Summer Flicks

In the past, this time of the year was reserved exclusively for big-action films, with musclemen and comic book heroes dominating the summer screen. Not so much anymore: the choices are more varied. Here’s a look at some of the standouts that await you this summer at Valley theaters.

Dunkirk

Getting a lot of awards “buzz” is the newly-released film Dunkirk.  A New York Times critic recently called the film a “tour de force” and “brilliant.”

Directed by Christopher Nolan, the film stars Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh as British soldiers caught up in the evacuation from the French beach at the beginning of World War II.

As much action thriller as it is historical drama, the film depicts the 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk from several perspectives: air, land and sea. Hundreds of thousands of allied soldiers were battling with German troops near the French city of Dunkirk. The allied soldiers were under great risk of being killed or captured. During just several days, an evacuation effort took place as many small civilian boats bravely crossed the English Channel to help more than 300,000 soldiers escape danger.

The Big Sick

Billed as “an awkward true story,” the movie is based on the real-life courtship between Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, The Big Sick tells the story of Pakistan-born aspiring comedian Kumail Nanjiani, who connects with grad student Emily Kazan after one of his standup sets.

However, what they thought would be just a one-night stand blossoms into the real thing, which complicates the life that is expected of Kumail by his traditional Muslim parents.

When Emily is beset with a mystery illness, it forces Kumail to navigate the medical crisis with her parents, Beth and Terry, played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, whom he’s never met, while dealing with the emotional tug-of-war between his family and his heart.

The Dark Tower

In a year well stocked for Stephen King fans, an adaptation of his 1986 novel It creeps into cinemas this September and a TV version of The Mist is on the way. But first comes a sci-fi fantasy based on the author’s The Dark Tower novels. Scheduled to be released on August 4, the film stars Idris Elba as the Gunslinger, a mysterious figure on a quest to stop Matthew McConaughey’s Man in Black from destroying both his and our realities.

Maudie

The British actress Sally Hawkins delivers a powerful performance in this film biography about Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis, who despite a difficult life — resulting from childhood rheumatic fever, Lewis suffered great pain from rheumatoid arthritis — channeled joy and whimsy into her paintings of animals and the Nova Scotian landscape.

Ethan Hawke co-stars as her reserved fisherman husband, whose traditional values gradually give way to allow for a more modern, if unconventional, partnership. This is the story of two lonely, societal outcasts who find comfort and solace with each other.

Logan Lucky

Ocean’s 11 director Steven Soderbergh returns to filmmaking after a four-year hiatus. Now he is at the helm of a heist comedy caper from first-time screenwriter Rebecca Blunt.

Scheduled to be released in mid-August, Logan Lucky stars Adam Driver, Channing Tatum and Riley Keough as three siblings from a down-on-their-luck blue-collar family who plan to pull off a $14 million robbery during a Nascar road race in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The film also features Hilary Swank, Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterston and Sebastian Stan. In his first post-Bond role, Daniel Craig plays an eccentric explosives expert.

The Beguiled 

Sofia Coppola’s movie adaptation of Thomas P. Cullinan’s Civil War novel won the director’s prize at the Cannes Film Festival this past May. First filmed in 1971 by Don Siegel, Coppola’s version, titled The Beguiled, has a more gentle, feminine touch. It’s far less gruesome, yet robust, delivered with enjoyable and humorous storytelling.

Colin Farrell is cast as a wounded Union deserter who finds himself begging for help at an all-girls’ school in Confederate territory. Nicole Kidman plays the role of the school’s headmistress along with Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning as his conflicted saviors.

Tulip Fever

Set in 17th Century Amsterdam at the height of the Tulip Wars, an orphaned girl, portrayed by Alicia Vikander, is forcibly married to a rich and powerful merchant, played by Christoph Waltz. This unhappy “arrangement” saves her from poverty.

After her husband commissions a portrait, she begins a passionate affair with the painter, a struggling young artist portrayed by Dane DeHaan. Seeking to escape the merchant’s ever-reaching grasp, the lovers risk everything and enter the frenzied tulip bulb market, with the hope that the right bulb will raise them money to buy their freedom.

Tulip Fever will open in Valley theaters on August 25.