Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Six for Summer: Top picks for the hot movie season

 The summer movie season is upon us.

I know, I know... you're saying, "Hey, it's only mid-April! How can you call this the time for summer flicks?" The truth is the summer season has moved up earlier and earlier. And it ends sooner, too. The biggest movies are usually done by the Fourth of July.

The first Friday in May had been the official kickoff for many years. Then the "Fast and the Furious" franchise made April the new hot thing by racking up massive box office in that month. Last week saw "The Jungle Book" debut to huge numbers, and "Batman v Superman" a couple of weeks before that.

Since I'm not doing a full summer movie preview this year, I thought I'd at least pick the films I'm personally most looking forward to in mid-2016. Let's call it "Six for Summer."

Captain America: Civil War

(May 6) Some people are complaining about the spate of super hero movies taking over cinemas. But audiences certainly don't seem to be tiring of them, based on the grosses of the last few films. And neither am I. The trailers have been a big hit and hype is out of this world.

Don't be surprised if "Captain America: Civil War" contends for the prize of top-grossing film of the year.

In this go-round based on a huge multi-comic mashup, the super hero world squares off against each other in a fight over accepting government control -- including their secret identities. Captain America is the leader of the freedom movement, while Iron Man heads up the opposition.

There's a particular excitement for this film since Marvel is finally going to integrate its box office champion, Spider-Man, into the mix.

X-Men: Apocalypse

(May 27) Speaking of super-heroes, the "other" big comics film franchise -- which has existed in a parallel cinematic universe due to ownership rights -- is up at bat again after having "retconned" everything in the last movie. Jennifer Lawrence returns as Mystique, Michael Fassbender as Magneto, James McAvoy as Charles Xavier, etc. Sophie Turner of "Game of Thrones" takes over the pivotal role of psychic Jean Grey.

It's essentially a next-generation tale, with Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and the old gang turning over their characters to younger actors.

Here Oscar Isaac plays Apocalypse, a super-powerful bad guy who intends to make the entire race extinct with the help of his four horsemen. By the way, this will be the first X-flick without Wolverine. Despite remaining the most popular character, two attempts at solo movies didn't cut it.

Finding Dory

(June 17) Many people feel "Finding Nemo" represented the apex of Disney/Pixar animation, so anticipation for the long-rumored sequel is deeper than the deep blue sea.

In this plot the blue tang with short-term memory loss -- unforgettably voiced by Ellen DeGeneres -- goes on a quest to find her long-lost family. Albert Brooks is back as worrywart clown fish Marlin, and new voice talents include Idris Elba, Diane Keaton, Bill Hader, Michael Sheen and Eugene Levy.

What I liked about "Nemo," "Up," "Wall-E" and other top Pixar films is they blended a child-like sense of wonder at the world with some very grown-up ideas and morals. Not to mention groundbreaking CGI.


(July 1) Director Stephen Spielberg returns to the themes of his early career, reteaming with "E.T." screenwriter Melissa Mathison in this adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel. There's not a lot of visibility for this movie right now, but I expect that to change as the trailer starts getting some play in theaters in May and June.

A young girl encounters a "big friendly giant" and finds he's not the terrible child-eating beast they're made out to be. In fact, he's something of an outcast himself because if his more humane dietary choices.

Also, despite being the size of a building, he's actually a pipsqueak among his people. The part was originally supposed to be played by Robin Williams, but alas things did not work out.

This one could be pure magic.


(July 15) There's a huge backlash against this remake because some guys are apparently offended by the idea of a group of girls replacing Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson.

I don't know what to say other than: "Dudes, get over yourselves."

Melissa McCarthy headlines, and she's currently the most consistently bankable star in Hollywood right now. Add in Kristen Wiig, who deliberately chose smaller and more dramatic projects after her "Bridesmaids" breakout. Lesser-known stars Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones seem like good fits.

In a cheeky post-feminist nod, hunky Chris Hemsworth plays their receptionist.

Forget the naysayers and chat room trolls. They have the tools, they have the talent.

Suicide Squad

(August 5) -- D.C. Comics' second foray into building their own franchise starts with the counter-intuitive notion of making the villains the main characters. Here the government rounds up super-powered bad guys and give them a shot at getting out of prison in exchange for doing their dirty work.

The most talked about aspect, of course, is Oscar winner Jared Leto being cast as the Joker. After Heath Ledger gave the character his own iconic stamp before his early death, some are wondering if it's possible -- or even appropriate -- to reboot the character with another performer. I see: Let's see what he does with it.

Will Smith plays Deadshot, Margot Robbie is Harley Quinn and plays the Enchantress.

And ol' Batman himself -- well, the new Batman, Ben Affleck -- turns up for a cameo.

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