Are you a fan of sequels? Then you’ll love summer 2018.
As usual, this year’s slate of summer movies is built on the films that came before. Having rocketed to a start with last week’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” the season brings a rash of spin-offs and follow-ups, with the occasional original thrown in (if you think a 70-foot shark sounds original, that is).
Here are some of the most highly anticipated titles, with the usual warning that opening dates are subject to change.
“Life of the Party.” The premise sounds moldy — an adult returns to college to get her degree, at the same school her daughter attends, har har — but we’ll give this one the benefit of the doubt, thanks to the presence of the unstoppable Melissa McCarthy. She also co-wrote the screenplay with husband Ben Falcone, who directs.
“Breaking In.” A mother must break into a high-tech house to rescue her children from invaders. As she’s played by the formidable Gabrielle Union, it stands to reason that the bad guys (led by Bellingham native son Billy Burke) don’t stand much of a chance. Sounds like a leftover from Jennifer Lopez’s career, but it might be effective.
“Deadpool 2.” In 2016’s “Deadpool” — a refreshing whiff of unfiltered R-rated sarcasm — Ryan Reynolds got to merge his tongue-in-cheek image with an anti-hero character who could break the Fourth Wall and mock other Marvel Comics franchises. The sequel has, somewhat alarmingly, parted ways with “Deadpool” director Tim Miller (subbing in Tim Leitch, of the listless “Atomic Blonde”), but Reynolds appears to be in charge. Josh Brolin — also doing megavillain duty in “Avengers: Infinity War” — plays the bad guy. If the movie is half as inventive as its marketing campaign (which included an issue of Good Housekeeping magazine “guest edited” by Deadpool), we’ll be fine.
“Book Club.” Four friends read “Fifty Shades of Grey,” thus causing a cataclysm in their respective love lives. Let’s hope that a talented quartet can bring this awkward premise to life: Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen. Among the men caught up in this uptick of libidos are Don Johnson and Andy Garcia.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story.” The role of the young Han Solo is taken by Alden Ehrenreich, an actor who showed great promise in “Hail, Caesar!” and “Rules Don’t Apply.” Still, let’s face it, these are some big shoes to fill, and pre-release publicity wasn’t helped by Disney firing the directors halfway through production (Ron Howard was hired to complete the job, not exactly evidence of trying something new). I’m betting Ehrenreich beats expectations, but the movie itself remains a big question mark.
“Adrift.” Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin play youthful adventurers who point their sailboat in the direction of a Pacific hurricane, which is a lousy idea for marine navigation but a decent set-up for a survival movie. This one’s directed by Baltasar Kormakur, whose films (“Contraband,” for instance) can be pretty fun.
“How to Talk to Girls at Parties.” Teen sci-fi punk from author Neil Gaiman and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” director John Cameron Mitchell — I think I’m in, folks. Add Elle Fanning and Nicole Kidman, and you may have a small-scale summer sleeper.
“Ocean’s 8.” Don’t tell the boys who hated the female “Ghostbusters” project, but this is a variation on the George Clooney “Ocean’s” movies, with — yup, women instead of men. Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett lead the cast of heist-plotters, with Anne Hathaway as their prime target. With all the names in the cast — you’ve also got Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter and Mindy Kaling, among others — there’s at least going to be a lot going on here.
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Here’s an experiment. Play the trailer for this documentary about Fred Rogers, the host of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” and see how many seconds it takes before you burst into tears. Prediction: probably fewer than it took to read that sentence. This film about the beloved TV pioneer, directed by “20 Feet from Stardom” Oscar-winner Morgan Neville, won raves on the festival circuit and seems likely to stand as one of the documentary success stories of the year. Old clips and new interviews (Rogers died in 2003) chronicle how such a decent man could have become a TV success, and recall Rogers’ periodic testimony to politicians seeking to de-fund public broadcasting. Expect sales of cardigan sweaters to skyrocket.
“Incredibles 2.” After 14 years, director Brad Bird returns for another chapter in the lives of the superhero family (voiced by a just-right cast led by Holly Hunter and Craig T. Nelson). The twist is that musclebound blowhard Mr. Incredible must play stay-at-home dad while wife Elastigirl basks in the crime-fighting limelight. Given the crack comic timing and delirious animation of the first “Incredibles,” this one has a good chance at creating sustained bliss.
“On Chesil Beach.” The summer slate gets a little class of the literary kind, as Saoirse Ronan stars in a British period romance set in the repressed times of 1962. It’s based on an Ian McEwan novel (he also wrote “Atonement,” the movie that first brought Ronan to wide attention), and Ronan is going to win an Oscar sooner than later, so maybe this will be the one.
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” While nobody was looking, the 2015 film “Jurassic World” stomped its way into the top five grossing films ever released. Lesson: Don’t bet against dinosaurs. (Or Jeff Goldblum, one might add.) In the sequel, dinologist Chris Pratt returns to Jurassic island to save the prehistoric beasts from a volcano. Bryce Dallas Howard, whose habit of wearing high heels during jungle chase scenes was a point of criticism in the first film, is also back — and so is Goldblum.
“Under the Silver Lake.” I’m looking forward to this one because writer-director David Robert Mitchell’s “It Follows” was one of the most assured horror pictures in years. The mood shifts here as we venture into noir territory, with Andrew Garfield obsessing over a murder case involving a billionaire, and also over attractive neighbor Riley Keough (from “Logan Lucky”), who suddenly goes missing. It sounds like an L.A. mood piece with slanted comedy thrown in, so look for a stylish “Chinatown Junior” vibe going on.
“Sicario: Day of the Soldado.” A sequel to the 2015 suspense film about the drug trade along the U.S.-Mexico border. This time Emily Blunt isn’t around, but Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin return to the fray (and so does screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, who since wrote the excellent “High or High Water”).
“Tag.” A group of old friends gather annually to play a game of tag; this year, the greatest of them (Jeremy Renner) announces his withdrawal from the contest. This shall not stand. It’s a curious idea for a movie, but maybe the fun cast can make it work: Jon Hamm, Ed Helms, Isla Fisher, Hannibal Buress, et al.
“The First Purge.” The horror-movie franchise takes the prequel route, as we go back in time to discover why American society decided to hold an annual night of utter lawlessness. These films have been uneven (the second one is actually quite good), and here we get the origin story — as well as Marisa Tomei, as the government mastermind of the Purge.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp.” Undoubtedly irked at being left out of “Infinity War,” Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man gets another starring vehicle to prove his, ah, stature. Here he’s paired up with Evangeline Lilly as the Wasp, another teeny-tiny fighter. Joining the cast is Michelle Pfeiffer, whose character has been lost in the Quantum Realm, as if you didn’t know.
“Sorry to Bother You.” The buzz out of Sundance on this indie comedy was giddy, which suggests an ideal piece of non-blockbuster summer programming. Lakeith Stanfield (indelible as a dazed zombie in “Get Out”) stars as a telemarketer who learns that putting on his “white voice” opens up a whole new world. Director Boots Riley takes a slightly surreal approach to something that might have been a one-joke comedy — not a bad tactic, given the success of “Get Out.” Tessa Thompson and Armie Hammer co-star.
“Skyscraper.” Dwayne Johnson rebounds from his scrap with a giant white gorilla in “Rampage” (are they possibly running out of ideas for the Rock?) to supervise security at a huge Hong Kong high-rise. Before you can say “Towering Inferno,” the place is on fire. Unusual twist: Johnson plays a military vet who lost one leg in combat. This will make a billion dollars.
“Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation.” Hey, don’t laugh: The first two cartoon monster jamborees made a huge amount of money. Therefore Adam Sandler’s production company is at it again, this time sending Dracula and the gang on a cruise.
“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.” Let’s see if we’ve got the concept here: Much of this sequel unfolds as a flashback to the youth of the Meryl Streep character from the first movie. Not sure how much Streep is in this one (her younger self is played by the very capable Lily James, from “Baby Driver”), but we get added value in the arrival of Cher. Wait, Abba songs and Cher in the same movie? This might be even more of a guilty pleasure than the original film.
“The Equalizer 2.” Denzel Washington keeps his hand in the action-movie game, with a follow-up appearance as a vigilante justice-server. It would appear that “this time, it’s personal,” as it so often is in these movies. Oscar winner Melissa Leo co-stars. By the way, when do we get the crossover event with Washington and Liam Neeson joining forces and busting heads?
“Mission: Impossible — Fallout.” I realize the American box office has moved past Tom Cruise’s superstardom, but the fact is some of his recent films have been among his best, and he’s shown a dogged insistence on aligning himself with interesting filmmakers (we’ll ignore “The Mummy”). Here, Cruise cranks out another “M:I” chapter, with writer-director Christopher McQuarrie — who also did the previous one — in charge. The story probably has something to do with international espionage … but does the plot really matter, when even the marketing is about Cruise’s willingness to perform unbelievably risky stunts? “Superman” actor Henry Cavill, who was really born to be in a spy movie (we’ll ignore “The Man from UNCLE,” too), turns up, and Rebecca Ferguson makes a welcome return to the “M:I” world.
“Christopher Robin.” A middle-aged man suffers a nervous breakdown and has hallucinations about a talking bear. Or, this is a Disney production about the boy who inspired the Winnie the Pooh stories and what happens to him when Pooh appears in his adult life. Either way, it’s Ewan McGregor as Christopher Robin (who in real life struggled with his fame as the subject of his father A.A. Milne’s stories).
“Mile 22.” Mark Wahlberg teams up again with the director of “Patriots Day” and “Deepwater Horizon,” Peter Berg, for a yarn about an intelligence officer smuggling an informant out of captivity. The cast is interesting — including John Malkovich and MMA fighter Ronda Rousey — and star and director have announced their intention of doing a trilogy about the main character.
“Black KkKlansman.” Spike Lee’s new film is about an African-American cop (John David Washington) who infiltrates his local Ku Klux Klan membership. It’s a Spike Lee movie, so yeah, this could be wild. Adam Driver co-stars.
“The Meg.” Now this looks like a summer movie: A 70-foot shark discovered by Jason Statham and his underwater researchers. It’s a Megalodon, a giant shark that patrolled the oceans 2 million years ago but has long been extinct. Or so we thought. (We need this film.)
“The Happytime Murders.” Someone is killing the cast members of a once-popular TV puppet show — can a puppet detective solve the case? There’s some Muppet talent behind this premise, including director Brian Henson. Humans are also in the cast, including Melissa McCarthy and Elizabeth Banks.
“Slender Man.” This horror flick feels a little late in arriving, as the online phenomenon of the Slender Man happened a few years ago. But August is often a good month for horror, and the urban legend (or is it?) of a mysterious ghostly figure might just scare up some money at summer’s end.