Sunday, May 27, 2018

Summer 2018 Movie Preview

It’s summer! Well, close enough, for movie purposes. And this year it’s coming in with a smirk and a swagger, courtesy of the one-two popcorn-packed punch of “Deadpool” and “Solo.” The rest of the season looks like a fairly typical mix of action and comedy franchise flicks, kid-friendly fare, and a smattering of intriguing indie counterprogramming. Like most movie lovers, I’m looking forward to sampling a bit of each. Here, in order of release date, are ten movies that are on my radar this summer:

Ever since the Star Wars juggernaut got re-launched, I’ve been more interested in the spin-offs than the main-line narrative of the franchise; it’s no coincidence that “Rogue One” remains my favorite of the new SW movies so far. “Solo” may be a bit more weighed down by expectations, as well as rumors of a troubled production that saw the departure of the original directors over “creative differences” with Lucasfilm. Still, you could do worse than Ron Howard as the pinch-hitter, and the movie looks fun, even if I think Ansol Elgort (“Baby Driver”) would have been better casting for Solo than Alden Ehrenreich (delightful though he was in “Hail, Caesar”).

Based on the stranger-than-fiction true story of a failed rare-book theft at a quiet university library, this is in many ways the anti-Ocean’s 11 (or 8). It’s what happens when bored, privileged college students see too many heist movies and think “We can do that.” Speaking of which…

OCEAN’S 8 (June 8)
Cool heist film + awesome female cast of charismatic and talented actresses and promising up-and-comers? Um, yes, please. (Since unlike the “American Animals” protagonists, I’m not planning on trying to imitate these hijinks any time soon.)

Color me skeptical that any movie needs a sequel almost 15 years after the original. Still, when that original was one of Pixar’s best, and when you’ve got Brad Bird returning as the writer and director (and voice of the peerless Edna Mode), how can I say no?

Andrew Garfield stars as a young Angeleno who gets entangled in a byzantine search for an attractive neighbor (Riley Keough) after she goes mysteriously missing. Sounds like a mash-up of David Lynch and Thomas Pynchon, which sounds pretty great to me. Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell (“It Follows”).

One of the buzziest films at Sundance this year, rapper Boots Riley’s debut feature starts with a simple satirical premise – young black man (Lakeith Stanfield) finds success as a telemarketer once he adopts a “white voice” (David Cross) – but takes it to a totally gonzo place. There’s disagreement on whether the movie sticks the landing or goes off the rails, but either way it’ll get you talking. The chatter reminds me a bit of the reaction to Spike Lee’s “Bamboozled,” which for me, at least, can only be a good thing.

No, I’m not an ABBA superfan. No, the first one was not a good movie, and no, I have no reason to think the second will be any better. And yet, I feel weirdly drawn to see it. Maybe it’s the picture-postcard allure of those Greek islands, maybe it’s Cher, maybe it’s that Lily James, despite looking nothing like young Meryl Streep, is growing on me. Whatever it is, I’m there.

Another Sundance fave, this one focuses on a friendship between two men in Oakland – one white, one black – that becomes strained when the latter witnesses a cop’s shooting of an unarmed black man. So far so good. The clincher? DAVEED DIGGS. That is all.

This must be the summer for satirical movies about racism featuring black people who try to talk white people’s language. Spike Lee’s latest joint wowed Cannes with its blistering – and blisteringly funny – tale of a black undercover police detective (John David Washington – Denzel’s son) who teams up with a white Jewish colleague (Adam Driver) to infiltrate a local KKK chapter. The humor’s clearly laced with deep anger, but that’s par for the course for Spike Lee, and the source of his power as a filmmaker.

Has it really been 25 years since “The Joy Luck Club” became a hit movie? And has there really been no major studio feature film with an all Asian-American cast since then? Well, if nothing else, CRA – based on the bestselling novel by Kevin Kwan – is overdue in that department. But it also promises to be glossy fun, and who can resist the combined charm of Constance Wu (“Fresh Off the Boat”) and Michelle Yeoh throwing glorious shade as a crazy rich Asian matriarch?


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