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Previewing the cinematic summer: 19 for 2019

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We begin this now-annual tradition as we always do: with the caveat that it seems a bit silly to be writing a summer movie preview so far in advance of summer.

Still, Hollywood has undeniably extended the season, turning the beginning of May into our summer starting point, so if we’re going to catalog the blockbusters, then this is where we start.

Although if we’re going to be real about it, the biggest movie of the year has already happened – “Avengers: Endgame” just had the biggest box office opening ever, clocking well over a billion dollars worldwide.

(Note: You can check out my review right in this very edition. If you’re reading this in print, you passed it on the way here.)

But while the biggest may have already landed, there’s still plenty to be excited about.

2018 has plenty of what we’ve come to expect from blockbuster season – plenty of sequels and a bunch of remake/reboot-type offerings and some superheroes, along with animated fare, a smattering of comedies, some kiddie flicks and maybe a horror picture or two. It’s not like we don’t know how it works.

Honestly, there’s a LOT of what we’ve seen before. But hey – familiarity isn’t always a bad thing. Let’s have a look at what the summer of 2019 has to offer.

(Please note: this not a list of the 19 best films, but rather an attempt at a representative sample of what’s coming. There are movies that I expect to enjoy that aren’t here and movies I expect to actively dislike that are. Still, it looks like there’s something for everyone.)



Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (May 10)

There’s something that feels weirdly right about leading off the summer movie preview with this one. The premise reads like a fever dream – Ryan Reynolds is the voice of Pikachu, a crime-solving Pokemon who helps a Pokemon trainer find his lost father. The trailers make this one look surprisingly entertaining, though one wonders how it will play with someone who isn’t quite as well-versed in the sprawling Pokemon universe. I look forward to seeing this movie and not really understanding a lot of the specifics, but still having a good time anyway. Oh, and I expect it will make millions upon millions of dollars.

John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum (May 17)

I’m all-in on the John Wick franchise. The world-building is outstanding and deep, the action is kinetic and brutal … and all of it is shot through with a wry sense of humor. It’s nuts to think that Keanu’s first turn as Neo in “The Matrix” was 20 years ago, but the guy’s still got it. This latest movie opens up even more possibilities for the weird and violent realm existing in the shadows alongside (and underneath) our own world. The second chapter of this franchise raised the bar considerably; there’s no reason to think that we won’t get a similar jump this time around.

Aladdin (May 24)

Nobody was clamoring for a live-action remake of “Aladdin,” but considering the box office success Disney has seen with previous tries, it’s no surprise that they’re going back to that well again (and again – see later in this preview). Every trailer is a smidge of promise followed by the blue-hued horror of Will Smith’s Genie. The odds of this movie being anything beyond a creatively-bankrupt cash grab are slim. It’ll be lovely to look at (though the fact that Guy Ritchie is directing is somewhat troubling) and the songs that were catchy then will be catchy now. Still, tough to see this being anything other than mediocre.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (May 31)

The efforts at creating a Giant Monster Cinematic Universe or whatever (they call it the MonsterVerse) have been a bit uneven thus far – 2014’s “Godzilla” was uninspiring, 2017’s “Kong: Skull Island” was solid – but it looks like they may be upping the ante with the bonkers monster mythology in this sequel, introducing a whole slew of other gigantic beasts that are inevitably going to engage in massive CGI fights while Kyle Chandler and Millie Bobbie Brown watch in terror. All of it leading to the 2020 title bout that is “Godzilla vs. Kong.” And really, what more do you need from a summer blockbuster?

Rocketman (May 31)

Ah, what would the summer cinema be without a big splashy musical-type movie? That’s what we look to be getting from this one, with Taran Egerton starring as Elton John. The biopic will follow John’s career from his early days as a young prodigy up through his prolific relationship with songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, as well as address some of the more difficult stretches. Will it be flashy enough? Will Egerton – who apparently does a fair amount of singing here – manage to achieve vocal acceptability? I mean, this is Elton John – that fella can sing. If it gets the spectacle right, this movie will be fun.

(Other May releases: “Long Shot” (May 3); “The Hustle” (May 10); “Brightburn” (May 24); “Booksmart” (May 24); “Ma” (May 31))



Dark Phoenix (June 7)

Few superhero franchises have seen the sort of up-and-down trajectory that we’ve gotten with the X-Men. We’ve had two separate casts and a time travel-induced soft reboot that introduced the new versions of the characters that we’re still seeing in this installment. Reports of a troubled production and late reshoots leave plenty of doubt regarding this film; not great, considering this is the franchise’s second effort at the comic’s most iconic storyline. There have been good “X-Men” films … but this won’t be one of them. Ultimately, it probably doesn’t matter, because the Fox-Disney merger puts the X-Men back in play for the MCU. Expect another reboot.

Men in Black: International (June 14)

Frankly, it’s surprising that it has taken this long to get the “Men in Black” sequel train rolling. This one has a lot of promise – Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson give us the Thor/Valkyrie reunion we’re already dreaming of; Liam Neeson and Emma Thompson are here too. A sequel to 2012’s “Men in Black 3,” this is a London-based chapter of the extraterrestrial investigative organization Will Smith sang about. We can probably assume there will be lots of alien-involved slapstick and antagonistic banter between our two leads. Still, it’ll be interesting to see if this movie manages to be good enough to avoid ultimately feeling unnecessary.

Shaft (June 14)

This is easily the most meta offering of the entire summer. Near as I can figure, this movie is a sequel to 2000’s release of the same name, starring Samuel L. Jackson, which was itself a sequel to the original 1971 film of the same name starring Richard Roundtree. This new installment features both Shafts teaming up with a third Shaft – their son and grandson, respectively – who is now an FBI agent. All three Shafts then team up to help junior Shaft – played by Jessie Usher – navigate the Harlem underworld. The key to this one is self-awareness; played correctly, this could be a sharp, fun movie.

The Dead Don’t Die (June 14)

What’s that you say? A zombie comedy written and directed by critically-beloved indie icon Jim Jarmusch? Sign me up – I don’t even care who’s in it. Of course, the fact that Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi and Chloe Sevigny are just SOME of the talented weirdos who are part of this whole thing doesn’t hurt. Here’s the thing: I don’t know anything else about this movie and I do not care. I cannot wait for this movie. I think it is going to be strange and hilarious and maybe the weirdest movie to hit the multiplex this summer. Get ready to dig in.

Child’s Play (June 21)

I love that this is happening. I don’t think this will be a good movie, but I have no doubt that it will be a phenomenal time. This concept was goofy when the original movie came out in 1988 (and spawned six increasingly gonzo sequels) and it’s goofy now. And that’s OK – there’s always going to be room for high-camp horror comedy. With Aubrey Plaza is the mom and Mark Hamill is the voice of Chucky the evil doll, we can feel confident in the comedic bona fides of the performers. Again – this is not going to be a good movie, but it will be a fun one.

Toy Story 4 (June 21)

I have a genuine curiosity about this movie. While I ride for Pixar and am prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt, it seems strange that this movie is being made. The “Toy Story” saga seemed to wrap up perfectly with the trilogy, so it’ll be interesting to see what story they wind up telling with this one. Again, it’s Pixar, so it’s going to be visually stunning and emotionally charged and extremely high-quality – that’s all they seem to know how to do. And there’s no denying that the idea of spending more time with these characters is appealing. So … to infinity and beyond!

Yesterday (June 28)

I was blown away when I first saw the trailer for this one. Judging by social media reactions, I was far from the only one. It’s a simple conceit: what if you were the only person who remembered the Beatles? Danny Boyle directs this musical comedy where a struggling singer-songwriter gets hit by a bus during a global blackout and wakes up in a world where no one has ever heard a single song by the Beatles. And when he starts breaking them out, well … he’s not going to be struggling for much longer. This is one of my most eagerly anticipated films of the summer.

(Other June releases: “Late Night” (June 7); “The Secret Life of Pets 2” (June 7); “Anna” (June 21); “Ford v. Ferrari” (June 28))



Spider-Man: Far From Home (July 2)

Believe it or not, this is the movie that technically marks the end of the MCU’s Phase 3. Not that it matters – we’ll be getting Marvel movies until the end of time. And that’s fine by me – especially if they keep coming up with inspired casting choices like Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. He is easily the truest version of the character we’ve seen on the big screen. While there’s a lot of pressure on this film as the follow-up to “Endgame,” we saw the benefits of a palate cleanser with last year’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” Expect something similar (but WAY better) with this one.

The Lion King (July 19)

The OTHER Disney live-action remake of the summer looks likely to be the better of the two. It’s an all-star cast – Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, John Oliver and more. James Earl Jones is back. Oh, and Beyonce is in it. Director Jon Favreau’s previous effort in this arena was 2016’s “The Jungle Book,” which was critically celebrated and grossed just shy of a billion dollars. There’s little doubt that this movie will be successful in terms of the box office. Will it be good enough to avoid feeling unnecessary? That’s another question, but there’s enough talent here for us to expect good things.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (July 26)

This is the kind of summer release that you don’t see all that often anymore. Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, this movie tells a story set against the summer of the Manson murders. It’s got an A-plus cast – Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie (who’s playing Sharon Tate) lead the way – and the story and era both fit squarely in Tarantino’s wheelhouse. Not to mention that projects like this rarely get the $100 million budget this one did. We’ll see what we get from Tarantino this time, but with this level of talent involved, it’s hard to imagine it won’t at least be interesting.

(Other July releases: “21 Bridges” (July 12); “Stuber” (July 12))



Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbes and Shaw (Aug. 2)

No blockbuster franchise has been as successful at on-the-fly reinvention as the “Fast & Furious” family of movies. This one sees another pivot as we move away from Dominic Torretto and his car commandos to this spin-off featuring two of the breakout stars of more recent iterations. Tough to go wrong with The Rock and Jason Statham bringing their respective “F&F” characters to a team-up. They’re tough guys who can deliver a joke – movie gold. Any fan of the physics-defying lunacy of the franchise will almost certainly be delighted by what promises to be two-plus hours of action insanity. Can a fistfight explode? We’ll probably find out.

The New Mutants (Aug. 2)

And here we have our second X-Men movie of the summer – the 13th and last in this current iteration of the franchise, now that Disney has bought in and will likely shift these characters into the MCU at some point. The production has been a bit troubled, so we’ll see how that impacts the final product, a story that promises to be more of a horror(ish) film set in a superhero universe – five young mutants discovering their powers and trying to escape the secret facility in which they’re being kept. This doesn’t look to be the grand X-it Fox might have wished for the franchise.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (Aug. 9)

There are a lot of us who remember the “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” series of books from our younger days. So it is with a cautious optimism that I regard this adaptation. Guillermo del Toro is producing the film and involved with the screenplay – definitely a point in this film’s favor. The trailers have doing a good job of selling the spooky. It’s tough – I’m honestly not sure what kind of connection the current target demographic has with the source material. Still, this kind of scary movie aimed at a younger crowd might be just the thing for the usually-bleak August box office.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette (Aug. 16)

This is another movie that was supposed to have an earlier release date and got pushed back – not ideal when your landing spot is mid-August. It’s tough to know what the film’s issues are, but lack of talent certainly isn’t one of them. Richard Linklater is directing from his own screenplay, adapted from the novel of the same name by Maria Semple, while Cate Blanchett is the star, with a supporting cast including Billy Crudup, Kristin Wiig and Laurence Fishburne. A missing person suburban mystery-comedy seems like the sort of quirky project where Linklater’s gifts could really shine, but the schedule shuffling feels a bit ominous.

(Other August releases: “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” (Aug. 2); “Midsommar” (Aug. 9); “Artemis Fowl” (Aug. 9); “Good Boys” (Aug. 16))

Last modified on Wednesday, 01 May 2019 10:25


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