"The cinema is not a slice of life, but a piece of cake," Alfred Hitchcock once said, and if that's true — and who are we to dispute the Master? — then summertime is when we gorge (unhealthily, most of the time, on ear-splitting smash-'em-ups and nerd-filled sex comedies). This year's summer movie season is sure to contain its share of brain goo — is that the march of angry robots we hear? — but there are more satisfying things on the menu, too. Gorging, we say, is good — it's the American way — but as we peruse the upcoming multiplex offerings, let's pledge to seek out the occasional rare delicacy. To help, we've narrowed down the season's gazillion releases, and what follows is our list of the best, most intriguing and most promising films. All dates are subject to change. Happy summer.
Away We Go (June 5)
Directed by Sam Mendes
Married novelists of staggering genius Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida team with Mendes (Revolutionary Road) to send pregnant newlyweds (John Krasinki and Maya Rudolph) on a sweetly comic road trip across America. Allison Janney, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Paul Schneider co-star as the friends and family (aka eccentrics) who offer the couple temporary refuge.
Séraphine (June 5)
Directed by Martin Provost
Yolande Moreau stars as the French painter Séraphine Louis, who worked as a servant girl before her gift for painting was discovered in 1912. Provost tracks Séraphine's fast rise and heartbreaking fall in a film that won seven César Awards (the French Oscars), including Best Picture and Best Actress.
Tetro (June 11)
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
In writing his first original screenplay since 1974's The Conversation, Coppola reportedly mined his own backstory for this tale of two brothers (Vincent Gallo and Alden Ehrenreich) trying to come to terms with their complex family history. Set in contemporary Buenos Aires, Tetro was filmed in black and white, a style Coppola last employed for 1983's Rumble Fish.
Food, Inc (June 12)
Directed by Robert Kenner
Movie-goers aren't likely to rush to the supermarket after seeing this disturbing exposé of the under-regulated, profit-mad American food industry. It's time to plant that garden.
Moon (June 12)
Directed by Duncan Jones
After three years alone on the moon, a spaceman of the near future (Sam Rockwell) begins hallucinating — and eventually wakes up to find that he's sharing the ship with an exact replica of...himself. This is the first feature for Jones, whose father (just so you know) is David Bowie.
Whatever Works (June 19)
Directed by Woody Allen
Allen returns to Manhattan after an extended European vacation and casts Larry David as a hypochondriac physicist whose spirits are lifted when he befriends and later weds a dippy twenty-year-old (Evan Rachel Wood). The film is reportedly based on a script Allen wrote thirty years ago; luckily, neuroticism is timeless.
$9.99 (June 19)
Directed by Tatia Rosenthal
New York animator Tatia Rosenthal traveled to Australia to make this acclaimed stop-motion comedy concerning the peculiar adventures of the residents of an Aussie apartment building, including two boys who've spent $9.99 (and not a penny more) on a book that promises the secret to life.
The Hurt Locker (June 26)
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Guy Pearce go to war in this intense drama about a bomb-defusing unit stationed in Baghdad at the height of the Iraq War. Look for cameos by Ralph Fiennes and David Morse.
Quiet Chaos (June 26)
Directed by Antonio Grimaldi
Nanni Moretti stars as an Italian film exec devastated by the death of his wife. Left to raise a ten-year-old daughter, the man finds himself unable to part from her and ends up spending his days in the park opposite her Rome school. Featuring Roman Polanski in a small role.
The Beaches of Agnès (July 1)
Directed by Agnès Varda
The renowned French filmmaker Varda (Vagabond), now eighty, continues her ongoing cinematic autobiography with this César Award-winning documentary. Using the world's beaches as both backdrop and metaphor, Varda recalls the important people of her life, including her late husband, filmmaker Jacques Demy, as well as rock star Jim Morrison.
Public Enemies (July 1)
Directed by Michael Mann
Johnny Depp is 1930s bank robber extraordinaire John Dillinger; Christian Bale is FBI super-agent Melvin Purvis, hot on his trail, tommy gun in hand. The director is Michael Mann (Miami Vice, Heat), who knows a thing or two about bad-guy/good-guy showdowns. Bullets will fly.
Brüno (July 10)
Directed by Larry Charles
Sacha Baron Cohen jettisons Borat for Brüno, a gay, hot-pants-wearing Australian fashion reporter. Beyond that, words fail us.
Humpday (July 10)
Directed by Lynn Shelton
It seemed like a fun idea at the time: Ben (Mark Duplass) and Andrew (Joshua Leonard), lifelong buds, get high at a party where they agree, in front of witnesses, to "do it" (with each other) for a sex-tape film festival. Their girlfriends are amused, and then...they're not.