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Maggie (May 8th)
Henry Hobson’s feature debut offers a refreshingly humanist spin on the zombiepocalypse craze as Arnold Schwarzenegger ditches the rifles and rocket launchers to play what may very well be his most daring role to date: a scared, small town father trying to save his infected daughter (Abigail Breslin) from zombie infestation. Sure, it’s a bit jarring to see Schwarzenegger ditch the hard-bodied shtick and play earnest, but he delivers a fine and affecting performance. And the film, which excels as a dark stomach-knotter, an atmospheric portrait of heartland Americana, and a moving meditation on the delicate bonds between parent and child, more than keeps up with him.
Good Kill (May 15th)
Writer-director Andrew Niccol may be best-known for his splashy, eggheaded sci-fi work like the critical hit Gattaca and the all-around miss In Time, but Good Kill finds Niccol working in a different register entirely. Starring his Gattaca leading man Ethan Hawke, Niccol's latest is a smart yet atypically subtle war movie that isn’t concerned with earth-shattering explosions or savage combat, but rather the prosaic, day-to-day situations of a Vegas-based drone pilot who finds the moral strife of his stationary duty beginning to take a toll on his sanity and the well-being of his exasperated wife (January Jones) and children. Good Kill is a tense, thoughtfully-made psychological study of a war-torn mind and it is exactly the movie needed for our currently fraught political climate.
Slow West (May 15th)
Scottish writer-director John Maclean takes us on a majestic, mysterious period odyssey in his feature debut Slow West, which follows a Scottish noble boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) as he embarks upon a treacherous journey through Manifest Destiny Colorado to find his lost love. Go for the invigoratingly weird blend of era-specific elegy, sordid Old West travelogue, and slow-burning absurdity, stay for Ben Mendelsohn expertly doing his slimy-sinister stuff, and then go again for Michael Fassbender as a wise but weary fellow traveler-cum-bounty hunter who’s very into wearing long johns. So, basically, go for Fassbender’s long johns.
Aloft (May 22nd)
Peruvian filmmaker Claudia Llosa directs Jennifer Connelly, Cillian Murphy, and Mélanie Laurent in this ambitious, ethereal parable, her first film since the Foreign-Language Oscar-nominee The Milk of Sorrow and Llosa’s first English-language feature. In Aloft, Llosa presents a decades-spanning, duel-narrative familial drama between a woman-in-crisis (Connelly) and the anxious, abandoned son (Murphy) who’s desperate to find her, transplanting it into a dreamy, frosted winter landscape that is by turns bleak and beguiling. Boldly acted and quietly subversive in its muted storytelling, Aloft is a mystical exploration of blood ties and spiritual beliefs, full of dazzling, ice-bound visuals and soaring, transcendental peaks.
The Wolfpack (June 12th)
This homegrown documentary started to gain traction after winning a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and the buzz just keeps growing following its New York premiere at TFF2015. Debut documentarian Crystal Moselle immerses us in the strange but captivating world of the Angulos, a self-described “wolfpack” of brothers who have been locked away from the outside world in a Lower East Side apartment by their overprotective father and spend their days watching and re-enacting their favorite movies, which remain their only contact with society. Moselle doesn’t shy away from the iffy implications behind the brothers’ long captivity, but this is not a film about victims. Instead, Moselle, in creative collaboration with the Angulo brothers, has crafted a film that is risky, imaginative, and unpredictable, by turns painfully private and triumphantly universal. Of all the titles on this list, The Wolfpack may have the most difficulty finding a self-selecting cinematic audience, but I'd say it's the one film here that, frankly, cannot be missed.
The Overnight (June 19th)
From writer-director Patrick Brice and executive producers the Duplass Brothers, this ribald and uproarious comedy of marriage, manners, and manhood made a lot of noise at Sundance back in February and continued raising eyebrows at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. The Overnight follows Alex and Emily (Parks and Recreation’s Adam Scott and Orange is the New Black’s Taylor Schilling), two LA transfers who soon find themselves coaxed out of their marital plateau through the alluring efforts of an enigmatic neighborhood couple (Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche) during the oddest, funniest, and sexiest playdate in cinematic memory.
Jimmy’s Hall (July 3rd)
Ken Loach is the type of widely-respected, ever-prolific longtime filmmaker whose projects seem to automatically reserve themselves a yearly seat at Cannes’ competition table. This repetition doesn’t make the films any less essential or coveted, as Jimmy’s Hall, Loach’s latest title and (reportedly) his last narrative feature, is sure to prove as it arrives stateside more than a year after premiering at Cannes 2014 and just months after making its North American debut at Tribeca. The film depicts the life of James Gralton (Barry Ward), a communist leader who returns home to Ireland in 1932 following a ten-year exile with hopes of re-opening his town’s titular dance hall, which was once a community meeting place and a forum for Gralton’s leftist politics. Jimmy’s Hall isn’t exactly re-inventing the wheel but it does offer up a charming, layered, and politically-sensitive night at the movies, presented to us by a naturalist master whom more modern-day moviegoers should get to know.
All Work All Play (July 21st)
For those who love Warcraft and Frederick Wiseman, All Work All Play offers a rare, multimedia experience that combines the behind-the-scenes immersion of non-fiction moviemaking with the spine-tingling excitement of a live sports event. In the film, director Patrick Creadon charts the stratospheric rise of the popular pro-gaming phenomenon eSports, in which thousands of the best gamers from all around the globe gather in packed arenas to play tournaments and vie for victory in the Intel Extreme Masters Championship. All Work All Play, which screened in Work-in-Progress form at TFF2015, is set to premiere in a number of special hybrid-event screenings across North America starting on July 21st, followed by live gaming broadcasts after the movie. Advanced tickets can be found here.
Grandma (August 21st)
As Elle Reid, an aging, listless feminist poet trying to rummage up the necessary cash for her teenage granddaughter’s abortion, Lily Tomlin applies her legendarily oddball charisma and gloriously rubber face to her first leading role in ages, unfussily fusing brittle comedy with gentle, re-awakened compassion like the peerless pro she is. She is the raison d’être of this worthy, well-acted indie, leading a cast that also includes Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, and a particularly involving Sam Elliott as an embittered blast from Elle's past. For those of us who believe that Tomlin is an exceptional if frustratingly underutilized national treasure -- and who doesn’t, exactly? -- Grandma is our godsend.