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In a year when The Avengers made what seemed like their final assembly (prior to disassembling before our horrified eyes), teamwork is the zeitgeisty concept for this summer’s films.
There are exceptions to this rule, in the standard action movie template: one big man against a skyscraper of doom (Dwayne Johnson in Skyscraper, July 13). One big man against a Brobdingnagian megashark (Jason Statham in The Meg, Aug. 20). One big Chris Pratt”a sandwich away from fat,” said Rocket Racoonrescuing dinos galore (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, June 22). And a one-lunged hero of a pope taking on a planet of sinners (Wim Wenders’ documentary Pope Francis: A Man of His Word, May 18.)
Most formidable of all, one mild-mannered Pennsylvania TV host going big against childhood terrors (Won’t You Be My Neighbor, June 8). Try to make it through the previews for this Mr. Rogers documentary without whimpering hopelessly.
These examples of lone heroism are outnumbered by examples of characters coming together. Deadpool 2, with its band of weird brothers, from a Dadstached passer-by to the plump kid from Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Solo: A Star Wars Story (May 25) shows us the first time Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) swore he wasn’t getting involved with a bunch of rebels, before doing it anyway.
In the all-female heist film Ocean’s 8, Sandra Bullock recruits a gang of jewel thieves. Incredibles 2 (June 15), is a follow-up to what’s been the only good Fantastic Four movie ever made, even if it didn’t star the Four, per se; Mission: ImpossibleFallout (July 27) has the usual gang of experts, boggling stunt work, pricey European locations, and a villainous Henry Cavill. And the mom-date movie Book Club (May 18) teams Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen as a ladies’ group plumbing the the hidden depths of 50 Shades of Grey. Or, also for your mama, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again (July 21).
Here, indeed, we go again. Contrasting the remake SuperFly (June 11) and the sequel Ant Man and the Wasp (July 6), one notes that the former is not strictly speaking part of the Marvel Universe. Director X, an associate of Hype Williams, directs Trevor Jackson in a remake of Gordon Parks’ 1972 hit about the drug dealer looking to get out, changing the setting to Atlanta but hopefully keeping some of the movie’s salient feature, Curtis Mayfield’s soundtrack.
The biopic Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (late July) is Gus Van Sant’s study of a well-known Portland figure, the wheelchair-bound cartoonist John Callahan (Joaquin Phoenix). Inflicting spinal breaks instead of suffering them is Johnny Knoxville in Action Point (June), which looks dire in a good way: the Lord of the Jackasses is an amusement park operator who decides to liven things up by adding life-threatening additions to the rides.
Breath (summer) adapts a novel by one of the best writers about surfing, Australia’s Tim Winton. No surfing in On Chesil Beach (July), a version of Ian McEwan’s fiction about the unparalleled ecstasy of British sex; it observes two virgins (Saoirse Ronan, Billy Howle) on their 1962 honeymoon, neither with a clue of how it’s all done. More bad sex: The Miseducation of Cameron Post (summer) with Chloe Grace Moretz as a lesbian kid hauled through heterosexual reprogramming.
Blindspotting (summer) is an exciting indie film, set in Oakland, about a parolee who witnesses a police officer executing a suspect. And psychedelic-spiked punch and house music leads to typical Gaspar Noe misanthropy and mayhem in Psyche, which just debuted at Cannes and should be ready for distribution. Noe revels like a bad-guy wrestler in his reputation as a director everyone hates. He wouldn’t have lasted if his films weren’t so insanely vivid, if sensationally gross.
May 18-25, the 50th anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey is commemorated in a screening of a new 70mm film print supervised by Christopher Nolan, well worth a San Francisco pilgrimage to the city’s Castro Theater. Two weeks later, the theater hosts one of the globe’s most important film fests, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, May 30-June 3. Much of pre-sound cinema has disappeared, but rediscoveries continue to this date in collectors’ vaults and estate sales.
This year’s finds include the last silent Sherlock Holmes film, a German The Hound of the Baskervilles, assumed lost; a Carl Dreyer comedy (uncharacteristic for such a maker of doom-laden films), and Buster Keaton in The Battling Butler.
Revivals may be starting soon at 3Below in downtown San Jose, with the quote-along Princess Bride (May 17-19), and as always, the summer program at the Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto for silents, hits and rarities.