To me, this Summer seems much quieter than previous years and it seems more full of shoulder shrugs than sure-things, with almost half my “Most Anticipated” list coming out in August, traditionally the sleepier period of Summer. We may finally be seeing the affect of studios greenlighting fewer movies to release bigger tentpoles, a strategy that—let’s be honest—has only really worked for Disney. I’m hoping that some of these least-anticipated reboots, remakes, TV adaptations, Emoji adaptations, etc. will flop so that we can finally end the era of the sequel, and go back to that late-90’s, early 00’s period of invention. Of course, I may be a dreamer, and it’s just as likely that the next generation of “indie directors” we saw in the 90’s will get snapped up by Netflix or co-opted into making “X-Men 15” or, just as likely, not make movies at all.
Least Anticipated Movies of the Summer…
10. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets…To be fair, I actually really hope this movie is good and I’ll definitely watch it, but Luc Besson has struggled to make anything watchable in over a decade, and I don’t think it’s a good sign that the biggest female star he could entice for this sci-fi “blockbuster” is Cara Delevingne.
9. The Emoji Movie…I love T.J. Miller, but we need a movie about Emojis like we need Trump to serve a second term.
8. The Mummy…Will I watch this? Yes. Do I like Tom Cruise, Sofia Botella, Rebecca Ferguson, and Russel Crowe? Yes, definitely, yes, and mostly. But do I really expect this will be good? [You already know the answer.]
7. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales…Even if this is the best “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, aren’t most people done with this franchise? It’s telling that Disney’s marketing has put Johnny Depp’s once popular, now tiresome Jack Sparrow waaaay in the background, and more heavily featured Javier Bardem’s grotesque sea zombie. This seems like a no confidence vote to me.
6. Despicable Me 3…I’ve never really liked these movies.
5. Once Upon a Time in Venice…Can you remember a time when you were excited to watch a new Bruce Willis movie? Okay more recently, can you remember a time when Bruce Willis looked excited to be in one of this own movies?
4. Baywatch…I find it hard to believe I’m the only person who gets creeped out by The Rock? Can I make Rockophobia a real thing?
3. Spider-Man: Homecoming…You know exactly what you’re going to get from the trailer, and a third reboot of Spider-Man in 15 years? The opposite of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” may be “if it keeps breaking, forget it.” This character needs a DNR.
2. Transformers: The Last Knight…Another franchise I’ve never really liked, and it’s disappointing that it seems like the James Bonds and Jason Bournes are getting gradually crowded out by the Fast and Furious and Transformers of the world.
1. Wish Upon and Amityville: The Awakening…Every Summer there’s at least a couple horror junkers thrown into theaters so the teenagers will have something dangerous to spend money on that’s not drugs. And you have to decide which is worse: doing hard drugs or watching shitty horror movies. The jury’s still out, but I know that fans of intelligent horror will more likely be seeing “It Comes at Night” or “The Beguiled.”
5 I’m Not Sure About…Ranked, as always from the 5th one I’m most skeptical about to the 1st position I think has the best shot at being good.
5. War Machine…This Brad Pitt Afghanistan war comedy looks like the spiritual successor to George Clooney’s “The Men Who Stare at Goats” or Sandra Bullock’s “Our Brand is Crisis,” meaning an admirably political-minded comedy that just doesn’t really work.
4. Wonder Woman…I’ve been wanting to watch a Wonder Woman movie for a long time, but this film doesn’t look much better than last year’s one-two DC Comics debacle of “Batman Vs. Superman” and “Suicide Squad.”
3. Dunkirk…Christopher Nolan has never made a bad movie, and to me he’s been on his hottest streak ever after “The Dark Knight,” “Inception,” “The Dark Knight Returns,” and a career-best “Interstellar.” So why am I skeptical of “Dunkirk?” Probably because I have absolutely no interest in the subject matter and this promises to be Nolan’s most straightforward movie ever, and another earnest, full-square WWII movie is just not my thing right now. Add to that the nagging truth that Cillian Murphy’s best days never happened and I’m the only critic alive who finds Mark Rylance overly mannered, and it’s not shaping up to be promising.
2. Alien: Covenant…The trailer looks great and the cast is inspired (who doesn’t want to see Michael Fassbender share a scene with Danny McBride?) but I can’t help feeling cheated we’re getting a standard “Alien” movie instead of a straight “Prometheus” sequel after that film introduced juicy questions about God, the origins of life, and human evolution.
1. The Dark Tower…The trailer looks like shit, but boy do I hope I’m wrong. I would like nothing more than this film to launch a truly great franchise. Even as I’m skeptical the book’s elusive and somewhat episodic nature can be properly translated to movies, I’ll still be there to see Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey’s duel when it opens in August.
10 Most Anticipated Movies…
Runner-Up: Atomic Blonde…Charlize Theron stars in this probably very fun John Wick knock-off made by the people who made John Wick. But at what point does that fighting style loose its luster? Originality was half of what made the “John Wick” franchise fun in the first place.
10. The House…Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler play parents who open an underground casino to help their daughter pay for college. You have to hand it to Ferrell, while Netflix or obscurity swallow up other comedy stars like Sandler or Stiller, he still finds a way to make big comedic hits that still at least try to talk about bigger issues (“The Other Guys” and Wall Street crooks, the underrated “The Campaign” and everything wrong with our political system). Having paying for sky-high college tuition the plot driver for “The House” seems like another step in the right direction.
9. War for the Planet of the Apes…I can already imagine watching this with a tub of popcorn, Reese’s Pieces, and some drink I’ve smuggled into the theater. Isn’t this basically what people go to Summer movies for? And “Apes” seems most likely to deliver.
8. Detroit…Any new Kathryn Bigelow movie is an event, and this one starring John Boyega around the Motor City riots of 1967 should be no exception.
7. The Incredible Jessica James…Who isn’t ready for the incredible Jessica Williams to become a movie star?
6. Okja…A little girl befriends a mountain monster against Tilda Swinton’s corporate exploiter, also starring Jake Gyllenhaal, but the real draw here is that this is “Snowpiercer” director Bong Joon Ho’s follow-up.
5. A Ghost Story and The Hero…Two different indies that are only linked together because of their similar size: small. “A Ghost Story” features an interesting reversal as its director scored a big-budget gig with last year’s “Pete’s Dragon” and is going micro-budget for a follow-up, but the intriguing premise might be tripped up featuring two of the most morose actors on the planet (Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck). While Hero’s biggest draw is its leading actor Sam Elliot, scoring the leading showcase he deserved decades ago but will hopefully, finally, fingers-crossed score a Best Actor nomination for his stellar work here.
4. Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press…City of Ghosts…An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power…These documentaries about, respectively, billionaire Peter Thiel’s war on shutting down media he doesn’t like, citizen journalists covering the atrocities of ISIS in Syria, and Al Gore’s follow-up to “An Inconvenient Truth” which first shined a light on climate crisis should be great counter-programming for the Summer. Here’s hoping they reach an audience.
3. Cars 3…Whether this is good or not, I’ll be seeing it at least a dozen times so I might as well look forward to it, and I actually think the “Cars” movies are underrated in general. The first film was terrific, but perhaps didn’t get the love it should have, and the second movie is unfairly maligned as the worst Pixar movie ever made (that honor belongs to “Finding Dory”) when it’s really just mediocre.
2. Wind River…Last year, “Hell or High Water” became my pick for the Best Film of the Year, and it gets better every time I see it–how did this get shut-out at the Oscars in even categories like Best Original Screenplay? Anyway, Taylor Sheridan, the writer of that film and “Sicario” is back with his directorial debut and there’s no way I won’t be seeing it. Here’s hoping it’s another mid-August stunner.
1. Logan Lucky…Steven Soderbergh’s retirement is mercifully over as he directs an all-star cast (including frequent collaborator Channing Tatum) in a movie about a heist at a NASCAR track. A hillbilly Ocean’s Eleven? How am I not in this movie?