This summer’s severely underrated films

These films from the midst of the summer heat succeed where mainstream Hollywood failed.


Photo Illustration by Kyle Kohler

Kyle Kohner, Writer

While most moviegoers were burning brain cells in the midst of the horrid hack show that was the Ghostbusters reboot and the disheartening “Suicide Squad,” these shrouded masterworks shine through the summer movie lull.

Swiss Army Man– Some claim this film is  “Weekend at Bernie’s” meets “Castaway”, but the Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano led ensemble contributes much more absurdity than the former and induces more anguish than the latter The movie centers around Radcliffe’s talking, decaying and farting corpse, forcing hypersensitive audiences to flee, but those who endure the whole film are treated to an immaculately written storyline produced by The Daniels. The score and soundtrack seamlessly blend into Dano and Radcliffe’s alluringly humorous dialogue, providing for a musical-like feel. This movie will remain branded into memory for many years, though it is unlikely to garner any Oscar nominations due to its absurd nature.

Kubo and the Two StringsLaika again succeeds in rendering heavily metaphoric and thought- provoking stop motion cinema with their latest release. Akin to previous productions “Paranorman” and “Coraline,” Laika Entertainment provides impeccably beautiful stop-motion animation. The film’s protagonist, Kubo, is infectiously heart warming in the midst of tragic loss, as is the accompanying voice acting of Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Rooney Mara and Ralph Fiennes. Kubo is an adventurous and engaging enough film for kids to enjoy but complex enough for film connoisseurs to analyze in detail.

The Little Prince– The highly anticipated Netflix original is simply magical. Director Mark Osborne adapts Antoine De Saint-Exupéry’s timeless novel and seamlessly tailors it into cinema. The monotonous Pixar-esque animation might seem jarring at first. However, when the stop-motion animation of the Little Prince, voiced by Paul Rudd, first is shown, the film’s parallel yet juxtaposed storylines are made clear. The star-studded voice acting is another reason to witness this art-house animation.

Tallulah– A much more serious and thoroughly-written film about motherhood than the horrid “Bad Moms,” “Tallulah” lends to its audience a touching plot line and showcases Ellen Paige in her most fleshed out role since “Juno.” Tallulah’s character development from a low-life teen to a motherly figure defeats all negative expectations of the plot.

Captain Fantastic– Once cast under the shadow of buried acting careers, Vigo Morrison re-emerges as an ultra-rural father who kept his family off the grid their whole lives. Ben Cash, played by Morrison, weaves through the pressures of giving his children the best life possible while displaying a nuanced exposé on today’s social norms. The social implications and Morrison’s performance alone are enough for the film to gain a large audience.

Lights OutDavid Sandberg’s breakout horror film is more family drama with scary undercurrents lingering behind commentary on mental illness than a traditional horror film. The female characters are not shallow and simple — in contrast with the unfortunate portrayal usually provided by many films in the same category. Teresa Palmer crushes the genre’s stigma of female roles with a compellingly clever performances.

The Phenom– The most relatable sports film in years. Drama does not generate through a pitcher’s curveball at the bottom of the ninth inning. Instead, drama becomes apparent through the tortured mind of an anxious major league rookie pitcher dealing with the effects of a tormented childhood by his abusive father, played by Ethan Hawke.

Sea of TreesGus Van Sant’s drama “Sea of Trees” was incredibly unpopular back in 2015 at the Cannes Film Festival. With its nationwide release in late August, the reviews stagnated into a plethora  of criticism. “Sea of Trees” is criminally underrated. Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe’s cathartic performances stand up to criticisms of emotional platitudes. Van Sant’s drama is a beautiful story with a narrative commenting upon life’s most difficult moments and finding the courage to persevere. Why a film with so many heart-wrenching scenes was ridiculed at the Cannes Film Festival will remain a mystery.

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