It’s shameless, the way Hollywood continues to nudge summer into the spring, its lone motivation being to maximize already stupid-high profits. Is there no respect for the four seasons? Is Hollywood’s disregard for everything that makes summer great, in turn, destroying summer.
Consider: March is not summer. March is spring. Yet blockbuster movies now drop before Easter, dismantling our recollections of and nostalgia for the classic “summer movie” experience.
Back in the day, the summertime blockbuster was a special brand of guilty pleasure. It wasn’t long ago that we could look forward to mindless, soulless, barefaced garbage like Waterworld or Independence Day each July — only to be crushed with disappointment after forking over twenty bucks on a ticket and popcorn.
But now, Hollywood defecates tentpole fare in theaters year-round, like a dog relieving itself on your sidewalk. These “summer” blockbusters are already streaming on Netflix by the time our nation’s birthday rolls around. Is nothing sacred?
The summer movie as we knew it: kaput.
Yet there remain hot-season flicks to behold. The summer solstice — the official benchmark of warm-weather times — didn’t occur until this past Monday, and there’s still all sorts of cinema reboots (and refuse) in the pipe between now and Labor Day.
Let’s forget what came before. Let’s start the summer anew. And so, here’s a roundup by Northern California film writer Daniel Barnes (member of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle) and completely unqualified film writer Nick Miller. Enjoy! (N.M.)
Daniel Barnes’ kiss of death
In my 2014 summer movie preview, I listed Jupiter Ascending among my most anticipated films of the season. But the film was promptly moved to a February 2015 release date on its way to becoming a box-office bomb and cultural punchline (for the record, I think it’s OK). Then, in 2015, I singled out such films as Manglehorn (49 percent approval on Rotten Tomatoes), Aloft (16 percent approval) and Hitman: Agent 47 (8 percent approval). My point: When you’re reading this list of my most anticipated films of the summer, keep in mind that my endorsement is effectively a kiss of death.
The BFG (July 1): Steven Spielberg has spent the last decade in throwback mode, revisiting key moments in history and reveling in faux-John Ford classicism. As long as he’s reaching back into the past, I’m happy that he’s making at least one oddball children’s fantasy, and taking his first stab at Roald Dahl in the process. Bridge of Spies Oscar-winner Mark Rylance dons the mo-cap armor to play the titular Big Friendly Giant, a runt and an outcast among his own kind for his refusal to eat children.
Suicide Squad (August 5): After the unapologetic rough edges of Fury and Sabotage, it’s safe to say that writer-director David Ayer knows his way around a morally reprehensible genre film. He could be just the guy to shake the superhero movie out of its faceless stupor, a hard-boiled genre stylist who favors Quentin Tarantino-style viscera over endless cartoon whomping. I’m as prone to ad hominem attacks against superhero movies as any good critic, but even I’m excited to see this crazy thing, with its seeming embrace of rock ‘n’ roll nihilism and socially conscious sociopathy.
Sausage Party (August 12): The entire high concept of the animated Sausage Party gets spelled out in the hilarious red-band trailer — all foods are self-aware and anthropomorphic like Pixar cars or Disney candelabras, but don’t realize their horrific fate until their final moments on the cutting board. It’s an extended sick joke conceived and co-written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, with voice cameos by everyone you would expect (Paul Rudd, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, et al.) plus Edward Norton as Sammy Bagel Jr. It makes for an amazing trailer, but does this one-joke idea have enough stamina to sustain an 83-minute feature? I can’t wait to find out.
Kubo and the Two Strings (August 19): For a lot of critics, any new Disney-Pixar release, even a patently unnecessary cash-in sequel like this summer’s Finding Dory, would be a no-brainer for this list. But for my money, Laika is the gold standard in English-language animation at the moment, having turned out the brilliant but underseen stop-motion movies Coraline, Paranorman, and The Boxtrolls. CEO Travis Knight debuts in the director’s chair with this original story, about a Japanese boy pursued by ancient gods and monsters, with voice work from Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, and Ralph Fiennes.
Nick Miller reserves the right to be disappointed
Here’s the summer flicks I’m pretending that I’m looking forward to — but mostly don’t give a damn about.
Independence Day: Resurgence (June 24): The original 1996 film was a cringe-worthy stew of gung-ho, pro-military tokenism, complete with Will Smith at his most annoying. This time, director Roland Emmerich brings back only Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman and a few others, instead hoping that the uninspiring Liam Hemsworth will be enough to whoop some alien ass. I have my doubts.
The Shallows (June 24): I actually have zero interest in this flick. I just want to make a note of its shameless marketing campaign. Consider the commercial that aired ad nauseam during the NBA Finals. Opening shot: Blake Lively’s butt. Secondary shot: Lively cleavage. Cliffhanger shot: Lively apparently getting jawed by a great white shark. That’s it. This flick will flop at the box office but do very well on Netflix streaming. Pervs.
Purge: Election Year (July 1): Sadly, this sequel is not about building a giant wall and putting Trump supporters on the other side. It’s about a woman running for president and all the crazies who want her dead. So, basically, kind of based on the real world presidential politics.
Ghostbusters (July 15): There’s no way this reboot will be able to touch the original, what with its subtle humor (“I’ve worked in the private sector. They expect results.”) and Bill Murray’s horndog courting shtick. I do like that it’s an all-female cast, however. Let’s just hope the actual flick is devoid of the lowest-common-denominator gags that dominated the preview.
Jason Bourne (July 29): Another blockbuster whose previews inundated the NBA Finals. Some commercials even featured star Matt Damon explaining why he sold out and decided to make another Bourne flick (he says everyone he met on the streets begged him to). I’m betting the eight-figure paycheck doesn’t suck, either.
Bad Moms (July 29): This is not something you might discover on PornHub.com. This is a Mila Kunis vehicle about a carpool mom pushed over the edge, sick of PTA meetings and minivans and driven to … well, buying a Camaro, throwing house parties, and burning their “mom bras.” I’m betting this was written and directed by a man. Yup, it was: Two of them!
Kidnap (August 16): According to reports, this is basically Taken, except with Halle Berry. Her son is snatched. She beats ass. That is all.
Ben-Hur (August 19): They did it. They remade Ben-Friggin‘-Hur.
The Space Between Us (August 19): This one appears to be about the Romeo and Juliet thing — except the boy is from Mars and the girl is from Earth. Brings new meaning to Shakespeare’s “do not swear by the moon” line.
Southside With You (August 26): A romantic comedy starring … the President and First Lady of the United States! For real: This one goes back to 1989, when a young law-firm grunt named Barack Obama went out with a lawyer Michelle Robinson. Filmmaker Richard Tanne follows them through Chicago on their first date. Hopefully he’ll follow up this with a Trump-Melania sequel?
From a Ghostbusters reboot to a romantic comedy starring the president.