The Only Summer Movie Preview You Need To Read

By Johnny Pomatto

This past weekend the summer movie season started with a bang with Marvel’s AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON.  Allow me to clarify.  The aforementioned “bang,” was a financial one.  While Marvel’s costumed heroes are already bringing in close to a billion dollars worldwide, I found the film itself to be a bit tired and soulless, especially compared to some of the better entries into the recent super hero canon.  Hardly a bad film, but undeniably a disappointing one.  It made me wonder, are these sorts of films even made for me anymore?  I like to think that I’m young at heart and still capable of enjoying a big, stupid popcorn movie as long as there’s some savvy wit and style behind it, but as I sat through the endless string of trailers at the multiplex this weekend, I got the feeling that I was no longer being courted for my ticket dollars.  Several of the films coming out this summer seem to be geared strictly towards children.  Not because they’re particularly juvenile, (though in several cases, yes they are), but because they rely on their audience being young enough to not realize that these movies have already been made.  I don’t think I know many adults who are clamoring for films like TERMINATOR: GENISYS, JURASSIC WORLD, or FANTASTIC FOUR, because we all still have fresh memories at the last failed attempts at breathing life into these stale franchises.  These reboots and sequels aren’t intended as second chances to do the franchise justice, but rather attempts to fool the youth into thinking that they are the start of something new.  Don’t believe me?  Go talk to an 8 year old and ask them what their favorite STAR WARS movie is.  Their answer is likely to have something to do with attacking clones or menacing phantoms.  This isn’t to say that I don’t hold out some hope each year to be entertained by the summer movies that make noises like “Boom,” “Kablooey,” and in some cases “Fart,” (I’m looking at you, Melissa McCarthy), but I also revel in the small, independent respites that get sprinkled throughout the season.  So listed below are the 8 MOVIES I’M MOST EXCITED TO SEE THIS SUMMER.  Some big, some small, and while all have the potential to disappoint, a small child inside of me holds out hope that these could be great films, and I’m eager to find out for myself. 

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8. LOVE & MERCY –

My mother used to tell me about the time she went to see The Beach Boys in concert and how before the show began, Brian Wilson’s doctor, Eugene Landy, came out to address the audience with the news that Wilson was suicidal and he needed all the love and support he could get.  Between each song the band would play, Landy would come onstage and say, “See, Brian? See how much they all love you? See?”  Bill Pohlad’s new film is not just a biopic of one of the greatest musicians to ever live, but also a study of his mental illness and how his life was nearly destroyed by the emotional abuse from his doctor.  Brian Wilson is being played by Paul Dano as a young man, and by John Cusack in later years, and I’ve heard reports that the two brilliantly show two sides of the same coin and compliment each other wonderfully.  Plus Paul Giamatti gets the juicy role of Dr. Landy.  There’s a few notable music biopics coming out this summer, (Ice Cube’s “Straight Outta Compton” is also strong on my radar), but this has a potential to tell the tale of a musical legend without hitting all the beats that we’re used to seeing. (6/5)

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7. TOMORROWLAND –

We’ve been down this road before.  Disney takes a theme park attraction and tries to build a story around it.  The results haven’t always been pretty.  For every halfway decent “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, there are several duds, such as “The Haunted Mansion” or… well, any of the other “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.  The one reason to get excited for TOMORROWLAND, is because it is directed by Brad Bird.  Though Bird has only one other live action film under his belt, (“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”), he has proven himself as one of the most imaginative directors working today with modern classic animated films like “The Iron Giant” and “Ratatouille.”  The trailers for TOMORROWLAND have been intentionally vague.  There’s not much to go on story-wise, but it’s also refreshing to have a film ahead of us that we don’t already know every beat that it’s going to hit.  This seems to involve George Clooney as a mysterious figure with the key to accessing the titular land through the use of a magic pin.  What might be found when we get there is anyone’s guess, but I love that this does not look like a realistic view of future, but rather a depiction of what someone like Walt Disney might have imagined the future to be in the 1950’s.  It’s futuristic and retro all at the same time, and while this could be a jumbled, sci-fi mess, (like Disney’s disastrous “John Carter”), I have enough faith in Bird to be optimistic.  (5/22)

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6. SOUTHPAW –

Just like we did a few years ago with Matthew McConaughey, we as a public are playing right into Hollywood’s hands and are doing everything we can to make Jake Gyllenhaal the next A list star.  Gyllenhaal has been making a steady climb for the last few years, giving great performances in films like “End of Watch,” “Prisoners,” and “Enemy.”  Last year should have been his year to win an Oscar for the outstanding “Nightcrawler,” but for one reason or another he got edged out.  But his success is inevitable, and he’s on an attention-grabbing path that will continue to work as long as he keeps churning out new and surprising performances.  This summer he stars in SOUTHPAW, the story of a well meaning but oafish light heavyweight boxer who has to raise his daughter alone after his wife is killed.  You’re not wrong in thinking that this sounds like cloying Oscar-bait, but Gyllenhaal has proved very effective when paired with director Antoine Fuqua before, and if this past weekend has taught us nothing, it’s that boxing is always way more interesting in the movies than it is in real life.  This could be Gyllenhaal’s “Rocky” and just the thing he needs to solidify his status as a Hollywood great.

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5. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD –

I’m generally against remakes and reboots, but I do make the occasional exceptions.  There has been talk about a new “Mad Max” film for about as long as I can remember.  When I heard it was finally happening, my heart sank.  I’m an immense fan of the first two films, (I can take or leave “Beyond Thunderdome”), and I didn’t know if you could recapture that tone in today’s softened, PG-13 filtered world. But when I saw that George Miller was returning to direct, I suddenly got excited. This does indeed look to have the spirit of the original films, though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit concerned about the CGI action and explosions peppered throughout the trailers. Back in the days of “The Road Warrior,” George Miller just had a bunch of hooligans driving around in cars, crashing into each other, and just hoped that they all survived. This seems to have removed some of the risk and just washed everything over with a rusty, orange glow. Still, I hold out hope that this film recaptures the madness I grew up on, even if Mel Gibson isn’t sitting at the wheel. (5/15)

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4. I AM BIG BIRD: THE CAROLL SPINNEY STORY-

As someone who grew up watching Sesame Street, (something I hope we can all claim to have experienced), I still have a strong affection for the history of the show and its performers.  As much as I enjoyed the Kevin Clash profile, “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey,” I must admit that Elmo was never really my guy.  But what child wasn’t obsessed with Big Bird at one time or another?  I AM BIG BIRD presents us with the story of Caroll Spinney, the man underneath all those feathers.  I met Spinney a few years ago and just hearing his high, soft voice in person was enough touch my heart.  I fully expect this film to give me tears of joy and nostalgia and I can’t wait to relive the history of the groundbreaking and revolutionary show through his eyes. (5/6)

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3. DOPE-

The decade of the 1990’s is hard to define in terms of culture and style.  While the 90’s gave birth to many of my favorite films of all time, if I think of the movies that truly captured the time and place and feel of the era, only films like “Do the Right Thing,” “Boys ‘N the Hood,” or “House Party” really come to mind.  Rick Famuyiwa’s DOPE is a throwback to films like that, telling the story of a young black teen in Inglewood who must overcome his geeky roots when he runs afoul of some drug dealers.  Expect lots of big, flat-top hair and 90’s hip-hop on the soundtrack.  DOPE was one of the hottest films to come out of this year’s Sundance film festival and it doesn’t look like any film that we’ve seen since the early 90’s.  Worth a trip of nostalgia for all of us. (6/19)

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2. TRAINWRECK-

Comedian Amy Schumer is having a moment right now. With one of the hottest sketch comedy shows out there right now, people don’t just enjoy her comedy, but they want to share her cultural observations with all their friends over social media.  I mean, how many people do you know who reposted her recent sketch with Julia Louis Dreyfus and Tina Fey?  This is why I’m expecting TRAINWRECK to be the biggest comedy hit of the summer and Schumer’s introduction as a major movie star.  It helps that it’s directed by comedy icon Judd Apatow, his first film that he hasn’t also written, and that’s a good thing.  While I’ve enjoyed all of Apatow’s films, in recent years he has gotten a bit indulgent and sacrificed some of his comic charm for introspective drama.  But this time Judd is well aware that the star of his movie is not himself.  Amy Schumer’s misadventures in love are likely to appeal to men and women equally.  It’s the one comedy my girlfriend and I won’t have to drag each other to.   (7/17)

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1. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION –

Let me try to make you understand something here.  TOM CRUISE HOLDS ON TO A F—KING PLANE WHILE IT TAKES OFF!  This actually happened!  That’s all I need to know to get excited for this ridiculous movie.  The “Mission Impossible” franchise is the closest thing Americans have to their own James Bond movies.  It’s been a great vehicle for Tom Cruise to stretch his action muscles well into his 50’s.  I don’t know if any of these films have been masterpieces, but they’ve all been fun, escapist films that never take themselves too seriously, but also never turn into cartoons, ala “The Fast and the Furious.”  In a summer full of super heroes, I can’t wait to see Tom Cruise do some human things in a spectacular way. This isn’t likely to be the best movie of the summer, but I still can’t wait to see how he gets off that damn plane! (7/31)

Other Films To Look Out For:

SLOW WEST, SAINT LAURENT, THE CONNECTION, ALOHA, INSIDE OUT, THE WOLFPACK, THE TRIBE, MR. HOLMES, THE END OF THE TOUR, ANT MAN, MAGIC MIKE XXL, STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., THE NEW GIRLFRIEND

Hear more of Johnny Pomatto’s reviews on his podcast MOVIES AND FILMS WITH JOHNNY AND FRIENDS available on iTunes

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