Movies I Wanna See Most: Summer 2017

Due to some unfortunate circumstances in my professional life I was unable to make a list of my most anticipated films of the year so I'm happy to have had the time to scour the release calendar for the summer and get to know a little better what we'll be seeing in theaters over the next few months. The summer movie season is always one of my favorite times of the year because it seems people outside those of us who consistently devour movies seem to make a big deal of what's opening at the theater each week. And when it's something the masses are interested in it feels like a celebration and no matter how crappy or generic some of these movies might be that attract the masses-I can't help but smile about people finding joy and excitement in the cinema. I've always prided myself on trying to find a balance between big-budget and indie fare whereas a large number of well-renowned or even fairly compensated critics tend to dismiss the blockbusters and adore the smaller, intimate movies without hesitation. I like to try and think in terms of objectives and how well a movie accomplishes the objectives it sets out to accomplish by the end of the film and I find this especially critical when approaching summer movies. That doesn't mean I'm necessarily more excited for Transformers: The Last Knight than I am something like It Comes at Night, but rather that I'm interested in both of them for very different, albeit intriguing reasons. While neither of those titles will be on my list I would place director Trey Edward Shults follow-up to Krisha within my personal top fifteen alongside the likes of Alien: Covenant, Luc Besson's Valerian, the strangely appealing The Hitman's Bodyguard, as well as the latest from Sofia Coppola in The Beguiled which I could see breaking out with the current stock of Nicole Kidman rising (though it has a lot of tough indie competition this year). Elsewhere, you won't find the likes of The Mummy or King Arthur on my list (I appreciate Guy Ritchie, but just can't seem to muster any enthusiasm for this familiar tale) and neither of the animated threequels that will make bajillions of dollars in Despicable Me 3 and Cars 3. Like I said though, I'm by no means opposed to unabashed blockbusters as is evidenced in my number ten pick...

10. I'm as surprised as anyone else whose been paying attention to this series and Johnny Depp's career lately that the fifth installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is on this list. While I really liked each of the original trilogy entries On Stranger Tides might as well have been all the nails in the coffin. It was as bland and forgettable as anything the series or Disney had offered in some time and by this point it felt like Depp going back to the character of Jack Sparrow was more out of desperation than for any creative reasoning. Depp seemingly had nothing new to add to the character and by the time the credits rolled on the film it seemed that was the last we'd see of the once iconic Captain Jack. Of course, On Stranger Tides still topped a billion dollars worldwide despite the fact it didn't even make back its $250 million budget domestically. So, is Dead Men Tell No Tales an international play or an attempt to atone for the sins of the previous installment and send off these once adored characters into calm and respectable seas? It seems it will be a bit of both as directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg (Kon Tiki) were brought on board (though the budget apparently ballooned) and seem to have delivered a hugely entertaining piece of escapism. I say this because the full length for the trailer is one of the best I've seen for this summer's offerings; summing up all of what I hope to get out of big budget blockbusters should be and I can only hope this "final adventure" is everything it's now cracked up to be. (5/26)

9. We're coming off of The Fate of the Furious debuting in theaters this past weekend and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson reminding us all once again why we love him so much. It seems The Rock will only keep this train moving as he produces and leads the re-invention of Baywatch, a show I never watched, but can still understand why it is perfect for lampooning in today's cinematic climate. Sure, this is very much a result of 21 Jump Street performing so well, but even without that precedent the idea of a Baywatch movie that teams up The Rock with Zac Efron is a golden idea. There will undoubtedly be a number of glorious cameo appearances from original cast members including David Hasselhoff, but more than the predictable I'm hoping Baywatch can deliver on the laughs as it is one of the few major studio comedies coming out this season (unless you're counting Snatched, which I'm not). Of course there are others such as Scarlett Johansson's Rough Night, the Will Ferrell/Amy Poehler starrer The House, Girls Trip and the aforementioned Hitman's Bodyguard, but if that Ryan Reynolds/Samuel L. Jackson actually ends up not being shitty it will send the summer out on a fun note. It is up to The Rock, Efron, Priyanka Chopra, Alexandra Daddarrio, and Kelly Rohrbach to kick the party off and I have no doubt they're capable of as much and can't wait to see the results. (5/26)

8. As I say every year when these things come around, I'm a sucker for music biopics. We lacked a good one last  year (though Sing Street more than made up for it), but were spoiled the year before by the likes of both Straight Outta Compton and Love & Mercy. This summer, after already receiving a look inside the lives of N.W.A. and Biggie Smalls in Notorious, we will be treated to a film chronicling the life and times of none other than Tupac Shakur (with Jamal Woolard returning to the role of Christopher "Biggie" Wallace). It seems as if we've been seeing teases for All Eyez On Me for well over a year now, but the wait will finally pay off this summer when director Benny Boom's (Next Day Air) film finally hits cinemas. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't somewhat nervous about the ultimate quality of the picture as Boom doesn't exactly have a stellar resume and given the movie is based on a treatment from Jeremy Haft and Eddie Gonzalez whose biggest credits thus far are for episodes of Empire while third screenwriter Steven Bagatourian only has one other feature credit to his name. This combined with the fact the film will have wrapped shooting more than a year before it was to be released makes me wonder if there might have been some issues with a few of the edits. Given the timing of the trailer releases and the fact June 16th of this year would have been Shakur's 46th birthday though, the strategy makes sense. Here's hoping Boom does Shakur's legacy, his many fans, and his ever-growing fanbase justice as All Eyez On Me has certainly cast actors that look the part, but if they can deliver on the legacy is what all will be rushing to the theater to see. (6/16)

7. Charlize Theron, who never had that solitary break-out role it seems she was always destined to have (an Oscar winning role is a different kind of thing), may have found her John Wick after coming the closest she's ever been two years ago in Mad Max: Fury Road. While Imperator Furiosa may yet lead to a series of films in which the actress becomes a definitive symbol of a single character the lady leading the war against Immortan Joe may now have some competition in the form of Lorraine Broughton. By no coincidence Atomic Blonde comes from stuntman and co-director of that Keanu Reeves rejuvinator as well as the upcoming Deadpool 2, David Leitch. Leitch, who along with Chad Stahelski, both directed and choreographed the fight scenes in John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2 have taken a screenplay from Kurt Johnstad (300, 300: Rise of an Empire) who adapted the graphic novel and done very much what they did with the first John Wick. Granted, I have no idea the popularity, tone, or story of the source material and thus can't interpret how close any of what we saw in the stellar first trailer hues to that material, but nonetheless this looks freakin' awesome and I couldn't be more excited for a fresh, original action flick this summer. Atomic Blonde has a prime end of summer release date and all the markings of a breakout original action hit that, if well-received and profitable, could end up serving as the first thing to come to peoples minds when wthey think of Theron. Time will tell. (7/28)

6. A24 had a banner year last year beginning with The Witch and on through the likes of Swiss Army Man, The Lobster, American Honey, and 20th Century Women topping it all off with Best Picture winner Moonlight. I can't imagine there are many bad days at the A24 offices these days, but it also doesn't seem they've had much time to soak it all in either as this young, vibrant studio is seemingly doing anything but slowing down. I mentioned It Comes At Night already and while I'm eagerly anticipating that film and what director Trey Edward Shults might be able to do with real studio money behind him I am more intrigued by A Ghost Story. The film, which debuted to rave reviews at this years Sundance Film Festival, is director David Lowery's follow-up to his underseen re-make of Disney's Pete's Dragon last year and reunites him with his Ain't Them Bodies Saints stars Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck. The set-up is simple in that it's about a recently deceased man who returns to his home as a spirit and watches what becomes of what was once his. The trailer that was released for the film seemingly spoils a little too much of the ground the film intends to cover, but this is a tough sell and I can understand why they're shooting for the stars right out of the gate. Still, A24 can get by on the credibility of the work it has produced and acquired in the past at this point so they have the full trust of a cinephile such as myself and while A Ghost Story might be my most anticipated film of theirs this summer I can't wait to see the full slate of what else they have to offer in 2017. (7/7)

5. And now, as we come to the mid-point of my most anticipated films of the summer it is time to talk about the three super hero films debuting in cinemas and how I'm equally excited to see each of them. Given the super hero genre is a behemoth unto itself these days I'm placing each of the respective films in this same spot. There is no reason for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man: Homecoming to take up three different spots on the list when I'm genuinely hoping for great things from each and if you don't already know each of these are premiering this summer you've likely been living under a rock. In short, no need to take up precious space with flicks you're definitely going to see when I might highlight something you haven't yet heard of. Still, I can't help but to get excited and root for the best results from James Gunn's sophomore Marvel effort which will officially kick off the summer movie season here in a few weeks. I can't help but to root for and believe that Patty Jenkins will bring the kind of quality, scope, and fun to Wonder Woman and the DC Extended Universe that it so desperately needs in order to turn public opinion around. And while I was one of the few fans of Marc Webb's Amazing Spider-Man movies I truly hope Jon Watts (Cop Car) can integrate the webslinger into the Marvel Cinematic Universe by delivering audiences a Spider-Man we've yet to see on the big screen considering this will be the third iteration in fifteen years. Guardians (5/5), Wonder Woman (6/2), Spider-Man (7/7)

4. Having been legitamitely surprised by 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes I was more than excited for Matt Reeve's 2014 follow-up to Rupert Wyatt's film, but while Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was far from terrible it more or less felt like the middle chapter in between two more interesting chapters. Whereas many a second installments in a series tend to be the best due to the fact they don't have to worry about establishing characters or wrapping up every single plot line Dawn more or less felt like it was treading the water of its mythology until we reached the trilogy capper where it could afford to throw everything it wanted at us. Thus the reason I'm super excited for this final film in the trilogy. Of course, the release of Dawn did prompt me to investigate that mythology further as all I'd seen prior was the original and the Tim Burton re-make, so there were more than a few positives to take away from the experience. When Reeves took over though, it was clear the direction the studio wanted to go in and see how we might eventually connect the dots from one movie to the next. And though I was somewhat underwhelmed by Reeves' film there was still much to admire about it including the lush visuals and attempts at addressing larger themes (albeit a theme that runs throughout the entire series). It seems the director has once again accomplished as much with this third installment and all he seemingly was capable of, but restricted on his first time around as War for the Planet of the Apes looks truly epic in both thought and visual scale. (7/14)  

3. Besides A24 it is Annapurna Pictures that is one of the more interesting studios to emerge as of late. If you enjoyed any of director David O. Russell's recent run of films then you have Annapurna to thank for producing them (as well as for last summer's outrageous Sausage Party). Not a Russell fan? How about Paul Thomas Anderson? Kathryn Bigelow? It's because of Annapurna and their founder, Megan Ellison, that filmmakers such as this can continue to make quality work, the work they want to do, rather than getting sucked into the studio system. The latest example of such is from The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty filmmaker Bigelow who this time around, along with writing partner Mark Boal, have decided to take on the Detroit riots of 1967. The riots are historically known to have been initiated by a police raid of an unlicensed bar in the city’s Near West Side when confrontations turned violent, ultimately resulting in the deaths of thirty-nine people and leaving hundreds wounded. Bigelow and Boal have seemingly approached this event with the idea of telling several different accounts that occurred over the course of the five days the riots took place in order to paint a full picture of what happened, why it happened, and how those on either side of the law were forced to handle themselves. In typical Bigelow fashion the film seemingly holds a number of tense moments with the ensemble cast as led by The Force Awakens' John Boyega seemingly giving top notch performances to only accentuate that suspense further. I'm anxious not only to see what a talented filmmaker like Bigelow does with such material, but also the kinds of conversations Detroit creates given the material couldn't be more relevant or a more timely reminder for the American conscience. (8/4)

2. After dropping out of directing Ant-Man at the seeming behest of Marvel many were disappointed it would be even longer before we received a new film from director Edgar Wright AKA the guy who made the marvelous Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy as well as the phenomenal Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. While it's still been two years since what would have been Wright's last film the auteur has since written and directed Baby Driver, which follows a talented, young getaway driver who, in a very Wright touch, relies on his own personal soundtrack to be the best in the game. It is after this driver is coerced into working for a crime boss that he must face the music when a doomed heist threatens his life, love, and freedom. Featuring a cast led by Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars) that also includes Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, Jon Bernthal, and Lily James (Cinderella) Wright certainly has set the tone for a different flavor of ice cream this time around, but with his singular style and vision it's always clear that what we're watching is very much a piece from an artist who keeps a coherent throughline with all of his work, but at the same time isn't afraid to try something new and daring. This became especially clear when he broke away from regular collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost for Scott Pilgrim (which may arguably be his best film), but with Baby Driver it seems Wright has pushed himself even further to both still operate in the cinematic world he has created while also coming up with something new. Of course, all I really needed to say here was that this is the new Edgar Wright film and that would be enough to justify my excitement. Only a few filmmakers can create an immediate interest in their new film simply by announcing they're working on something and Wright is certainly one of them, but this is also the reason his film is second on my most anticipated list... (6/28)

1. Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar, The Prestige) has a new film coming out this summer. Enough said, right? Well, if you'd like a little more info you'll be excited to hear that Nolan shot the film completely on IMAX 65mm film and 65mm large-format film. Nolan is working again with Interstellar cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema as they are clearly intent on creating a World War II film for the ages. Now, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have any concerns about Dunkirk, but they come more from the fact the market for WWII film is rather saturated than with Nolan or the story he wants to tell. There is simply a certain familiarity with these types of images that no longer allow them to feel as fresh no matter what scope one is shooting on. That said, what imagery we've seen is undoubtedly beautiful. The story concerns the real-life events of the evacuation of Dunkirk, known as Operation Dynamo, during the British military operation that saved 330,000 lives as Allied soldiers were surrounded by German forces. Nolan wrote the screenplay himself without usual collaborator, brother Jonathan, but the picture will reunite the director with longtime collaborator/composer Hans Zimmer. Of course, I'll see anything Nolan decides to put his time and effort into so all of this may not exactly be saying much, but nonetheless the idea we're getting a WWII film from the perspective of one of our great modern filmmakers is nothing to be dismissed. (7/21)

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