The Culture

All the Texas-Related Movies You Should Watch This Summer

Texas movies

As temperatures creep up into three digits and we yearn for air-conditioning and ice water, it’s time for our favorite age-old summer pastime: going to the movies. This summer promises a slew of great films, including many made by or featuring Texans, from Sandra Bullock masterminding a jewelry heist to “puppet noir” from Brian Henson to a comedy set in a breastaurant from Andrew Bujalski. Order some popcorn, kick back, and enjoy the AC.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties (May 18)

A movie set in the U.K. in the late 1970s doesn’t scream “Texas,” but this trippy coming-of-age story by director John Cameron Mitchell, an El Paso native who achieved “cult icon” status after starring in and directing the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, is cosmic in its thinking. Any band of outcasts, whether they’re in South London or West Texas, should be able to get into its themes of standing by your friends and rebelling against the status quo—even if, in the case of Mitchell’s movie, that status quo involves space aliens visiting earth undercover. —Dan Solomon

Ocean’s 8 (June 8)

This all-female version of the Ocean franchise, starring big hitters like Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, and Rihanna, centers around Debbie Ocean (played by Bullock), sister of Danny Ocean. She’s newly released from prison and determined to pull off her biggest heist yet: stealing a $150 million Cartier necklace off the neck of celebrity Daphne Kluger (Hathaway) during the Met Gala. Hathaway provides this movie with its best comedic moments, but the entire ensemble cast finds chances to shine. It’s got all the cleverness, interpersonal relationships, and last-minute twists of the previous three Ocean heist movies, without overly pandering to an assumed female sensibility. Plus, according to Debbie, there’s a pretty realistic (if bleak) reason why women make better thieves: “A him gets noticed and a her gets ignored and for once, we want to be ignored.” —Doyin Oyeniyi

Robert Pattison in Damsel.

Damsel (June 22)

David and Nathan Zellner have never been the kind of independent filmmakers to content themselves with mopey tales of upper-middle-class suburban family dysfunction. For two decades, the Austin-based brothers have experimented widely and, sometimes, wildly, making low-budget shorts and features mostly for festival audiences about everything from a shark attack to a pregnant sasquatch to a Tokyo office worker’s hunt for the ransom money buried at the end of Joel and Ethan Coen’s Fargo. Now comes Damsel, the Zellners’ biggest film to date, a darkly comic frontier Western starring Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson as a dandy pioneer who embarks on a quest (accompanied by a drunken preacher and a miniature horse) to rescue his true love from a kidnapper. It’s a Zellner brothers film, so the story careens away from its premise, then veers some more, and Pattinson and his co-star Mia Wasikowska have a blast doing the careening. (The Zellners also play roles.) The Zellners have long dreamed of making a Werner Herzog–style epic, and with Damsel, they finally have the resources to pull it off—at least, in their own big-hearted, self-aware, delightfully odd-ball way. —Eric Benson

Shock and Awe (July 13)

Yes, journalists love stories about crusading journalists, but even if the premise of Shock and Awe—about four reporters who challenged the Bush administration in the time between 9/11 and the Iraq War—doesn’t fill you with enthusiasm, the chance to watch iconic Texas actors like Woody Harrelson and Tommy Lee Jones out-gruff each other as (we can only assume) a couple of tough-talking investigators who don’t suffer fools will probably be fun to watch. —Dan Solomon

Never Goin’ Back (August 3)

Dallas filmmaker Augustine Frizzell pulls out all the stops in her outrageous, semi-autobiographical, one-crazy-week debut feature. The shaggy-dog story of two teenage best friends (Maia Mitchell and Cami Morrone) trying to scrounge up enough money for rent (and maybe a beach trip to Galveston) in the middle of a sweltering North Texas summer, the film features projectile vomiting, ill-conceived robberies, a ravenous case of the munchies, and the loudest, most ill-timed poop since Dumb and Dumber. But Never Goin’ Back is more than a raunchy comedy. It’s a Superbad-style high-school bromance at heart—except this bromance happens to take place between two young women who are far more sexually confident, chemically curious, and economically deprived than anyone in Judd Apatow’s suburban man-boy universe. —Eric Benson

Crazy Rich Asians (August 15)

Kevin Kwan, author of novel Crazy Rich Asians and executive producer of the film adaptation, was born in Singapore but spent some years in Houston, where he earned a degree in media studies at the University of Houston – Clear Lake. Although the film is set primarily among the upper class of Singapore, some aspects reminded me of Houston, which has a reputation as a richly diverse and multicultural city. The movie features an array of talent, some familiar to Americans and many that we need to become more familiar with, like Constance Wu, Henry Golden, Gemma Chan, Awkwafina (also in Ocean’s 8) and Ken Jeong. With the first all-Asian cast in Hollywood in 25 years, Crazy Rich Asians is an example of the kind of films we can have when the call for racial diversity is answered. It’s hilarious, tender, romantic, well-written, and so much fun. —Doyin Oyeniyi

The Happytime Murders (August 17)

Brian Henson, son of Muppet creator Jim Henson, has been developing the hard-R “puppet noir” thriller The Happytime Murders for several years, based on an idea by University of Texas at Austin film grad Dee Austin Robertson. The project hit a few snags along the way—Cameron Diaz, Katherine Heigl, and Jamie Foxx had all been attached to star at various points, while the final product is led by Melissa McCarthy—but with an updated script by another UT film alumni, Todd Berger, The Happytime Murders is finally set to bring gross-out sex humor and gore to the puppet realm. —Dan Solomon

Support the Girls (August 24)

Austin filmmaker Andrew Bujalski’s latest is set in an unspecified Texas suburb that could be almost any city along I-35, at a “breastaurant” where the servers wear skimpy outfits and the customers are (mostly) men who come to be flirted with (mostly) innocently. But rather than a low-brow T&A comedy, Bujalski’s script gives emphasis to its characters—played by Regina Hall, Haley Lu Richardson, and Brooklyn Decker—and their inner lives, which makes for a more complicated, more interesting, and ultimately funnier movie than most (at least those who aren’t familiar with Bujalski’s excellent prior films) might guess by looking at the plot summary. —Dan Solomon

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