Hard to believe this is my seventh summer movie preview on Movie Muse! Like most summers, the 2016 May through August movie slate is chock-full of sequels, and movies that hope to generate sequels. At this time every year, there’s so much promise, and by the end we’re left with movies that met our expectations, movies that exceeded them, and movies that fell well below.
In general I’m feeling more skeptical than usual this summer, but I’ve not doubt one or three of these films will be better than advertised. Either way, as my previews have gone the last several years, here are my 20 most anticipated films (in order of release date), 10 films to be skeptical of and some honorable mentions to keep an eye on as the summer flies by.
20 Most Anticipated Summer Movies
Even the solo films are becoming group superhero team-ups these days, but you won’t catch me complaining about this one, which looks to be infinitely better than “Avengers: Age of Ultron” despite being billed a Captain America film. The movie also introduces Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and the new Spider-Man (Tom Holland), adding to the excitement that automatically comes with a schism among our favorite Marvel heroes.
Money Monster (May 13)
Jodie Foster’s directorial projects have been fairly underrated, but this is her chance with George Clooney and Julia Roberts leading a film about a Wall Street media personality whose show is interrupted by a blue collar New Yorker who can’t take it anymore and holds Clooney’s character hostage on live TV. Part suspense, part commentary on the 1 vs. 99 percent, “Money Monster” has a lot of upside.
The latest from rising Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos (who made the Oscar-nominated “Dogtooth”) has been achingly anticipated since its Cannes premiere in May 2015. The wild premise says it all: in a Dystopian near-future, single people are taken to The Hotel where they must find a mate in 45 days or be turned into beasts and banished into The Woods. Collin Farrell and Rachel Weisz star.
Those who remember filmmaker Shane Black’s pre-“Iron Man 3” days will fondly recall his debut comedy crime caper “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” and “The Nice Guys” looks to be in a similar vein. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling get to flex their comedy muscles and their actual muscles in this one, about an enforcer and a private investigator who take on the case of a missing woman in the late ’70s.
Call me crazy, but this mobile-game-turned-movie could be on to something. The trailers have had some pretty funny moments, and the voice cast is stacked higher than a pig tower: Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Kate McKinnon, Bill Hader, Danny McBride, Sean Penn, Peter Dinklage, Keegan-Michael Key, Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz, Sean Penn, Hannibal Buress, Jillian Bell, Tony Hale, Titus Burgess and more. i’m not even angry: I’m impressed.
Bryan Singer’s return to the “X-Men” franchise in 2014’s “Days of Future Past” turned out pretty well, so in comes the biggest villain of the X-Men universe, Apocalypse. If Singer can rein this one in like he’s done with the other other three “X-Men” films he’s directed, then “X-Men 6” shouldn’t disappoint. With excellent young mutant casting in Sophie Turner (“Game of Thrones”), Tye Sheridan (“Mud”) and Kodi Smit-McPhee, plus Oscar Isaac leading the way as Apocalypse, I feel confident.
When Pixar caved to the cash temptation of making sequels to its hit movies and churned out “Cars 2” and “Monsters University,” the mediocrity of those films put a little bit of a damper on the announcement of “Finding Dory.” The major difference in popularity of “Finding Nemo” compared to those other films’ predecessors, however, makes this worth being excited about. Considering next year brings “Cars 3,” let’s hope “Dory” delivers. I have a feeling “Nemo” writer/director Andrew Stanton, who returns for “Dory,” won’t let it disappoint.
It’s far from a traditional summer blockbuster, but “Free State of Jones” does come from Gary Ross, the director responsible for the success of the “Hunger Games” trilogy, even though he only made the first entry in the series. This story of a Confederate soldier’s (Matthew McConaughey) rebellion marks Ross’ first film since “Hunger Games” and looks incredibly intense and action-packed despite the period garb.
When Steven Spielberg makes any film, you pay attention; when he makes a family film, you really pay attention. You can make a case that “War Horse” and “The Adventures of Tintin” were family films (that didn’t catch on), but you could also argue this Roald Dahl adaptation is Spielberg’s first family-friendly effort since “Hook.” The sense of wonder is palpable in the trailer, and that’s what Spielberg (and Disney) does best. If that’s not enough “E.T.” screenwriter Melissa Mathison adapted the book, her first project in nearly 20 years.
The “Despicable Me” team looks to have another huge hit on its hands with this film that basically applies the concept (and several plot points, actually) of “Toy Story” to pets. How it took any animation studio this long to develop that is beyond me, but a quality voice cast in combination with the gleeful silliness of writers Ken Daurio, Brian Lynch and Cinco Paul and director Chris Renaud has “Pets” groomed for success.
A lot is being made of Paul Feig’s (“Bridesmaids,” “Spy”) all-ladies continuation (not a “reboot”) on “Ghostbusters.” No doubt the pressure will be on for Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy to make magic once again (alongside “Saturday Night Live” star Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones), and in such a beloved property, no less. Mid-July is a prime mid-summer release spot, so the pressure is also on for audiences to attend, and not just comedy audiences, but blockbuster audiences.
Thanks to some other sci-fi project he was working on, J.J. Abrams passed the keys to the “Star Trek” franchise to Justin Lin. Yes, director of three “Fast & Furious” movies Justin Lin. Combined with the “Sabotage” soundtrack in the first trailer, it’s clear Paramount is hoping to build a bigger audience “beyond” Trekkies. Idris Elba’s involvement (though covered in makeup) is certainly worth looking forward to, but we don’t quite know enough about the film yet other than its high-flying stunt work.
“The Bourne Legacy” was not a total failure commercially or critically, but it wasn’t at all what Universal had hoped for the continuation of its successful spy franchise. So rather than keep pushing Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross, the studio has brought Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass back and named the darn thing “Jason Bourne” in case you had any doubts. Expect that decision to pay off big time, and allow the studio to work Renner back in with their plans for a Cross/Bourne adventure in a couple years.
DC Comics’ entire superhero universe might implode after “Batman vs. Superman” was met with such divisive opinions, but “Suicide Squad” could have a life of its own beyond any “Justice League” plans. David Ayer (“End of Watch”) is a terrific director, the cast is unreal (Jared Leto, Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtney, Cara Delevingne and Viola Davis among others) and the idea of villains working together is unexplored territory in the world of superhero films. Sign me up.
I had a business teacher in high school who was obsessed with the McDonald’s story and on a few occasions digressed into how milkshake machine salesman Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) swiped up the McDonald brothers fast food concept and turned it into an empire. Keaton is sure to continue his tear of excellent performances under director John Lee Hancock (“The Blind Side”) with a script from Robert Siegel (“The Wrestler”). Don’t assume the August release date means this one won’t be an Oscar contender; The Weinstein Co. is probably optimistic that a film about McDonald’s with a star in Keaton could have some commercial success.
I should probably be more skeptical of a Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg dreamed-up (while presumably not sober) animated film about personified food discovering what its fate is and trying to thwart it, but they wouldn’t pour all these animation hours into something they didn’t think would be extremely funny, right? I feel for the parent who accidentally lets their kids watch this one, by the way …
Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart must have pretty incredible chemistry by now: “Cafe Society” marks the third collaboration between the two after “Adventureland” and “American Ultra,” though given those titles, the last thing you’d expect is for the two to star for Woody Allen in a comedy about 1930s Hollywood. Eisenberg is a perfect fill in for the kind of role Allen would’ve played in the ’70s, though it didn’t make a difference in his 2012 Allen debut, the poorly received “To Rome With Love.” You never can tell with modern Allen, but the period setting served him well in “Midnight in Paris” and hopefully it will here.
Miles Teller and Jonah Hill are two of the rangiest young actors working today, and their casting alone makes “The Hangover” director Todd Phillips’ latest film worthy of the summer watch list. The tone of the trailer straddles the line between crime drama and comedy, which Hill and Teller do extremely well. The true story of 20-somethings low-balling the arms industry and securing a $300-million Pentagon contract is also rather enticing.
Laika (“Coraline,” “ParaNorman,” and “The Box Trolls”) tries something bold with this Asian folklore-inspired action-adventure story and the trailers look stunning. The box office returns could be rough, but there’s a good chance Laika has done its best work as in animation studio in this film. If the story holds up, this will be something special.
10 Films to be Skeptical Of
With exception of “22 Jump Street,” no comedy sequel has panned out like its predecessor in recent years, and that movie succeeded because it spoofed sequels. “Neighbors 2” sets up the same plot as its original, only with sorority girls (non-stereotypical sorority girls, thankfully, but sorority girls nonetheless) and with Zac Efron’s character helping out Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne’s characters. Even with all the same writers and director Nicholas Stoller still in place, that’s not enough to convince me, but who knows, maybe it’ll at least avoid wasting anyone’s time.
Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” made boatloads of cash despite being a mediocre film. But that was 2010, when 3D was still novel and booming post “Avatar” and there hadn’t been any other live-action Disney/fairytale remakes. It would be flooring if “Through the Looking Glass” could manage anywhere near its predecessor’s $1.02-billion worldwide haul. Hopefully, “Muppets” director James Bobin can bring some more imagination and cleverness that “Wonderland” was lacking.
Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer have made a lot of people laugh as The Lonely Island with their explicit comedy songwriting, but is it enough for an entire mockumentary? The world of fame and pop stardom is always ripe for satire, and there’s no question the gang will hit a number of funny notes, but nothing in the trailer suggests they’ve found something completely fresh with “Popstar.” I’ll take a hit song or two though, and maybe an Oscar nomination for it isn’t out of the question. Would love to see Lonely Island at next year’s ceremony …
Obvious skeptical pick here. The 2014 reboot of the heroes in the half shell totally played to kids and didn’t offer anything of substance, or really much in the way of entertainment. “Out of the Shadows” shouldn’t change that at all, not even with the addition of fan favorites Casey Jones, Bebop and Rocksteady and Fred Armisen as Kraang. Okay, maybe Fred Armisen as Kraang.
Of all the summer sequels, this one strikes me as the least necessary. “Now You See Me” was a fun little flourish, a one-time cinematic sleight of hand. The revenge plot in play with the sequel that transforms into a heist doesn’t sound compelling enough, but hopefully the talented cast, which all returns except for Isla Fisher (replaced by Lizzy Caplan) can elevate what we already know will be flashy thanks to director John M. Chu (“G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” the “Step Up” movies).
Fans of Duncan Jones (“Moon,” “Source Code”) have long been waiting for him to tackle a major studio film/possible franchise-starter. “Warcraft” never seemed like the most natural fit, but his film-making instincts are the only reason I have any interest in this adaptation of the open-world video game that caused many people my age to flunk out of college. The trailers come off as a poor man’s “Lord of the Rings,” but let’s hope the story surprises us. Either way, there’s a chance “Warcraft” ends up one of the summer’s biggest flops.
Fox is making the same bet with “Independence Day: Resurgence” as Universal did with “Jurassic World” — that a ’90s blockbuster can regain its audience 20 years later and dominate the box office. The big difference here is that I don’t see Chris Pratt (Liam Hemsworth is great, but he’s not Pratt). Roland Emmerich’s return to the story that launched his successful career will assure a certain degree of success, but Fox is hoping for “Transformers”-like numbers in the pre-Independence Day release window and I’m not sure audiences have been missing alien invasion films the same way they missed dinosaur movies.
After the disaster of 2013’s “Tarzan,” (wait, you didn’t hear about that?) Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic story takes one last shot at life in modern era, and if anyone can do it, it’s “Harry Potter” director David Yates. The cast is solid with new “it” leading lady Margot Robbie, Alexander Skarsgard (“True Blood”), Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson, and I guess the whole motion-capture apes thing has worked out pretty well for the “Planet of the Apes” franchise, but I’m not going ape over this just yet.
If “Neighbors 2” doesn’t work out, its writers can at least cross their fingers for “Mike and Dave,” which stars Zac Efron and the under-utilized Adam DeVine (“Pitch Perfect”) as bros whose online ad for wedding dates goes viral and finds them getting played by two quirky ladies (Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick). The terrific cast could pull through here, but it mostly looks like another bro-y comedy.
Timur Bekmambetov (“Wanted,” “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”) is never a filmmaker to scoff at, not visually at least, but he might be in over his head remaking “Ben-Hur” and spinning it as an intense chariot-racing action film. A cast full of B-listers plus Morgan Freeman in dreadlocks is … curious and doesn’t help the cause, but August films can surprise.
Being Charlie (May 6) – This mature-themed coming-of-age story, which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall, follows 18-year-old drug addict Charlie (Nick Robinson) who after breaking out of a treatment center tries to give sobriety another chance. (Dir. by Rob Reiner)
Me Before You (June 3) – Sam Claflin (“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”) and Emilia Clarke (“Game of Thrones”) star in Jojo Moyes’ adaptation of her own romance novel about a paraplegic young man and his caretaker who grow close despite the man’s death wish (Dir. by Thea Sharrock)
The Conjuring 2 (June 10) – Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) return for another horror film based on their actual case files. The original was a solid effort and the writers and director are back. (Dir. by James Wan)
Our Kind of Traitor (July 1, limited) – John le Carré adaptations are an invisible trend (not may saw the spy thrillers “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” or “A Most Wanted Man” but they were well-received). This one stars Ewan McGregor and Damian Lewis with a script by Hossein Amini (“Drive”). (Dir. by Susanna White)
Pete’s Dragon (Aug. 12) – Disney’s third live-action remake of an animated film (ok, this one was only slightly animated) this year brings the 1977 story to life in a much bigger way. The writer and director have been tapped for “Peter Pan” so Disney must like what they see. (Dir. by David Lowery)
Florence Foster Jenkins (Aug. 12) – Meryl Streep, queen of the August comedy/drama release, stars alongside Hugh Grant, Rebecca Ferguson (“Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”) and Simon Helberg (“Big Ban Theory”) at the titular heiress who insists on becoming an opera star despite her lack of talent (Dir. by Stephen Frears)
Don’t Breathe (Aug. 26) – The end of August is usually the scrap pile for horror films, but Fede Alvarez’s (“Evil Dead” remake) latest won over a lot of critics at this year’s South by Southwest festival. The premise of a heist in the home of a wealthy blind man (Stephen Lang) that goes horribly wrong has the potential to be the summer’s horror standout. (dir. by Fede Alvarez)