Every week of the year is home to at least one movie release, but for many people the ones they look forward to most are the sixteen (or so) weeks that make up the summer movie season. They’re the biggest as studios try to get eyeballs young and old to focus on an increasing number of sequels and hopeful franchise starters, and this summer is no different — the next four months feature 15 sequels, four remakes, and at least seven movies hoping to begin a series of their own.
The cast (including Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, and John C. Reilly) is pitch-perfect in their balancing of the story’s humor, love, and pathos. It’s not a film for wide audiences, for reasons well beyond a certain dog-related scene, but it’s guaranteed to mesmerize and delight those of you who appreciate smart, human-focused sci-fi in the vein of James Morrow and Kurt Vonnegut.
The Nice Guys
If this were a ranked list, writer/director Shane Black’s third directorial effort in eleven years would easily find a home in the number one spot. His 2005 debut, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, is absolute perfection and offers a masterclass in action/comedies of the “bantering buddies” variety — no surprise as Black wrote Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and others. This new pairing of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling looks to highlight both actors’ oft-ignored comedic skills in the same way Kiss did for Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr.
It’s become something of an unpopular opinion over the past couple of years, but people still liked X-Men: Days of Future Past. Sure it has issues common to too many comic book movies (too many characters) and others particular to this franchise (the timeline problem), but it’s an immensely entertaining and fun adventure. Director Bryan Singer and writer Simon Kinberg return for this follow-up — that yes, appears to add even more characters and mess further with the timeline — If nothing else, you just know that Oscar Isaac is probably going to show off some sweet mutant dance moves.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
The latest from The Lonely Island collective of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone tackles the world of musician “documentaries” like Anvil! The Story of Anvil, Katy Perry: Part of Me, and Justin Bieber: Never Stay Never. There are probably a few more f-bombs and-and dangling male members here, but the odds are good there’s also going to be a lot more laughs. Add in a supporting cast that includes Imogen Poots, Will Arnett, Joan Cusack, Will Forte, Bill Hader, Sarah Silverman, and others, and it’s almost guaranteed to be one of the summer’s funnier films.
The Conjuring 2
2013’s The Conjuring (yes! it’s been three years since that came out) is the rare horror film to gross over $100 million — it passed $300 worldwide — but even better for those of us without a financial stake in the film it’s also a damn solid spookfest. The character work and performances are strong, and the scares are both plentiful and highly effective. People here are a bit more partial to director James Wan’s Insidious, but there’s an appeal to The Conjuring’s old-fashioned feel. Wan returns for another adaptation of an Ed and Lorraine Warren case file and hopefully, he’s once again delivering some quality horror in a period setting.
The Swiss Army Man
You’ll know in the first ten minutes if this movie is for you — Paul Dano rides Daniel Radcliffe’s corpse like a jet-ski powered by the dead man’s flatulence — but if you can get onboard, you’re in for an incredibly creative and somewhat affecting experience. Both leads give it their all, and they deliver big laughs alongside the script’s wildly inventive set-pieces and story turns.
The first of two kids movies to make the list, there are three behind-the-scenes names associated with The BFG that make it a must-see feature. Steven Spielberg in the director’s chair automatically earns a film a watch, and while they’re not always winners his last kid’s adventure, The Adventures of Tintin, was a terrifically entertaining ride. This is also the final script from Melissa Mathison, who passed away last year, and she long ago proved herself a master of capturing the wonders of childhood with The Black Stallion and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Finally, it’s an adaptation of a Roald Dahl tale, and some of his others include Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr. Fox, James. Spielberg, Mathison, Dahl… The BFG has our attention.
Probably the lowest profile entry on this list, Paul Feig’s (Spy) latest is a remake of a little known supernatural comedy from the ’80s about four guys who save New York City from a walking marshmallow. This new incarnation looks to take place in the same world as the original but with four funny ladies — Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig — busting ghosts instead, and get this, they have a male secretary. What’s next, dogs and cats living together? None of this is a problem of course, and we’re hoping it’s as fun as the cast and crew’s involvement would suggest. And if not? The 1982 original still exists. (Too bad they never made a sequel, though.)
Star Trek Beyond
The ongoing Star Trek reboot has given us two flawed but entertaining movies, and there’s no reason to suspect the third will be any different. Justin Lin replaces J.J. Abrams in the director’s chair, but as the man behind four of the Fast & Furious films including the series’ two best, Fast Five and Furious 6, it’s probably a safe bet that Star Trek Beyond will feature some ridiculously fun action scenes. This is also star Simon Pegg’s first stab at co-writing one of these space adventures.
The Bourne trilogy is probably the most consistently excellent action film franchise going right now, and it accomplishes that through a mix of fantastically choreographed sequences and a lead character/performance. The return of Paul Greengrass as the director is great news — his shaky camera never bothered us, and the man knows how to craft an action scene — and the only open question mark on the film is with the story. The Bourne Ultimatum ended on a perfect note, but hopefully this new script from Greengrass and editor Christopher Rouse gives Bourne and viewers a reason to care once again. It was enough to lure Matt Damon back.
A movie about the man behind McDonald’s doesn’t exactly scream “must watch,” but that’s the beauty of films that go beyond the typical public personas and personal challenges dished out by most biopics. Director John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) and writer Robert Siegel (Big Fan) have collaborated on this look at Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) with a focus on his efforts to wrest control of the small restaurant chain away from its owners. It’s a juicy role for Keaton — never a bad thing — and he’s joined by a stellar supporting cast including Linda Cardellini, Laura Dern, John Carroll Lynch, B.J. Novak, Nick Offerman, and Patrick Wilson.
They’re bad guys (and gals) working for the good guys (and gals). What could go wrong? I have no familiarity with the comics, and I think that alligator dude is dumb, but I’ll follow director David Ayer (Street Kings) anywhere. He understands how to shoot action and give the scenes real impact, and even when the script is garbage the action rattles your bones. Suicide Squad may end up being silly, but it looks to be a lot of fun with an incredibly game cast, and if they can keep Jared Leto’s screen time to a minimum it might just be one of the summer’s biggest surprises.
Two big question marks aiming for blockbuster status are Duncan Jones’ Warcraft (6/10) and the (probably) far too belated sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence (6/24) — neither film’s box-office is even remotely predictable at this point. By contrast, two guaranteed heavy hitters in the form of Pixar’s Finding Dory (6/17) and The Secret Life of Pets (7/8) from the folks behind Despicable Me, Minions, and other loud kids films.
History buffs should find contentment with Free State of Jones (6/24) and the excellent Indignation (7/29), horror fans should keep an eye out for Bite(5/6), The Darkness (5/13), The Shallows (6/24), and Lights Out (7/22), and action junkies will definitely want to make time for Kill Zone 2 (5/13). Finally, for those of you looking at the list and thinking, but what about a film that speaks to my peculiar tastes and interests — see High-Rise (5/13). It’s something special. Just like you.