Flavorwire’s Big-Ass Summer Movie Preview


It’s the first weekend in May, so you know what that means: it’s summer at the movies, actual calendar be damned. As with every May since 2007, this season begins this weekend with a big, bright, shiny, expensive new Marvel movie (this year’s model: Captain America: Civil War ); over the next four months, we’ll see the expected rotation of sequels and remakes and reboots. But that’s not all bad news — some of them actually look promising, and for those that don’t, there are plenty of art-house alternatives. And thus, we present our look at the essential movies for the months ahead.


Multiplex Must-Sees:

Money Monster (May 13): Jodie Foster steps into the director’s slot so rarely, it’s kind of an event when she does. This time, she’s got George Clooney as a Jim Cramer-style TV financial advisor and Julia Roberts as his producer, who finds herself in the hot seat when a disgruntled viewer turns a live broadcast into a hostage situation.

The Nice Guys (May 20): Back in 2005, superstar screenwriter Shane Black made his directorial debut with the wickedly funny and deliciously smart Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a great movie that hardly anyone saw thanks to a botched release strategy by Warner Brothers. This summer — thanks in no small part to Black’s fine work at the helm of Iron Man 3 — the writer/director and the studio will try for a do-over, with another self-aware buddy action/comedy that’ll hopefully find its audience a bit more easily.

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (May 20): The original 2014 Neighbors was a welcome expansion of the bro-comedy playbook, thanks primarily to the wrinkles provided by the invaluable Rose Byrne and the lived-in, partners-in-crime nature of her onscreen marriage to co-star Seth Rogen. That movie didn’t exactly scream for a sequel, but what the hell — we’ll see what happens when the couple and frat buddy Zac Efron take on a sorority fronted by Chloë Grace Moretz, Selena Gomez, and Dope’s Kiersey Clemons. Oh, and did I mention Abbi Jacobson’s in it too?

X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27): We’re all feeling a touch of superhero burnout, but credit where due: Bryan Singer’s been turning out expertly crafted, intellectually rigorous, and reliably entertaining X-Men features since 2000. We’ll see soon enough if he’s still got the goods.

Indispensible Indies:

The Lobster (May 13): Dogtooth director Yorgos Lanthimos provides more of his special brand of light-hearted fun in this story of the seaside resort where desperate single people go to either find their mates or get turned into animals. It’s a comedy!

Love and Friendship (May 13): We’ve been screaming about this one since Sundance, so just to reiterate the bullet points: Whit Stillman, reuniting his Last Days of Disco stars Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny in a Jane Austen novella. Whaddaya need me to do here, draw you a map?

Weiner (May 20): Anthony Weiner’s 2013 run for mayor of New York City could’ve been a giant political comeback story. Instead, it was a stunning (and hilarious) how-low-can-you-go dance — and documentarians Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg captured the whole damn thing.

And Also: Lest you get too optimistic about this first summer month, don’t forget that May also gives us the filmed embodiment of everything that is terrible about current mainstream moviemaking, aka The Angry Birds Movie (May 20). And there’s also Alice Through the Looking Glass (May 27), in which poor James Bobin (The Muppets) is tasked with continuing Tim Burton’s inexplicably popular vandalization of Lewis Carroll’s classics.


Multiplex Must-Sees:

Popstar: Never Stop Stopping (June 3): The Lonely Island — with Andy Samberg in the leading role — takes on glossy, self-generated pop star “documentaries” like Katy Perry: Part of Me and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never with this ridiculously well-populated spoof. And with Judd Apatow attached as producer, we could be looking at the next Walk Hard.

Warcraft (June 10): The legacy of cinematic adaptations of video games has been, to put it charitably, uninspiring. But there’s a key name that makes this one worth keeping an eye on: Duncan Jones, the gifted filmmaker who turned Moon and Source Code from possible also-rans into exciting genre touchstones. Here’s hoping he’ll do the same here.

Finding Dory (June 17): Pixar has proven a touch hit-and-miss over the past couple of years, but Finding Nemo remains one of their more charming efforts, and the key players are all back for a second swim. With any luck, this will be more Toy Story 3 than Cars 2.

Indispensible Indies:

The Fits (June 3): Director Anna Rose Holmer made a splash at Sundance with her feature narrative debut, a sometimes inexplicable but always riveting story of a tomboy who’s drawn to a dance troupe, and the strange events that follow.

De Palma (June 10): Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow sat filmmaking legend Brian De Palma down for a series of interviews, and turned those sessions into this terrific documentary. The hilariously, thankfully candid director walks us through his full filmography, his memories an equal mix of aesthetic explanation and catty stories told out of school; it’s a hoot, and this summer’s movie geek catnip.

Swiss Army Man (June 24): So y’know that movie everyone was scratching their heads over at Sundance, where Paul Dano is stranded on a desert island with Daniel Radcliffe’s farting corpse? This is that movie.

And Also: From the very busy department of Sequels Nobody Cares About Or Asked For, June offers up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (June 3) and The Conjuring 2 and Now You See Me 2 (both June 10). The Dwayne Johnson/ Kevin Hart action/comedy Central Intelligence (June 17) should be a barrel of laughs, since (you may want to sit down for this) they’re of very different temperaments and physical types! The Free State of Jones (June 24) tells the story of a Civil War slave rebellion led by, oh hey look at that, a freshly woke white guy (Matthew McConaughey). Independence Day wasn’t any damn good in 1996 and it’s even worse now – and its sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence (June 24), not only boasts no Will Smith, it’s not even opening on the Fourth of July weekend, seriously, what’s wrong with these people. And lest you assume that unwanted sequels are purely a mainstream movie malady, this month also offers up Todd Solondtz’s uninspired Welcome To the Dollhouse pseudo-sequel Weiner-Dog (June 24).


Multiplex Must-Sees:

The BFG (July 1): I keep seeing this title and thinking “Big Fucking Giant,” but that’s on me; point is, Steven Spielberg re-teams with his (freshly Oscar-ed) Bridge of Spies star Mark Rylance for this whimsical-looking adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book — the final screenplay credit for the late Melissa Mathison, who previously wrote a little Spielberg picture called E.T.

The Secret Lives of Pets (July 8): Shrug it off as a kid’s movie all you want, but if you seriously don’t wanna hear Louis C.K., Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Albert Brooks, Steve Coogan, and Hannibal Buress voicing a bunch of household pets, I don’t even know what to do with you.

The Infiltrator (July 13): Look, maybe I don’t ask for much out of The Cinema anymore, but this is a movie with Bryan Cranston going deep undercover to infiltrate the Escobar cartel circa 1986, complete with period mustache, and that’s about all I need to hear.

Ghostbusters (July 15): Sure, the trailer isn’t exactly a knockout (though it certainly isn’t “most disliked trailer ever” weak; methinks there could be other factors at play there). But keep this in mind: Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy’s last movie, Spy, didn’t have a terribly good trailer either. If any pairing’s earned the benefit of the doubt, it’s this one. (Plus, y’know, Wiig and Jones and McKinnon.)

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (July 22): Twelve years after the conclusion of the revival series (and four years after the end of the anniversary specials), Edina and Patsy (and Saffron) finally make their way to the big screen. So start working now on your technique for smuggling those Bolli and/or Stoli bottles into the theater.

Jason Bourne (July 29): Looks like the Jeremy Renner-fronted Bourne Legacy was just a quick detour, as star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass return to their superspy franchise. The whole thing smells a bit cynical, sure — but the trailers look solid, and if you’re gonna bring in fifth-movie ringers, you could do worse than Tommy Lee Jones and Alicia Vikander.

Indispensible Indies:

Life, Animated (July 1): Roger Ross Williams won the directing award at Sundance this year for this emotionally devastating and beautifully modulated story of a young autistic man, and the family who learned to communicate with him through the portal of the Disney cartoons he knew by heart.

Zero Days (July 8): The gifted (and busy) Alex Gibney is back with his latest scorching documentary exposé, following in the spirit of his masterful We Steal Secrets with the scary story of the horrifyingly dangerous — and government developed, of course — Stuxnet malware system.

Don’t Think Twice (July 8): Writer/director/star Mike Birbiglia follows up his Sleepwalk With Me with this charming comedy/drama, concerning a New York comedy improv troupe (whose members also include Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacbos, Kate Micucci, and Tami Sagher) whose loss of venue forces a reappraisal of where their lives are – and if they’ve held on to their dreams a bit too long.

And Also: It’d take a really musty and unpromising pitch to make an Alexander Skarsgård/Margot Robbie/Christoph Waltz match-up seem anything but essential, but yeah, they put them into The Legend of Tarzan (July 1). If there’s one group of people really excited about Trump getting the nomination, it’s gotta be the financiers of the now-particularly-relevant The Purge: Election Year (July 1). We’d normally fly over the moon to see movies teaming Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick or Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, and Christina Applegate, but then we saw the trailers for Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (July 8) and Bad Moms (July 29). And finally, there’s Star Trek Beyond (July 22), for which that Simon Pegg screenwriting credit can’t quite offset the bad taste left by an underwhelming ad campaign and, y’know, Star Trek Into Darkness.


Multiplex Must-Sees:

Florence Foster Jenkins (August 12): Good ol’ reliable Stephen Frears (The Queen, Dirty Pretty Things, High Fidelity, The Grifters, etc.) is back at the helm of this charming-sounding story of an heiress (Meryl Streep) who dreamed only of being an opera singer, and wasn’t going to let her putrid singing voice stop her. Even better, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation scene-stealer Rebecca Ferguson is along for the ride.

Sausage Party (August 12): Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s hard-R animated comedy musical screened in very rough form at SXSW, and while it’s a bit of a one-joke premise, they stretch that joke into some pretty ingenious shapes. With full animation and fancy music, Rogen and Goldberg’s snickering food cartoon could be a late-summer sleeper hit.

Kubo and the Two Strings (August 19): The latest from Laike Entertainment (who gave us Coraline, Paranorman, and The Boxtrolls) combines their distinctive stop-motion animation with Japanese mythology and George Harrison riffs, which must be some kind of Venn diagram targeted specifically at this viewer.

War Dogs (August 19): The recent filmography of Todd Phillips (Due Date, The Hangover Part II, and, um, The Hangover Part III) hasn’t exactly inspired awe and anticipation. But this guy used to make very funny movies; this cynical war profiteering comedy with Jonah Hill and Miles Teller could mark a return to form.

Indispensible Indies:

Café Society (August 12): Is it already that time of year again, when we peruse the latest unsettling Woody Allen interview and ask more art vs. the artist questions and decide if his new movie is worth seeing? His last couple of efforts have made that question easier to answer, since they’ve not been very good at all, but let this be said: it’s got a snazzy trailer, the costume and production design are to die for, and any movie that reunites the stars of Adventureland is OK in my book. (Ah, maybe not any movie.)

Southside With You (August 19): If there was any doubt at all that every single cultural thing gets an origin story these days, here’s the origin story of POTUS and FLOTUS, a fictionalized version of their first date. (All I ask is it includes at least one moment where Barry opens a door or picks up a check, so she can say “Thanks Obama!” and wink at the camera. [Co-signed — Ed.])

And Also: Still fully on-board for the Michael Keaton-issance, but boy does The Founder (August 5) look like a feature-length McDonald’s informercial, and the participation of director John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks, The Blind Side) is not encouraging. There’s a chance Suicide Squad (August 5) won’t stink, but your correspondent mostly just wants it to fail so I don’t have to keep hearing about Jared Leto’s AMAZING UNPRECEDENTED METHOD ACTING, WOW. Oh, and then there’s Nine Lives (August 5) the Kevin-Spacey-is-a-cat movie, which I remain convinced is a Tropic Thunder-style fake-movie trailer. David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints was a resplendent piece of work, and not even his participation can make a remake of Pete’s Dragon (August 12) sound appealing. And speaking of remakes nobody even contemplated asking for, we’ll end this summer with the sad whimper of a new Ben-Hur (August 19), from the director of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Thanks?