Summer Movie Preview 2017

The summer blockbuster slate is the most anticipated and heavily scrutinized of all the movie seasons. Bloated with sequels but always containing hidden gems, there’s little certainty outside of a few films which ones will dominate the box office or be hailed as something worth going indoors for.

Which sequels will live up to the hype? Which films hoping to launch new franchises will resonate with audiences? That murky predictability is in part why I double the size of movies I’m anticipating and movies I’m skeptical of for the summer season.

20 Most Anticipated Summer Movies

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5)

The sequel to the 2014 surprise box-office smash that proved Marvel Studios could do no wrong will have something to prove now that we’re familiar with the characters and the ’60s and ’70s pop soundtrack combined with irreverent humor. Chris Pratt is a household name now as well. Provided the story stays focused on Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot and their unusual dynamic, and the plot is a little more interesting than the first time around, this should be one of the summer’s safest bets, even if it doesn’t match “Vol. 1.”


Snatched (May 12)

Amy Schumer is still a fresh talent as far as the big screen goes, and pairing her with a once-beloved comedy actor presumed to be retired in Goldie Hawn feels equal parts inspired and a ploy to bring young adults and their moms to the movie theater on Mother’s Day. Director Jonathan Levine (“50/50,” “The Night Before”) has a great track record as far as comedy directors go and writer Katie Dippold had success on “Parks and Recreation” and on two Melissa McCarthy vehicles, “The Heat” and “Ghostbusters.” Stacked up against the other summer comedies, this seems likely to finish in the upper tier.


Alien Covenant (May 19)

2012’s “Prometheus,” Ridley Scott’s unofficial “Alien” prequel, received a rather divisive reception from audiences, and it will surely make enough people wary of exactly whatever “Alien Convenant” is in relation to that film. It appears that a spaceship of couples looking to colonize an uncharted paradise-like planet have landed on a planet that experienced the repercussions of the events of “Prometheus.” Anyway, there’s a lot more Xenomorph action, and the use of “Alien” in the title suggests this one could be truer to the franchise’s original spirit. Katherine Waterston is a heck of an actress and seems like a great Ridley stand-in.


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (May 26)

Believe it or not, it’s been six years since audiences last went on an adventure with Captain Jack Sparrow and 10 years since the last good one. While international audiences devoured “On Stranger Tides” in 2011 (it ranks 14th at the moment on the list of biggest non-U.S. grosses all time), American appetites dwindled significantly compared to previous installments. Most studios wouldn’t care, but Disney does, and “Dead Men Tell No Tales” looks to have rebooted feel to it, with Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley returning to their roles. Javier Bardem plays the bad guy, so that’s a bonus, and most encouraging of all are the directors, Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg of the small, critically acclaimed, Oscar-nominated foreign film “Kon-Tiki.”


Baywatch (May 25)

If you polled American audiences about which male actors they most like to see with their shirts off, you’d probably get Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron in the top two most common answers. Paramount has wisely granted your wish with this modern “Baywatch” update for the big screen from director Seth Gordon of the “Horrible Bosses” movies. I was way more amused by the trailer than I ever expected to be. I never watched the Hoff or Pamela Anderson in the original show, but you can expect them to make cameos here.


Captain Underpants (June 2)

The beloved kids’ series has finally come to life on the big screen courtesy DreamWorks Animation. I just missed this book craze by about five years, but there’s a built-in audience for this for sure. The movie stays true to the illustrative style of creator Dave Pilkey, which makes this stand out among animated movies for sure, at least aesthetically. Successful comedy writer and director Nicholas Stoller (most recently the “Neighbors” films) wrote the script and voice acting credits include Ed Helms as the titular hero, Kevin Hart, Kristen Schaal, Thomas Middleditch and Nick Kroll as Professor Poopypants.


Wonder Woman (June 2)

The big moment for female superheroes (and the DC cinematic universe) has come. If you want to “vote with your dollars” at the box office this summer, then support “Wonder Woman,” starring Gal Gadot reprising her “Batman v. Superman” role in a film by Patty Jenkins (who was originally supposed to direct “Thor: The Dark World.”) This is big for women starring in and making blockbusters. Hopefully “Wonder Woman” will be the first unanimously applauded DC Comics movie, but let’s not say that aloud just yet lest we must bite our tongues another time.


It Comes at Night (June 9)

I like to recommend a horror film every summer and this is hands down the best candidate. “It Comes at Night” comes from filmmaker Trey Edward Shults, who wowed audiences with his last film, “Krisha,” admittedly still on my “need to see” list. Expect thick tension between characters and more suspense than actual horror, as we follow these characters who are stuck in a remote home dealing with a threat in the outside world. Sounds akin to “10 Cloverfield Lane” if you ask me. The cast includes Joel Edgerton and recognizable but not yet established names such as Christopher Abbott (“Girls”), Carmen Ejogo (“Fantastic Beasts”) and more. Of course A24 (“Moonlight”) distributes because they’re killing it right now.


The Mummy (June 9)

Universal is hoping Tom Cruise can launch their “Avengers”-style monster franchise as the start of their reboot of “The Mummy.” The zero-gravity airplane scene turned a lot of heads when it debuted many months ago (and got a lot of laughs when a version without any scoring and just sound effects went viral), but will it be enough to get audiences into theaters in the very dicey June weeks? Longtime modern blockbuster writer/producer Alex Kurtzman (“Transformers,” “Star Trek”) directs his first big tentpole and Cruise’s writer buddy Chirstopher McQuarrie follows him to yet another movie, also written by Jon Spaihts (“Doctor Strange,” “Passengers”). Even with Russell Crow playing Dr. Henry Jekyll … … you can’t count this one out.


The Book of Henry (June 16, limited)

Before he tackles “Star Wars: Episode IX,” director Colin Trevorrow has this reunion between “St. Vincent” stars Naomi Watts and Jaeden Lieberher as a mother and her gifted son who team up to protect the girl next door from her abusive stepfather (Dean Norris), who happens to be the police commissioner. From indie comedy/family drama to creepy thriller, this film has some serious promise if Trevorrow can manage all these tones. Lee Pace, Bobby Moynihan, Sarah Silverman and Jacob Tremblay (“Room”) all co-star.


The Big Sick (June 23, limited)

One of the biggest hits at Sundance gets a summer roll out, which should be a nice change of pace from all the action. The film was written by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani about their actual relationship, with “Silicon Valley” star Nanjiani starring as himself and Zoe Kazan playing Emily. The film drew raves for crossing out of predictable indie romance and into something much more real as they navigate the realities of their cultural differences, Emily a white woman and Nanjiani a Pakistani man. Michael Showalter of “Wet Hot American Summer” fame directs.


Baby Driver (June 28)

Director Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”) is an auteur held up by movie geeks as something of a filmmaking god, and he returns with a new original project that has nothing to do with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, so the mystery is titillating. This movie stars Ansel Elgort (“The Fault in Our Stars”) as Baby, a talented getaway driver who requires a wicked soundtrack to be his best self behind the wheel. Lily James, Kevin Spacey, Jon Bernthal (Netflix’s “The Punisher”), Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx all co-star.


Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7)

The third incarnation of Marvel’s web-slinger probably has “Homecoming” in the title for the not-so-subtle reason that Spider-Man has final come home to Marvel Studios, at least creatively speaking. After “The Amazing Spider-Man” films fizzled, Sony was wise to consider that maybe the best things for Peter Parker was not to separate him from his super-friends. Tom Holland was great in “Captain America: Civil War” and with an amateur director in Jon Watts, Marvel hopes to reinvent the character without retelling his story for the third time in 15 years.


War for the Planet of the Apes (July 14)

Who ever imagined that “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” in 2011 would be good, let alone spawn a critically acclaimed sequel and then third installment? Director Matt Reeves returns from 2014’s “Dawn” as does writer Mark Bomback. I’m not so sure about the plot, but so long as the film stays focused on Caesar’s (Andy Serkis) story, then the likelihood of the trilogy earning a third gold star is pretty high. Judy Greer and Woody Harrelson take over as the human characters.


Dunkirk (July 21)

History has proven we don’t have to know much about a Christopher Nolan film in order to see it and love it, but I think perhaps Warner Bros. has overestimated Nolan’s clout if they think people will line up during the summer to see a World War II drama they know nothing about outside the historical facts. I will, like everyone, assume that this film will be genius because Nolan’s never given us a reason to think otherwise, but I’m not exactly buying my tickets months or even weeks in advance for “Dunkirk.” Nolan regulars Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy star alongside Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh and … Harry Styles (yes, he formerly of One Direction fame).


Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (July 21)

Luc Besson is hit or miss, but he’s always interesting. In adapting this French comic book, he dips back into science fiction, which is evoking a lot of movie goers with thoughts of his cult hit “The Fifth Element,” which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Besson gets a pair of dynamite up-and-comers in Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne and a supporting casting ranging from John Goodman to Rihanna. Fans of pure sci fi can rejoice as this film has all the trappings. If it plays well with critics, it will be interesting to see how it competes with “Dunkirk” at the box office.


Atomic Blonde (July 28)

Late July has a strange history of female-led action movies. In 2010 we got Angelina Jolie’s “Salt,” in 2014 Scarlett Johansson’s “Lucy” and now Charlize Theron in this graphic novel adaptation about an MI6 operative in Cold War Berlin. Longtime stuntman David Leitch directs (he’s currently working on “Deadpool 2”) with a script by Kurt Johnstad, whose adaptation of a graphic novel 10 years ago launched the next thousand of them. (I’m of course talking about “300.”) The film got good reviews at South by Southwest this year.


The Dark Tower (Aug. 4)

Stephen King’s epic fantasy Western series finally makes it to the big screen with heavyweights Idris Elba as the Gunslinger and Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black. As far as the talent behind the camera, Danish director Nikolaj Arcel (“A Royal Affair”) is certainly not a traditional choice for a summer blockbuster, but he’s the kind of choice that might mean we’re in for something special. There are a couple script doctors who added to Arcel and Oscar-winner Anders Thomas Jensen’s work, but this could be another one of those early-August hits.


Detroit (Aug. 4)

The director-writer duo of Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal (“The Hurt Locker,” “Zero Dark Thirty”) is back to tell a more challenging, under-told moment in American history — the 1967 riots in Detroit. It doesn’t get more timely, relevant and important than that, which makes “Detroit” a potentially powerful change of pace, and it wouldn’t be far off to think that it could garner some awards consideration given Bigelow and Boal’s recent history together. No huge stars, but some good talents, including John Boyega of “Star Wars,” Anthony Mackie of the “Captain America” films, Will Poulter, Samira Wiley (“Orange is the New Black”) and Jack Reynor.


Wind River (Aug. 4, limited)

Actor Taylor Sheridan has found his calling as a writer. He wrote the excellent dramatic thrillers “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water,” and now he moves into directing with “Wind River,” which follows a murder investigation on a Native American reservation. The film premiered at Sundance and has earned strong marks thus far. It stars Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner and Jon Bernthal.

10 Summer Films to be Skeptical Of

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (May 12)

“King Arthur” strikes me as the kind of movie that would’ve gotten greenlit in response to the success of “300.” Audiences have moved on from this ancient/medieval action film with modern aesthetics. That’s all that Guy Ritchie brings to this movie. Charlie Hunnam stars as Arthur and he’s not the draw yet that Hollywood suspects he can be. Anyway, the movies that come out the week after that first big summer movie (in this case “Guardians Vol. 2”) are usually not among the summer’s best. The deck is stacked a little against this movie to be a hit, but it could certainly be fun enough.


Everything, Everything (May 19)

We’ve entered a bizarre phase in young adult entertainment: the romance in which one of the two people has cancer or some kind of terrible disease. Based on Nicola Yoon’s novel (of course) “Everything, Everything” stars Amandla Stenberg (“The Hunger Games”) as a young woman allergic to everything who falls for the boy next door. This movie is riding the coattails of “The Fault in Our Stars” and similar films, so it earns my seal of skepticism.


Cars 3 (June 16)

Who would ever imagine I’d put a Pixar movie on the skeptical list? But after “Cars 2,” one of Pixar’s worst (by comparison, it wasn’t an awful film), I can’t put any faith that this film is anything but another merchandising grab. Most Pixar fans have just had to grin and bear it knowing that for every cash cow like this movie, it means Pixar has the money to invest in one of its more creative, high-concept films. I will say that at least this one doesn’t appear to be a spy movie, which is kind of where “Cars 2” erred.


Rough Night (June 16)

It’s been a long time since “Bridesmaids,” but films are still trying to capitalize on that female breakthrough comedy’s success. This cast is outstanding: Scarlett Johansson (doing comedy no less), Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Zoe Kravitz, and Ilana Glazer of “Broad City,” who is following two of her show’s writers to this project (one of whom is also the director). I’ve never watched “Broad City,” and I would hope this movie has a lot of that show’s edge, but the adherence to a bachelorette party gone wrong formula (e.g. “The Hangover”) has this on my skeptical radar.


Transformers: The Last Knight (June 23)

Is anyone still paying attention? I remember how excited I was by the first “Transformers” 10 years ago and how much I enjoyed it, but it’s been pretty downhill from there. I didn’t even watch “Age of Extinction.” But Michael Bay just keeps at it. I don’t know what else to say; if this is still your thing after all this time, there’s no reason it wouldn’t be again. For the rest of us, it just means one more free weekend on the calendar to not have to worry about missing a movie.


The House (June 30)

I sound like an old fuddy-duddy groaning about most of the summer’s comedies, but it’s a tough genre to nail. “The House” has potential; the writers were responsible for both “Neighbors” movies, which were above average, and one of them is directing this film, which is about similarly misbehaving adults. Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler play a broke husband and wife who open an illegal casino so they can pay for their daughter’s college tuition. It sounds a bit ridiculous, but there’s a chance these actors can carry it. I’m getting a hit-or-miss vibe.


Wish Upon (July 14)

“Wish Upon” has a vibe like the “Conjuring” movies, maybe that’s because its director, John R. Leonetti, was the cinematographer of the first “Conjuring” film and helmed the spin-off, “Annabelle.” Joey King stars as a young woman who possesses a contraption that makes all her wishes come true, though of course by the time she realizes something must be done to end it, it’s too late. Far and away not the worst of the summer’s horror choices, but not the highlight.


The Emoji Movie (July 28)

And you though “The Angry Birds Movie” was bad enough. I don’t have words for how this makes me feel. We only have a teaser trailer so far, so only so much judgment can be heaped onto this film (right …?) It will all hinge on story. I can’t say I’m that confident as the writers have the little-seen animated movie “Igor” as the lone relevant credit between them, and the writer who has that credit is also the director. I’ll try to be open-minded … but doubt I will in this busy summer for animation.


Annabelle: Creation (Aug. 11)

This feels like a cop-out for my skeptical list, but maybe people need the reminder that the first “Annabelle” was poorly received, and while you may want to know about the creepy doll in the “The Conjuring” universe’s origins, you’d best be served to wait or pass entirely.


Tulip Fever (Aug. 25)

When this period drama/romance was slated for late February, I had a fair amount of optimism. Tom Stoppard is a heck of a writer, and Christoph Waltz, Alicia Vikander, Judi Dench and the previously mentioned  Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne make for a nice ensemble, but you don’t move a romance from February to the worst weekend on the summer calendar if you’ve got a great film on your hands. “Tulip Fever” has all the right trappings if this is your genre of choice, but best not to spend hard-earned summer dollars on it unless maybe you were a fan of Deborah Moggach’s book.

Honorable Mentions

The Wall (May 12, limited) – Director Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity,” “Edge of Tomorrow”) has a knack for making interesting movies, and “The Wall” certainly applies. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena star in this situational war movie about two solider separated by a wall with a deadly sniper bearing down on them. (Dir. Doug Liman)

Band Aid (June 2, limited) – This Sundance crowd-pleaser centers on a couple (Zoe Lister-Jones and Adam Pally) that start a band together as a last-ditch effort to save their marriage. (Dir. Zoe Lister-Jones)

All Eyez on Me (June 16) – After the success of “Straight Outta Compton,” we get the story of gangsta rap legend Tupac Shakur. All the talents involved are under the radar, which makes it hard to get a sense of how good it could be, but it’s a story that deserves a movie (Dir. Benny Boom)

The Beguiled (June 23, limited) – Sofia Coppola’s latest has a good cast (Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst, Colin Farrell) and the story is a twisted Civil War era revenge thriller in which a woman running an all-girls school takes in a Union soldier who begins seducing the women and causing problems until they decide to do something about it. (Dir. Sofia Coppola)

Okja (June 28, Netflix) – Filmmaker Bong Joon Ho found a cult audience when his sci-fi movie “Snowpiercer” showed up on Netflix, so it made sense for the two to partner on his latest, about a girl and her giant pig-like beast whom a corporation is trying to kidnap. Tilda Swinton stars. (Dir. Bong Joon Ho)

A Ghost Story (July 7, limited) – The director of “Pete’s Dragon” might have crafted the summer’s most unusual and buzzworthy film in this indie (not horror) story from out of Sundance about a man (Casey Affleck) who after dying takes the form a ghost in a white bed sheet and haunts/just observes his wife (Rooney Mara) in their home, as well as all stories in that home past and future. (Dir. David Lowery)

Landline (July 21, limited) – Gillian Robespierre and Jenny Slate’s last collaboration, 2014’s “Obvious Child,” is still an underrated indie comedy. This film takes place in the 1995 and stars Slate as a young woman dealing with martial discord between her parents. (Dir. Gillian Robespierre)

An Inconvenient Sequel (July 28) – Al Gore is back and his work on climate change information is more important than ever. Reviews were largely positive at Sundance, and their won’t be a more important film all summer. (Dir. Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk)

Step (Aug. 4, limited) – Another praised Sundance documentary, “Step” follows a senior girls step team in inner-city Baltimore. (Dir. Amanda Lipitz)

The Trip to Spain (Aug. 11, limited) – Fans of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s first two food-ogling celebrity-impersonating adventures will surely be excited for this one. (Dir. Michael Winterbottom)




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