Under the Radar: 8 must-see summer films!

Under the Radar: 8 must-see summer films!

Little Ashes
Opens: May 21, 2009
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Javier Beltran, Matthew McNulty and Marina Gatell

Since Twilight catapulted him into the unlikely (and largely unwanted) role of teen heartthrob – a position once occupied by Johnny and Leo and currently held by Zac Efron and those Jonas boys – Robert Pattinson more than owes his ever-ascending popularity to hysterical teenage girls. That his core fanbase are more likely interested in vampire message boards than surrealism suggests little Edward Cullen is looking to defy expectations by taking the art house route in the upcoming Little Ashes . Portraying the irreverent Spanish artist Salvador Dali, replete with moustache and man-on-man trysts, this film will certainly reveal if Pattinson is more than just a pretty face and introduce him to an older, potentially non-Twihard audience. He certainly wouldn't be the first to attempt the cult-to-culture transition and if you’re gonna do it, you may as well go for the gusto.

The Brothers Bloom
Opens: May 21, 2009
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Adrien Brody, Rachel Weisz and Rinko Kikuchi

With a stacked cast, the writer/director of the teenage film noir Brick and a premise that’s just whimsical enough to be charmingly absurd, The Brothers Bloom is destined to warm hearts and charm many a movie fan looking for comedy with a touch of pathos. The Brothers in question, Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody) have been working on their two-man swindles since they could hold a deck of cards. While Stephen thrives on devising one detailed heist after another, the more introverted Bloom wants out of the game but is convinced to complete one last con before he bows out. The problem? That one last mark is narcoleptic richie Penelope (an exceptionally loopy Weisz) and when Bloom develops romantic feelings for her, he's forced to re-evaluate his relationship with his brother in hilarious and unexpected ways.

Away We Go
Opens: June 12, 2009
Starring: John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Jeff Daniels, Catherine O’Hara

When you think of cutesy, navel-gazing mumblecore rom-coms, the director of American Beauty isn't the first name that comes to mind but Sam Mendes is the man behind Away We Go . John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph play a couple expecting their first child together who take to the open road in order to find the perfect place to start a family. Running into oddball characters and obtuse family members is a given but with acclaimed author Dave Eggers as one part of the screenwriting duo, resorting to stale cliches is highly unlikely. The supporting cast is also top-notch with the likes of Alison Janey, Jeff Daniels, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Catherine O'Hara and Paul Schneider helping to tell the tale of one couple's search for home.

Opens: July 10, 2009
Starring: Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Friend, Kathy Bates

From the director of The Queen and Dirty Pretty Things comes decidedly lighter fare in the form of this Michelle Pfeiffer period piece. An adaptation of two novels by the acclaimed French author Colette, Chéri tells the tale of a young man's (Rupert Friend) tumultuous relationship with the much-older Lea de Lonval (Pfeiffer) that becomes even more complicated when he's forced into an age-appropriate marriage by his pushy mother (Kathy Bates). The dialogue is peppered with witty quips and stinging one-liners and while the 1920's Paris setting translates to lush and lovely costumes, the repressive attitudes serve as a reminder that keeping up appearances often meant more than true love.

The Hurt Locker
Opens: July 24, 2009
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Guy Pearce, Evangeline Lily, Ralph Fiennes

It may seem like every war film these days describes itself as 'a realistic look at the front lines' but not always do they follow through on that promise. The Hurt Locker , however, might do just that. At the very least, Kathryn Bigelow's film might be the first film about the conflict in Iraq that really gets people talking. Its premiere at both the Venice and Toronto Film Fests last September led to heated critical debates that left audiences cheering and thinking. Since then the film, which focuses on members of a bomb-disposal team near the end of their rotation, has slowly built a steady wave of buzz. Will it live up to it? Let’s hope that even if it doesn't, it will at least get us talking.

500 Days of Summer
Opens: July 17, 2009
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel

Every summer needs an antidote to the action-adventure powerhouses that tend to crowd up the marquee and this film looks to be the perfect choice. Earning nods as the 'Best Film at Sundance' earlier this year, this anti-romantic romance marks the debut of director Marc Webb. Starring the extremely underrated Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the multi-talented and luminous Zooey Deschanel, the film tells the story of a writer who falls for his new colleague, Summer, on her first day of work. What comes next is a look at the subsequent year-and-a-half period the two lovers spend together. The trailer brings to mind the relationship ups and downs at the centre of Stanley Donen's Two for the Road (1967) and believe me when I say anything bringing to mind an Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney masterpiece is an extremely good thing.

Taking Woodstock
Opens: August 14, 2009
Starring: Demetri Martin, Liev Schreiber, Eugene Levy, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Emile Hirsch

In a summer filled with updated franchises and sequels galore, Ang Lee decided to go in a different direction and take us all back to 1969 and the Summer of Love. The movie boasts one of the most unlikely casts of the year - Demetri Martin, Imelda Staunton, Liev Schreiber, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Emile Hirsch and Eugene Levy (natch) - with Martin shouldering most of the film as Eliot Tiber, the young man who helps the Woodstock organizers land a permit and a venue. The question that you may be asking is can stand-up comedian Martin convincingly play both drama and comedy? Audiences at Cannes thought so as they greeted the end credits with cheers and a round of applause. So will summer audiences be as keen to embrace this nostalgic look back at a bygone era of peace and understanding? Given the current state of world affairs, I'm thinking an escape down memory lane is just what the doctor ordered.

Opens: july 31, 2009
Starring: Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher

The latest quirky New York-set romance, concerning a lonely, autistic man named Adam who develops a relationship with his upstairs neighbour, debuted at Sundance to rave reviews earlier this year. It may seem like a story that's been done to death - an unlikely partnership forms but are they strong enough to face society and stay together? - but this film has one thing going for it that earns it points straight out of the gate: Hugh Dancy. The role of Adam finally gives the supremely underused Brit enough material to shine not to mention it allows veteran scene-stealer Peter Gallagher (or as I like to call him, Sandy Cohen) to return to the big screen tasked with a challenging role of playing the overprotective father without devolving into cliche. One thing's for sure, in a summer lacking its fair share of romance, this quirky look at human connections might just be the ticket.

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