2016 Summer movie preview Part 1: Playing the odds
Welcome to our 2016 summer movie preview! This is part one of two, covering films released between mid-April through June. Part two (coming soon), will focus on the rest.
Although the summer doesn’t technically start until June 20, the summer movie season is no longer confined to the whims of the Earth’s orbit. Hollywood cares little for your pesky Gregorian calendar, and as a result the summer movie season keeps getting longer and longer.
This year, you can make the argument that the summer movie season starts in April. If you want to get weird about it, you can even argue that the summer movie season began in March with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but that borders on silly. Instead, we’ll stick with April.
We are also picking and choosing the films that fit with the stuff we normally cover. While the Japanese drama Our Little Sister, about a family dealing with a recently deceased, absentee father sounds delightful, it doesn’t really fit with a site that covers pills that make your farts smell like chocolate and weed smoking AI. We call our shots.
We also laid some very basic odds on whether or not the film will be any good – of course, “good” is subjective. A film can make a billion dollars and suck, and it can bomb and become a classic. Transformer: Revenge of the Fallen almost hit ten figures, while Blade Runner barely made its production budget back. If you legitimately want to argue that Revenge of the Fallen was a better film, get the hell off our site.
Good doesn’t necessarily equal lucrative, and there will probably be some awful movies this year that make a lot of money. So while we hope the best films of the summer are also the most financially successful, we’re not holding our breath.
We just want to see movies that don’t suck.
And now on to the 2016 summer movie preview! Look to the west for part 2, coming soon.
The Jungle Book
It’s fitting to kick off the summer movie season with an unasked for reboot that mines our childhood memories and remakes them with a huge amount of CGI.
The Jungle Book is one of those films that really didn’t need to be remade, but what the hell. Arguing against reboots and remakes at this point is a losing battle. You may as well argue against the rise of kale. It’s here, get used to it, God help us all.
With that said, The Jungle Book isn’t necessarily a bad film to remake. The original holds up, but there aren’t enough high profile movies currently coming out that actually have a decent message. The more the better. We’re just lucky that this remake doesn’t feature a gritty and bitter Mowgli that swears vengeance against Shere Khan and survives by ripping the throats out of animals.
One day, years from now, we may look back and call this the “gritty age” of entertainment – assuming we survive long enough as a species to look back on these days. But in the meantime, hang on to the good moments when you can, and this movie promises a few.
Plus, director Jon Favreau has a weirdly successful relationship with characters created through CGI. That’s between him and his therapist, but it makes for good, special-effects heavy movies.
Odds of it being good: High
Yeah, ok, this one is a bit of a cheat. We’ve already seen the movie and it was good.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War
It’s something of miracle that this film exists – but not the good “someone miraculously pulled me out of the river before I drowned” sort of way, more the “he drank so much it’s a miracle he’s still alive” type.
The first film, Snow White and the Huntsman has a bizarre legacy. Many were with left with a negative impression of its star Kristen Stewart thanks to an affair with then-married director, Rupert Sanders.
It’s not like having an affair is a good thing on any level, but Stewart seemed to receive an unfair percentage of the public’s scorn, while Sanders took a lengthy vacation and returned just in time to piss people off over an entirely different controversy. His new film Ghost in the Shell tested out the possibility of digitally making his very white actors look more Asian, rather than just, ya know, casting Asians. Sanders’ Wikipedia page is going to end up having one hell of a “controversy” section.
It’s unfair to attack Stewart alone for her role in the off-screen issues – especially when there are so many problems that you can legitimately attack in her performance.
From her cold, bored eyes, to her kind of British accent that sometimes sounded like a speech impediment, Stewart’s performance as the lead was awful. The sequel features Oscar-nominee Jessica Chastain and Golden Globe winner Emily Blunt, who will try their best to fill the void left by the multiple MTV Movie Awards nominee. It will be tough, but fingers crossed.
The film also brings back Hemsworth and Charlize Theron in a film that is one part prequel, one part sequel. It tells the story of the Huntsman’s presumed dead wife, and the Evil Queen’s not at all Frozen-inspired sister. There will also, apparently, be a war of some kind, and winter will probably be involved.
Odds of it being good: Low to Moderate
The first film made decent money, but it may have tainted the brand with off camera shenanigans. Even putting that aside, it wasn’t very good. The upgrade in cast should help, but it is still a middling franchise – although it could always surprise us.
The pitch for this movie must have been bizarre. “We have an idea – it’s about a couple of guys and a kitten-“ “Let me stop you right there.” Then the people pitching the project would get shown the door. They wouldn’t even get their parking validated.
But this film comes from the proven comedy team of Key and Peele, and it marks their first feature film. It’s a bold move to lead into a new medium using a gangsta kitten, but the duo has a lot of goodwill saved up, and it is well earned. The rest of the cast is also fairly impressive, which helps.
Still, it’s a film about a pair of average guys whose beloved kitten is stolen. They go “undercover” in order to get their kitten back, and end up in a gang war. It’s one of the few true comedies on this list, making it worth seeing this summer, if comedy is your thing.
It’s also worth mentioning that it is one of the few completely original high profile summer movies coming out this year. It isn’t a sequel or a reboot, and it’s not even based on a comic or novel. That alone makes it worth supporting.
Odds of it being good: Moderate
The film debuted at SXSW to mostly good reviews. Special screenings are tricky – sometimes a good event can make a bad movie seem better, but Key and Peele are on a roll, and the movie has potential. Even if it is about a gangsta kitten.
Ratchet & Clank
Yeah, sure, we are kind of homers when it comes to video game properties, and Ratchet & Clank is one of the best franchises around. And granted, most films based on video games are nearly crimes against humanity, but there are still good reasons to be excited for this film.
First, it’s an animated movie. That fits perfectly with the style of the game, which in turn should make for an easier adaptation. It could still be a steaming pile of bad ideas, but the voice cast is just insane. From Sylvester Stallone to John Goodman to Paul Giamatti, if this were a live action film the budget would be so incredibly large thanks to the cast salaries that the entire movie would need to be filmed in a rock quarry to save money.
Ratchet & Clank is an origin story about a boy and his forbidden love with the mechanical Clank. That love takes the form of an epic soldierly bromance, but you can read between the lines. When Ratchet hits someone with a gun that fires in time with the “Overture of 1812,” he’s really saying “I love you.”
None of that may be true, but it is a wacky game that will hopefully produce a wacky movie that also entertains. The games blend action, humor, and even heart, and there’s no reason that an animated film version can’t recapture all of that.
Odds of it being good: Moderate to High
If this movie were released in a vacuum, the odds of it being good would be higher, but there is a LOT of baggage when it comes to films based on games. Even when you think a studio finally gets it when it comes to movies based on games, they go and drop a Hitman: Agent 47 or a Resident Evil whatever number they are up to. Hopefully this movie will escape that stigma.
Captain America: Civil War
If this film isn’t a huge hit, there will be blood in the streets. The early reaction has been great so far, with critics and fans both praising it as one of the best superhero films of all time. Of course, many of us were burned by early reviews of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, so take nothing for granted.
If you don’t know the story by now, you probably aren’t reading this article anyway, because you must not have been online in the last few weeks. The film is everywhere. Even if you jump onto the internet just to grab a knitting pattern, you can’t avoid it.
Seriously, there are dozens of Civil War patterns. You can’t escape it. And if you try, Disney and Marvel will find you and study you like an animal in the wild, wondering where their marketing went wrong. Then they will find the weak link and utterly destroy it. UTTERLY.
That said, Captain America: Civil War is basically the third Avengers movie, even though it specifically revolves around the narrative coursing through the Captain America films. In other words, make sure you are up to date on your Marvel film lore. If not, go ahead and carve out a few days and tell your loved ones you’re doing important “research. “
Odds of it being good: Very High
There is still every chance that this film could pull a Batman v Superman, but unlike Zack Snyder’s joyless DC murderverse, Civil War is the result of years of work. Marvel Entertainment has a proven track record, and a very clear vision of what works and what doesn’t. It may not win over the haters, but at the very least it should be entertaining.
The Angry Birds Movie
You know how in the Ratchet & Clank entry we mentioned that there are a lot of really bad films based on video games? Well…
One of the main reasons video game movies frequently don’t work is that the filmmakers develop the property the wrong way around. They have a single concept, then work backwards from there. The Angry Birds Movie comes from the same studio that brought us the classic disaster (of a) movie Pixels, and it suffers from the same issue that killed that dumpster fire of a film.
Like Pixels, The Angry Birds is a single idea that someone stretched out into an hour and a half feature. The movie is based on a game where birds attack pigs. It’s not even a deep game, but it is a profitable one. So here we are.
Someone somewhere saw how crazy popular The Angry Birds game was, and so they hired someone to make a movie based on it. That’s a terrible way to make a film. It’s almost sad how obvious the ending is going to be. Spoilers: the angry bird will use a slingshot to knock something over.
To pad out the other 98-percent of the film, the story reaches into the plot-by-numbers grab bag and features a character that is picked on for being different, but that difference sets up something that makes him special and uniquely qualified to save the day. If you haven’t seen this trope before, you are a miracle.
It could still be decent. After all, what could possibly go wrong? “When marketing determines the direction of creative, only good things happen,” said no one ever.
Odds of it being good: Low, so, so low
The film has a mostly good voice cast, a Simpsons alum as a writer, and an absolutely stupid, borderline offensive $80 million budget. It may be a hit with kids, but the chances of it being a good movie are low.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
The 2014 Neighbors was a simple idea done well. It was about a generation that doesn’t actually mature, growing older and facing the consequences of that. It was a huge hit. Neighbors cost $18 million to make and took in $270 million. Not bad for a movie that was basically set almost entirely in just two houses.
The sequel probably won’t break any molds. The story even sounds fairly similar – it features a new set of bad neighbors, this time in the form of a sorority. There will probably be some new jokes, but the general idea of neighbors being crappy to one another in hilarious ways remains.
Although there are plenty of films on this list with humor injected into them, this is one of the few traditional comedies on the list. Given that it will be competing against several other major releases, the studio seems to have faith in its ability to shine.
Or it wants to bury it and sees the summer as a good time to make sure it is forgotten.
Odds of it being good: Moderate
The pedigree is good, so there’s no reason not to think it won’t be good movie. And given that the competition on the comedy front is fairly wide open, the odds are good that it will also do well at the box office.
The Nice Guys
The Nice Guys is the best example in this list of why having the right people involved makes a huge difference.
Take a movie set in the 1970s, featuring a burned out PI and a criminal enforcer, and have them go look for a missing girl. On the surface that may be an interesting, but forgettable concept. At best it’s an indie film. But then you add Ryan Gosling as the PI, Russell Crowe and the enforcer, and get Shane Black to direct it, and you have one of the most interesting movies of the summer.
The weirdest thing about this film is the timing. Given Black’s history and the trailer so far, The Nice Guys will be a buddy action-comedy in the vein of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and yet it’s going up against the dick and fart filled Neighbors 2 and the kid magnet Angry Birds. Why even have this movie in the summer at all? It would kill in the fall, but now it is in the middle of some sick competition – even if it stars Gosling and Crowe.
It’ll be interesting seeing Crowe in a role where he isn’t taking himself too seriously. As long as he can avoiding punching someone during the press tour and getting the movie the wrong publicity, this film has a lot of promise.
Odds of it being good: High
Black is one of the most underrated directors in Hollywood right now, and he has an ability to get the most out of his actors. With that much talent at his disposal, and a unique story and setting, this one could be great – although there’s also a very good chance it will bomb at the box office given the distinct lack of robots and superheroes.
Alice Through the Looking Glass
And now we return to the realm of movie sequels that no one asked for.
Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is such a weird movie – not in terms of content, all Burton’s films are varying degrees of weird – but the movie somehow, someway made over a billion dollars.
In a lot of ways, this sequel completely exemplifies what is wrong with the Hollywood system. It’s not unusual for a mediocre film to make a ton of money, but Alice in Wonderland was aggressively mediocre. Both critics and audiences gave it two “mehs” up, and most damningly, the film was just forgettable. If it weren’t for the well-known source material, it would have been totally forgotten. Instead it made money so someone pushed for another, quality be damned.
Alice Through the Looking Glass is a film that absolutely no one was asking for, and yet here we are with a sequel in all its $200 million budget glory. And it doesn’t even have the name Tim Burton to bank on (he is a producer though). Instead, the film is relying on Muppets director James Bobin. Good luck to him as he tries to reign in Johnny Depp.
Sure, the billion dollars the previous film made is a tempting reason to make another, but it was the milquetoast of the billion dollar movies, bland and barely more than sustenance. But hey, a billion dollars. With a B.
The film picks up where the last one left off. Probably. No one remembers where the last one left off, but the new film probably stars Alice and an increasingly bewildering Depp as the Mad Hatter. So there’s that.
Odds of it being good: Low
The sequel to the forgotten billion dollar movie probably won’t reach the same heights at the box office, but there is a good chance it will be forgotten just as completely.
This film will be as much a test of director Bryan Singer as the X-Men franchise itself.
Despite some early homeruns, as a director he has had moderate success – he’s benefited by the massive X-franchise, but you can make a good argument that the current success of X-films is hugely due to Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class and the decision to ignore the previous films.
Singer’s stint on Days of Future Past used the pieces Vaughn put on the board. It also reset the stupider parts of the timeline, so for that alone Singer does deserve credit. It also created the possibility for X-Men: Apocalypse.
Apocalypse is the third film in the new franchise. Is it technically a rebooted franchise? Wait, did Fox secretly find a way to reboot a franchise AND give it a sequel at the same time? Well played, Fox. Well played.
The good news for fans is that no matter what, the series will go on. Singer would have to make Apocalypse into a pro-Hitler film for Fox to even consider slowing the property. And even then…
The movie will hopefully cap a decent trilogy of films, and set the stage for the unconfirmed (but kinda confirmed) sequel adapting the Dark Phoenix saga. It also introduces – and reintroduces – a host of characters, including Nightcrawler, Cyclops, and Olivia Munn as Psylocke in a costume that proves not all costume adaptations work.
Odds of it being good: Moderate
The franchise is strong almost despite Singer, and hopefully he can keep it going. With the exception of Deadpool, the Fox X-series doesn’t have quite the highs of the Marvel films, but hopefully it won’t have the lows of Batman v Superman either.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Basically, the lengthily named Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, henceforth known as TMNT:OotS, aspires to be this summer’s Transformers – it’s just more honest about it.
The previous movie was dumb, but… well, dumb. It had some decent action scenes, but it also had a lot of ridiculousness. When the film dipped into nostalgia, it worked. When it tried to get ambitious and twist the Shredder and Foot Clan mythology, it went sideways. The new film seems to recognize that. It has Rocksteady and Bebop! And Krang! And Kasey Jones!
As long as TMNT:OotS remembers that it is a CGI heavy film with a lot of explosions starring a quartet of giant turtles, it stands a good shot at being alright.
That said, it is still being produced by Michael “Boom Boom” Bay. The man isn’t exactly known for being deep. Rather than milking the past, as a producer he is likely pushing for it to just be a delivery system for bigger explosions. To hell with plot, full speed ahead! That could be a problem.
Odds of it being good: Terrible to moderate
The first film bordered on insulting in how dumb it was. The tonal mismatch that put it somewhere between The Dark Knight and Zoolander was brutal. Critics hated it, audiences forgot about it. The new film could be more, but only if it learns from its mistakes – and if Michael Bay has proven anything, it’s that he is not a fan of learnin.’
So you know how we’ve mentioned how bad video game movies can be? Well, this one could go hard in either direction.
On the one hand, you have an acclaimed director in Duncan Jones. He hasn’t made anything on this scale before, but his previous movies are all smart sci-fi, so it isn’t like the studio just tapped a rom-com director and told him to do his best. It also features a cast of acclaimed, albeit lesser known stars. They chose talent over name recognition, which is a good sign (even if it is also a cost-cutting measure).
The big problem may be the source material itself. Warcraft is the type of game that means something different to each player based on how they approached it. The film seems to be attempting to address that by essentially telling two stories – one from the side of the orcs, the other from the side of the humans – which could be its great success, or its biggest flaw.
Movies based on video games still have to overcome a bloody and awful history. This film may add to that awful toll, or it might show that filmmakers finally understand that you need to capture the spirit of the game, not the gameplay. Sounds simple enough, but so far it has apparently proven incredibly difficult.
Odds of it being good: Moderate
If this were a Duncan Jones fantasy film based on, say, a book or something, we might be a little more optimistic. History is working against it though, so for now we’ll hedge our bets.
This film is about as safe a bet as you’ll find this summer. It’s a Pixar movie, and a sequel to a beloved story. It is as much of a formula film as Pixar can make, so it is probably going to be very good. Or at least inoffensively entertaining.
Pixar is coming off what many are calling the studio’s first flop, The Good Dinosaur. To be fair, the film still made money, but it remains Pixar’s lowest grossing film to date. That’s probably a well-known fact around the studio, for better and worse.
On the plus side, there will probably be a lot of pressure to make this movie great, and Pixar seems to handle pressure well. On the negative side, it means the studio will probably take a few less risks, at least for now.
Still, the odds are very, very high that this Finding Nemo sequel will be entertaining and crowd-pleasing, even if it isn’t groundbreaking.
Odds of it being good: Very High
Finding Dory may not break down any barriers or set any new marks for creativity, but despite a few recent hiccups, Pixar still earns the benefit of the doubt.
Didn’t they already make this same film, just with Ice Cube instead of Dwayne Johnson?
Seriously, with all the great filmmakers and smart scripts floating around, how in God’s name did a clone of the Ride Along franchise make it to the screen? Maybe the plots vary wildly. Maybe Kevin Hart turns in an Oscar-worthy performance. Maybe every theater showing this movie is contractually obligated to pump in laughing gas. Still, the fact that something this unoriginal made the cut is sad; that it may also fool people into congratulating it for positioning itself like an original movie is aggravating as well.
And who keeps giving Kevin Hart all these starring roles? And not just starring roles, but the same starring role, just in different movies?
But hey, it has Dwayne Johnson, who is awesome. So there’s that.
Odds of it being good: Terrible
Independence Day: Resurgence
In Exhibit A in the people against Hollywood’s lack of creativity, we have a sequel to a film that hit theaters 20 years ago – almost 20 years to the day.
It’s a little weird that this movie won’t debut on the actual Fourth of July weekend, but that weekend is filled with competition. Assuming the movie isn’t Showgirls bad though, the head start should actually be a good thing. It will have time to make a ton of cash in its opening weekend, then possibly get another bump from the connection to the holiday itself.
The sequel is sans Will Smith, but does feature Liam Hemsworth! You know, the other Hemsworth brother, the one that is in all those action movies and people keep forgetting about? Yeah, he’s co-starring in this one. Great.
But to be fair, the movie was never about the characters. Sure, they grounded it and made a film about the world getting Michael Bay’d seem believable, but they were also more or less interchangeable. Will Smith was great and all, but people saw the movie to watch LA get pulverized, not because the Fresh Prince was smoking cigars and cracking wise.
The sequel, however, seems to have developed a plot – a risky move for a film like this. After 20 years of preparation, the augmented and upgraded human forces face off against the pissed off alien cavalry. There will still be plenty of explosions, but the world-building to make sense of the altered Earth will need to be on point.
Odds of it being good: Moderate
It’s been 20 years, so it’s tough to tell which way this film will go. Will it recapture the mindless fun of the first, or go all gritty like most movies seem forced to. We’ll see.