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.

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