- By Joe Gross American-Statesman Staff
It’s almost summer, which means blockbuster movie season, which means a few months of sequels, reboots and a fair number of superheroes.
If fall and winter are when the Oscar bait gets trotted out, and spring is where movies that want to avoid the blockbuster crunch get dumped, summer blockbuster season is a singular combination of “This will work, we just know it!” and “Gee, we might be out of a job if this doesn’t work, huh?” — with both sentiments so mixed up that you may not be able to tell them apart.
It is the most bonkers time of the movie year, and in 2017, we’ve got chest-bursting aliens, wonder women, pirates, a bachelorette party that goes exceptionally poorly and the much-anticipated return of a certain friendly neighborhood wall crawler.
Here are 40 movies hitting the silver screen between May 19 and the end of August. Release dates are, as always, subject to change. As usual, some of the following may be great, some may be terrible. Either way, at least there will be air-conditioning.
“Alien: Covenant.”Well, it certainly looks terrifying (and pretty gross). Ridley Scott continues his re-mining of the “Alien” franchise with this sequel to “Prometheus” starring Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir and James Franco, whom I can easily see being destroyed by a xenomorph.
“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul.” Not a reboot, but the cast of the first three Wimpy Kid movies have officially aged out of usefulness as wimpy kids, their siblings and their parents. Steve Zahn, we’ll never forget you.
“Everything, Everything.” Amandla Stenberg (Rue in “The Hunger Games”) stars in this adaptation of the smash YA novel about a teenager confined to her home because of illness and the young man she falls for.
“Baywatch.” What we know: There is a “Baywatch” movie. It stars Dwanye Johnson and Zach Efron as the veteran lifeguard and new kid on the block who think maybe they are more cops than lifeguards. May we live in interesting times.
“Long Strange Trip.”Amir Bar-Lev’s epic documentary about the Grateful Dead has been receiving terrific notices, exploring as it does the ins and outs of the legendary band and its brilliant, complicated, visionary leader, Jerry Garcia.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” Yes, this is the fifth(!) “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie. So it looks like Johnny Depp is going to play Jack Sparrow for as long as the market will allow. With Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario (best know for her brilliant turn in a few seasons of “Skins”).
“Wonder Woman.” The current round of controversy surrounding this big entry by DC/Warner Bros. into the 2017 summer movie sweepstakes is its rather noticeable lack of marketing (given its relative size and budget). Which is to say, we should be sick of seeing ads for a summer tentpole movie at this point, but this origin story for Diana the Amazon (Gal Gadot) — with Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, the least interesting comic book love interest of all time — seems to be getting short shrift. Critics loathed the last few DC movies, but audiences went anyway. We’ll see how this goes.
“Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.” The children’s book series moves to the big screen as an animated feature (that “first” really does seem like a slightly undignified request to the audience — “please make this a franchise!”). Stand-up comedian Kevin Hart and Thomas “Silicon Valley” Middleditch voice the kids who pull their comic book character (voiced by Ed Helms) into the real world.
“The Mummy.” That weird groan you hear is horror nerds horrified that Universal is putting all of their monsters in a shared, CGI-heavy universe. The louder groan is realizing that Tom Cruise is the main character here, playing, if the trailer is to be trusted, pretty much the same version of Tom Cruise that shows up in any action movie he’s in. Cruise fights an ancient Egyptian princess (Sofia Boutella, once the wrapping comes off). With Russell Crowe and Jake Johnson.
“It Comes at Night.” I am excited for this one, as Texas writer-director Trey Edward Shults (who wrote and directed the terrific indie drama “Krisha”) delivers a horror film, starring the ever-underrated Joel Edgerton as the patriarch of a family that is being attacked by Mysterious Forces Unknown to Mankind.
“The Hero.” Sam Elliott, in a role he was seemingly born to play, is an aging star of Westerns whose best days are behind him, looking for one final, perfect part. Nick Offerman is his weed dealer, and Krysten Ritter is his daughter.
“Kill Switch.” Dan Stevens, so brilliant in FX’s “Legion,” starring in a lowish-budget sci-fi movie about inter-dimensional travel? Sign me up.
“The Book of Henry.” Colin Trevorrow has done smart indies (“Safety Not Guaranteed”) and movies with small-nation-sized budgets (“Jurassic World,” “Star Wars: Episode IX”). This is the former, a story about a single mother whose son concocts a plan to save the neighbor girl on whom he has a crush from an abusive household.
“Cars 3.” “Is Lightning McQueen dead?” was the questions thousands of parents had to hear from extremely upset little kids who made the mistake of watching the incredibly grim first trailer for this third film in the “Cars” franchise. The answer is probably not, but wow, that trailer was rough.
“All Eyez on Me.” Biopics all have the same inherent flaw — if you are the subject of a biopic, you are probably (not always, but often) a person of such superhuman charisma that it is actually hard to play you (see also Will Smith in the thankless title role in “Ali”). So I wish Demetrius Shipp Jr. the best as he tries to play Tupac Shakur, perhaps the most charismatic rapper of all time.
“Transformers: The Last Knight.” This fifth film in this extremely-popular-especially-overseas-and-critically-despised franchise will be the last directed by Michael Bay. Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins and Isabela Moner star. Peter Cullen, who has voiced Optimus Prime for more than three decades, returns. There might be some time travel.
“Rough Night.” Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer and Zoë Kravitz star in this bachelorette party comedy written and directed by some of the “Broad City” creative team, which is a pretty good creative team indeed.
“The Bad Batch.” Here’s another indie about which one should be excited. Ana Lily Amirpour, director of the stunning “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night,” corrals Jason Momoa, Suki Waterhouse, Giovanni Ribisi and Keanu Reeves with a fu manchu moustache in a story about Texas cannibals. Sadly, Texas is played by California.
“The Beguiled.” Sofia Coppola, of all people, directs Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning in a remake of a 1971 historical horror (itself based on the 1966 novel “A Painted Devil” by Thomas P. Cullinan) about a wounded Union solider who ends up at a girl’s boarding school in the South during the Civil War.
“The Big Sick.” This may very well be a star-making performance for actor/comedian Kumail Nanjiani, who co-wrote this romantic comedy with his wife, Emily V. Gordon, about their real-life romance, which involved Emily going into a coma as he meets her parents for the first time. I thoroughly enjoyed it when I saw it at South by Southwest.
“Baby Driver.”I absolutely loved this monster, “Shaun of the Dead” director Edgar Wright’s tale of a getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) who drives to his own soundtrack. With Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey and the best use of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion you will ever see in a movie.
“The House.” A murderer’s row of funny here in this directorial debut from the writer of “Neighbors.” Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Jason Mantzoukas, Nick Kroll and, um, Jeremy Renner star in this comedy about a couple who set up an illegal casino in their basement. Expect a lot of jokes that seem improvised right there in front of you.
“Amityville: The Awakening.” Dear people who help Jennifer Jason Leigh find work, what on earth happened? I understand one has to pay bills, and Hollywood is Hollywood, but one of the best actresses of her generation starring in the umpteenth Amityville movie? Come on.
“Despicable Me 3.” Back to the well on this franchise for Illumination Entertainment. “Minions,” the spinoff, wasn’t quite the slam-dunk one suspects they hoped it would be (they work better as supporting characters), so here’s the return of Gru (Steve Carell), his long-haired twin brother, Dru, and bad guy Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker).
“Spider-Man: Homecoming.” Spider-Man, once the domain of Sony, has become a player in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, making a spectacular debut in “Captain America: Civil War.” Tom Holland is the best Peter Parker yet, Robert Downey Jr. stops by as Tony Stark and Michael Keaton plays another birdman as the Vulture.
“Patti Cake$.”Buzz coming out of SXSW was spectacular for this story of a struggling rapper (Danielle Macdonald) by writer-director Geremy Jasper.
“War for the Planet of the Apes.” I have warm feelings toward the rebooted Planet of the Apes series — it will never be as cool as the original, but what is? It’s Caesar the ape (Andy Serkis) versus Woody Harrelson and a whole mess of humans. Given the events of the past few years, it is pretty much impossible not to root for the apes.
“Wish Upon.” Made from a 2015 Black List script, “Wish Upon” concerns a girl (Joey King of “Ramona and Beezus” fame) who finds a magic music box, complete with wishes and a trail of dead bodies that follows.
“Girls Trip.” A middle-age-ladies-gone-wild romp co-written by “Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris. Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tiffany Haddish and Regina Hall head to New Orleans, and hijinks ensue.
“Dunkirk.” Christopher Nolan directs a star-studded cast including Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance and One Direction defector Harry Styles in this massive-looking war film about the Battle of Dunkirk. Sometimes these things go well; sometimes you get “Pearl Harbor” (the movie, not the event).
“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.” Oh, man. Luc Besson knocked it out of the park with the visual lunacy in “The Fifth Element,” which took a mess of inspiration from French sci-fi comics. So some of us have probably inappropriately high hopes for this adaptation of a French comic book space opera. We hold out hope for something seriously weird.
“Brigsby Bear.” Kyle Mooney of “Saturday Night Live” fame plays a man kidnapped as a baby and separated from society until adulthood. His only ideas about the outside world come from Brigsby Bear, a children’s character whom his kidnappers invented. It’s a fairly dark premise for a dramedy. Music by Austin composer David Wingo.
“The Emoji Movie.” Pretty much what the title says. It’s a cartoon about emojis. Consider yourself warned.
“Atomic Blonde.” David Leitch (“John Wick,” “Deadpool 2” due in 2018) directs Charlize Theron in this thriller set in Cold War Berlin. Based on the graphic novel “The Coldest City” by the terrific British comics writer Antony Johnston.
“The Dark Tower.” Matthew McConaughey is the Man in the Black, a dark sorcerer of immense power. Idris Elba is the Gunslinger, the protector of his weird parallel Earth. This is the adaptation many Stephen King fans have been waiting decades for. I suspect many, many people are hoping this becomes a franchise
“Detroit.” It’s a little odd to see Kathryn Bigelow become a somewhat political director, but here we are. The “Zero Dark Thirty” helmer delivers a chronicle of the 1967 Detroit uprising with John Boyega, John Krasinski, Anthony Mackie, Jason Mitchell and many more.
“Annabelle: Creation.” Ah, mid-August — the time when studios put their last and probably least round of popcorn flicks into theaters. Witness this, about the creation of the murderous doll Annabelle from “Annabelle,” which was a spinoff of the “Conjuring” franchise. Oy.
“The Hitman’s Bodyguard.” I love really direct movie titles. Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson star in this action comedy about a bodyguard (Reynolds) hired to protect an assassin (Jackson) slated to testify in court. Gary Oldman stars as a dictator of some sort.
“Tulip Fever.” Set against the Netherlands’ 17th century tulip bubble, a young artist played by Dane DeHaan find himself in love with a married woman (Alicia Vikander) whose portrait he has been hired to paint. They invest in tulips. I do not see this ending well.
“Bushwick.” And finally, this. Dave Bautista is having a decent year. His Drax is something of a breakout character in “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2,” and he stars in this what-if about a second American civil war in which Southern states, led by Texas, invade the northeast. Brittany Snow plays a grad student who must join forces with a veteran (Bautista) to find her family as Brooklyn is under siege. I have a weakness for sci-fi with budgetary constraints, and Bautista is a better actor than he gets credit for.
Enjoy the shows!