Part 1 of your definitive UK Summer Movie guide!
Note: this article originally ran on Set the Tape (link).
At time of writing, it has been almost two straight weeks of relatively non-stop sunshine, scorching temperatures, good weather, and the accompanying Northern sight of men self-consciously strutting about with their shirts off despite nobody asking for them to do so. Therefore, we can officially declare 2018’s Summer Season to have properly commenced, and with that good weather comes the inevitable balancing out via extended periods of grey, depressing rain. And with that inevitable rain also comes this year’s crop of Summer Movie Releases to provide an enjoyable refuge from the weather, whether that be insatiable rain or more unwarranted shirtlessness – seriously, Terry, put a goddamn shirt on already, you’re approaching middle-age and making everybody uncomfortable.
But with so many movies being released every week nowadays, some of them not even going to cinemas, how do you decide what to see? How do you separate the wheat from the guff? How do you decide what one non-Marvel movie you’re going to throw down money on this year? Well, you come to me, Callum Petch, and get a detailed Summer Movie guide that breaks down the Must-Sees from the Just-Bees-Eeing-Something-Else (nailed it)! There’s a growing belief that the traditional concept of the Summer Movie Season is on its last legs in recent years, and it’s not unfounded. But the release schedule of the next 3 and a half months is nonetheless flooded with big ticket items all begging to become the non-Infinity War Film of the Summer, so we’re still doing this for another year at least.
We’re gonna split this into three parts. Today and tomorrow, we’ll take a close look at the marquee titles making up this Summer’s entertainment – the blockbusters, long-anticipated sequels, and even one or two new titles from notable filmmakers not based on pre-existing film series. Friday, we’ll mop up the B-tiered entries, specific genre fare such as comedies and horrors, smaller films to curse your local multiplex for skipping over in favour of more Mamma Mia! 2 screenings, and a few excitable but largely-unknown entities in a good old-fashioned round-up piece. So, PUT A GODDAMN SHIRT ON, SERIOUSLY MAN, and let’s pre-judge some films!
All release dates are UK specific, taken from the Film Distributors Association website and, whilst correct at press time, are subject to change.
Date: Out now
Dir: David Leitch
Star: Ryan Reynolds, Zazie Beetz, Josh Brolin
I’ll be honest, as much as I have really enjoyed the meta goofing about of Deadpool 2’s marketing campaign – vastly preferable to the original (and most of Hollywood’s) relentless giving away of all the film’s best jokes months in advance – I was legitimately relieved once actual trailers finally came about and demonstrated that this is still going to be a David Leitch movie. Thank God for that! I was genuinely terrified that they were going to nerf or dilute the director of Atomic Blonde and (co-director of) the first John Wick now that he’s working with serious money on a sequel that has to function as an actual tentpole release (which brings accompanying expectations in money). You can find out for yourself right now if Deadpool 2 is any good, and if it overcomes the original’s handicap of being the exact same movie as Shrek, but my completely uninformed take is that this looks brilliant. Or, at least, a lot of fun, which is something I personally need after Infinity War made me all grouchy. So, yeah, Andale to the cinema and what not!
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Date: 24th May
Dir: Ron Howard
Star: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover
Well, this whole nightmare finally comes to an end in just over a week. As much as the entire idea of a Han Solo-centric origin story causes my body to break out in hives – THE ORIGINAL STAR WARS WAS HIS ORIGIN STORY, WE DON’T NEED TO KNOW EVERY SECOND OF A CHARACTER’S LIFE, ARGH – it does actually pain me to be dreading this one. The past 3 years of Star Wars movies (even if Force Awakens does not hold up so great to repeat viewings) have finally made me a proper Star Wars fan after 20 prior years of “eh, it’s alright, I guess.” I don’t want to suddenly start slogging through genuinely bad Star Wars movies, cos I’ll end up as disappointed as ‘genuine’ fans now! The production hell that Solo has gone through has been unavoidable and naturally lowers expectations, but none of those trailers have really managed to excite me, and Ron Howard hasn’t made a properly great film in… in… err… hang on a moment… *checks Wiki* *continues checking Wiki* …you know what, let’s charitably label that period of time as “years” and move on. Prove me wrong, movie. Please prove me wrong.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Date: June 6th
Dir: J. A. Bayona
Star: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, a Jeff Goldblum cameo
Jurassic World was an objectively terrible movie that I nonetheless loved the heck out of because I love dinosaurs. If I had my way, I’d be getting new dinosaur movies from Hollywood on the reg, but somebody’s arbitrarily decided that dinosaurs are the sole property of Jurassic Park, so I’ll take what I can get. Colin Trevorrow, the worst blockbuster director working today not named David Yates, has been ejected from the director’s chair in favour of J. A. Bayona, which is not exactly an upgrade given his track record includes The Impossible and A Monster Calls, but Bayona has proven with his movies that he’s a better Spielberg mimic than Trevorrow could ever hope to be. Point is, I fully expect this to be an absolute trainwreck, especially since it appears that somebody has decided to use these genetically-created dinosaurs as stand-ins for rare animal species on the verge of extinction, but I will likely love watching anyway. World was just Park on steroids by somebody with no understanding of competent filmmaking, so I am super ready for Fallen Kingdom to do the same thing for The Lost World! Dinosaurs, folks! Dinosaurs are amazing!
(That release date is not a typo, by the way. They really are releasing this over 2 whole weeks early in the UK and, no, I don’t know why.)
Date: June 18th
Dir: Gary Ross
Star: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter
That second trailer was substantially worse than the damn-great debut trailer, but I am otherwise still incredibly hyped for Ocean’s 8. Gary Ross is a pretty damn good director, the cast list drips with the same kind of effortlessly cool star power that Soderbergh’s Ocean movies did, and, similar to dinosaurs, there can never be too many new heist movies for my liking. I may sit here and wax lyrical about movies with weighty themes, timely resonance, original ideas and scenarios, and depth, but I equally love myself simple, fluffy, star-powered bastions of cool like the Ocean series, and the pure mechanical fun of a well-executed heist movie. I even sincerely enjoyed a full hour of Den of Thieves this year, and that was a Gerard Butler film! So, yeah, screw all the haters trying to turn this into yet another Ghostbusters 2016 – feminist heart, give me strength – and plug this thing directly into my eyeballs!
And if it sucks, we can always just blame James Corden, which is my solution for most things in life.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado
Date: June 29th
Dir: Stefano Sillima
Star: Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner
Sicario was my fifth favourite film of 2015, the film that made me stand up and begin declaring its director Denis Villeneuve to be the greatest working today, and never fails to leave me short of breath with a dropped jaw by the time it concludes. It is a vicious, relentlessly intense, incendiary condemnation of The War on Drugs, US interventionist foreign policy, institutional sexism and misogyny in militarised law enforcement, and a bleak-as-all-fuck examination of morality in a land where doing good is nearly impossible. I am therefore extremely worried not only by the mere existence of Soldado, but by the track it’s choosing to take. Ramping up the action, centring on Alejandro’s (del Toro) potential redemption, being more open about the government above Alejandro and Matt (Brolin) being completely morally-bankrupt… I really hope that this is just bad marketing and my being rather possessive of just how incredible Sicario was/still is. Taylor Sheridan is still the sole writer and, based on the other films in his Frontier Trilogy, I get the impression that he would not have come back to this without good reason. But, man, I got a deep pit of dread in my stomach when I watched that full trailer for this piece and I have never wanted my instincts to be more wrong about something film-related.
The First Purge
Date: July 6th
Dir: Gerard McMurray
Star: Y’Lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Marisa Tomei
Over the course of three movies, The Purge managed to metamorphose from a criminal waste of a golden premise in an ineptly-made and done-to-death home invasion horror flick, to a furiously angry, searingly relevant, and shockingly nuanced slice of political B-cinema that was one of 2016’s genuine highlights. With Election Year having resolved with the election of progressive President Roan who, it is implied, will successfully repeal The Purge – in a climax that, as it turns out, was somehow too optimistic for 2016’s political landscape – the only way forward is to go back, which is what The First Purge has done. A prequel set on the first ever instance of The Purge, tripling down on the racial subtext of the premise by the increase of government death squads infiltrating a black community in an attempt to destabilise it for their own gain (something the real United States government has NEVER done), a largely-black cast of relative unknowns, and with series writer-director James DeMonaco stepping out of the director’s chair in favour of Burning Sands’ Gerard McMurray.
DeMonaco’s satire has only gotten sharper the further into this series we get, and whilst some can argue about the ways in which these anti-violence movies gleefully glorify violence, his playing into the lineage of political B-movies is exactly the tonic our modern political landscape needs: films that understand the necessity of anger and action in the battle for progress and liberalism. His direction, whilst improving over the series, was always the weakest link of the franchise, so him ceding that role to McMurray is exactly what I wanted to hear. Basically, in case you couldn’t tell by my taking two paragraphs to discuss it instead of one, this is genuinely My Most Anticipated Film of the Summer, no irony. If you’re not already on The Purge train by this point, and you’re still making your tired jokes that Rick & Morty already did far better 3 years back, I’m not going to convince you otherwise and neither will anything The First Purge does. Everyone else can join me in getting hyped HYPED HYPED!
Date: July 12th
Dir: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Star: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han
Yeah, the Dodgeball guy. This is by the guy who made Dodgeball. Props for at least trying to branch out, I guess? Honestly, I want to be cynical about a film whose premise is just a mash-up of Die Hard and The Towering Inferno with seasonings of High-Rise, and a trailer that is so utterly generic and uninspired, but… Well, Dwayne Johnson has been on kind of a hot-streak as of late, if you forget Baywatch happened, hasn’t he? Moana was wonderful, Fate of the Furious was a step down from previous instalments but still huge fun, the Jumanji sequel-reboot was a pleasant surprise (even if I only found it decidedly more OK than the box office numbers would state), and Rampage was, shockingly, exactly the kind of B-grade throwback monster movie that I wanted it to be, a lot of fun, and the best videogame movie ever. What I’m saying here is to not discount the idea that maybe Mr. The Rock has finally cracked the magic touch on quality B-level entertainment, which is a vital part of our movie ecosystem.
Date: July 13th (and likely also previews in the weekends before)
Dir: Brad Bird
Star: Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Vowell, Huck Millner, Samuel L. Jackson (voices)
…Brad Bird has not had a good decade. There, that’s me laying my cards out. I recently re-watched Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol for the first time since it came out and, outside of the Kremlin infiltration and the Burj Khalifa op, nothing about it engaged or resonated with me. Tomorrowland, meanwhile, was the kind of disaster that typically ends careers, a thoroughly misguided Randian lecture about how we are all terrible people for loving destructive spectacle, being apathetic about climate change and bettering the world, and more hits from “Your Father is Very Disappointed in You.” It also, because Bird put himself out there so completely in his Tomorrowland script, brought to the surface troubling undertones about the original Incredibles, of warped ideas about “special” people and “greatness” and the “horror” of trying to democratise the playing field. Meanwhile, the plot for Incredibles II is going full “stay-at-home Dad midlife crisis” which, not only is what basically all male writers gravitate towards once they grow up (see also: lots of modern AAA narrative videogames), is also kind of exactly the same plot as the first one but with some of the specifics changed?
Still, have you re-watched The Incredibles recently? That movie is still absolutely fantastic, troubling subtext and all! Outside of Cars and all but the last 20 or so minutes of Monsters University, Pixar have actually been far better at the sequel/prequel game than most of us naysayers are willing to admit. And, yes, for what it’s worth, Bird is still batting a perfect record in the medium of animation. I’m not at the level where I’m willing to give myself over to the excitement so totally – I think, given everything post-Ratatouille, it is fair to ask if Bird may have fallen off – but I don’t have the kind of dread pit that I get from, say, Soldado. So, we’ll see.
Date: July 20th
Dir: Drew Pearce
Star: Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Jeff Goldblum, A LOT of other people
“What if a whole movie took place at The Continental from John Wick?” is the premise behind Hotel Artemis – and also an official John Wick spin-off show at some point in the near-future. Still, blatantly stealing from genius and tweaking it for your own somewhat-distinct ends worked for Noel Gallagher, so let’s instead revel in how much goddamn fun this looks. Drew Pearce is making his feature directing debut, but, unlike say Simon Kinberg, he does have prior directorial experience in shorts, web series, and music videos, which appears to be where his stylish neon-drenched aesthetic has sprung from. You may also know him as the co-writer of Iron Man 3, so he’s got proven writing chops too. And if you’re still not won over, look at that cast list again: Foster, Brown, Goldblum as a villain, Charlie Day, Sofia Boutella, Jenny Slate, Dave Bautista, Brian Tyree Henry… Basically, it’s like somebody tried to reverse-engineer my new favourite movie and that’s pandering I can get behind!
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
Date: July 20th
Dir: Ol Parker
Star: Amanda Seyfried, Meryl Streep, Lily James, A LOT of other people
Join us tomorrow for Part 2 of Your 2018 Summer Movie Guide! Are you excited for any of these movies? Disagree with any of the premature assessments? Sound off in the comments below!
Callum Petch wants to scream one last death medley.