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Summer Movie Preview 2023!
Posted By: Sam, on host
Date: Thursday, May 4, 2023, at 12:42:54

The summer movie seasons are starting to blend together in my head, because so many of them now are indistinguishable from each other. Of the 24 titles below, 17 of them are based on preexisting IP. Still, there are bright lights amidst the deja vu. Here is my preview of the summer 2023 movie season.

May 3 - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

After a string of disappointments, I tend not to care about the MCU anymore,
but the Guardians movies have so far been among the very few with a distinctive
and somewhat personal touch. I'm more interested in this than the usual MCU
flick, but if you're into the MCU at all, you don't need and shouldn't care
about my opinion, so let's leave it at that.

May 12 - Fool's Paradise

In this satirical comedy, a man loses his ability to speak, and there is some
question about how much of the world around him he comprehends. But it turns
out he's a dead ringer for a deadbeat actor, and the producers find it
expedient to finish out a movie shoot with him instead. Nobody quite
realizes what's going on, because all the things this guy does inadvertently
are mistaken for intentional physical comedy. It's a great premise, and a
glance at the trailer suggests there might be some good writing behind it,
although not conclusively so. The writer, by the way, is its star and
(first-time) director Charlie Day. Although he's primarily been an actor,
he's also a veteran writer of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Additionally,
the cast includes a stronghold of character actors including Jason
Sudeikis, Jason Bateman, John Malkovich, Adrien Brody, Kate Beckinsdale, and
Ray Liotta. The ingredients are all there for a great comedy; time will tell
if the final work was cooked right.

May 12 - BlackBerry

Ever since The Social Network, tech history has slowly emerged as a proper
subgenre, with recent examples being Tetris, The Playlist, and The Dropout.
Here's another one, the "meteoric rise and catastrophic demise of the world's
first smartphone." Despite being in the tech industry, I have no particular
affinity for this genre, but when they're done well there is something oddly
compelling about them. This one seems to be coming out of the gate strong,
with early viewers highlighting its dark comedic sensibility.

May 12 - Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie

In the mid-80s, Michael J. Fox was one of the biggest and best loved stars
in the world, with giant hits both on television and in the movies.
We know now that in retrospect his Parkinson's diagnosis was known to him
for much of that time, but if it slowed him down at all before his worsening
symptoms forced the issue, it wasn't evident from the outside. The tagline
for this documentary about his life asked what happens when an "incurable
optimist confronts an incurable disease." That sounds about right.

May 15 - The Evil of Dracula

I doubt this is technically even worth mentioning here except for the
opportunity to talk about how Dracula is arguably the fictional character who
has appeared in the most movies ever. (The main rivals are Sherlock Holmes
and...well, I was about to say Santa Claus, but I did say "fictional"
character.) The other weird thing about this is that this is one of five
directorial credits that director Nikolai Malden has to his name, all five
being horror movies and NONE of them having come out yet.

May 19 - Fast X

Vin Diesel leads the Fast and Furious crew through what was said to be the
final chapter of the series...but isn't, because the story was split into
two films, the second slated for 2025. I've kept up with this series as it's
gone on, despite regarding Fast Five as the only properly good movie among
them. The more recent entries aren't bad as popcorn flicks. There is
something oddly charming about the way they take their themes but not their
mythology seriously, which is roughly the opposite of the MCU these days.

May 19 - Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom

Much like Tintin, the long-running Asterix comics are enormously popular
around the world except in the United States. I find this bewildering, because
I can't identify anything about either comic that's at particular odds with
American sensibilities. Given that Americans didn't discover Tintin after a
quite solid Spielberg adaptation in the English language, I highly doubt
we'll discover Asterix after this broad French comedy by the prolific director
Guillaume Canet. Canet has a long track record of successful and acclaimed
movies across a broad range of genres. He does a lot of romantic comedy-dramas,
but the only film of his I've seen so far is one of my favorite thrillers of
all time, the Harlan Coben adaptation Tell No One (2006). His colorful, goofy
Asterix movie is the last thing I would have expected from him, but from all
I can tell he's up to the task. The trailer, while in some senses dumber than
I'd like it to be, showcases comedic rhythms not totally dissimilar from
contemporary American tastes but different enough that they could be welcome
and refreshing for those willing to experiment with a new groove. It helps
that it looks gorgeous -- expensive, but not so spectacular as to lose the
homey charm of the comic. On the other hand, who knows, maybe it's terrible.
It's at least got a shot at being its own thing.

May 26 - The Little Mermaid

Disney used to ravage its own legacy with cheap direct-to-video sequels.
Now it ravages its own legacy with expensive, lifeless live-action remakes.
Rob Marshall directing inspires no confidence at all: for some reason he's
considered a reliable director of musicals, but his successes in that genre
have been in the minority and scarred, rather than secured, by his directorial

June 2 - Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

I really liked the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but it doesn't
pay to like a superhero movie of any kind, as it'll just mean whatever made it
good will get wrung dry. I don't want to make any predictions about whether
this particular episode will be great or terrible or somewhere in between,
because even in the current climate of superhero overload we still get some
good ones now and again that I'm happy to enjoy. I just wish a fraction of
the money that goes into the superhero pipeline got used for new things

June 9 - Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

No, this doesn't count. I said NEW things. This is still a superhero movie,
just with chrome plating instead of capes.

June 16 - Elemental

Pixar, however, is thankfully still interested in original material. Though
their track record of late hasn't been as solid as it was in earlier years,
it would be a huge overreaction to say they're losing their spark. This film
chronicles the adventures of a fire elemental and a water elemental as they
navigate a city that also houses air and earth elementals. There are some
obvious themes that Pixar can do some interesting things with here, but if
the studio is half as creative as it's been for the last 30 years, this film
won't stop at the obvious.

June 23 - The Flash

The DC Universe continues with The Flash, who changes the past in a way that
has unexpectedly terrible consequences. I want to know why the terrible
consequences were unexpected. Changing the past ALWAYS has terrible
consequences. Look, never change the past, okay?

June 30 - Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

Let's start with the positives. It's a good trailer, and James Mangold is a
great choice for genre material when you can't get Steven Spielberg. In case
you've been oblivious of the online furor, though, when the spectulation
(reasonably grounded, as these things go) took hold that Dial of Destiny was
going to tear down another pop culture male role model the way so many other
franchises have done lately. Mangold and studio execs were quick to deny the
rumors while also simultaneously scrambling to do reshoots, so make of that
what you will. For me, Crystall Skull put a cap on what I consider to be the
Indiana Jones canon, so I'm not particularly invested in whatever the 21st
century supplies us in the way of big budget fan fiction. But hey, if it's
good, sure, I'll happily tag along for another ride with Dr. Jones.

July 12 - Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One

Now here's a franchise I can get behind. No one is more surprised than me.
I recently finished a complete viewing of the original Mission: Impossible
series, which only deepens the disgust I have with the film series' first
episode. But starting with glimmers of hope in episode 3, the films have
blossomed into some of my favorite blockbusters of recent years. None of them
bear more than a surface resemblance to the magic that made the series so
satisfying; instead, improbably, they developed a magic of their own.

Alas, the next installments are one story split into two films, which will
be tough to wait for, but if it's half as good as Ghost Protocol, Rogue
Nation, or Fallout, the two-part saga will likely be my favorite blockbuster
for two summers in a row.

July 21 - Barbie

Man, I am obviously so much not the target audience for this, and yet, I'll
admit it, a glance at the trailer had me dazzled. How can an honest cinephile
possibly object to Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling dolled up (ha!) in colors
like this? Or am I just starved for color in general? The fashion for years
now has been to desaturate the color out of everything, even in glorious
fantasy adventures that would have been unthinkable in anything but three-strip
Technicolor decades ago. The Barbie trailer shows off a color palette drawn
equally from Doris Day romcoms and Play-Dough, and I love it. Not that I
think I'm going to rush out and see a movie about dolls, but for a movie
cashing in on dubious IP, I respect the artistic ambition.

July 21 - Coyote vs. Acme

The classic Looney Tunes aren't just great cartoons, they're works of art.
The desertscapes of Chuck Jones' Wile E. Coyote cartoons would be hanging up
in art museums if they weren't so delightfully entertaining. That said,
despite countless, mostly forgotten attempts to keep the magic of the
characters alive over the years, not even the original artists could sustain
it in the waning years of the Warner Bros. cartoon studio. A lot of people
liked Space Jam (I didn't), and HBO has had some acclaim with the recent
"Looney Tunes Cartoons" series that tries to recreate rather than update the
original winning formulas, but otherwise the results have been dismal and
disappointing. I also object on principle to the transplanting of these
characters from the personal touch of hand-drawn animation to the
mathematical coldness of CG, a decision that cannot possibly have been a
creative one rather than a business one demanded by timid executives. I'm not
against CG animation -- Pixar has done wonders with it -- but that's not where
these characters belong. I think there is potential for this movie to be
fine, maybe even good, but slim to none that you wouldn't be better off
revisiting a handful of Chuck Jones' best.

July 28 - Haunted Mansion

Speaking of dubious IP, here's another theme park movie. This one, at least,
lends itself to the format, but does the "Haunted Mansion" moniker inform the
story any more than the old dark house trope does already? There's really no
telling how this will pan out, although Disney has a better track record than
you'd think on exploiting its theme parks. Then again, all four Pirates of the
Carribean sequels are kind of awful, so who knows. It's got a good cast and
an uncertain director, but the fingerprints on this one will be the corporate

August 11 - The Last Voyage of the Demeter

Speaking of Dracula, here's another one, and yet, intriguingly, this is untrod
territory. The film expands upon a single chapter in Bram Stoker's novel,
about a Russian schooner chartered to ship 24 unmarked crates from Carpathia
to London and the crew's subsequent ordeal to survive the trip. While this
could certainly turn out to be a run-of-the-mill cheap horror flick in the end,
the period sea setting is a promising start. Despite the fun horror movies
have had subverting modern technology, for me the scariest movies have creaking
hardwood, gas lamps, and blunderbusses in them.

August 11 - Gran Turismo

A gamer wins a series of competitions and gets a chance to become a
professional race car driver. It's based on Jann Mardenborough, although
I don't know how closely. I don't have a particular affinity for racing
movies, but there have been some excellent ones recently, namely Rush, Logan
Lucky, and Ford vs. Ferrari. The director, Neill Blomkamp, made a name for
himself with District 9 in 2009, a film I liked but which I thought was
overrated. His filmography has been uneven since.

August 18 - The Hill

The Hill is, quote, "based on the true story of Rickey Hill overcoming a
physical handicap in order to become a Major League Baseball player."
The writers are veterans of Rudy and Hoosiers, and the director has cited
The Blind Side, Field of Dreams, and The Natural as the company he wants his
film to keep. Dennis Quaid plays Rickey's father, which is correct if
obvious casting. No reservations here. I can imagine my son, who started
playing baseball this spring, digging this.

August 25 - White Bird

Marc Forster directs this adaptation of the novel Wonder, about "how one act
of kindness can live on forever." I don't know whether it's the marketing
or the movie that leans in a bit too hard on being inspirational and uplifting,
but despite that the trailer has a great look to it and features the
phenomenal Helen Mirren and Gillian Anderson, something smells a bit off.
I'm not a cynic -- I love a good feel-good movie as much anybody -- but it's
got to come out organically from the story, not a tagline, or it's simply
manipulative and has the opposite effect. In fairness, though, I don't think
there exists a single frame of film in which Helen Mirren was inauthentic,
and Forster is really good at this sort of thing. I'm inclined to give it the
benefit of the doubt.

September 1 - The Equalizer 3

It surprised me to realize it, but these Equalizer sequels are the only sequels
Denzel Washington has ever done. He remains one of the best working filmmakers
because it's constantly trying (and succeeding at) new things both in front of
and behind the camera. I don't know why he made an exception for this
series; maybe because he's so good at it that even when The Equalizer 2
turned out to be disappointing in other ways, his portrayal of the character
left me still wanting more. So I'm delighted he's returned to the role. This
episode takes place in southern Italy, about which I have two thoughts: One,
Italy is a great backdrop for an action thriller. Two, if you want to go
somewhere where your old life of violence and special ops won't come back to
haunt you, man, don't go to Italy, you dummy.

September 15 - A Haunting In Venice

Kenneth Branagh's Hercule Poirot is back. It didn't seem like the previous
episode, Death On the Nile, was succcessful enough to open the door for a third
one, but Branagh went straight back to work, and I'm delighted about it.
While Branagh's Poirot movies pale next to the David Suchet series, I feel
like the character and stories are rich enough for all sorts adaptations, and
it doesn't really matter too much how they stack up against each other. What
makes this one interesting is that it's based on one of the lesser known
books, Halloween Party -- presumably, I realize now in retrospect, because of
how well the horror overtones of the story lend themselves to visual
innovation. That said, it's not just a lesser known Poirot novel but one of
the worst ones. This is a case where whatever liberties Branagh takes with the
original material might be welcome. Regardless, I'm excited for an event
movie in which the only superpowers on display are the hero's "little gray
cells" and mustache.

September 22 - The Expendables 4

I love the idea of The Expendables -- a ton of established action heroes
getting together and making an 80s retro action movie that ostensibly works
both as the real thing and as a self-aware quasi-parody. In practice, none
of these movies are very good. There is no creative reason whatsoever to
bring the crew back for a fourth outing, but that's what's happening. Stallone
wants to make this his last, so he's taking a reduced role to pave the way
for Jason Statham to take over, implying at least a fifth episode down the

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