Summer movie preview: What you'll be watching on the big screen in June
Well, that was terrible.
The past month may have cracked off the summer movie season solidly with "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," but unfortunately, there were three other weekends of new wannabe blockbusters – and they all sucked. Pardon me, that's harsh; they merely all landed somewhere on the spectrum of suck, from mediocre suck to Dyson-vacuum-inspired full-force suction. You know, Hollywood, it's hard to defend the sacredness of watching a movie in theaters when you're giving me "Baywatch" and "Pirates Again" to work with.
Thankfully, May is now in the rearview mirror, and June has a surprisingly intriguing lineup of new flicks to check out. Maybe that's because the month features a lot more small-scale original risks ("It Comes At Night," "Baby Driver") mixed in with the predictable summer sequels, like another "Despicable Me," another "Cars" and another … "Transformers"? BUT WHYYY!?
Anyways, while I attempt to drink that realization out of my skull, here are all the movies you'll be checking out this June.
One of the few elements in last year's bludgeoning "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" that worked is a part that didn't even have to be there: Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), awkwardly shoehorned into the movie to tease this fall's "Justice League." Remember when Batman emailed her to join their final fight against a 'roided up Ninja Turtle – and then forgot he did that and was all, "Wait, who invited you?" I wish I didn't!
Luckily, Wonder Woman's now got her own movie – and better yet, it looks good! Director Patty Jenkins (the Oscar-winning "Monster") looks like she's pulled DC out of its moody murk – aka there's jokes and color this time! – while World War I provides a unique setting that should help this latest DC entry stand out from its competition for reasons other than being the most haphazard bloated dreck in theaters.
"Wonder Woman" marks the superhero's long-deserved first foray on screen, the first female-led superhero movie somehow since 2005's "Elektra" and the first major superhero movie directed by a woman (not including Lexi Alexander's micro-budgeted "Punisher: War Zone" in 2008) – not to mention the rare blockbuster directed by a woman. These are all major accomplishments, but one of the most essential firsts on its checklist will be making the first DC movie worth a damn.
Oh great, ANOTHER superhero. But if we're gonna add a twentieth caped crusader to this summer's lineup, it might as well be "Captain Underpants" – if only for nostalgia's sake, as I remember reading the first few books when I was a youth, easily amused by balloon-shaped bald men in their skivvies bouncily saving the world with an enthusiastic "tra la la!"
I may have grown out of the books, but I'm still actually excited for his new animated movie. The voice cast is impressive – featuring Kevin Hart, Ed Helms and Thomas Middleditch of "Silicon Valley" – and the screenplay comes from Nicholas Stoller, a funny filmmaker for ages young ("The Muppets," "Storks") and old ("Neighbors," "Forgetting Sarah Marshall"). If Stoller's sugar-rush "Storks" was any clue, "Captain Underpants" might not match the adult depth of, say, Pixar, but it'll work its barely-clothed butt for a laugh.
"It Comes At Night"
Some movies jokingly paint getting the family together for Thanksgiving as a horror flick, but in writer-director Trey Edward Shults' debut "Krisha," it IS a horror movie, a family drama that's almost unbearably anxious and intense. So it only makes sense that, for his follow-up, Shults would make an actual horror movie: "It Comes At Night," about a family bunkered from some sort of zombie-like plague put to the test when another family knocks seeking shelter.
The oozing creatures from the outside world look almost as creepy as Shults' ominous visuals and paranoid tone, and teaming with A24 – the studio behind greats like "Green Room," "Moonlight" and "The Witch" – seems like a perfect match. Translation: Get ready for a summer chill as effectively mind-tingling as a 12-popcicle brain freeze.
Dogs. The military. The daughter of a NFL royal family. The tearjerker "Megan Leavey" – the true story of a Marine bonding with a bomb-sniffing dog – probably couldn't be more patriotic if it was directed by an apple pie.
Instead, it was directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, whose last project was … the famed SeaWorld documentary "Blackfish"? And one of its co-writers is Annie Mumolo of "Bridesmaids"? At first glance, this looked like just another intensely heart-tugging Hallmark-approved drama that tries JUST a bit too hard to milk tears – see "Max" – but now? You have my attention, "Megan Leavey."
It wouldn't be a summer movie month without a doomed-to-be-failed extended universe start-up! Last month gave us "King Arthur," which didn't just fall on its face but also fell on its sword, killing its proposed six-movie franchise. Now we get the latest incarnation of "The Mummy," the introductory chapter to Universal's "Dark Universe" monster mash. Well, introductory if you forget "Dracula Untold" – which Universal certainly did!
Unfortunately, this second attempt at a first impression doesn't look any better, presenting itself as just another big CGI-fueled blockbuster that's only made an impact when its trailer got messed up and deleted all but the most hilarious sound effects.
The Mummy trailer they accidentally released without music or sound effects is still the funniest thing pic.twitter.com/PZB92ev7yw— Future Canon (@futurecanon) May 22, 2017
I like that preview a lot more than the ones that sell a "Mummy" movie that has none of the horror of its classic original and none of the whiz-bang adventure of the 1999 redo – which, for a movie from almost two decades ago, weirdly still feels too close and too beloved to remake. I mean, Tom Cruise, you're a movie star and all, but you're no THIS GUY:
"47 Meters Down"
Last year, "The Shallows" tried its hand at playing "Jaws"-lite by dropping Blake Lively on an island and forcing her to survive a very hangry shark. And it kind of worked – chomping up some solid write-ups and a decent box office showing. So, of course, Hollywood responded by doing the same damn thing all over again with "47 Meters Down," except this time there's two stranded vacationers (Mandy Moore and Claire Holt), a lot more exceptionally motivated sharks and the island is now a shark cage stuck underwater.
Combine all of that with its exceptionally screamy trailer – how are you screaming so much underwater, ladies?! – and my hopes aren't exactly high for this. But maybe things will go full circle, and the rip-off of the rip-off will be on par with what the rip-off originally ripped off. That logic checks out.
Normally, a Pixar movie is a guarantee for excitement in the summer … but it's damn impossible to rev up much enthusiasm for yet another sequel to "Cars," the worst of Pixar's pack. The first bizarrely grim trailer certainly didn't help, playing like a dark "SNL" parody of the franchise rather than an actual product from animation's reigning champ. The later previews play better, laying out the plot about Lightning McQueen having to battle injury, age and a new streamlined rival (Armie Hammer, "The Social Network"). However, they also feature the line, "You can't turn back the clock, but you can wind it up again," which … huh?
On the other hand, Larry the Cable Guy's Mater only appears for three quick scenes in the trailer, relegated to what looks like just brief comic relief. If that's the case for the whole movie, "Cars 3" is already the best of bunch.
"All Eyez on Me"
"You said, and I quote, if they kill me, I want the people to know the real story," ends the preview for the Tupac biopic "All Eyez on Me," assuming the title of ULTIMATE TRUTH about the legendary rapper. That's quite the mantle to claim – and frankly, the trailer doesn't quite sell me on living up to that boast. Instead it looks like a pretty standard musical hagiography – save for the eerily identical Demetrius Shipp Jr. in the lead. He is the most convincing evidence out there that Tupac is indeed alive – and playing himself in his own biopic.
Everything about "Rough Night" should scream "YAS QUEEN!" The dark bachelorette-party-gone-wrong comedy netted itself an A-grade cast, featuring Scarlett Johannson, "Ghostbusters" thief Kate McKinnon, comedy MVP Jillian Bell and "Broad City" star Ilana Glazer. And speaking of "Broad City," writer-director Lucia Aniello and co-writer Paul W. Downs were both regular contributors to the hit Comedy Central show. And yet the previews for "Rough Night" have looked less than the sum of their parts.
The biggest problem for "Rough Night," though? If this doesn't look like a home run, audiences might choose to wait for next month's similar girls naughty ladies night laugher "Girls Trip." We certainly are living in a golden age of comedies featuring a quartet of ladies doing a choreographed dance routine at a flashy bar.
"The Book of Henry"
Hollywood, always busting out the same old, same old. For instance, "The Book of Henry," just your typical movie about a mystical savant-like child helping his single mother get by while also planning the assassination of his police chief next-door neighbor, who may or may not be abusing his daughter. Pfft – again!
But really, despite an A-grade cast – Naomi Watts, Dean Norris, the cute kid from "Room" – I have no idea how "The Book of Henry" is supposed to work. Why did the director of "Jurassic World" decide his next project should be what looks like the Kidz Bop cover of "The Accountant"? Why do the posters look like they're selling whimsical sweetness and charm? WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU, "THE BOOK OF HENRY"?!
All I know is the funniest thing I saw in a movie theater last month was my friend's face watching the trailer for the first time, slowly evolving from cute amusement to mouth-agape horror. So at least there's that.
"Transformers: The Last Knight"
You know what, after four of these braindead movies – the last one being the most egregiously dim – I say Mark Wahlberg and company let the robots just take over or blow up the Earth already. They always get close but just fail thanks to Optimus Prime – who, in this chapter, apparently meets Robo-God and decides to murder the planet. But this time? I say just destroy the thing. At least that would mean no more "Transformers" movies, right?
That would also mean no Hasbro extended cinematic universe – and yes, I didn't just make that up. The toy company wants to make a whole film franchise combining all their plastic heroes – including "G.I. Joe," "Micronauts" and more – and I wouldn't be surprised if "The Last Knight" will attempt to link at least one of those in.
So blow it up. Blow it all up. At least a Hasbro cinematic universe won't exist on whatever smoldering crater is left behind.
Because the world has an amusing sense of humor, the same weekend of the fifth mindless toy brand action monolith comes "The Beguiled," a sumptuously photographed redo of the 1971 Clint Eastwood drama about a Civil War soldier causing havoc in a home of all ladies (led here by Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning and Kirsten Dunst). But while the original version played up the steamy melodrama, director Sofia Coppola's film tilts toward a feminist lens – a retelling that seems to have worked, earning the director the title of Best Director at the esteemed Cannes Film Festival, only the second women to have done so.
Raise your hand if you expected a feminist-angled Cannes-awarded Civil War melodrama this summer! No hands? Well, then raise your hand if you're intrigued we have one now. There they all are!
"The Big Sick"
One of the nominees for best movie of the summer is one that you likely haven't even heard of yet: "The Big Sick," a romantic comedy/drama (rom-com-dram?) about a couple battling cultural differences – and then a surprise coma, because sometimes life is just an asshole. It's even more so when you consider it's based on co-writers Kumail Nanjiani – who also stars, finally earning a breakout after stealing scenes all over film and TV – and Emily V. Gordon's actual relationship.
Luckily, the duo turned their real-life drama into a charming movie that's already earned raves after its premiere at Sundance. So while it may pale in size next to the likes of Spider-Man or Wonder Woman, look forward to "The Big Sick" becoming one of the big heroes of the summer.
My most anticipated movie of the summer, "Baby Driver" looks surprising normal for an Edgar Wright movie – a writer-director who's made some of the most energetic, original and entertaining films to come out of Hollywood this side of the millennium. After all, it's just another movie about a criminal – in this case wheelman Ansel Elgort of "The Fault in Our Stars" – trying to break out of his life of crime in the name of love ("Cinderella" herself Lily James).
Of course, with Wright behind the camera, it couldn't be that simple – and despite the rather straight-laced marketing, it's not. "Baby Driver" is no simple One Final Job actioner; it's almost part-jukebox musical too, featuring the music often timed up to the action happening on screen. Hopefully it's more music to cinephiles' ears courtesy of Wright.
"Amityville: The Awakening"
Nope. Nope nope nope. Nope on top of nope, on top of nope, sandwiched between two slices of artisan nope bread. There's no way, Hollywood, that you're going to convince me that "Amityville: The Awakening" is actually coming out.
Originally pitched as a found footage, the horror sequel was pegged for a January release date … January of 2012, that is. Since then, "Amityville" switched to a new premise – a more classically filmed and plotted haunted house tale, starring then Disney star Bella Thorne – and switched release dates at least five more times before finally landing on this month, a whole three years after the freaking thing was actually made.
So yeah, "Amityville: The Awakening" might be more cursed than the evil house in the title.
"Despicable Me 3"
After overdosing on minions in, well, "Minions," Gru and the girls are back for an actual "Despicable Me" sequel, this time featuring a new villain – a retro-obsessed diamond thief – and a new family member in the form of Gru's filthy-rich aspiring baddie brother, Dru (also voiced by Steve Carell, obviously). And yes, the minions are back too, but hopefully this third installment returns to the heart and humor of the first chapter and less of the overload of its spin-off.
Behind this very bland-sounding title is what looks like a very funny movie worth getting excited about. After all, it's a comedy starring Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler about two struggling suburbanite parents trying to afford their daughter's fancy college … by starting an underground casino, complete with fight nights, strippers and massive Italian sunglasses. It's a potential-rich premise with an aces cast of comedians and, most importantly, Jason Mantzoukas – the lone redeemable element of "Dirty Grandpa" – hilariously almost heaving at a chopped body part. Hopefully the final product is more like that clip and less like its less-than-inspired title.
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