Summer movie preview 2016
If Hollywood knows one thing it’s, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Actually, the phrase is “If we got a hit, let’s run it into the ground.”
This practice is never more apparent than during the summer movie season, the three months out of the year where the studios make most of their money. To be sure, things have changed a bit, as experiments in releasing high-profile films in the spring and fall have generated big box office, which has resulted in the odd circumstance where there’s only one superhero film being released over the next three months.
This is the only anomaly in the roster of releases set to unspool between Memorial Day and Labor Day as, among the 36 films set for release, about one-third are sequels (10) and remakes (4). If you’re of the opinion that one summer’s slate of films is really no different than another, you’re not far wrong.
While we may think we know what we’re getting, the most intriguing thing about the next three months is seeing which of these movies emerges as a sleeper, a film that separates itself from the pack, one that either defies expectations or is so different from the rest of the fare that it proves to be a surprise hit. What with this summer series looking like the same ole, same ole, here’s hoping there’s more than one.
Having enjoyed a record run at the box office last year, propelled by an unusually strong schedule over the summer months, the studios would like nothing better than to repeat that success. They’ll have a hard time doing so, for as you’ll see from the following descriptions of the 36 aforementioned movies set for wide release, there’s likely no record-setters in the bunch. Here’s hoping the eight indies (p.13), provide the sort of intelligent, meaningful filmmaking that’s often in short supply during the dog days of summer.
Me Before You (June 3) Adapted from the novel by Jojo Moyes, this weeper revolves around the relationship that forms between a recently paralyzed man and the young woman who takes on the job of being his caretaker. That she comes from a small town only adds to the possibility that she’ll fall in love with her unattainable patient (review p. 19).
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (June 3) Having won me over with his consistently funny work on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Andy Samberg can do no wrong in my book. We’ll see if he can live up to my high standards with this musical comedy about a clueless pop star who finds his stardom slipping away. That one of the featured songs is entitled Mona Lisa Sucks only heightens my anticipation.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (June 3) That Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello and Raphael are back on the big screen isn’t a big surprise. That respected screen veteran and Oscar-nominee Laura Linney decided to share the screen with them is. The mind boggles. …
The Conjuring 2 (June 10) Having scored a minor hit in 2013 with the first chronicle of the experiences of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), Blumhouse Productions brings another of their cases to the screen. This time out, the married ghost hunters must contend with malevolent spirits terrorizing a single mother and her four kids.
Now You See Me 2 (June 10) Another hit from 2013 gets a sequel as the group of magicians known as The Four Horsemen (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco, sans Isla Fisher) come out of hiding and find themselves at the mercy of a tech genius (Daniel Radcliffe), who forces them to pull a seemingly impossible heist.
Warcraft (June 10) The peaceful realm of Azeroth stands on the brink of war as its civilization faces a fearsome race of invaders: orc warriors fleeing their dying home to colonize another. If this means anything to you, then you’re probably 40 years younger than me.
Central Intelligence (June 17) Accountant Calvin (Kevin Hart) looks up an old pal (Dwayne Johnson), not knowing he’s an undercover CIA agent. You guessed it, he winds up in the middle of a case of international espionage, dodging bullets and running for his life. While Hart’s shtick has grown old, Johnson’s manages to make anything he’s in better. We’ll see if he can do the same here.
Finding Dory (June 17) The flipper’s on the other fin as Marlin (Albert Brooks) and his son Nemo (Hayden Rolence) set out to find the forgetful blue tang Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) who’s gone in search of her family. Coming 13 years after the release of the original, this sequel has big shoes to fill, as Finding Nemo is one of the most beloved entries in the Pixar canon.
Free State of Jones (June 24) Based on a true story, this film recounts an instance of dissension in the Confederate ranks as Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey) gathers together a group of fellow farmers and slaves to secede from the Confederacy and form their own sovereign state.
Independence Day: Resurgence (June 24) It’s been seven years since director Roland Emmerich destroyed the world (2012), so he’s back to make up for lost time with this sequel to his biggest hit. Eschewing the notion of doing anything original, the filmmaker brings back the same group of aliens, who seem to have learned from their mistakes, to take another crack at wiping us all out and taking over the planet. Mass destruction and overacting are sure to be featured here.
The Shallows (June 29) Blake Lively carries this film on her shoulders as a surfer stranded on a rocky outcrop. While she’s only 200 yards from shore, a great white shark is preventing her from returning to the mainland.
The BFG (July 1) Having gotten a rapturous reception at the Cannes Film Festival, this adaptation of the Roald Dahl book marks Steven Spielberg’s return to the sort of fantasy filmmaking that made him a household name. Mark Rylance, who won an Oscar for Spielberg’s last feature, Bridge of Spies, is the titular giant who turns out not to be as fearsome as everyone imagines.
The Legend of Tarzan (July 1) For the 50th time, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ most famous creation will grace the big screen this summer. What could possibly be new with a character who first appeared 98 years ago? While this is the beginning of a hoped for new series from Warner Brothers, great narrative liberties are being taken with the first of Burroughs’ novels, a more independent, strong-willed Jane in the person of Margot Robbie will be on board and Alexander Skarsgard will be the first Swede to appear as the titular ape man. If all that fails to pique your interest, two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz is on board as the bad guy, while Samuel L. Jackson lends further support.
The Purge: Election Year (July 1) Of all the low-budget shockers to come from Blumhouse Productions, The Purge films have always been the most overtly political. This has never been more obvious than with this third entry about a senator who survived the purge as a child and now wants to abolish it. That she meets resistance to this notion rings uncomfortably true in an election year that’s prompted paranoia and hate.
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (July 8) After starring in Dirty Grandpa and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Zack Efron goes for the crude comedy trifecta with this ribald tale of two moronic brothers who score what they think are a pair of classy ladies (Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza) to take to their sister’s wedding. What they fail to realize is that their dates are just as raunchy and stupid as they are.
The Secret Life of Pets (July 8) The studio that brought you the Despicable Me series hopes to hit it big once more with this animated feature that focuses on what your pets do when you’re away. While it might not sound all that original (Toy Story but with animals!), it may offer some answers as to why your TV set is always turned to Animal Planet when you get home and that there never seems to be any potato chips in the house.
Ghostbusters (July 15) A long time coming, this reboot features ladies who ain’t afraid of no ghosts, instead of gents. Melissa McCarthy and “Saturday Night Live” alums Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are the four busters in question, while Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, is featured as their secretary. Why these four would be out chasing spirits instead of hanging out with him is anyone’s guess.
The Infiltrator (July 15) Bryan Cranston stars as U.S. Customs Agent Robert Mazur who uncovered a money laundering operation that led back to Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. John Leguizamo, Amy Ryan and Benjamin Bratt also star.
Ice Age: Collision Course (July 22) How this animated franchise keeps going is beyond me. Crudely rendered, simplistically plotted and featuring the dullest cartoon critters on record, these movies from 20th Century Fox always make big bucks internationally. This time out, that creepy rat, squirrel thing Scrat, ends up in outer space and causes a cataclysm that threatens the Earth. Wake me when it’s over.
Lights Out (July 22) Teresa Palmer stars as a woman who is haunted by a creature she can only see when the lights go out. Something tells me I’ll be watching this one through my fingers.
Star Trek Beyond (July 22) The third time around for the latest crew in Paramount Picture’s sci-fi cash cow finds the Enterprise bunch stranded on a remote, hostile planet. While the first two films in this reboot were very good, the fact that their director, J.J. Abrams, is not helming this one is cause for concern.
Bad Moms (July 29) Independent distributor STX Entertainment is hoping this ribald comedy will be this summer’s Hangover as it features three moms (Kristin Bell, Mila Kunis and Kathryn Hahn) who reach their limit of changing diapers and rattling rattles, so they set out to regain their youth via a nonstop party.
Jason Bourne (July 29) Matt Damon returns as Robert Ludlum’s famous spy in this espionage series that always promised as many bouts of motion sickness as it did thrills. Expect much hand-to-hand combat and more than a few headaches due to the excessive cutting and use of handheld cameras by director Paul Greengrass.
The Founder (Aug. 5) Perhaps the most intriguing film of the summer, this biopic features Michael Keaton as McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc. That alone is enough to get me to buy a ticket and exchange my Big Mac for a big bucket of popcorn.
Nine Lives (Aug. 5) Kevin Spacey stars as a ruthless businessman who discovers his consciousness has been transferred to his family’s cat. The Shakespearean actor will be providing the voice of the cat. Reread all of that so the import of it truly sinks in.
Suicide Squad (Aug. 5) DC Comics’ version of The Dirty Dozen, this big-budget actioner features a group of bad guys who are offered pardons if they embark on and survive a mission that will most certainly lead to their deaths. Warner Brothers has been tight-lipped regarding specifics of the plot, but Batman (Ben Affleck) and the Joker (Jared Leto) are involved, as is fan favorite Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie).
Florence Foster Jenkins (Aug. 12) Based on a true story, Meryl Streep stars as the socialite of the title who is a devoted music lover and decides to stage her own opera on a national stage with herself as the star. Problem is, she can’t sing a lick. With Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg of The Big Bang Theory.
Pete’s Dragon (Aug. 12) This remake of the Disney animated feature gets a live-action do-over as it recounts the story of a young boy and his best friend, who happens to be a dragon. Bryce Dallas Howard, Karl Urban, Wes Bentley and Robert Redford are all on board to create a bit of magic.
Sausage Party (Aug. 12) Sporting the greatest title of any film in the history of cinema, this animated feature follows the adventures of Frank (voice by Seth Rogan), a hot dog who discovers some awful truths about what happens to food once it leaves the supermarket. From the crew that brought you This is the End, any movie that has Salma Hayek voicing a character named Teresa Taco can have my money.
Ben-Hur (Aug. 19) MGM continues to raid its own film vault by remaking yet another one of its classics. From the trailer provided by the studio, this third version of Lew Wallace’s novel seems to be more concerned with action rather than any spiritual connection that might be made between its title character and Christ. As Han Solo would say, “I got a bad feeling about this.”
Kubo and the Two Strings (Aug. 19) Based on a Japanese folk tale, this animated feature follows the adventures of a young boy who must track down a magical suit of armor in order to ward off the monsters that plague him.
The Space Between Us (Aug. 19) Set in the near future, this modest sci-fi entry concerns a young man (Asa Butterfield) who’s been raised on Mars, but returns to Earth to find his missing father. Screen veterans Gary Oldman and Carla Gugino are also on board.
War Dogs (Aug. 19) Based on a true story, this dramedy from director Todd Phillips (The Hangover) recounts how two young men (Jonah Hill and Miles Teller), despite having no previous experience, scored a $300 million defense contract from the Pentagon. They end up becoming gunrunners in Afghanistan, oblivious to the fact that they are in way over their heads.
Don’t Breathe (Aug. 26) The second horror film of the season deals with a trio of young teens who break into a blind man’s house, hoping for an easy score. Suffice it to say, things go horribly wrong as they learn the hard way never to underestimate the sightless.
Hands of Stone (Aug. 26) This dual biography tells of boxer Roberto Duran’s (Edgar Ramirez) rise to fame as well as his relationship with legendary trainer Ray Arcel (Robert De Niro).
Mechanic: Resurrection (Aug. 26) Jason Statham beats people half to death and blows things up real good. Do you need to know anything more than that?
Eight Indies to look for
Woody Allen’s latest, the adventures of a traveling dog and a surreal escape drama with a dead body as a main character are among the intriguing independent releases that will be on area screens this summer.
Tilda Swinton stars as a Madonna-like rock singer whose life is thrown into turmoil when her ex-lover and record producer (Ralph Fiennes, in a scene-stealing turn) shows up on her doorstep in A Bigger Splash…Director Todd Solondz (Happiness) returns with the story of a dachshund who gives joy to its various masters in Weiner-Dog...Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, stars as a dead man who gives a man (Paul Dano) stranded in the wilderness hope in Swiss Army Man…Viggo Mortensen stars as a secluded father living in the Pacific Northwest who must leave his comfort zone and six children to live in Seattle in Captain Fantastic…The life of editor Max Perkins, who worked with Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Wolfe, takes center stage in Genius…Woody Allen’s latest, Café Society, takes place in 1930s Hollywood and features Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg, Steve Carrell and Blake Lively…Anna Kendrick lends her considerable charm to The Hollars, the story of a young man (John Krasinski) who reluctantly returns to his hometown…Southside with You takes a fictionalized look at the first date between Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson.
Contact Chuck Koplinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.