Summer 2017 film preview


With the sequel to “Guardians of the Galaxy” guaranteed to bring in a boatload of cash this weekend, the summer movie season won’t disappoint audiences looking for the usual spectacle of comic-book and superhero fare, as “Wonder Woman” featuring Gal Gadot opens June 2 and the umpteenth reboot of the “Spider-Man” franchise — this time with Tom Holland donning the tights — on July 7.

Personally, I just want to see Kurt Russell, still boyishly handsome at 66, show up Chris Pratt in the “Aw, shucks” department. The adaptation I’m most excited for is Luc Besson’s “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” (July 21) with Dane DeHaan, who was impressive in February’s creeptastic “A Cure for Wellness,” and Cara DeLevigne, who will redeem her feature roles from last year’s “Suicide Squad” with this and August’s “Tulip Fever” (also with DeHaan).

As happy as I am for “Wonder Woman” challenging the boys’ club within the DC universe (“Captain Marvel” with Brie Larson is projected for March 2019), this summer’s femmes énervées appear in other genres traditionally led by male characters as well, including westerns and action/adventure, as early as May 19.

Katherine Waterston leads a crew aboard a colony ship who encounter an uncharted planet in Ridley Scott’s “Alien: Covenant,” which takes place 10 years after the events of 2012’s Prometheus. Scott appears to return to the claustrophobic terror of his 1979 original film and the trailers don’t skimp on extreme gore; plus, Michael Fassbender plays not one but two Bowie-esque androids! On July 28, Charlize Theron is MI:6 agent Lorraine Broughton in David Leitch’s “Atomic Blonde,” based on the graphic novel “The Coldest City” about double agents and spy games in 1980s Europe. A seasoned stuntman and stunt coordinator, Leitch has signed on for “Deadpool 2” in 2018, and “Blonde,” his first complete feature, killed at SXSW largely due to its slick, sexy style and Theron’s captivating presence as a cutthroat, terrifyingly seductive agent. Costar Sofia Boutella, who plays a duplicitous French agent, will also be featured in the “Mummy” reboot (June 8), as the princess Ahmanet opposite Tom Cruise.

Two films featuring female ensembles may fail to break new ground in the comedy genre, but be saved by the chemistry of their stellar casts. “Rough Night” (June 16), starring Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Zoe Kravitz, and Kate McKinnon as friends on a bachelorette weekend who accidentally kill a male stripper and try to cover it up. It looks like a remake of 1998’s “Very Bad Things” (one of my favorite Cameron Diaz movies), but with “SNL” it-girl McKinnon, “Big Little Lies” standout Kravitz, and the hilariously deadpan Bell, it may bring the violence and vulgarity of the premise some needed charm. Likewise, “Girls Trip” (July 20) reunites Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith along with Tiffany Haddish and the underrated, fantastic Regina Hall on a boozy, raucous party through the Big Easy.

On the other hand, an intriguing drama featuring a large female cast is Sofia Coppola’s adaptation of Thomas Cullinan’s Southern gothic novel “The Beguiled” (June 30), about a wounded Union soldier taken into a private girls’ boarding school during the Civil War and catalyzing their hormones, jealousies, and rivalries before the delicate magnolias turn on him. Originally a 1971 film with Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page, it now features Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell as well as Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, a shadowy, candlelit mansion and delicious costume design.

So many Sundance, SXSW, and Tribeca selections enter wide release this summer, bringing fresh, epic, violent, iconoclastic, and/or intimate selections to appeal to every palate. Suki Waterhouse may be this June’s answer to Furiosa in “The Bad Batch” (June 22), directed by Ana Lily Amirpour (“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”), in which she romances Jason Momoa (jealous!) in the midst of a cannibalistic society led by Keanu Reeves (double jealous!). From the saturated colors to the practical special effects of amputated limbs, this film looks crazy and I can’t wait to see it. On the other end of the spectrum is veteran actor and ageless heartthrob Sam Elliot in “The Hero” (June 9) as a washed-up western star looking for a fresh start with family, in love, and in his career. Featuring Laura Prepon as his sarcastic love interest and Nick Offerman as his best friend (and pot dealer), this is Elliot’s second round with director Brett Haley (“I’ll See You in My Dreams”), and the film both capitalizes on his intensity and charm and pokes gentle fun at the western persona itself.

Horror fans don’t have to fear slim pickings, either. Scared of sharks, tight spaces, and drowning? Harness those phobias and see “47 Meters Down” (June 16), with Mandy Moore and Claire Holt as sisters who venture into a shark cage to see the predators up close and, lo and behold, the rope securing it to the tour boat snaps and they fall to the ocean floor off the Mexican coast. To make their vacation extra fun, they only have an hour of oxygen in their tanks and Jaws & Friends soon arrive for the buffet. Another horror offering in June is “It Comes At Night” with Joel Edgerton as a desperate father in the midst of a worldwide plague or monster or supernatural presence — the trailer is deliberately vague on the threat which makes the scenes even more ominous — who has secured his family’s forest home … and then others arrive needing help. Soon, cracks begin to appear in the fortifications as well as the father’s sanity, leading to anxiety and distrust among everyone in the house.

It seems there are two camps of fans concerning Tupac Shakur, the rapper-poet-actor who was killed in 1996 at age 25: those who were of age to see him in concert or on music videos and remembered when he was shot in Las Vegas, and those who know him as a legendary figure, the posthumous albums and single releases, and the Coachella hologram. Judging by the trailer for the biopic “All Eyez on Me,” director Benny Boom tries to balance the poet and the showman, the message and the medium, the life and the lifestyle of one of the most iconic, critical, and provocative voices in rap.

Finally, in the scorching heat of August, comes one of the most anticipated films of 2017: “The Dark Tower” (Aug. 4), Nikolaj Arcel’s adaptation of the Stephen King fantasy series about Roland Deschain, known as The Gunslinger, who pursues Walter O’Dim, the “Man in Black” across a western landscape in search of the fabled tower that holds the universe together (and also ties in aspects of other King novels as well). Played respectively by Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, the film contains aspects of science fiction, action, and western genres as the quest pits good against evil.

All in all, this is a quirky summer and I’m excited to see unique and smaller films gain positive buzz to compete with the corporate behemoths that pepper the celluloid landscape. It will be a season of variety for viewers of all preferences to enjoy.