Like recent years past, 2016 is yet another 12 month period of big budget Hollywood recycling and dumpster diving. This summer in particular can be seen as a microcosm of sorts for the ills of such behavior. More cons than pros? Not necessarily. Movies are magic, and magic can weave gold from anything. You never really know…
The following are my flick picks for what to see and yes, even avoid, for June, July and August. Theaters may have air conditioning to help beat the heat, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be beating your heads in frustration after making a bad gamble on a bad film. Allow me to help narrow things down.
Duncan Jones – the son of David Bowie – follows up his previous critical darlings in “Moon” and “Source Code” with a major studio production of a most popular video game. Being more sci-fi oriented, fantasy might just suit him well, as the trailers sure do represent potential depth in 3D visual storytelling and near guaranteed depth in 2D emotions.
There is a chance that cliché will win out, giving us a by the numbers tale of adventure and battle. However, I suspect there will be enough arcs to satisfy those of us not impressed just by colorful IMAX imagery. This is a director and a (ugh) property I have equal faith in. Expect another technical, fantastical and engaging marvel on the level of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. More “Thor” than “Thor?” It just might be.
Independence Day: Resurgence
Few upcoming movies perplex me nearly as much as “ID4:2,” from the usually insufferable master of landmark destruction and “popcorn movie” Roland Emmerich. In hindsight, the only “good” aspects of the original involve Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith’s chemistry, Randy Quaid’s eccentricity and Bill Pullman’s big speech. Everything else? Michael Bay-style slapstick.
The first footage I saw from the sequel looked like a parody video from Funny or Die. I seriously thought it was a joke, making fun of rehashing that which shouldn’t be rehashed. Instead, we have a second entry. Seriously. Older, more tired actors returning, young actors embarrassing themselves and bigger catastrophes designed to make special effects wizards’ mouths water. And it all hinges on nostalgia. It all hinges on a generation “inspired” by Bill Pullman’s quotable speech. Please, “ID4:2” – sell yourselves short. Please.
The Purge: Election Year
From the makers of the surprise first hit “The Purge” and its follow up “The Purge: Anarchy,” comes another, well, “Purge.” It’s my assumption that this series that nobody thought would become a series will be milked dry like “Saw” in a few years. Until that point, there are at least a few things in its favor. For starters, Frank Grillo – recently a villain in “Captain America: Civil War” – returns as a former cop turned bodyguard. Watching him fire a gun and punch people makes it clear that he can handle action well. And when he handles it well, we have a ball.
Secondly, this is a “franchise” not known for its subtlety. Where this might be a problem for some, I see it (and so do the filmmakers) as a boon. Being so bluntly obvious about themes breeds the kind of atmosphere that generates action thrills the likes of which Chuck Norris could thrive in. Not that this will be of that caliber, but close.
As of this writing, the new “Ghostbusters” has one of the most loathed trailers in the history of YouTube, and with good reason. It was terribly constructed, creating no excitement or buzz and lacking the appropriate feel you’d want from an all female remake of a classic sci-fi horror comedy. Now, my good reason is not the same as most online users’ “good reasons.” Lots of them feel the all female cast is wrong, throwing misogyny at a most harmless set of movies. The trailer just gave them an excuse to hate.
While that preview was bad, I have no doubt the final film will make us proud. The cast is stellar, the director Paul Feig has a good reputation with this genre, and the production has years and years of pre-production history to build from. It’s gonna be rough, as I expect hate reviews to pop up more once the movie comes out, but I’m confident that this will be quality fun.
I can’t say it enough – “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” was a massive disappointment and a terrible exercise in self-dislike. Two movies into the DC Comics Cinematic Universe, and we’ve already seen quite the dark chapter. Next will be an all-bad guy team up. Will that cheer us up? Could that give us something to root for?
If Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” or even “Deadpool” were any indication, it’s that misfits and their shenanigans bring in the crowds. It’s something different, I’ll give it that. An all-villain story. David Ayer leads the charge as director, coming off of the intense WWII drama “Fury.” That might spell gloom in its thickest form, but I think Ayer is someone who’ll use this new setting as a playground to experiment and let loose. It’ll be dark, but in a good way. The kind of way that won’t make you actually suicidal.
Star Trek Beyond
Justin Lin of those “Fast and Furious” films takes the helm from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” director J.J. Abrams with this latest installment of the new old “Star Trek.” The last two movies were seen by many as having too much fantasy action and not enough science fiction, focusing on explosions and not so much on characters or moral quandaries. Beyond looks to continue that trend mostly, with a pulse pounding first teaser set to some Beastie Boys music. Does “Star Trek” really need to be amped up on
Actually, I have a feeling we’re gonna get a best of both worlds scenario, with plenty of satisfactory fights and weird space stuff representing heavy themes and ideals. Interviews with writers have suggested a potentially smarter head on its shoulders, and that’s evidence to take to the bank. Of course, final approval, reshoots and edits could completely change that. Like the Enterprise itself, it’s all up in the air.
Coming out just in time for this very printing, “Lobster” is a romantic comedy / dystopian Sci-Fi romp by way of 1984. Humorous to a T and unsettling to a fault, the movie ranks with other great 2016 releases, like “The Witch.” Where that was horror inherent in maturity and the female form, “Lobster” is discomfort in love and human connectivity. It’s hard to believe, after watching, that any kind of true romance is possible. And yet… it still is.
Swiss Army Man
This Paul Dano / Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) dual starrer took film festivals earlier in the year by force. Think “Cast Away” meets “Weekend at Bernie’s,” where Radcliffe plays a “farting” corpse that washed ashore to a lovestruck and stranded Dano, who subsequently falls in love with – and gets into wild shenanigans. Honestly, what more do you want from cinema?
The Neon Demon
Nicolas Winding Refn, the filmmaker behind crowd pleasing “Drive” and crowd confusing “Only God Forgives,” is back with colors and blood in this Elle Fanning piece. The seedy, seductive, spiritual and spooky first look teaser is the only primer you need to encourage a ticket purchase, and I recommend looking the video up on YouTube immediately. Refn is a friend of and vessel for cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky, but by all accounts, the imagery in “Neon Demon” looks more Dario Argento inspired. Maybe a combination of the two styles.