"Going to empty out the lockers and bury all the books," a former Boston truck driver named Frederick Anthony Picariello Jr. sang in the summer of 1962, on a noisy rock 'n' roll record driven by a pounding bass drum beat and obviously aimed at a demographic recently liberated from classrooms. "June, July, and August" was supposed to be the pop song of the summer of 1962.
It wasn't, mainly because a Michigan DJ accidentally played the record's B-side, a tune written by Clark lieutenant, future Gong Show host and reputed international assassin Chuck Barris with a similarly pounding drum line. So it's "Palisades Park" you think of when you think of Picariello, who you think of as Freddy Cannon, if you think of him at all, which you probably don't want to do because hey, June, July and August no think time.
It's hard to fight it -- the anti-intellectual sentiment Cannon (and Chuck Berry, Alice Cooper and countless others) expressed is as American as H. Rap Brown's cherry pie. So are the movies, even though we've shrunk them to the size of screens we carry in our pockets and messenger bags, we still think of them as big -- as immersive and bone-shaking as a roller coaster. As fun.
Which they sometimes manage to be, despite all the complicating commercial factors that make most things designed for mass consumption bland and disappointing. Best to set your expectations low, expect a lot of noise and flash and some blasts of cool air. At least nobody's going to ask you to write an essay about Spider-Man: Far From Home.
That's not fair, because we haven't seen that movie -- we actually haven't seen any of these movies yet -- we just feel like we have from watching the trailers. Maybe they're all great. Certainly some are promising -- for the first time in a while, I'm excited about a Quentin Tarantino movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which recently had its debut at Cannes. That trailer made me sit up and notice, And anticipate, which like Macbeth said, is often better than realizing.
So let's allow ourselves to hope. At least some of these films are likely to engage us. If we tease them in the following paragraphs, let's stipulate that at least some of that teasing is affectionate and that it's a lot easier than actually reviewing a movie you've yet to see. And nobody wants to do anything hard in the summer; we want to read junk novels and watch junk movies in air-conditioned comfort. Am I right?
As always, dates are subject to change. Many of the films listed below will not open on the dates provided. Some may even disappear. Them's the breaks.‚
Dark Phoenix -- The latest X-Men chapter charts Jean Grey's (Sophie Turner) transformation, after a cosmic accident, into the terrible and powerful title character, who comic book aficionados understand is a powerful entity made of "fire and rage." This forces her mutant teammates into an awkward position. With Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain and Nicholas Hoult. Directed by Simon Kinberg.
Late Night -- Intriguing cast (Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, John Lithgow, Hugh Dancy) could elevate what sounds like a fairly predictable workplace/romantic comedy set in the world of late-night talk show television. Kaling's script and Thompson's performance as the veteran host who feels suddenly vulnerable have been praised by critics who've had an advance look. Directed by TV veteran Nisha Ganatra.
Papi Chulo -- A TV weatherman (Matt Bomer) cracks up on the air after being left by his boyfriend. He takes a break, begins working in a hardware store and strikes up a friendship with a middle-aged migrant worker Ernesto (Alejandro Patino) despite a language barrier. Sounds pretty ordinary but people who have seen it regard it with affection.
Pavarotti -- Ron Howard's documentary about the opera legend includes interviews with Spike Lee, Stevie Wonder, Princess Diana and Bono.
The Secret Life of Pets 2 -- Inevitable animated sequel to the 2016 film, that had its moments. With the voices of Patton Oswalt, Kevin Hart, Harrison Ford, Eric Stonestreet.
American Woman -- Not to be confused with the Semi Challas' feature of the same name (which is a fictionalized re-imagining of the Patti Hearst kidnapping told from the perspective of Hearst's keeper), this American Woman is about a 32-year-old woman (Sienna Miller) who raises her granddaughter after the disappearance of her daughter. Miller is allegedly very good. With Christina Hendricks and Aaron Paul.
Back to the Fatherland -- Documentary about the curious phenomenon of young people leaving their home country to try their luck in Germany and Austria. The hook is that the young folks are Israeli Jews who lost family members in the Holocaust.
Being Frank -- In Miranda Bailey's directorial debut, a 17-year-old (Logan Miller) discovers that his dictatorial dad (Jim Gaffigan) has a secret second family. It's played for laughs. Cast includes Samantha Mathis and Anna Gunn. Happy Father's Day.
The Dead Don't Die -- Jim Jarmusch takes on the zombie apocalypse with help from Bill Murray and Adam Driver. This will be be something.
Hampstead -- In this comedy/drama/real estate tutorial American expatriate and Annie Hall-ish Diane Keaton falls for scruffy widower Brendan Gleesonin London. Those who have seen it aren't overwhelmed but it sounds like it will appeal to a certain audience.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco -- Director/co-writer/composer Joe Talbot's debut was a hit at Sundance and is based on the real-life story of Talbot's childhood friend Jimmie Fails, who plays a fictionalized version of himself. Jimmie's dream is to reclaim the majestic Victorian-era house his grandfather built -- and to reconstruct the community that once surrounded the house. Our Piers Marchant has seen it and is anxious to review it; I suspect it will end up on a lot of critics' year-end Top 10 lists.
Men in Black: International -- Does anyone really care that there's apparently a mole in the international Men in Black organization? I bet Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith don't; they've defected, leaving Chris Hemsworth, Emma Thompson, Tessa Thompson and Rebecca Ferguson to take up the slack. As the title suggests, this installment is set not only in New York (the original joke was that New Yorkers were so jaded they wouldn't notice or care about the odd extraterrestrial dwelling in their midst) but in London, Morocco, and Italy. F. Gary Gray directs.
The Reports on Sarah and Saleem -- In Jerusalem, a married Israeli woman has an affair with a married Palestinian man and the resulting fallout becomes politicized. Holds a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, though only Australian critics seem to have seen it.
Shaft -- Nineteen years after he first took on the role, Samuel L. Jackson returns as John Shaft II, with his uncle, the original Shaft (Richard Rountree) making what we assume will be more than a cameo appearance. They're bringing along another generation as II's son John "JJ" Shaft Jr. (Jessie Usher), who has a degree in cybersecurity from MIT, who patches things up with his estranged father long enough to investigate a friend's murder. Can you dig it?
Toy Story 4 -- The franchise receives an infusion of new blood as the homemade "Forky" -- a plastic spork outfitted with pipe-cleaner arms and a drawn-on face -- joins Woody and the gang. Despite Forky's protestations that he isn't a toy, but a utensil with a higher purpose (I guess) he gets dragged on a road trip and learns some lessons. And we will cry.
Child's Play -- A reboot of the 1988 film of the same name that spawned two sequels. Surprisingly good cast includes Aubrey Plaza, Mark Hamill, Tim Matheson and Brian Tyree Henry.
Them That Follow -- A really good ensemble cast (Kaitlyn Dever, Olivia Colman, Walton Goggins, Thomas Mann, Lewis Pullman, Jim Gaffigan) signal that this may be more than a Gothic backwoods thriller about snake handlers. It's probably not Winter's Bone, but let's give it a chance.
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am -- This documentary, by portrait photographer turned filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, was one of the best reviewed films at this year's Sundance. We might not see it here theatrically but it will air on PBS's American Masters series in the fall.
Annabelle Comes Home -- Another creepy possessed doll movie. Why not? Dolls are objectively creepy, and if the possession of inanimate objects is a thing, I can see why malevolent spirits would default to them. One haint's cliche is another one's classic. I'm not going to see this even though it stars Vera Farmiga. But you might. Because for some reason you people like creepy possessed doll movies.
Maiden -- Alex Holmes' documentary tells the story of Tracy Edwards who, at 24, becomes the skipper of the first ever all-female crew to enter the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989.
The Other Side of Heaven 2: Fire of Faith -- Inspired by the true story of Christian missionaries in '60s Tonga who find their faith tested when their sixth child is born with a serious illness. Thousands of Tongans join them in praying for a miracle. This faith-based film is a sequel to 2001's The Other Side of Heaven.
Yesterday -- While early reviews have been so-so, the trailer looks really good and I am always willing to take a chance on Danny Boyle, who is a consistently interesting director. That said, I have a feeling that Yesterday -- in which a struggling songwriter wakes up in a world where no one remembers the Beatles except for him -- is going to be a crowd-pleaser in the mode of Slumdog Millionaire, a well-realized but ultimately slight, cliche-peppered movie.
Midsommar -- Ari (Hereditary) Aster's next movie looks like a Swedish variant of The Wicker Man. The Edward Woodward one, not the Nicolas Cage one. Spooky ooky.
Spider-Man: Far From Home -- Spidey takes a European vacation after the demoralizing events of Avengers: Endgame. There's probably a lot of fights and explosions and stuff. Anyway, Jake Gyllenhaal is also in it.
The Art of Self-Defense -- A timid bookkeeper (Jesse Eisenberg) takes up martial arts after being attacked on the street and falls into the orbit of a charismatic Sensei (Alessandro Nivola). Directed by Riley Stearns.
Crawl -- Good old fashioned hurricane movie with floods and alligators and Barry Pepper.
The Farewell -- Chinese-American Lulu Wang's first film is a stranger-than-fiction true family story about how her family decided not to tell her grandmother about her terminal illness, instead orchestrating a wedding to bring the far-flung family together before she dies. With what people are calling a breakthrough performance by Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians) some have touted this as one of the best films of the the year.
Stuber -- OK, they're not even trying anymore. Police detective Vic (Dave Bautista) dragoons his mild-mannered Uber driver Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) into a wild night of hot pursuit, presuming with breaks for romance and probably a strip club (though that's not in the trailer).
Sword of Trust -- The always enjoyable Lynn Shelton returns with an interesting human-scale story about a Civil War sword passed down to a woman for whom it holds absolutely no sentimental value. She takes it to an Alabama pawn shop run by Marc Maron and improvisational comedy ensues. Probably not award bait, but I'll see it.
David Crosby: Remember My Name -- Somehow, over the past couple of decades, David Crosby has transformed himself from a prickly, kind of unpleasant figure to a sort-of-adorable curmudgeon with a good Twitter feed. The rehabilitation continues with this documentary look at a complicated talent.
The Lion King -- Jon Favreau takes on the modern classic, with a photo-realistic computer animated remake that features the voices of Seth Rogen, Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, James Earl Jones. Sides will be taken.
Brahms: The Boy II-- What? They've already made a second Brahms movie? What is it with you people and creepy dolls?
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood -- I'm really looking forward to Quentin Tarantino's take on 1969 Hollywood, which was warmly received at Cannes a couple of weeks ago (though there was, as usual, some controversy about Tarantino's deployment of his female characters), and I haven't looked forward to a Tarantino movie for quite a while. Anyway, the trailer is great. Stars include Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and James Marsden.
Tel Aviv on Fire -- An Israeli comedy-drama about a young Palestinian man, a production assistant on a popular soap opera, who is promoted to screenwriter after a fluke encounter with an Israeli soldier. From this distance, it sounds like it combines elements of Hal Ashby's Being There and Veep.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold -- Dora (Isabel Moner) is a teenage explorer in the hybrid live-action/animated adventure based on the PBS educational animated TV series.
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw -- "A spin-off from The Fast and the Furious franchise featuring two characters Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw in the leading roles. The film will star Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby and Helen Mirren." This is really getting depressing.
Luce -- A very intriguing premise and solid cast give us hope that this film about a former child solider from Eritrea who, adopted by white Americans, seems to become the perfect high school student will give grown-ups something to watch this summer. In his rave review in The Playlist, Jordan Ruimy wrote: "In two short years, Trump's toxic America, has turned race, privilege, and class into incendiary topics while amplifying intolerance, and Julius Onah's powerfully constructed Luce, mixes all these socio-political subjects into a provocative Molotov cocktail that shatters, burns and leaves no easy answers."
If that's so, we might wonder why Neon is releasing it at the height of the summer silly season.
Artemis Fowl -- Kenneth Branagh attempts to create a Harry Potter-like franchise for Disney. I'd say the odds are pretty good he'll succeed.
Brian Banks -- Based on the true story of Brian Banks (Aldis Hodge), who as a teenager was falsely convicted of rape. It's unclear how closely the film, which co-stars Greg Kinnear as an attorney for the California Innocence Project who helps Banks win exoneration, tracks real events.
Corporate Animals -- Horror comedy featuring Demi Moore as an egotistical CEO whose team-building exercise in a New Mexico cave goes awry.
The Kitchen -- Andrea Berloff's '70s-set crime drama sounds reminiscent of last year's Widows, as the wives of New York gangsters in Hell's Kitchen continue to run their incarcerated husbands' rackets after they're locked up in prison. Good cast includes Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss, Domhnall Gleeson, James Badge Dale, Margo Martindale, Common and Bill Camp.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark -- Canadian-American horror film based on a series of children's books with which I'm completely unfamiliar. But Guillermo del Toro is a producer.
47 Meters Down: Uncaged -- The sequel to 2017's 47 Meters Down stars John Corbet, Nia Long, Sophie Nelisse and a bunch of sharks.
The Angry Birds Movie 2 -- I think the pigs are the ones who should be mad. Anyway Tyrion Lannister and a lot of others will get paychecks for doing voiceover work.
Blinded by the Light -- A comedy based on a British journalist's real-life obsession with Bruce Springsteen.
Good Boys -- Sixth-graders Jacob Tremblay, Brady Noon and Keith L. Williams try to impress girls and cooler older kids by making bad decisions. Reviews have been mixed, running to good.
The Informer -- Sounds like an old-school action thriller, with Joel Kinnaman as a reformed criminal, special ops soldier and FBI asset who infiltrates the Polish mob drug trade in NYC. With Rosamund Pike, Clive Owen and Common.
Playmobil: The Movie -- An English-language French live-action/computer animated adventure comedy film based on the German building toy Playmobil, which we all remember fondly from our childhood days in Zindorf and Bonn.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette -- Richard Linklater's adapts the Maria Semple novel with Cate Blanchett in the title role of an agoraphobic mother who disappears prior to a family trip to Antarctica. A pick to click.
Angel Has Fallen -- Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman star in the third film in the series after Olympus Has Fallen (2013) and London Has Fallen (2016).
Overcomer -- The sixth faith-based film by brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick stars Alex (who also directed) as a high school basketball coach whose faith is tested when his dreams of a state championship fall apart and he has to take a job as a cross-country coach.
My Boyfriend's Meds -- Brooke Shields and Jason Alexander have what I assume are very small roles in this Mexican comedy (also known as Las piladores di mi novio) about a "talented, high-powered marketing executive at an upscale tequila company" (Sandra Echeverria) who falls in love with a "charismatic mattress store owner" while she's shopping for a new bed. They hit it off, but he doesn't tell her he takes a lot of medications for an assortment of conditions. They go on vacation, he forgets his pills, and goes loco! (Uh, starts acting inappropriately and erratic?)
Cue Freddie Cannon: "June, July and August.... that's when the good times roll."
You betcha, Chief.
Style on 06/02/2019
Print Headline: Summertime at the movies: Lots of sequels, remakes and a few originals