Summer movie season is upon us! And a summer movie that has all the appearance of peaking real damn early, though compared to 2015, I find it much easier to be excited about several of the tentpoles. There is, of course, no Mad Max: Fury Road in the wings, and the first blockbuster movie season in the wake of Fury Road was always going to seem a bit empty.
Fingers all crossed for Captain America: Civil War, since for me at least, it’s the last of the many upcoming Marvel movies that I’m actually excited to see (I am in principle persuadable that both Black Panther and Doctor Strange will be good, but the teaser trailer for the latter deflated my expectations considerably). Part of this is rank optimism: the Captain Americas have certainly been my favorite mini-franchise within the greater Marvel octopus, and if indeed this is a third Captain America and not an Avengers in CA drag, I will be at least somewhat satisfied. The ad campaign is promising something overstuffed and pandering – and the brief shot of Spider-Man is unabashedly terrible – but maybe, hopefully, also something a bit more somber than the usual MCU adventure, without the gaudy melodrama of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Anyway, it’s the tentpole I’m most excited about this season, so we’ll know pretty soon if the summer of ’16 is doomed or not.
If you live someplace that I don’t live, this is the weekend you’ll get to see A Bigger Splash, reuniting director Luca Guadagnino and star Tilda Swinton of I Am Love. It’s basically the art house version of an Avengers spin-off.
As will happen, the big studios have left the weekend essentially barren until the Marvel film burns off some demand, with the 100% generic looking horror movie The Darkness and the grim-faced financial thriller Money Monster, starring George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and a perverse lack of fun, meekly wandering into wide release.
The limited NY/LA releases, though, now that’s a god-damned treasure trove: Jacques Audiard’s Palme d’Or-winning Dheepan hits the United States just before it’s one-year birthday, as does the magical-realist romantic drama The Lobster, the first film in English by Yorgos Lanthimos. Whit Stillman, beloved chronicler of talky upper-class types, adapts an obscure Jane Austen novella with Love & Friendship, and Britain’s genre film whiz-kid Ben Wheatley takes on J.G. Ballard, in High-Rise. 2016 surely isn’t going to produce a more succulent quadruple feature than that! For the record, I’m most eager to see the Lanthimos, but each and every one of these is on my top ten most anticipated for the rest of the year.
The Angry Birds Movie is… in existence. God, I don’t know. What’s the sport in making fun of it, even? It missed its window by two years, because that’s how long it takes to make an animated feature, and now it really just makes me sad more than anything.
Elsewhere, I would not have said that 2014 Neighbors, in which Zac Efron’s frat makes Seth Rogen unhappy, needed a sequel, but I would do pretty much anything to spend more time in the presence of Rose Byrne’s character from that movie, so Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising looks like a pretty safe bet to me. Lastly, and easily most importantly, Shane Black directs Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling in the private eye comedy The Nice Guys, and while I can’t shake the feeling that something seems whiffy about the whole affair, the last time Black made a detective picture – eleven whole years ago now, with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – the results were transcendent. Feeling cautious optimism here, maybe not even all that cautious.
There is something deeply upsetting about the fact that Disney is extruding a sequel to the intensely repulsive Dark & Gritty Alice in Wonderland, home of the ugliest Wonderland in the annals of cinema, six years and change after the fact. But here we are, with Alice Through the Looking Glass. Fair’s fair, it looks maybe better? The trailer suggests something closer to L. Frank Baum’s Oz books than Lewis Carroll, and that really can only help. But I think we should still pencil this in as a likely candidate for the worst film of the summer, and be depressed in advanced that it’s going to be the last released project featuring the late, lamented Alan Rickman.
The year’s fourth big superhero movie – and it’s only May! – can’t help but feel like an anti-climax, but X-Men: Apocalypse has a few points in its favor: it’s coming off of the rejuvenating X-Men: Days of Future Past, and it’s directed by Bryan Singer, who has been responsible for the three best X-Men movies to date. Also, Oscar Isaac is Apocalypse, and Isaac is a good luck charm. That all being said, a big part of Days of Future Past‘s charm was pulling back the franchise’s first ensemble cast alongside its weaker second ensemble, and there’ll be none of that here, plus Singer’s storytelling instinct has always been to double-down on Wolverine, and this will not be happening here. So probably best not to get too excited, but if it does end up being better than Civil War, that won’t be, like, an astonishing twist.