As I researched the films that will be splattered on-screen nationwide between late April and August, I found major hope, a real grab-bag of potential big-studio treats. Surprising? Yes, especially considering that I have been critical of the summer movie season the last few years, at least ever since superhero movies changed the way studios greenlit their films. However, this year, there’s actually hope for artistic breakthroughs.
Of note: These are the big studio movies being released this summer, not the indies, all of which, at least the noteworthy ones, have been seen by yours truly and those include “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Vile and Evil,” “Knock Down the House,” “Booksmart,” “The Farewell,” “David Crosby: Remember My Name,” “Luce,” and “Blinded by the Light.”
I don’t know how and why 20th Century Fox decided to give arthouse director James Gray (“Two Lovers,” “The Immigrant”) a $50 million budget to make a sci-fi epic, but bless their souls for doing that.
The Dead Don’t Die
Jim Jarmusch’s deadpan comic zombie film (Tilda Swinton, Adam Driver, Caleb Landry Jones, Chloë Sevigny) was produced by Focus Features and will premiere at Cannes before being released this June in theaters.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
The question remains as to exactly what kind of film Quentin Tarantino is making with the upcoming "Once Upon A Time in Hollywood." The film will either be a) an absurdist revisionist genre film like 'Inglourious' and 'Django' or it'll be b) A film grounded in the dark, realist violence of "Reservoir Dogs," "Jackie" and "Pulp Fiction." Something tells me it's the latter. QT has even mentioned that '‘Once Upon A Time’ is “probably the closest to ‘Pulp Fiction’ that I have done.”
Toy Story 4
Most people will tell you that, as far as conclusions to a trilogy go, you couldn't make a better series-capping entity than "Toy Story 3." The 2010 film had everything that was necessary to end on a high note; emotions, excitement, thrills and the kind of forward-looking nostalgia, I know, a contradiction, that made it wholly unique as far as sequels went. I can’t wait to see how Pixar manages to close out this series, this must be the last dance, right?
After much controversy, Rocketman, Paramount’s Elton John biopic, will be keeping a gay sex scene between Taron Egerton’s Elton, and Richard Madden, who plays the singer’s former manager, John Reid. That means the film will be rated R and will, no doubt, try to gain a reputation as the anti-Bohemian Rhapsody. Director Dexter Fletcher is putting the finishing touches on the film which set to be released in the U.K. on May 24, and the U.S. the week after.
Ari Aster's sophomore effort, coming off his excellent debut"Hereditary," has the backing of A24 who immediately greenlit this project even before "Hereditary" was even released. The studio is setting a similar release date for this latest effort, August 9th, which means they have high confidence this will be another much-buzzed moneymaker for them. We don't know much about the plot but it sounds like it covers the same psychological-horror ground that made Aster's debut such a haunting provocation.
Where’d Ya Go Bernadette?
Based on Maria Semple’s novel of the same name, which spent a year on The New York Times Bestseller List, Director Richard Linklater's “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” is told in flashbacks and has Bee, Bernadette’s daughter, trying to put together the missing clues in the grand puzzle of what happened to her mother. Linklater is one of the great American directors of the 21st century, just look at his filmography “Dazed and Confused,” "Boyhood,” “School of Rock,” “Waking Life,” and, of course, his trilogy composed of “Before Sunrise," "Before Sunset," and "Before Midnight." However, for all the hoopla those movies bring, people tend to discount the under-the-radar Linklater's like "Bernie," "Tape," "Me and Orson Welles," and "Everybody Wants Some!!"
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Who doesn't love a movie about revenge? The second “John Wick” was actually a better movie than the original and didn't run into the same problems the "Taken" sequels had. Repetitiveness wasn't an issue, this was bolder filmmaking. Everything in "John Wick 2" was amped-up to the nth degree in more ambitious ways, which leads us to believe that director Chad Stahelski might up the ante with this third installment.
Danny Boyle‘s “Yesterday” has an agreeable concept; What if The Beatles never existed and you happened to be the only person in the world that can recall their entire repertoire of great tunes? Himesh Patel plays “Jack Malik,” the only person in the world that remembers John/Paul/Ringo/George making music history between 1962 and 1970. He uses the surreal nature of his peculiar situation to kick-start a career as a successful musician by ripping off the fab four’s songs, except is it really plagiarizing if nobody remembers them?
Oh yes, this could most definitely work as a comedy. “Stuber,” which world premiered at SXSW last March, stars Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista in, what seems to be, an action-comedy take on Michael Mann’s ‘Collateral.” The newly released trailer has gags that made me chuckle, the chemistry between the two actors will be the driving force of this film, let’s hope it can continue to work for 90 minutes.
Octavia Spencer is a horror movie villain in Blumhouse’s “Ma,” directed by Tate Taylor (“The Help”). Spencer plays a lonely woman who becomes obsessed with a group of high school students. On paper it sounds like the kind of sleeper hit the summer movie season seems to deliver yearly.
“Endgame” takes place after the shocking events of “Infinity War,” with half of the world’s population gone, after Thanos secured all the Infinity Stones and snapped his finger. There are survivors of “the snap,” including Captain America and Black Widow, who attempt to reverse what happened. I gather it should be fine, all will be well in the end for our MCU heroes, but I’m praying The Russos have a few surprises up their sleeves, I beg you, please don’t make this last chapter a by-the-books affair, go out with a bang, shoot the action the same way you elevated 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” into the level of art.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
Tom Holland returns as the web-slinger, so does Jon Watts as director of the MCU-owned Spidey franchise, which will star Jake Gyllenhaal as its latest villain. If “Spider-Man: Homecoming” proved anything it was for us to tamper expectations when it came to these films; The initial installment was light on its feet, decently entertaining as it went along, but did not break any new ground when it came to the web slinger. Surprisingly, it was “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” that turned out to be the Spidey movie we desperately needed.
The Lion King
Here we go, people will bitch and moan that we didn’t need Jon Favreau’s adaptation of Disney’s 1994 animated blockbuster, but, know what? We’ll be more than happy to comply and line up for this photorealistic VFX version of African savannah-set epic, a rip-off of “Hamlet,” which will feature animal characters appearing as lifelike as possible. The voice cast includes Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Seth Rogen, and James Earl Jones. Favreau impressed with his live-action version of “The Jungle Book,” who says lightning can’t strike twice for him and the audience with this latest venture?