Can you feel that? That hot sticky air outside? That’s baseball season. But it’s also summer movie season and I’m here once again to help you weed through the onslaught of summer blockbusters and find the ones that stand out, and maybe a few you would have missed otherwise.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows — This might be a surprise for some of you considering how mediocre the first film was, but much like the sequel to the first X-Men film this looks to fully capture what fans of the 80s cartoon love about this franchise. Specifically Bebop, Rocksteady and Casey Jones. Granted we will still have to endure Megan Fox but I feel confident that if we all find a buddy like in kindergarten and hold their hand we can make it through her scenes as Dollar Store Lois Lane, I mean Exposition Girl, I mean April. Dammit.
Independence Day: Resurgence — One of the best cinema experiences of my life happened on July 4th 1996 in our nations capital. My father, my Uncle Charles and I sat down to watch a new Jeff Goldblum movie called Independence Day, or for some inexplicable reason, ID4 on several posters. It was an insane movie. It was Jurassic Park with half the soap box and twice the spectacle. I loved every second of it. I’ve probably seen the original an unhealthy amount of times and if the sequel is even half as fun it’ll be worth the price of admission. Now I’m just as sad as anyone that Will Smith isn’t returning but we still get Goldblum, Bill Pullman and Judd Hirsch. Maybe this time we’ll see if they have those pens. I mean we’d all be dead if it wasn’t for his David.
Free State of Jones — Newton Knight was a farmer and a soldier in the Confederate Army. In October of 1862 Jones went AWOL. He was arrested for this and his farm was burned to the ground by the Confederacy, leaving his family homeless. After the Siege of Vicksburg the number of deserters swelled and in the coming weeks many of them rallied around Knight and formed a small community in Jones County. What they called the Free State of Jones. For the past several years Matthew McConaughey has been championing a film about this unusual story and now, finally, it’s here. I’ve never been too interested in Civil War movies because often they go back to the well of brother against brother but this, this is an interesting take. To focus on a man who deserted his post and turn him into a folk hero. I’m very interested in that kind of film.
The Shallows — I almost left the theater during the trailer for this which is as good of a recommendation for a horror movie as you’ll find anywhere. I am, in a word, terrified of sharks and this film is tailor made to prey on that fear, pun intended, thank you very much. Blake Lively stars in this taught thriller as a surfer stranded less than a mile off shore, the only thing between her and the beach is, and this is just an estimate, a 20 foot shark, maybe 25.
Ghostbusters — I’ve always been a Ghostbusters fan. It’s my favorite film of all time and I’ve watched it so much I can recite the script verbatim. I had the toys, the board game, the comics. The first notebook I ever took to school had a crude drawing of the logo scrawled in red marker on the back. When I was little the kids on my street would play “Ghostbusters” in the yard of the old house down the block that nobody lived in. There were four of us and the only girl, Nikki, always had to be Janine, because girls just couldn’t be “Ghostbusters.” Say what you want about gimmicks or feminism or that awful word diversity, but wherever she is, I hope Nikki is really excited about this film. I know I am.
The Infiltrator — Bryan Cranston. I shouldn’t need to say anything else, but I will. Pablo Escobar. Now if the name of the most famous drug lord of the 1980s doesn’t ring a bell congrats on being under 30. Cranston stars as a DEA agent, a bit of a change from his most famous role, who goes undercover and eventually gets inside Escobar’s operations. How can you not want to see that? No, seriously I’m asking because I want to know. For science.
Suicide Squad — Well here it is. The black sheep of the bunch. Everything else on this list has generated a lot of excitement from me but this one, I just don’t know. I’m a big fan of the Squad going way back to the 80s. I loved the idea of taking characters you hated in other books and forcing you to root for them as a team. But I don’t know how well that’s going to transfer for characters we’re not familiar with. And you might say, but Jeff, we all know the Joker, and a lot of us know Deadshot from The Flash to show. And while that’s true, we don’t know “these” versions of the characters. The comic book worked because it had decades of material to build from. I hope they can make this a worthwhile endeavor but I’m just not convinced they’ve earned it.
Sausage Party — “From the people who brought you “Pineapple Express” is probably not something you’d expect to see in the trailer for an animated film. But that’s exactly what sets “Sausage Party” apart from your typical summer animated fare. This is not for children. “Sausage Party” tells the story of a pack of hot dogs in a world where food comes to life, and once away from the grocery store, realizes their only purpose is to be eaten. So of course they rebel and hatch a plan to head back to the store and warn their friends. It’s the kind of idea that could only be born from watching movies like “Toy Story” in a state like California or Colorado and I cannot wait to see how many angry moms have to demand a refund for “this filth.”
The Founder — Michael Keaton is having a well deserved Renaissance after the success of “Birdman” and this looks to be another Oscar contender. Now I know this the third true story on this list of what is supposed to be a guide to geeky blockbusters, but honestly can you get more geeky than the sordid tale of the founding of perhaps the single most well known American institution? Probably. But still. Michael Keaton. Nick Offerman. McDonald’s. That’s the movie. Sold!
Kobu and the Two Strings — “Kobu” is the directorial debut of Travis Knight, lead animator on ‘Coraline’ and ‘The Boxtrolls.’ It tells the story of a young boy named Kobu who must go on a quest for a magical artifact. The film looks, in a word, gorgeous. Stop-motion has never looked this beautiful on screen and with a cast featuring Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey it’s sure to sound just a good.
War Dogs — Rounding out our films is the fourth true story on this list. Based on a Rolling Stone article that was later expanded into a book, “War Dogs” stars Jonah Hill and Miles Teller as arms dealers supplying weapons to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Now on paper I know this doesn’t seem like a comedy but director Todd Phillips has captured a very “Coen Brothers on steroids” vibe in the trailers and if that holds true as a reflection of the actual films tone, wow, we are in for a very weird little film.
That does it for me this year. Remember to pack your bug spray for that short walk from the car to the theater. Those little devils are everywhere. And if you find yourself, for some odd reason, not interested in seeing a summer spectacle, might I suggest diverting your eyes from the upcoming election as well. Be safe and make good choices.
Commentary by Jeff Dixon
ISSUE Senior Geek Writer
(Jeff Dixon loves movies and comic books in a way that often terrifies him. You can follow his insane ramblings on Twitter @ThatJeffDixon)