Saturday, May 28, 2016

Kung Fu Panda 3 - Review

A new challenger approaches for "The Dragon Warrior" Po and the Furious Five: Kai (J.K. Simmons), a sword-swinging yak warrior who escaped the spirit realm by stealing the chi of legendary martial artists and turning them into his jade minions. Only able to fight chi with chi, Po must learn another martial art power while also ascending into the role of head teacher and grappling with the sudden arrival of his birth father (Bryan Cranston) and his request to return to their secret panda village. KUNG FU PANDA 3 is both a better film than the depressing second entry into the franchise and a worthy ending chapter to these animated adventures, as evident by its very overtly celebratory conclusion. It once again boasts some amazing computer-generated action choreography, a beautiful Hans Zimmer score, fantastic sound design, and some nicely comedic performances and gags. Some of the flashy creative decisions by returning director Jennifer Yuh Nelson and her new cohort Alessandro Carloni, such as the rampant split-screening, don't always work but are made up by other ones, such as the gorgeous sequence where an exposition-laden scroll is drawn in 2D. Though I did really enjoy the safe arms Dreamworks Animation is willing to hold us in, I felt it was too safe and it got to be a bit ho-hum. Maybe it is my own lack of passion with the series or the still severe burn I received with KUNG FU PANDA 2 but the story itself is as predictable as a 22 minute television episode. A new environment, a new monster of the week, a new power, squabbling that is easily wrapped up, and a new deus ex machina all are lay to bear here. They even try to have a body count and say that your favorites are doomed forever but even a kid will know that everything will work alright in the end. Not a total revelation or a nice rebirth to the Dreamworks Renaissance but a wise choice to be enthralled by.


Friday, May 27, 2016

The Angry Birds Movie - Review

Red is the odd bird out, a disgruntled loner on Bird Island whose generic ire rubs the rest of the happy residents the wrong way. Never mind the sheer fact that we see the other denizens as jerks and bullies some times, apparently Red is the only one who should be punished and sentenced into taking anger management classes. All of a sudden, a pirate ship full of green pigs arrive on the isle bearing gifts, whose dark intentions can only be spotted and warned by Red and his fellow mean spirits. THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE is simply so-so, thus sadly making it one of the better video game adaptations of all time. The conflict is as basic as it was in the original mobile time-waster ("Our eggs! Let's GET 'EM!") and Rovio and Sony spend most of the film's energy and money on being broadly entertaining and kinetically animated. However, though I can suitably kick back a lazy afternoon with this in front of me, the movie is liable of infecting viewers with ADD. Everything is so rushed and debilitating to the senses, with a random pop musical number arriving every eight minutes, destructive action sequences where nothing can be comprehended, and montages that don't know how to lapse time properly. The clearest example happens right at the end, when you sit through another animated dance finale only to oddly cut to little scene where some just recently introduced beings get to do their video game special move. It's like first-time directors Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly were so enamored with the character of Chuck, voiced by Josh Gad, that they wanted to imbue his speed demon behavior into the fabric of the film. Speaking of acting, save for maybe Gad, Danny McBride as the calmly explosive Bomb and Peter Dinklage as the severely lame Mighty Eagle, the way too talented voice cast is utterly wasted, further giving proof that maybe it's better to give some movie voice work to real voice actors. People like Kate McKinnon, Titus Burgess, Billy Eichner, and Charli XCX, to name a few, are given absolutely nothing to work with, nor are they able to stand out to due to the near nil characterization of all of the animals. But why should the makers care about anything like individual personalities when they can have a sequence set to Limp Bizkit's horrendous cover of "Behind Blue Eyes"? If you can accept the CG chaos for what it is and are fine with you or your kids hearing "Flock my life" or "We're angry flocking birds!" in a PG movie, this could be a fine throwaway rental later down the line.


Monday, May 23, 2016

Trailer Review - Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Teaser Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: Emma Watson as Disney's live action Belle, the Beast's Rose, and Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen as the unseen but heard Lumière and Cogsworth.

Scene Pop: It's a very brief teaser so there's is nothing really applicable.

Effective?: Mildly yes. This is just a dabble of what's to come and only really showcases the real-life recreations of the Beast's animated castle. Plus, hearing Alan Menken's gorgeous score also helps. However, if you compare it to the original teaser for Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella (look at this slipper!), it's a damn masterpiece.

Check it Out?: Oh hell yes. I am not a very huge fan of the Disney animated to live action adaptations (see my review of The Jungle Book for proof) but I frankly adore Beauty and the Beast and will glad pay an opening weekend ticket for its reinterpretation.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

2016 Cannes Film Festival Aftermath

At last year's edition of the Cannes Film Festival, it concluded with an upset win and the overall celebration of global filmmaking was largely uneventful. Apparently, that thick air of disappointment has descended upon the festival again, as the Main Competition jury went completely opposite from the critical body and handed out prizes to films that were among the worst received with audiences. When you have a body presided over by George Miller and filled with the likes of Kirsten Dunst, Mads Mikkelsen, Vanessa Paradis, Donald Sutherland, Valeria Golino, and last year's Grand Prix winner László Nemes, you would think they would have chosen more wisely. Of course, my and other's opinions might change once these awarded films reach our viewing platforms but considering the close-to-being-severe outrage from professional observers, and the fact that previous big winner Dheepan just came out here in the States to a large meh response, I don't really see the tide turning at any time.

Legendary British director Ken Loach received the Palme d'Or for I, Daniel Blake much to his and everyone else's surprise. This win makes him one of the few double Palme winners in the history of the festival, as he won previously for The Wind That Shakes The Barley. Many theorized that Jimmy's Hall would have been Loach's last film, especially after its dismal reception here, but he was able to churn out another. Now, as for the film itself, it was politely respected but found a bit disposable, as it is just another one of his social realistic dramas, with a unhealthy dollop of depression on top. In this cookie-cutter entry, the titular character is fighting to earn disability benefits, only to be caught up by red tape and mismanagement. Along this sad path, he meets up with a single mother and her kids, who also are having problems dealing with the people controlling the welfare department. Sounds like a barrel of laughs, doesn't it?

The Grand Prix, a.k.a. the 2nd place ribbon, was stunningly given to It's Only the End of the World, the latest from the annoyingly smug Canadian director Xavier Dolan. He is sadly a prolific presence at this festival, earning a spot in 2015's main jury and last seen in the winner's circle in 2014 with his divisive Mommy a.k.a. the movie with the 1.1 aspect ratio. However, like fellow Cannes "favorite" Naomi Kawase, Dolan's reach and popularity does not extend beyond the French Riveria. His new whiny movie, involving an ailing writer who reunites with his family and expected tension come bubbling up, was lambasted and booed by critics and given some of the worst reviews of the entire festival. Further jeers came bellowing out when he was announced as the winner at the ceremony.

The Jury Prize, a.k.a. the bronze medal, went to American Honey, the long-awaited new film from Andrea Arnold (Red Road, Fish Tank). Clocking in at an outrageous time of 162 minutes, it is a road picture involving a reckless teenage girl who joins along in the wild and crazy adventures of some traveling magazine salesmen, including Shia LaBeouf, and getting caught up in a love affair amid all of the partying. Largely given a mixed response, the attention was more focused on newcomer Sasha Lane, who was lauded for her lead performance, and LaBeouf, who was expectedly sneered at for his scene-chewing actions.

Best Director went to a tie. First up was acclaimed Romanian director Cristian Mungiu for Graduation, a cagey drama where a doctor's daughter is too traumatized by a sexual assault to do well on an academic test, so he must bribe his way in order for her to succeed. Sharing in the accolade with Mungiu was Olivier Assayas for Personal Shopper, a strange horror thriller but played like a drama. Assayas teams up again with actress Kristen Stewart, who won a César in their last film together Clouds of Sils Maria, to craft a flick where Stewart plays a personal assistant/spirit medium who believes she is in contact with the ghost of her twin brother. Containing a long, long sequence where the heroine has a text message conversation with an unknown number on a train trip, the film was booed by the press (what film isn't here?) but earned minor press mainly for Assayas' audacity and Stewart's acting.

Best Screenplay normally goes to a serious downer but Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman is a straight up Iranian thriller. An acting couple, who perform daily as Willy and Linda Loman in a production of Death of a Salesman, move into a new apartment only for the wife to be surprise attacked by a stranger while in the shower. Hoping to help his loved one, the husband follows the clues until reaching an emotionally tense confrontation. Farhadi's frequent collaborator Shahab Hosseini also nabbed up the Best Actor award for the film.

Probably the most perplexing win other than the Palme was Best Actress being given to Jaclyn Jose for her performance in Ma' Rosa. Lambasted by critics for its dirty morality and ugly cinematography, the Filipino joint involves a connivence store couple who are arrested by the cops for selling meth and forced to have their own children get the hush money, by any means necessary, in order to bust them out. The fact that Jose beat out a large amount of competition this year is astonishing.

Now it comes time to talk about those that were unloved, starting with the big one: Toni Erdmann. This was the odds-on favorite to win it all, as it quickly became the breakout film of the entire festival. This three hour comedy (!) had crowds applauding with joy, as it chronicled a working woman who's hounded by her prank-playing father, only for him to leave for a bit and return as the titled figure, a so-called life coach who walks around in public wearing a bag wig and teeth. Despite earning the distinction of having the highest average critical rating in the history of Screen International with a 3.8, it was snubbed beyond belief. At least Sony Pictures Classics sees something in it, as they are set to distribute it later this year. Take that, Loach!

As for the others: Paul Verhoeven made his welcome return to the center stage with Elle, an f'ed up thriller starring Isabelle Huppert as a CEO who tracks down the rapist who attacked her and who she neglected to inform the police about; Nicolas Winding Refn finally unleashed The Neon Demon, a dark Hollywood fable where Elle Fanning is the new It Girl; Jeff Nichols went 2 for 2 this year with his second feature and Oscar hopeful Loving, with Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as the real-life interracial couple who fought the law for their love; Jim Jarmusch and Adam Driver came together like peanut butter and chocolate with Paterson, a slack existential journey into the week of a poetry-writing bus driver from New Jersey; Severe guffaws were handed out with Sean Penn's The Last Face, his sheer dumb attempt to have a torrid romance set during the Second Liberian Civil War; Park Chan-wook (Oldboy) returned to Korea and his normal grindhouse ways with The Handmaiden; Pedro Almodóvar showed off Julieta for the first time outside Spain, where its twisty melodrama and short story structure earned it some praise; The Dardenne Brothers returned to their usual spot in the Competition with The Unknown Girl, a serial murder mystery that is nothing like their usual work; Cristi Puiu (The Death Of Mr. Lazarescu) had to be the odd Romanian out, as his funeral family drama Sieranevada did him no favors with its eye-level cinematography and near three hour running time; Alain Guiraudie followed up his queer favorite Stranger By The Lake with Staying Vertical, an insane-sounding film where a young screenwriter is caught by sudden life changes, gay flirtation and surreal predicaments; Disturbing auteur Bruno Dumont tried and failed to do black comedy again with Slack Bay, which crosses a Romeo and Juliet scenario with cannibals; French actress Nicole Garcia continued her blah directorial effort with From The Land Of The Moon, a stupid sounding movie where Marion Cotillard has no life beyond going crazy at the sight of men and suffering from kidney stones; and finally Aquarius gave Sonia Braga a meaty role as the last tenant in an old apartment building.

Additional highlights and those in Un Certain Regard: Woody Allen opened the festivities with Café Society but his mediocre at best attempt at doing The Apartment with some gangsters thrown in was absolutely overshadowed by his disturbing interviews and a rape joke that was thrown at him at a party; Steven Spielberg premiered The BFG, whose early word is that it works as an average fantasy flick riddled with CGI; Chris Pine and Ben Foster robbed banks and had shootouts with Texas Ranger Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water, David Mackenzie's follow-up feature to Starred Up; Studio Ghibli and Wild Bunch showed off their animated collaborated effort The Red Turtle; Hirokazu Koreeda was relegated to the minor leagues this year with the feel-good dramedy After The Storm; and The Happiest Day In The Life of Olli Mäkiwon, Finland's answer to Rocky but shot in 16mm B&W, won the Un Certain Regard Award.

Keanu - Review

Rell (Jordan Peele) quickly recovers from a bad breakup when a cute kitten ends up on his doorstep. This new bliss is sadly only temporary, as the newly named Keanu is spirited away by unknown intruders. Roping in his close cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key), the two's search for the missing cat leads them into a world of drug running and renegade assassins. KEANU works as a cinematic entry point for the Key & Peele brand of humor, allowing the comedy duo to shine in their own special manner and establish a great counterpoint to all of the Ferrells, Apatows, Rogens and other white voices that are offered to the public. I do stress this as a starter piece as the two don't really go for broke with their material, instead delivering a simple story with easy to solve consequences despite all of the harsh violence and language surrounding the two squirming softies. Though it is funny throughout the picture, the two comedians certainly squeeze the ever living out of jokes around the discography of George Michael and the easy art of fronting, which get a bit tiresome by the halfway point. Though I do wish Key & Peele were a little more edgy out of the gate, again, this movie is perfectly fine with what it wants to be: a clean and efficient debut for one of most popular comedic voices today.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Ratchet & Clank - Review

Unchecked industrialist Chairman Drek (Paul Giamatti) puts his master plan into action, blasting multiple celestial bodies and harvesting their best parts in order to craft his own jigsaw-like perfect planet. Seemingly only the Galactic Rangers, led by dumb egotist Captain Qwark (Jim Ward), are able to stop him but they for some reason need a fifth team member. Lowly furry mechanic Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor) tries to join up but is quickly rejected, only to gain a second chance at his dream job when a small robot later dubbed Clank (David Kaye) crash lands nears his home. RATCHET & CLANK not only continues the sad march of film companies failing to adapt a popular video game properly, it somehow ends up being one of the most frustrating examples imaginable, doubly so considering how much material and time they had to do it justice. I may have loathed all of the serious missteps in previous bad video game movies like DOUBLE DRAGON, but at least those makers were fully aware that when you make a buddy action flick, you make plenty of time for buddy interactions and simple camaraderie. Here, the cocky Lombax and the blunt-talking automaton spend the majority of the running time on opposite ends of the adventure, with the former on the battlefield while the latter stays on the ship. When they do come together as they normal did in the games, they possess absolutely no chemistry, despite the original voice actors being hired on. The fault of the film falls entirely on Kevin Munroe's hands, due to his sheer poor direction and the terrible script he co-wrote. Scenes are clearly missing, characters suffer from tonal whiplash, and the action heroics are beyond dull, all left unedited and underdeveloped just so Munroe and his buddies can include more texting jokes (all on old flip phones no less!) and end every single sequence with an escape shuttle being launched. Additionally, what really drove me nerd crazy was the pathetic attempts at fan service. The famously inventive weaponry of the games are just thrown randomly in, never explaining to anyone watching why Ratchet abruptly has gravity boots or a giant wrench, and/or suffer the terrible fate of being completely botched, such as how Mr. Zurkon is bizarrely turned into a fleet of useless baddies or how the R.Y.N.O. is an ineffective dud. Even if you can sit through it meh proceedings, enjoy the few good laughs it possesses or be pleased by the devilish character of Doctor Nefarious, RATCHET & CLANK is a clumsy affair that would even baffle the kids. Now please, please don't screw up SLY COOPER, Sony and Munroe!


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Green Room - Review

Young punk band The Ain't Rights are running on fumes literally and figuratively when they catch a break to be the opening act at a bar filled to the brim with Neo-Nazis. Everything goes normal for them, relishing in the spit, thrown beer and moshing, but things quickly turn for the worse when bassist Pat (Anton Yelchin) walks in on a murder. Barricaded in the titled space, they and secondary witness Amber (Imogen Poots) must find a way to escape the calculated viciousness of the bar's owner/Neo-Nazi ringleader Darcy (Patrick Stewart). Jeremy Saulnier hits it out of the park again, perfectly following-up his previous feature BLUE RUIN with another artfully made genre film fully charged with horrifically realistic violence and pulpy dialogue. The script treads down some of the usual plot paths of siege films but also loves to take a few routes less travel by in order to shake up the viewer. Examples include a near early exit for a protagonist, a newly discovered environment that doesn't play into the usual theatrics that come with deadly blockade dramas, and flipping one of film's big taboos in order to sadistically re-educate the thoughts of the audience. All of the actors do very admirable jobs, despite often being overshadowed by the unnerving gore, but Stewart stands firmly out as the quiet mastermind whose high intelligence causes him to easily outthink his opponents and solve problems that suddenly come into question. Though the film ends up being a solidly terrifying horror-thriller, it does falter a bit severely with a last act that feels unearned. The near-constant monotone inflictions of the traumatized heroes and the mumbly sound mixing also doesn't help matters. But those doesn't utterly prevent GREEN ROOM from being one blissful shot of punk and slaughter.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Look at Summer 2016

Well, we are certainly having an okay year so far. Quite an understatement, especially considering I already have seen 4 great movies with unique voices, with many more waiting to be discovered. But you must remember all that came and went in the first four months quicker than shit through a goose: several comedy sequels that no one was laughing with, a couple of YouTube-only premieres that had nobody ponying up for a monthly subscription, more Christian crap, and then there's the epic calamity that was DC Comics' latest attempt to counter-program the Marvel regime.

Now we have four months of sunshine and blockbusters. Unfortunately for myself, I will be having more fun with the former instead of the latter because as of this moment, I think this season will stink to high heaven. Nearly all of the popcorn fare look ultra desperate for theatrical attention and completely shallow to their money-grubbing cores. Even the indie and art selections look frivolous, so what's this cinephile to do? I guess we will all just have to jump in the sea of 24 digital frames/sec and await to feel a sense of pleasure.

Let's check out and go thoroughly through all of the offerings coming out in the summer months of 2016.

May 5, the first weekend, blah blah, brand spanking new Marvel movie. I should be really, really excited for Captain America: Civil War, especially considering that it is a cinematic re-interpretation of the comic book event that got me back into the art form. But I have been bombarded with its trailers at every nook and cranny, even seeing them back-to-back at a night at the local drive-in! Plus, spoiling the much hyped crossover appearance of Spider-Man in their second official trailer really lowered my burning desire to see this opening day, or hell even the entire weekend. However, I do look forward to it, particularly when taking in the early critical buzz for it. No other Hollywood feature is willing to battle at the box office with Marvel/Disney, with the only hopeful being the cash-in attempt of the much maligned Mother's Day. Art snobs could go for A Bigger Splash, which is apparently being stealthily released on Wednesday. Already gaining some glowing reviews, the surprisingly twisty drama has rock singer Tilda Swinton running into and hanging out with old flame Ralph Fiennes, much to the chagrin of her boyfriend Matthias Schoenaerts. Dakota Johnson is also along for the sexy ride, which is nice. Sports doc fans could go check out Dark Horse despite it clearly being more suitable for its eventual release on Netflix Streaming. And horror hounds can sink their teeth (sorry) into Bite, which isn't upon first glance a new take on werewolves but a tale of a possible runaway bride who undergoes an insect metamorphosis. Kafka would be proud.

May 13 gives dad and grandpa a chance to venture to the movie theater. Jodie Foster steps behind the camera again for Money Monster, a lukewarm thriller where George Clooney plays a Jim Cramer-like figure, who is suddenly held hostage by disgruntled investor Jack O'Donnell live on television. This looks like pure store-brand oatmeal, mushy to digest and quickly going cold, and only suitable for fanatics of the TNT channel. And let us not forget that Foster's last movie was The Beaver, so yeah, no dice. Despite much presence of promo material at my local theaters, I still have no idea what's the deal with The Darkness. It's pathetically pedantic title doesn't help matters and I keep getting it confused with another wide-release horror movie coming out this season. Upon glancing at the trailer, it's basically Poltergeist but with Native American spirits that like to splotch black finger paint all over the house. The horror! Despite these great faults, the forgettable horror flick from Blumhouse will be desperately trying to get some of that sweet "Friday the 13th" money. Pst! you're better off having a personal Jason marathon. Cult and art fandom collide in the smaller theaters with High-Rise, the latest from director Ben Wheatley (Kill-List) and another book adaptation from controversial novelist J.G. Ballard. Tom Hiddleston is the new resident in a futuristic building where all of society is contained inside, with the rich up top and the poor feeding on the bottom. Recall the central tower in Dredd and you should get the picture. It has already premiered online so unless you like the theater seats better, you could save a lot of money for the home experience. Fans of Dogtooth will be overjoyed by greek director Yorgos Lanthimos's latest The Lobster, this one being his very first English feature. Set in a surreal world where living the single life has a time limit, Colin Farrell stars as a man who must seek a new partner or else being transformed into an animal of his choice (look at the title for that spoiler). Things don't go smoothly until he comes across silent free-spirit Rachel Weisz, which brings an entirely new section of the picture.

May 20 hopefully lays a giant egg with The Angry Birds Movie. Sony and Rovio Entertainment thought it would be a great idea to adapt the latter's iconic mobile video game, despite having no central story beyond "they stole my eggs!" and gameplay that is limited to a slingshot and Jenga physics. As spoiled in the trailers, you will have to sit through a lot of dumb kid comedy and people rejecting the suspicions of Red Bird before the film actually matches with its source material with a climatic building busting finale. For the adults who seek humor for their own age, there's Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Seth Rogen and Rosa Byrne are in the process of selling their house until a brand new sorority pops up in the cursed party home next door. The couple must team up with former nemesis Zac Efron to scare them straight. Could by very funny like the original but I'm not always a huge fan of comedy sequels, let alone the idea of another Neighbors movie. I'll be better off laughing with The Nice Guys, a buddy pulp crime flick written and directed by Shane Black. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe star as a low-rent P.I. and an enforcer respectively as they seek to locate the daughter of a Department of Justice head in the seedy streets of 1970s Los Angeles. Those who like politics in their documentary can check the already acclaimed feature Weiner, which naturally focuses on the life and sleazy times of former NY senator Anthony Weiner. Invoking the raucous nature of The War Room, it provides a candid look at Weiner's campaign to be re-elected and the media and social fallout he encounters on a daily basis.

May 27 may draw in huge crowds for the Memorial Day weekend but the two major players in the wide-release realm are not suited for me, at least not for the moment. X-Men: Apocalypse gives Bryan Singer some more time with the Marvel mutants (for better or worse), as the franchise jumps in time and brings in legendary foe Apocalypse (Oscar Issac) and his Four Horsemen. I still have not sat down and watched Days of Future Past and I'm quite frankly a little tired with the X-Men, exactly like I was with their overexposures in the comics. But I gladly would make a late night watch of them compared to Tim Burton's continuing take on Alice. Alice Through the Looking Glass is being handled by the polarizing director, instead supervised by James Bobin of The Muppets fame, but it retains all of the same earmarks and art puke that Burton invoked. And then there's the retched 3D experience. When the first film came out, Johnny Depp was a beloved star, 3D films were popular and it made $1+ billion worldwide. Today, Depp is box office poison and premium attendance have fallen severely, so what do you think will be the ultimate fate of the film's opening weekend?

June 3 kicks off the second month of summer with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows. Good idea: Krang, Casey Jones, Bebop and Rocksteady make their modern debuts. Bad idea: Still being shepherded by Michael Bay's producing vision and those ugly turtle designs. While the boys will be at play with their beloved 80s toys, the girls can enjoy their fun with reading by checking out the film adaptation of Me Before You. Delayed for nearly a year, the romantic drama has Emilia Clarke playing a quirky girl turned medical assistant to handicapped rich boy Sam Claflin. Looks cute and very weepy. And finally, The Lonely Island give it one more try in the film world with Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. Andy Samberg is a global music superstar whose life is documented in the same veins as the legendary mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap. Though I have warmed up to Samberg considerably in recent years, I'm not a fan of this idea and totally expect this to bomb pretty hard.

June 10 finally unleashes Warcraft. Medieval humans and orcs must let go of their racist ideals and fury in order to fight off another intruding presence. Most likely to bring an end to the perfect record for director Duncan Jones, this adaptation of the very popular video game franchise looks completely unfocused and so far serves up none of the more famed characters fans want to see. Worst still, general audiences will likely scoff at the Lord of the Rings aesthetic and let the film die slowly. James Wan gives us another "totes real" adventure of The Warrens with The Conjuring 2. This time, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga must deal with a vengeful spirit in London and also try to blissfully move on from the whole debacle with that Annabelle doll and the planned spin-off series that was laughed off by the public. High-stake magician work and global games of cat-and-mouse continue with Now You See Me 2. The majority of the cast return (Isla Fisher and Mélanie Laurent are the odd ones out sadly), as three of The Four Horsemen return to society, only to be caught up by a scheme to rob some supercomputer thingy and other issues in China. So yeah, the story looks terribly average so just focus on the magical stunts and you'll be alright. Unfortunately, this is being handled by Jon M. Chu, who flamed out spectacularly with last year's Jem and the Holograms. The limited releases may be overshadowed this week but I did want to point out De Palma, as it takes a look at the once prominent thriller director and his works. My heart for it did drop, however, once the trailer revealed that it looks like the film is nothing but him sitting in front of a black fireplace.

June 17 gives us one of the big money winners this season with Finding Dory. The Nemo crew returns as now it is now Dory who must seek her lost family, possibly in a SeaWorld-like park that is sure to be fun filled and not run by despicable people. Kids will eat it up but I have a bad feeling about this. In this post-Toy Story 3 world, Pixar has been 0-2 when it comes to sequels to their popular films, and in my opinion 1-3 when it comes to their overall works (still haven't seen The Good Dinosaur and still haven't a drive to either!). Families will flock to it regardless of its intentions and make it #1, while the second new release Central Intelligence will surely land with the silver medal. Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart were on the opposite ends of popularity in high school but the two former foes come together for a top secret mission for some reason (???). Look, this sure-to-be-crap comedy only wants to focus on 90s nostalgia and their dumb quips. You know, like director Rawson Marshall Thurber's previous unfunny film We're The Millers. Hard to stomach and best off being a poorly thought-out rental, like most Kevin Hart films.

June 24 bizarrely will be the premiere date for Independence Day: Resurgence. Apparently, Roland Emmerich and the producers want to take the money and run before the critical notices come in, rather than time their themed sequel with the upcoming holiday. Many have theorized that this could be another Jurassic World on our hands, as an enormous rush of people will be fueled by their 90s nostalgia and see what happens 20 years later in the war between President Bill Pullman and the aliens. Of course, everyone is already dismayed at the lack of Will Smith, whose character was killed off when he refused to sign on, and the ugly CG porn it possesses. Five words that make me shiver about this film: Liam Hemsworth is the lead. Ewww! Still, I need at least one brain dead blockbuster to give a wimp pass to, so I choose this one. Those with brains, however, could check out Free State of Jones, where Matthew McConaughey plays Newton Knight, the former Confederate soldier who rebells against his new nation and establishes his own free community with slaves. I was interested in this pic until viewing the trailer, which makes the movie look like it was made in the 90s studio style, i.e. generic Oscar bait and generic white savior. The "this is my face" poster further hinders it lofty goals. In last place this week, A24 is strangely giving a big push for Swiss Army Man, aka that "Daniel Radcliffe is a farting corpse" movie that received a mixed to poor response at this year's Sundance. It's always an odd sight whenever I see a cardboard display for this at my local theaters, as I surely know that only thirsty cultists will want to drink this strange brew.

June 29 has the final new release of the month and a special Wednesday one at that. And it goes to... The Shallows? That one where bikinied Amber Heard is stuck on a rock, amid a sea filled with sharks? Could be a sleeper hit or will sleep with the fishes. Or I could just fall asleep to it, as I have been with recent non-thrilling ocean dramas lately.

July 1 offers up boring general fare for the Independence Day weekend. First up is Steven Spielberg's The BFG. Not to be confused with the ultimate weapon in the Doom video games, this is an adaptation of the beloved Roald Dahl's children's book, with Oscar winner Mark Rylance as the titled tall figure. Not a fan of its "CGI everything" design but it could be okay. Warner Bros foolishly tries to compete with Spielberg and are set to fail hard with The Legend of Tarzan. It seems they didn't learn the same lesson as Disney did with their release of The Lone Ranger in this same suited time of release: no modern viewers give a crap about outdated heroes of old and want to break up all of the fireworks and burgers with a trip to a bloated blockbuster with unsettling racial elements. No one will be fooled into seeing just for a shirtless Alexander Skarsgård! While those duke it out among pomp and circumstance, I'll be casting a vote for The Purge: Election Year. Frank Grillo returns, trading in his Punisher cosplay in Anarchy in order to be the lead bodyguard for a female senator, whose anti-Purge agenda causes her to be the #1 target of the deadly night. I admit that I'm a sucker and a strong-armed supporter for this horror franchise; the previous two movies suffer from terrible lighting but I enjoy the murky violence and satire, coupled with creator James DeMonaco's willingness to mess up the traditional formula of world-building. This may blow up in my face but I gladly will give it money.

July 8 shows us The Secret Life of Pets. Spoiler: nothing much happens in order to warrant a feature length narrative, so the creators pulled out some Silly Putty and seemingly copied the blueprints of Toy Story. As much as I like having Louis C.K. as the lead in a kid's animated film, supported by the likes of Jenny Slate and Lake Bell, I don't really have any hope that Illumination Entertainment will pull it off or makes this a worthy watch. Those seeking raunch can head on over to the bluntly titled Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. Literal party bros Adam DeVine and Zac Efron hire on Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick to be their plus ones, only to found out that they are better at debauchery than them. If Neighbors 2 ends up being good, than this movie from the same writing team (Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien) could be a nice follow-up. For those you like whimsy indie dreck, you can have all you want with Captain Fantastic because I certainly don't. I like me some Viggo Mortensen but I don't really want to see another positively Sundance quirk-fest involving a hippie patriarch and his home schooled children clashing with the real world.

July 13, another special Wednesday release, goes to The Infiltrator of all things. It's obviously what its earmarked here, see below, but the studios are aware that Wednesday premieres should be for movies people want to see, right? Anyway, Bryan Cranston tries to make you forget about the fiasco that was Trumbo by playing another real-life figure: Robert Mazur, an undercover DEA agent that eventually worms his way into the dealings with cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar.

July 15 is an one movie weekend as everyone can step away from the keyboard and get to pay a ticket to see Ghostbusters. I really have nothing more to add. I trust Paul Feig and the female cast to do justice to the property.

July 22 begrudgingly gives us Star Trek Beyond. The Enterprise is destroyed (again!) and the crew are scattered on a planet ruled by a villainous figure who hates the Prime Directive. Making the public care about this property again after the fiasco with Into Darkness is one thing but that trailer cut to Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" caused everyone to vomit and revolt. Director Justin Lin helped resurrect the Fast & Furious franchise but it will be a miracle if he can bring this back into good graces. Speaking of ill-willed properties, Ice Age: Collision Course is also coming out for the kiddies whose parents refuse them to have sci-fi fun. The animal cast must now survive a severe meteor strike and find time to give Sid a girlfriend. Ugh. Blue Sky, please just move on, for your company's sake. Those seeking something different could take in Lights Out, a new horror film from a first-time director David F. Sandberg. Teresa Palmer and several others are being terrorized by a vengeful spirit that lives in darkness and can only be prevented from killing them by constant light. Very average sounding but the premise is simply scary and easy to relate. And for those who loved the early years of Comedy Central, you finally get to have Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. It only took 24 years to get made!

July 29 finishes up the month with the big money winner of the weekend, Jason Bourne. Matt Damon is again spotted in public by secret organizations, people are again sent off to eliminate him. What originality! I honestly have not been a fan of the Bourne franchise, frankly because I have not seen the second or third film. Despite its immense popularity and how it has shaped the action film landscape for better worse, I have no investment in this world but you will probably be better of having fun with it. The weekend continues to be poison to me with Bad Moms, a wannabe Bridesmaids from the guys, yes guys, who lucked out with their script for The Hangover. This is sure-to-be-bad wastes the likes of Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Christine Applegate with a dumb plot involving women fighting for the right to party.

August 5 gives us a big bang Suicide Squad. I and the good majority of America and the world loathed Batman v Superman. On the other hand, I absolutely love Suicide Squad, the original comic book series, and its off-shoots. The trailers have been excellent, keeping me and the online fanbase satiated, but the sheer failure in the direction of DC Cinematic Universe, the PG-13 rating, and the slap-dashed re-shoots rumored to be done in order to "brighten up" the picture leave me very worried. I'll still keep my head high but I would hate to put the shame all on me again this year. It could be worse: I could be going seeing Nine Lives. Barry Sonnenfeld continues his downward trend with this sickeningly family tripe, where Kevin Spacey is a work first, family second man who is punished by Christopher Walken and turns into a cat. It took five writers to come up with that been there, done that plot. For better screenwriting skills, check out Robert Siegel's script for The Founder. Michael Keaton stars as Ray Kroc, the salesman who turned a small hamburger stand run by the Brothers McDonald and turned into the empire that it is today. Right from the trailer, you can spot that this is designed to be a feel-good film but it is riddled with pitch black morality.

August 12 has Disney gives us another family affair with a remake of Pete's Dragon. Why? The draw of the original film was the mixture of live-action with the hand-drawn animation of the titular creature. If the fire-breather is just going to be crafted by a series of 0s and 1s, why bother going forward with the project other than snatching up the pre-school money left on the table? Your mom will be better off with Florence Foster Jenkins, the second-year-in-a-row August musical feature with Meryl Streep in the lead. This time around, she plays the real-life rich figure who believed she could be an opera singer, despite her considerable limitations. It has been getting some good notices in Britain already so it looks worthwhile, unless you have seen Marguerite earlier this year. Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and their motley crew try to bring some adult humor to animation with Sausage Party. Simple plot: A bunch of supermarket food find out the horror humans have in store for them and flee for safety. Its work print premiered at South by Southwest to much fanfare so I am looking forward to it. Legendary Pictures is apparently going to give us Spectral, a sci-fi/fantasy flick involving a black ops team fighting the supernatural, as well but no further word on it.

August 19 bequeaths us Kubo and the Two Strings. From the stop-motion animation masters at Laika comes a Japanese tale of a shamisen-wielding boy who teams with a talking monkey and a samurai beetle as they try to locate a magical armor and fight an evil force. I am a little hesitant because the main cast members are all non-Asian actors but you could kinda let it go when it comes to voice-over unless they try to do some kind stereotypical accent. From the footage shown, that doesn't look to be the case, so we can all enjoy the beautiful artistry. I would say that the idiots of our society will go see Ben-Hur instead but I believe that even they have already shun this unwanted present. Timur Bekmambetov's reinterpretation of the biblical legend looks completely ugly with all of its computer effects and the production is woefully poor. Then there's the sheer fact that the 1959 epic is impossible to top, so why bother seeing this? The Space Between Us, a love story between Martian boy Asa Butterfield and Earthling Britt Robertson, is on the docket but no sign of promotion has come up yet. Expect this one to be delayed. The new premieres end with War Dogs, the latest from Todd Phillips after he swindled the public with the Hangover sequels. Based on a true story, Miles Teller and Jonah Hill star as two brotastic dudes who somehow get a $300 million dollar contract with the Pentagon to supply arms to U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Even with the usage of "Delirious (Boneless)" in the trailer, this looks like an annoying experience.

August 26 concludes the summer with a trio of oddities that will barely earn some change. Don't Breathe has a a group of thieves getting in over their heads when they try to rob from a rich blind man. If you're a movie nerd like me, you will know that this year has already has two similarly themed thrillers: Intruders and Hush, with the latter getting more attention due to some critical acclaim and a prominent push on Netflix Streaming. So you might want to stay home for now. The boxing biopic Hands of Stone has never-to-be-a-star Edgar Ramírez as Roberto Durán, the famed prize fighter who infamously said "No Más" to Sugar Ray Leonard. Roberto De Niro supplies support as his trainer and Usher tries to give acting another go as Sugar. Anyone who saw In The Mix knows that's a uphill battle. And to the benefit of no one, we also have Mechanic: Resurrection. Yep, that remake of a Charles Bronson film starring Jason Statham got a reprise. I like a good action flick and all but I rather have an original Statham vehicle.

My Top Picks of Summer 2016

1. The Nice Guys
2. Ghostbusters
3. Captain America: Civil War
4. Suicide Squad
5. Kubo and the Two Strings
6. Finding Dory
7. Sausage Party
8. High-Rise
9. The Purge: Election Year
10. Independence Day: Resurgence

Of course, there are some films not mentioned here or included because I frankly had a hard time determining their release time frame or have no interest in talking about them right now. The biggest missing one this season is Refn's The Neon Demon, which premieres at Cannes first and may be worthy enough to get a early limited release. Also to remember, there is the ever present possibility that any of the featured films will later be delayed.

I hope your movie experiences will be as good as mine, but probably less cynical.