No, I’m not drunk and I don’t need a straight jacket. Yes, I realize its May (though that sprinkling of winter dust Ottawa had last Monday may have sent some people scrambling for their calendars) but summer is Christmas for movie fans. Its three and a half months of spectacle and tent pole releases, many of which have been teasing us for a year or more. Between May and the middle of August, there’ll be blockbusters and bombs, pleasant surprises and bitter disappointments and the fate of some studios could very well be decided while Hollywood as a whole will earn more than a small European country’s entire GDP.
So here are the ten movies I’m most excited about this summer, though a few come with pretty big caveats (looking at you, Michael Bay). This list was a bit tougher to whittle down than years past, which hopefully turns out to be a good thing.
Image: Warner Bros. Entertainment
- Transformers: The Last Knight (June 23rd) OK, let’s get this one out of the way right now. I’ve made no secret of how much I loved the Transformers franchise as a kid; the toys, the comics, the endless array of other merchandise and especially the corny 80’s cartoon. The only other thing that came close to exciting my already overheated imagination nearly as much was Star Wars. And that unconditional geek love was the only reason I’ve been able to stomach the last three movies. But between turning Optimus Prime into a borderline psychopath, sexualizing an underage teenager (seriously, what was with all the lectures on statutory rape and hand job innuendos?) and the atrocity they inflicted on my beloved Dinobots, the fourth installment tested my already strained geek faith in ways it had never been tested before. I’m desperately hoping the Last Knight restores my faith and so far there are some encouraging signs. Some of the visuals have been pretty jaw dropping and they got living legend Anthony Hopkins to star in it. I mean, it can’t suck that bad if Hannibal Lector is in it, can it? On that note, I’ve learned to never underestimate Michael Bay’s uncanny power to take a good idea and turn it into hot garbage. Suicide Squad took the number 10 spot on my list last year, and we all know how that debacle turned out. But if Transformers: The Last Knight can at least keep my inner eight year old satisfied without making the rest of me vomit, I’ll be happy.
- Valeria and the City of a Thousand Planets (July 21st) This was another conflicting entry and it came at the expense of other potential entries like Cars 3, Aliens Covenant and The Mummy remake. I’m not a fan of either Cara Delevingne nor Dane DeHaan and I don’t really care about director Luc Besson (of Fifth Element fame) so why include it? Because from what I’ve see so far, not only does Valeria look like it may be the most original movie this summer has to offer (despite being based on a French comic book), but it may be able to scratch my science fiction itch where other recent movies like Independence Day Resurgence failed so miserably.
- Dunkirk (July 21st) You don’t usually see World War 2 epics among summer’s would be blockbusters and it definitely stand outs like a sore thumb on this list. A simple Google search reveals all the details you could ever need about The Miracle at Dunkirk, the actual event the movie is based on. So what, you may ask, is it doing on my top ten? I have two words for you: Christopher. Nolan. Not only was Nolan the directorial maestro behind The Dark Knight trilogy (arguably the best comic book movies of all our lifetimes), but also the brilliant (and tragically under appreciated) sci-fi thriller Inception. Nolan is one of the best storytellers in movies today, and word is he’s swinging for the Oscar fences with Dunkirk. Considering what he’s achieved in the past, seeing what he can do when his ambition is inspired may be nothing short of awesome.
- The Dark Tower (August 4th) I can’t really say I was a huge a fan of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I enjoyed most of the books (and loved The Gunslinger, the first title in the series), but a few of them were a chore to finish and the conclusion was . . . emotionally ambiguous. And in the end, King’s Magnus opus encompassed the eight core novels, sprawled across entire decades and alternate realities and either touched on or referenced over twenty other novels, short stories and novellas by the time it was done. The 64 million dollar question on everyone’s mind was how anyone was going to structure a movie based on such an overarching uber-story. Then I saw the trailer and suffice to say, while many of my storytelling concerns remained, Idris Elba looked beyond fantastic as Roland the Last Gunslinger. I had already been kicking ideas around for my next Halloween costume (because I’m a dork), but after seeing the latest trailer for Tower I may be headed back to the drawing board.
- King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (May 12th) I’ve always had a soft spot for Arthurian mythology. Forget captaining the U.S.S Enterprise, when I was a kid I imagined I was at the helm of the U.S.S. Excalibur, the finest ship in Starfleet. I also named my first (and only) pet rabbit Excalibur (yeah, yeah, shut up), and by now you can probably guess that I was always partial to the tales filled with magic and sorcery. So when it was revealed a few years ago that Warner Bros. was bringing King Arthur and the gang back to the big screen, you could say my attention was piqued. When it was announced that Guy Ritchie-director of some today’s finest crime dramas-had been attached to direct it, my eyebrows raised an extra notch or two. From the advance trailers, Ritchie’s take looks like it could be the most interesting, blending gritty, street level storytelling with plenty of high fantasy and expensive visual effects. Will it turn out to be a mix of Snatch and Lord of the Rings? Cause I could live with that.
- War of the Planet of The Apes (July 14th) I’m a big fan of the recent Planet of the Apes films, recounting the origin of super intelligent primates and their eventual ascension to replace humanity at the top of Earth’s food chain. The storytelling has been near flawless and I loved the twist in the last installment that revealed it was the apes that started the war with humanity. We all know the final chapter ends with the apes (creations of human science and ethical hubris) supplanting human beings as rulers of the Earth, but I have to admit I’m really looking forward to how these movies explain that conclusion (these films have both wisely and skillfully avoided using time travel as a storytelling device). And I wouldn’t be surprised to see director Matt Reeves insert a curve ball or two right at the end. It would definitely be par for the course for these films.
- Guardians of the Galaxy (May 5th) Like the rest of the world, I barely had any idea who The Guardians of the Galaxy were and knew even less about actor Chris Pratt before 2014. But I was one of millions who was blown away by the raucous space opera and equally impressed with relative newcomer Pratt (who’s done pretty good for himself since). Wondering how Marvel was going to follow up the 2014 breakout film may have been the biggest reason I was looking forward to Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2. And they didn’t disappoint.
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7th) Did anyone on planet Earth have any interest in yet another Spider-Man reboot? Did anyone else feel like Sony was desperate to milk every last dollar they could out of the franchise and didn’t care how underwhelming the final product wound up being? Considering how every bit of Spider related news the studio released about the character’s previous incarnation was met with indifferent yawns, I’m going to say yes. But Sony brass may have made the smartest decision of their lives when they decided to align the Spiderverse with Marvel’s burgeoning cinematic universe. Everyone agreed that Tom Holland, the new Peter Parker, hit it out of the park during his appearance in last year’s Captain America: Civil War. It looks as though they have returned the character to his teenage roots and everyone is drooling to see Tony Stark/Iron Man’s appearance in this July’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. Imagine the irony if Marvel Studios winds up saving a desperate Sony? That alone is worth the price of a ticket.
- Despicable Me 3 (June 30th) Like Transformers, my anticipation for the third Despicable Me is tempered with a healthy dose of caution (though not as much). I fell in love with Despicable Me in 2011 (primarily with the legion of little yellow troublemakers who communicated with gibberish and hilarious facial expressions), but while I enjoyed the sequel in 2013 and liked 2015’s Minions, the franchise has felt like it’s been bleeding steam a little bit ever since. Every successive movie feels like it hasn’t been quite as good as the last, a fear that hit home when I found the Minions mini that preceded last summer’s Secret Life of Pets only mildly amusing. But I have faith in Gru and the girls and hope (pray?) the franchise can correct its course with the third installment. But I have to admit, of all the movies on this list, Despicable Me 3 has the most potential to go from being one of my most anticipated flicks of the summer to being one of the most disappointing movies of the year. So fingers crossed.
- Wonder Woman (June 2nd) Is this the movie that restores some of the luster DC lost last year? All indications seem to indicate it just might be. Even people who despised last year’s Batman Vs. Superman thought Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was a standout (despite being a Batman fanatic, I thought Diana was easily the best thing about the entire movie). The first trailer for the film was the highight of Comic Con last summer and for a time Wonder Woman’s first solo movie was the talk of 2017’s summer movie season. It looks like DC and director Patty Jenkins have finally gotten one of their characters right, and since Wonder Woman has long been one of my favourites (and I may already be crushing on Gal Gadot a little), this is the gift under this summer’s tree I can’t wait to open. If everything else bombs but Wonder Woman delivers, I’ll be a happy fanboy.