The U.S. summer movie season kicks off at the Cannes Film Festival, in the south of France. Hey, why not? Whether you're excited about the latest chapter in the Star Wars franchise or tales of a crime family dynasty, there are some compelling stories gracing the big screen this summer. Hollywood could certainly use some. The domestic box office was flat last year, and this year's megahits Avengers: Infinity Wars and Black Panther are masking weakness further down the studio slates. There's even a business lesson or two mixed in with entertainment.
1. Solo: A Star Wars Story
Han Solo (played by Alden Ehrenreich) is no stranger to cinema, but the adventure-seeking pilot's stand-alone flick will premiere in Cannes ahead of its U.S. release. The movie portrays Solo's early days, from teaming up with Chewbacca to encountering the infamous smuggler Lando Calrissian (played by Donald Glover). Don't scoff at taking leadership lessons from Star Wars, there's a lot to be said about negotiating with difficult humans (and other beings) and sticking to your principles in the face of conflict.
2. Birds of Passage
The latest feature from director Ciro Guerra and his wife, producer Christina Gallego, is advertised as "the origin story of the drug trade," chronicling of the rise of the Colombia drug business. The story is told from the perspective of an indigenous crime family dynasty as they navigate the sometimes lethal hardships of their illegal business. The movie has received glowing reviews for breathing fresh air into the stale drug story genre.
3. Fahrenheit 451
Based on the 1953-novel by Ray Bradbury, HBO Films brought the classic dystopian world to life with star power, including Michael B. Jordan, who plays protagonist Montag, and Michael Shannon as Captain Beatty. Montag is a fireman whose role in the new world is to burn books. But he begins to question his place in society and the rules in place after his precocious neighbor goes missing. Our hero displays strong leadership skills as he contemplates the state of the world and eventually joins a resistance group.
Director Kevin MacDonald gives viewers an intimate portrait of Whitney Houston through interviews with her family and friends. Houston drowned in a bathtub in Beverly Hills in 2012, at age 48; the coroner cited her cocaine use as a factor. The documentary explores both her often troubled personal and public life, and includes original studio recordings, home video content and a capella performances of some of her hits. Houston's family granted MacDonald full access to the material. "I approached Whitney's life like a mystery story," MacDonald said in a press release. "Why did someone with so much raw talent and beauty self-destruct so publicly and painfully?"
5. Girls of the Sun
This drama follows a battalion of female Kurdish resistance fights, nicknamed Girls of the Sun, who were once captives of extremists but have vowed to reconquer their land. Bahah (played by Golshifteh Farahani) is chief of the battalion and reminiscences on her time as prisoner. This is a story of strength in the most trying times, a moving tale of fighting for what you believe in.