It’s the first weekend in May, so you know what that means: it’s summer at the movies, actual calendar be damned. As with every May since 2007, this season begins this weekend with a big, bright, shiny, expensive new Marvel movie (this year’s model: Captain America: Civil War); over the next four months, we’ll see the expected rotation of sequels and remakes and reboots. But that’s not all bad news — some of them actually look promising, and for those that don’t, there are plenty of art-house alternatives. And thus, we present our look at the essential movies for the months ahead.
Money Monster (May 13): Jodie Foster steps into the director’s slot so rarely, it’s kind of an event when she does. This time, she’s got George Clooney as a Jim Cramer-style TV financial advisor and Julia Roberts as his producer, who finds herself in the hot seat when a disgruntled viewer turns a live broadcast into a hostage situation.
The Nice Guys (May 20): Back in 2005, superstar screenwriter Shane Black made his directorial debut with the wickedly funny and deliciously smart Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a great movie that hardly anyone saw thanks to a botched release strategy by Warner Brothers. This summer — thanks in no small part to Black’s fine work at the helm of Iron Man 3 — the writer/director and the studio will try for a do-over, with another self-aware buddy action/comedy that’ll hopefully find its audience a bit more easily.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (May 20): The original 2014 Neighbors was a welcome expansion of the bro-comedy playbook, thanks primarily to the wrinkles provided by the invaluable Rose Byrne and the lived-in, partners-in-crime nature of her onscreen marriage to co-star Seth Rogen. That movie didn’t exactly scream for a sequel, but what the hell — we’ll see what happens when the couple and frat buddy Zac Efron take on a sorority fronted by Chloë Grace Moretz, Selena Gomez, and Dope’s Kiersey Clemons. Oh, and did I mention Abbi Jacobson’s in it too?
X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27): We’re all feeling a touch of superhero burnout, but credit where due: Bryan Singer’s been turning out expertly crafted, intellectually rigorous, and reliably entertaining X-Men features since 2000. We’ll see soon enough if he’s still got the goods.
The Lobster (May 13): Dogtooth director Yorgos Lanthimos provides more of his special brand of light-hearted fun in this story of the seaside resort where desperate single people go to either find their mates or get turned into animals. It’s a comedy!
Love and Friendship (May 13): We’ve been screaming about this one since Sundance, so just to reiterate the bullet points: Whit Stillman, reuniting his Last Days of Disco stars Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny in a Jane Austen novella. Whaddaya need me to do here, draw you a map?
Weiner (May 20): Anthony Weiner’s 2013 run for mayor of New York City could’ve been a giant political comeback story. Instead, it was a stunning (and hilarious) how-low-can-you-go dance — and documentarians Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg captured the whole damn thing.
And Also: Lest you get too optimistic about this first summer month, don’t forget that May also gives us the filmed embodiment of everything that is terrible about current mainstream moviemaking, aka The Angry Birds Movie (May 20). And there’s also Alice Through the Looking Glass (May 27), in which poor James Bobin (The Muppets) is tasked with continuing Tim Burton’s inexplicably popular vandalization of Lewis Carroll’s classics.