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Summer Movie Preview

After a winter that seemed as if it would never end, we have finally reached the point where we can pack away the mittens, and bust out the shorts.  These changes mean something different to every person, but for me, it means that the summer movie season is just around the corner.  Here are a look at some of the big names coming out over the course of the next few months.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES

For the past few years, Disney has banked on the familiar favorites in relation to many of its releases.  Relying heavily on the time honored classics that established the studio as the king of family films, they began to produce live-action remakes of beloved animated features such as CINDERELLA, PETE’S DRAGON, THE JUNGLE BOOK, and most recently, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.  This summer, however, they aren’t cracking open the archives, but rather, reacquainting audiences with one of their most lucrative brands and popular characters.

It’s been 14 years since the release of the fourth installment in the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN franchise (ON STRANGER TIDES) was released, and there are questions abound as to the relevancy and necessity of another chapter in the billion dollar franchise.  Conventional wisdom dictates that this installment will be bigger, bolder, and more beautiful than those that have come before it.  Considering that special effects and set-pieces were one of the reasons that PIRATES thrived as well as it did, there is little doubt that DEAD MEN will be chock full of bombastic visuals.  What I want to know is, will there be a narrative to drive the film, or will it simply be a flashy rehash of the same high sea hijinks that comprised the original movies?  With returning characters such as Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush,) Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley,) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) it will be interesting to see whether they find a way to add new life and levity to the litany of familiar faces.

The true test of PIRATES won’t revolve around plotlines or effects, but rather, the public’s opinion of star Johnny Depp.  There is no franchise without the lovable Captain Jack Sparrow, but after a string of flops, and ugly allegations of abuse from his ex-wife Amber Heard, DEAD MEN will serve as the litmus test of whether or not Depp still carries the clout he did when the original films at the peak of their popularity.

RELEASE DATE: MAY 26, 2017

CARS 3

Within the lexicon of Pixar feature length films, there are many who would place CARS 2 at the bottom of the heap.  Some were rankled by the fact that its James Bond-like plotline was a bit too intense for younger viewers, while others disliked the fact that Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) became the main protagonist, while Lighting McQueen (Owen Wilson) was relegated to a supporting role.  In my opinion, these diversions from the original were far less troublesome, and while it certainly did not measure up to the original CARS, it was still entertaining enough to rise above the typical family fare.

It remains to be seen where the CARS franchise goes from here.  Will director Brian Fee and the rest of his crew get back to the basics that made the original such an endearing hit, or will they continue to push boundaries and provide viewers with a new narrative on familiar characters?  If the recent release of the official trailer for the film is any indication, it looks like Lightning McQueen will once again become the focal point of the franchise.  The trailer, and indeed the first poster released for CARS 3, had a dark tone to it, and it appears that the narrative will be a bit more complex than the spy-centric adventure that the second installment was.  Bringing together familiar favorites like McQueen, Mater, Luigi (Tony Shalhoub,) and Sally (Bonnie Hunt,) while introducing new characters Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) and Sterling (Nathan Fillion,) there is little doubt that the filmmakers heard the harsh criticisms aimed at CARS 2, and will go to great lengths to prove that the franchise continues to remain a relevant entity for Pixar.

RELEASED DATE: JUNE 16, 2017

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

Between GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and SPIDERMAN: HOMECOMING, the Marvel Universe and two of its most popular entities look to have a huge summer at the box office.  For my money, however, there is a new installment of another franchise that intrigues me far more than any other.  After two intense and action packed films, Caesar and his simian brethren are back and look to be angrier than ever in WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES.

While the previous two chapters in the APES reboot series may not have had the same over-the-top, firework-fueled sequences as some of its big budget contemporaries, its special effects were absolutely stunning.  Featuring excellent turns by Andy Serkis as the incredibly intelligent Caesar, the films made you somehow forget that the apes themselves weren’t real.  Within the confines of their cinematic universe, they were completely believable, and more importantly, sympathetic. Though the original PLANET OF THE APES exuded an endearingly cheesy charm, this new incarnation is far more visceral.  Both RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES and DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES built drama steadily throughout their respective stories, ratcheting up the tension with each and every scene.  They were as stunning to look at as they were frightening to behold, and as the series inches ever closer to the eradication of the human race, I would imagine (and desperately hope) that the quality of the productions matches their lofty ambitions.  The finale of DAWN was shockingly brutal, and with Matt Reeves returning to direct this follow-up, you can expect WAR to explore the psychology the drives Caesar and his crew, and the lengths that they will go in order to preserve their place in the world.

RELEASE DATE:  JULY 14, 2017

THE DARK TOWER

After languishing for years in limbo, an adaptation of Stephen King’s THE DARK TOWER is finally being released on the big screen.  For the sake of objectivity, I should mention that I am a pretty big, well, okay, a HUGE fan of King’s magnum opus.  Stretched out over the course of 8 complex stories, the series focused on the quest of Gunslinger Roland Deschain (played Idris Elba in the film) as he yearns to defeat the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) and reach the elusive and mysterious Dark Tower.

Like PIRATES, there are innumerable questions to be answered in regards to THE DARK TOWER, the most pressing of which is how King’s complex and metaphysical tale will translate to film.  There is a thoroughly fascinating world that is introduced and explored in the 4,250 pages of material that King produced.  TOWER contains elements of multiple genres, including drama, sci-fi, horror, and spaghetti western.  For director Nikolaj Arcel to condense all of these elements into a 2 hour film will be no easy task.

There had been a long-running belief that THE DARK TOWER was going to be produced as a television series as opposed to a set of films, and being familiar with King’s source material, I always thought this would have been the correct course of action.  With so many characters and plotlines that are essential to the progression of the tale, it will essentially be up to Arcel and crew as to whether or not there will be any future films.  The future of the TOWER is wholly contingent on the success of this initial chapter, and there are millions of King fans around the world hoping against hope that this serves as the adaptation this saga deserves.  Along with Arcel, Elba is also vitally important, as Roland teeters on the edge of hero and villain.  The decisions he makes are all in the name of his quest, and it does not seem to matter what sacrifices he needs to make along the way.   

RELEASE DATE:  AUGUST 4, 2017

A special thanks goes to Regal Cinemas at Destiny USA for allowing me to attend all of this summer’s biggest hits.

Brian Miller
Film Critic
Based out of Central New York, Brian Miller is a film critic who works in television, radio, and print. Providing passionate and energetic takes on every movie he sees, he looks for the best in a movie, not the worst.