FilmYour summer guide to movies that might not suck
Summer is almost here and that means hitting the multiplex for some A.C. and popcorn. From "Jurassic World" to "Straight Outta Compton," these are the movies we're looking forward to most.
Summer is here: beach days, barbecues, block parties and billion-dollar Hollywood tentpoles in full bloom. Alongside the expected slew of superhero adaptations and all-you-can-watch remakes of your favorite childhood horror flicks, here are some titles that just may win the season (intentionally or otherwise). This is the Hopes&Fears double-air-conditioned chaos-mix summer movie guide. (PS: In the dusty aftermath of Mad Max: Fury Road, summer’s already over.)
Torn between “Chapter 3” of the Insidious saga and the long-brewing big screen adaptation of Entourage (just barely landing before an actual Aquaman movie), maybe it’s wisest to check out Paul Feig’s Spy. Sure, the film was adored by critics after a preview bow at SXSW, and it’s Feig’s second action-comedy with the great Melissa McCarthy (after the unexpected juggernaut that was 2013’s The Heat.) But it also boasts rare comedic turns from Jude Law (!) and Jason Statham (!!), alongside Rose Byrne as a Russian arms dealer (!!!). Spy could be another of a dying breed, the Hollywood comedy that’s actually worth seeing in theaters instead of on your roommate’s laptop at 4AM.
Despite dodgy trailers and a long battle for credit between teams of screenwriters, Jurassic World is guaranteed to be a fascinating case study - hot mess or cold. This may be the biggest instance yet of a major studio gambling a flagship franchise on a comparatively untested filmmaker; director Colin Trevorrow’s 2012 Safety Not Guaranteed cost approximately 1/200th of World’s budget. And even if the boneheaded-looking premise means a light microwaving of Spielberg’s 1993 classic, people have been clamoring for another glimpse at these velociraptors for a long time. Even in Hollywood, life finds a way.
All due respect to Al Pacino in David Gordon Green’s Manglehorn, but Rick Famuyiwa’s Dope marks the silver screen debut of A$AP Rocky. Even if the “coming-of-age drama for the hip-hop generation” logline skews on the painful side, who cares? The trailer has formal pizazz to spare, and even if it doesn’t live up to its (already absurd) hype, consider it’s been ten excruciating years since the last great rap movie (Craig Brewer’s Hustle & Flow).
A Murder In the Park
Documentaries are good for you. And even if they weren’t, Christopher Reich and Brandon Kimber’s A Murder In The Park would offer a much-needed counter to the day’s two other big offerings, military-dog heroism (Boaz Yakin’s Max) and talking teddy bear scatology (Ted 2). Reich and Kimber’s film charts the reversed conviction of innocent man Anthony Porter, who was set free two days before he was due for execution thanks to a crack team of Northwest University journalism students - which means Murder In The Park is promising not just for exposing lapses in the American “justice system” but also within journalism itself.
Magic Mike XXL
The great Steven Soderbergh has delegated helming duties to longtime associate Gregory Jacobs on this unnecessary but highly anticipated sequel. Soderbergh sticks around in the role of the film’s cinematographer, and the sensation of the band getting back together (sans McConaughey, because of course) imbues Magic Mike XXL with the sly goofiness that made the first go-round so special. Is this the new Ocean’s franchise?
Also hitting theaters
on this day:
Self/less’ plot - some malarky about a dying billionaire (Ben Kingsley) copyrighting himself into immortality with the body of a younger man (Ryan Reynolds) - looks ridiculous as all hell, and the title promises a less-than-subtle voyage into the 1%’s unconscious. But any and every new picture by Tarsem Singh (The Cell, The Fall, Immortals, En Vogue’s “Hold On” video) probably deserves your $14, if only for the filmmaker’s signature eye-popping widescreen visuals and trippy, terrible and/or brilliant performances.
The Look of Silence
First, a word about this Friday’s options: Woody Allen’s Irrational Man (no comment), Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck (originally titled Funny People?), and Marvel's Ant-Man - wherein Marvel swapped Edgar Wright for the director of T.V.'s The New Girl (you decide.) Enter Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look Of Silence, a surprising follow-up to his barnstorming The Act Of Killing - both complementing and complicating that film’s inquiry into the Indonesian civil war, in which US-backed militias murdered a number of alleged Communist sympathizers estimated roughly at 2 million. Silence dispenses with the prior film’s reenactment narrative, instead following an intrepid ophthalmologist who seeks out the purge’s perpetrators and tries bringing their crimes back around to them - with tragic, nail-biting results.
Few Hollywood directors have gotten as much grist from one movie as Antoine Fuqua has from Training Day, and yet his Southpaw bears marks of genuine promise: a DeNiro-worthy transformation by Jake Gyllenhaal, a decidedly blue-collar New York boxing milieu, and a script from Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter. The American appetite for movies about men who get themselves pounded into hamburger meat on behalf of a notion called “family” will never wane; might as well see this one, with a solidly bizarre supporting cast that includes Forest Whitaker (as Gyllenhaal’s coach, naturally) alongside Rachel McAdams, 50 Cent, Tyrese, Rita Ora, and Naomie Harris.
You must be straight-up out of your mind if you aren’t taking one/both of your parents to see Ricki And The Flash, starring Meryl Streep as an aging rock star finally coming to grips with the long list of friends and family thrown asunder by her career. Written by Diablo Cody (whatever), Ricki is noteworthy for several reasons: it’s the first feature by Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Something Wild) in nigh-on to a decade. Streep is doing her own singing. Her real-life daughter Mamie Gummer is making her acting debut as Ricki’s fictional daughter. Finally, there’s the added virtue of not being adapted from a comic book, video game, TV show, meme or phone game.
Straight Outta Compton
Back-to-backing a fictional rock biopic with a real rap biopic is edgy, but that’s what this summer movie guide is all about. While the trailer for F. Gary Gray’s Straight Outta Compton is rife with “it used to be about the music!” sob-cues and literal-minded shoutouts to NWA folklore, the picture nevertheless looks way better than it should - buttressed by Matthew Libatique’s panoramic handheld cinematography, the promise of Paul Giamatti letting his hair down as Ruthless Records CEO Jerry Heller, and the surreal meta-casting of Ice Cube’s young son (Ice Cube Jr.) as young Ice Cube. In print or onscreen, authorize biographies are terrible by design, but I know I’m doomed to watch the hell out of this thing anyway. Hopefully, the politics are well-handled, and/or Eazy-E’s 1991 lunch with George Bush and Bob Dole at least gets a cameo.
Ever since he split with his brother/directing partner Chris, Paul Weitz’ filmography has shown a few sprinkles of scrupulousness in search of a signature - and word is, he may have found one with Grandma. Starring the great Lily Tomlin as a recently bereaved poet (her first starring role in a long-ass time) cajoled into a road trip with her 18-year-old granddaughter, Grandma has gotten nothing but raves since it bowed at TriBeCa - but honestly, that a feature film starring Lily Tomlin exists in 2015 should be enough to secure the requisite attention.
August is widely understood as a putrid dumping ground for the unsellable, the botched or the straight-up eccentric, so it’s only fitting to close with Regression, starring Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson. The jarring second wind of Hawke’s career shows no signs of letting up as he plays a trustworthy (or is he?) police detective accused of a crime he doesn’t remember committing, but the buried lede here is the return of occasionally-great filmmaker Alejandro Amenabar (Abres los Ojos, The Others) to the turf where he belongs: the moody, creep-a-delic and lovably pretentious psychological thriller.