Summer is always a time to pursue your interests, whatever they may be. Vacation. Travel. Weddings. Wine. Vegas. Bunko. Yada yada.
It’s no different for films. For summer 2019, I know you’re anticipating a summer feast, an annual tradition since the invention of Jaws back in 1975. Just be aware: If you’re looking for new films, there are going to be sequels. Lots and lots of sequels. It seems that summer has become the season of reruns. Still, it doesn’t mean we can’t find some gems, even if you’re sitting in a theater and saying, “Wait a minute, haven’t I seen . . .?”
Aladdin – May 24
Disney is busy this summer with live remakes of previously animated films. First up is Aladdin,the live version without, alas, our motor-mouthed genie, Robin Williams. His replacement, Will Smith, has big shoes to fill. With Mena Massoud as the street urchin Aladdin and Naomi Scott as his beloved princess. Post-Madonna hubbie Guy Ritchie is at the helm.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters – May 31
Somehow, this beloved giant reptile just keeps coming back. He’s unstoppable, I tell you. This time, he does battle with his classic enemies, Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah. Really, you ask? Does the world need another Godzilla? Well, this is number 35 and counting. So stop asking. Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga say otherwise. And yes, eventually, we’re going to get Godzilla vs. Kong. Fight location to be determined.
Rocketman – May 31
Elton John, the live version. With British actor and singer Taron Egerton doing his own vocals and Julian Day producing the costumes. It’s not a biopic, per say, more of a musical fantasy which attempts to capture the spirit of John the performer. If you’ve grown up with the piano prodigy as I have, this should be a wonderful spectacle. Sequins, gowns, platform shoes, weird glasses. And the music. If you think Lady Gaga invented concert theatrics, meet her predecessor and performance savant.
Dark Phoenix – June 7
Want more X-Men? Well, how about an X-Woman? Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner takes on the role of Jean Grey, an extremely powerful mutant with telepathic and telekinetic powers. Grey is injured during a rescue mission and becomes caught in a dual role as herself and the more sinister Phoenix. This is the first in the series to star a woman. Girlpower breaks the X ceiling. Supposedly the seventh and final installment in the X series, but we’ll see.
The Dead Don’t Die – June 14
You wouldn’t associate director Jim Jarmusch and zombies in the same sentence, but the always-surprising director brings in Adam Driver and Bill Murray as a couple of small-town cops who are beleaguered by a zombie invasion. Their deadpan humor is Jarmusch deluxe. And get a look at Tilda Swinton, the cross-dressing samurai undertaker. This is the first of my two weird delights for the summer.
Toy Story 4 – June 21
Why? After such a beautiful send-off in 2010, what could compel Disney and Pixar to write another version in this beloved series? I don’t know. Maybe . . . money? This story is a sequel to Toy Story 3 and directed by John Cooley, who worked on the Pixar film Inside Out. It brings back most of the old stars and adds some new ones, especially Tony Hale as “Forky,” a spork turned toy. I’m a little nervous about this. Lots of behind-the-scenes tension over this production.
Yesterday – June 28
So what if there had never been a band called the Beatles? And yet, you wake up from an accident and remember all their music? Himesh Patel plays Jack Malik, a struggling musician who survives a bus accident, only to find that he’s the only one who knows Beatles songs. So, he becomes famous, even Beatleish, but at what cost? Featuring Kate McKinnon and directed by Danny Boyle, it’s a fantasy romp through strawberry fields forever. This film promises a little sentiment, a little romance and a lot of good music, with some original work by singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran.
Spider-Man: Far From Home – July 2
Tom Holland returns for another reboot of 2017’s Spidey. Which one is this? I know. I can’t keep track either. Just for the record, it’s number 25. This time, Peter Parker goes on a trip to Europe and — surprise, surprise — he meets Marvel’s Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Well, yeah, it is kind of a surprise. Directed again by Jon Watts, it features Jake Gyllenhaal as their superhero companion Mysterio. If Spidey is involved, it could be trouble. Webs everywhere. Where does he find the time?
21 Bridges – July 12
This one sounds like guns, blood and guts. Chadwick Boseman, lately of Black Panther, is Andre Davis, a disgraced NYPD detective who somehow manages to put all of New York City on lockdown in order to find a gang of cop killers. Don’t ask me how. I would think the mayor would have something to say about this. It’s chaos and bang-bang with the talented Boseman rising in the heat. And maybe a love interest in the beautiful Sienna Miller? Don’t look now, but she also carries a gun. Oh yeah. More bang for your buck.
The Lion King – July 19
Hakuna matata, are these real lions come back to regale us with lion tales? Well, as close as we can get without getting our eyes torn out. Thank heavens for CGI. Once again, Disney cannot leave well enough alone. With director Jon Favreau (Jungle Book) at the helm, however, there’s hope that this may be a big hit. Favreau is a talented storyteller and director, and the cast is good: Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Seth Rogen and James Earl Jones. Noted film musician Hans Zimmer is back, as well as singer /songwriter Elton John and some assist from Queen Beyoncé and theatrical songwriter Tim Rice. Here’s hoping.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold – July 31
Beloved Nickelodeon cartoon Dora the Explorer comes to the big screen. Starring Isabela Moner as the title character, with support from Eugenio Derbez, Michael Peña, Eva Longoria, Danny Trejo and Benicio del Toro. If you’re thinking this is the cartoon character, guess again. Dora is struggling as a teen in high school. She travels to South American to find an ancient Incan city and rescue her parents. Nope, this is not your little Dora. She’s growing up right in front of our eyes.
Brian Banks – Aug. 9
What would summer be without a true-life inspirational story? Has Greg Kinnear found his uplifting mojo or what? Based on the life of Brian Banks, a high school football star who was falsely accused of rape and spent six years in prison. This promises to be a tug-at-your-heartstrings film with an inspirational ending. And a shot at the NFL. Directed by comedy writer Tom Shadyac and starring Aldis Hodge as Brian Banks and Kinnear as his attorney, Justin Brooks.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Aug. 16
Yes, it’s August, but our other favorite offbeat director, Richard Linklater, manages to slide in under the wire with his adaptation of the best-selling novel by Maria Semple. This is my top weird selection No. 2. Bernadette (Cate Blanchett) is a hateful mother and wife. She doesn’t want to leave the house. She hates the other parents at her daughter Bee’s school. She’s generally a crank who wouldn’t normally be missed if she disappeared. But she does disappear, and I suppose Bee (Emma Nelson) must go looking for her. Knowing Linklater, there’s got to be weird in here somewhere. So, if he’s directing, I’m buying.
Overcomer – Aug. 23
Another inspirational story, this one a faith-based sports drama about a high school cross-country coach, John Harrison (starring director Alex Kendrick), who, with the prayers of friends, transforms real-life runner Olivia Brooks (Priscilla Shirer) into a cross-country champion. The Kendrick brothers (Alex and Stephen) are building a résumé of faith-based films. This is their sixth production.