By on May 31, 2017

Summer flicks deliver familiar themes and familiar themes.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Last year, I was inspired by the summer’s bumper crop of sequels, prequels and bologna. This year, I’m already tired.

That’s because I saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 a few weeks ago and it’s only OK (at best). That really bummed me out.

It’s not that I expected it to be gangbusters. The first film is tons of fun, even if it doesn’t hold up as well at a home viewing like it does in a big, crowded theater with a ginned-up audience. But writer-director James Gunn has made some nifty and gross subversive stuff (Slither, Super). Throw those flicks together with his first Guardians and I had high-ish hopes for GotGV2.

Unfortunately, Starlord (Chris Pratt) and crew’s second adventure feels like a movie in search of a story, with plot points cribbed from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and mashed together with the armchair psychology of the Fast & Furious series. Sure, there are plenty of gags and some good killin’, but the whole affair made me shrug. Who cares whether Starlord finds his father?

So, when I revisited the list of upcoming summer movies and saw all the sequels, prequels and bologna listed, my heart sank. Not in a “Holy shit, bloated gasbag Donald Trump is president” kind of way, but it sunk nonetheless.

What happened to me? Last year I happily strolled down amnesia lane to 1983 and my first big-screen viewing of Return of the Jedi. Here’s what happened: I grew up, suffered from student-loan payments, lower-back pain and way too many mediocre-to-poor sequels, prequels and bologna.

“Yeah, yeah,” you say. “Boo hoo. You get to write about movies for a living. Tough life.”

You’re correct in your disdain, imaginary reader. It’s not like I’m reporting on human rights violations. It’s a privilege to write about movies, and it’s usually pretty fun.


For the first time since I’ve had this job, I’m deeply dismayed. Forget that there are billions of crummy-looking sequels coming this summer, including a sequel to a prequel (Alien: Covenant Please God Make It Stop).

But take a look at some of the rest of this shit. There’s a film called Emoji Movie: Express Yourself being released in August. There’s a fifth—fifth!—Pirates of the Caribbean movie coming. And Demetri Martin has a movie coming out that he wrote and directed. This is when I have to come right out and say it:

Go to hell, movie business. You’re a rotten, festering pustule on the ass of humanity.

Movies have the power to transport us. Movies can make us forget all the brouhaha going on in our sad, pathetic lives for a couple hours at a time, or that the president fired the FBI director. Movies can make us want to be better people (see: Casablanca).

But when I look at the movies coming out this summer and see that someone’s best idea for spending $40 million is The House, starring Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler as parents who open an illegal casino to earn enough money to send their daughter to college, I’m simultaneously heartened and dismayed. I’m heartened because it’s rare for comedies to address a problem regular people deal with. I’m dismayed because I’ve seen this plot in myriad different iterations: Fun with Dick & Jane (original and remake), the Going in Style remake. Even mediocre dramas such as Boiler Room feature illegal casinos as a major plot point and the classic Dog Day Afternoon features a bank robbery at its center as a means to fund a major life event.

Man, I’m a buzzkill. But The House is the best ya got, Hollywood?

Now that we all feel terrible, I’m going to strap on my boots, climb dick mountain and spin gold from the lead that is the upcoming summer movie season. No joke, kids: I’m trying extra hard to find the puppy dogs and rainbows amid all the turds.

So here’s what you can expect, helpfully broken up into categories inspired by a great movie by a long-dead filmmaker.

Alien: Covenant

Director Ridley Scott returned in 2012 to the Alien franchise and gave us Prometheus, a prequel that sorta kinda relates to the Alien mythology. Five years later, I’m still not sure what the point was (besides money), but Alien: Covenant, the aforementioned sequel to a prequel, seems like an attempt to marry Prometheus to Alien. Will it work? I dunno. But it can’t be worse than Alien 3 or Alien: Resurrection. (In theaters now)

Everything, Everything

Nicola Yoon’s well received YA novel gets the big-screen treatment; and adapting YA novels is dicey. For each Hunger Games series, you get at least one The 5th Wave with a Divergent on top of it. Still, if you can get past the fact that Everything, Everything sounds like a retread of The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, it has an attractive cast in Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson, as well as a director who comes from indies (Stella Meghie) and a nifty plot twist. Fingers crossed. (In theaters now)

My Cousin Rachel

This latest adaption of the Daphne du Maurier novel stars Rachel Weisz. And the record for du Maurier adaptations is tops (Don’t Look Now, Rebecca, Jamaica Inn). Director Roger Michell has missed (Le Week-End, Hyde Park on Hudson, Enduring Love, Venus) more often than he’s hit (Notting Hill, Changing Lanes), but the source material and cast are strong. (Opens June 9)

Beatriz at Dinner

Salma Hayek is a massage therapist and John Lithgow is a billionaire asshole. They have a run-in at a dinner party. If you think this sounds like a rumination on Mexicans and Trump, you’re probably not wrong. Miguel Arteta directs, Mike White writes, and they’ve made two good movies together (Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl). Note to studios: Cast Hayek more. (Opens June 9)

All Eyez On Me

It’s the Tupac biopic! No jokes, I’m in. (Opens Friday, June 16, what would have been Shakur’s 46th birthday)

The Book of Henry

Director Colin Trevorrow’s big-budget appeal is lost on me (see: Jurassic World), but I’ll defend his feature debut, Safety Not Guaranteed. The Book of Henry feels a little more indie, as an 11-year-old genius and his mother (Naomi Watts) try to rescue the girl next door from a maybe-abusive stepfather. Sarah Silverman is in this, too. (Opens June 16)

Atomic Blonde

Charlize Theron in another action flick that isn’t Fate of the Furious? As Gregory Hines (R.I.P.) would say, “Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees!” Theron is a Brit spy at the end of the Cold War. Stunt vet David Leitch directs. Sold, sold, sold. (Opens July 28)

The Dark Tower

I’m no Stephen King fan, but I love Westerns and Idris Elba, and I’m warming on Matthew McConaughey. The Dark Tower film is years in the making and it’s been dogged by delays and casting gripes (some fans are irked because they assumed The Gunslinger is white—eff those people). I’m just glad Elba is finally in a live-action film that isn’t a Marvel movie. (Opens August 4)


Kathryn Bigelow is back! And so is Mark Boal, who wrote Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. This flick takes place in Detroit during the 1967 riots, but was largely shot in Massachusetts (tax breaks!). John Boyega (yay!) stars. (Opens August 4)

Logan Lucky

It’s not another Wolverine movie, but a Steven Soderbergh film, proving that some people like to work in retirement. Anyway, Channing Tatum stars and he’s done good work with Soderbergh before (Magic Mike, Side Effects and the Soderbergh-shot Magic Mike XXL). Adam Driver is the co-star and, Girls aside, I’m a fan. Also stars Hilary Swank (yay!), Daniel Craig (yay!), Elvis Presley’s granddaughter and Seth MacFarlane (barf). Could be fun. Maybe. (Opens August 18)


I’m not sure how you turn a 1,138-page book into one movie, plus I’m not sure I want to see a movie in which a little boy’s arm is ripped off in the prologue. But I’m intrigued, mostly because I think clowns are stupid, not scary, and I’m still waiting for a Stephen King adaptation to be good. (Opens September 8)

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

I expect nothing from movies except to entertain me. Everything else is gold, Jerry. But the Pirates franchise hasn’t done that since 2003 and PotC: At World’s End did the unforgivable: It made Keith Richards boring. And this tale, like all the preceding tales, is longer than two hours. WHY? Javier Bardem can only do so much and Johnny Depp can’t do enough. (In theaters now)

Wonder Woman

DC is 0-for-2 in the let’s-build-a-decent-franchise

game, but I’m mildly encouraged by the notion that Wonder Woman cannot possibly be worse than either the anemic Man of Steel or the absolutely wretched Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. I also dig that the big studio brains hired Patty Jenkins to direct—who when she last helmed a feature, convinced the world that Charlize Theron was terrifying real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Plus, Gal Gadot and Chris Pine look great. Here’s to blind hope. (Opens June 2)

Cars 3

Cars is terrible. Cars 2 is even worse. Even Pixar makes bad movies (Monsters University, the Planes series) and it’s rare the third film in a trilogy is the best. (Opens June 16)

Rough Night

I don’t know whether you’ve seen the trailer for Rough Night, but it looks as if it has exactly the same plot as Very Bad Things, which is a very bad movie that could have been a very good one, given its cast and pedigree. As for Rough Night, I’m suspicious of any movie in which non-entity Zoë Kravitz has a starring role. (Opens June 16)

Amityville: The Awakening

You only star in Amityville movies if you’re trying to become a movie star (Amityvilles past stars include the likes of Ryan Reynolds and Meg Ryan; and in this flick, Bella Thorne), or you’re long past being a movie star (Jennifer Jason Leigh, this flick). Don’t go in the house, goddamnit. (Opens June 30)

Despicable Me 3

As much as I enjoyed the first and second installations, I can’t imagine what they’ll do here that they haven’t done before. Trey Parker plays the bad guy. Huh. (Opens June 30)

The House

See my rant above. Hopefully Jason Mantzoukas can breathe life into this premise. (Opens June 30)

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Please, please, please let me get what I want, which is for Sony to stop rebooting this g.d. franchise. Tom Holland dons the tights this time around. (Opens July 7)

War for the Planet of the Apes

Keep your hands off Pierre Boulle’s source material, you damn dirty studio executives! Woody Harrelson shows up in this one to take on Caesar et al. (Opens July 14)

Annabelle: Creation

The thing the Annabelle franchise doesn’t seem to understand is that no one would buy a doll that looks so creepy. Jesus, Annabelle looks like the kind of doll just waiting to be possessed, so why on Earth would any consumer take that chance? But this is a prequel (gah!) to Annabelle, so maybe it finally explains why anyone would purchase a doll that looks like she’s gonna cut your throat in the night. (Opens August 11)

Emoji Movie: Express Yourself

(Opens July 28)

Fun Mom Dinner

Any movie with a title this lazy has to be awful. See also: Bad Teacher, Bad Moms, Horrible Bosses, Sex Tape. I’m kinda surprised Toni Collette would go in for this, but maybe I shouldn’t judge movies by their titles. Wait, who am I kidding? Of course I should! Written by Julie Rudd (who’s married to Paul Rudd) and directed by Alethea Jones. (Opens August 4)


If you asked me which TV series of yore should never, ever, ever ever be made into a movie, I’d have said 21 Jump Street. But it and its goofily named sequel (22 Jump Street) benefit from smart writing, top-notch acting and not sticking in tone to the source material. Baywatch looks to be made with similar intentions (larfs and earning potential) and The Rock and Zac Efron both know from comedy. But does the movie know from crap? Director Seth Gordon is responsible for Horrible Bosses, after all. We’ll find out, and if the hard-R is any indication, leave the kids with the grandparents for the evening. (In theaters now)

The Exception

I’ve really had enough of movies in which a Nazi (Jai Courtney) is supposed to earn our sympathy. But here a Nazi soldier falls in love with a Jew (Lily James) while he’s keeping tabs on exiled Kaiser Wilhelm II (Christopher Plummer). Hasn’t Courtney blown enough chances at being a movie star? (Opens June 2)

The Mummy

A mummy terrorizes the planet and Tom Cruise has to stop it. It’s written by Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, barf; and Passengers, double barf), Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher, Edge of Tomorrow, double yay!; and Jack the Giant Slayer, triple barf!) and directed by Alex Kurtzman (People Like Us, eh). Oh, and Russell Crowe plays Dr. Henry Jekyll. Just what the hell is going on around here? (Opens June 9)

Baby Driver

Baby (Ansel Elgort, a $24 name if there ever was one) is a getaway driver. It also stars Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Lily James and Jon Hamm. But it’s directed by Edgar Wright, who, if he’s known for anything, it’s subverting genres. Whether his movies work (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) or don’t (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The World’s End), they’re usually worth watching. (Opens June 28)


“Deception hits home,” reads the poster. And there’s Nicolas Cage! Gina Gershon (yay!) plays his wife and there’s a new mom in town she doesn’t trust. Spooky? Cage’s hairline alone gives me shivers. (Opens June 30)


Christopher Nolan moves away from wonky, emotionless space movies (Interstellar) and wonky, emotionless superhero movies (The Dark Knight franchise), to tackle a subject that deals in human emotion and carnage, the 1940 Battle of Dunkirk. One of the guys from One Direction is in this, along with Cillian Murphy (yay!), Kenneth Branagh (yay!), Tom Hardy (yay?) and Mark Rylance (yay!). Who knows what to expect, other than a gargantuan running time. (Opens July 21)

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Luc Besson directs this adaptation of a beloved French comic, and it’s his first time directing sci-fi since The Fifth Element. I remember next to nothing about that movie, except for a wacky Chris Tucker and a blue Maïwenn. But I’m scratching my head, especially at casting Dane DeHaan as the lead. Herbie Hancock is in this, tho. Maybe “Rockit” served as inspiration. (Opens July 21)

Ingrid Goes West

Aubrey Plaza plays a nutjob—which is what she specializes in—and becomes obsessed with Elizabeth Olsen’s celebrity. Also stars O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube’s kid) and Wyatt Russell (Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn’s kid, who looks like an exact 50/50 copy of each of them, right down to Kurt’s teeth). (Opens August 11)

The Hitman’s Bodyguard

The last time Samuel L. Jackson starred in a parody, we got National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1, which had exactly one laugh (Emilio Estevez: “You came!” Samuel L. Jackson: “That’s personal, but what’s important is that I’m here.”). But the trailer doesn’t look like the parody the poster is (of the Whitney Houston/Kevin Costner flick The Bodyguard), so I’m not sure what to expect. Probably nothing good. (Opens August 18)


Brittany Snow is a long way from Pitch Perfect and any movie starring Dave Bautista not directed by James Gunn will feature Bautista’s rougher acting. But the premise—that these two people are running for their lives in the Brooklyn neighborhood after some assholes in Texas start a second Civil War—has pricked up my ears (so to speak). It’s also supposed to be one long take, which of course, it ain’t. It’ll just look like it is. (Opens August18)

Buena Vista Social Club: Adios

This is a follow-up by Lucy Walker to Wim Wenders’ 1999 documentary. Definitely worth a look-see. (In theaters now)

Long Strange Trip

I only include Amir Bar-Lev’s four-hour Grateful Dead (alt name: The Appreciate Deceased) documentary as an opportunity to proclaim publicly, “Fuck the Grateful Dead. They suck.” The only way I’d ever see this noodle-fest is if I had the world’s best LSD and a hammer to bash my brains in. (In theaters now)


This is the Demetri Martin movie I maligned in the introduction. Good news: At least one critic I trust and respect has seen it and enjoyed it. The story, about Dean (Martin), an illustrator who falls in love while dealing with his father in the wake of his mother’s death, sounds a little too Zach Braff for me, but I was once a young, sensitive person before life beat me into the dirt. I’ll try to remember that when I watch it sans popcorn or soda (because my doctor told me I’m too old to eat and drink that shit). (Opens June 2)

Band Aid

Zoe Lister-Jones and Adam Pally star as a couple that starts a band to heal their broken relationship. The premise sounds absurd, but Lister-Jones is smart and she’s the director. Plus, Pally was frequently the best thing about ABC’s gone-too-soon Happy Endings. I’m open-minded about this one. I think. (Opens June 2)

It Comes at Night

But it drives an Uber during the day, so how scary can it be? (I made that up.) This movie is written and directed by Trey Edward Shults, whose Krisha had superb moments and indie studio A24 is releasing it. They do good work and star Joel Edgerton knows creepy (The Gift). This could be good. (Opens June 9)

The Hero

Sam Elliott is a great actor, beloved in many character roles, but he hasn’t had the opportunity to carry a movie. In this film, he stars as a washed-up actor who’s diagnosed with cancer. Laura Prepon (eh) is his love interest. Krysten Ritter (yay!) is his daughter. Nick Offerman and Elliott’s real-life spouse Katharine Ross co-star. (Limited release June 9; expands July 4)

The Bad Batch

Desert cannibals? Ugh. But this weirdo dystopian flick is directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, who made vampires palatable (ha) in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Suki Waterhouse is the star, and Jason Momoa, Giovanni Ribisi and Keanu Reeves pop up. One thing’s for sure: It ain’t gonna be boring. (Opens June 23)

The Beguiled

Clint Eastwood and Don Siegel made Coogan’s Bluff, Dirty Harry, Two Mules for Sister Sara and then The Beguiled, which is as odd and as creepy as any other film either made. It’ll make your skin crawl (partly because it reeks of chauvinism). And this remake by Sofia Coppola—whose name alone makes my skin crawl—has potential. Angourie Rice (the best part of The Nice Guys), Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning torture Colin Farrell during the Civil War. You’ve been warned. (Opens June 23)

The Big Sick

One of the big-deal movies to emerge from Sundance, this film stars Kumail Nanjiani (who wrote with his wife, Emily V. Gordon) as a Chicago comedian who falls in love with graduate student Zoe Kazan. But then she falls into a coma. Directed by Michael Showalter, a veteran of The State and director of Hello, My Name Is Doris. (Opens June 23)

A Ghost Story

This David Lowery flick starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck had tongues wagging at Sundance. But be warned: These three made Ain’t Them Bodies Saints together years ago, and that movie deserves to have its negative burned. But Mara and Affleck are coming off huge performances (in Carol and Manchester by the Sea, respectively) and Lowery’s Pete’s Dragon is better than it has any right to be, given its source material. Keep an eye out for this one. (Opens July 7)


I’m told this re-pairing of director Gillian Robespierre and star Jenny Slate is nothing like their last film, Obvious Child. So if you loved Obvious Child, be warned. If you hated it, maybe you’ll like this one. (Opens July 21)

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

I’m sticking this in the WTF section because I can’t believe we’re still arguing over climate change in 2017. (I mean … it’s a hoax, right? Ha, just kidding! We’re all doomed.) Directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk follow Al Gore in what’s probably the most depressing sequel ever, not including Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. (Opens July 28)

The Trip to Spain

First Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon went to England, then Italy and now Spain. The Trip and The Trip to Italy are enormous fun and hopefully this one is, too. Michael Winterbottom returns to direct. (Opens August 11)

Tulip Fever

It’s the 17th century. Alicia Vikander (eh) is unhappily married to Christoph Waltz (yay!) and has an affair with painter Dane DeHaan (him again?). They invest in the tulip market together and found Holland, Mich. Or maybe they just enter the tulip market. I think someone is fucking with me regarding this plot. (Opens August 25)

Wind River ties

The Dakota Access Pipeline protests ushered this country’s legacy of Native American oppression into the spotlight, and one new award-winning film will keep the conversation firmly at the forefront.

Taylor Sheridan’s movie filmed on the Wind River Reservation, Wind River, was awarded Directing Prize in Un Certain Regard at Cannes last week. The Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Hell or High Water, Sheridan’s film is “a story of a man trying to move on from a tragedy without ever getting closer, it’s a story of a people trying to do the same thing,” he told Cannes YouTube channel. “It’s a murder investigation, a meditation on grief, it’s a study into a violent, harsh world.”

Starring Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, the film premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival, and will be released in the U.S. in August through The Weinstein Company.

In Sheridan’s absence, Harvey Weinstein accepted the Cannes award, reciting a potent statement from Sheridan, as reported in Variety: “The Tribal Councils of the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Nations not only allowed me to tell this story, but embraced me and lent me their assistance in every way asked. It is a great shame of my nation the manner it has treated the original inhabitants of North America.

“Sadly, my government continues that shame through an insidious mixture of apathy and exploitation. There is nothing I can do to change the issues afflicting Indian Country, but what we can all do as artists—and must do—is scream about them with fists clenched. What we can do is make sure these issues aren’t ignored. Then the people who can effect change will be forced to.”

Bike-in bonanza

For almost a decade the Jackson Hole People’s Market has hosted a monthly bike-in movie series at the base of Snow King following its Wednesday markets. Each year the crafty market folks toil over the four films to screen throughout the summer.

“Selecting the lineup is the best part about planning the bike-in movies,” former People’s Market movie selector Kori Price once told PJH. “Over the course of the year, we get all kinds of movie suggestions from the community at random—in the post office, at restaurants and social events—and we keep a list of the good ones. Then when the time comes to choose the final four, our main goal is to choose a lineup that will entertain the masses.”

From Dazed and Confused to Indiana Jones, nostalgic flicks are often on the roster for these outdoor screenings that begin after dusk.

Check jhpeoplesmarket.org for the forthcoming 2017 schedule.

Retro revival at the Spud

Labeled “passion pits” by the 1950s media, one drive-in movie theater near you has managed to chug along. Located near Driggs, Idaho, the almost 70-year-old Spud Drive-in stands today not because of wild passion that ensues on its grounds, but because of a passionate populace.

The Spud was once endangered after the drive-in switched ownership in 2010. Owners the Wydaho Group announced the following year they would shut down the drive-in because of dwindling revenues. But thanks to then former Spud operator Dawnelle Magnum and partner Tyler Hammond, the theater’s roots remain in the ground. They now lease and manage the property, but movies could not go on until the duo purchased a new projector, as reported in Teton Valley News. The community answered the call donating money through the campaign Save the Spud and Magnum and Hammond footed the rest of the bill.

Today at the Spud the new and old coalesce—the 50s-style greasy spoon snack bar serves burgers, onion rings, fries, milkshakes and malts while modern movies play on the big screen.

As more drive-ins shutter across the U.S., supporting places like the Spud that offer a window into cinematic history is increasingly important.

Films begin about 20 minutes after sunset, around 9 p.m. Double features follow the first film on Friday and Saturday. Check SpudDriveIn.com or call 208-354- 2727 for movie listings or more information.

The Spud is located on Hwy. 33, just south of Driggs. Look for a massive potato on a flatbed truck. PJH

About David Riedel

You must be logged in to post a comment Login