A critic recently stated that movie theaters are overloaded with examples of “Corporate Cinema” and little else. There’s truth to that, especially in the thrill-seeking summer movie season. Between now and September, I’m not looking forward to catching the dueling look-how-hip-and-ultra-violent-we-are Baby Driver and Atomic Blonde. Nor the desperate, dueling Girls Gone Wild farces Girls Trip or Rough Night.
There’s also the what-were-they-thinking The Emoji Movie and sequels no one asked for, like a fifth Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers, Cars 3, The Nut Job 2, Despicable Me 3, Amityville: The Awakening and Diary of a Wimpy Kid 3. Let’s not forget the non-franchise starter King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and the Amy Schumer/Goldie Hahn vehicle Snatched, which looks like this year’s Hot Pursuit. But here are a dozen movies (a few genuine originals, a couple of remakes and lots of sequels) that look especially promising and really fun.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (opens May 5)
The Gist: Starlord and Crew are back… along with Kurt Russell!
Why It Could Rock: Quick, name a Marvel movie everyone can agree on! If it’s even half as good as the first, it may be summer’s top dog.
Unless: Comic book movie sequels aren’t always stellar and the original, which was the top grossing film of 2014, is an awfully hard act to follow.
ALIEN COVENANT (May 19)
The Gist: Ridley Scott’s second Alien prequel has a crew searching for paradise, finding instead…
Why It Could Rock: Scott is putting all of his chips on the table and betting big. The giant success of The Martian is the reason why 20th Century Fox let him make this lavish sequel to the brilliant but divisive Prometheus. Lucky for him, Logan and Deadpool have made the R-rating hip again.
Unless: If it winds up feeling like deja vu all over again. Will it be all that different or better than Aliens?
BAYWATCH (May 26)
The Gist: Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron star in this comedic take on the iconic TV series.
Why It Could Rock: Because it stars The Rock, of course! Everyone on the planet knows Baywatch, the tongue-in-cheek approach worked for 21 Jump Street and there isn’t an un-sexy cast member in sight.
Unless: The feel of the recent CHIPS, which had contempt for the source material, sours this one as well. Johnson got away with San Andreas and Central Intelligence but more movies like this will leave him with a movie career cornier than Vin Diesel.
WONDER WOMAN (June 2)
The Gist: Finally, after dozens of false starts, DC Comic’s top tier female superhero gets her own movie.
Why It Could Rock: The trailer is killer good. So is the refreshing dash of female empowerment, in a genre that is mostly a Very Old Boys Club. Chris Pine is on hand to provide a damsel in distress, not the hero.
Unless: Gal Gadot has a strong presence but can she act? Here’s hoping the hiring of director Patty Jenkins (whose only other film is Monster) was an inspired choice.
THE MUMMY (June 9)
The Gist: A re-telling of the Universal Studios monster movie classic, set in present day.
Why It Could Rock: Star Tom Cruise has a great track record when it comes to thrilling summer movies.
Unless: Will anyone miss Brendan Fraser and the light touch of those movies? There’s a lot riding on this, the intended start of a new Universal monster series. Yet another huge movie from a director whose prior film was a tiny character drama. Good luck, everybody!
ALL EYEZ ON ME (June 16)
The Gist: The life of Tupac Shakur, finally made into a feature film.
Why It Could Rock: “How do you want it, how do you feel, movin’ up as a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) in the cash game, livin’ in the fast lane, I’m fo’ real.”
Unless: The cast and director are unknowns. They either assembled a great team of artists or this will play like one of those bad TV movies that should never leave Lifetime.
SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (July 7)
The Gist: Tom Holland’s teen Spidey doesn’t want to sit out crime fighting anymore…
Why It Could Rock: An exceptionally good cast (including the likable Holland, Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark and Michael Keaton as the heavy) will go a long way to making us forget Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield for a few hours.
Unless: After Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, this character has had the hardest time at the movies. Keaton was Batman, then Birdman and now he’s “The Vulture.” Brilliant casting or a big step down?
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (July 14)
The Gist: The finale in the new trilogy of Damn Dirty Apes Go Wild extravaganzas
Why It Could Rock: Andy Serkis’ “Caesar” is the true star and soul of these movies. Pitting him against Woody Harrelson (as an ape-hating soldier) is an inspired choice. With apes like these, who needs James Franco?
Unless: Like Rise and Dawn before it, this looks to be both an extraordinary film and a dark, violent bummer.
DUNKIRK (July 21)
The Gist: Christopher Nolan’s World War II drama about a crucial turning point in 1940.
Why It Could Rock: Nolan is one of our finest, most flamboyantly risk-taking filmmakers who makes consistently brilliant movies. There’s nothing else like this one all summer.
Unless: The test of Nolan’s strength as a commercial filmmaker is on the line. Are audiences up for a mature, demanding war movie from Nolan that doesn’t star Leonardo DiCaprio or Christian Bale?
VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS (July 21)
The Gist: A gigantic adaptation of a popular sci-fi comic book.
Why It Could Rock: The real star is filmmaker Luc Besson, who seems to have crammed this with as many awesome visuals as humanly possible. His The Fifth Element was a warm up for this.
Unless: Leads Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne are experienced but chilly actors; if they can’t spark chemistry and make audiences care, this won’t last a month in theaters.
THE DARK TOWER (Aug. 4)
The Gist: A Stephen King mind-bender about a gunslinger who begins a strange, blood-soaked journey.
Why It Could Rock: The first stop on the Stephen King Summer Movie Renaissance starts here. Pitting Idris Elba as The Gunslinger against Matthew McConaughey as The Man in Black is inspired.
Unless: Many have tried to make this movie and couldn’t crack it. Will audiences be willing to follow these characters for this and seven more movies?
IT (Sept. 8)
The Gist: Another Stephen King bestseller gets the big screen treatment it deserves.
Why It Could Rock: There hasn’t been a better (or scarier) trailer all year. The talent on both sides of the camera is tops, from the young cast to director Andres Muschietti, who knows how to scare you.
Unless: Stranger Things gobbles up the audience for this. If The Dark Tower doesn’t connect, opening this a month later may not be wise. Is anyone going to make a case that the three-hour, 1990 Tim Curry-starring mini-series is unbeatable (if so, stop clowning around).