- John de Campos
Last year, I was inspired by the summer's bumper crop of sequels, prequels and bologna. This year, I'm already tired.
That's because I saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 a few weeks ago and it's only OK (at best). That really bummed me out.
It's not that I expected it to be gangbusters. The first film is tons of fun, even if it doesn't hold up as well at a home viewing like it does in a big, crowded theater with a ginned-up audience. But writer-director James Gunn has made some nifty and gross subversive stuff (Slither, Super). Throw those flicks together with his first Guardians and I had high-ish hopes for GotGV2.
Unfortunately, Starlord (Chris Pratt) and crew's second adventure feels like a movie in search of a story, with plot points cribbed from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and mashed together with the armchair psychology of the Fast & Furious series. Sure, there are plenty of gags and some good killin', but the whole affair made me shrug. Who cares whether Starlord finds his father?
So, when I revisited the list of upcoming summer movies and saw all the sequels, prequels and bologna listed, my heart sank. Not in a "Holy shit, bloated gasbag Donald Trump is president" kind of way, but it sunk nonetheless.
What happened to me? Last year I happily strolled down amnesia lane to 1983 and my first big-screen viewing of Return of the Jedi. Here's what happened: I grew up, suffered from student-loan payments, lower-back pain and way too many mediocre-to-poor sequels, prequels and bologna.
"Yeah, yeah," you say. "Boo hoo. You get to write about movies for a living. Tough life."
You're correct in your disdain, imaginary reader. It's not like I'm reporting on human rights violations. It's a privilege to write about movies, and it's usually pretty fun.
For the first time since I've had this job, I'm deeply dismayed. Forget that there are billions of crummy-looking sequels coming this summer, including a sequel to a prequel (Alien: Covenant Please God Make It Stop).
But take a look at some of the rest of this shit. There's a film called Emoji Movie: Express Yourself being released in August. There's a fifth—fifth!—Pirates of the Caribbean movie coming. And Demetri Martin has a movie coming out that he wrote and directed. This is when I have to come right out and say it:
Go to hell, movie business. You're a rotten, festering pustule on the ass of humanity.
Movies have the power to transport us. Movies can make us forget all the brouhaha going on in our sad, pathetic lives for a couple hours at a time, or that the president fired the FBI chief. Movies can make us want to be better people (see: Casablanca).
But when I look at the movies coming out this summer and see that someone's best idea for spending $40 million is The House, starring Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler as parents who open an illegal casino to earn enough money to send their daughter to college, I'm simultaneously heartened and dismayed. I'm heartened because it's rare for comedies to address a problem regular people deal with. I'm dismayed because I've seen this plot in myriad different iterations: Fun with Dick & Jane (original and remake), the Going in Style remake. Even so-so dramas such as Boiler Room feature illegal casinos as a major plot point and the classic Dog Day Afternoon features a bank robbery at its center as a means to fund a major life event.
Man, I'm a buzzkill. But The House is the best ya got, Hollywood, goddamnit?
Now that we all feel terrible, I'm going to strap on my boots, climb dick mountain and spin gold from the lead that is the upcoming summer movie season. No joke, kids: I'm trying extra hard to find the puppy dogs and rainbows amid all the turds.
So here's what you can expect, helpfully broken up into categories inspired by a great movie by a long-dead filmmaker.
- Derek Carlisle
Director Ridley Scott returned in 2012 to the Alien franchise and gave us Prometheus, a prequel that sorta kinda relates to the Alien mythology. Five years later, I'm still not sure what the point was (besides money), but Alien: Covenant, the aforementioned sequel to a prequel, seems like an attempt to marry Prometheus to Alien. Will it work? I dunno. But it can't be worse than Alien 3 or Alien: Resurrection. (Opens May 19)
Nicola Yoon's well received YA novel gets the big-screen treatment; and adapting YA novels is dicey. For each Hunger Games series, you get at least one The 5th Wave with a Divergent on top of it. Still, if you can get past the fact that Everything, Everything sounds like a retread of The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, it has an attractive cast in Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson, as well as a director who comes from indies (Stella Meghie) and a nifty plot twist. Fingers crossed. (Opens May 19)
My Cousin Rachel
This latest adaption of the Daphne du Maurier novel stars Rachel Weisz. And the record for du Maurier adaptations is tops (Don't Look Now, Rebecca, Jamaica Inn). Director Roger Michell has missed (Le Week-End, Hyde Park on Hudson, Enduring Love, Venus) more often than he's hit (Notting Hill, Changing Lanes), but the source material and cast are strong. (Opens June 9)
Beatriz at Dinner
Salma Hayek is a massage therapist and John Lithgow is a billionaire asshole. They have a run-in at a dinner party. If you think this sounds like a rumination on Mexicans and Trump, you're probably not wrong. Miguel Arteta directs, Mike White writes, and they've made two good movies together (Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl). Note to studios: Cast Hayek more. (Opens June 9)
All Eyez On Me
It's the Tupac biopic! No jokes, I'm in. (Opens Friday, June 16, what would have been Shakur's 46th birthday)
The Book of Henry
Director Colin Trevorrow's big-budget appeal is lost on me (see: Jurassic World), but I'll defend his feature debut, Safety Not Guaranteed. The Book of Henry feels a little more indie, as an 11-year-old genius and his mother (Naomi Watts) try to rescue the girl next door from a maybe-abusive stepfather. Sarah Silverman is in this, too. (Opens June 16)
Charlize Theron in another action flick that isn't Fate of the Furious? As Gregory Hines (R.I.P.) would say, "Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees!" Theron is a Brit spy at the end of the Cold War. Stunt vet David Leitch directs. Sold, sold, sold. (Opens July 28)
The Dark Tower
I'm no Stephen King fan, but I love Westerns and Idris Elba, and I'm warming on Matthew McConaughey. The Dark Tower film is years in the making and it's been dogged by delays and casting gripes (some fans are irked because they assumed The Gunslinger is white—eff those people). I'm just glad Elba is finally in a live-action film that isn't a Marvel movie. (Opens Aug. 4)
Kathryn Bigelow is back! And so is Mark Boal, who wrote Bigelow's The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. This flick takes place in Detroit during the 1967 riots, but was largely shot in Massachusetts (tax breaks!). John Boyega (yay!) stars. (Opens Aug. 4)
It's not another Wolverine movie, but a Steven Soderbergh film, proving that some people like to work in retirement. Anyway, Channing Tatum stars and he's done good work with Soderbergh before (Magic Mike, Side Effects and the Soderbergh-shot Magic Mike XXL). Adam Driver is the co-star and, Girls aside, I'm a fan. Also stars Hilary Swank (yay!), Daniel Craig (yay!), Elvis Presley's granddaughter and Seth MacFarlane (barf). Could be fun. Maybe. (Opens Aug. 18)
I'm not sure how you turn a 1,138-page book into one movie, plus I'm not sure I want to see a movie in which a little boy's arm is ripped off in the prologue. But I'm intrigued, mostly because I think clowns are stupid, not scary, and I'm still waiting for a Stephen King adaptation to be good. (Opens Sept. 8)
- Derek Carlisle
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
I expect nothing from movies except to entertain me. Everything else is gold, Jerry. But the Pirates franchise hasn't done that since 2003 and PotC: At World's End did the unforgivable: It made Keith Richards boring. And this tale, like all the preceding tales, is longer than two hours. WHY? Javier Bardem can only do so much and Johnny Depp can't do enough. (Opens May 26)
DC is 0-for-2 in the let's-build-a-decent-franchise game, but I'm mildly encouraged by the notion that Wonder Woman cannot possibly be worse than either the anemic Man of Steel or the absolutely wretched Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. I also dig that the big studio brains hired Patty Jenkins to direct—who when she last helmed a feature, convinced the world that Charlize Theron was terrifying real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Plus, Gal Gadot and Chris Pine look great. Here's to blind hope. (Opens June 2)
Cars is terrible. Cars 2 is even worse. Even Pixar makes bad movies (Monsters University, the Planes series) and it's rare the third film in a trilogy is the best. (Opens June 16)
I don't know whether you've seen the trailer for Rough Night, but it looks as if it has exactly the same plot as Very Bad Things, which is a very bad movie that could have been a very good one, given its cast and pedigree. As for Rough Night, I'm suspicious of any movie in which non-entity Zoë Kravitz has a starring role. (Opens June 16)
Amityville: The Awakening
You only star in Amityville movies if you're trying to become a movie star (Amityvilles past stars include the likes of Ryan Reynolds and Meg Ryan; and in this flick, Bella Thorne), or you're long past being a movie star (Jennifer Jason Leigh, this flick). Don't go in the house, goddamnit. (Opens June 30)
Despicable Me 3
As much as I enjoyed the first and second installations, I can't imagine what they'll do here that they haven't done before. Trey Parker plays the bad guy. Huh. (Opens June 30)
See my rant above. Hopefully Jason Mantzoukas can breathe life into this premise. (Opens June 30)
Please, please, please let me get what I want, which is for Sony to stop rebooting this g.d. franchise. Tom Holland dons the tights this time around. (Opens July 7)
War for the Planet of the Apes
Keep your hands off Pierre Boulle's source material, you damn dirty studio executives! Woody Harrelson shows up in this one to take on Caesar et al. (Opens July 14)
The thing the Annabelle franchise doesn't seem to understand is that no one would buy a doll that looks so creepy. Jesus, Annabelle looks like the kind of doll just waiting to be possessed, so why on Earth would any consumer take that chance? But this is a prequel (gah!) to Annabelle, so maybe it finally explains why anyone would purchase a doll that looks like she's gonna cut your throat in the night. (Opens Aug. 11)
Emoji Movie: Express Yourself
(Opens July 28)
Fun Mom Dinner
Any movie with a title this lazy has to be awful. See also: Bad Teacher, Bad Moms, Horrible Bosses, Sex Tape. I'm kinda surprised Toni Collette would go in for this, but maybe I shouldn't judge movies by their titles. Wait, who am I kidding? Of course I should! Written by Julie Rudd (who's married to Paul Rudd) and directed by Alethea Jones. (Opens Aug. 4)
- Derek Carlisle
If you asked me which TV series of yore should never, ever, ever ever be made into a movie, I'd have said 21 Jump Street. But it and its goofily named sequel (22 Jump Street) benefit from smart writing, top-notch acting and not sticking in tone to the source material. Baywatch looks to be made with similar intentions (larfs and earning potential) and The Rock and Zac Efron both know from comedy. But does the movie know from crap? Director Seth Gordon is responsible for Horrible Bosses, after all. We'll find out, and if the hard-R is any indication, leave the kids with the grandparents for the evening. (Opens May 26)
I've really had enough of movies in which a Nazi (Jai Courtney) is supposed to earn our sympathy. But here a Nazi soldier falls in love with a Jew (Lily James) while he's keeping tabs on exiled Kaiser Wilhelm II (Christopher Plummer). Hasn't Courtney blown enough chances at being a movie star? (Opens June 2)
A mummy terrorizes the planet and Tom Cruise has to stop it. It's written by Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, barf; and Passenger, double barf), Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher, Edge of Tomorrow, double yay!; and Jack the Giant Slayer, triple barf!) and directed by Alex Kurtzman (People Like Us, eh). Oh, and Russell Crowe plays Dr. Henry Jekyll. Just what the hell is going on around here? (Opens June 9)
Baby (Ansel Elgort, a $24 name if there ever was one) is a getaway driver. It also stars Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Lily James and Jon Hamm. But it's directed by Edgar Wright, who, if he's known for anything, it's subverting genres. Whether his movies work (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) or don't (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The World's End), they're usually worth watching. (Opens June 28)
"Deception hits home," reads the poster. And there's Nicolas Cage! Gina Gershon (yay!) plays his wife and there's a new mom in town she doesn't trust. Spooky? Cage's hairline alone gives me shivers. (Opens June 30)
Christopher Nolan moves away from wonky, emotionless space movies (Interstellar) and wonky, emotionless superhero movies (The Dark Knight franchise), to tackle a subject that deals in human emotion and carnage, the 1940 Battle of Dunkirk. One of the guys from One Direction is in this, along with Cillian Murphy (yay!), Kenneth Branagh (yay!), Tom Hardy (yay?) and Mark Rylance (yay!). Who knows what to expect, other than a gargantuan running time. (Opens July 21)
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Luc Besson directs this adaptation of a beloved French comic, and it's his first time directing sci-fi since The Fifth Element. I remember next to nothing about that movie, except for a wacky Chris Tucker and a blue Maïwenn. But I'm scratching my head, especially at casting Dane DeHaan as the lead. Herbie Hancock is in this, tho. Maybe "Rockit" served as inspiration. (Opens July 21)
Ingrid Goes West
Aubrey Plaza plays a nutjob—which is what she specializes in—and becomes obsessed with Elizabeth Olsen's celebrity. Also stars O'Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube's kid) and Wyatt Russell (Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn's kid, who looks like an exact 50/50 copy of each of them, right down to Kurt's teeth). (Opens Aug. 11)
The Hitman's Bodyguard
The last time Samuel L. Jackson starred in a parody, we got National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1, which had exactly one laugh (Emilio Estevez: "You came!" Samuel L. Jackson: "That's personal, but what's important is that I'm here."). But the trailer doesn't look like the parody the poster is (of the Whitney Houston/Kevin Costner flick The Bodyguard), so I'm not sure what to expect. Probably nothing good. (Opens Aug. 18)
Brittany Snow is a long way from Pitch Perfect and any movie starring Dave Bautista not directed by James Gunn will feature Bautista's rougher acting. But the premise—that these two people are running for their lives in the Brooklyn neighborhood after some assholes in Texas start a second Civil War—has pricked up my ears (so to speak). It's also supposed to be one long take, which of course, it ain't. It'll just look like it is. (Opens Aug. 18)
- Derek Carlisle
Buena Vista Social Club: Adios
This is a follow-up by Lucy Walker to Wim Wenders' 1999 documentary. Definitely worth a look-see. (Opens May 26)
Long Strange Trip
I only include Amir Bar-Lev's four-hour Grateful Dead (alt name: The Appreciate Deceased) documentary as an opportunity to proclaim publicly, "Fuck the Grateful Dead. They suck." The only way I'd ever see this noodle-fest is if I had the world's best LSD and a hammer to bash my brains in. (Opens May 26)
This is the Demetri Martin movie I maligned in the introduction. Good news: At least one critic I trust and respect has seen it and enjoyed it. The story, about Dean (Martin), an illustrator who falls in love while dealing with his father in the wake of his mother's death, sounds a little too Zach Braff for me, but I was once a young, sensitive person before life beat me into the dirt. I'll try to remember that when I watch it sans popcorn or soda (because my doctor told me I'm too old to eat and drink that shit). (Opens June 2)
Zoe Lister-Jones and Adam Pally star as a couple that starts a band to heal their broken relationship. The premise sounds absurd, but Lister-Jones is smart and she's the director. Plus, Pally was frequently the best thing about ABC's gone-too-soon Happy Endings. I'm open-minded about this one. I think. (Opens June 2)
It Comes at Night
But it drives an Uber during the day, so how scary can it be? (I made that up.) This movie is written and directed by Trey Edward Shults, whose Krisha had superb moments and indie studio A24 is releasing it. They do good work and star Joel Edgerton knows creepy (The Gift). This could be good. (Opens June 9)
Sam Elliott is a great actor, beloved in many character roles, but he hasn't had the opportunity to carry a movie. In this film, he stars as a washed-up actor who's diagnosed with cancer. Laura Prepon (eh) is his love interest. Krysten Ritter (yay!) is his daughter. Nick Offerman and Elliott's real-life spouse Katharine Ross co-star. (Limited release June 9; expands July 4)
The Bad Batch
Desert cannibals? Ugh. But this weirdo dystopian flick is directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, who made vampires palatable (ha) in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Suki Waterhouse is the star, and Jason Momoa, Giovanni Ribisi and Keanu Reeves pop up. One thing's for sure: It ain't gonna be boring. (Opens June 23)
Clint Eastwood and Don Siegel made Coogan's Bluff, Dirty Harry, Two Mules for Sister Sara and then The Beguiled, which is as odd and as creepy as any other film either made. It'll make your skin crawl (partly because it reeks of chauvinism). And this remake by Sofia Coppola—whose name alone makes my skin crawl—has potential. Angourie Rice (the best part of The Nice Guys), Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning torture Colin Farrell during the Civil War. You've been warned. (Opens June 23)
The Big Sick
One of the big-deal movies to emerge from Sundance, this film stars Kumail Nanjiani (who wrote with his wife, Emily V. Gordon) as a Chicago comedian who falls in love with graduate student Zoe Kazan. But then she falls into a coma. Directed by Michael Showalter, a veteran of The State and director of Hello, My Name Is Doris. (Opens June 23)
A Ghost Story
This David Lowery flick starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck had tongues wagging at Sundance. But be warned: These three made Ain't Them Bodies Saints together years ago, and that movie deserves to have its negative burned. But Mara and Affleck are coming off huge performances (in Carol and Manchester by the Sea, respectively) and Lowery's Pete's Dragon is better than it has any right to be, given its source material. Keep an eye out for this one. (Opens July 7)
I'm told this re-pairing of director Gillian Robespierre and star Jenny Slate is nothing like their last film, Obvious Child. So if you loved Obvious Child, be warned. If you hated it, maybe you'll like this one. (Opens July 21)
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
I'm sticking this in the WTF section because I can't believe we're still arguing over climate change in 2017. (I mean ... it's a hoax, right? Ha, just kidding! We're all doomed.) Directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk follow Al Gore in what's probably the most depressing sequel ever, not including Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. (Opens July 28)
The Trip to Spain
First Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon went to England, then Italy and now Spain. The Trip and The Trip to Italy are enormous fun and hopefully this one is, too. Michael Winterbottom returns to direct. (Opens Aug. 11)
It's the 17th century. Alicia Vikander (eh) is unhappily married to Christoph Waltz (yay!) and has an affair with painter Dane DeHaan (him again?). They invest in the tulip market together and found Holland, Mich. Or maybe they just enter the tulip market. I think someone is fucking with me regarding this plot. (Opens Aug. 25)
- Derek Carlisle
Finally, we can have some fun strictly at the local level. The Utah Film Center once again presents the LGBTQ film festival Damn These Heels, which runs from July 14-16. At press time, the program hadn't been announced, but this is an event you don't want to miss. Each film screens at Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center (50 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City) and there are plenty of viewing options to choose from, some of which get ya the VIP treatment. Visit utahfilmcenter.org/dth2017 for more information.
Friday Night Flicks returns to SLC this year and the theme is 1980s and '90s family favorites. These screenings are outdoors and popcorn is free while it lasts (check website for locations). Here are the flicks: June 2: Ghostbusters; June 9: Hook (note: this film is not a classic, but kids may like it); June 16: E.T.; June 23: The Karate Kid; June 30: Jumanji; July 7: Ferris Bueller's Day Off (I recently re-watched this and realized that John Hughes was a Republican); July 14: Toy Story.
Springville Movies in the Park begins Monday, June 5, with Moana. On June 9, there's Rogue One. The rest of the films screen on Mondays. June 19: Sing; June 26: The Secret Life of Pets; July 10: Finding Dory; July 17: The BFG. Screenings take place at Spring Acres Park (700 S. 1300 East). Gates open at 7 p.m., movies start at dusk. No booze, dogs or nuclear weapons allowed. There will be food trucks! There's more information at springville.org/recreation/movies-in-the-park.
South Jordan's Sights and Sounds of Summer includes movies! June 2: The Secret Life of Pets; June 24: Star Wars: The Force Awakens; July 14: Moana; July 29: Finding Dory; Aug. 11: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (for my money, the beast is Eddie Redmayne's performance). For locations, visit sjc.utah.gov/upcoming-events.
More free movies in the park! This time in Sandy: June 9: Moana; June 17: Wasatch Mountain Film Festival; June 23: Hook; June 30: Field of Dreams; July 14: The Secret Life of Pets; July 21: Beauty and the Beast (animated); July 28: Disney's Hercules; Aug. 4: Zootopia; Sept. 8: Grease (it's a sing-a-long). For locations, visit sandy.utah.gov/departments/community-events/movies-in-the-parks.
Park Pavilion Movies at KOPFC begins on June 9 with Sing. June 23: Rogue One; June 30: The Lego Batman Movie; July 14: Moana; July 28: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them; Aug. 4: The Secret Life of Pets. Info: kopfc.com/friday-night-flicks
Under the Stars at the Amphitheater in Draper features two movies this summer. On Friday, June 16, it's Sing and on Friday, July 13, it's Moana. Concessions are available, movies are free. Entertainment begins at 8 p.m., movies start at 9:15. Show up early for good seats. For information visit draper.ut.us/566/movie-nights.
Family flicks are back on Fridays on the Snowbird Center Plaza Deck at dusk. Showing this year are the Wasatch Film Festival (June 23); The Secret Life of Pets (June 30); Zootopia (July 7); Sing (July 14); Moana (July 21); The Sandlot (June 28); Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Aug. 4). For details, visit snowbird.com/events/family-flicks.
And coming soon to the Salt Lake Film Society are the following (all of which would probably fall under the "Art Flicks" section above), listed by opening dates. Check the website for locations:
May 19: The Lovers, starring Debra Winger (ugh ... and yes, I'm in the minority) and playwright and sometime-actor Tracy Letts; Norman, in which Richard Gere plays a small-timer who befriends a politician who goes big-time (I'm enjoying late-period Richard Gere, I must say); and Obit, a documentary about The New York Times' staff obituary writers.
May 26: My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea. Just what it sounds like. Animated; and Chuck, a biopic of Chuck Wepner, who inspired Sylvester Stallone's Rocky, starring Live Schreiber, Naomi Watts and Elisabeth Moss.
June 2: Wakefield, in which Bryan Cranston leaves his wife and lives in the attic. Written and directed by Robin Swicord, who has written some good movies (Little Women, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and some bad movies (Memoirs of a Geisha, The Promise); and Chasing Trane, a documentary about John Coltrane, with Denzel Washington providing his voice.
June 9: Ken Loach's latest sadness, I, Daniel Blake, is about a man who suffers a heart attack and has to wade through the U.K.'s bureaucracy as he returns to work and files a claim to receive the equivalent of disability payments. A big, big hit in the United Kingdom, where it won Best British Film earlier this year; and My Cousin Rachel (see above).
June 16: Written and directed by the Coppola family matriarch, Eleanor Coppola, and starring Diane Lane (ugh) is Paris Can Wait, about a woman who rediscovers what the French would call "the joy of life" while road tripping with her husband's colleague; and Monterey Pop, D.A. Pennebaker's 1968 documentary.
July 7: The Journey is a fictional look at the friendship between protestant loyalist Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall) and Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness (Colm Meaney).
July 21: Maudie, or Ethan Hawke Goes to Canada, with Sally Hawkins as that rascal Maudie.
Note: Times are subject to change because of what the French would call "acts of God," such as inclement weather or a national brie shortage. And if you survive this year's storm of bunk (and, admittedly, some goodies), I'll see you next summer to commiserate. If we live that long.