Here are the 7 (and a couple others) you should absolutely give your time to this summer at the cinema and on the home screen of your increasingly varied platform of choice:
Sense8 on Netflix – June 5, 2015: Returning soon after their original sci-fi actioner Jupiter Ascending disappointed in February, the Wachowski Siblings, who created The Matrix franchise, are delivering Netflix’s Sense8. Like another filmmaker turning to television this summer (see #7) I hope the Golden Age of TV will bless the Wachowskis with the skills to make a Cloud Atlas, not another Jupiter Ascending. The premise is fascinating and grows on the New Age-y stuff that the Wachowski’s thrive on, with a diverse and international cast to match. Even if it doesn’t come together as a narrative like some of their features, I predict it will be a global hit.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation on July 31, 2015: I’m a Tom Cruise fan. He will do his utmost to entertain the audience and it shows. The fact that they added Jeremy Renner in Ghost Protocol to the mix just makes me a bigger fan of this spy-fi franchise and its release shift from December to July (to avoid the Star Wars juggernaut) has me pumped. But I haven’t seen enough to say this will be as good as I expect and hope it will be. The trailer is promising and I like the idea of an anti-IMF. Evil counterparts can make great villains.
Terminator Genisys on July 1, 2015: A second Terminator reboot after the stinging disappointment of 2009’s Terminator Salvation registered exactly a 0 on my interest radar, despite valiant attempts like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Emilia Clarke’s casting. On the other hand, they cast Jai Courtney. It cancels. But then they realized their marketing was doomed from the start and released a trailer that basically spoiled the Act 2 twist. Now that’s all we’re talking about. Kudos, I’ll know be seeing Genisys to see if it earns its twist or if it wastes the Terminator franchise. AGAIN.
SAM FLYNN’S SUMMER SEVEN
7. Wayward Pines premieres May 14, 2015
M. Night Shyamalan went from auteur to pariah in a spectacular fashion not seen since Alexander croaked the moment he conquered Persia. Nonetheless, Unbreakable is one of my favorite films of all time and seeing Signs was a seminal experience, as close to a modern Amblin film as I remember growing up in the late 90s and early 00s. But The Happening? The Last Airbender? After Earth?!? Atrocious on almost every level.
But there are some things going for this project, positioned as, yet again, M. Night’s long-awaited return-to-form. First, TV is a medium Shyamalan has yet to dip into and networks are more willing than ever to try daring storytelling. Second, the source material hits all the things that Night actually does do well and the caliber of the cast and crew is impeccably. Third, the source material is said to be both strong and satisfying, shortcircuting worries that the “people-trapped-in-a-small-town” won’t live up to its own hype (Anybody remember Persons Unknown? Just me?)
Yes, I’m a sucker for the Twin Peaks-meets-The Cabin in the Woods mash-up they seem to be cooking but I swear to you Shyamalan. Don’t screw me again. I can only take so much hurt.
6. Mad Max: Fury Road – May 15, 2015
I love Tom Hardy. This is well-documented. I hadn’t given the Mad Max series the time of day while Mel Gibson inhabited the role, but hearing Hardy was taking over I binged all three and the Internet is right – the second film The Road Warrior, like many other second films, is the best of the franchise. George Miller, director and franchise creator, understands that. That’s why Fury Road does what The Road Warrior does best: non-stop vehicular stunt action.
Miller on an instrinsic level understands filmmaking. Indeed, the very first things filmed where trains racing at cameras and chases and action to make up for the fact that films were silent. Hardy is the closest we have to a modern day Brando and his performance is said to match – he speaks on 20 or so lines in the whole film. Back him up with Charlize Theron, a phenomenal actress, and rising star Nicholas Hoult in what looks like a stand-out gonzo performance and you have something utterly unique in the summer landscape.
5. Jurassic World – June 12, 2015
Jurassic Park is the Star Wars of 90s kids. Just ask star Chris Pratt. And make no mistake, Jurassic World is the 21st century answer to the original film. Quite unlike the previous sequels, it is set on the original island, Isla Nublar, and features a fully-functioning theme park that matches John Hammond’s (the late Richard Attenborough) original vision. But, like all things in life for humans, it’s not enough. And life, uh,uh, finds a way. In this case that manifests as a genetic hybrid dinosaur both sadistic and insane.
Up-and-coming director Colin Trevarrow was inspired by the idea of a boy texting while ignoring the dinosaur exhibit in front of him, bringing to mind a certain Louis C.K. speech. I look at this movie as the promise of the first fulfilled and although my expectations are almost-certainly too high, I really just want a fun thrill ride and a good ole monster film. So they’re already half-way there.
4. Southpaw – July 31, 2015
Holy shit, that trailer. That Southpaw trailer sold me. I mean, I’m such an Eminem nut that I was on this project like stink on a dog, from the first moment it was first bandied about in 2010 as a possibly starring vehicle for the world-renowned rapper. But Eminem decided to stick with rapping and Jake Gyllenhaal stepped up to become Billy Hope, a welterweight boxing champion destroyed by tragedy working to regain his spot at the top so he can reunite with his daughter.
No one can deny Gyllenhaal is one some kind of acting roll and here he might find his greatest success yet as the ripped boxer Hope, especially since it is in sharp contrast to his acclaimed performance as the thin and gangly sociopath Lou Bloom in last year’s Nightcrawler.
Antoine Fuqua – who is on quite a roll starting franchises with both 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen and 2014’s The Equalizer getting sequels in 2015 and 2017 respectively – directs this underdog story with a script originating from Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter. Like I said, didn’t need to sell me. I’m there.
3. Hannibal – Season 3 on NBC
I’ll admit, I wasn’t a Fannibal entering 2015 but within 3 weeks of the new year, my girlfriend and I had binge-watched the 26 episodes of Seasons 1 and 2 and we were hooked. Hannibal is the best example of what Gotham is not – an exciting gumbo stew of all the best parts of the Hannibal Lecter mythology, but with its own unique and surreal spin that puts it in a cinematic, almost David Lynch-ian category. All of this, accomplished while on NBC. That’s right the broadcast network. Miracles do happen.
Season 3 premiers June 5. This season will be a combined adaptation of the book/film Hannibal (mostly his time abroad in Italy) and the book/film(s) Red Dragon (protagonist Will Graham and Lecter against the serial killing Tooth Fairy). Give this show a chance and you’ll find yourself salivating and horrified at the same time. Dad, you’ll appreciate the cooking.
2. True Detective – Season 2 on HBO
There is a healthy debate on whether Hannibal or True Detective is the superior show. It’s one I’ll get into one day on the Slog (seriously, talk about deconstructing the bromance through a cop show format). True Detective edges out in my interest department, even if I concede Hannibal is honestly the “better” show. It vibes with me more because I’m existentially angst-y and inwardly cynical a lot of the time while Hannibal is actually, dare I say it, fun and lighthearted toward its gruesome and macabre subject matter.
That doesn’t diminish True Detective‘s first season, a singular accomplishment for writing, directing, and acting in a way that made it an instant must-see. But the real test of the show’s longevity will be decided when the second season premieres June 21 on HBO.
It features a new story (a murder during a monumental transportation deal in California), a new cast (led by Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams, and Taylor Kitsch), and different directors (Cary Joji Fukunga famously directed all eight Season 1 episodes) but remains entirely written by novelist and series creator Nic Pizzolatto. He has most certainly earned the trust of the audience and now we will see if he keeps it.
1. Straight Outta Compton – August 14, 2015
The 90s are becoming the new “nostalgia” era as the kids, like me and my peers, grow up and take to the marketplace. There couldn’t be a more politically-relevant time for Straight Outta Compton to appear. Almost a year exactly after the Ferguson protests put police brutality and race relations to a boil, Even Ice Cube had to give props to the producers for financing this movie, saying at last week’s Cinema Con (via Variety)
“Sorry guys, some of you all don’t have balls as big as Donna Langley,” Cube told theater owners last Thursday, referring to the Universal Pictures chair who greenlit the movie.
I predict this will be the film that defines the summer, much in the way Furious 7 – which beat Harry fucking Potter– showed that our American “melting pot of diversity” and the global audience maybe want stories without white dudes saving the world. How about literally anyone else just saving the damn neighborhood? For a lot of people, N.W.A. did just that and now I think they are in a position to have another impact on our cultural history.