Ah, summer. A time of sun, heat, LFO, and the timeless, alluring pull of an air-conditioned movie theater. And yeah, times are changing. The food is better and more expensive. The theaters got rid of all the arcades, and half of them sell beer now. The screens are bigger, louder, filled with fewer movies that cost more and more money with each passing year. As you’re about to realize if you haven’t already, there are an exceptionally large number of sequels, reboots, and franchise offerings even by summer standards.
But let’s be honest. It’s still exciting. The communal experience of getting together to watch a hyped mega-budget film is something universally fun, no matter how questionable the quality of the films. Even if some of them might read really questionable at times. And the sheer law of averages suggests that there’ll be at least a few big-ticket items that transcend the hype, surprise, or at least deliver a healthy dose of excess in just the right way. The endless discussion of the relative merits of well-made, branded spectacle can be spared for another time. Right now, we’ll choose to be excited.
But this isn’t just any summer movie season, folks. Twenty years after Randy Quaid died to protect the planet from extraterrestrial evils, one of 2016’s more anticipated offerings is delivering what the people have been waiting for. Sure, Marvel and DC and some of Hollywood’s other heaviest hitters lie in wait, but Independence Day: Resurgence sees the return of one of America’s preferred cult heroes to the limelight: one Jeff Goldblum.
So when it came time to decide on a rating metric for our annual summer film preview, to convey what we’re most excited about and what we’re … less excited about, only one scientifically recognized unit of measurement felt appropriate: the Goldblum. Without any further preamble, let us walk you through 35 of the summer’s most high-profile releases. Here’s hoping your summer at the movies rates five Goldblums, folks.
Captain America: Civil War
Like death and taxes, a new Marvel blockbuster kicking off the summer has become an absolute. This time around, it’s Captain America: Civil War, which takes as its source one of the more sacred storylines in all of Marveldom. This one has a lot of promise, not least of which is the debut of (the newest take on) Spider-Man. If the trailer’s closing imagery of Iron Man doing battle with the Captain and Bucky Barnes (a.k.a the Winter Soldier) gives you goosebumps, there’s plenty to be excited about as Marvel unveils the first chapter of Phase Three. –Zack Ruskin
While Jodie Foster’s previous directorial efforts have been bold and unconventional in the modern Hollywood landscape, Money Monster looks as though it could collapse under the tonal inconsistencies of its premise. This story of a Wall Street guru (George Clooney) and the frustrated Occupier (Jack O’Connell) that takes him hostage on air looks like another case of movie stars attempting to wedge dangerous, real-life issues into a screenwriting 101 template. O’Connell’s gun-toting terrorist, for one, looks to be made of nothing but pure intentions, while the big-money moguls watching the ordeal unfold on TV react with such fear that you’d think it’s some kind of secret that the big banks are perpetuating an economic imbalance in America. Eh, Clooney’ll be good. –Randall Colburn
Yeah, Angry Birds is a film adaptation of a mobile game with no real story, which is new and therefore terrifying to the fragile bunch of filmgoers we’ve all become. But, hey, the animations are vibrant and adorable, the comedy will hopefully avoid tired pop-culture punchlines, and the voice talent consists of Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Keegan-Michael Key, and Peter Dinklage, among others. This might just be better than you think. –Randall Colburn
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
The first Neighbors checked all the necessary boxes: laughs, a shirtless Zac Efron, and just enough heart to carry along the story of two new parents who find a fraternity house has moved in next door. Neighbors 2 retains the original cast but adds in Chloe Grace Moretz, Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson, and more as Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne battle with a new sorority house. The premise is flimsy, but the talent is solid, and let’s be real: We were never seeing the first Neighbors for its nuanced story anyways. –Zack Ruskin
The Nice Guys
Since it’s a Shane Black movie, any post about The Nice Guys carries an obligatory demand with it: Go watch Kiss Kiss Bang Bang before you see this one. Not only is it fantastic (and one of the great slept-on films of the aughts), but it’s likely that Black’s latest will follow in its brutal, funny neo-noir footsteps. The story of a P.I. (Ryan Gosling) and an all-purpose heavy (Russell Crowe) dragged into a sprawling murder conspiracy, this is one of the summer’s most promising films and will more than likely be one of its weirdest. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
Alice Through The Looking Glass
Disney’s Alice in Wonderland was a huge hit back in 2010, more than successful enough to warrant a sequel, but it’s also worth keeping in mind that it was one of film’s biggest beneficiaries of the post-Avatar 3D boom. Whether James Bobin (taking over for Tim Burton, who’s producing) can recapture that magic remains to be seen; he’s retained the wild visuals that appealed to so many the first time around, but has also doubled down on the wackiness that alienated others, if that break-dancing Mad Hatter is any indication. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
For a franchise that’s spawned seven consecutive nine-figure hits since 2000, the X-Men movies almost seem to get lost in the shuffle at times in a film world dominated by talk of what Marvel and DC are doing next. But Days of Future Past was a hit with both critics and audiences, and the early promotion for Apocalypse suggests that Bryan Singer’s plan is simple: Go bigger. More X-Men, more destruction, more everything. If Singer can retain the quality that the series has generally maintained so far, it’ll be eight hits in a row. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Yeah, yeah, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows will probably be dumber and even more Michael Bay-esque than its predecessor, but let’s all take a moment to acknowledge that it’s giving us a fairly faithful version of Bebop and Rocksteady, which is more than Secret of the Ooze can say. They’re also bringing the masked Casey Jones into the universe, though not casting Elias Koteas again was a huge mistake. We don’t care how old he is! –Randall Colburn
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
The idea behind Popstar is so obvious that it’s sort of surprising it hasn’t been done by now. But few comedy think tanks are more suited to a long-form parody of wanky, label-mandated pop singer “documentaries” than The Lonely Island. The trio wrote the film’s screenplay, and Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer direct Andy Samberg as Conner4Real, a superstar who sets out on a nonsense journey of self-reinvention after his latest album flops. It’s going to be weird, filthy, and probably a good time. – Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
It’s rumored that Warcraft’s production budget will easily land in the $100 million range, which is amazing for a major-studio video game adaptation of a property that saw its peak relevance come and go at least a half-decade ago. Duncan Jones has done some fine genre work in recent years (Moon, Source Code), but hard fantasy is a tough sell and the trailers’ striking resemblance to in-game WoW cutscenes isn’t suggesting a movie that’s going to find the crossover audience it badly needs. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
Now You See Me 2
Now You See Me was a surprise hit three years ago, and if you know anything about the modern film industry, you know that any and all surprise hits get their own franchises now, whether or not the preceding films actually call for it. The primary cast is back for the most part, with Lizzy Caplan replacing Isla Fisher, and … well, you know what you’re getting. It’s a movie about street magic that exists in what appears to be David Blaine’s most sensual dreams, a world where high-end illusionists are the most venerated rockstars walking among us today. It’ll probably be just as preposterous as its predecessor and will hopefully retain some of its sense of goofy escapism. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
The Conjuring 2
The Conjuring was good only by the ever-shrinking standards set by mainstream studio horror. It had a gripping story and some nice performances, but like Insidious before it, the film relied far too much on creepy kids and ghosts in harsh makeup for scares. This sequel again follows real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, but this time focuses on their work on the famous Enfield poltergeist case. Director James Wan is an extremely talented filmmaker (his work on Furious 7 was phenomenal), but with horror he consistently opts for cheap jump scares over any resonant sense of mounting dread or tension. A more interesting film would be about how the Warrens were full of shit. Because they were. –Randall Colburn
Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson are two of the most talented performers working in studio comedies today, but charisma alone can’t elevate stock comedy like this. From the trailer’s boast that it comes “from the directors of We’re the Millers” to the film’s reliance on the big/small dynamic of the stars, this thing looks excruciatingly unfunny and far too reliant on the image of The Rock in a fat suit. –Randall Colburn
Pixar’s luck with the sequel game has been a mixed bag. Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 were both worthy successors to the film that made Pixar a household name, but Cars 2 was a movie no one asked for, and Monsters University failed to channel the essence of its predecessor. Now, Pixar will roll the dice with a follow-up to one of their most revered properties in Finding Nemo. Is Finding Dory up to the task or is it doomed to flounder? –Zack Ruskin
Free State of Jones
Free State of Jones tells the story of Newton Knight, a controversial southern Unionist who led an uprising of Southerners against the Confederacy during the Civil War. Some stories suggest that Knight even attempted to start a free colony inside Mississippi while the war was still going on, which looks to be the focus of Gary Ross’ film. Knight is a fascinating (if oft-debated) figure, and as played by Matthew McConaughey, we can only imagine that he’ll suggest to the Confederates more than once that it’d be a lot cooler if they brought the war to its inevitable end. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer