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 adaptation or sequel or Kevin Hart vehicle, there’s a little movie well worth your time. So we’ve paired the biggies with the indies, art house and other films without billion-dollar ad campaigns. This is for the back half of the season; for our first part, click here.
‘The BFG’ (July 1)/‘Swiss Army Man’ (June 24)
Common connection: Friendship
Steven Spielberg drags his “Bridge of Spies” Oscar-winner Mark Rylance into the whimsical but mordant world of Roald Dahl, for this mostly nice tale of a little girl who happens upon an enormous friend. Meanwhile, Paul Dano makes a pal of his own in the Sundance shocker “Swiss Army Man.” It just turns out to be a farting corpse (Daniel Radcliffe).
‘The Legend of Tarzan’ (July 1)/‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ (June 24)
Common connection: Into the wild
Unseen on screen since a 2013 Kellan Lutz movie you didn’t know existed, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ shirtless man-ape returns for a swanky spectacular, starring super tall Alexander Skarsgaard and Margot Robbie as Jane. Or there’s “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” in which Sam Neill and a kid get lost in the New Zealand bush, from the terrific Taika Waititi (“What We Do in the Shadows”).
‘Ghostbusters’ (July 15)/‘Wiener-Dog’ (June 24)
Common connection: Reboots (of sorts)
Men’s Rights Activists are pissed about the all-girl “Ghostbusters,” though that also means they have bad taste. Despite the meh trailer, you can probably trust director Paul Feig ("Bridesmaids," "Spy") knows what he's doing. He’s returning to a beloved series, while in “Wiener” Todd Solondz resurrects his “Welcome to the Dollhouse” punching bag Dawn Wiener, who is now played by Greta Gerwig.
‘Star Trek Beyond’ (July 22)/‘Indignation’ (July 29)
Common connection: The past comes back
Despite being brain-drained, the “Star Trek” series still improbably brings back a Vietnam-era classic, even if now it’s about 80 percent action, 20 percent deep thought. Speaking of life during old wartime, Philip Roth gets another movie: a look at repressed New Jersey circa the Korean War, from his 2008 novel.
‘Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie’ (July 22)/‘Fathers and Daughters’ (July 8)
Common connection: The struggles of parenthood
Edina and Patsy finally make it to the big screen, surely worse for wear and still tormenting the former’s daughter, Saffron. At least the dad played by Russell Crowe in the drama “Fathers and Daughters” is trying: He's raising his daughter in the wake of her mother’s death, and the film jumps 27 years to see how she grew up (to be played by Amanda Seyfriend, for one).
‘Jason Bourne’ (July 29)/‘De Palma’ (June 10)
Common connection: Fighting the system
Guess who else is back: Matt Damon’s super-freak assassin, taking back the mantle after Jeremy Renner couldn’t cut it. Once again he’ll fight a government wing trying to rein him in. Know who else is also fighting the man? Filmmaker Brian De Palma, whose controversial (but sometimes hit) films (“Carrie,” “The Untouchables,” “Blow Out”) get a deep dive in this doc from superfans Noah Baumbach and Jake Kasdan.
‘Suicide Squad’ (Aug. 5)/‘The Neon Demon’ (June)
Common connection: Dangerous monsters
A comic book “Dirty Dozen,” DC’s squad of anti-heroes get what looks like a pretty nuts film, with Will Smith, Margot Robbie and more trying to save the world — if they don’t destroy it first. But whatever: Even they aren’t as nasty as the aspiring models in Nicolas Winding Refn’s stylish “The Neon Demon,” in which Elle Fanning takes on Christina Hendricks and some serious porno lighting.
‘Pete’s Dragon’ (Aug. 12)/‘Florence Foster Jenkins’ (Aug. 12)
Common connection: Make-believe
A boy swears his best friend is a dragon in the loose adaptation not-quite-remake of “Pete’s Dragon,” which was helmed by no less than David Lowery of the arty drama “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.” A flying monster is more likely than the talents of infamous socialite Florence Foster Jenkins (played by Meryl Streep), who used her wealth to ensure an opera career — despite sounding like ten thousand fingernails on chalkboards.
‘War Dogs’ (Aug. 19)/‘Maggie’s Plan’ (May 20)
Common connection: Foolish decisions
Jonah Hill and Miles Teller play kids in the arms business in the stranger-than-fiction “War Dogs,” which was helmed by the guy who made “Old School” and “The Hangover” (Todd Phillips). That’s dumb, as is, one could say, Greta Gerwig's decision to flirt with a married man (Ethan Hawke) while planning her in-vitro pregnancy in the latest from Rebecca Miller, daughter of Arthur.
‘Ben-Hur’ (Aug. 19)/‘Last Days in the Desert’ (May 13)
Common connection: Jesus Christ
Multiplexes have been bombarded with grating religious fare these last few months. Here are two alternatives. On one extreme there’s the big budget, roided-up redo of “Ben-Hur,” which at least features a little J.C. On the other is a hypnotic, pensive indie (“Last Days in the Desert”), in which Jesus (or, rather, “Yeshuah”) himself (Ewan McGregor) observes the crumbling of a family.
‘Mechanic: Resurrection’ (Aug. 26)/‘Genius’ (June 10)
Common connection: Geniuses
August is less of a dumping ground than it once was, but the last weekend before summer is eternally the pits. As such, it’s a perfect space for the latest Jason Statham, our latest remaining old school badass. He’s this century’s Charles Bronson, so naturally he’s in a sequel to a remake of a Bronson jalopy: returning as a cucumber-cool assassin, though he’s got no less than Tommy Lee Jones and Michelle Yeoh backing him up. Oh, and you know who else was a genius? Max Perkins, the storied book editor whose clients included Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, played by Statham's fellow Englishman Colin Firth. But could he take out a bunch of guys with only his fists, his feet and a firehose? Probably not.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter@mattprigge