Summer movies 2019: After watching the trailers, I’m bananas for some of these films, not so much for others (Commentary)


 watched the trailers of some notable summer movies so you don’t have to (but they are embedded here if you want to). Here are my thoughts on each, along with a “Go Bananas” Level (on a 10-point scale) of how excited I am for the picture:

“Tolkien” (May 10, biopic) – Although I enjoyed “The Hobbit” as a piece of literary history in a college sci-fi/fantasy class, I’ve never fully gotten into the “Lord of the Rings” saga. It’s a step too far into nerdery for me. Still, who knew J.R.R. Tolkien had a cute wife who was won over by the fact that he made up a whole language? His biopic might be a better geek fantasy than his fiction. Go Bananas Level: 6

“The Hustle” (May 10, comedy) – Your mileage will vary based on if you still find Rebel Wilson’s “fat girl who thinks she’s all that” shtick to be funny, although she does seem to pair decently with straightwoman Anne Hathaway in this con comedy. GBL: 3

“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” (May 17, action) – I’ll criticize some of the films on this list for having too obvious of a story (at least based on the trailer), but the capper to Keanu Reeves’ gloriously violent action trilogy looks good because it delivers exactly what we want. Watching Wick cut through enemies who really should know better (especially members of the Continental!) is high-level fantasy wish-fulfillment. GBL: 10

“Booksmart” (May 24, comedy) – This latest entry in the burgeoning “teen girls behaving as uncouth as guys” subgenre looks to be one of the better ones, as Amy and Molly aim to make up for years of hitting the books by finally hitting the party scene. Beanie Feldstein already has experience in this kind of film with “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising,” and she shows good chemistry with Kaitlyn Dever in the trailer. GBL: 8

“Brightburn” (May 24, thriller) – Best known for using the “Superman” origin and imagery (an alien kid crash lands in Kansas and is adopted by humans), “Brightburn” looks like it then develops into a solid horror thriller about a picked-upon youth. The trailer gives away too much, though, dampening my enthusiasm. GBL: 5

“Ma” (May 31, horror) – This is a classic example of a trailer giving away too much – a trend that is dying down a bit but still persists here and there. The idea of a middle-aged woman (Octavia Spencer) inviting teens to use her basement as Party Central is a delicious “be careful what you wish for” premise, but after the too-detailed trailer, I don’t have confidence that the payoff will be anything special. GBL: 5

“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” (May 31, sci-fi) – The human stuff in the trailer makes no impact whatsoever, but the images of Godzilla fighting various other monsters are the answer to monster-movie geeks’ prayers. Still, as solid as “Godzilla” (2014) was, and as great as “Kong: Skull Island” was, the third entry in this cinematic universe only promises gloom and spectacle so far. On the other hand, if they’re holding back on story points to avoid spoiling things, I commend them. GBL: 4

“Rocketman” (May 31, biopic) – This is probably a shoo-in for Oscar love next February, since the new Academy members love down-the-middle gay-icon music biopics. It’s flat-out impossible for another movie – even an Elton John bio – to use “Tiny Dancer” better than “Almost Famous” did, but I have to admit all the period trappings and style are in place, and Taron Egerton looks the part. GBL: 3

“Dark Phoenix” (June 7, superhero) – This latest “X-Men” film looks good, inasmuch as all our favorite mutants are back for the first time in three years and it is faithfully adapting the famous comic-book arc about Jean Grey’s fall to the dark side. But I worry that this will be a rote exercise that doesn’t offer any surprises. GBL: 4

“Shaft” (June 14, action) – Every 20 years or so, it’s time for a good “Shaft” movie. A precursor to John Wick in some ways, the generations of John Shafts (all three of whom appear in this fifth cinematic entry; note to self: rewatch the first four) are good at what they do. And is it fun to watch them do it? Damn straight. Additionally, there might be some generation-gap comedy here, as the youngest Shaft (Jesse T. Usher from “Independence Day: Resurgence”) is shocked by the casual violence of his forbearers as he learns the crimefighting trade. GBL: 7

“The Dead Don’t Die” (June 14, horror/comedy) – With an all-star cast led by Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloe Sevigny, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi and Danny Glover, there must be something to this zombie flick. Indeed, the trailer displays some nice deadpan (no pun intended) humor. GBL: 6

“Men in Black: International” (June 14, sci-fi/action) – I admit I’m not a big fan of the “Men in Black” franchise; if I’ve seen the first two sequels, I forgot them. Even with that perspective, I find it remarkable that a trailer can take Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth (both great in “Thor: Ragnarok”) and the gravitas of Liam Neeson and make a blockbuster movie look so dull. GBL: 1

“Yesterday” (June 28, comedy) – This trailer puts a smile on my face, partly because of the Beatles tunes, but also because the premise provides so many angles into the comedy. A struggling singer-songwriter (Himesh Patel) is suddenly the only person on Earth who remembers the Beatles, and he proceeds to make a career for himself out of their hits. GBL: 8

“Annabelle Comes Home” (June 28, horror) – The “Conjuring” Cinematic Universe cranks these suckers out so fast that I’m two films behind, despite generally liking the franchise. The third “Annabelle” has a good pedigree, as Gary Dauberman – having recovered from the bland original with the much better “Annabelle: Creation” — returns to writing duties, and also directs this time. GBL: 5

“Spider-Man: Far From Home” (July 5, superhero) – The MCU has produced one bad movie in 12 years, so this is a no-brainer: It’ll be top-notch blockbuster entertainment. All of the things that clicked in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” – Peter’s awkward high school romances and other teen stuff – are still present, plus Nick Fury steps in for Iron Man (R.I.P.?) as the adult presence. The villain is played by Jake Gyllenhaal, so that bodes well. GBL: 9

“Midsommar” (July 5, horror) – Between last summer’s “Hereditary” and the trailer for his followup, writer-director Ari Aster already has an auteur vibe similar to M. Night Shyamalan’s from 20 years ago, as the premier peddler of vintage-style creepshows. This trailer gives us a pastiche of images of Florence Pugh navigating a religious-type festival that’s held for nine days once every 90 years. Say no more; I’m on board. GBL: 8

“Stuber” (July 12, comedy) – Both Kumail Nanjiani (“The Big Sick”) and Dave Bautista (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) have proven their comedic chops in recent years, and here they are thrown into a makeshift buddy-cop scenario sort of like the Deadpool-Dopinder relationship, except that Nanjiani’s Uber driver is not into it. But both actors seem to be into the wild hijinks in the trailer. GBL: 4

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (July 26, dramedy) – As far as Quentin Tarantino fandom goes, I’m definitely in the bottom 50 percentile, as I don’t usually go for ultra-long takes and extreme violence. But the production design on this one – starring Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie — looks so good it could’ve been made in 1969, when it takes place. GBL: 6

“The New Mutants” (Aug. 2, superhero/horror) – The trailer for this one is so old it starts with a classic green screen instead of the annoying new “official trailer” intro. While it can’t possibly live up to expectations after such a long wait (it was originally slated for April 2018), it’s still more intriguing than “Dark Phoenix” simply because we’ve never before seen a horror movie in the “X-Men” world. It doesn’t hurt that Anya Taylor-Joy (“The Witch,” “Split”) is among the young asylum test subjects. GBL: 7

“Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” (Aug. 2, action) – Whereas “John Wick 3” and, to a lesser extent, “Shaft 5” find the entertaining side of violence by stylizing it or finding the right level of humor to balance it, this “Fast & Furious” spinoff starring Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham looks to lean more into the violence and show-offy action. For what it is, it will likely to do it well. GBL: 2

“Good Boys” (Aug. 16, comedy) – Your mileage will definitely vary with this comedy about sixth-graders behaving badly (the scene of them crossing a highway on foot is too much for me). But it does have a good sense of the absurdity of how kids’ minds work (“I won’t be a social piranha!”) and will therefore go beyond shock humor (although there sure are a lot of sex toys in the trailer). GBL: 6

“47 Meters Down: Uncaged” (Aug. 16, horror) – For people who like genuinely scary stuff, as opposed to the fun/safe scares of most horror movies, “47 Meters Down” was solid. The writer-director team is back for the sequel, along with fresh chum – I mean, a fresh cast of actors. GBL: 5

Click here for the schedule of summer movies.