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Summer Movie Preview: Blockbusters vs. Indies, Part 1

Don't think the season is only about popcorn junk. There's plenty of small films to keep your brain running.
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    "Angry Birds," Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart in Woody Allen's "Cafe Society"|Rovio Animation, Amazon

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    It's love: Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe in "The Nice Guys" andParker Sawyers and|Warner Bros. Pictures, Roadside Attractions

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    Jonny Depp returns for "Alice Through the Looking Glass" while Kristen Stewart cha|Disney, A24

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    What's worse: the world of "Warcraft" or the repressed society of Jane Austen in "|Universal Pictures, Roadside Attractions

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    Liam Hemsworth battles aliens in "Independence Day: Resurgence" while Tom Hiddlest|Claudette Barius, Magnolia Pictures

There are a lot of movies opening this summer. We tend to think of the season as one of big, dumb blockbusters. But for every comic book movie or sequel or Kevin Hart movie, there’s a little movie well worth your time. So we’ve done the nice thing and paired the biggies with the indies, art house and other films without billion dollar ad campaigns.

RELATED: Interview: Anthony Mackie talks "Captain America" and growing up more into Hardy Boys than comics

‘Captain America: Civil War’ (May 6)/‘A Bigger Splash’ (May 6)
Common connection: Hanging with the gods

Believe it or not, there’s only one official Marvel film this summer, and it’s dropped right at the start. Ignore Cap’s name in the title: This is basically an Avengers movie, with many of America’s most beloved icons (plus Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye) getting into a royal rumble. But know who’s cooler than all of them? Tilda Swinton. Instead she’s in her own battle royale: In the Euro vacation pic “A Bigger Splash,” she plays a rocker nonplussed when her vacation is ruined by an old flame (Ralph Fiennes, and his penis).

‘Money Monster’ (May 13)/‘The Purge: Election Year’ (July 1)
Common connection: Lefty thrillers
Directed by no less than Jodie Foster, “Money Monster” imagines a hostage situation in which a Jim Cramer-type (George Clooney) is beset upon by a gun-toting viewer (Jack O’Connell) who lost his money on one of his bad recommendations. It’s really just a classier (and just as angry) version of the third in the junky “Purge” cycle, which this time pits a presidential Hillary stand-in (Elizabeth Mitchell) against the violent mobs getting their murder on.

‘The Angry Birds Movie’ (May 20)/‘Cafe Society’ (July 29)
Common connection: Established brands
You bought the app game for a couple bucks once, so how else are the “Angry Birds” people going to make their cash back? Make a super-sized cartoon with name voices, that’s how. There likely won’t be as many “AB” installments as there are in the Woody Allen machine, which this year hits its 47th film with a 1930s romance between Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg.

RELATED: Geek Girl in Hollywood: Can you keep spoilers out of the press?

‘Neighbors 2: Sorority Uprising’ (May 20)/‘Sunset Song’ (May 13)
Common connection: Young girls
Sorority chicks (led by Chloe Grace Moretz) are the noisemakers in the second title in the “Neighbors” Cinematic Universe. But young women aren’t always the baddies. Britain’s foremost maker of dreamy dips into the past, Terence Davies (“The Deep Blue Sea”), paints a retro portrait of a young Irish woman (ex-model Agyness Deyn) struggling with autonomy in early 1900s Scotland.

‘The Nice Guys’ (May 20)/‘Southside with You’ (Aug. 26)
Common connection: Romance
One of the great artists of the buddy movie actioner, Shane Black (author of “Lethal Weapon,” “The Last Boy Scout,” etc.) pairs Russell Crowe with Ryan Gosling for some jot-down-able, nasty one-liners. But, as usual, they’re really in love, as are pre-president Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson (Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter) in “Southside with You,” which reimagines the First Couple’s first sorta-date.

RELATED: Review: "A Bigger Splash" is some good, intoxicating wealth porn

‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ (May 27)/‘Captain Fantastic’ (July 8)
Common connection: Agents of destruction
Oscar Isaac is the blue meanie out to the blow up the world or something in the latest “X-Men” romp. He’s no good, and neither, for that matter, is Viggo Mortensen’s papa in the indie “Captain Fantastic,” who’s raised his six kids in the middle of nowhere, denying them contact with the outside world.

‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ (May 27)/‘Equals’ (July 15)
Common connection: Unreal people
Chasing one of the worst movies ever made, the Tim Burton-less sequel to his evisceration of Lewis Carroll brings back a world of so much ugly CGI that nothing is real. At least the indie sci-fi “Equals” is purposefully hollow, with Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult finding themselves in a dystopia that forbids feelings?

RELATED: Interview: Rob Reiner on directing his son's story of addiction with "Being Charlie"

'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows' (June 3)/ 'O.J.: Made in America' (May 20)
Common connection: I love the '80s/'90s

When it comes to the 2014 movie about nightmarishly hideous, pizza-loving, fighting reptiles, there was no way to go but up. So credit the sequel for going somwhere weird, too. Indeed, Tyler Perry is one of the villains and we may have hallucinated the presence of Laura Linney (Laura Linney!), too. But it's still mostly about nostalgia, though don't think the same thing about "O.J.: Made in America," which doesn't just piggyback on "The People vs. O.J. Simpson," though it's nearly as long. Running eight hours, this doc gets into all the nitty gritty. You can briefly see it on big screens before it hits TV.

‘The Conjuring 2’ (June 10)/‘Weiner’ (May 20)
Common connection: Horror movies
Director James Wan took a break between action movies (“Furious 7,” “Aquaman”) to scare the bejesus out of us again with the no-brainer sequel to his beautifully orchestrated 2013 nerve-wracker “The Conjuring.” Still, the real world is more terrifying than ghost stories, and few tales are more bone-chilling than that of would be-political savior Anthony Weiner, whose plight gets its own doc.

‘Warcraft’ (June 10)/‘Love & Friendship’ (May 13)
Common connection: Hostile grounds

A bunch of aggros battle it out in the inevitable “War of Warcraft” movie, which was at least helmed by David Bowie’s talented son Duncan Jones (“Moon”). But battling beasties have nothing on the polite, articulate undermining wealth monsters of Jane Austen, whose novella “Lady Jane” gets a hilariously quippy adaptation from the peerlessly droll Whit Stillman (“Metropolitian,” “The Last Days of Disco”).

RELATED: Review: "Dragon Inn" is a martial arts classic as beautiful as it is thrilling

‘Central Intelligence’ (June 17)/‘My King’ (Aug. 12)
Common connection: Bad relationships

For his latest inspired mispairing, Kevin Hart teams with Dwayne “We Should Still Call Him The Rock” Johnson. They’ll duke it out, but not like longtime marrieds Emmanuelle Bercot and Vincent Cassel do in director Maiwenn’s French relationship saga, about an opposites-attract couple who stick it out long after they should have quit.

‘Finding Dory’ (June 17)/‘The Lobster’ (May 13)
Common connection: The sea, the sea

It took 16 years, but Pixar finally followed up one of their more delightful outings, with Albert Brooks back in action with a forgetful Ellen DeGeneres. Parents will likely not take their kids to “The Lobster,” in which “Dogtooth” mastermind Yorgos Lanthimos paints a hilariously hellish alt-world where all the single people (including Colin Farrell and John C. Reilly) have 45 days to find a soulmate or they’ll be turned into an animal. As you do.

‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ (June 24)/‘High-Rise’ (May 13)
Common connection: All-star mayhem

Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman and bland old Liam Hemsworth battle some more aliens in the 20-years-later sequel to an endearingly dumb blockbuster. If you’re too respectable for that, why don’t you try the mad stab at J.G. Ballard’s classic novel “High-Rise,” in which Tom Hiddleston, Sienna Miller, Elisabeth Moss and more battle an arguable worse threat: the downfall of society, at least inside an apartment complex.

Tune in tomorrow when we present the back half of our Summer Movie Preview.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

 

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