Hey, everybody! The time is once again upon us for the fine folks at Cinapse (by which I mean me) to help you sift through the flaming garbage pile that is our 2016 summer movie season.
When I started working on this years list, I noticed a disturbing trend: less egregiously ill-conceived blockbusters than ever before! Yes, the fear based economy in Hollywood has resulted in an unprecedented number of fairly safe bets, which made it harder than ever before to apply my usual brand of mean-spirited snark. So this year, I’ve added a few new categories to help you better make your decisions. In the interest of playing devil’s advocate, I’ve given you intelligent, logic-based reasons to see a movie, and reasons to avoid a movie. And where applicable, I’ve provided methods of improving the film in question, and for those of you who don’t like the idea of detaching from your phone for even two damn hours, thematically appropriate alternative choices that can easily be played on an iPhone. You’re welcome, you sad shut-ins, you.
Enough preamble, we’re wasting time. ON TO THE FILMS!!!
WARNING: Some of these trailers are red band trailers, which means they’re not safe for work. I’m not going to tell you which ones, because I could give a shit whether or not you get fired.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
The Skinny: Chris Evans returns once more to the role that made him Hollywood’s second favorite beefy white Chris. This time he is joined by Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Mackie, Elisabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Paul Rudd, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Chadwick Boseman, and William Hurt in a loose adaptation of a frankly awful Marvel crossover.
My Take: Hey, so… was this any good? I heard it might be good.
Why You Might See It: Well, judging from the box office returns you’ve probably already seen it. So the question is, why you might see it again, and I suspect the answer is that you think that next time you go, the post credits scene will just be Cap and Bucky making out for twenty minutes. That’s right, I’ve read your fanfic, and let me tell you something: that is not an appropriate use of a cybernetic arm…
Why You Probably Won’t: You’re Zack Synder and it just hurts too much.
Alternate Viewing: two and a half hours of Andrew Garfield staring wistfully into the middle distance.
A BIGGER SPLASH
The Skinny: Tilda Swinton and rabid sensualist filmmaker Luca Guadagnino follow up their overwhelmingly sensuous I Am Love with even more lushness in this Italian set melodrama in which Swinton plays an ethereal rock star (because of course she does). Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson, and Matthias Schoenaerts are also around, sexing it up.
My Take: From the trailer, this looks to be toned down from the excesses of Love (which often felt like a marathon sex session where everybody keeps throwing chocolate truffles at you), which still leaves more than enough sexy fun times for everyone. Fiennes in particular seems to be having a blast.
Why You Might See It: Come on! Fun, sexy times with Ralph Fiennes? Who would dare say no to that?
Why You Probably Won’t: Casting Tilda Swinton as a chameleonic rock icon is almost obscenely on-the-nose.
The Skinny: Cashing in on Star Wars mania a mere five months after the whole rest of the world, this documentary focuses in on the unsung heroes of the original trilogy: all those dudes dressed up like aliens and storm troopers.
My Take: The juiciest, most interesting stories on any movie set usually come from the extras, so this has potential to be a pretty entertaining look behind the scenes. If nothing else, the bit in the trailer about how George Lucas directs actors makes the whole thing worthwhile.
Why You Might See It: Your deep and abiding love of Star Wars lends you a particular interest in any and all behind the scenes info.
Why You Probably Won’t: Your deep and abiding love of Star Wars only extends so far as you tolerating your friend trying to explain the Extended Universe to you and not an inch further.
PELE: BIRTH OF A LEGEND
The Skinny: A biography detailing the early years of futbol icon Pele, leading up to his first World Cup. Kevin de Paula makes his screen debut as the titular legend, and documentary filmmakers Jeff and Michael Zimbalist make their fiction debut… more or less.
My Take: The Zimbalist Brothers up to now have been known mostly for their well-received 30 For 30 documentaries. They display some visual style that adds some sheen to what looks like a pretty rote sports drama, albeit one blessed with Vincent D’Onofrio doing a wildly inadvisable accent.
Why You Might See It: You’re a soccer fan that wants to see the sport and its real life heroes finally treated with respect on the big screen.
Why You Probably Won’t: Seriously, that accent, tho. Yikes…
The Skinny: Italian Villa besties George Clooney and Julia Roberts reunite to take aim at Wall Street malfeasance in this hostage thriller directed by my definitively unrequited crush Jodie Foster. Clooney is a Jim Cramer-esque TV host who finds himself dealing with a very irate investor played by Jack O’Connell (“Starred Up”).
My Take: From the name on down, this seems like it’s going to be a little too on-the-nose and (in grand Clooney-ian style) preachy to the converted to be the damning indictment I’m guessing they were going for. But Foster tends to makes smart, interesting films, and if it does anything to raise the profile of the relentlessly impressive O’Connell, then I’m all for it.
Why You Might See It: The star power of George Clooney and Julia Roberts, a timely subject matter, and the directorial skill of Jodie Foster.
Why You Probably Won’t: Because you saw Mad City in 1997, and it wasn’t even good that time around…
Victor Fixes It: It should be about an actual monster made out of money. Obviously.
The Skinny: Kevin Bacon and Radha Mitchell star as parents to a boy that gets possessed by Grand Canyon ghosts or some such nonsense.
My Take: At this point, Blumhouse is a factory that churns out forgettable horror flick after forgettable horror flick. This doesn’t look to be any kind of exception.
Why You Might See It: Because the film finally captures your two deepest fears, dirty handprints on your bedsheets and counting to five.
Why You Probably Won’t: Because spooky children are soooooo 2013…
Victor Fixes It: Make it so everyone has to count to ten. Mathematically speaking, that’s like, twice as suspenseful.
LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP
The Skinny: Whit Stillman writes and directs this Georgian-era set comedy starring Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny. It’s based on a Jane Austen novella (“Lady Susan”), so I’m going to go out on a limb and assume it’s about matchmaking.
My Take: Two films in five years is actually kind of impressive for Whit Stillman, and seeing him finally place his usual comedy of manners in its proper historical setting might be just enough of a change of pace to draw in new eyes. Plus, it’s nice to see someone tap into the funnier side of Kate Beckinsale.
Why You Might See It: A Last Days of Disco reunion (but with corsets!) sounds right up your alley.
Why You Probably Won’t: A chronic aversion to Jane Austen, even the ones that look like they might be kind of good.
Victor Fixes It: Hmm… I don’t know… a more generic title, maybe?
The Skinny: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz and John C. Reilly star in a film where people who can’t find a life partner are transformed into animals. It’s a romantic comedy! Directed by Yorgos Lamthinos (Alps)
My Take: Yes, well… this is absolutely my brand of deadpan absurdity.
Why You Might See It: An appreciation for offbeat, absurdist comedy.
Why You Probably Won’t: You’re a normal person with normal thoughts in your head.
Alternate View: If you’re too busy to watch the whole thing, I found this, which I’m fairly certain is an abridged version of the film.
The Skinny: Based on what I’m sure was previously described as an unfilmable novel by J.G. Ballard, Tom Hiddleston, Elisabeth Moss, and Jeremy Irons star as inhabitants of a towering apartment complex that devolves into war between the upper and lower floors. Directed by Ben Wheatley (A Field In England).
My Take: Well, the movie looks sleek and moody, to be sure. But will the inarguably breathtaking imagery be enough to compensate for what would, by sheer virtue of existing, have to a be watered down version of the notoriously baroque Ballard’s works?
Why You Might See It: You’re a fan of Ben Wheatley, J.G. Ballard, or America’s Long Distance Boyfriend Tom Hiddleston; fucking muttonchops everywhere.
Why You Probably Won’t: You saw Kill List and harbor a healthy suspicion that Ben Wheatley might be more style than substance.
LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT
The Skinny: Ewan McGregor plays both Jesus and the Devil in an alternative version of the 40 days of temptation.
My Take: Not since George Burns has someone dared to play both sides of the Holy Shoulder. It’s an inspired bit of casting, but the previous work of writer/director Rodrigo Garcia (a lot of older HBO shows and the perfectly serviceable Glenn Close drama Albert Hobbs) doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
Why You Might See It: Ewan McGregor in a dual role; the potential for a complex and nuanced take on religious dogma.
Why You Probably Won’t: Even with a former Jedi, you’re worried it will still feel like Sunday School.
Alternate Viewing: That Youtube video of Kirk Cameron and some Australian dude reading way too much into bananas.
The Skinny: A murderers’ row of comic talent including TJ Miller, Thomas Middleditch, Adam Pally, Alison Brie, Krysten Ritter, Jason Mantzoukas, and J.B. Smoove all take part in this raunchy farce involving a ruined wedding, and ensuing Mexican hi-jinks.
My Take: My general rule of thumb for movies packed that full of funny people is that they’re never, ever funny. But I’ve got to admit, the red band trailer for this one made me chuckle quite a few times. This might just wind up being a pleasant bit of rude fun.
Why You Might See It: You’re a big fan of HBO’s Silicon Valley, but you want to pay even more for its stars.
Why You Probably Won’t: You watched the green band trailer, which makes it look like a pile of crap, even though it’s almost exactly the same. I think the phrase “dumb dildo” might make a huge amount of difference to me…
The Skinny: Acclaimed director Terence Davies adapts a novel by some dude named Lewis Grassic Gibbon, which appears to be about wheat. And love, and maybe some war. But mostly wheat. Starring Agyness Deyn and Peter Mullan.
My Take: Terence Davies is one of our most underrated directors, and this does look visually sumptuous. But seriously, though: who the fuck is Lewis Grassic Gibbon and why should I care?
Why You Might See It: It’s a refreshing alternative to the sturm and drang of the big budget blockbusters.
Why You Probably Won’t: You took some AP English Classes; you don’t have anything to prove to anyone…
WHAT WE BECOME
The Skinny: From Denmark comes yet another zombie apocalypse.
My Take: This looks exactly the same as every other zombie movie from the past ten years. But, I don’t know… maybe the accents will help.
Why You Might See It: You need a fix between seasons of Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead just isn’t cutting it.
Why You Probably Won’t: “Subtitles? You mean they’re gonna make me read stuff? Fuck that, I’m just going to hold out for the shitty American remake!”
The Skinny: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, and Rose Byrne return in this sequel to the apparently successful original film. This time the former enemies join forces to combat a sorority led by Chloe Grace Moretz.
My Take: Before everything else, just gotta give props for the trailers use of STS x RJD2’s “Doin’ It Right”; that shit is awesome. Now, then: comedy sequels are almost always a bad idea; if you’re lucky enough to get it to work once, why press your luck? And the trailer doesn’t look super promising (give or take a lady flying out a car window). But allowances must always be made that the best set pieces in a Seth Rogen comedy aren’t allowed in the trailer. Proceed with caution.
Why You Might See It: Faith in Seth Rogen; your love of airbag related slapstick is unquenchable.
Why You Probably Won’t: Efron’s abs make you feel bad about yourself. As they should…
Alternate Viewing: Michael Shannon reading that sorority letter. Unlike comedy sequels, it just gets funnier every time I watch it.
THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE
The Skinny: Based on that mobile game you used to play instead of connecting with the outside world, this animated adventure tells the long-awaited story behind how those birds got so gosh darn angry in the first place. Starring Jason Suedeikis, Peter Dinklage, Danny McBride, Josh Gad, and in what I can only assume is the funniest joke in the entire film, Sean Penn.
My Take: Granted, it’s a very impressive voice cast (though video game nerds might argue with me including Dinklage on that end). But this is the very definition of unnecessary.
Why You Might See It: Five years ago, you thought the pull-out method was 100% effective, and now you have to reap the consequences.
Why You Probably Won’t: Oh, wait, you have kids? Yeah, then you definitely will. Sorry, bro…
Victor Fixes It: Make it the first freemium movie; you can watch Suedeikis chill out for an hour and a half, but if you want to unlock the rest of the cast, it’s going to cost you…
THE NICE GUYS
The Skinny: Hot off his dalliance in the Marvel movie world with Iron Man Three, writer-director Shane Black returns to his one true love, devilishly witty buddy detective noir. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are our buddies for this ’70s-set caper.
My Take: I love Shane Black with a fervor that borders on idolatry, so this probably wins the award for most anticipated of the summer. Plus, Russell Crowe is leaning into the “Full Brando” period of his career, and it is a joy to see him so loose.
Why You Might See It: Shane Black is one of the best screenwriters of all time and if we want smarter genre works, we need to support him.
Why You Probably Won’t: Because I’m not allowed to have nice things.
The Skinny: Hey, remember that disgraced Congressman with the self-fulfilling prophecy of a last name? Well, he’s back… in documentary form!
My Take: As the trailer itself points out, it’s an act of madness on Weiner’s part to make a documentary about his embattled campaign. But it also looks like it’s going to be about 100 times funnier than almost every comedy coming out this year.
Why You Might See It: An interest in what it takes to run a political campaign in New York City.
Why You Probably Won’t: Not enough dick pics.
The Skinny: Either the third or the eighth film in the X-Men franchise (but who’s counting?). Oscar Isaac is Apocalypse, the first and most evil-est mutant of them all, and it’s going to take the combined efforts of James McAvoy, Sophie Turner, Nicolas Hoult, Tye Sheridan, Lucas Till, Evan Peters, and many, many others to stop him, even though the only guy you care about is Michael Fassbender.
My Take: As a comics reader, I am beyond impressed that it only took seven movies in 16 years to create a worse continuity clusterfuck than the actual comics managed in four decades of history. As a film lover, I’ve enjoyed most of the X-Men movies without really liking them all that much. And despite the welcome presences of Isaac and Olivia Munn, this doesn’t look like it’s going to be exception.
Why You Might See It: Inertia.
Why You Probably Won’t: It’s your own personal protest to try and extract Jennifer Lawrence from franchise hell…
Alternate Viewing: For your Wolverine fix…
ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
The Skinny: Based as loosely as humanly possible on Lewis Carrolls classic book, this sequel to the highly profitable (and eye wateringly hideous) original reunites Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter. Not returning is director Tim Burton, replaced by James Bobin (Muppets Most Wanted). Also not returning: Alan Rickman, who voices the Blue Catepillar, and whose last role this was, in case you were still wondering whether or not this world is a fine and decent place.
My Take: Leave me behind, fellas; this is one abyss I just can’t gaze into.
Why You Might See It: You’re like, some kind of dumb idiot.
Why You Probably Won’t: Look, there is no way we haven’t passed The ‘Johnny Depp Tolerance Threshold’ at this point. We CANNOT keep sanctioning this buffoonery!
Victor Fixes It: Nothing short of a can of gasoline and a match could fix this shit…
The Skinny: A Greek comedy that’s finally making its way stateside after garnering some acclaim at last years’ Toronto Film Festival. Six men on a yachting trip get engaged in an increasingly ridiculous series of games to determine who among them is the most masculine.
My Take: I’ve been a man my entire life, and this is basically a documentary. What’s more upsetting is having to face the reality that this isn’t just a local affliction…
Why You Might See It: Because deep down you know ESPN only deals in subtext and you’re ready for a literal penis measuring contest.
Why You Probably Won’t: You’re not man enough.
TMNT:OUT OF THE SHADOWS
The Skinny: TV’s Green Arrow Steven Amell and Tyler Perry join Megan Fox in this sequel to the hit live action adaptation of the comic book, or the cartoon, or maybe it’s the breakfast cereal this time. I don’t know, the whole thing has me all twisted up inside…
My Take: Look, I understand why someone decided to make a live action Ninja Turtles movie. I even understand why it was Michael Bay’s production company that lit the fuse. And I totally get why people saw it. What I don’t get is how the simple act of adding Tyler Perry made this a must-see for me. Like, you think you know yourself, and then some shit like this happens, and everything comes into question…
Why You Might See It: I mean, it looks better than the first one. By which I mean, more faithful to the cartoon, as if that’s a barometer of quality.
Why You Probably Won’t: Common sense wins out. Though, as a gambling man, I very rarely put my money on that particular table…
Alternate Viewing: this (God help you if you click on that link…)
POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING
The Skinny: Those Lonely Island fellows make their first official movie, a mockumentary with Andy Samberg as an idiotic Justin Beiber-like pop star. Expect surprisingly on-point parody songs and an endless stream of gratuitous celebrity cameos.
My Take: Beiber is an easy target. Which is not to say that he’s not a deserving one. At any rate, I expect the Lonely Island team to get really weird and inventive with their gags, and that they will find it very difficult to maintain their level of hilarious invention for the entire film. Best case scenario: more hits than misses.
Why You Might See It: Your irrational hatred of pre-fabricated pop stars makes you think you’re better than the rest of the sheeple. And also because Hologram Adam Levine sodomizes himself.
Why You Probably Won’t: You’re on a boat.
ME BEFORE YOU
The Skinny: Caretaker Emilia Clarke falls for her latest charge, a paralyzed former banker in this romantic drama. Fun fact: I’m 99% sure I actually covered this in last years’ round-up. Well, I’m sure that bodes well…
My Take: I’ve been on record as being deeply curious whether or not Emilia Clarke is a good actor. Which, through six years of Game Of Thrones and last years Terminator debacle somehow remains an unresolved issue. Watching that weirdly incompetent trailer makes me think that at the very least, she’s trying SUPER hard. It also makes me think that there’s no one on God’s green Earth you’re going to get me into a theater to find out one way or the other…
Why You Might See It: Love! Castles! Wheelchairs!
Why You Probably Won’t: I’m pretty sure Daenerys and Clara being in the same movie has to be sending some nerd into fits of apoplexy…
Victor Fixes It: Emilia Clarke takes it down a notch. Only serial killers should smile that much, and only because that’s the only way we can tell that they’re serial killers.
THE CONJURING 2
The Skinny: The sequel to that 70s set, ‘based on a true story’ horror movie that miraculously happens to look like pretty much every other modern horror movie. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga travel to London to help a single mother deal with her literal spiritual issues.
My Take: If it’s not patently obvious by now, I jumped off the haunted horror train a long time ago, when every movie started looking exactly like this. I like Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, and James Wan is a good director, but even he has to be tired of this stuff by now.
Why You Might See It: Because you’ll see pretty much any horror movie that’s put in front of you.
Why You Probably Won’t: You’re pretty sure you already saw it. For the record, you’re basically right…
NOW YOU SEE ME 2
The Skinny: In one of those sequels that definitely exists for reasons, Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine return for more magic and heisting and… you know, whatever happened in the first movie. I don’t know, people turned into rabbits, maybe? Lizzy Caplan and (sigh…) Daniel Radcliffe join the… uh, fun, I guess….?
My Take: The first movie was surprisingly entertaining, if eminently disposable. But let’s look at what we’re dealing with here… this time, there’s no Isla Fisher, casting Radcliffe is too cute by half, and why am I supposed to be impressed by seemingly impossible magic tricks in movies? You guys know we know CGI is a thing, right?
Why You Might See It: Because deep down, you still believe in the power of magic. By which I mean an empty spectacle that can distract you from checking your Facebook profile for two or so hours…
Why You Probably Won’t: You saw Batman V Superman and you’ve exhausted your capacity to tolerate Jesse Eisenberg for the rest of 2016.
The Skinny: A mystical faraway land is invaded by another mystical faraway land, and two races (humans and orcs) begin a war for survival. Based on the colossally popular MMORPG franchise.
My Take: Even with the name brand tie-in, fantasy movies tend to be a very hard sell. I’ve never played Warcraft, so I can’t attest to how accurate/blasphemous this is as an adaptation. But to outsider eyes, it looks fairly generic, albeit with some rather impressive CGI. And that Paula Patton orc looks god damned ridiculous. Still, director Duncan Jones is responsible for both Moon and Source Code, so maybe he deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Why You Might See It: On the off chance this might be the video game movie that finally breaks the quality barrier.
Why You Probably Won’t: Twenty times bitten, twice shy…
Alternate Viewing: Labyrinth. Anybody who guesses why wins a cookie…
The Skinny: Ellen DeGeneres takes the lead in this follow-up to the modern classic Pixar ‘fish in the water’ tale. This time, her memory plagued Dory goes in search of her long-lost family. But presumably, she already had a real family this whole time or something.
My Take: As much as I loved Finding Nemo, I can’t say I’ve been missing that particular world. I’m sure the film will be decent, and I’m sure it will be a big hit, but I really don’t have much use for a Pixar that isn’t innovating.
Why You Might See It: It’s a Pixar movie. Even when they’re not good, they’re still pretty good.
Why You Probably Won’t: You’re sick of Pixar playing it safe with all these sequels, and you’re holding out for something new. Something that isn’t The Good Dinosaur, I mean…
The Skinny: Kevin Hart and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson team up in this buddy comedy about high school friends who reunite twenty years later, when one is a boring accountant and one works for the CIA. Which actor plays which part? Don’t strain yourself; you’ve already figured it out…
My Take: I am 1000% convinced that they came up with that “Little Hart, Big Johnson” spiel first and worked their way backwards to create an actual movie.
Why You Might See It: Because we as a nation will never stop hoping that Dwayne Johnson will do better.
Why You Probably Won’t: Because deep down you know that “Fat Rock” is the best gag in the whole movie, and it’s not any good at all.
SWISS ARMY MAN
The Skinny: Paul Dano plays a suicidal man on a desert island that stumbles upon the farting corpse of Daniel Radcliffe. Then they bond!
My Take: There’s two types of insane in this world: there’s the type where someone tries way too hard to convince you how weird and outrageous they are; and there’s the type where they just don’t understand why you’re backing away slowly. If I hadn’t already been convinced it was the first kind of weird, the fact the trailer credits the director as “Daniels” would have sealed the deal and made me want to punch someone in the face.
Why You Might See It: You enjoy going to movies that are more entertaining to describe than to actually sit through.
Why You Probably Won’t: You have a limited amount of time on this Earth and this is a movie about a farting corpse with a boner that teaches life lessons.
INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE
The Skinny: 20 years after Independence Day created destruction porn as we know it, Roland Emmerich returns to (lord willing) finish what he started. Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Brent Spiner, Vivica A. Fox and Sela Ward all return from the original, while professional charisma vacuum Liam Hemsworth replaces Will Smith and/or Harry Connick Jr.
My Take: Independence Day was a massive hit on account of two factors: destruction on a then unprecedented scale and the enormous charm of a young and hungry Will Smith. Now that every other movie blows up whole countries at a time and there’s no such thing as a superstar anymore, what could this possibly have to offer? Oh, yes… bigger explosions. Bravo, sirs.
Why You Might See It: A fundamental misunderstanding of how nostalgia works, wherein instead of watching that thing you loved as a kid and recalling the comfort of days gone by, you watch this new thing and realize that everybody got fatter and sadder.
Why You Probably Won’t: Because you’ve finally realized your inability to achieve orgasm without a city being vaporized means your love of destruction porn has become an addiction and you have to quit cold turkey.
Victor Fixes It: First, I’d move the release date closer to July 4th, because that’s just embarrassing. Second, I would have swapped out Chris Pratt and Jeff Goldbum so Goldblum did Jurassic World and Pratt did this. Because if you’re going to replace Will Smith with a white guy, he should at least be fun to watch…
The Skinny: Blake Lively is a surfer menaced by sharks.
My Take: I dunno… I like movies about sharks, and Blake Lively is a person who exists.
Why You Might See It: You also like movies about sharks.
Why You Probably Won’t: Maybe sharks aren’t your thing.
FREE STATE OF JONES
The Skinny: Matthew McConaughey is Newt Knight, a Mississippi farmer who responds to the Civil War by seceding from the Confederacy and claiming his own territory. Also starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Keri Russell.
My Take: It’s hard to argue that the trailer isn’t at least somewhat rousing. But it’s hard to imagine scripter/director Gary Ross reconciling the complicated politics and the more audience pleasing action scenes.
Why You Might See It: White guilt.
Why You Probably Won’t: White power.
Alternate Viewing: White Chicks
Well, that wraps up May and June. Next up: July and August!
…I mean, come on, dude. You know how months work…