Summer hope springs eternal

All the best comedies, romances and blond-bombshell action movies that one could ask for in a summer

<i>Atomic Blonde</i>

Atomic Blonde

The summer movie season is always eagerly anticipated and even more eagerly forgotten, but the shitshow known as the summer of 2016 will leave a lasting scar in the shape of Ghostbusters; Suicide Squad; Independence Day: Resurgence; people tweeting about Ghostbusters; The Legend of Tarzan; and let’s not forget about Ghostbusters. At their best, summer movies offer guilt-free fun, but these were our worst ideas and impulses projected in IMAX 3-D. But summer hope springs eternal, and ever-optimistic film critics Daniel Barnes and Jim Lane still managed to find 10 highly anticipated films that might just make for the best … summer … ever. Probably not, but you never know.

Daniel Barnes’ panoramic escapes

It Comes at Night (June 9)

Almost nobody watched Trey Edward Shults’ brilliant debut Krisha, a film that starred the director’s friends and families and was shot in his parents’ house. But it seems that the right nobodies watched it, because the singular domestic drama won the 28-year-old a two-picture deal with respected indie outlet A24. This follow-up film that stars Joel Edgerton—and was not shot in anyone’s parents’ house—is billed as a horror movie. After seeing Shults turn a Thanksgiving family dinner into hell on earth, it will be fascinating to watch him plant two feet in the genre.


The Beguiled (June 30)

I’m not usually stoked about remakes, especially a remake of a good film like Don Siegel’s kinky 1971 Civil War drama The Beguiled, and yet I’m very curious to see a female filmmaker take on this somewhat misogynist material. If writer-director Sofia Coppola can snap out of her long funk, maybe she can invest the film with some of her old Lost in Translation spark. Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning star as sheltered Southern women driven to emotional extremes by the presence of a Union soldier (Colin Farrell, who is no Clint Eastwood, but you knew that).

Atomic Blonde (July 28)

A longtime stunt coordinator and one of the creative forces behind John Wick, David Leitch officially steps behind the camera with Atomic Blonde, adapted from a graphic novel by 300 screenwriter Kurt Johnstad. The film stars Charlize Theron as an undercover agent kick-punching her way through a buffet line of Cold War-era stooges. If Atomic Blonde merely delivers on the promise of Theron kicking ass and looking amazing, this will be the feel-good film of the summer; story and style would be gravy. Leitch has Deadpool 2 lined up for next year, so hopefully we get one decent actioner out of him before that assured abomination kills us all.

<i>The Beguiled</i>

Detroit (August 4)

Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow reteams with the screenwriter of The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal, for her first film in five years, a visceral ensemble piece about the 1967 Detroit riots featuring John Boyega, Anthony Mackie and John Krasinski. Sparked by racial injustice and inflamed by police brutality, the riots seem like the sort of historical event tailor-made for Bigelow’s brand of compellingly problematic cinema. After Bigelow and Boal took heat for playing loose with the facts in Zero Dark Thirty, you can already sense the “think piece” crew warming up their glibbest hot takes. But if anyone can both embrace the exploitative nature of the project, as well as find moral quandaries in the middle of violent chaos, it would be Bigelow.

Logan Lucky (August 18)

It turns out that Steven Soderbergh is very bad at retirement. He claimed to call it quits following the 2013 double feature of Side Effects and Behind the Candelabra, but he has been working nonstop ever since, most notably as a creative force on the Cinemax show The Knick. And now Soderbergh even manages to beat the already overhyped Ocean’s Eight to the punch with his own star-heavy heist movie, starring Channing Tatum and Adam Driver as brother thieves pulling off a job at a NASCAR race. Next time, maybe try bingo nights?

Jim Lane’s cinematic paradise

<i>Baby Driver</i>

Wonder Woman (June 2)

The portents for this one aren’t entirely auspicious: Zack Snyder had a hand in the script (seldom a good sign), and the trailers bristle with the usual array of patently impossible action and CGI so hyperrealistic that both are oddly unconvincing. Still, Israeli actress Gal Gadot—virtually the only survivor of the mess that was Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice—may be the best thing to hit American movies since Marion Cotillard. Her new vehicle has the kind of period setting (in this case, World War I) that added historical texture to Captain America: The First Avenger, and having Chris Pine along as sidekick Steve Trevor can only help.

Paris Can Wait (June 2 in Sacramento)

This one has been playing the boutique-festival circuit for months and is set to open June 2 at Sacramento’s Tower Theatre. Writer-director Eleanor Coppola proved herself as a documentary filmmaker years ago; this is her fiction-film debut. It stars Diane Lane and the French countryside between Cannes and Paris—so far, so good—and the Frenchman Arnaud Viard, a bit of an unknown quantity. Having Lane play the wife of a driven, dedicated, inattentive movie producer (Alec Baldwin) gives the film a naughty whiff of autobiography. (Coppola’s own husband is Francis Ford Coppola.)

<i>Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets</i>

Baby Driver (June 28)

Writer-director Edgar Wright seems to have his finger on the pulse of something or other—maybe it’s the “youth zeitgeist,” or maybe it’s just that he makes really fun movies. Anyhow, the components here all add up to eager anticipation: There are fast cars, a nifty cast, a major heist and a pop-music soundtrack—all combined with Wright’s track record (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The World’s End) and what just might be a star-making turn by Ansel Elgort in the title role.

Dunkirk (July 21)

Writer-director Christopher Nolan comes back down to Earth from Interstellar, out into the real world from Inception, and into history from the Dark Knight trilogy for this retelling of the “Miracle of Dunkirk” in the early days of World War II. Nearly 350,000 Allied troops, surrounded and cut off by the advancing Nazi hordes, were somehow evacuated and saved to fight another day. A miracle, yes, but also a colossal military disaster. Even darker days lay ahead for Britain before the war turned in their favor. Nolan seems just the guy to give the drama its due, as long as he can avoid the kind of dreary soap opera that sank 2001’s Pearl Harbor (but then, that was Michael Bay).

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (July 21)

Director Luc Besson is one of the loosest cannons that ever rolled around the deck of world cinema, but even when he misfires—say, with Lucy or Arthur and the Invisibles—he’s never dull. This one may turn out to be a companion piece to his guilty-pleasure The Fifth Element—and the pleasure may not even be all that guilty. At least the trailers look stunning (but then, so did Jupiter Ascending).