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2016 Summer Movie Preview: 20 Foreign, Offbeat and Extreme New Movies To See This Season

2016 Summer Movie Preview: 20 Foreign, Offbeat and Extreme New Movies To See This Season

All this week, Indiewire will be rolling out our annual Summer Preview, including offerings that span genres, a close examination of various trends and special attention to all the new movies you need to get through a jam-packed summer movie-going season. Check back every day for a new look at the best the season has to offer, and clear your schedule, because we’re going to fill it right up.

READ MORE: Indiewire’s Complete 2016 Summer Movie Preview

“Elstree 1976,” May 6

There’s a special subset of documentaries based on the premise of a group of people collectively revisiting an experience that, at the time, seemed insignificant. In the case of “Elstree 1976,” that group is a handful of actors and actresses who played minor roles in the original “Star Wars.” From the man in the Greedo suit to stormtroopers to Mos Eisley waitresses to X-Wing pilots to David Prowse himself, they each relate their moment in sci-fi lore to the life events that preceded it. For the career actors, it’s almost just as exciting to see them flit through other bits of 70s cinema (a Kubrick classic, “Superman” and “Rollerball” all make cameos as well). The behind-the-scenes “Star Wars” anecdotes are nice for enthusiasts, but the extra focus on the tension in the film’s greater fanverse make it an interesting look at a specific kind of fame. -Steve Greene

“Dheepan,” May 6

With Cannes on the horizon, it’s an ideal time for last year’s Palme d’Or winner to take a trip through stateside theatres. Jacques Audiard’s window into Sri Lankan immigrants living in France features a pair of passionate performances at its center from Jesuthasan Antonythasan and Kalieaswari Srinivasan. Telling the story of a man and woman posing as husband and wife while trying to provide for the young girl who afforded them the opportunity to leave the country’s civil war, Audiard switches between the real and the metaphoric, pairing slow-motion shots of elephants with exteriors of Parisian apartment buildings that literally dwarf the subjects walking below. In its quieter moments, it’s a carefully crafted look at one man working to transcend his grief and the community he tries to help foster in a strange place. Repeated shots of falling objects hint at the impact to come, but watching the film float towards its climax is the biggest reward here. -SG

“High-Rise,” May 13

“High-Rise” crashes in a series of grisly encounters as the power structures fall to pieces, but it never ceases to deliver a series of wildly enjoyable sights and sounds. Ben Wheatley nicely contemporaries the material with a rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack (which includes the appropriate choice of ABBA’s “SOS,” among others) while allowing Ballard’s original dialogue to carry the ideas. Chief among them is the observation that the “High-Rise” ensemble has been “thriving like an advanced species in the neutral atmosphere,” a poetic concept that speaks to the heightened fantasy that carries the hectic narrative along. -Eric Kohn

“The Lobster,” May 13

Many people will call Yorgos Lanthimos a member of the “Greek Weird Wave,” and that’s because he makes ambitiously oft-kilter movies like “The Lobster.” Set in a future where society highly values relationships over everything else, this wicked slice of romantic satire centers around an architect (Colin Farrell) who checks into a hotel after his wife leaves him. Slowly but surely, Lanthimos builds the twisted world of his film with a dark sense of humor you’ll never forget. You see, the hotel is something of a dating service, and each resident has but 45 days to find a companion or else they’ll be transformed into an animal of their choosing. It’s a premise Lanthimos navigates with tonal twists and plenty of plot surprises. Make sure you have a reservation for this strange and wonderful indie. -Zack Sharf

“Sunset Song,” May 13

A new film from English auteur Terence Davies (“The Long Day Closes”) is always a cause for celebration, and that’s especially true of “Sunset Song,” the filmmaker’s long long-awaited passion project. Adapted from Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s 1932 novel of the same name and set in the years just before World War I, this beautifully bucolic melodrama stars Agyness Deyn (“Clash of the Titans”) as a Scottish farm girl who’s torn between the history of her homeland and the hope of a distant future. Gibbon and Davies are a match made in heaven, and Deyn — who’s had a tough go of transitioning from the fashion runway to the screen — delivers a breakout performance for the ages. -David Ehrlich

“Presenting Princess Shaw,” May 27

There was never any doubt that “Catfish” was just the tip of the iceberg, both for Internet identity hoaxes or for the documentaries that would inevitably be made about them. Director Ido Haar stumbled upon another doozy with the wild story of Samantha Montgomery (a.k.a. Princess Shaw), a cash-strapped New Orleans woman who works as a caregiver for the elderly by day and performs original songs for her virtually ignored YouTube channel by night. But while Princess’ audience might be small, it only takes one listener to turn everything around…as she learned when a (very popular) artist on the other side of the planet began mixing her vocals into his viral music hits. Their story is too strange to be fiction, but Haar mines it for a number of compelling questions about identity and ownership in an age when everyone is connected. -DE

“Chevalier,” May 27

Over the course of “Chevalier,” friendships are indeed tested, gossip circulates and flaws are scrutinized, all within the confines of the boat. The minimalist setting fits a premise so tightly contained that it constantly threatens to become overly precocious. Instead, Athina Rachel Tsangari maintains an impressive grasp of each man’s oddball tendencies, yielding a fascinating — if occasionally meandering — study of competitive spirit. -EK

“Swiss Army Man,” June 24 (NY/LA), July 1 (nationwide)

There has never been a plot point quite like [this] in the history of cinema, but that’s not the only outrageous gag offered up here; the Daniels use it as a starting point for the strangest buddy comedy ever made. Finding himself newly marooned in a forest, Hank drags Manny through the vacant brush, singing the occasional song — the bubbly a cappella soundtrack was written exclusively for the movie — while gradually figuring out ingenious ways to use Manny’s body as a resource. His Rube Goldberg-like inventiveness finds him ricocheting string from the body’s gullet to scrounge up cliffs and staying hydrated from the water that streams out from Manny’s mouth. Then somehow Manny gradually comes to life — at least, a little bit, twitching his cheeks just enough to communicate, though he shows no signs of knowing anything about the world. -EK

“The Purge: Election Year,” July 1

The original “The Purge” was a curious case in contradictions. Despite the conventional home-intruder film that the original became, there was the intriguing (if unexplored) world-building promise of franchise fodder. Exploring how different areas of society would react to an anarchic idea of legalized crime for one night every year birthed “The Purge: Anarchy,” a generally better-regarded sequel that benefited greatly from planting Frank Grillo firmly at the center of the chaos. Now Grillo’s back again, giving a connective main character tissue through separate installments for the first time in the series. Throw in veteran character actors like Mykelti Williamson, Raymond J. Barry (no dystopian allegory is complete without an impromptu “Justified” Season 3 reunion!) and Elizabeth Mitchell and this could become an election year cash-in that’s actually close to tolerable. -SG

“Our Little Sister,” July 8

Hirokazu Kore-eda (“Still Walking,” “After Life”) was once pegged as Japanese cinema’s true successor to the legendary Yasujiro Ozu. But while recent films like “I Wish” and “Like Father, Like Son” have found him narrowing in on the same domestic territory that Ozu excavated so well, they’ve also seen him embracing an unabashed sentimental streak that has more in common with Steven Spielberg than it does the man who coined the pillow shot. “Our Little Sister” is nothing if not a harmonious middle ground between those two reference points. The story of a 14-year-old girl who moves in with her three half-sisters after their father’s death, “Our Little Sister” is a gentle and episodic drama that observes an estranged group of women thawing into a family over the course of a calendar year. Slowly snowballing into an affecting portrait of home, it’s the perfect movie for a long summer afternoon when you want the world to slow down enough for you to savor it. -DE

“Life, Animated,” July 8

Roger Ross Williams’ crowdpleasing documentary boasts a true-life story that sounds both too fantastic and too fantastical to believe. The film follows the story of Owen Suskind, a young autistic man who unexpectedly finds his voice and a new way to communicate with his family through his love of animated Disney movies. Suskind’s story is unique, special and often unexpected, and Williams’ tender and clever treatment of the material is one of the most charmingly offbeat features hitting the big screen this summer. Let this one surprise you. -KE

“Lights Out,” July 22

If you have three minutes to spare (and would like to spend the rest of your work day huddled in a corner) take a quick gander at David F. Sandberg’s short of the same name. Just a few years removed from “Lights Out” playing on the festival circuit, Warner Bros. now has a feature-length version of the story ready for this summer, with Sandberg back at the helm. No longer a one-woman show, the cast includes Teresa Palmer, Maria Bello and Billy Burke. With online content becoming more and more condensed, this will be an interesting case study to see if micro-stories like this can successfully make the jump to studio big screens. -SG

“Nine Lives,” August 5

Kevin Spacey is at the height of his powers these days as Frank Underwood on Netflix’s massively popular “House of Cards,” and his skills as a performer can even save an uneven film like this spring’s “Elvis and Nixon,” but his next movie is so strange and so offbeat that we’re not even sure what to really make of it. “Nine Lives” finds Spacey playing a major businessman who gets turned into a cat on his way to his daughter’s eleventh birthday party. If he doesn’t mend his relationships with his loved ones in a week, he’ll be turned into a cat forever. Of all the movies coming out this summer, this has got to be the weirdest, especially since legendary director Barry Sonnenfeld is at the helm. -ZS

“Florence Foster Jenkins,” August 12

Let’s be honest: This film is on this list for one reason and it rhymes with “Barrel Creep.” The story of a socialite chasing a singing career despite no discernible musical talent is tough to imagine as anything other than harmless fluff. And, despite some impressive entries in his filmography, director Stephen Frears hasn’t had a stellar recent track record. But having Meryl Streep as the headliner always brings wild-card potential. This has the makings of a “Julie & Julia” Pt. II, with the actress bringing an unexpected level of pathos to an otherwise pre-ordained role. Amidst the gloominess of bigger-budget blockbuster fare, this could be a welcome ray of thoughtful sunshine. -SG

“Pete’s Dragon,” August 12

It’s hard to peg David Lowery’s latest effort as anything but “offbeat,” if only because the idea of the respected indie jack-of-all-trades taking on such a beloved, gentle property for his “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” followup seems too strange to imagine. And yet, Disney appears to be set on going the auteur route from now on, with Lowery rumored to be taking on “Peter Pan” next and Alex Ross Perry (Alex Ross Perry!!) on board to make “Winning the Pooh” (what a world). Lowery’s “Dragon” looks a touch straightforward (kid, dragon, etc. ), but we’re expecting he’s got to have something up his sleeves to turn this new version of the old story into something unique. -Kate Erbland

“Sausage Party,” August 12

With international foods filling nearly every scene, “Sausage Party” offers the kind of all-inclusive stereotyping that only succeeds in the hands of comics willing to take on the brash risk. Random gags range from protestors claiming “God hates figs,” goose-stepping Nazi Sauerkraut, and a Middle Eastern pita eager to get his “77 virgin olive oils.” The crassest figure might be Salma Hayek as the seductive lesbian Teresa Taco — that is, if it weren’t for the sage-like Firewater, who speaks like an anachronistic Native American stereotype as he enlightens the foods to the reality of their situation (and also complains about being driven away from his aisle by “a bunch of crackers”). -EK

“The Space Between Us,” August 19

The world could always use a little more original science fiction, and that’s doubly true during a summer that threatens the likes of “Independence Day: Resurgence.” So give a warm welcome to “The Space Between Us,” which finds “Serendipity” director Peter Chelsom reaching way out of his comfort zone for a story about a 16-year-old boy (Asa Butterfield) who grows up on Mars, falls in love with his earthling pen pal, and sets off on a journey to see her. The teaser trailer seems to be selling a very different movie (with some shoddy CG), but a supporting cast of Britt Robertson, Gary Oldman, Carla Gugino and more could help more the film to a more recognizably human core. So far as sci-fi spectaculars starring Asa Butterfield are concerned, it can’t be worse than “Ender’s Game.” -DE

“Kubo and the Two Strings,” August 19

With Studio Ghibli on indefinite hiatus and Pixar having lost a fair bit of their former luster, there’s an argument to be made that Laika is currently the greatest animation studio in the world. From their Oregon headquarters, these stop-motion wizards have created a trio of treasures that can stand with the best of what the medium has to offer. Now, hot on the heels of “Coraline,” “Paranorman” and “The Boxtrolls,” Laika returns with their most ambitious movie to date. Set in ancient Japan, “Kubo and the Two String”  is a gorgeously crafted adventure about a young boy who’s being terrorized by a vengeful spirit, and must journey to find his dead father’s magical suit of armor in order to fight back. Given that the film sports a cast of predominately white voices — including Charlize Theron as a monkey, Matthew McConaughey as a beetle and Rooney Mara as a pack of spooky sisters — Laika might be inviting unnecessary controversy, but there’s no denying that “Kubo” looks like a true work of art. -DE

“War Dogs,” August 19

Todd Phillips became the king of the R-rated comedy after “The Hangover” in 2009, but the blockbuster success of that project was just as much a curse as it was a blessing, keeping Phillips attached at the franchise’s hip for two cash-grabbing sequels. Fortunately, Phillips is finally free of “The Hangover,” and his reintroduction to moviegoers is the outrageous-looking new comedy “War Dogs.” Starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller (who both seem capable of handling the dark and strange comedy Phillips is known for), the film is based on the true story of two arms dealers who face danger abroad after securing a $300 million government contract to supply weapons for U.S. allies in Afghanistan. The timing couldn’t be more perfect for a comedy with a rough political edge, so here’s hoping “War Dogs” has what it takes to bring Phillips back to the top of the comedy charts. -ZS

“Mechanic: Resurrection,” August 26

Late August is never a particularly promising time to release a sequel to a C-grade action movie that was itself a remake of a 1972 Charles Bronson vehicle, but Jason Statham doesn’t give a shit about any of that. Jason Statham doesn’t owe you anything. Jason Statham delivered one of 2015’s greatest comic performances in “Spy,” and one of 2015’s greatest inadvertent comic performances in “Furious 7.” Jason Statham doesn’t play by your stupid ninny rules. Jason Statham wants to travel around the world assassinating people and making all of his kills look like accidents, and that’s exactly what Jason Statham is going to do. And guess what? That’s right: Tommy Lee Jones is going to do it with him. Congratulations, America, you’re getting two Easters this year, because the summer is going to end with a glorious “Resurrection.” -DE

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