Part 2 of the only UK Summer Movie Guide with enough misplaced snark to power five small-time YouTube channels singlehandedly for at least a week.
The universe definitely has it in for me to some degree. I wrote the scene-setting pre-amble to Part 1 in the middle of last week, when it was actually super-gloomy and relentlessly wet like an orgy populated exclusively by fellow depressives, only to sit on the piece because I had other more pressing work which needed doing and I wanted this series to run on consistent set days like some kind of professional. Then the last two days: fucking heatwave springs out of nowhere making me look like a goddamn fool! In the words of the best villain from my favourite cartoon ever: “I hate everyone.”
That particular gripe out of the way, welcome back to Your 2019 Summer Movie Guide! All week we’re scouring the nonsensically busy Summer release schedule attempting to pre-evaluate what movies may possibly be worth your time based upon often-substandard marketing! Monday, we covered the heavy-hitters of May, June, and the first week of July. Today, it’s the big names of July and August before we run it back on Sunday to mop up the lower-tiers and hidden-gems. The second half of this year’s list isn’t as crazy as 2018’s was, the joys of there being no World Cup on so UK distributors aren’t forced to push all their meal tickets to August in order to avoid that behemoth, but there’s still a lot to get through so enough rambling! Let’s punch it!
All release dates are UK specific, taken from the Film Distributors Association website and, whilst correct at press time, are subject to change.
Date: 12th July
Dir: Michael Dowse
Star: Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Bautista
One very telling way to figure out in advance if a comedy is going to be terrible comes from whether its trailer has one genuinely hilarious gag and the rest of it barely raises a smirk. Chances are, in those cases, you’ve just seen the only good joke in the entire movie and it’s there because the studio and marketers have panicked over making a giant turkey. It’s a real shame in relation to Stuber, at least for me, because I love Nanjiani and Bautista, am always up for odd-couple action-comedies, director Michael Dowse made Goon which is one of the best films of the decade – conversely, he also made What If…/The F Word, one its very worst – and the cast is rounded out by Betty Gilpin, Natalie Morales, Karen Gillan, and Iko Uwais who, goddammit, deserves better from Hollywood studio movies! Can someone give him a Stahelski/Leitch vehicle already, rather than forcing him to slum it in a glorified mega-corporation commercial like The Internship? …I have just realised that nobody actually remembers The Internship, but trust me when I tell you it was terrible.
The Dead Don’t Die
Date: 12th July
Dir: Jim Jarmusch
Star: Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, SO MANY OTHERS
*watches 40 seconds of embedded trailer* Yep, that’s definitely a Jim Jarmusch movie alright! I do have to wonder, is Jarmusch intentionally waiting until the pop cultural obsession with specific horror monsters has so completely curdled into “ugh, Christ, ANOTHER OF THESE?!” before he gets started on his idiosyncratic take? Like, zombies were played out even four years ago and nowadays I’d wager many people’s interest in a project drastically goes down when zombies are involved – like most bad things in this world, I think we can point to the movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies as the exact turning point – much like vampires were in 2013 when he dropped Only Lovers Left Alive. Regardless, very excited for this one! Paterson was a minor masterpiece with one of Adam Driver’s best performances and has surprisingly stuck with me in ways I can’t quite articulate in the years since, but I also can’t say I’m not thrilled to have off-beat Jarmusch back with us once again. Plus, THAT CAST, YO! Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, RZA, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Carol Kane, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits… It’s like the Indie version of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, who isn’t in this thing?
Date: 15th July
Dir: Ron Howard
I highlighted Diego Maradona in the last part because it was the new documentary by Asif Kapadia, so for consistencies’ sake here’s me highlighting Pavarotti because it’s the new documentary by Ron Howard. I give Howard a lot of guff for not having directed a truly great film in… *checks notes* THE MISSING WAS 16 YEARS AGO?! But whilst his fictional filmmaking skills have declined severely his two documentaries this decade, Made in America and The Beatles: Eight Days a Week, have been really enjoyable and, in fact, effuse a passion which doesn’t seem to be in his fiction work anymore. So, whilst I may have little interest in opera or Luciano Pavarotti, much like with football or Diego Maradona, I’m willing to give this one a fair shake. Admittedly, I do give every movie a fair shake in spite of what some of my comments in pieces like these may betray, but hopefully you get the sentiment.
The Lion King
Date: 19th July
Dir: Jon Favreau
Star: Donald Glover, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Chiwetel Ejiofor, James Earl Jones (voices)
Right. This is going to be good, first off. Only a complete mug could possibly screw up the fundamentals of a remake of The Lion King and, whilst Jon Favreau has made a few duds in his weird-as-hell career, he is certainly no mug and his Jungle Book from 2016 was really solid outside of the kid. The photorealistic CGI is objectively excellent, improving a heck of a lot from the already-excellent Jungle Book. And I think there’s actually something quietly powerful about 80% of the main cast, and seemingly all of the lions, being voiced by Black actors and actresses, building upon the foundations of the original’s voice cast by not having the main protagonist and villain be voiced by White people – cannot stress this enough: no disrespect to Matthew Broderick or Jason Isaacs, who were fantastic, and I’m not giving or taking points away from either film over this; I just find it kind of powerful and an interesting development to point out.
Now, that all said… why? That is, of course, the million dollar question pursuing all of Disney’s live-action remakes, particularly as they’ve started minimising the often-bonkers reimaginings like Maleficent (Baby’s First Rape-Revenge Movie) in favour of faithful recreations with minor expansions like Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast, and I feel it’s only gotten harder to avoid as they’ve started picking 90s Renaissance Classics for their source material. Unlike, say, Dumbo or that now-Disney+’d Lady and the Tramp, these movies largely don’t have offensive elements (typically pertaining to race) which make them arguably unsuitable to family viewing nowadays and therefore somewhat justify what is meant to be a replacing by the faux-progressive Disney Corporation so they can keep profiting from their history.
And that’s the other thing: even setting aside the fact that Lion King was a mere 25 years ago (Aladdin was 27 and next year’s Mulan will be 22), what other studio do you know which so carefully protects and so readily circulates its past history of movies like Disney does? Do you see Universal going out of its way to ensure that An American Tail is always in circulation and restored to a pristine shine on the newest formats with the newest technology? Was it Paramount that restored and re-issued Billy Wilder’s 1951 masterwork Ace in the Hole on home media or was it The Criterion Collection, an outside company with nothing to do with Paramount, which stepped in? DreamWorks Animation have effectively scrubbed 2004’s Oscar-nominated Shark Tale from their history, yet Disney will gladly reissue Chicken Little on Blu-Ray in 2016 in spite of equal embarrassment over its existence.
A studio as devoted to, gleefully ready to exploit, and willing to constantly remind viewers of its own past as Disney is doesn’t need to do this. Admittedly, no studio needs to remake a readily-available modern classic from its library, but there’s something extremely off-putting to me about a studio trying to sell me on two separate versions of the same film at the exact same time. The Broadway musicals are entirely different ways to experience the animated films in a manner which requires restaging and recontextualising from the ground up, and other live-action remakes at least have the novelty of transitioning to a new medium. This Lion King is an animated remake of an animated movie that, in maybe even a mere five years’ time, Disney likely won’t even consider when drawing up new Lion King parade designs at Walt Disney World Resort; they’ll just go back to the 1994 one which, by laws of computer animation, will likely still have aged better and is more vibrant to look at. I don’t know, this all just feels rather gross to me, hence the rant, and I know I’m not alone since I’ve seen this sentiment bandied about clearer elsewhere. Like I said, Crystal Lion King will most likely be good. But its mere existence bums me the fuck out. Maybe I’m getting old.
Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans
Date: 26th July
Dir: Dominic Brigstocke
Star: Sebastian Croft, Emilia Jones, Nick Frost, Kim Cattrall
Speaking of which, the Horrible Histories TV series arrived just a little too late (2009) for me to get on board the train – to this day, I am still yet to see a single episode, which is not a point of pride but instead a sad admission because I would probably have adored it had things started two years earlier since I voraciously consumed Horrible Histories books as a child. Still, I can at least take solace in the show’s creators having missed their own train as six years after the show ended, and four years after the justly-forgotten Shakespeare faux-biopic Bill, we are only now getting the big screen movie version… with exactly none of the original cast (who have all moved onto better things) and only two of the original writers (Caroline Norris and Giles Pilbrow). The above teaser, the only evidence so far that this movie is coming out when it says it’s coming out, is centred around a Spartacus joke where instead of saying “Spartacus” they say “FART-acus.” COMEDY GOLD! Yeah, this is definitely going to be worthy of everyone’s time.
The Current War
Date: 26th July
Dir: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Star: Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, Nicholas Hoult
Speaking of things that are definitely coming out when they say they’re coming out… There’s actually quite a number of big-ticket items in the back half of this Summer that I’m real sceptical about hitting their alleged release dates, when I started work we were still expecting to see James Gray’s Ad Astra and the vapourware New Mutants within the next two months before they were unsurprisingly yanked, and this failed Oscar Bait is the biggest of the lot (since Artemis Fowl was also yanked mid-writing). The Current War, a biopic about the battle between Thomas Edison (Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Shannon) over whose electrical system would end up becoming the standard for the modern world, was supposed to come out in 2017 but then the one-two punch of a ghastly Toronto International Film Festival reception and the Harvey Weinstein scandals (this was a Weinstein Company joint and Harvey was heavily involved in its production) coated it in a stank from which it has yet to recover. So now it’s coming out two years later, supposedly heavily re-edited, dumped into late Summer to be swiftly forgotten. I toyed with putting this in the Part 3 B-tier roundup due to this, but had it been released on-time without Harvey’s long overdue downfall I get the feeling we for better or worse wouldn’t have stopped hearing about the thing so yeah.
The Angry Birds Movie 2
Date: 2nd August
Dirs: Thurop van Orman & John Rice
Star: Jason Sudeikis, Bill Hader, Leslie Jones (voices)
To everybody who saw the first Angry Birds Movie and made it profitable enough for them to justify making a sequel that I now have to sit through: fuck you. Sincerely and full-throat-edly: fuck you. Also… Thurop, buddy, what are you doing here?! You created The Marvellous Misadventures of Flapjack! This is beneath you! Did Sony promise you that if you took one for the team they’d let you direct a passion project of your own choosing? Cos, err, ask Genndy Tartakovsky how that deal’s working out for him? Oh, wait, you can’t cos they’re ploughing ahead with a fourth Hotel Transylvania whilst all his passion projects are sat in various bins or limbos. Unless this is all part of a long-term plan to have [adult swim] come a-knocking and, to be fair, the trailer’s last gag is half-decent which immediately puts this several steps higher than the first movie… Right, I want it on-record that any optimism is out of solidarity for Thurop and nothing more!
Hobbs & Shaw
Date: 2nd August
Dir: David Leitch
Star: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba
Man, I can’t believe we are just two and a half months away from cinema as an artform peaking. Like, after this, we’re done. It’s finished, we will have reached our fullest potential and the only thing left will be to shut the entire thing down and find something else to do with our lives. Some of you reading this probably think I’m being sarcastic and let me assure you that such an assumption could not be further from the truth. It’s The Rock. It’s Jason Statham. It’s an 80s-style buddy-cop movie. It’s a Fast & Furious movie. It’s got Idris Elba as villainous Black Superman and he actually refers to himself as that in-movie. It’s directed by the man responsible for Deadpool 2, Atomic Blonde, and one-half of John Wick. It’s got Roman Reigns and a Siva Tau before the final battle. I really don’t know what other movie could ever hope to top this. When the end credits roll, I might legitimately ascend to a higher plane of existence. Cinema peaks on August 2nd, start finding new hobbies.
Blinded by the Light
Date: 9th August
Dir: Gurinder Chadha
Star: Viviek Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Ganatra, Hayley Atwell
Hoping to bounce back in a big way after 2017’s abysmal and controversial Viceroy’s House, the otherwise singular and underappreciated Gurinder Chadha goes back to the basics that launched her career with this period drama about British-Pakistani heritage, crushing working-class life in dead-end towns during economic recession, and the universal hope and power of really fucking good music. Inspired by co-writer and journalist Sarfraz Mansoor’s own upbringing, it follows Javik (newcomer Kalra) an aspiring poet juggling his artistic desires with the conservative ideals of his traditional Pakistani parents, unable to relate to them or the British town he’s grown up and been routinely racially abused in, but who finds solace in the music of Bruce Springsteen. Notices out of Sundance have been almost nothing but raves and, frankly, this kind of story seems right in the wheelhouse of the woman responsible for Bend it Like Beckham, Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, and Bride and Prejudice so I’m all set for this one to tear my heart out in the best possible way.
Playmobil: The Movie
Date: 9th August
Dir: Lino DiSalvo
Star: Anya Taylor-Joy, Jim Gaffigan, Daniel Radcliffe (voices)
This probably seemed like a lot safer bet four years ago when it first entered pre-production as an obvious LEGO Movie cash-in to be headed by eventual Into the Spider-Verse co-director Bob Perischetti. Now, $75 million, one studio bankruptcy – t’was originally a Global Road production until they went under – scrapped trilogy plans, and three underperforming (and eventual franchise-killing) LEGO Movies later, this just looks sad. Director Lino DiSalvo is making his directorial debut and he was a two-decade Disney veteran beforehand, for whatever that’s worth, but still, I just feel kind of sorry for everyone involved. I can’t envision anybody at any age voluntarily wanting to see a movie that looks like this, other than maybe the very, very youngest of tykes. Anya Taylor-Joy is not having the best of luck post-VVitch breakthrough.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Date: 14th August
Dir: Quentin Tarantino
Star: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie
In. Obviously, I’m in. You’re in. Everyone’s in for Quentin Tarantino’s ninth feature. Anyone who says they’re not is clearly lying because even vocal haters of the Problematic Fave Who Hasn’t Been Accused of Sexually Assaulting Somebody (That We Currently Know Of) will go see it purely so they can pump out a bit more gristle for the Hot Take Mill. What’s it about? Who the fuck knows. Television, the changing film industry of the late-60s, Charles Manson is somehow involved because 2019 has decided to become the Year of Manson Movies… Look, it’s Quentin Tarantino, guy has a flawless track record (you heard me), it could be a biopic about the creation of anal beads for all I fucking care. Day 1.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold
Date: 16th August
Dir: James Bobin
Star: Isabela Moner, Eugenio Derbez, Michael Peña, Eva Longoria
Oh, hey, they turned that Funny or Die sketch into an actual movie! What did I do to deserve this? Why is James Bobin (Flight of the Conchords, The Muppets) directing? Why is Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Five Year Engagement, Storks) writing? It looks like The Chaperone, that WWE family movie I had to watch the trailer for 9 zillion times with Triple H and the girl from Modern Family! It looks exactly like a film made in the mid-00s that was cryogenically frozen and thawed out for release now, unchanged! Dear lord, with this and Sonic the Hedgehog (not coincidentally also a Paramount picture) my prediction is coming true. I told you all that we were being dragged back to mid-00s family filmmaking! When Show Dogs was prepping for release last year, I warned you all that this was going to happen and nobody listened! NOBODY EVER LISTENS TO ME! And now we’re all stuck in the shit together. But I TOLD YOU! I TOLD YOU!
Date: 16th August
Dir: Gene Stupnitsky
Star: Jacob Tremblay, Brady Noon, Keith L. Williams
Quick expectation adjustment for both fans and critics: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg neither wrote nor directed Good Boys. They are merely producers, this is not their attempt to do-over Superbad in a way which hopefully won’t date atrociously after half-a-decade. Instead, this is the work of writers Lee Eisenberg and (also making his directorial debut) Gene Stupnitsky previous of Bad Teacher, Year One, and far more promisingly The Office and Stephen Merchant’s Hello Ladies. That said, this does have strong Superbad vibes in its mixture of coming-of-age comedy tropes and R-rated raunch with three social misfits attempting to become the coolest kids in school through being invited to a slightly-grown-up party as hijinks and shenanigans ensue. Even better, the trailer is really properly funny, in a way that doesn’t seem like it’s cramming the film’s only funny jokes into two-and-a-bit minutes and where the raunch doesn’t feel all that forced or in love with itself, and those are the best omens one can have going into a film like this. Here’s hoping they can stick the landing!
Might have been good, though, if they and the Booksmart people had gotten together and decided on who was going to use “Nobody Speak” for their trailer music before releasing both. Does neither film any favours in the inevitable comparison thinkpiece war.
Date: 16th August
Dir: Kelly Asbury
Star: Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, Janelle Monáe (voices)
“Clean-up, Aisle 7. Need a clean-up on Aisle 7. Somebody’s spilt an expired carton of Trolls’ run-off and it’s just… everywhere. Really unpleasant. Real embarrassing. Need an adult to come mop this mess out of here, thanks.”
Date: 23rd August
Dir: Brian Kirk
Star: Chadwick Boseman, Sienna Miller, Stephan James
21 Bridges is a gritty mid-budget thriller about a loose-cannon cop with unshakeable morals diving into a conspiracy involving a drug robbery gone bad and a gang of cop-killers which dredges up his own past relating to his father’s death on the force. So far, so ordinary. Except that this is somewhat of a passion project for star Chadwick Boseman, he’s even producing it, and it’s got Joe and Anthony Russo who have just made a little indie movie called Avengers: Endgame, associations the marketing is playing the heck up. Clearly, STX wants this to be what Mile 22 was supposed to be, a surprise mid-level smash which starts a reliable franchise for them and Boseman. 21 at least looks better than 22 ever did, even with the big question mark of this being the theatrical debut for storied TV director Brian Kirk (early Murphy’s Law, early Luther, early Game of Thrones), and if it fails then maybe they’ll keep the theme going and their next effort will be something with 20 in the title. Then 19, 18, etc.
Angel Has Fallen
Date: 23rd August
Dir: Ric Roman Waugh
Star: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Danny Huston
Goddess give me strength, they’ve made another entry in the fucking abysmal Has Fallen franchise following from Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus in 2013 and Babak Najafi’s London in 2016. London made a third less than Olympus did domestically but doubled the latter’s taking overseas, so now I have to watch yet another entry in the worst of Gerard Butler’s ongoing action franchise attempts which is really saying something. Cheers for that, you bastards. The one silver lining I can currently cling onto is that we’re just three months out yet they still haven’t dropped even a teaser, so maybe it’s not finished yet and will have to be pushed back allowing, but knowing my luck I’ll put this up and one will sprout 24 hours later or, worse, in the 6 hours between filing and post-time necessitating a last-minute rewrite. In any case, Angel Has Fallen is coming. Dread it. Run from it. It is inevitable.
Pain and Glory
Date: 23rd August
Dir: Pedro Almodóvar
Star: Antonio Banderas, Penélope Cruz, Asier Etxeandia
FINALLY, we have the latest feature by uber-influential and highly-prolific Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar. An epic vignette-based drama that sees him re-teaming with Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!) and Penélope Cruz (Volver) to chart the course of a filmmaker through his childhood in the 60s, his family’s emigration to Valencia, his first love, moving to Madrid in the 80s, channelling his pain into writing and cinema, and so on and so forth. Inevitably likely to be pegged as somewhat autobiographical (even if the details don’t quite line up), it’s been received well in native Spain and is currently in competition for the Palm d’Or at Cannes before it expands to territories outside of there. Regardless of how it turns out, and how insufferably navelgaze-y the premise may sound, Almodóvar’s works are rarely dull, having the good grace to be polarising when not being great, so this should absolutely be worth one’s time as a good comedown from an exhausting season.
Those are all the big-name films currently set to drop over the Summer season! Come on back Friday when we’ll take a whistle-stop look at the lower-deck, genre, and mystery fare these headliners otherwise drown out!