Wondering what new movies to watch? Looking for a good date night? Bored out of your mind? Don’t waste your ticket money on less-than-stellar films — here’s a list of this summer’s must-see movies.
"Incredibles 2" (out now)
At first, I was wondering whether this should even be on the list: everyone should be equally and unapologetically ecstatic in once again embracing the super crises of domesticity (pun fully intended). Of course, director Brad Bird has kept an incredibly consistent and phenomenal portfolio of projects from the past: “The Iron Giant,” “Ratatouille,” “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” and others contain a masterful blend of heart, conflict, excitement, adventure and a total encapsulation of the human psyche in a solidly gripping manner. Acknowledging the lukewarm reception of “Tomorrowland” from Bird, “The Incredibles” remains one of the most beloved animated films of the 21st century, elucidating the filmmaker’s impressive range between one-off Disney properties and everlasting cornerstones of nostalgic American cinema. I try to say that genuinely, because it seems to make every major list of animated films or ones that deserve a sequel — this certainly fits both.
I’m especially appreciative of the directorial decision to approach this release from two different, mutually-inclusive angles. For about a decade, Bird was adamant on not filming “Incredibles 2” until the right story had come along. Now that the moment is here, it’s nice to see Helen Parr (a.k.a. Elastigirl) pick up the weight of the main character and shatter the housewife generalization she was given in the first film.
Under these guidelines, Brad Bird gives me immense hope for the continuation of the lovably kinetic family dynamics, interspersed with explosions, gunfights and Ian Fleming levels of ne’er-do-well antagonists. To the first remark, to withhold perhaps his most successive IP for ten years under the intent of narrative solidity requires a great deal of respect, and, above all else, patience. That he had waited this long projects Bird’s confidence in deafening ways.
Further, the shift to Helen Parr as our protagonist is reassuring — not as some denotative commentary on gender norms, but instead acting as a simple sign that avoids plot recycling. Bird seems to be pulling all the stops in his efforts to build up “Incredibles 2” to the standards of the first. As his work in the past has shown, his grasp on worldbuilding and character dynamism is second to none.
"Sicario: Day of the Soldado" (out now)
Summer is here, which means the return of major films that will bring thousands out of the sun and into the theater. “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” is shaping up to be one of those films, not only providing solace from muggy heat of the midday sun, but an exciting continuation from its Villeneuvian predecessor. Unfortunately, Denis Villeneuve won’t be directing this sequel — it’s instead helmed by Stefano Sollima (“Suburra”) — and with his departure, an element of concern rises in whether or not this film will surpass, let alone match the first installment.
One thing can be said with sure security, however, and that’s the return of screenwriter Taylor Sheridan. Between “Hell or High Water,” “Sicario” and his fantastic directorial debut of “Wind River,” Sheridan’s Americana trilogy has paved the way for his excellent characterization and tension building. If the writer’s struggle is to show and not tell, “Soldado” has quite the uphill battle to satiate the expectations of every “Sicario” fan who enjoyed the mix of contemplative geopolitics and intense firefights.
Regardless of how far into one or the other this sequel leans, Sheridan’s name alone is enough to get me through the door and ready for more of the sardonically efficient anti-cartel operations, especially when said tasks are completed by a grizzly Josh Brolin or poetically murderous Benicio Del Toro.
"Ant-Man and the Wasp" (out now)
After the grim and destructive events of April’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” Marvel fans desperately need a detour back into the previous Marvel fare that they know and love. This summer’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp” not only returns with Paul Rudd’s charming super-dad but also introduces us to Marvel’s first leading woman, Evangeline Lilly. She impressed us with her remote, yet calculated performance in the first film, and now she is rightfully suiting up as Ant-Man’s equal. Also returning from the first film is the scene-stealing Michael Peña, who seems to be right back in his comedic spirit as Paul Rudd’s partner in crime.
If the comedic nature of the Ant-Man and Wasp characters aren’t enough to get you into the theater, returning director Peyton Reed finally appears to understand the utility of their size-changing abilities. The first two trailers have displayed entertaining and, more importantly, clever action sequences that look to literally and metaphorically expand the scope of this Marvel universe.
The plot of the film has been kept under wraps until this point in time; however, Marvel Studios has confirmed that it will heavily explore the philosophical and mind-numbing quantum realm seen in the first film. Audiences should anticipate another notch in Marvel Studios’ belt of successes in the midst of experiencing the superhero couple that they hoped for.
"Mission: Impossible – Fallout" (July 27)
It’s hard to discredit the necessity for a summer movie season to include an over-the-top action-spy flick. Daniel Craig’s James Bond is unfortunately taking a break for the 2018 season, so “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is this year’s chance. Producer and star Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt, who takes it upon himself to finish a controversial order after the CIA threatens to disband the organization he serves. Even though the franchise isn’t known for clever narratives, the always-changing creative team has consistently produced well-constructed action sequences, and “Fallout” appears to deliver once again.
After scaling one of the tallest buildings in the world and strapping himself on the outside of a plane in previous films, audiences should have nothing but confidence in Cruise's character's ability to raise the stakes. This entry’s most ambitious selling point is that Cruise learned to professionally pilot a helicopter for sequences in the upcoming film. The decision to have the film’s leading man realistically portray the impressive stunts that would otherwise be recreated with visual effects always adds a refreshing layer of authenticity to the franchise.
Henry Cavill — Warner Bros.’ current Superman — also introduces a new face to the film as a CIA agent struggling with the decision to assist or detain Ethan’s rogue persona. “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” will hopefully maintain the success that preceding films have been able to achieve and satisfy those eager for an action film this summer.
"BlacKkKlansman" (August 10)
It’s far from shocking to not only consider myself unsurprised, but pleased at Spike Lee’s continuation of commentative racial dramas. While I was never a fan of “Bamboozled,” it justifiably joins entries such as “Do the Right Thing” or “Malcolm X” in presenting original and multifaceted ways to approach the discussion of racial strata in contemporary society, one bound to the ever-present threat of representation. In “BlacKkKlansman,” truth becomes stranger than fiction as an African-American police officer successfully rises to the leading rank in a Montana Ku Klux Klan chapter. Of my own volition, I couldn’t say if there’s more to the story in terms of marketing, as I’ve deliberately avoided news about these upcoming films: Lee’s film offers a synopsis that is so evident in its absurdity, the very nature of its plot is gravitating.
As an addendum, Adam Driver is also a member of the cast. I don’t like to say this lightly, but Driver was cast in the revival of both Martin Scorsese’s and Terry Gilliam’s passion projects (“Silence” and “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” respectively). Sure, perhaps it’s a case of correlation-versus-causation, but between those entries, the Star Wars franchise and a stupendous career flourishing through collabs with the Coen Brothers and Steven Soderbergh, his involvement alone brings “BlacKkKlansman” to the forefront of my interest. Odds are, if there’s a Driver, there’s a quality film — or at the very least — a stellar performance to push this budding actor into the Hollywood stratosphere.