FEATURE: Make it Pop! summer movie preview

By on May 31, 2016

A critic’s take on flicks you’ll remember and some you just won’t wait to forget.

160601CoverFeat_origJACKSON HOLE, WY – In the summer of 1983, I was 8 years old, and there was one movie that mattered to my friends and me: Return of the Jedi. We cared so much about Jedi that we didn’t mind it when Jason Smalls saw it May 25—opening night—then came to school the next day and told us in art class that Yoda died.

Jason told us the Ewoks were dumb. It didn’t matter. No, we had to see, hear, ingest Return of the Jedi, no matter how many spoilers came our way. Everyone else was seeing it, and we needed to, too. Little League games would suck if your teammates were in the dugout saying they had a bad feeling about the other team and you had no idea what they meant.

We didn’t know or care about any other movie that year. We were too innocent to be excited about Flashdance and too young to understand The Outsiders. We didn’t think about Trading Places because kids our age didn’t watch Eddie Murphy on Saturday Night Live and Dan Aykroyd was some old dude our parents liked.

So when my dad took my brother and me to the absolutely enormous (and long since closed) Holiday Theatre in Fort Wayne, Ind., to see Return of the Jedi on a Saturday in June, it was, up to that point, one of the greatest days of my life. The auditorium was sold-out. Some of the kids had seen Jedi a couple times before. Some, like me, were first-timers. I know Return of the Jedi isn’t the first movie I saw in a theater, but it’s the first I remember.

What I didn’t remember at the time was Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back. It made no sense to me that, as Jedi opens, Han Solo was frozen in carbonite or that Leia and Lando were disguised, but that didn’t keep the experience from being totally thrilling. Even when the film crapped out during Luke and Darth Vader’s lightsaber duel, the crowd didn’t freak or go bananas—I just talked to my older brother about how cool the speeder chase was—even if the five minutes it took for the projectionist to splice the reel back together seemed interminable. The experience was singular and there are few other cinema experiences I remember so vividly.

For kids these days—yes, kids these days—life is much, much different. It’s not better or worse, but it’s different. So far in 2016, there have been at least six blockbusters—Captain America: Civil War, The Jungle Book, that crap-train Batman v. Superman: Dawn of My Butt, Kung Fu Panda 3, Deadpool (though hopefully most 8-year-olds haven’t seen it) and Zootopia. I can’t imagine knowing I had to see six blockbusters at the age of 8. My head would have exploded. At 41, the thought of seeing that many summer special-effects fests makes me want to down a dozen Percocet, pound a tallboy and sleep until the autumn prestige films see release.

And six movies is just the beginning. There are more gigantic studio flicks being unleashed upon us before the end of August. This weekend alone, there are two—count ’em, TWO—giant sequels hitting the screens: X-Men: Apocalypse and Alice Through the Looking Glass.

So how will anyone keep this baloney straight? Well, by reading my snark- and hate-filled list of upcoming picture shows, that’s how! Here’s what’s coming to a giant multiplex of corporate greed near you. As always, release dates are subject to change.

Now in Theaters

X-Men: Apocalypse


This movie screened for critics ages ago because it’s already showing in Europe, but it’s not like we Americans read their press. But here’s a spoiler: It’s a terrible movie. Sorry. The worst thing studio executives did was give the X-Men franchise back to Bryan Singer, who is a hack if there ever was one. Singer hasn’t made a watchable movie since X-Men 2, and between now and then he helmed X-Men: Days of Future Past, Jack the Giant Slayer, Valkyrie and Superman Returns. All too long, all crummy, especially Jack, which is one of the muddiest looking major releases in a long time.

Alice Through the Looking Glass

2Is it just me or does Johnny Depp look like Elijah Wood in this series? That’s not a complaint, but why not just hire Wood?


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows


The first film wasn’t execrable, just close. But did anyone demand a sequel? In stranger news, Laura Linney is in this movie. LAURA LINNEY! What the hell kind of world are we living in? This must be how my grandparents felt when they saw Alec Guinness was in Star Wars. There are worse prophecies than the mothman’s, I guess. Anyway, you can’t not make a sequel to a movie that grossed nearly a half-billion dollars worldwide during its original release. I mean, just think of the merchandising potential!

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping


The Lonely Island has a place in my heart for “Lazy Sunday.” There’s also the song from SNL with the Andy Samberg character super high on coke, and Hot Rod is underrated. That aside, I don’t know that mining movies such as Katy Perry: Part of Me can provide comedy, unless the awkward Russell Brand moments are inspiration.




Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe were drunks, and Max Perkins (Colin Firth) was their editor at Scribner. Wanna guess how many gin-soaked nights these guys spent together? Hemingway called Perkins “his trusted friend” and outlived him by 14 years, so who knows exactly how this movie ends? Plus, Hemingway is played by Dominic West, best known to American audiences as McNulty on “The Wire,” so you can bet Hemingway won’t be boring on screen. Be warned: For every good movie about writers (Naked Lunch, Barton Fink), there are two bad ones (Agatha, The Words, Secret Window, Finding Forrester).

The Conjuring 2


Not-super-scary ending aside, The Conjuring was creepy as shit, and a little horror goes a long way in a summer full of superheroes and sequels. Of course, this movie is a sequel, but it’s a horror sequel, and those are never bad or never-ending.

Now You See Me 2


Ladies and gentleman, step right up and watch $12.50 disappear from your pocket! Oy. You may remember Now You See Me as the movie everyone saw but nobody liked, but studio executives remember it as a cash cow. Hence Now Your See Me 2 (originally called Now You See Me, Now You Don’t, a much better, but still not great, title). Isla Fisher has taken a powder, Lizzy Caplan fills her shoes and Daniel Radcliffe doesn’t play Harry Potter. Let’s hope the magic movies evaporate into thin air after this one ends its run.



My God. No.


Finding Dory


I’m a big believer in not sequelizing Pixar movies. For each Toy Story 2 or Toy Story 3, there’s a Cars 2 or Monsters University. Still, Finding Nemo is delightful, and Ellen DeGeneres’ Dory is arguably the best part of that film, so why not give her a story of her own? But can we get Idris Elba into a live-action role in 2016 that isn’t a Star Trek movie? Is Bastille Day ever going to make it stateside?

Central Intelligence


The Rock and Kevin Hart star in this wacky madcap caper in which The Rock is a former nerd turned muscled CIA agent, and Hart is a nerdy accountant. If it sounds like Hart’s role is similar to the roles he played in Ride Along, Ride Along 2 and Get Hard, that’s because it sounds like Hart’s role is similar to the roles he played in Ride Along, Ride Along 2 and Get Hard. But the trailer looks not-terrible and I have faith in most things Dwayne Johnson. Until I saw the marketing, which features the immortal line, “Saving the world takes a little Hart and a big Johnson.” Har har.


Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words


I know. I’m the only person who wants to see this documentary.

Independence Day: Resurgence


Is it cheating to write, “My God. No,” on two capsules? The only reason we like Independence Day is because we’re starting to fondly remember the 1990s. But I can assure your initial thoughts were correct: Independence Day was, and still is, a piece of shit. I guess after Stonewall, Roland Emmerich figured anything was an improvement.


The Shallows


Blake Lively. Surfing. A shark. Uninspiring special effects in the trailer. I’m not convinced, especially after its release date was pushed back, presumably to avoid getting crushed by Independence Day: Resurgence. But Lively proved with The Age of Adaline she can carry a movie, so maybe the shark won’t have such easy pickins, eh?




In gaming, a BFG is a Big Fucking Gun. As someone who has played games with such guns, imagine my dismay when I discovered that not only was this BFG about a big friendly giant, but a big friendly giant conceived by Roald Dahl, who I always thought dispatched children in nasty ways and wrote inferior James Bond films (You Only Live Twice). Furthermore, said big friendly giant is not Andre the Giant. But I have a 1-year-old, so I’ll probably see this eventually. I hope it’s better than eating snozzcumber. The BFG is a Steven Spielberg movie, so it will probably also be quietly cruel in addition to being sweet and charming, just like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the book) and The Witches (both the movie and the book, but the book has a truly knotty ending).

The Purge: Election Year


Yep, they’re still milking it.

The Legend of Tarzan


Yep, they’re still trying to make Alexander Skarsgård a star.

Our Kind of Traitor


Yep, Stellan Skarsgård is still more compelling than his son, even if this Russian Mafia vs. British Secret Service tale sounds more contrived than Hardcore Henry but without the first-person camera gimmick. John Le Carré, who wrote the novel on which the screenplay is based, is part of the old spy novel vanguard, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so persnickety.


The Secret Life of Pets


Any pet fans will probably be suckers for this one. But be warned: The Despicable Me gang is behind this one, so if absolute zaniness and throw-a-million-gags-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks filmmaking isn’t for you—and those people exist—you may want to skip it.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates


And I need a movie in which Anna Kendrick is not trying to prove she always plays the straitlaced, uptight square. First Happy Christmas, then Digging with Fire, and now this. At least it’s not a Joe Swanberg movie. It is about two party guys who need wedding dates and find women who are nuttier than they are. Maybe it’ll be fun, but, to paraphrase Gene Siskel, what would be more interesting? This movie or a documentary of the stars and director eating lunch?

Captain Fantastic


Don’t judge a book by its cover, goes the saying, but do judge a movie by its poster. The Monkees in Head? Yes! The cast of Captain Fantastic looking a lot like the cast of Little Miss Sunshine? No!


The Infiltrator


Bryan Cranston gets a second starring vehicle but he forgot to remove the Dalton Trumbo make-up. Must have been a budget thing. The story of a U.S. Customs wonk getting the inside dope on Pablo Escobar’s money laundering operation, one hopes it will be better than all the other Pablo Escobar-type movies, such as Blow, Paradise Lost and that movie-within-a-movie in “Entourage,” when Vinny Chase and crew were still mildly entertaining on HBO.


Café Society


Let’s place bets on 1. How many white people are in Woody Allen’s new movie, 2. How out-of-touch it is with current social norms and 3. How much it resembles older, better Woody Allen.



I don’t quibble with remaking Ghostbusters with an all-female cast. All four of the leads are varying degrees of funny—Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon often screamingly so. But I do quibble with remaking a movie that’s perfect. No one has ever made a better origin story, or sci-fi comedy, or Bill Murray vehicle. So what’s the point? I guess they hate us. They like to torture us.


Star Trek Beyond


My patience is beyond tested with this series. First J.J. Abrams takes the trouble to blow up the Star Trek universe and start over with Star Trek (2008). Then he goddamn remakes Wrath of Khan with Star Trek Into Darkness. Who are these bums? Can we throw them out? And have you seen the trailer? It looks as if director Justin Lin has turned this into a Fast & Furious movie. Of course, I’ll still see it. But I reserve the right to gripe about it openly and often.

Ice Age: Collision Course


It was funny for a hot second 14 years ago, guys.

Lights Out


If only this were a movie based on the song “Lights Out” by Peter Wolf. Instead, it’s a horror movie. And depending on how you feel about Peter Wolf, this alternate movie I just made up could have been a horror show, too.

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie


As opposed to “The Theme Park Ride,” “The Water Slide,” and “The Cocktail.” I suppose it’s necessary, as Jennifer Saunders has rebooted the television show roughly 1 million times, and it’s best to let the punters know they’re not getting recycled shtick. My aforementioned brother is very excited about this movie—I hope, for his sake, that it’s wonderful.


Jason Bourne


You know his name, and it ain’t Jeremy Renner, so look up the number. And he knows your name. It’s Benjamin. As in it’s all about the AMIRITE?

Bad Moms


I’d take the studio to task for the lazy title of Bad Moms, but the trailer features Kathryn Hahn (yay!), Kristen Bell (double yay!!) and Mila Kunis (eh) going absolutely fuggin’ nuts, so I’ll pony up the cash. Hahn is one of the great underused comedic talents.

Aug. 5

Suicide Squad


Expectations are so high after the trailer cut to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the movie must be a disappointment. And I’m not buying Jared Leto’s Joker. Plus, writer and director David Ayer is either great (Fury), or terrible (S.W.A.T.). Still, we’re all going to see it. Right?

The Founder

31It’s about McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc. Wanna get to the heart of the obesity epidemic? Maybe start here. Or don’t. Director John Lee Hancock has a history or making exciting subjects boring (The Alamo) or inspiring stories trite (The Blind Side). PJH

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