By Scott Rieckhoff
Friday, April 28, 2017

Are you excited? I am. My favorite unofficial holiday is only one week away – the start of the summer movie season. With it comes the promise of 3-months worth of action, laughs and entertainment as Hollywood brings out their big guns during the most lucrative time of the year. As you make your plans to seek refuge from the heat in a darkened, air-conditioned theater, here are the 12 films I’m most hyped about. Why 12? Because 10 just isn’t enough!

Amidst all the explosions and special effects that dominate every summer (and even, spoiler alert, this list) you can usually count on at least one breakout indie title. I think The Big Sick is that title for 2017. Written by real-life couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon based on their own experiences, and starring Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan, it tells the story of their unusual courtship. Muslim boy meets non-Muslim girl. Boy and girl casually date even though they know it won’t work out between them. Boy and girl break up. Girls falls into coma. Boy awkwardly feels obligated to sit by her side until she wakes. With a strong supporting cast, including Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, The Big Sick promises big laughs while also pulling at your heartstrings.

In this third go-round with Gru, his three daughters and hordes of yellow Minions, audiences are treated to a pair of new characters that are ready to take summer by storm. Dru, Gru’s long lost twin brother, is also voiced by Steve Carell doing a variation on his ambiguously foreign accent. And Balthazar Bratt, voiced by South Park’s Trey Parker. Bratt, sure to be the movie’s secret weapon, is the villain of the piece – a jaded former child star. It’s this sort of clever sense of humor that makes these movies as funny for adults as for kids, a feat made to look easy by the filmmakers but not easily imitated.

After the incredibly ambitious (if not somewhat unintelligible) Interstellar, Christopher Nolan returns with this thrilling WWII epic – a must-see in IMAX. But will it be satisfying summer entertainment or a dry history lesson? Early footage suggests thick British accents but also a director in command of his craft. In Nolan we trust.

Marvel or DC? I’ve always thought that question is a bit like asking, Beatles or Stones? (Answer: both!) There’s no question Marvel is firing on all cylinders and let’s face it, despite recent solid box office results, DC has struggled to keep up creatively. Wonder Woman is a crown jewel, an icon, and she’s long overdue for her debut solo film. My expectations are muted compared to the latest Marvel movies but I’m rooting for them to get this one right.

Stephen King’s magnum opus has taken a long, hard road to the big screen. Even now, barely more than 3 months until its scheduled release, we’ve seen very little of the film. But with great risk comes great reward. Led by Idris Elba as The Gunslinger and Matthew McConaughey as The Man in Black, no film this summer piques my curiosity more.

Charlize Theron can kick your ass. Don’t believe me? Check out what’s possibly the best trailer of the year so far. She’s got skills and David Leitch is clearly coming into his own as a reliable go-to action director. Oh, and it’s got James McAvoy. And John Goodman. The Cold War never looked so cool.

The current iteration of the long-running POTA series offers a strong balance of action, intensity, social commentary and revolutionary visual effects. This latest chapter is no exception as Andy Serkis goes to war with Woody Harrelson for returning director, Matt Reeves. The stakes are high in what feels like the crowning achievement in a very reliable franchise.

In his first film since being dismissed as the original director of Ant-Man, Edgar Wright comes roaring back with his jubilant signature style. Rising star Ansel Elgort plays the titular Baby, a getaway driver for hire who derives his precision skills from the pulsing soundtrack in his head. With an energetic blend of action and humor reminiscent of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (a grossly underrated film that 7 years later is still ahead of its time), Baby Driver looks like the most exciting, original film of the season.

You only get so many times at bat rebooting the same IP but the smartest decision Sony ever made was collaborating with Marvel Studios on this latest take on the famed webslinger. Now firmly entrenched in the MCU (adding a sense of newfound cinematic legitimacy to the character), Spider-Man has new life. Age-appropriate Tom Holland won audiences over when he made his scene-stealing debut in Civil War. Now with an assist from RDJ and Michael Keaton (at his scene-chewing best), he gets his chance to carry a film on his own. No more reboots, no more origin stories. It’s time for Spider-Man to get to work.

At 79-years old, Ridley Scott is one of the hardest-working directors in the business. When he decided to return to the universe he created with 1979’s Alien, Prometheus was the result. And while I happen to find that film gets better with each viewing, most audiences were left scratching their heads. If the latest trailers are any indication, maybe audiences will get the movie they expected then this time around – lots of action and lots of aliens. This next chapter looks like a very worthy entry in the ever-growing Alien-verse.

Two things I love – classic Universal monsters and Tom Cruise. To have both in the same film is almost more than I can handle. But what’s especially interesting about this reboot is the promise of a larger universe of monsters. It remains to be seen how The Mummy will cross paths with The Wolf Man and Frankenstein and so forth but you can bet it’s going to be a lot of fun getting there and that’s what summer movies are all about.

Think back if you can to a time 10 short years ago when Iron Man was a second-tier superhero at best. Marvel Studios used that unlikely character (played by Robert Downey Jr., who only a couple of years prior was making news by waking up naked on a stranger’s living room floor) to launch a shared cinematic universe that would revolutionize how studios viewed their franchises. Three films later, they would face an even bigger challenge by introducing moviegoers to Thor, a Shakespearean tale of a Norse God from the land of Asgard with Frost Giants, Rainbow Bridges and all sorts of other nonsensical mumbo jumbo and starring a virtual unknown. But that film hit too. Later, they would take a chance that audiences would embrace a story about a displaced earthling, a tattooed muscle-head, a green-skinned assassin, a talking smart-ass raccoon and a walking tree (from the director of Slither no less!). $300MM+ later, I think we were all finally convinced Marvel could sell just about anything and now in 2017, they are kicking off the summer moviegoing season with the highly anticipated sequel to that breakout hit. With a colorful palette and an eclectic cast, the misfits that make up this Galaxy are just as beloved as any marquee name comic-book heroes. And with each piece of the MCU puzzle, we get closer and closer to the showdown with Thanos and the Infinity War. It’s movies like this that not only stimulate my imagination, tickling my eyes and ears, but also awaken the child in me. And to that inner-child, every trip to the theater is akin to that feeling of the first day of summer vacation.

School’s out, people. See you at the movies.

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