Your Summer Movie Guide 2017, Part 1

The first half of the only heavily-opinionated Summer movie guide you’ll need!

I’ve spent this past week soaking various shirts and jeans of mine in copious amounts of sweat brought upon by a ceaseless and uncaring heatwave, so you know what that means!  Summer is finally here!  And once the allotted week of British sunshine has been spent and the rain and gloom take its place, that means that you’ll be looking for excuses to lock oneself away in a dark air-conditioned room for two and a half hours without talking to anybody.  Well, worry not, friends, for feature film frenetics fly forth this Summer Movie Season, with many majesties to make major… motions… m-towards?  Sod it.

Of course, for every gem, there’s likely to be at least 3 mediocre to abysmal duds out there waiting to sucker you in, and spare cash is a rare commodity nowadays, so how can you be certain as to where to part with your simoleons?  Especially since much of this year’s line-up is, at least on paper, severely lacking in Must-See stature?  Well, worry no more, for I, Callum Petch, am here to guide you through the upcoming season and pick out the blockbusters from the not-busters… what am I talking about?  You may question the necessity of such a thing, given that Summer movie season started in May by all common metrics, so guides like this are ten-a-penny, but I would like to counter by noting that I’m specifically focussed on British cinema releases!  That’s my USP, as they say in the biz!

Anyway, we’ll split this in two.  Today, we’ll handle the blockbusters and bigger named films that’ll be looking to hoover up your bucks these next 3 months, and then tomorrow we’ll comb back through the schedule to find the hidden gems and smaller films that might be worth tracking down if you happen to be lucky enough to live near cinemas that won’t merely be saturated with endless screenings of Despicable Me 3 all Summer long.  So, grab your sunscreen, your least-modest beachwear, and other Summer-based implements, and let’s get started!


Wonder Woman

Due: June 1st

Dir: Patty Jenkins

Star: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine

Oh, I want to believe!  I want so very much to believe!  Wonder Woman is finally, after 75+ years, headlining her own live-action feature film, directed by a woman (the talented Patty Jenkins), stocked with a cast who look the part and have charisma to spare, with the full backing and faith of a major Hollywood studio behind it, and it not looking like complete garbage in the marketing!  I want to hope!  There are just three very large problems standing in the way of that hope: Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman, and Suicide Squad.  There’s no reason why Wonder Woman can’t be incredible, but I also happen to consider myself a dab hand at pattern recognition.  I want Wonder Woman to be good, the feminist superhero movie fan in me needs Wonder Woman to be good, and not just because the discourse will be UNBEARABLE otherwise, but I’ve had parts of my soul mercilessly shattered over the course of a combined 6 hours and 57 minutes before.  Please… please be good… better than good, even… please?


The Mummy

Due: June 9th

Dir: Alex Kurtzman

Star: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Russell Crowe

Universal hopes that the white-hot star power of the man who fronted Jack Reacher: Never Go Back can singlehandedly propel into life the barely-formulated sketch of a concept for a shared universe of monster movies known as, and I swear to you that I am not making this up, The Dark Universe.  Jesus Christ.  Universal have been pushing this hard for months, clearly thinking that they’ve got something, despite every frame of this thing so far providing zero reasons to care.  I mean, am I missing something here?  Legendary’s Monsterverse is similarly barely-thought-through but at least those films could sell themselves in their nascent stages on GODZILLA and KING KONG and films that looked fun or visually striking.  I dunno, maybe this’ll be some kind of dumb fun, like the aforementioned Legendary “grumpy old dad” Monsterverse, but Alex “Kurtzman/Orci” Kurtzman is behind the camera and Universal have already tried twice to launch this franchise nobody wants via bad films nobody wanted, so put expectations firmly on the cynical end.


Transformers: The Last Knight

Due: June 22nd

Dir: Michael Bay

Star: Mahrky Mahrk Wahlberg

Michael Bay returns for the final ever last conclusively definitive final last time no-take-backsies to the Transformers franchise with trailers that indicate Bay’s attempting to tackle feminism!  Michael Bay tackling feminism.  Just going to let that sentence sit for a bit before moving on.


Baby Driver

Due: June 28th

Dir: Edgar Wright

Star: Ansel Elgort, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey

Sony have pulled forward Edgar Wright’s newest – his attempt to make a straightforward, non-ironic full-blown crime movie – from mid-August to the utter madcap hellscape that is late-June, presumably because they are dead set on making sure this one suffers an ignoble death.  Try to make sure that doesn’t happen this time by actually seeing an Edgar Wright film in cinemas for once, please?  The man directed one of the all-time best British sitcoms (Spaced), he has released the best film of the year 4 times in a row in 2004 (Shaun of the Dead), 2007 (Hot Fuzz), 2010 (Scott Pilgrim), and 2013 (The World’s End which was brilliant shut up), and he is still one of the most talented and flat-out entertaining directors working today.  You cannot get a surer bet than this, so book your goddamn tickets already.


All Eyez on Me

Due: June 30th

Dir: Benny Boom

Star: Demetrius Shipp Jr., Danai Gurira, Jamal Woolard

You may recall two Summers back that a little film called Straight Outta Compton, a biopic about N.W.A, was a critical darling and a Box Office sensation, opening at over $60 million, holding the top spot for three straight weeks, and closing as the 19th highest-grossing film domestically of the whole year.  Well, now we get a 2Pac biopic to go along with that middling and mostly-forgotten Notorious B.I.G. biopic from 2009 (Notorious), and it really could not be trying any harder to follow in the footsteps of the 2015 smash-hit; they even hired a guy with extensive music video experience to direct it!  Snark aside, this one could go either way, both in terms of quality and popularity, but I will always be there for my Rap biopics.  Plus, need I remind you, uncomfortable attitudes towards sexism and homophobia aside, Straight Outta Compton was real damn good, so it’s not a bad playbook to be cribbing pages from.


Despicable Me 3

Due: June 30th

Dirs: Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda

Star: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker

Sigh…  yesterday I went to the cinema to see Alien: Covenant with a friend (whole other article coming some time soon) and lining the walls of the cinema entrance were Despicable Me 3 posters depicting Minions with gang-style tattoos.  This series has now subsumed Black gang culture into the advertising for its children’s animated comedy.  Say what you want about DreamWorks Animation, at the height of their popularity they were never this bad except for that one time, and even then I’d still argue that this is worse.  Other than that, I hesitate to say much else about this.  I’ve enjoyed past Despicable Mes, and actually really enjoyed the Minions spin-off, but, as documented, Illumination have completely worn out my patience at this point.  Maybe I’ll still find this mildly amusing, but their steadfast refusal to do anything other than tread water is an active drag on their films right now.


Spider-Man: Homecoming

Due: July 5th

Dir: Jon Watts

Star: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey, Jr.

This has one of the absolute worst trailers I can recall in recent years.  I can’t find it online, but it’s been playing in front of every single film for the past 2 months, is absolutely atrocious, and pretty much spoils the whole film in 90 amateur-laden seconds.  Madness.  Anyways, this is primarily a Sony production with Marvel acting as overseer (as per the deal that brought Spidey into the MCU), which goes a long way towards explaining why I am lacking in any excitement for this one, as a survivor of two Amazing Spider-Man movies, in addition to Marvel’s formula being well-past stale.  I loved Guardians vol. 2, I think it may even be better than the first (want to re-watch again to be certain), and that’s precisely because it chose to break from that Marvel formula in order to go small, personal, and natural; all things that I can almost guarantee will not be a part of this film.  Still, superhero movies are 3-for-3 so far this year, after reaching a true nadir last year, so maybe there’s reason to be hopeful!  Who knows!


War for the Planet of the Apes

Due: July 12th

Dir: Matt Reeves

Star: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson

It should say a lot about the kind of year that 2014 was for movies that I can sit here and sincerely argue that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has been criminally underrated.  This new Planet of the Apes series has so far been far, far better than it had any right to be, with Dawn supporting the even-better Ape material with a stronger Human side after Rise dropped the ball in the latter department.  Should War continue that kind of upward trajectory and provide a Human side that’s on par with the Ape side, then we may be in for one of the best films of the decade.  If anyone can do it, it’s returning director Matt Reeves who directed the heck out of the heartbreaking and phenomenal Dawn.  I seriously cannot wait for this thing.


Cars 3

Due: July 14th

Dir: Brian Fee

Star: Owen Wilson, Armie Hammer, Cristela Alonzo

Cars 3 appears to have finally metamorphosed the series into the animated equivalent of a crotchety granddad railing about those damn kids and his precious lawn, given that the film’s villain has been explicitly described as “a millennial” who “thinks the world is his” and that midlife-crisis cars like Lightning McQueen “have no place in the future of racing.”  Well, at least it can’t be Cars 2 again!  Please don’t let it be Cars 2, again.


Dunkirk

Due: July 21st

Dir: Christopher Nolan

Star: Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy

Christopher Nolan really, desperately wants his damn Oscar, so he’s resigned himself to making a World War II movie because, hey, if the Academy are going to ignore a War movie then it’s quite simply just never going to happen, is it?  Now, admittedly, Nolan’s rep has taken quite the (deserved) battering in recent years thanks to the failures of The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar, but this is still Christopher Nolan we’re talking about here.  His films are still, thankfully given this increasingly bland and homogenised modern Blockbuster landscape, Events that are designed for the biggest available screens, the best quality projectors, and the most dynamic sound systems.  For all the stick his Batman action scenes got, the man is really damn good at filming spectacle, so it’s actually kind of surprising he hasn’t tried doing a War movie sooner.  I’ve been through 3 years of Film Studies at University, so I’ve been surrounded by the kinds of people that always jump to Nolan or Fincher as their first answers when the Best Director question comes up, but I still can’t help but get excited for a new Nolan movie.  He’s not THAT good, but he is that good, if you get me?


Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

Due: July 28th

Dir: David Soren

Star: Kevin Hart, Thomas Middleditch, Ed Helms

Fun Fact: I had no idea this existed until last week.  I spent 35 weeks of my life dedicated to DreamWorks Animation, developing an investment and one-sided bond in the studio and its fortunes to such an extent that I would honestly be quite hurt should anything happen to it, and resultantly keeping firmly abreast of every development that occurs at the studio, and even I didn’t know this was coming out.  In fact, it’s out in America this Friday!  I know that this is DreamWorks’ last picture with 20th Century Fox distribution (they move to new owners Universal next year) and all, but this is a goddamn murder!  Shame, too, cos the art style and animation look lovely, and I enjoyed the Captain Underpants books as a kid.  This deserves better, maybe, depends if we’re talking Boss Baby-levels of “better than the marketing suggests.”


The Emoji Movie: Express Yourself

Due: August 4th

Dir: Tony Leondis

Star: T.J. Miller, Anna Faris, James Corden

Sony Pictures Animation cancelled feature films by Lauren Faust and Genndy Tartakovsky for this.  Genndy was working on a Popeye movie.  But, sure, this is definitely gonna make a billion dollars.


Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Due: August 4th

Dir: Luc Besson

Star: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne

I really liked Jupiter Ascending.  There, I said it.  Jupiter Ascending was nonsense, I’m not disputing that, but it was sincere and heartfelt nonsense made with genuine imagination and vision, utterly mesmerising to look at, experience, and immerse oneself into in a way that very few blockbusters are nowadays.  Of course, not everybody are The Wachowski Sisters and the very public bombing of that movie has put pay to the possibility of them being handed the blank cheques they deserve from all movie studios ever again.  Fortunately, we still have their Non-Union European Equivalent in Luc Besson, who’s decided that now is the time to finally go full-Space Opera.  I cannot guarantee that this will be good, Besson is notoriously prolific and therefore wildly inconsistent regardless of whether he’s behind the camera on a project he’s helming or not, but I can guarantee that it will be worth seeing.  I’m already plotting out how I can see it twice in one day!  Films like this do not come around often, I guarantee you.


Atomic Blonde

Due: August 11th

Dir: David Leitch

Star: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy

Back in February, Chad Stahelski helmed the sequel to his and David Leitch’s 2014 instant-classic John Wick.  Whilst Stahelski busied himself with that film’s Chapter 2, a damn fine action movie, his former co-director Leitch ran off to make Atomic Blonde, a Cold War Spy Thriller based on a graphic novel and starring Charlize Theron as a gay British MI6 agent who will tear Berlin a new arsehole to accomplish her mission.  Yeah.  Don’t hand me your money, I’m not the one responsible for this!  And if you are somehow not-sold on that lede, maybe you should reacquaint yourself with one of the most immediate trailers I have had the pleasure of ever seeing.  Could we just get Stahelski and Leitch to direct every Action movie forever, please?


The Dark Tower

Due: August 18th

Dir: Nikolaj Arcel

Star: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor

OK, more so than any other film we’ve discussed here today, I cannot speak with authority about The Dark Tower.  I have not read the books, I know next-to-nothing about how any of this is supposed to work, nor do I know whether this thing looks like an absolute mess or a potential sleeper hit.  All I can say is that I was sufficiently intrigued by the trailer and that my brain did not immediately jump in the direction of Jonah Hex, so I guess we’re off to a good start.  I know that “doesn’t look terrible” does not sound like a ringing endorsement, but I’m honestly willing to take chances on films that look even a little bit different from average given much of the rest of 2017’s line-up.


Detroit

Due: August 25th

Dir: Kathryn Bigelow

Star: John Boyega, Will Poulter, Jason Mitchell

I first saw the trailer for this before Sleepless and it singlehandedly made the two hours I spent in that screen to watch the latter film worthwhile – it was also continents better than Sleepless, but seeing as that film left less-than-no impression anyway, that’s less of an achievement.  Kathryn Bigelow finally returns after five years with a drama about racially-charged police brutality during the Detroit Riots of 1967, and she’s backed up by a murder’s row of young acting talent.  This is already being talked up as an Awards Contender, because that discourse just don’t ever stop, and should hopefully make up for the relative drought of adult Dramas this season.

…look, what more do you want from me?  I can’t just yell “THIS LOOKS OUTSTANDING, TAKE ALL OF MY MONEY!”  I have to at least pretend I have something more of value to say about films I’m excited for but haven’t seen and can therefore only provide surface-level observations and guesswork!


Which of these films are you looking forward to?  Disagree with any of my preliminary analyses?  Drop them in the comments below!  Tomorrow, we’ll look at some of the films that are a bit more off the beaten path, or just plain haven’t released enough info to warrant excitement yet.

Callum Petch keeps looking for the girls with their faces all tanned.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

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