Time for a quick summer report card as we head into the endgame: as of the final week of July, my three favorite wide release films since the first weekend in May have been Love & Friendship, The Conjuring 2, and The Shallows. And I think, as a list of movies worth seeing there’s nothing wrong with that trio; but good Lord, as a top 3 of the summer? Only the third of those movies is unambiguously a proper summer popcorn movie, and it’s one of the lowest-budgeted major releases of 2016 to date, so it’s not like we’re talking one of the big E-ticket tentpoles. And all of those have been almost impossible for me to gin up any more enthusiasm towards than to recall that yep, I saw them. I sure did.
The point of all this being, I think it’s fair to say that 2016 is shaping up to be an enormously bland summer – not the same as a bad one. There have been more fair-to-decent films and fewer outright terrible ones than last year, for example. But this is shaping up to be one of the least-memorable summer movie seasons in all my days as a blogger, and the question stands: can August do anything to keep this leaky boat above water?
Maybe not, but if Nine Lives is anything to go by, it can sure drive a few more holes in the bottom. Kevin Spacey turns into a talking cat!?! And Barry Sonnenfeld has been dragged into direct? This is what family movies looked like back in, I don’t even know, 1966 or something. What in God’s name is someone doing making an “absent dad turns into a cat” movie this far into the 21st Century?
As for the weekend’s slightly more prominent new release: despite having arguably the best trailer of 2016 to date, I will confess that I’ve never been terribly excited for Suicide Squad as an actual movie. I have, to date, liked a grand total of none of the movies for which David Ayer has received either a directing credit, a writing credit, or both, and watching him try to fashion a movie out of Warner Bros.’ flailing attempt to will a comic book universe into being has never seemed that it was going to do the trick. That being said, I’m hopeful that there will be at least a couple of good performances hanging around in there, and as one of the few people who didn’t hate Batman v Superman, I guess I count as a DCEU apologist, or some such. But yeah, best case scenario is probably “not the year’s worst comic book adaptation”, hardly an act of salvation for a dodgy summer.
For the first time all summer, I think it’s legitimately impossible to tell which new release is going to be the biggest. I will say that the one I’m most excited for is Florence Foster Jenkins, almost entirely by default: a Meryl Streep character comedy directed by Stephen Frears is one of those things where you can predict with almost 100% confidence exactly how good it’s going to end up being, and it’s not terribly impressive. By the same token, it should at least be pleasant to watch, and everybody needs something to see with their grandma.
As for the other two films, I can’t muster up anything positive. In the abstract, I suppose I’m rooting for Sausage Party, since the idea of an adults-only animated film is one that I am very much in favor of. But not this adults-only animated film: the Seth Rogen cohort making a Pixar parody which, to judge from the trailer, derives every scrap of its humor from the incongruity of seeing cartoon characters say “fuck”. 17 years after South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, surely we can do better than that. But the early reviews are uniformly strong, which comes as a titanic surprise to me – if this actually turns out to be good, I will be knocked senseless, but hope should always spring eternal. Anyway, it’s one of those movies that, good or bad, I feel like my purpose in live is to see and review it.
About the new dark & gritty remake of Pete’s Dragon I can think of nothing to say, other than that Disney has become such an unstoppable powerhouse at the box office that they’re just starting to taunt us. Also that I think little enough of the 1977 original that I’ll probably still end up liking this one better.
All my chips – all of them – go on Kubo and the Two Strings, because if we can’t hold out hope for Laika, there’s no point in hoping for anything. That said, the more the trailers reveal of the plot and characters, the more generic and tediously jokey it seems to be. The animation, by all means, looks stunning. And hopefully that will be enough.
Elsewhere, Jonah Hill and Miles Teller co-star in War Dogs, and boy did that movie lose my attention in record time.
On the “let us pray that it’s so bad it’s good” side of things, Timur “Night Watch” Bekmambetov – Timur “Wanted” Bekmambetov – Timur “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” Bekmambetov – Timur fucking Bekmambetov has wrangled the job of directing a new Ben-Hur. “Why a new Ben-Hur?” isn’t even the most pressing question in that reality. It’s maybe third, in fact, after “Why is Morgan Freeman wearing an old mop on his head?” Whatever the case, this promises to be the season’s choicest hate watch, and I’m honestly kind of even more excited to see this than Kubo.
And so does summer finally get its neck snapped and we can all go on with our lives: Robert De Niro plays a boxing trainer in Hands of Stone, and Jason Statham plays Jason Statham in Mechanic: Resurrection. Raising the question, I daresay, as to whether even Statham has positive enough memories of the 2011 The Mechanic to go to all the trouble of making a sequel to it.
There’s also a horror thriller with the magnificently nondescript title Don’t Breathe, about three young thrill-seekers attempting to steal from a blind man, and astoundingly, he’s meant to be the bad guy.