Summer is almost upon us and that means a slew of amazing movies. Here’s a quick rundown with some thoughts to help you plan your theater time.
Probably the biggest movie on all our minds right now is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) took an obscure Marvel property, dusted it off, and breathed new life into it. Casting Chris Pratt who was really only known for charming himself into the lovable idiot Andy on Parks and Rec as an action hero was another trick Marvel pulled off magnificently. Bradley Cooper voices a pissed of Raccoon and Vin Diesel was a tree. Everything about this was obscure until the movie came out. What a monster hit. Grossing over 770 million dollars and bringing back a ton of classic rock Guardians of the Galaxy is a fantastic movie loved by those who don’t even like superheroes or science fiction. Fun is fun.
Volume 2 (coming May 5th) appears to be bringing back everything we loved about the first and turning it up. Sequels often fall into the trap of turning things up too much, but with a movie as insane as Guardians I don’t think that’s going to be the case. Bringing back writer/director James Gunn was the best choice the studio could make to start. Without having seen the movie I can’t promise you it’ll be good, but I do know the studio has already hired Gunn to come back for round 3.
Baywatch. You read that right. The self-effacing tongue-in-cheek remake/reboot of the old TV show is coming May 25th. Starring Dwayne Johnson (I think that’s what he’s going by at this point in his career) and Zac Effron as the new leads this won’t be what fans of the old show’s gimmick were expecting. Why should you care about Baywatch being remade? If this is anything like 21 Jump Street’s remake/reboot, we should all care. Director Seth Gordon is known for comedy and the show itself is a pop culture joke that just won’t quit. If anything else we have been assured there is plenty of gratuitous slow motion running, Priyanka Chopra plays the villain, and Pamela Anderson will be making a cameo.
A smaller film on the horizon is the Brad Pitt led War Machine. Debuting May 26th, right in the height of the summer movie season War Machine isn’t the latest entry in the MCU. War Machine is a satire about the war in the middle east. It promises to be a ball of insanity with a comedic performance by Pitt.
Also on May 26th is the long awaited (to some) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. This series was always a lot of fun. Disney doesn’t make a habit of producing bad content. They took a relatively small attraction in one of their theme parks and turned it into a billion dollar franchise. All on the back of Johnny Depp in an incredibly strange performance the studio didn’t want at first. It has been a staggering fourteen years since The Curse of the Black Pearl first thrilled audiences. Depp is back, of course. The franchise wouldn’t be the same without Jack Sparrow. Questionable anti-aging Depp CGI aside it’s a great thrill to see Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, and Geoffrey Rush back on the big screen revisiting these characters. New baddie Javier Bardem looks menacing and hellish with CGI that, once again, feels too creepy to be in a Disney movie. All in all it looks like despite the time gap since the last entry, nothing has changed.
The latest retelling of King Arthur, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword has all the markings of a movie that should be dismissed. Charlie Hunnam was great in Sons of Anarchy and Pacific Rim was a ton of fun but it’s still unclear if he’s cinema leading man material. Jude Law always delivers a strong performance but the period set medieval action/drama just has a more of the same feel to it. Where King Arthur grabs my attention is on the director, Guy Ritchie. Ritchie has a style all his own and an impressive track record with films. Another benefit to seeing Ritchie’s name on the director’s chair is that a man with a style so much his own means the studio knew enough to get out of his way and let the man work. Here’s to hoping the King Arthur trailer just didn’t do the film justice.
Alien is a classic franchise we all love. Sadly the franchise is at the point of having more lackluster or bad entries than good ones. Alien: Covenant may be just what we need to tip the scales in fan’s favor. First and foremost, Ridley Scott is back in charge.
It isn’t summer movie season without something for the kids. Luckily there are a slew of great kids movies that work for all ages. Despicable Me 3 (June 30) brings a double dose of Steve Carell this time. He plays Gru (of course) but also Gru’s twin brother Dru. It gives a feeling of maybe this is a bit too much, but not as strong as the horrible Minions movie. The most interesting takeaway from this third installment is South Park creator Trey Parker doing a voice in a movie he hasn’t had a larger hand in. The plot continues with Gru being a decent person but called back to his villainous path. The schism between the twins seems as typical as ever. It could be interesting, but maybe it’s time Illumination comes up with something new.
The Mummy (June 9) isn’t a continuation or reboot of the surprisingly enjoyable Brendan Fraser films. Starring Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe battling an ancient Egyptian princess played by Sofia Boutella. The plot won’t follow the 1999 film, instead it’s a new beginning on an old, OLD, property. Universal has owned the rights to the classic movie monsters since the 1930s. The Mummy could very well be the first in a much wider movie monster cinematic universe. Russell Crowe is playing Dr. Jekyll after all. Unlike DC, Universal is doing it right. They aren’t trying to cram a fully formed universe down our throats from the jump. They want to make a good movie to start and see if people want more. Universe or not, you can’t deny Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe know how to make an action movie.
After the (mostly) honest Straight Outta Compton blew away all expectations two years ago it’s no surprise more Rap biopics would follow. A Tupac movie has been kicking around in various rumors for years. All Eyez On Me (June 16) is a full scope biopic going from Tupac’s childhood up to the time of his untimely murder. The soundtrack, of course, will be amazing and Jamal Woolard is reprising his role as Notorious B.I.G. from the decent but biased 2009 biopic Notorious. Tupac will be played by newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr.
I so want Wonder Woman (June 2) to be good. I love the DC Characters. As a kid it was all Marvel but as an adult I find the DC complexity far more interesting. DC just can’t seem to get the movies right. This is coming from someone who actually likes Man of Steel and wrote an article entitled Batman v Superman – In Defense… sort of. DC seems too desperate to have a Marvel type super hero world they are missing what makes the Marvel movies work. The DC stories don’t stay very true to the characters. The movies aren’t fun. The plots aren’t well formed. Wonder Woman is a character that is incredibly iconic in America but many people don’t know a whole lot about her. The trailers have some cool action bits but initial reviews make it sound like the best parts about the movie involve the sidekick, Chris Pine. Not really the best feeling going into a film about female empowerment in a franchise that could really use a hit. Princess Diana doesn’t even fully become Wonder Woman until halfway through the film. Time will tell, but an educated guess says be cautious.
The Big Sick (June 23) This one is new on the radar. It’s been in development for 5+ years and sounds gut wrenching, but comedian Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley and Portlandia) and producer Judd Apatow ensure it’s a comedy. The story is semi autobiographical of Nanjiani dealing with cultural pressures and a girlfriend in a coma. More than that may verge on spoilers but wow does that show promise. Who better than Apatow to deliver emotion and dick jokes in one beautiful package?
Lately I’d pass on a movie like It Comes At Night (June 9). I suffer from an affliction known as zombie-fatigue. Zombie everything gets old. Even worse is the watering down of zombies making them funny, charismatic, attractive, whatever. Enough. It Comes At Night is a little different. Writer/Director Trey Shults wrote the film based loosely on his own life experience in dealing with a family member contracting a horrible disease. The movie will fall into the horror genre but will also carry a message and have some thought behind it. Both moves sound like steps in the right direction for a genre that more often than not feels lazy.
Atomic Blonde (July 28) looks so much like a female driven version of John Wick. That isn’t an accident. David Leitch, the stuntman turned director who created John Wick is behind this 80s set comic come to vibrant life film as well. Theron is no newbie to action movies. Imperator Furiosa stole the latest Mad Max entry after all. But that didn’t stop Leitch from forcing the actress to go the extra mile. Training in an intense boot camp Theron got ready to do what she had considered impossible. The movie exceeded all expectations at SXSW. It even boasts a 12 minute stairwell fight scene. I’m giddy with anticipation.
Finally a Spider-Man movie that isn’t an origin story. Tom Holland dons the mask and tights again after his explosive in Captain America: Civil War. This time the Sony/Marvel joint venture focuses just on Spider-Man with some support by the MCU glue, Robert Downey Jr. Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7) looks incredibly exciting and it’d be a shock if Marvel let one of their top earning superheroes suffer another lackluster movie. The only potential downside is rookie Director Jon Watts resume only boasts two titles, one being the terrible boring Cop Car.
Christopher Nolan is a legendary director. He made some of the coolest Batman films, bent our minds in Inception, puzzled us with Momento, and is now tackling a story little known to Americans. Dunkirk (July 21) is a World War II epic taking place in the European war theater. The story is known well to the English but Americans need to know this incredible tale. Dunkirk won’t be another war movie. It’s a survival movie. It was written around first hand accounts. Filmed on location with real people. Nolan even gave his DP back problems by making him wield a 55 pound IMAX camera as if it was a handheld. The results promise to be gritty, intimate, and engaging like nothing else.
The Apes movies seriously don’t get enough credit. War for the Planet of the Apes (July 14) picks up a couple years after 2014’s Dawn. The war is full on. Caesar (Andy Serkis) leads the Ape army and Woody Harrelson plays a general leading mankind. There doesn’t seem to be a villain. Both parties are ‘right’ from their own vantage point. What’s really exciting is returning director Matt Reeves promises it isn’t an all out special effects war movie. The story falls more intimate and focuses on a much more mature Caesar. These movies have been fantastic and really do the original series a lot of justice. I’m glad more are coming and hope people keep turning up to get the next sequel funded.
Director Luc Besson is back in American cinema with Valerian (July 21). The full title of the movie is Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. The Thousand Planets referred are something like the 28th centuries version of the united nations. Instead of being limited to a planet there are, yeah, one thousand. This sprawling sci-fi films looks epic in scale. The visuals are spectacular. Young co-leads Dan DeHaan and Cara Delevingne are very capable actors who should bring even more interesting performances. The two play characters tasked with finding finding who is behind an impending threat to Alpha, a massive space city for all beings, and stopping it.
With these big movies coming for the summer movie season it’s always fun to see the surprises hit as well. There are always at least a few that come out of nowhere and blow audiences away.
Lowriders (May 12), a film about a lesser told side about Latino life in America has some promise.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena hiding behind a crumbling barrier as an Iraqi sniper bores down on them in The Wall (May 12). Sounds bizarre until you throw in Directed by Doug Liman.
Chuck (May 5th) Stars the awesome Liev Schreiber as the boxer who inspired Rocky.
Who knows? Maybe Amy Schumer will accidentally be funny in Snatched (May 12). Spoilers: she won’t.
Cars has to be the weakest of the Pixar franchises, but more keep getting made because of merchandising. Cars 3 (June 16) appears to be the circle completing where Owen Wilson’s McQueen will become the wise old master and the new kid on the block will need a lesson. Smart for franchising. Nathan Fillion does come in to voice a character, not a thing wrong with that.
Bryan Cranston brings a strange short story to life in Wakefield (May 19). The story of a man who abandons his family only to hide out above their garage to spy on them.
Churchill (June 2) Brian Cox is a wonderful actor who never seems to get enough credit. This period set drama promises to be as dramatic as it is informative. An intimate look inside government and the man leading up to D-Day.
Baby Driver (June 28) sounds as cool as it sounds ridiculous. Directed by Edgar Wright, (I’m in) and starring John Hamm, Kevin Spacey, and Ansel Elgort. The movie follows a savant level getaway driver on a heist with the acting legend and Don Draper himself.