Summer Movie Preview 2018: From ‘Infinity War’ to ‘BlacKkKlansman’ Check Out All The Trailers here
Digging for summer-movie gold – that’s what it’s all about, folks. Striking it rich. Hollywood suits spend most of the year digging themselves out of the financial hole left by those “serious” films that win awards and court prestige. But in summer, the gloves are off: It’s sequels, prequels, retreads and anything else safe the non-creatives can come up with to hit the cash jackpots to keep them warm all winter.
What about audiences? Mostly, we play along, indulging in the box-office game of ranking movies like sweepstake winners. Forget the real calendar that says summer starts on June 21st; with Marvel/Disney releasing the record-breaking Avengers: Infinity War on April 27th, Hollywood now insists the season begins when sure things parade into the multiplex.
There are over 130 movies opening between now and Labor Day. Are any of them decent or better? Will even a handful of them matter by the time the season ends? Can quality still sneak in while the money counters aren’t looking? In this oh-so-selective summer preview, we’ll focus on 30 movies that might at least have something to recommend them.
And we’re off!
‘Avengers: Infinity War’ (Apr. 27)
If you want proof that it’s Marvel’s World and we just live in it at the movies, here it is. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo have crammed nearly every Avenger into one jumbo MCU package – Spider-Man! Captain America! Black Panther! – that takes up two-and-a-half hours of screen time as they take on the big, purple bad guy Thanos (thank you, Josh Brolin, for giving this cosmic villain some humanity). You probably won’t be able to keep track of who’s doing what where, but the public is turning out (the $250 million opening weekend is an all-time box-office record) – just like we will next year when the currently unnamed second part of the saga hits theaters.
‘Deadpool 2’ (May 18)
Anyone who saw Ryan Reynolds mouth off at the world – and audiences – in 2016’s Deadpool is not missing this equally cheap, sleazy and R-rated-ly irresistible sequel. It’s not only Reynolds who scores in the smartypants role of his career (“what in the ass?”) as a disfigured clownboy who lives to hurt bad guys and sensitive sensibilities. The movie itself revels in having attitude for days, with the promos wickedly mocking the film’s non-target audience by trumpeting “from the studio that brought you 27 Dresses and The Devil Wears Prada.” It’s a superhero movie that delivers the goods and sticks it to every self-serious comic-book fanatic out there. What’s not to like?
‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ (May 25)
Can anyone but Harrison Ford play Han Solo? Alden Ehrenreich, 28, steps into the role of the swaggering galactic smuggler in this stand-alone prequel. Ron Howard took over the directing reins after Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie) were replaced three-quarters through, with the Beautiful Mind director ordering massive reshoots. The star, who showed his comedy chops as the drawling cowboy actor in Hail, Caesar, has publicly defended Lord and Miller; he’s also been given the thumbs up from the original Solo himself, who advised him: “Tell them I told you everything you needed to know, and that you can’t tell anyone.” Ha! Would that it were so simple.
‘Action Point’ (Jun. 1)
It’s not a Jackass movie in the strictest sense – but it might as well be. Head Jackass Johnny Knoxville plays D.C. Carter, a cutup who owned an amusement park in New Jersey in 1979 and, per the character, needed to give the place an “excitement enema.” Known for unsafe rides and idiot management, the place is a springboard for sheer gonzo anarchy. ‘Nuff said.
‘Hereditary’ (Jun. 8)
This nerve-jangling ghost story from first-time writer-director Ari Aster joins Get Out and A Quiet Place in the pantheon of modern scary-movie gamechangers. Toni Colette delivers an award-caliber performance as a galley artist haunted by specters of family dysfunction, starting with her dead mother. All your terror buttons will be pushed, but that’s just the beginning for this potent and sneakily profound psychological thriller that looks at family as a hotbed for demons that live scarily close to home. Get ready for a new horror classic.
‘Ocean’s 8’ (Jun. 8)
The sisters are doing it for themselves in this high-stakes crime spree, which stars Sandra Bullock as Debbie Ocean, sibling to George Clooney’s Danny Ocean. She’s planning a heist at New York’s Met Gala – the biggest night of the year for fashion and Anna Wintour. But instead of Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, she has the likes of Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina and Rihanna helping her snatch a diamond necklace off a famous actress (Anne Hathaway). Looks like dude dominance is over, even in summer movies. #AboutTime
‘The Incredibles 2’ (Jun. 15)
If you saw The Incredibles back in 2004, you know that Oscar-winning, animated landmark ranks at the peak of Pixar wizardry. Yes, director Brad Bird took his time with a sequel to this tale of a superhero family banned by law from doing their super thing. But with Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter) leaving hubby Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) home with the kids, there’s a new sheriff in town who’s not going to suppress her feminist mojo. We’re expecting big things – maybe even movie of the summer based on quality alone.
‘Superfly’ (Jun. 15)
Gordon Parks’ seminal crime drama about a Harlem drug dealer helped put blaxploitation on the map in 1972. Now Hollywood is putting a this-just-in spin on things with a reinvention set in Atlanta. Trevor Jackson – a 21-year-old musician turned actor (Grown-ish) – stars as Youngblood Priest, a drug pusher looking for one last score before exiting the burgeoning cocaine economy. The new Superfly is the work of Julien Christian Lutz, aka Director X, a Canadian music video filmmaker with his own clothing line (X-Fit) and a notion he can make an old idea fly for millennials. Who’s taking bets?
‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ (Jun. 22)
Cynics thought reviving Steven Spielberg’s 1993 epic about genetically-engineered dinosaurs was a bad idea. Then the dino-epic grossed $1.6 billion worldwide – and welcome to the Jurassic-verse! What made the 2015 reboot more than a business proposition was some great FX, the unfakable enthusiasm of director Colin Trevorrow and an in-it-for-the-fun-of-it turn from Chris Pratt as a dino trainer. Pratt is back for the sequel, working with director J.A. Bayona and a plot that leaves the park for an estate in the U.S., where a new deadly species of raptor is on the loose. We’re in.
‘Under the Silver Lake’ (Jun. 22)
If It Follows (2015) creeped you out big time, then you are going to want to check director David Robert Mitchell follow-up switcheroo: a neo-noir crime thriller starring Andrew Garfield as an L.A. obsessive (think Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo) who enjoys a hot, swimming pool hookup with a neighbor (Riley Keough). Then she goes missing the next day, and guess who goes down the rabbit hole in search of her? His search for clues to her disappearance mixes suspense, twisted humor and a Blow-Up vibe in a way that allows Mitchell to build an atmospheric detective story filled with hard left turns and detours into the weird.
‘The Hustle’ (Jun. 29)
Details are scare about this remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, the 1988 comedy concerning two con artists on the hustle in the south of France. In a femcentric twist, Anne Hathaway takes the Michael Caine role as the relatively sane member of the team, and Rebel Wilson plays the wild card who’s in it for fun as much as profit. Alex Sharp – the Tony-winning star of Broadway’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – costars as a young tech billionaire who gets in the middle of a wager between the women over who can con him first.
‘Sicario: Days of the Soldado’ (Jun. 29)
This followup to Sicario may lack Emily Blunt and the great director Denis Villeneuve behind the camera. But don’t despair: Benicio Del Toro is back as Alejandro, an undercover assassin, and this time he’s helping the DEA stop the flow of drugs across the Mexican border a different way. How? By kidnapping Isabela (Isabela Moner), a cartel princess, as a wedge against her kingpin daddy. Italian filmmaker Stefano Sollima (TV’s Gomorrah) directs the movie, again written by Taylor Sheridan, and costarring Josh Brolin as CIA manipulator. All elements are in place to make sure action dominates without skimping on a political subtext that remains scarily relevant.
‘The First Purge’ (Jul. 4)
What better way to celebrate the July 4th fireworks than with a horrorshow prequel? Fans of 2013’s The Purge, which has spawned a cult audience and two sequels, knew that writer-director James DeMonaco was on to something about violence in 2022 America with the movie’s central conceit: What if, once a year, the government legalized robbery, rape and murder? In The First Purge, directed by Gerard McMurray from DeMonaco’s script, we find out where the idea got its start. Marisa Tomei plays the psychologist who persuaded the powers-that-be that a violent purge would be good for all of us. Let’s hear her arguments – and yours.
‘Ant Man and the Wasp’ (Jul. 6)
What, you thought Marvel was just going to give us Infinity War and then sit the rest of the summer out? This sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man brings Paul Rudd back as the shrinkable superhero and gives him a partner in Evangeline Lilly’s Hope Van Dyne, aka the Wasp. She’s eager to get in her own supersuit invented by Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) since his wife/her mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) needs saving from the Quantum Realm, an alternate dimension. It’s another chance to for Marvel’s FX team to astonish us with a world in miniature.
‘Sorry to Bother You’ (Jul. 6)
“Use your white voice.” That’s the advice that Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) gets if he wants to make it as a telemarketer. And with those words, the Oakland-based rapper Boots Riley, making a knockout filmmaking debut as writer and director, spins a social satire that’ll make you laugh till it hurts, Stanfield, so good in Get Out, hits all that right notes from mirth to malice. Though David Cross provides the “white” voice, it’s the Atlanta star who finds the inner core of rage that turns Riley’s sendup into a comedy of shocking gravity. This could be the season’s big sleeper hit.
‘Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot’ (Jul. 13)
Gus Van Sant proves the ideal filmmaker to tackle the true story of John Callahan, an alcoholic partyboy who ends up in car crash that leaves him a quadriplegic. The Drugstore Cowboy director is allergic to tearjerking – as is a dynamite Joaquin Phoenix, who plays Callahan with an exuberance that shows how he finally found his voice as an iconoclastic cartoonist. Jonah Hill, in a caftan, also scores as an eccentric AA sponsor. The offbeat sensibility shared by Van Sant and Phoenix deflects any detours into to biopic formula. They keep it real.
‘Eighth Grade’ (Jul. 13)
Heads up, Oscars: Here’s one of the best and transfixing of the year, not just the summer. Eighth Grade gets inside the head and bruised heart of Kayla (a phenomenal Elsie Fisher), a 13-year-old about to enter high school. She ignores her single dad (Josh Hamilton), dotes on classmates who pretend she doesn’t exist and clings to social media like a digital blood transfusion. As directed by Bo Burnham, 27, a stand-up comic and musician in a stunning feature debut, this coming-of-age flick plays it tender but never safe – it speaks to the agonizing pain of growing up that all survivors of adolescence can recognize.
‘Skyscraper’ (Jul. 13)
No, Dwayne Johnson doesn’t play the title role. But unlike Rampage and a handful of other escapist fantasies in which The Rock isn’t required to do much more than show up and turn on the charm, Skyscraper requires the star to, y’know, act. As a war vet with an amputated leg, Johnson is a man in crisis, a security specialist on assignment in China. It’s there that he must save the world’s tallest building (240 floors) from burning to the ground before his family dies in the blaze and he’s locked up for allegedly causing the whole thing. Fans are not accustomed to seeing Johnson show fear or vulnerability. Check it out.
‘Blindspotting’ (Jul. 20)
All hail the new team of Daveed Diggs, who won a Tony for playing Thomas Jefferson and Lafayette in Hamilton, and Rafael Casal, his creative sparring partner from Oakland, California, and co-writer on this powerhouse tale of a friendship tested. Diggs plays Collin, serving his last three days of probation and trading rap verses with Casal as Miles, his volatile best friend. When our hero witnesses a white cop shoot an unarmed black man, the comedic plot turns tragic – and opens the door for a look at the Bay Area city’s uneasy relationship with race, class and mobility.
‘The Equalizer 2’ (Jul. 20)
Funny how sequels don’t seem like such a paycheck thing when they star Denzel Washington. This second Equalizer film, again directed by the regular collaborator Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Magnificent Seven) is actually Washington’s first sequel. How did the filmmaker persuade him to return to the role of retired special-ops agent Robert McCall who heaps rough justice on criminal scum? Fuqua reported that Washington read the script and thought it was “different and better.” Sometimes it’s that uncomplicated.
‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again’ (Jul. 20)
At a recent CinemaCon presentation in Las Vegas, Cher – a newcomer to the Mamma Mia family – showed up to deliver ABBA’s “Fernando” live and brought down the house. So that’s one reason, besides the 2008 original’s mammoth $609 million box-office gross, to return to the Greek island where everyone’s a dancing queen. Meryl Streep is back as hotel owner Donna, but the focus here is on flashbacks to the young Donna, played by Lily James. And who does Cher play? Donna’s mother, of course – the rocker lady who started it all.
‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ (Jul. 27)
It’s the sixth Mission: Impossible movie in which 55-year-old Tom Cruise, as the intrepid Ethan Hunt, has to keep topping himself with stunts other stars would leave to their doubles. Christopher McQuarrie – the only director so far to guide two M:I epics – points with pride to the skydiving scene that the mega-movie star did in one take. And what about Cruise piloting a chopper while other choppers surround him? We could tell you about the plot, but who cares? We’re all in it for the adrenaline rush, Cruise included.
‘The Darkest Minds’ (Aug. 3)
Dystopian thrillers aimed at young-adult audiences took a hit when the declining popularity of the Divergent series couldn’t even get a fourth film into theaters. Still, The Darkest Minds, based on Alexandra Bracken’s bestselling YA series, aims to break the jinx. Its teen runaways, led by Ruby (Amandla Stenberg, a.k.a. Rue in The Hunger Games), have escaped a killer plague at home and developed super powers to help them evade capture by controlling adults. Mandy Moore is along as a supportive doctor, and Gwendoline Christie of Game of Thrones fame plays a bounty hunter ready to kick their asses.
‘Mile 22’ (Aug. 3)
Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg are a team worth betting on – see Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day, all true stories of men up against it. Mile 22 lets them fly for the pure adventurous fun of it, with Wahlberg playing a CIA agent stationed in Indonesia. His job is to transport an informant to an airport 22 miles away, running . a gauntlet with more obstacles than Stormy Daniels every getting another date with Trump. “We’re coming at you with a big ass action movie,” says Berg. In summer, isn’t that enough?
‘Searching’ (Aug. 3)
A nerve-frying suspense thriller seen exclusively through the lenses of smartphones and laptops, Searching is a technical marvel with a beating heart at its core. Aneesh Chaganty, in an exceptional feature directing debut, sparks high-voltage tension by making John Cho, as a frantic widower, track down his missing teen daughter (Michelle La) solely through modern technology. A pushy detective (Debra Messing) joins in the fun.
‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’ (Aug.3)
It sounds like the most formulaic plot ever lifted from the female buddy comedy summer playbook: Two thirtysomething L.A. roommates get tangled up in a spy plot that puts assassins on their tail and fear in their unprepared-for-espionage hearts. But sometimes casting is everything. That’s SNL MVP Kate McKinnon and Bad Moms’ shining star Mila Kunis as the roomies. Justin Theroux plays the spy who dumped Kunis; Outlander hunk Sam Heughan is a British agent who further thickens the plot. How’s that for promising?
‘BlacKkKlansman’ (Aug. 10)
Can director Spike Lee get his career mojo back with this true story of Ron Stallworth, an African-American detective in Colorado Springs, Colorado, who answered an 1978 ad in a local newspaper seeking new Klan members? Signs look promising. The veteran director will produce the film with Get Out‘s Jordan Peele, and John David Washington, (Denzel’s son) plays Stallworth, a cop who infiltrated the Klan by pretending to be a white supremacist on the phone. Since violence against unarmed black men hasn’t abated in 40 years, this stranger-than-fiction story has the makings of both a history lesson and a film for our time.
‘The Meg’ (Aug. 10)
A giant, 75-foot-long prehistoric shark – known by experts in such things as Megalodon – takes on Jason Statham, the British actor whose cold stare is shark repellant personified. It’s Jaws supersized, and The Transporter star is the expert deep-sea rescue diver charged with saving the crew of a submersible trapped under the Pacific. Meanwhile, the toothy apex predator is closing in. This movie sounds like the very definition of the term guilty pleasure.
‘Crazy Rich Asians’ (Aug. 17)
Already shaping up as the comedy to see this summer, this take on Kevin Kwan’s bestselling novel investigates the fun possibilities that ensue when New Yorker Rachel (Fresh Off the Boat‘s Constance Wu) joins her boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding) on a trip to Singapore. It’s all fun and games until Rachel finds that her man is from a family of super-wealthy eccentrics ready to make life hell for this stranger. With Awkwafina, aka rapper comic Nora Lum, stealing scenes as Rachel’s best friend, expect director Jon M. Chu’s fractured farce to be crazy rich with laughs.
‘Papillon’ (Aug. 24)
Prison breakout movies are a dime a dozen – but Henri Charrière’s acclaimed memoir about the “butterfly” prisoner who makes a daring attempt to escape from Devil’s Island has always been one-of-a kind. Steve McQueen starred as Charriere in a 1973 film version with Dustin Hoffman as his fellow convict Louis Dega. Now, we get Charlie Hunnam as Big Papi and Mr. Robot‘s Rami Malek in the role of Dega. Director Michael Noer knows his duty is to provide a Shawshank-like escape thriller, but he insists that the core of the film resides with “two men who develop a relationship in pain.” Any similarities to the movie’s Thirties-set penal colony and current penitentiary horror stories are, of course, not coincidental, and the result is a summer movie with a conscience. Let’s hope it’s a trend.