Return of the Guide (IT IS), return of the Guide (PUMP UP THE WORLD)!
The past two years I’ve done these Guides, I’ve kicked them off with a “seasons changing” preamble which references hot Summertime-type weather in recent weeks and utilised such anecdotes for humorous juxtaposition of a reader rejecting such “glorious” warmth for dark airconditioned cinema screens instead. But not this year. This year’s Guide-penning comes to you in the middle of a miserable, rainy and surprisingly cold stretch of weather which keeps changing in intensity and tone seemingly on a whim as an existentially terrifying reminder of climate change’s omnipresence. Of course, the obvious but not-untrue punchline to this fact which you’ve likely already guessed from a mile away is that this weather is not exactly uncommon for British Summertime so I’d say we’ve entered the most wonderful season of the year (for movies theoretically)!
Welcome to Your 2019 Summer Movie Guide. With Endgame now in the rear-view and the post-Endgame dumpees out of sight and mind, we can officially commence the busiest time of the moviegoing year where blockbusters all start dogpiling over each other to offer themselves as tribute for the opportunity to be slain mercilessly by our benevolent Pikachu overlords. With so many films over such a short space of time vying for limited amounts of cash comes the query of which ones should a prospective viewer commit themselves to? It’s a lot to keep on top of, I’m aware, and that’s what this week’s series of articles are all about doing. We’re gonna run down damn-near everything – the tentpole blockbusters, the breakthrough indies, the big-name directors making left-of-centre moves, the mystery films which are definitely coming out when the schedule says they’re coming out – and hopefully get better hyped for a year at the cinema which has otherwise been pretty disappointing so far.
As always, we’re splitting this into parts. Today and Wednesday, we’re tackling the blockbusters and sequels and big-name filmmaker returns which grab all the headlines. Then on Friday (and maybe Sunday if there’s enough content to cover), we’ll take a whistle-stop tour around the B-tier for lesser-known indies and genre fare which would otherwise be lost in the shuffle. So, grab the biggest overpriced popcorn tub you can barely wrap your arms around and let’s judge movies based upon often misleading and equally-as-often bad pre-release footage!
All release dates are UK specific, taken from the Film Distributors Association website and, whilst correct at press time, are subject to change.
Pokémon: Detective Pikachu
Date: Out Now
Dir: Rob Letterman
Star: Ryan Reynolds (voice), Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton
Even with the reviews coming in more tepid than I was hoping, whoever was in charge of the marketing for this one deserves a promotion as soon as is humanly possible because, as I have been asking to anyone and everyone ever since that initial trailer dropped in November, HOW DOES THIS LOOK SO GOOD?! I have absolutely no prior nostalgia or experience with Pokémon – I was more Hanna-Barbera and turn-of-the-millennium Cartoon Network as a child, my brother’s the one who got back into Pokémon as he got older – and yet even I finished that first trailer yelling “IN! SO IN! ALL THE WAY IN!” It looks so utterly delightful and fun and unique, with every further bit of released marketing stoking my anticipatory fires even higher. Genuinely cannot wait for this one. If you had told me three years ago that my three most-anticipated movies of 2019 would be two unapologetic horrors and a goddamn Pokémon movie, I would have angrily accused you of not knowing me at all and stormed off in a huff. What a weird forkin’ timeline we’re currently operating within.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Date: 15th May
Dir: Chad Stahelski
Star: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Ian McShane
HOOK IT INTO MY VEINS! Wild that the last Summer of the decade will provide me, an action movie junkie with a nigh-unquenchable thirst for the good good shit, with brand new confections from both Chad Stahelski and David Leitch. That is truly spoiling me rotten, friends. I expect this to be a minor step down from Chapter 2, in the same way that Chapter 2 was a minor step down from the damn-near perfect 2014 original, and for it to still blow almost everything else like it releasing this year off the face of the planet. Across just two movies, the John Wick series has already established itself as the gold standard in modern Hollywood action filmmaking without betraying the surprisingly affecting character study at its titular centre and I see no reason as to why Parabellum would buck that legacy. Stahelski also seems to have also watched The Villainess and made it his mission to show Jung Byung-gil how this shit is done, since there’s going to be his own motorcycle swordfight which is the kind of subtweeting I can very much get behind!
Date: 22nd May
Dir: Guy Ritchie
Star: Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Will Smith
It’s going to make at least $750 million based purely off of current generation nostalgia for the 90s Disney Renaissance magnum-opus – yes, Aladdin, not Lion King, is the best 90s Disney film and I am willing to throwdown on this hill – regardless of quality because Beauty and the Beast made $1.2 billion despite being hot stinking pointless garbage. That’s the main takeaway from all this. I’ll save my condensed rant over the Disney remake cycle for later and because further kicking this new Aladdin whilst it’s down before release seems cruel by this point. It initially looked horrendous and those recent trailers upgraded that pre-judgement standing to a generous “pointless.” I have had the bare minimum of exposure marketing-wise to Ritchie’s latest bizarre trip down Hollywood filmmaking yet already just want to get it over with, like a dentist trip or a visit to your step-father’s parents. The real question is whether I do my 500th rewatch of the animated classic, which will do maximum unflattering comparison damage to the new version, beforehand or afterwards.
Date: 22nd May
Dir: Dexter Fletcher
Star: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden
So long as I cannot map Rocketman onto Walk Hard in any strong capacity, then I will class this one a success. Dexter Fletcher’s directorial career so far has consisted almost entirely of taking ideas that at best sound mediocre and at worst utterly appalling and turning them into surprisingly fun and winsome slices of earnest charm: Wild Bill, Eddie the Eagle, most amazingly of all Sunshine on Leith which, need I remind you, was a Proclaimers musical! Admittedly, Bohemian Rhapsody was still unwatchable garbage but Fletcher wasn’t brought on until very late in the game to effectively staple an abomination into something vaguely releasable, so I can’t really hold it against him or view that as a series of omens for this. His frequent insistences that this is more a “musical” rather than a straightforward “biopic” also intrigue me since, again, that theoretically moves us well away from Walk Hard territory. Colour me quietly optimistic.
The Secret Life of Pets 2
Date: 24th May
Dir: Chris Renaud
Star: Patton Oswalt, Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart (voices)
Siiiiiiigh… My, how we can fall within just a few short years. The Secret Life of Pets came out three years ago and you can see me in my review at the time wrestling with the conflicting emotions of laughing a heck of a lot at the film whilst also being immensely frustrated and disappointed at its resolute lack of ambition. I kept ping-ponging between “disappointed parent who wants their burnout child to apply themselves” and “begrudging admission that it’s at least very funny,” hoping that Illumination might finally start trying in future movies. Fast-forward three years and the world’s second-biggest animation studio – let’s be real, Pixar haven’t truly commanded the stage for at least the last half-decade (and we’ll get to them) – has stubbornly refused to aim any higher than passable inoffensive mediocrity to such a degree that even their joke-telling has suffered. I want to hope that the lack of any story trailers so far means they are going for more of a vignette exaggerated-observational structure rather than “the exact same movie as Toy Story but with animals” this time, but likely not. It’ll be fine, because that’s what Illumination relentlessly aims for nowadays, but man do I wish an animation studio with ambition and guts took on this exact same premise instead.
Date: 27th May
Dir: Olivia Wilde
Star: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Noah Galvin
Here’s one that’s rocketed way up my anticipation list. About a fortnight ago, I had no awareness of its existence, but one trailer in front of Wild Rose later I am now all “YES TO EVERY BIT OF THIS THANKS!” A teen-girl coming-of-age High School comedy written by a bunch of sitcom vets – Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, and Katie Silberman – starring two excellent fast-rising young actresses, goosed by a murderer’s row of comic ringers in the supporting cast – Jason Sudeikis, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, Jessica Williams – a queer romance subplot seemingly treated as no big deal, and based around two proudly feminist nerds having an existential crisis on the eve of graduation over their commitment to academia at the expense of a healthy social life… Shit, I feel called out, to be perfectly frank. It’s also Olivia Wilde’s feature directorial debut, which is the one question mark Booksmart honestly has against it but even that’s rather tiny given that the recent track record of actresses-turned-directors has been so favourable: Greta Gerwig, Brie Larson, Alice Lowe. Excited to see how this turns out. Maybe it can be 2019’s Edge of Seventeen and maybe other people will actually WATCH IT THIS TIME!
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Date: 29th May
Dir: Michael Dougherty
Star: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobbie Brown
I still stand by 2014’s Godzilla being a lot of fun with an absolutely killer final third, but the human stuff was genuinely interminable to slog through and I want as little of that bullshit clogging up my new Godzilla movie as possible. Admittedly, I guess you can’t call any Godzilla movie which doesn’t break up the giant monster brawls with pointless uninteresting human bullshit a true Godzilla movie, since they’re remnants of the original Gojira when this franchise was an ultra-bleak parable for nuclear weapons and Japan’s imperialist philosophies before and during WWII instead of a wacky cool-as-shit excuse to tear shit up, but when a movie is promising me a series of Godzilla brawls against Mothra, Rodan and motherforkin’ Ghidorah: more smashy, less Millie.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix
Date: 5th June
Dir: Simon Kinberg
Star: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Sophie Turner
Our long national nightmare will soon come to an end. We will be freed from the tyranny of non-Deadpool X-Men movies for a long time. Real talk: across 19 years and 11 movies, 20th Century Fox have been able to make exactly 3 great ones (First Class, Logan, Deadpool 2) with 5 being serviceably mediocre and 3 others being full-on abysmal disasters (The Last Stand, Origins: Wolverine, and Apocalypse). The first two Bryan Singer movies whilst important for their time do not hold up outside of great casting, the two recent Singer movies pissed away all the promise and excellence of Matthew Vaughn’s reboot through character-stunting decade-hopping and a dreary self-seriousness obsessed with meaningless plot minutia, and the current cast are either extremely bad (Sophie Turner’s post-Game of Thrones career is failing to disavow my belief that everyone whose career started from GoT is actually a bad actor) or extremely ready to get the hell off this sinking ship (Fassbender and especially the dead-star-walking Jennifer Lawrence). They’ve delayed and reshot this thing something like three times, the exact same creative team which bodged the Dark Phoenix Saga last time are going again (with Brett Ratner subbed out for writer Kinberg directing his first anything), and it looks fucking awful. But we are almost free. Just one last push and then we are free.
“What about The New Mutants?” LOL at that ever seeing the light of day.
Date: 7th June
Dir: Nisha Ganatra
Star: Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling
The lukewarm, though not negative, reviews out of Sundance plus the mediocre trailer have checked my anticipations somewhat, but I’m still hopeful for this one. Mindy Kaling’s jump into feature screenwriting, plus the theatrical directorial return of Nisha Ganatra (of the lovely Chutney Popcorn) after a decade of TV work, follows her character Molly’s trial-by-fire entrance into the boy’s club of writing for late-night comedy. Emma Thompson hasn’t had a decent chance to flex her abundant live-action comedy muscles in a long while so I’m down for seeing her play Comedian Miranda Priestley, an even half-decent screenplay should be able to find bountiful satirical material in the world of late-night, and I’m glad somebody out there is still throwing money and marketing respect at movies like this and The Big Sick – not coincidentally, both are Amazon Studios productions. I don’t get enough movies like these during the Summer anymore, so I’ll always show out when one does arrive.
Date: 14th June
Dir: Asif Kapadia
Here’s the big test for Asif Kapadia. Not to take anything away from Senna and Amy, two of the best documentaries of the decade and which will likely be very high on my eventual Top 100 Films of the 2010s list, but the scales in those were tipped somewhat in his favour since Amy Winehouse was one of my favourite musical artists and I adored Formula 1 growing up. I was already predisposed to liking them, even though we all know that fondness for a doc’s subject doesn’t cause a bad documentary to skate through unflogged (just going to leave this link to my review of Joan Jett doc Bad Reputation here). But his third documentary feature is about football, a subject I otherwise could not give a single fuck about, so if he can get me as heartfelt and invested in the story of Diego Maradona as he could Winehouse and Ayrton Senna then he’s untouchable in my books. In all seriousness, I have complete faith in Kapadia’s ability to smash this one into the back of the net since he’s demonstrated a preternatural ability to balance the personal stories of his subjects with the wider social climate they grew up in in ways which are resonant and illuminating no matter how interested the viewer was going in. All in for this one and I promise not to yell out “THAT WAS LIQUID FOOTBALL” at any point during my screening.
Men in Black: International
Date: 14th June
Dir: F. Gary Gray
Star: Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth, Liam Neeson
90s nostalgia has officially come for the Men in Black franchise except that Tommy Lee Jones has finally managed to extricate himself from the series (allowing us to pretend the thematically-fitting Agent K retirement those sequels stomped all over stuck) and Will Smith is off having a very public midlife crisis, so here’s your unofficial Thor: Ragnarok sequel. Whilst I’m out here dropping hard-truth bombs, does Men in Black really have the cache to pull off a soft-reboot? Cos, again hard truths, only the first of these were any good and, for all the inherent franchise potential it has, later works from this series have struggled to properly mine said potential when they weren’t just outright sucking. Also, cos I can’t stop dropping bombs: the cartoon series is not as good as you remember, F. Gary Gray’s blockbuster direction turned out to be pretty pedestrian in The Fate of the Furious, and both trailers outside of a few decent gags have been shockingly… meh. Tessa Thompson looks the motherfuckin’ BOMB in a suit, granted, but a film really does need more than just that to be worthwhile, y’know?
Toy Story 4
Date: 21st June
Dir: Josh Cooley
Star: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts (voices)
As I said back in March when the full trailer dropped: making the first extended look at your notably-troubled and sceptic-courting fourth return to a series which wrapped perfectly nine years ago be a spoiler-heavy trailer that gives off the alarming impression you’ve just remade Toy Story 2 with certain particulars find+replace’d – Prospector with Bo Peep, Tokyo museum with fairground town, Zurg and Boxed Buzz with Forky – does not fill me or anyone else with much in the way of confidence. Please understand, I want nothing more to be wrong about this and I will likely cry my eyes out irrespective of quality, but I can only call ‘em like I see ‘em and especially after Incredibles II came and went with barely a footprint I cannot help but approach Toy Story 4 guarded and ready to have my heart broken. It’s ok to just let series end sometimes, even as I have to wonder if I would have expressed this kind of scepticism at the prospect of Toy Story 3 were I that age when it came out. Prove me wrong, Pixar. Redress your batting average for the decade.
Date: 28th June
Dir: Danny Boyle
Star: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran
Yesterday is either going to be an absolutely delightful triumph or an insufferable trainwreck and there will be not an ounce of middle-ground. Richard Curtis is a proven great writer – his resume includes Blackadder, Mr. Bean, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and the first Bridget Jones – but he’s also not been a great writer for a very long time – said resume also includes Love, Actually, the second Bridget Jones, and About Time. He’s also prone to simplistic, reductive and insipid clichés in his romances which are full of uncomfortable undertones and just plain lazy writing; Love, Actually being the worst offender of this but they crop up to varying degrees in all of his works. Danny Boyle, meanwhile, is one of my favourite directors but he also has a very nasty habit of dropping a giant stinker roughly every seven years of his career: in 2000 that was The Beach, in 2007 that was almost the entire second half of Sunshine, and in 2013 that was the bizarrely pretentious Trance. The next stinker should have been 2017’s T2 Trainspotting and yet, somehow, that movie was an essential triumph (if thoroughly depressing), which means the bases have been loaded for a full-on strike-out here. I mean, Ed Sheeran is acting in this! Fuck, why not just smash 500 mirrors and sprint under 2,000 ladders whilst you’re at it?!
Spider-Man: Far From Home
Date: 2nd July
Dir: Jon Watts
Star: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal
The Marvel Cinematic Universe rolls on far sooner than anyone probably wanted but Sony has Q2 profits to reach so here we are again. New Spider-Man, this one attempting to pull the Ant-Man job of sending off the current phase of the MCU on a fun and more light-hearted post-script than the emotionally draining firm punctuation mark of Endgame. It’ll likely be fine, I’m one of apparently 14 people who wasn’t particularly engaged by much of Homecoming (its Teen Movie gestures felt non-committal and there was a gaping hole at its centre where the emotional stakes should’ve been until the Vulture reveal) but I still thought it was fine, because even the worst MCU entries are still at least fine. But I’m not really feeling it. Part of it may be Sony’s appalling habit of spoilery trailers – they really do have the worst marketing departments; their good stuff either looks bad or has trailers which summarise the whole thing in two minutes, and their bad stuff looks abominable – but I think it’s mainly that this feels ridiculously bland in a post-Spider-Verse world. Admittedly, that’s unfair to Far From Home since Spider-Verse makes 99% of movies feel ridiculously bland, but it’s where I’m currently at.
Date: 5th July
Dir: Luc Besson
Star: Sasha Luss, Luke Evans, Cillian Murphy, Helen Mirren
Luc Besson’s tour of his past career highs continues with a film which, based on that very exciting trailer, looks like the most Luc Besson movie he’s ever made. A violent actioner about a foreign model-turned-assassin on a jet-setting journey across Europe to murder a shitload of men in fancy and often-revealing outfits whilst wrestling with a handler of questionable parental surrogacy and evading fatherly lawmen mostly likely with personal stakes in the matter. Yeah, this is definitely by the man responsible for Nikita, Lucy and Léon. Looking forward to this hopefully being a fun trashy time of the kind I dig the hell out of. Not looking forward to having to reconcile that with Besson’s history of creep-osity in his films and alleged predatory behaviour which means I have a affix a giant “guilty pleasure” asterisk to Anna whenever I talk about it in any capacity.
Date: 5th July
Dir: Ari Aster
Star: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper
Every other horror movie, and there are a lot this Summer, is being rounded up into its own quickfire section later in this series because, as has been frequently documented on this site, horror and me don’t always get on and especially not jump-heavy horror movie trailers so I will have no useful information or impressions to pass onto you, the reader. But this I will gladly make an exception for. My most-anticipated film of 2019 heading into the year, second only to Us, Midsommar is the second feature from writer-director Ari Aster, he of Hereditary infamy, a film I honestly still haven’t quite recovered from watching just the once. Have I watched that trailer? Of course not, but this time it’s because I want to go in knowing as little as possible. I want Ari to fuck me up in the worst way sans preparation, I may have scanned a cheat-sheet in preparation for Hereditary, and, according to those who have read the screenplay for his swan-song (for the time being) in the horror genre, this is somehow even more fucked up and strangely beautiful than last year’s instant classic. Am I a masochist or what?
Come back Wednesday for Part 2 when we cross off all the big names from mid-July to the end of August!
Callum Petch loves the past cos he hates suspense.