Aussie showdown in the third and final a cappella comedy. Struggling with life in the real world after their college triumphs, the harmonising Bellas reunite to travel overseas for a USO tour, where they clash with another all-girl group led by Calamity (Ruby Rose). If the trailer is any indication, Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy will steal every scene, while the snarky judges (Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins) rip them all to shreds.   

See this if you liked: Pitch Perfect 2

Time Out tagline: “It’s time to cut the chords.”


7. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

4 out of 5 stars
Film Comedy

Opens: Jan 1

Irish playwright/filmmaker Martin McDonagh’s latest dark comedy is getting Frances McDormand some of the best reviews of her career. She plays a furious mum who seeks vengeance for the unsolved murder of her daughter. Her first tactic is a bit of public advertising, shaming the police for their inaction. Sam Rockwell, as a racist cop, is also getting Oscar buzz.

See it if you liked: In Bruges

Time Out tagline: “Justice advertises.”

8. Darkest Hour

4 out of 5 stars
Film Drama

Opens: Jan 11

Never in the field of Oscar contention has so much been owed by so many as to Gary Oldman. He’s only ever been nominated once (for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), but the UK veteran looks like a lock this year for his portrayal of indomitable UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill, during the early days of World War II when it seemed the country would fall to the Nazis. Ben Mendelsohn plays King George VI in the film, directed by Joe Wright (Atonement).

See it if you liked: Dunkirk

Time Out tagline: “Just when you thought it was safe to invade Britain…”

Tom Hanks and crew in The Post (2017)
Photograph: Niko Tavernise / 2017 Twentieth Century Fox

9. The Post

Opens: Jan 11

Steven Spielberg’s latest tackles the Washington Post and its 1971 decision to publish the classified Pentagon Papers (a government report revealing secrets about America’s involvement in Vietnam). Meryl Streep stars as publisher Katharine Graham; Tom Hanks is editor Ben Bradlee.

See it if you liked: All the President’s Men

Time Out tagline: “This just in: your government lied to you.”

Guy Pearce and Kylie Minogue in Swinging Safari
Photograph: Becker Film Group / Vince Valitutti

10. Swinging Safari

Opens: Jan 11

Stephan Elliott looks to finally match the popularity of Priscilla with an outrageous comedy about wife swapping and bad parenting, set in an Australian suburb during the 1970s. Guy Pearce, Kylie Minogue, Asher Keddie, Jeremy Sims, Radha Mitchell, Julian McMahon and Jack Thompson (natch) don the wigs, sideburns and paisley. The movie features a blue whale that washes up on the beach and begins decomposing; expect plenty of equally pungent social commentary in a film whose original title was Flammable Children.

See it if you liked: Don’s Party

Time Out tagline: “Welcome to the ’70s. Roll up the windows. Do not leave your vehicle.”


11. The Shape of Water

Film Fantasy

Opens: Jan 18

The new film from Guillermo del Toro is a gothic romance between a captive mer-man (Doug Jones) and the mute cleaning woman (Sally Hawkins) who works the night shift at the top-secret government research facility where he’s held captive in an aquarium. Set in the 1960s, the film is a cold war allegory that tackles segregation, sexuality and civil rights. It won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival.   

See it if you liked: Pan’s Labyrinth

Time Out tagline: “How deep is your love?”

Sweet Country
Photograph: Mark Rogers

12. Sweet Country

5 out of 5 stars
Film Drama

Opens: Jan 25

Warwick Thornton follows the triumphs of Samson & Delilah and We Don’t Need a Map with a hugely acclaimed outback western set in 1929. Bryan Brown plays a trooper on the trail of an Aboriginal stockman (Hamilton Morris) who has killed a white farmer in self-defence. Hailed as a classic drama of pursuit, this one shines a spotlight on racism in Australia.

See it if you liked: The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith

Time Out tagline: “Once upon a time in the Northern Territory…”

Phantom Thread Trailer Teaser Poster
Photograph: © Universal Pictures

13. Phantom Thread

Opens: Feb 1

Well, this sucks: Daniel Day Lewis says Phantom Thread will be his final film. But if the method acting great really retires from acting, he’s stacked the odds in favour of a worthy swansong, reteaming with Paul Thomas Anderson, who directed him in the masterful There Will Be Blood. Anderson’s original screenplay concerns a famous fashion designer in the 1950s who becomes involved with a strong-willed young woman (Luxembourg-born actor Vicky Krieps). Will Day-Lewis make history and go out with Oscar number four?

See it if you liked: Coco Avant Chanel

Time Out tagline: “He’s got the Oscar race all sewn up.”

14. Lady Bird

Film Comedy

Opens: Feb 15

Greta Gerwig’s first film as solo writer-director is a delightful, semi-autobiographical portrayal of her final year of high school in smalltown California in 2002. Saoirse Ronan is the rebellious title character, who enjoys a hilariously antagonistic relationship with her mum (Laurie Metcalf) and dreams of attending an East Coast college.

See it if you liked: The Edge of Seventeen

Time Out tagline: “In Sacramento, nobody can hear you scream.”  

Films screening in Melbourne now

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