Sure it’s not quite summer yet but a few 70 degree days have gone to our heads and we’ve decided to do some spring cleaning. Thus the Summer 2016 Movie Preview! The aim of this comprehensive guide is to get you geared up for the coming sunny months, where you fair reader will holed up inside to watch moving pictures on monumentally-sized screens. As can be expected, there is no shortage of spectacle this summer. You can almost rear the bleating of dump trucks reversing bloated piles of studio tentpoles to dump at our feet as we speak. Will there be a diamond in the rough this summer the likes of Mad Max: Fury Road? We don’t think so but hey, we can dream. With almost 4000 words to delve through below, we won’t stall any longer getting into the 28 films we think might just be worth foregoing a few hours of sun to see.
Demolition – April 8
We’ll start with a film whose quality we can attest to already: Jean-Marc Vallée‘s superb Demolition. In it, Jake Gyllenhaal plays a successful investment banker whose wife dies suddenly and tragically in a car accident that he walks away from oddly unscathed. What follows is a rich tapestry of organic emotionality and dark stained shimmer with surprising uplift and a good measure of smashing. From our SXSW ’16 Review, “Led by soaring performances from Gyllenhaal and Watts and an emotionally exploratory script from Bryan Sipe, ‘Demolition’ is an oddball destructo-drama that measures the invoice of grief against the constructs of self-reinvention. Jean-Marc Vallée’s whip-smart, heart-rending and thoroughly hysterical feature threatens to alienate some audiences with its cut-and-dry views on life and love but works wonders under the right conditions.”
The Jungle Book – April 15
I’m already kicking myself in the head for having to skip the press screening of The Jungle Book (I’ll be vacationing in Vegas on that particular Tuesday) and not only because of screening in the Pacific Science Center IMAX ( a true wonder to behold.) if the trailer so far have been indicative of anything, it’s that Jon Favreau‘s (Iron Man, Chef) newfangled vision for The Jungle Book looks visually resplendent. Like really top notch. With a voice cast that includes Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Christopher Walken, Ben Kingsley and Scarlett Johansson as Kaa, this live action adaptation has all the pieces in place for greatness but will the narrative measure up?
Green Room – April 22
Jeremy Saulnier follows the wonderfully unpredictable Blue Ruin with an ultraviolent pitting of a punk band and the Nazi hosts they agreed to play a gig for. Grotesque and grotesquely tense, no one is safe in Saulnier’s nasty portrait of white trash. I’ve seen the film twice now (full review here) and though it can at times be tough to stomach, I’d be eager to watch it yet again. If that doesn’t speak to films quality, I don’t know what does. From our Sundance ’16 Review: “Jeremy Saulnier’s grotesquely violent ‘Green Room’ pits a hapless punk band against a group of militant Neo Nazis in almost pornographically gruesome fashion. That there isn’t too much to the film beyond the bloodbath keeps it from broaching true greatness but it’s still a finely tuned, well-acted violent venture for those compelled to see such material.”
A Hologram For The King – April 22
If judged by its trailer alone, with its dated, kindly voiceover and general “unassuming white dude enters foreign land to serendipitously learn about himself while unintentionally inflicting cultural imperialism” vibe, A Hologram for the King looks pretty dreadful. Stir in America’s most beloved movie star Tom Hanks and a director who’s consistently offered compelling work, Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Cloud Atlas), and you have a project that could surprise coming out of the gates to become a charmed family drama in a time of bigger and bigger tent poles. If only the trailer weren’t so damn dreadful.
Keanu – April 29
Another on the list that we’ve already seen, Keanu is Key and Peele‘s feature film debut and tells the woeful tale about a kidnapped kitty and two suburban African-Americans who go undercover as “street smart” gangsters to retrieve their precious feline. Fans of the sketch comics will find a trove of light on their feet comic beats that mock gang culture and suburban privilege equally. Though some parties were mixed in the reception of what is essentially a brilliant one joke comedy, read the review that had us calling it “catnip for Key & Peele fans”. More from our SXSW ’16 Review, ‘Keanu’ is a daffy laugh-a-minute concept comedy meets YouTube video; definitive proof that the sketch comics’ careers are far from over – and may in fact just be beginning anew – now that they’ve exited the world of television.
Captain America: Civil War -May 6
I know at least one person will do a little dance when they see that included the newest Marvel movie on this list of anticipated films. After the crippling disappointment that was Batman v Superman: Dawn of Franchise, Marvel will pit their own Avengers squad against one another in Captain America: Civil War. If BvS was a painful reminder of anything, it’s that blockbuster movies are supposed to have some levity to them, a facet that Marvel has rarely ignored. Sure, I’m tired of the seemingly complete and total lack of stakes in the MCU, a land in which even those who are deceased magically figure out a way to come back in some form or another (sometimes on television *shudder*) but I’m genuinely interested in seeing their take on Black Panther and a super-pubescent Spiderman. At the very least, the latest on the Marvel conveyor belt should deliver the distracting eye candy goods that make for such mindless popcorn crunching.
Money Monster – May 13
Jodie Foster didn’t quite get her groove back with The Beaver, in part due to an ill-timed starring position for an under fire Mel Gibson, but her directorial follow-up Money Monster looks pretty aces. George Clooney stars as a high-strung host of a financial TV show that’s taken hostage by an irate investor (Jack O’Connor). The premise is simple but packed with possibility, allowing for a high stakes nail-biter thick with timely political undercurrents. Hopefully Foster is able to get the formula right and deliver an outstanding adult drama laced with thrills.
The Nice Guys – May 20
Now we’re talking. Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) returns to cinema for what is amazingly only his third feature. Over the past decade, many have pined for the return of the celebrated director, though his helming of Iron Man 3 wasn’t quite deliver what we were looking for. Sure, it was amongst the better flicks in Marvel’s increasingly vast portfolio but such tight studio control didn’t truly allow for the filmmaker’s voice to cut through. The Nice Guys looks to right that wrong. Starring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, Black’s narrative rewinds the clock to 1970s Los Angeles where a private eye teams up with a brute enforcer to investigate the death of a porn star. Consider us eager for the ride.
X-Men: Apocalypse – May 27
X-Men have always held a certain appeal for me that most other superhero films have not. Perhaps it’s the longevity of the franchise, which began a whopping 16 years ago with Bryan Singer‘s game changing opening pitch, and the amount of detail that’s gone into crafting these characters sometimes storied journeys. All the while injecting new life by bringing in tremendous talent the likes of Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence. After the rousing success that was X-Men: Days of Future Past, this eighth installment continues with the freshfaced cast first introduced in X-Men: First Class, pitting them against an omnipotent mutant known as Apocalypse. The trailers have struck a chord between CG destruction and compelling character turns and so long as X-Men: Apocalypse is as good as its predecessor, we’ll have something to root for on May 27.
Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping – June 3
This brings us to a stretch of films that could be quite terrible, and if the trailers are any indication are quite terrible, starting with Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping. The tongue-in-cheek mockumentary takes aim at musical superstars like Justin Bieber with Andy Sandberg playing pop/hip-hop “artist” conner4real as he attempts to stage a comeback after a disastrous album flop. Were Lonely Island not involved, my interest wouldn’t exist plummet but the YouTube-sensations-turned-SNL-alums-turned-Golden-Globe-winners tend to strike a balance between absurdity and goofy-faced satire in their best material but have been known to miss the mark at critical junctions (Awesome Town, Hot Rod). We’re all hoping this one’s a winner.
Warcraft – June 10
Sure Warcraft looks like a lame ripoff of Avatar for willing to hold out hope for one reason and one reason only: Duncan Jones. The English director has yet to miss yet, consider us huge fans of both Moon and Source Code, and though his latest looks to trade in little league craft for a big time budget, we have to consider the man making the film has yet to disappoint. The narrative is fairly tired: two factions, Orcs and Humans, come to a head when of its force them to occupy the same land with heroes rising from each camp to stand for peace. The cast is largely absent in big-name talent though Ben Foster, Toby Kebbel, Paula Patton and Dominic Cooper all seem to have roles of various sizes. This one’s either going ti be a disaster or a monstrously hit and it pretty much all depends on how it’s received.
Finding Dory – June 17
Pixar is currently existing in this awkward limbo were fans and critics alike are unsure if the once immaculate animation studio can manage a new stretch of no-hitters or if they’re still stuck in the creative rut that has characterized films such as Cars 2, Brave, Monsters University and most recently The Good Dinosaur. Finding Dory has the fact that it’s a sequel to the much beloved Finding Nemo both in its favor and working against it. On the one hand, fresh blood and new ideas gave life to Pixar’s best film in years (Inside Out) while many of the recent sequels/prequels have proved unmemorable to nonstarters. That being said, I include Toy Story 3 among the finest work out of the story so this Dory-centric follow-up certainly has the potential to blow us away.
Swiss Army Man – June 17
An oddity even at Sundance, the Best Director-winning Swiss Army Man was a divisive entity at this year’s international film festival and for good reason. Daniel Radcliffe plays a gaseous corpse whose multi-purpose talents allow Paul Dano to escape the desert island he’s been stranded upon. It’s filled with fart jokes, weird music queues and laced with homoerotism and I loved every weirdo second of it. From our review, “One of the most bizarre and bizarrely beautiful films to grace the Sundance Dramatic Competition in quite some time, ‘Swiss Army Man’ is not a film to be puzzled out in one go but that’s ok. It’s mightily entertaining, features two standout performances and has enough raw originality coursing through its veins to make it truly stand in a league of its own.
Free State of Jones – June 24
Free State of Jones tells the true story of Newton Knight, played by Matthew McConaughey, a veteran who bands together with farmers and slaves to lead an armed rebellion against the Confederacy in Jones County, Mississippi during the Civil War. Gary Ross of The Hunger Games fame writes and directs with Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mahershala Ali, Keri Russell and Brendan Gleeson all in co-starring roles. In the past, Ross has displayed a knack for handling action rife with political undercurrents and this seems as good time as ever to delve into the problematic politics of the American Civil War what with the insane election cycle we’re trapped in.
Independence Day: Resurgence – June 24
Sure, Independence Day: Resurgence has a good chance to be horsesh*t but we’d be lying if we said we we’re intrigued by the concept pitch. Two decades after the events that leveled much of Earth, including of course the White House, the citizenry of Earth has weaponized the alien technologies left behind so many years ago. But when a new even more imposing extraterrestrial threat arrives, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman must allign with boytoy Liam Hemsworth and hot squeeze Maika Monroe to trump their invasion. Odds are shoddy but we’re hoping aliens + aging Emmerich + Goldblum = success.
The Legend of Tarzan – July 1
Good things come into twos and bad things come in threes so we’re taking it as a good omen that two jungle set films hit theaters this summer. The second, The Legend of Tarzand, might be less compelling on first glance (after all, how far back do we have to go to find a good Tarzan movie?) but the talent behind and front of the camera is undeniable. A beefy Alexander Skarsgård plays the eponymous king of the jungle with the oh-so-delectable Margot Robbie filling the Anglo shoes of Jane, both of whom are sought after by Christoph Waltz mugging as a skeezy industrialist with nefarious intent. The trailers present a visually stunning landscape populated by convincing CG jungle beasts. The fact that David Yates (Harry Potter 5-8) sits behind the camera gives great promise so we’re hoping this is more Dawn of the Planet of the Apes than George of the Jungle.
The BFG – July 1
Steven Spielberg returns to the world of wonder on the heels of his Oscar-nominated (and quite splendid) Bridge of Spies adapting Roald Dahl‘s much beloved kid’s book The BFG. Spielberg‘s spin has bookworm Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) encounter the titular Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance), himself an outcast in the giant community due to his unwillingness to chow on the flesh of little boys and girls. Support comes in the form of Jermaine Clement, Bill Hader and Rebecca Hall. The blockbuster king has a way of manipulating kiddie fare into a required family outing and we’re betting that The BFG is just the type of lackadaisical, all-audiences genre fare that Spielberg excels at.
The Infiltrator – July 13
Heisenberg takes the mantle of 80s DEA agent Robert Mazur who goes undercover to work for Pablo Escobar? Sign me the eff up. Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer, Runner Runner) directs with Diane Kruger Benjamin Bratt, John Leguizamo and Amy Ryan co-starring. The narrative landscape – cocaine, secret identities, Pablo F**kin’ Escobar – is phenomenal and we can see Bryan Cranston getting lost in such a two-faced role. Furman’s last was fairly underwhelming so we’re betting this is a big time comeback and earns Cranston another crack at the Oscar.
Ghostbusters – July 15
I’ve hesitated tremendously including this far flung sequel of Ghostbusters among the list. I’ve deleted it and re-added it more times than I can tell you but what it comes down to is that one way or another this is going to be a film that people are talking about come mid-July. Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones don the familiar tan jumpsuits to battle ectoplasm under the direction of Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Spy). My concern comes down to the overwhelmingly negative reaction to the trailer, though I admit I like the idea of reinventing the original lineup with a squadron of established and emerging female comedians. Feig has proven his ability to measure competent action beats in with comedy in the past, but we’ll see if he can take it to the next level here.
Lights Out – July 22
Another risk pick comes in the form of Lights Out, a feature-length version of a much watched 2014 horror short (watch it here). At first glance, the feature hardly looks inspired (a creature emerges only when the lights go out) and Teresa Palmer has been known to lead some clunkers in the past. Odds are against David F. Sandberg emerging as an interesting new voice, someone able to bring spitfire to the PG-13 horror machine, but we cannot get around how spooky and atmospheric his to a half minute short was. Nor can we escape the fear that Sandberg may just be another successful shorts director swallowed up by the bowels of Hollywood.
Star Trek Beyond – July 22
I’ll be the first to admit that the marketing material for this film so far has been positively dreadful. Add to that the fact that Star Trek into Darkness was a muddled mess (and that was when sci-fi guru J.J. Abrams was still in the directorial chair) and you have good reason to be concerned about Star Trek Beyond. Nevertheless we’re hoping beyond hope that Justin Lin (Fast And Furious 3-6) is able to inject fresh creative juices into a franchise that started with such incredibly strong footing and steer the ship back towards smooth waters. while the trailers have painted a confusing portrait, it’s reassuring that the entire cast is back and joined this time by Idris Elba, with Simon Pegg himself in part responsible for the script.
Jason Bourne – July 29
I would never have included myself among the constituents of hardcore Jason Bourne fanboys the franchise always had an energy and intelligence to it that few other action thrillers could handle. After the relative disappointment of the Jeremy Renner-led Bourne Legacy, fans clamored for their much awaited fourth installment with Jason Bourne back at the forefront and on July 29, they’ll get their wish. Matt Damon returns to the titular role, joined by Alicia Vikander, Julia Stiles, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel and Riz Ahmed. So long as this one doesn’t center around a hunt for chems, we ought to be in store for a high-octane thrill ride with rare glints of genre-defying intellect.
Suicide Squad – August 5
Now that the dust has settled on the dingy, dour Batman for Superman: Dawn of Justice, DC has found themselves in a tight spot, regardless of all those records it broke. You see, with a plummeting second weekend cume and a deceptively low B Cinemascore, normal audiences have proved that they align more with the critics’ disinterest in Zack Synder’s bleak super vision than the rabid fan base calling it a “masterpiece” or “one of the best superhero movies ever made right” out of the gates. This – as well as the warm reception of its first trailer’s lighthearted and comical tone – has led to some pivotal reshoots for DC’s next outing, Suicide Squad. This late stage manipulation of material is concerning to say the least but I can’t deny that I’m still interested in what this antihero collective may offer, if only for the impressive stockade of actors assembled (Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Joe Kinnaman, Will Smith) and David Ayer (End of Watch, Fury) behind the camera. Will this be another strikeout for DC’s Expanded Universe or could it right the ship wronged by Synder? Neither would surprise us.
The Founder – August 5
Oscar bait in the middle of the summer? Not quite. Michael Keaton portrays McDonald’s top dog Ray Kroc in John Lee Hancock‘s (The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks) dramatic account of the rise of the fast food empire. The Weinstein Co. film tells of how Kroc wrestled control of McDonald’s away from pioneering brothers Mac and Dick McDonald, who started the burger shack in the 1950s, to seed one of the most iconic international staples on the planet. Keaton has proven a lucky penny of late, having starred in the last two consecutive best picture winners (Spotlight, Birdman) but has seen himself snubbed with no gold to call his own. At the very least, he ought to be a serious contender for his work in The Founder, which sounds like it has the makeup for a helluva starring role in addition to being more mature than some of Hancock’s more awards pleading pictures.
Sausage Party – August 12
Another on the list that we’ve seen, Sausage Party pitched a rough cut debut at this year’s SXSW Film Festival to rousing response. Even though the movie really gave meaning to the phrase “rough cut” – some sequence were not animated, the score was entirely absent, lighting and texture was still in their early phases – it was able to cull some nasty good times, which is a hell of a feat considering that some sequences were entirely static. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Superbad, The Interview) conspire to make an admirably off-kilter, obviously weed-influenced cult party movie that stars produce and processed foods and features peace pipe circles, cannibalism and orgies. The script is surprisingly on point, exploiting every possible opportunity to crack a joke even if the backbone of the narrative – group wanders foreign land searching for salvation – is basic as the letter B. We didn’t officially review the film at SXSW since it was in such unfinished form but we are very much looking forward to sinking our teeth into the final product.
War Dogs – August 19
Todd Phillips‘ War Dogs has a lot of the same elements going for it that Adam McKay’s Oscar heavyweight The Big Short did this time last year. Both turn comedic directors onto true stories of modern American scandal, preserving the elements of dark comedy along the way. War Dogs stars Miles Teller and Jonah Hill as amateur government contractors who land a massive deal to supply the US military arms in Afghanistan. If the first trailer is any indication, War Dogs looks to strike a fine balance between dramatic weight and dripping satire and could be an unexpected winner come August.
Kubo And the Two Strings – August 19
Laika, the animation studio behind such winners as Coraline and Paranorman, deliver their next installment of 3-D stop motion fantasy film, this time starring the voice talent of Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Rooney Mara George Takei and Ralph Fiennes. Set in Ancient Japan, Kubo and the Two Strings tells the story of Kubo who must battle gods and monsters on the hunt for his late father’s magical samurai armor. No other animation studios accomplishes anything along the same lines visually as Laika, which makes any of their projects worth anticipating. Add in an enchanting, mythological premise and you have an animated endeavor well worth looking forward to.
Don’t Breathe – August 26
The second to last film on this list will conclude those we’ve already seen. Fede Alvarez‘s Don’t Breathe also saw its debut at this year’s SXSW and at the time of its first screening, was still going under an untitled moniker. It. Blew. Me. Away. Seriously, talk about razor wire tension. A bonafide new master of the craft, Alvarez crafts a horror thriller without an ounce of fat, one that utilizes every shot and sound to his evil advantage. It’s far less gruesome than his 2013 remake of Evil Dead but it shows a director even more in control of his craft. From our review, “[It’s] one of the most breathless, relentlessly intense horror movies to ever open in the American territories. Not unlike ‘Martyrs’ or ‘Inside’, Fede Alvarez’s disturbing triumph of high-pitched tension and fanatical bad taste is as much an absolute must for hardcore horror fans as it is sure to horrify any and every mother on planet Earth.”