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Summer Movie Preview 2019!
Posted By: Sam, on host
Date: Wednesday, April 3, 2019, at 10:30:04

It used to be that the summer movie season started on Memorial Day weekend.
Then in 1996, Twister's surprise box office performance in the first weekend
in May made that the official opening slot. Much more recently, it's gotten
blurrier, with April and even March doing well with the right movies and the
right marketing. I could start this post with the Hellboy remake on April 12,
but it seems like April 26 has the clearest first punch.

It's worth mentioning that Under the Silver Lake, which I previously
previewed as opening last December, has been moved to April 19. It was my
#2 most anticipated film of that season, so I won't consider it eligible
again here. My most anticipated films of the summer 2019 season are:

6. Rambo V: Last Blood
5. The Hustle
4. It: Chapter Two
3. Yesterday
2. Avengers: Endgame
1. Once Upon a Time In Hollywood


April 26 - Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Infinity War ended on a humdinger of a cliffhanger. Without
spoiling things for those not up-to-date, it sure does its job in ramping up
anticipation for Avengers: Endgame, which ostensibly puts some closure on the
entire Avengers franchise to date (without ending it outright, of course).
If we're honest, it'll be hard for the film to put a resolution on that
cliffhanger without feeling like it's cheating. On the other hand the
storytelling in the Marvel world has only gotten better over time.

May 3 - Long Shot

Are romantic comedies back in style? Perhaps so, but not quite the way they
used to be. Take, say, Two Weeks Notice, a story about an everywoman and
her insensitive boss, whom she humanizes and enlightens by the end, the
roles are reversed: Charlize Theron plays a Presidential candidate, and
Seth Rogen is one of her speechwriters. The storylines may not be as
analogous as I've implied, but the role reversal is a sign of the times and
allows a dash of modern gender politics to underpin the narrative. The
trailers suggest a coarser tone than the romcoms of the 90s and early 00s but
also a genuine chemistry between the stars. Theron is great in pretty much
everything she's in, and Rogen has long shown he has more heart and range
than his earliest work ever let on.

May 3 - Meeting Gorbachev

Whether he's making documentaries or features (and for him there is no great
distinction), Werner Herzog is one of the most compelling filmmakers around.
He has such a singular vision that you cannot mistake one of his films as
the work of anybody else. This is a man who is so gentle and compassionate
when you hear him speak, yet once threatened his tempermental star (Klaus
Kinski, with whom his early work is inextricably linked) with a murder-suicide
if he walked off the set. To film Fitzcarraldo, a story about a man who
drags a steamship over a mountain in the jungle, actually dragged a steamship
over a mountain in the jungle. (The "making of" documentary about that,
called Burden of Dreams, is rightly one of the most famous and significant
documentaries of its kind.)

Herzog explores the extremes of human behavior and the natural world. If I
wanted to put it dramatically, half of his work roots itself in the edges of
madness. What I'm setting up here is that this interview documentary about
Mikhael Gorbachev, whatever it turns out to be, won't be an interview
documentary like any other human being would have made. While presumably
the film's primary audience come to it with an interest in the history of the
fall of the Soviet Union, my strong suspicion is that the film's actual appeal
will be much broader. Ultimately, a Herzog film won't primarily be about
global politics but about a human being in an extreme situation.

May 10 - Pokemon Detective Pikachu

I'll be honest. When Pokemon suddenly blew up over here in the West, I never
would have imagined it wasn't just a passing fad. But the various Pokemon
games have continued to be innovative, and that's what keeps the thing alive,
I guess.

While Pokemon have featured in a relentless series of movies since 1998, this
one is different: a Japanese-American collaboration combining live-action and
animation and kicking off a separate continuity. Pikachu is this time a
product of motion capture, with Ryan Reynolds providing the voice and facial

May 10 - The Hustle

Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson star in this gender-swapped telling of Dirty
Rotten Scoundrels. Can I just pause to reflect how sort of amazing it is that
a one-off comedy from 1988 is explicitedly featured in the tagline of a 2019
film? The tagline reads "They're giving dirty rotten men a run for their
money." Ok, so it's a reference that works even if you don't get the
reference, but in an industry that prefers us to forget everything older than
a couple of years, that's a slick move.

I like Rebel Wilson, but she needs a foil to ground her: she has the same
problem Jack Black had in the wake of High Fidelity: he was a great supporting
comic character there, but in his popularity was promoted to the lead role
where ultimately he's less effective (School of Rock excepted), and the magic
never really caught on again until he stepped back out of the spotlight
(I loved him in Jumanji: Welcome To the Jungle). Rebel Wilson's High Fidelity
moment was Pitch Perfect, but the Pitch Perfect sequels, particularly the
most recent one, untethered her from Anna Kendrick and dimmed the light.

The trailer for The Hustle gives every indication that Anne Hathaway is the
straight woman Wilson was born to play against. I loved it and hope very
much their chemistry shines as well in the film as a whole.

May 10 - All Is True

Kenneth Branagh has spent half of his career producing, directing, writing,
and/or acting in Shakespeare adaptations. It's only fitting that he now
star as the man himself, in this biopic about the final days of Shakespeare's
life. Branagh directs as well; one interesting choice was that several of
the interiors are lit by candlelight alone, a difficult cinematographic
challenge somewhat famously undertaken by Stanley Kubrick for Barry Lyndon.
Judi Dench and Ian McKellen also star.

May 10 - Poms

A group of women, spearheaded by characters played by Diane Keaton, Pam Grier,
and Rhea Perlman, form a cheerleading squad at their reitrement community.
I support the premise of the film and any opportunity for these women to
shine, but, well, maybe it's my limited imagination, but I have a hard time
conceiving of this as being anything other than forgettable. I hope I am

May 10 - Tolkien

This biopic covers the formative years of Tolkien's life, early friendships,
and the outbreak of World War I, all of which planted the seeds for the
literary work that would eventually make his name. Some fear that the film
warps the real story by secularizing it, but we won't know until we see it.

May 17 - John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

I can't quite put my finger on why the John Wick films are as popular as they
are. They're cool and well-made, but they're ultimately all style. Sometimes
that's all a movie needs, but it annoys me that the character is so skin-deep.
Does anyone ultimately care if John Wick lives or dies? I think the films
do a good enough job making us want to see his enemies defeated, because they
are shown to be Very Bad. But who cares about him?

May 24 - Aladdin

If Disney must exploit its back catalogue, I wish it would go back to doing
so with disposable direct-to-video sequels and save their A-list money for
actual A-list productions. I don't think anybody really needed to see a
big blue Will Smith before they died, but it sure sounds like an idea that
would, and obviously did, play in an executive meeting at Disney headquarters.

The bizarre thing here is that they hired Guy Ritchie to direct. Ritchie,
for better or worse, is no studio shill. His early work (Lock, Stock, and
Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Revolver) march to his own beat, and even his
later studio work, the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes films and The Man
From U.N.C.L.E. are singular in more subtle ways. What about Ritchie made
anybody at Disney think, hey, here's the guy with the Disney touch?

May 24 - Ad Astra

Hey, here's an endangered species these days: A summer original for adults!
Maybe? Prestige space dramas get a pass, thanks to the recent successes
Interstellar and Gravity. In Ad Astra, Brad Pitt travels through space to
find his Dad and save the world. Something like that? Tommy Lee Jones and
Donald Sutherland round out the kind of cast you'd have expected to see in
something like this in the 90s: Contact or Space Cowboys, maybe.

May 31 - Godzilla: King of the Monsters

The 2014 version of Godzilla gets a sequel. This time, other classic monsters
from the Japanese franchise come along for the ride: King Ghidorah, Mothra,
and Rodan. A stated objective for the film is to make Godzilla more
sympathetic. That, too, follows the arc of the Japanese films, where the
character started out as strictly an antagonist but soon became the hero.
This time, the goal is for Legendary Entertainment to build their own
shared movie universe (all the rage these days) and tie these Godzilla movies
to Kong: Skull Island in a "Godzilla Vs. Kong" movie in 2020.

May 31 - Rocketman

"A musical fantasy about the fantastical human story of Elton John's
breakthrough years," so says the IMDb. Director Dexter Fletcher finished off
last year's Bohemian Rhapsody after its original director Bryan Singer was
fired. Taron Egerton plays Elton John, and the wonderfully charismatic
Bryce Dallas Howard also stars.

June 7 - Dark Phoenix

I remember when the first X-Men movies came out that some were hoping, even
expecting the Dark Phoenix storyline to be chronicled on film. That obviously
didn't happen, despite the films teeing it up. But it's happening now with
the younger generation of X-Men regulars, including James McAvoy, Jennifer
Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, and, as Phoenix, Sophie Turner. Jessica
Chastain, a favorite of mine since her breakthrough, makes her superhero movie
debut here as well.

The X-Men movies have been about half good, half bad. On balance, I think
the film stands a better chance of being good now than in the wake of X2,
where a lot of the series' missteps were made.

June 7 - The Secret Life of Pets 2

Sequel to the earlier film, which I never saw so can't really comment.
I've had anthropomorphized animal fatigue for a while now, paradoxically right
at the time my son is old enough that he would enjoy them. In many ways,
theatrical animation has taken the place of Saturday morning cartoons, which
aren't really a thing any more. But I miss the days when animated films
were prestigious events.

June 14 - Men In Black: International

The Men In Black are back...just not with Agents J and K. We've got M and
H now, with a younger cast consisting of Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth, and
Rebecca Ferguson, with Liam Neeson and Emma Thompson in supporting roles.
In the director's chair is F. Gary Gray, who tends to produce solid
popcorn fare as well as having a successful prestige pic recently with
Straight Outta Compton. The franchise is in good hands here.

June 14 - Shaft

This film is the fifth Shaft movie. And although none of them are remakes --
they all ostensibly exist in the same continuity -- three of the five are
titled simply "Shaft." This episode rounds up three generations of John
Shafts: Richard Roundtree as the original, Samuel L. Jackson as his
successor (introduced in the fourth movie, entitled "Shaft"), and introduces
Jessie T. Usher as John Shaft, Jr.

I'm undecided about whether the series translates outside of the very
specific era that it was born in, but there's no denying Samuel L. Jackson's
compelling take on the character.

June 21 - Toy Story 4

Man, am I ever conflicted about this. I adore Woody and Buzz and the gang,
but Toy Story 3 ended so perfectly, one of the most perfect endings to a
movie trilogy ever, that I am so very skeptical of bringing them back again
and effectively unclosing the loop. But Pixar rarely misfires, and it would
do me well to keep an open mind. While I left Toy Story 4 off my "most
anticipated" list above on principle, it's perfectly possible that it winds
up being my favorite film of the year.

June 21 - Child's Play

Speaking of series that should have stopped, hey, here's a Chucky remake!
The one interesting thing here is that Mark Hamill voices the doll. Good
decision. But otherwise I just don't know why this or ultimately any of these
movies exist.

June 21 - Yesterday

Every once in a while, a movie with a truly original idea gets made. The
hook for this is so intriguing, so compelling that it demands exploration.
What if you were the only person who could remember the music of the Beatles?
You're strumming away on a guitar and singing that old classic "Yesterday,"
and everybody is astounded: they've never heard it before, but it's so
clearly a work of musical brilliance. Where did you come up with that?

What happens next? If you're anything like me, you have to know. If there
wasn't a movie about this coming out this summer, you'd have to write the
story yourself -- at the very least in your head -- to find out.

Brilliant idea, promising trailer, and it's directed by one of the great
current directors, Danny Boyle.

July 5 - Spider-Man: Far From Home

Tom Holland returns as Spider-Man, along with Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury,
in this follow-up to Spider-Man: Homecoming. It kicks of Marvel Phase 4,
although I don't believe they're particularly lumping them into phases
any more. Jake Gyllenhaal makes his Marvel debut as Mysterio.

July 19 - The Lion King

Third live-action Disney remake in one year, and it'll still only be summer!
Of all of them, though, this is the one that might be okay. Partly this is
because it's still ultimately animated, but mostly because there aren't real
people with recognizable faces pinning down what in fairy tales and animation
is universal to a specific time and place.

July 26 - Once Upon a Time In Hollywood

Hoo boy. Is that trailer great or what? I haven't been this energized by a
movie trailer since Kill Bill, Vol. 1, also by Quentin Tarantino. It doesn't
give a whit of the narrative away, but it's gloriously rich with the colors,
clothes, and cultural vibes of the late 60s. While early press reports talk
about this film as being about the Manson Family murders, it seems that it
covers a broader view of the end of Hollywood's golden age. It's great
subject matter for Tarantino to cover, because of course in less direct ways
all of his films are about movie history from his particular personal
perspective. Even the title is a reference back to one of Tarantino's
heroes, Sergio Leone, who directed two films (or three, depending on what
alternate title you know "Duck, You Sucker" by) that begin "Once Upon a

August 2 - Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

The cast of the Fast and Furious series proper largely made their names in it.
As that world grew, it was probably inevitable that it would spawn spin-offs,
which would be easier and cheaper to arrange than the full reunions. This
film takes Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham (latecomers to the series, but
who were established stars already) and pairs them up for a side adventure.
While these films have actually improved since they began, the only one I
really enjoyed was Fast Five. The rest are just a lot of posturing and
attitude, and no matter how much they say "family" to each other and clamp
each other on the shoulder, it's a stretch to say there is anything of
substance under the stunts and quips.

August 2 - Dora and the Lost City of Gold

Dora the Explorer gets big screen treatment in live action this summer too.
This isn't a franchise I have any familiarity with, but I don't object in
principle: This is a new adventure with an established character, not a
retelling of a story in a closed world. Dora is played by Isabela Moner,
interestingly one of the vocal performers in one of the animated television

September 6 - It: Chapter Two

Stephen King's works have been frequently abused by the silver screen, but
there are some gems amidst the cruft, and 2017's "It" is one of them.
It was a brilliant idea to do the book justice by splitting its two timelines,
interleaved in the book, into two separate movies, where each has the room
to breathe. In this second part, the kids from the first film are grown up
now and have to confront the source of their childhood trauma again and
put closure to it.

I've complained about other movie series in this list as being superficial.
What I like about It is that, while it works on a surface level as a horror
genre tale, there is an insightful exploration of human nature under the

September 20 - Downton Abbey

The series ended in 2015, but the story isn't over: this feature film
continues the story, picking up in 1927, about a year and a half after the
series closes.

September 20 - Rambo V: Last Blood

As funny as it is that Sylvester Stallone keeps resurrecting his two most
iconic characters, it's amazing that they've all turned out pretty good.
Rocky Balboa (2006), Rambo (2008), Creed (2015), and Creed II (2018) were all
solid films and marked improvements over the late 80s duds that killed both
series for two decades. Rambo V has been in some form of development since
the previous film's release in 2008. After several false starts and shelved
ideas, the fifth episode is finally happening. It has Rambo travelling to
Mexico to bust a friend's daughter out of the clutches of a Mexican drug
cartel. Why not?

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