From where I stand, the summer movie season of 2019 has just tipped off of a cliff. Godzilla: King of the Monsters was the last popcorn movie I was look forward to for over two months – and look at how well that turned out for me – and while June isn’t quite the wasteland that July is shaping up to be, it’s been a good long while since the last month that had so little about which I felt anything but the most muted optimism.
Case in point. The 19-year-old 20th Century Fox X-Men franchise stumbles and sweats its way to a conclusion with Dark Phoenix, a movie that has at no point looked like anything other than a drearily dull bit of boilerplate, and the reviews suggest it’s even worse than that. And it is still absolutely not the worst-looking film of the weekend, a dishonor I’d unhesitatingly retain for The Secret Life of Pets 2, the newest animated feature by the irrepressibly mediocre Illumination Entertainment. It’s too bad that Late Night, in which Emma Thompson plays a washed-up late night talk show host and Mindy Kaling plays her nervous new writer, got demoted from wide release to limited at the last moment, because that was the only thing coming out this weekend that appeared to have even the potential to be anything but miserable; but that’s summer for you.
So, I was truly excited for Shaft, third film of that name, in which the black private dick who’s a sex machine to all the chicks from the 1971 Shaft and his nephew from the 2000 Shaft return – still played by no less than Richard Roundtree and Samuel L. Jackson! – to team up with the 2000 John Shaft’s son. And then I saw the trailer, and it was poisonously bad: full of the worst kind of self-aware jokes about how ridiculous it is to take anything seriously about this project, or the world as a whole. The more fool me for failing to think long and hard about what “directed by Tim Story” meant; for whatever reason, he’s still, in my head, the director of Barbershop, but that was 17 years and eight movies ago, and those eight movies are a fucking dire list indeed: Ride Along and Ride Along 2 are the highlights. Sorry John Shaft, I cannot dig it.
Also, the Will Smith-less Men in Black movie is coming out, if anybody can possibly drum up a reason to care.
When we did our summer movie preview, I was hanging onto the belief that Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die, coming out in limited release, was going to be a safe bet. Based on the reviews out of Cannes, this appears to have been a mistake.
Speaking of that preview: at that point, Carrie expressed the belief that Toy Story 4 was going to be great. I have no idea if she’s got buyer’s remorse over that one; probably not, and she’s in good company, based on the jaw-dropping ticket presales. I am completely baffled by this. It’s not just that the idea of yet another Toy Story seems utterly craven: this particular yet another Toy Story looks insipid and boring on top of it, rolling back across the plot points of Toy Story 2 and doing it in the hands of a completely untested director. It’s a pretty new feeling for me to be actively dreading the year’s Pixar release (and Christ, don’t even talk to me about the Onward teaser), but here we are.
I expect absolutely nothing good from the new remake of Child’s Play – okay, I expect one good thing, which is Mark Hamill’s performance as Chucky – but I do think it was a stroke of genius picking this weekend to release it. So kudos for that, United Artists.
And here we go, with the first June release I’m actually sort of mostly definitely looking forward to: Anna, a Luc Besson-directed potboiler about a gorgeous Russian spy, and sometimes all you want is trash that’s not pretending not to be trash, y’know?
In the absence of anything better, Annabelle Comes Home is my most-anticipated of the month mostly by default: I have a soft spot for the Conjuring-verse films in general, and the Conjuring-verse films starring Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson especially, and after the the scorched earth of the previous few weeks, a bit of familiar junk food is going to be good enough, y’know?
Still undecided if I think Yesterday is actually going to be good, or if it’s going to be bad, and I’m going to like it anyway. It looks for all the world like the only thing it’s going to be doing is rewarding Beatles fans for being Beatles fans, but even though neither director Danny Boyle nor writer Richard Curtis is infallible or anywhere close to it, they both at least have the capacity for greatness. Now, obviously “greatness” if off the table, but a sturdy comedy seems at least to be a possibility, I hope?