SN&R;’s 2018 summer movie preview: Just the highs, no Solo
Our film critics recommend the season’s movies that aren’t the new Star Wars spin-off
For all the unforgivable sins of the much-lamented Star Wars prequels, give George Lucas credit for one thing: he never screwed with Han Solo. At no point in Episodes I through III did we see a smudge-faced street urchin version of Han running petty scams with his Chewbacca puppy, and thus the smuggler’s cocky yet bumbling coolness remained canon. While Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story officially dropkicked the 2018 summer movie season into infamy over Memorial Day weekend, film critics Daniel Barnes and Jim Lane found ten other reasons to get excited about the multiplex over the next few months.
Daniel Barnes’ antidote to Chewblockbusters
The Incredibles 2 (June 15)
Licking his wounds from the critical and financial failure of Tomorrowland, Brad Bird pulls an Andrew Stanton and returns to his Pixar home to make a sequel to his biggest box office hit. As with the Cars and Finding Nemo sequels, Incredibles 2 will likely struggle to justify its own existence, but the film is also our last hope to save a particularly weak summer for the family-friendly fare (Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, no one?). Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter once again voice super-couple Bob and Helen Parr (aka Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl), although this outing sees Bob left at home to care for baby Jack-Jack while Helen goes out and saves the world.
Under the Silver Lake (June 22)
After the Tobe Hooper by way of Richard Linklater horror movie miracle that was 2015’s It Follows, I’m lining up to watch whatever writer-director David Robert Mitchell serves up next. Of course, it doesn’t hurt at all that the trailer for his California sun-dazed follow-up film Under the Silver Lake makes it look like a millennial version of Inherent Vice, with reformed Spider-Man Andrew Garfield playing a slacker obsessed by the disappearance of his neighbor. It also doesn’t hurt that the wonderful scene-stealer Riley Keough (American Honey; Logan Lucky) co-stars as the missing neighbor.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado (June 29)
A Sicario sequel made without original star Emily Blunt and original director Denis Villeneuve might seem a little shoddy and suspicious to many people, although I’m more concerned about the absence of cinematographer Roger Deakins. However, my hopes are bolstered by the return of screenwriter Taylor Sheridan and my general disdain for Villeneuve, who gets replaced here by Italian director Stefano Sollima. With the US-Mexico drug war raging out of control, federal agent Matt Graver and slippery hitman Alejandro (Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro, the acting MVPs of the 2015 original) team up to fight terrorists along the border.
Mission: Impossible—Fallout (July 27)
Tom Cruise returns as superspy Ethan Hunt for this sixth entry in the long-running film franchise, although this is the first time he has worked with the same director twice (Christopher McQuarrie also wrote and directed 2015’s Rogue Nation). It’s doubtful that Fallout will stray too far from the franchise formula established over the last 20-plus years, with perhaps the only new wrinkle being the absence of Jeremy Renner (between this film and Infinity War, I love the new trend of Renner not appearing in things). Henry Cavill joins the cast this time around, sporting the contractually obligated mustache that launched a million pixels of nightmare-ish facial reconstruction CGI in Justice League.
BlacKkKlansman (August 10)
In a weak summer for auteurs, I will take just about anything I can get, even the latest provocation from the perennially overrated Spike Lee. John David Washington, who as a child briefly appeared in Lee’s 1992 classic Malcolm X, stars as Ron Stallworth, the real-life African-American cop who infiltrated and secretly led the Colorado Springs chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the late 1970s. Adam Driver co-stars as Stallworth’s partner, who became the white face of the organization, while Topher Grace plays Klan leader David Duke (that casting is just crazy enough to work), and Oscar-winner Jordan Peele produces.
Jim Lane’s picks, Hans down
Frankly, “cautious optimism” here may give way to “forlorn hope.” The writer-director is the invincibly untalented Gary Ross, who came near strangling the Hunger Games franchise in its cradle and made even the Civil War boring in Free State of Jones. Well, hope springs eternal. Everybody loves a sting movie, and there’ll be Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Rihana, plus cross-franchise appearances by Matt Damon and Carl Reiner. If there’s such thing as a Ross-proof ensemble, this may be it. (Though I’d feel better if Steven Soderbergh were along…)
Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) lived and died half a century too soon. His plays were cinematic before there even was a cinema—intimate, emotionally complicated dramas so distinct from the melodramas of his day that the great Stanislavski developed a new style of acting to bring them to life. For the movie, director Michael Mayer may be an unknown quantity, but the play has been adapted by Tony winner Stephen Karam, and the cast is one you’re unlikely to see on any stage: Annette Bening, Corey Stoll, Brian Dennehy, Mare Winningham, Elisabeth Moss—and at the center of the play’s star-crossed romantic entanglements, Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle of another promising summer release, On Chesil Beach.
Sorry to Bother You
Hip-hop artist Boots Riley made a splash at Sundance with this, his first movie, about a working-class African-American in an alternate-reality Oakland (Lakeith Stanfield) who finds success as a telemarketer by “using his white voice” (the twangy nasal tones of David Cross). From there, by all accounts, the movie gets crazier by the minute. To a fault, perhaps—or so some of the advance reviews say—but it’s good to rattle the pillars of the temple every now and then. Judging from the reviews and the preview trailer, this scattershot satire is unlike any movie this year; it may be unlike any movie ever. Am I overselling a movie I haven’t seen? Maybe, and maybe I’ll rue the day. But Riley’s grabbed my attention; now let’s see what he’s got.
Producer Marc Turteltaub (Little Miss Sunshine) turned director in 2013 with Gods Behaving Badly, which almost nobody saw. So he’s starting anew with this English-language remake of a 2009 Argentine movie. Kelly Macdonald plays a mousy, taken-for-granted housewife who discovers an unsuspected talent for solving jigsaw puzzles, going so far as to enter a tournament with a recently divorced puzzle enthusiast (Irrfan Khan). The symbolism of puzzle-solving may be a little arch, but Macdonald, after years as a journeyman supporting actress (No Country for Old Men, Gosford Park, Anna Karenina) is overdue for a lead role of her own.
Director Björn Runge makes his English-language debut with this U.S./Swedish adaptation of Meg Wolitzer’s novel about a loyal spouse (Glenn Close) accompanying her novelist husband (Jonathan Pryce) to Stockholm to accept his Nobel Prize. En route, she begins questioning her life choices over the past 40 years, sacrificing her own talent and ambitions in service to his career as a literary superstar. Speaking of superstars, the cast alone is enough to make your mouth water: Christian Slater, Elizabeth McGovern, and of course the be-still-my-heart teaming of Close and Pryce.