Summer movie preview: What you'll be watching on the big screen in August
Hollywood, I'm trying. I'm trying to defend the cinematic experience, the importance of going to the local cineplex and sharing the wonder of picture and sound moving as one with a room of strangers, all having the same awake dream.
And then you give me "The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature." Dammit, I'm this close to Theon-ing right off this ship.
Still, like the Brewers' 2017 playoff chances, there's hope. So here are the movies that will hopefully prove me wrong about August being a graveyard – and also "The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature."
"The Dark Tower"
After a literal decade of development rumors – running the gambit from J.J. Abrams to Ron Howard – fans of Stephen King's beloved fantasy series are finally seeing The Gunslinger and The Man in Black on the big screen. And … well, they might have been willing to wait longer.
Buzz on the supposed franchise's first entry has been bad for years, from the word that the movie wouldn't be a pure adaptation but instead a remix/sequel of the original books and timeline to the incredibly delayed rollout of promo materials. Even the film's running time – a mere 95 minutes – got fans' hands wringing. Honestly, for many people, this movie's arriving into theaters already in the grave.
But hear me out, maybe "The Dark Tower" won't be terrible? After all, it stars Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba, two of Hollywood's most effortlessly charismatic performers. Plus, in a time of bloated three-hour bombasts, a short, sweet fantasy adventure sounds just right. A decent Stephen King movie might just come out of this tortured journey to cinemas.
And if not, well, at least "It" looks good.
Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal have crafted two of the finest glimpses of modern America at war: "The Hurt Locker" and "Zero Dark Thirty." Now their lens moves from the war abroad to the war at home with "Detroit," an extremely intense-looking thriller about the '67 race riots in the Motor City – and, more specifically, an incident of police brutality at the Algiers Motel.
Obviously it's a timely story, but considering the cast (including John Boyega of "The Force Awakens," Jason Mitchell of "Straight Outta Compton" and many more) and crew behind the film – known for finding the tricky nuance of brute-force stories – "Detroit" could be really great, not just really relevant.
It's not just the plot, look and star of "Kidnap," a Halle Berry thriller about chasing down her child's kidnappers, that might have you flashing back to 2013's "The Call." As it turns out, "Kidnap" was actually filmed just a year after that similarly Berry-led chase chiller. It's just been consistently delayed ever since – but not anymore!
Will it be worth the wait? Eh, probably not. Putting aside the preview's glaring logic holes – how's she chasing this guy down, but then have time to drop by the police station? – and the movie's long-delayed release, it looks like a cheap thriller that would be more at home in the budget DVD bin. But sillier summer thrillers have turned out well before – looking at you, "Premium Rush" and "Nerve" – so maybe we're in for a summer surprise.
How many movies can you make about the most obviously evil-looking doll this side of Teddy Ruxpin? Well, according to the "Child's Play" franchise, at least seven – so Annabelle's got a ways to go. She's just on her third: "Annabelle: Creation," an origin story for the haunted doll from the horror smash "The Conjuring." No, the story doesn't take place at a toy manufacturer; instead, the sequel takes place at a shuttered orphanage where a tortured dollmaker attempts to protect the children from his possessed creation. I'm sure it'll go great.
There was a significant drop in quality between the first "Conjuring" and the first "Annabelle" spin-off, so I'm not confident this will be a rebound. But if I learned anything from last year's startlingly good "Ouija: Origin of Evil" – which actually stars the same little girl from this sequel – it's that maybe the second time is the charm.
"The Glass Castle"
Everyone reading this article: Stop it. Stop reading these words and rent "Short Term 12." STOP IT NOW!
*politely waits, 96 minutes pass*
Right?! Wasn't that outstanding? Don't you want to see whatever writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton does next? Well, lucky for you, you don't have to wait very long, because his follow-up, "The Glass Castle," an adaptation of Jeannette Wallis' memoir about coping with her alcoholic father and eccentric mother, comes out in just a few weeks, featuring a great cast including Brie Larson, Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson. True, its August release yet awards season material doesn't exactly exude confidence – if the studios REALLY had hope in them, they wouldn't be coming out in August, too deep into the summer to really cash in while too far from Oscar season to gain traction – but I don't care. Wherever Cretton leads, you should follow.
"The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature"
Now, we've had a lot of fun here jabbing at ol' TNJ2: NBN (rolls right off the tongue), but true story: The first "Nut Job" is Open Road Films' highest grossing movie in the studio's entire existence. It made more than a Best Picture winner, the Liam Neeson fights wolves movie, Steven Soderbergh's final film (or was supposed to be – more on him later) and Oliver Stone's Snowden biopic. So maybe there's something to this fledgling animated franchise. Maybe there's a reason it's drawn the overqualified voices of Will Arnett, Katherine Heigl, Jackie Chan, Maya Rudolph, Peter Stormare and the Bobbys Cannavale and Moynihan. Maybe, just maybe, there's reason for optimism here.
Or maybe it's "The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature."
Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen star in this thriller about two detectives attempting to solve a murder case in the middle of the rough, isolated wilderness of a Wyoming Indian reservation. Writer Taylor Sheridan makes his directorial debut – and judging by his past efforts ("Sicario," "Hell or High Water") he knows a thing about smart, tense, character-rich thrillers.
"The Hitman's Bodyguard"
The bar is low in August, but that looks just about right for "The Hitman's Bodyguard," the new action comedy starring Samuel L. Jackson as the hitman part of the title and Ryan Reynolds as the bodyguard half. No, it doesn't look spectacular or particularly original. But you know what? A low-expectations actioner featuring Reynolds and Jackson bouncing quips off one another while trying to stop a weirdly accented Gary Oldman from ruling as global dictator sounds just about right for the dog days of summer. I predict an enjoyable but forgettable movie with many, many reruns on TNT as enjoyable but forgettable background noise.
Steven Soderbergh is terrible at retiring. After calling it quits from featuring filmmaking in 2013, the Oscar winner went on to serve as the cinematographer on "Magic Mike XXL," create and direct "The Knick" for Cinemax, help Spike Jonze edit "Her" into a modern masterpiece and direct the well-received "Behind the Candelabra" – all before coming back a mere four years later with "Logan Lucky" (and apparently a secret second feature filmed exclusively on iPhones). Sounds like a relaxing retirement.
Luckily, for as bad as he is at staying retired, he's great at making movies – and "Logan Lucky" looks like a good time, gathering a outstanding cast (Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and more) for a country-fried "Ocean's 11," trading out Terry Benedict's casinos for a NASCAR track. I look forward to welcoming Soderbergh back – and hopefully never having to say goodbye again.
I get no pleasure in repeating this with each these previews, but there's never been an actually good Christian film. Maybe "All Saints" will break that streak, though. Its story – about a pastor attempting to keep his church alive while hosting refugees from Southeast Asia – has a genuine dramatic hook, one that might drag it away from the usual bland, blunt preachiness of the subgenre. Plus it stars Aidan Shaw from "Sex and the City" and Mrs. Wheeler from "Stranger Things"! THERE IS HOPE!
"Birth of the Dragon"
In case a Christian film headlined by John Corbett didn't give it away, we've officially reached the bottom of the summer's barrel this weekend. Evidence #2: "Birth of the Dragon," which you may have just heard of seven words ago.
Cynicism aside, the story of this martial arts actioner sounds exciting – a young Bruce Lee challenges kung fu legend Wong Jack Man to a fight – martial arts expert Corey Yuen is behind the choreography and if there's anybody who knows how to exceed low expectations, it's director George Nolfi, whose last directorial effort, "The Adjustment Bureau," survived a crazy amount of delays to turn out actually pretty well.
Judging by that exclamation point, the dance-happy "Leap!" is at least excited to be here! But should you be excited? Hard to say. The cast is surprisingly solid for a kind of B-level European animated import – including Elle Fanning, Kate McKinnon and the great Mel Brooks – but the trailer is filled with excessive commotion and whimsy, as well as jokes that land as awkwardly as the dubbed-in voices. So I'm not sure … wait, does that say pop queen Carly Rae Jepsen provides a voice here? NEVERMIND, "LEAP!" IS GREAT!
Oscar winner Alicia Vikander stars in this long-delayed period piece about a 17th century painter who falls in love with the subject of his latest portrait. Problem: His subject is already married to Christoph Waltz. Judi Dench, "Valerian" co-stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne, and ... Zach Galifianakis (?) join in this star – and pollen – filled literary adaptation.
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