And June continued 2017’s trend of failure. Yes, Wonder Woman became a bigger critical and commercial hit than anyone imagined (further showing that the DCEU has absolutely no idea what it’s doing), but beyond that? The Mummy stands to lose nearly $100 million, potentially killing Universal’s entire Dark Universe plan (for a second time). Hating on Transformers stopped being fun with The Last Knight, with even perpetual cheerleader Michael Bay seemingly devoid of any enthusiasm for this project and a lacklustre opening weekend. Even the should-have-been-innocuous family drama The Book of Henry caused reviewers to compare it to The Room and The Cobbler. July has to be better, right?
JULY 7, 2017
SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING v. A GHOST STORY
Spider-Man: Homecoming – It’s Spider-Man, again. And he’s back in high school, again. But this time, he’s part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, hanging out with Iron Man, and not constantly crying, so it’s new-ish. Obviously it’s going to be a huge hit, but will a sense of ‘been there–done that’ hurt it overall. It’s the third time we’ve seen Spider-Man in high school (twice in five years), and while the trailers look fun, it’s doesn’t look like particularly exceptional. Still, standard Marvel fare is superior to most other big budget franchises, and the early reviews have been uniformly fantastic with a 92% positive, 7.6/10 average rating. Besides, it can’t by any less coherent than The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
A Ghost Story – Director David Lowery re-teams with his Ain’t Them Bodies Saints stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara for this treatise about the life’s bittersweetness as Casey’s character dies and goes back through life as a ‘ghost’. While the trailer seems to cover this conventional ‘life is haunting but beautiful!’ ground in a very self-serious (read: self-important) way, the critical reception has been very positive with a 94% positive, 8.5/10 average rating. Note: Don’t go to the Wikipedia page, it spoils everything.
JULY 14, 2017
WAR OF THE PLANET OF THE APES v. WISH UPON v. LADY MACBETH
War of the Planet of the Apes – The little franchise that could comes back for a third round under Batman director, Matt Reeves. While Apes might not have the glitz and glamour of so many other modern franchises, it has a few things the modern incarnations of Transformers, Pirates, and The Mummy don’t have – legitimate critical acclaim. This franchise doesn’t focus on interconnected cinematic universes with plans to save the good stuff for two, three sequels down the line; both Rise (2011) and Dawn (2014) tell quality, standalone stories centered around Andy Serkis’ surprisingly complex ape Caesar. The intricacies of the fully-realized ape society in the second one is a perfect example of how Apes stands apart from most other blockbusters with its focus on quieter moments rather than the big action set piece. Early reviews of the third one indicate that it follows the trend with it presently at 96% positive, 8.3/10 average rating. This is a great example of how to do a reboot right.
Though by the fourth one, it’s time for the astronauts referenced in Rise to come back to Earth.
Wish Upon – The month’s big horror movie. It’s your classic Monkey’s Paw (be careful what you wish for) tale starring Joey King (Hollywood’s top precious tween from 2013 onward (Independence Day: Resurgence, Wish I Was Here, White House Down, Fargo‘s first season)).
Lady MacBeth – The month’s big Anglophile movie. Lady MacBeth is based on the novel Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Nikolai Leskov. Starring Florence Pugh as a woman trapped in a loveless marriage in 19th century rural England, it has gotten good reviews (92% positive, 8.1/10 average rating) for being a more morally complicated take on the conventional period piece.
JULY 21, 2017
DUNKIRK v. VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSANDS PLANETS v. GIRLS TRIP
Dunkirk – Possibly the most anticipated movie of the summer, if not the entire year, Christopher Nolan’s look at a major World War II event recently surprised everyone by revealing a run time of only 107 minutes. When was the last movie of this magnitude that clocked in under 2 hours? And for a director known for longer, high concept movies, this one being shorter and telling a more basic story further proves that Nolan is one of the few big budget directors still able to do the unexpected.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – Will Luc Besson’s nearly $225 million take on a French graphic novel skew closer to the space opera bombs of John Carter/Jupiter Ascending or the success of Guardians of the Galaxy? Probably the former. Some of the visuals look fantastic (the landscape more than creatures), and it’s good to see a movie in this genre that is actually bright rather than grey and drab. However, effects alone no longer sell movies, and we’ve seen more than enough failures over the past few years to know this. Unfortunately, the trailers keep downplaying the characters and the plot in favor of the rich planets, so it’s easy to picture this joining the long line of sci-fi failures over the past several years.
Girls Trip – While Rough Night didn’t do well, will the more urban Girls Trip do better? Possibly. It caters to an underserved audience, plus it doesn’t have the possibly off-puttig “dead body” subplot. Interestingly enough, Girls Trip actually has the higher production budget with a reported $28 million compared to the Scarlett Johansson starrer’s $20 million.
JULY 28, 2017
THE EMOJI MOVIE v. ATOMIC BLONDE v. AN INCONVENIENT TWOTH
The Emoji Movie – …
Atomic Blonde – This spy-reaps -violent-revenge movie has a lot to set it apart from others in the genre. David Leitch (John Wick, Deadpool 2) is at the helm and apparently gives us the kinetic action he has become famous for, with a cast lead by Charlize Theron and James McAvoy – who tend to elevate most movies they are in – and bolstered by The Mummy’s Sofia Boutella (one of the top scene stealers in recent years) plus the always solid John Goodman and Toby Jones.
Brigsby Bear – One of the odder-sounding films to get festival buzz, Brigsby Bear is about a sheltered man who tries to make a movie about his favorite children’s show after it has been canceled. Produced by The Lonely Island trio (Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone), directed by Epic Rap Battles/Saturday Night Live‘s Dave McCary, and starring Kyle Mooney (Saturday Night Live), it’s obtained a lot of positive attention for its heart and humor since its Sundance premiere.
An Inconvenient Twoth – And we round off the month with An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, the sequel to the Academy Award-winning An Inconvenient Truth. Hasn’t it been way too long since we had an opportunity to blindly line up with our ideological kin and deafen our ears to scream at the other side? Be prepared to be inundated with articles refuting the movie, articles refuting the refuting, and articles refuting the articles refuting the refuting. Self-righteous outrage. It is our lifeblood.
So that’s July. If any month can turn this dire year around, it’s this one. Maybe? Spider-Man? War of the Planet of the Apes? Dunkirk? The Emoji Movie? Something has to be good eventually, because August does not bode well.