PREVIEW: Our 18 Most-Anticipated Movies of Summer 2016
Fear not, movie fans: you’ll soon have something else to look forward at the theatre other than those four Avatar sequels James Cameron keeps trying to sell us. It’s almost summer, and that means one of the busiest slates of film releases of the year. As we’ve done in the past, Jason Chen and I are here to whittle down the big list to our key picks - including a few that might crash and burn, too. Read on to see all the movies we’re tracking, and to tell us which titles you’re most excited to see!
Captain America: Civil War (May 6)
ROBERT: What would a summer movie roundup be without the Marvel film of the season? While I don’t count myself as a true fan of the series, last year’s Ant-Man kept me interested enough in the overall direction of the much-discussed MCU. The buzz and the advance reviews suggest Marvel’s done it again - spreading more of their secret sauce over a landmark comic book story and making it palatable for a wide moviegoing audience.
JASON: I’m excited for this one because FINALLY we don’t have some wishy-washy villain wanting to destroy the world when The Avengers basically just happened. Like, talk about the worst timing ever, amirite, villains?! But, this could FINALLY be the set up to Infinity War Parts 1 and 2 and the true big baddie, Thanos. Who doesn’t want to see Cap and Iron Man go at it? Let’s ugly Chris Evans up so the rest of us guys have a chance with Hayley Atwell.
High-Rise (May 13)
ROBERT: I’m always interested in new talents that emerge at the movies, and it looks like Ben Wheatley could be the latest one. Fans of high-concept thrillers were talking up Wheatley’s newest film High-Rise (starring Tom Hiddleston alongside a strong cast of other British names) at the Toronto International Film Festival this year, and I’ve wanted to check it out ever since then. The film is based on a story by J.G. Ballard, depicting a near-future condo community where the class war is on the edge of becoming a real war. This ought to be a good way to mix some artsy filmmaking into an otherwise action-heavy season.
Money Monster (May 13)
ROBERT: Aside from some films in the 90s, her odd 2011 film The Beaver and a 2014 episode of House of Cards, Jodie Foster hasn’t taken on many directing projects. So, I was surprised when Foster was brought on to helm a comparatively large studio picture like Money Monster. The story is riding on the continuing trend of movies trying to make sense of the American financial crisis (most recently covered by The Big Short) following the hostage-taking of a charismatic business commentator (George Clooney) on live TV, and the frantic attempts to verify a conspiracy the hostage-taker (English up-and comer Jack O’Connell) is trying to uncover.
Whether Foster can bring anything new to this topic, or whether she’s ready to handle movies with $30 million budgets, remains to be seen, but I’m cautiously optimistic.
JASON: Yawn. The thing with Clooney is that he generally makes decent (though forgettable) films, but doesn’t quite inhabit the skins of his characters like a method actor, and he’s certainly not a summer blockbuster guy. Money Monster already sounds cringe-worthy - an open essay on what guys like Jim Cramer would actually do if a gun was held to their head, and I fear an ending that’s far too preachy. Though, I have to concede that as far as films with dumb ideas go, Panic Room with Foster was excellent, but that one also had David Fincher directing. Hopefully, Foster picked up a thing or two.
The Nice Guys (May 20)
ROBERT: Comedies are always among the most difficult movies for me to get excited about, since I often find the filmmakers give away too many jokes in the trailers. And because The Nice Guys features a fun (if derivative) premise - a 1970s noir story about squabbling private eyes (played by Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe) - I’m extra hopeful that the marketing was just a taste of what’s in store.
JASON: I’m always up for a good buddy cop movie. It’s a genre that needs a huge revival, and not of the young adult kind like Jump Street. Gosling is an underrated comedian, and along with his moustache, will likely be a riot. Russell Crowe plays a good foil, probably a better one than Josh Brolin. And it’s set in the 70s! Nothing excites me more than period movies. One negative: Shane Black’s previous effort, Iron Man 3, missed the mark.
X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27)
JASON: If you held a gun to my head and asked me if I’d rather watch the X-Men films or the MCU films on repeat for the rest of my life, there’s a good chance I’d go with the X-Men. Their stories are generally more compelling, even if the execution isn’t always there. The scale has gotten bigger and bigger with each installment, to the point where we’re finally at world destruction and coming full circle with the (re-)introduction of Jean Grey, Cyclops and Storm. One teensy, tiny, little thing: Jennifer Lawrence’s miscasting as Mystique aside, she’s been forced down our throats throughout the entire marketing campaign, and we’re pretty much at peak JLaw fatigue right now.
TMNT: Out of the Shadows (June 3)
JASON: Okay, okay. I will fully concede that I can be one of those people that keep legitimizing awful franchises simply by paying a lot of money to see precious nostalgia turned into heaping mounds of garbage. There are A LOT of faults with this kid-oriented rendition of the Turtles, but the kid inside me also won’t let me walk away, especially given the theatrical debuts of brainless but loveable minions Rocksteady and Bebop. On another note, I’m perfectly okay doing my part to financially support Megan Fox (who, by the way, was excellent in The New Girl), who has to support her sadsack, out-of-work (ex-?)husband.
Warcraft (June 10)
JASON: If the trailer was any indication, this film is going to be the biggest and smelliest heaping bag of CGI vomit of the summer. Frankly, it looks terrible, which is a shame because the Warcraft world is immense, sophisticated and ultimately fascinating. The story teased so far goes little beyond a simple orcs vs. humans conflict (even if it’s from the orcs’ POV), and you hope director Duncan Jones - who helmed two very strong sci-fi films with good plot twists in Moon and Source Code - has something up his sleeve. “It (CGI) can be well done & and it can be done shit,” declared Jones on Twitter. My question to Jones: Have you seen this shit?
Finding Dory (June 17)
ROBERT: Pixar has a near-perfect record in the movie business, even when it comes to their sequels. 2003’s Finding Nemo is one of the company’s crown jewels; it’s nearly universally beloved, and I’ve seen nothing to suggest Andrew Stanton’s follow-up will let its predecessor down. Just keep swimming, Pixar.
JASON: Just keep swimming, just keep swimming… (hums along blissfully)
Free State of Jones (June 24)
ROBERT: Are we still allowed to talk about the McConnaissance? If Matthew McConaughey’s career can be said to have exploded back to life with 2011’s The Lincoln Lawyer, maybe we’ve reached the point where we can trust the actor to carry a film without needing a term for it. In the case of Free State of Jones, McConaughey is lending his talents to a Civil War drama about a farmer who leads a revolt against the Confederate army, who are themselves locked in their rebellion against the Union. The question is whether Gary Ross (whose last directing job was the first Hunger Games film) can craft a movie worthy of both a McConaughey performance and the little-known historical episode that inspires it.
JASON: Ohhh… this sounds intriguing! And somehow as a history major this film just slipped under my radar. What gets me kind of excited is Ross, who has directed three films to date, two of which I’ve seen, and both of which I liked: Pleasantville and Seabiscuit.
Independence Day: Resurgence (June 24)
JASON: I was a big fan of the original ID4 (why this isn’t opening on July 4, I’ll never know), which featured peak Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum as
another version of Dr. Malcolm tech genius David Levinson and with Bill Pullman as Casper’s dad the ballsiest president ever on film (sorry, Harrison Ford). I don’t expect this to be any good, really, and this may be the one film where passing on post-peak (but still somewhat bankable) Will Smith wasn’t a good idea... but aliens vs. humans in an explosion-apalooza? Yes, please. Though I’ll probably use up my free SCENE ticket for this one.
The Neon Demon (July)
ROBERT: After being warned away from Nicolas Winding Refn’s last film, 2013’s Only God Forgives, I’ve been waiting impatiently for the director to strike gold again, as he did with 2011’s Drive. This time, Winding Refn moves away from the heavily masculine symbolism of his recent work and into a story all about women; specifically a group of young models in Los Angeles whose lust for beauty and fame creates a spiral of jealousy and violence. As with many Winding Refn projects, there will be some heavy art-house and European vibes in this one, and I’m hoping it delivers more than just pretty visuals.
JASON: You’ll have to update me on this one. I also passed on Only God Forgives after hearing how violent and gory it was, and I don’t imagine this will be any different. It’s interesting that despite his Euro art-house vibe, Refn seems to gravitate towards violence rather than sex, so maybe this is the project where he brings both together and manages to deliver another visceral and jarring viewing experience.
Legend of Tarzan (July 1)
JASON: Tarzan films are tricky, but I’m glad this won’t be an origin story; rather, it’ll pick up years after “Me, Tarzan; you, Jane” in a plot that will see Tarzan go from society to jungle and not the other way around. Sometimes, Tarzan films take on a tone that makes more romantic drama than adventure epic, and in some ways it is - a half-naked man with washboard abs and a pretty girl fall in love and they get caught in the rain an awful lot - but here’s hoping that David Yates, who helmed the final four (somewhat boring) Harry Potter films, brings in some more darkness and intrigue than its predecessors. That shouldn’t be difficult with Christoph Waltz playing yet another menacing villain.
ROBERT: While I’ll admit that avoiding an origin story is a good place to start, I’m doubtful this can develop into the franchise Warner Bros. is dreaming of. Especially without Phil Collins doing the soundtrack.
The Secret Life of Pets (July 8)
JASON: Cute animated fluffy animals up to no good? Sign me up!!! This is Illumination Entertainment’s first venture in four years that doesn’t have anything to do with the Minions universe (thank god). That carries a lot of risk for a studio venturing into a genre that’s been dominated by Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks. Jenny Slate, who knocked it out of the park in Zootopia, returns for her second animated adventure this year, but she’s not considered one of the principals, unfortunately.
ROBERT: Banana? Banana! ...this is my best effort at a Minions joke.
Star Trek Beyond (July 22)
JASON: This one’s hard to pin down. On one hand, Justin Lin has made a name for himself with big action blockbusters, which is great for a franchise that prides itself on its massive scope; on the other hand, Simon Pegg and others have criticized the trailers and marketing campaign for its disservice to the film’s plot, which apparently takes the franchise and its characters to bold new heights (or depths). What I keep wondering, though, is why the hell Starfleet keeps Kirk giving new ships, especially when, oh, how do I say this nicely… he keeps destroying them?! His insurance premium should be enough reason for Starfleet to say no. I hope for Lin and the franchise that this one has an original plot and ultimately becomes a hit. Another mixed performance could end the franchise... which may not be a terrible idea.
Jason Bourne (July 29)
ROBERT: There’s little I can say about the Bourne series that I haven’t already covered in posts dating back to the beginnings of this site, but suffice it to say that I am beyond excited for Jason Bourne. The return of star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass will be the ultimate proof of whether this series has the energy to continue into the future. By the time July is coming to a close, I’ll either be squealing with joy or holding back tears of disappointment - let it be the former!
JASON: ...something something unnecessary sequels *grumbles*
Suicide Squad (Aug 5)
ROBERT: After the depressing blow that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice likely represented for a lot of DC Comics fans, it’s not unreasonable to look expectantly towards Suicide Squad and hope for a Guardians of the Galaxy-style kick in the pants for the series. Featuring the first-time movie appearances by some of the most infamous members of Batman’s rogue’s gallery (along with a new take on the Joker by Jared Leto), Suicide Squad has potential to burn. Can this strange crew of villains on a do-or-die mission for the good guys absolve the sins of Zack Snyder?
JASON: I’m super pumped for this one, not particularly for its cast or premise, but for David Ayer! End of Watch and Fury weren’t without their faults, but they were certainly tense and engrossing, something that I hope transfers to Suicide Squad. This will be Ayer’s first real blockbuster, but the tone will be tricky to maintain and juggle an ensemble cast.. Ayer’s films tend to be more “slice of life” than comprehensive, focusing on just one small aspect of a greater struggle, so it’ll be interesting to see how Suicide Squad will be incorporated into the DCCU, especially with how popular Batfleck has become.
Sausage Party (Aug 12)
JASON: The trailer left me in stitches. Previous Seth Rogen-Evan Goldberg collaborations (Point Grey! Ma hood!) like This Is The End had their moments, but combine Sausage Party’s raunchy jokes in a medium that really has no bounds, the end product should be pure fireworks. Survival comedies are usually gems because they force their characters into unwinnable situations, which in turn forcing the characters to commit to the most desperate and most zany ideas. What could go wrong, right?! I mean, there’s no way that much ballyhooed food orgy scene can top Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke in 9½ Weeks, right?
ROBERT: I didn’t expect to be interested in this one, but the word out of South by Southwest is that this thing has to be seen to be believed. The MPAA apparently had no idea how to rate it, since the movie destroys usual boundaries of taste and gets away with it by being CG-animated. Even Sacha Baron Cohen, known for his sometimes shock-and-awe style of comedy, was floored.
Kubo and the Two Strings (Aug 19)
Unless you follow a lot of movie blogs, you might have missed hearing about this new film from the stop-motion animation studio (Laika Entertainment) that made Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls. Being a fan of all sorts of animation, I was fascinated by some of the ideas at play in the recent trailer for Kubo and the Two Strings, which aims to bring Japanese folklore to bring with some impressive new animation technology. And it doesn’t hurt that the spot is set to a remix of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” for an added cool factor.
That does it for our look ahead to the movies of the summer - which titles did we miss? Which of our picks are you most looking forward to? Join the discussion in the comments section and if you liked this post, share it with your friends and followers!