Maybe it’s just me, but the month to come seems almost hilariously under-nourished. A whole wave of sequels that I can’t imagine anybody asking for, the most prominently misbegotten video game adaptation in a long while, and one particular animated picture that… we’ll talk about that shortly.
At any rate, my conviction that summer 2016 is a weird afterthought is not meaningfully endangered by any of the wide releases coming out in the next few weeks.
Here’s a great feeling: when you think that you’ve missed your window to see Love & Friendship, and instead it’s expanding past the 600+ theater threshold required to consider a movie “wide-release” in the United States (The Lobster is also expanding, just barely missing that mark). Mind you, I still haven’t seen it, so I can’t go on and say that you should bother, but I imagine it’s the safest bet among the weekend’s wide releases.
The presumptive highest-grossing film of the week, after all, is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, the sequel to one of the worst tentpoles of the 2010s. This one is leaning way the hell harder on a nostalgic appeal that I am, in theory, susceptible to, but the foul taste of the first one is going to take a lot of scrubbing, and it’s still got Michael Bay on as producer. Almost by default, I’m more interested in both of the other two new films, though Me Before You needs this kind of barrel-scraping competition to look good in contrast: a romantic melodrama featuring as its leads two such committed non-entities as Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin is starting with its arms both tied behind its back and one leg cut off. Leaving us with only Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, and the combined talents of the Lonely Island team is enough to make that look vaguely promising, albeit tempered by the knowledge that their greatest achievements have been entirely in the form of shorts.
Here are those sequels I was talking about: The Conjuring 2 and Now You See Me 2. I at least grasp the notion behind the former: successful horror movies engender sequels like a gentle April rainfall engenders dandelions, and The Conjuring was a once-a-generation event in the genre. That being said, the justification for adding onto the franchise seems tenuous at very best, especially since it’s impossible for the excellent Lili Taylor to come back this time around. Still, I’d probably be actually excited about this (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson were also excellent, and they are back, and director James Wan seems generally reinvigorated), except for one thing: it runs to two-and-a-quarter goddamn hours. It’s a ghost story, Jesus Christ, not a historical epic. There are great horror films that break the two-hour barrier, but they are stupendously rare (in the English language, I come up with The Exorcist and Dawn of the Dead).
As for Now You See Me 2, outside of the profoundly unforgivable missed opportunity to name it Now You Don’t, I just don’t see why the bother. The first was an agreeable lark; a fun, frothy bit of nonsense that seems to have left no trace of its passing on anybody’s memory, regardless of one of the leggiest box office runs in recent memory. But I suppose I see no reason to assume it will be any worse; it’s not like they have to capture lightning in a bottle again, just lightning bugs.
And then there’s Warcraft, a film whose trailers have witnessed some of the worst CGI in a decade or more, in service to what has all the appearance of a paint-by-numbers fantasy tromp. I want to be excited for this – high fantasy is rarer than it should be in the movies, and I am fully on board with both of director Duncan Jones’s last two movies. This looks dreadful as all hell, though.
Alright, readers, here’s your job in comments: give me a reason to be excited for Finding Dory. For weeks, I’d been playing the “Pixar’s trailers always suck” game with myself, but increasingly, that’s not doing it. The fact is, the idea has seemed transparently wrong since the moment it was announced: the timing made it so clear that it was the Faustian pact Andrew Stanton made to avoid being put in director jail after the farrago of John Carter, and it’s real fucking hard to whip oneself up into a frenzy of enthusiasm when that is one’s very first thought about a new project. Besides, Finding Nemo had such an elegant shape (but then, so did Toy Story, and we all know how that turned out). Anyway, I want to be wrong. I want very desperately to be wrong – Pixar just got its groove back, and I remember the days of having the new Pixar being one of my top five most anticipated movies for every calendar year with enormous fondness. I would like to get back to them. But in truth, I have never dreaded a new Pixar film this much before the reviews started rolling in – no, not even Cars 2.
Meanwhile, Dwayne Johnson is large and Kevin Hart is tiny, and this is apparently the total motivating force behind Central Intelligence. But we’ve fully hit the point where I’d jump off a bridge for Dwayne Johnson, so I’m going to be there.
Meanwhile, a social issues prestige costume drama accidentally blunders its way into wide summertime release, in the form of Free State of Jones. Sight unseen, my favorite thing about it is already that it’s going to be compared to Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation in all of 2016’s most tedious and inescapable op-eds on movie culture.
Blake Lively fights a shark in The Shallows. What the hell, why not.