Summer Blockbusters and Beyond

Blockbusters …

by Joshua Gravel

The weather is getting warmer and the movies are getting louder and more exaggerated — summer blockbuster season is here yet again. This year promises cinematic excitement with a new crop of big summer releases — new additions to franchises, children’s animated epics, raunchy comedies and even a handful of horror titles to entertain us.

The blockbusters have already started coming with current hits like Civil War, Neighbors 2, Jungle Book and Batman V Superman. So you may have some catching up to do before the actual summer releases hit.

June starts off with an eclectic mix of projected hits starting with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows, the sequel to the 2014 reboot of the ’90s film franchise, and Andy Samberg’s music industry satire Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, which chronicles singer Conner4Real who is experiencing his career’s first downturn. The Conjuring 2 takes its story out of RI — Lorraine and Ed Warren investigate a haunting in London — while the highly anticipated Warcraft is an adaptation of the popular World Of Warcraft video game. Finding Dory, the animated sequel to the hit children’s film Finding Nemo (2003) is sure to please fans of the first film. June ends with Independence Day: Resurgence, the long-rumored sequel to Independence Day (1996). It finds Earth facing a threat from another alien force, but this time we have alien technology of our own.

July’s movies are big right from the start with Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, a story about a 10-year-old girl who befriends a Big Friendly Giant. July also sees a return to the screen for one of fiction’s most well-known characters in The Legend Of Tarzan in which Tarzan leaves his new life in London to protect his original home from a mining company. The third film in The Purge series, The Purge: Election Year may not necessarily meet blockbuster standards, but as it was mostly shot at various locations around RI so I’m expecting it to be on a lot of locals’ “must-see” list. This installment is about attempts made on the life of a presidential candidate who wants to end the lawless free-for-all that is purge night. The Secret Life Of Pets is an animated family feature exploring the animosity between owned and stray animals. Ghostbusters aims to reboot the franchise with a group of women while Star Trek Beyond sends the crew of the USS Enterprise on another adventure into deep space. Other franchise offerings are Jason Bourne, the fifth film in the Bourne franchise, which sees Matt Damon returning to the role of the titular assassin / agent, and Ice Age: Collision Course appears to send its animated characters on various travels and adventures, even to space.

In August, summer wraps up with one of the most talked about comic book movies of the year — DC’s Suicide Squad, in which a government agency recruits super villains to work on their behalf in exchange for prison time. Kevin Spacey plays a businessman trapped in the family cat’s body in the family film Nine Lives, while Disney remakes Pete’s Dragon utilizing modern special effects in telling the story of an orphan named Pete and his friend Elliott. The animation and the humor get a little adult in the film Sausage Party about a sausage who discovers what really happens when food leaves the supermarket. But don’t worry, the children’s animation returns with Kubo And The Two Strings, the story of a boy who must find a magical suit of samurai armor to protect his village from monsters. Now we wrap up our summer blockbusters with an epic remake of Ben-Hur, starring Jack Huston in the title role as a man falsely accused of a crime and forced into slavery. He lives only to take vengeance upon his best friend and betrayer.

… and Beyond

Summer in Rhode Island offers a cornucopia of independent film viewing opportunities.

If you need to get your animation or superhero fix but want something other than typical blockbuster fare, Phantom Boy is scheduled to screen at Cable Car Cinema in early August. Written and directed by the Oscar-nominated writers and directors of A Cat in Paris, Phantom Boy takes their vision to a New York City backdrop, telling a supernatural neo-noir about a terminally ill 11-year-old boy who is an unconventional superhero. He can float phantom-like wherever he pleases, yet will it conflict with people he encounters and with his condition?

Speaking of animation, Womanimation!, the premiere showcase in the U.S. of international women’s animated short films, returns to AS220 on Saturday, June 25. Another locally produced event at AS220’s Black Box Theater is Arkham Film Society’s film series, dedicated to “spreading their love of cult horror and exploitation films,” on the second Tuesday of the month, with some pretty obscure selections curated.

Many acclaimed international directors are back with some great additions to our summer independent lineup. Hany Abu-Assad, a Palestinian film director known for Omar and Paradise Now, returns with Idol, a Palestine/UK/Qatar/Netherlands co-production designed as a film without cultural barriers. It is inspired by the true story of Mohammed Assaf, a Palestinian who grew up in Gaza, becoming the voice of the nation when he won the 2013 Arab Idol contest.

Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda (Nobody Knows, I Wish, and Like Father, Like Son) returns with Our Little Sister, a family drama of three sisters living in their grandmother’s home, and the arrival of a 13-year-old half-sister. French director Michel Gondry, known for crossover films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Be Kind Rewind returns to his roots with Microbe & Gasoline, about adolescent boys on a summertime road trip across France using a vehicle they built themselves.

On the documentary front, Gasland’s Josh Foxx’s latest, is a mouthful to say, called How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change. Josh will be at the Cable Car Cinema for a Q&A after one of the screenings on June 18. Josh continues to use his deeply personal style, discovering ways to battle climate change around the world and visiting with communities experiencing its aftermath.

Want both documentary and animation? Oscar-winning director Roger Ross Williams presents Life, Animated. It’s the story of Owen Suskind, son of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind. An autistic child who couldn’t speak for years, Owen finally finds a voice as his family role-plays animated characters to communicate with him in animated film dialogue.

Closet Monster is about a creative and driven teenager desperate to escape haunting memories of his traumatic childhood. Disorder, written by Alice Winocour (of Oscar-nominated Mustang fame), is a thriller with a great use of sound about an ex-soldier suffering from PTSD attempting to protect a wealthy Lebanese businessman’s wife and child. Then there’s A Man Called Ove, a Swedish crowdpleaser about a seemingly grumpy older man who gets a new lease on life after neighbors move in.

If you are up for the challenge of making your own film, try the 48 Hour Film Project July 15 – 17 in Providence. Finally, if you want to learn about behind-the-scenes filmmaking, a unique exhibit is running this summer in Sandwich, Massachusetts, at Heritage Museum & Gardens. It is called CUT! Costume and the Cinema, celebrating the role of costumes in film over the years, with 43 different costumes on exhibit.

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