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Movie Reviews

Busting out the big summer movies

Charlize Theron stars as an indestructible British spy in the espionage thriller Atomic Blonde. Photo: Jonathan Prime; universal pictures

Summer is officially upon us june 20, but the summer movie season starts in early May. It’s a time of big-budget franchise films and family oriented crowd-pleasers, despite the occasional unexpected indie, documentary, or foreign treat. And that’s how it goes this year with nothing less than the highly anticipated sequel to Marvel Studios’ rollicking sci-fi comedy Guardians of the Galaxy kicking off the parade of diversions the first weekend of May.

Here’s an informal guide to some of those major releases due in theaters over the next few months — visual extravaganzas which, regardless of intrinsic quality, should probably be seen on wide screens for the best possible experience.

The aforementioned Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5) should be a lot of fun, as jocular space-faring hero Peter “Star-Lord” Quill (Chris Pratt) and his merry band of interstellar misfits and brigands continue their swashbuckling escapades, finding in the process Quill’s long-absent father (Kurt Russell).

Directed by Guy Ritchie, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (May 12) doesn’t look quite so promising despite a cast featuring Charlie Hunnam as Arthur and Elizabeth Olsen as his Guinevere, as well as Idris Elba and Jude Law. It appears to be a somewhat anachronistic mean-streets retelling of the Excalibur legend, in line with Ritchie’s previous tough-guy movies.

HEROES AND MONSTERS

There’s considerable buzz around the latest prequel to the chilling Alien sci-fi series, Alien: Covenant (May 19). It is actually the sequel to the first prequel, Prometheus, which purported to show the roots of the scary, bloodthirsty creatures we’ve come to know and fear. This chapter has a pretty good pedigree with Ridley Scott, director of the original Alien, back in charge, plus Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace returning from Prometheus.

A franchise that may very well have worn out its wacky welcome would be Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean cycle, but here comes yet another installment. Subtitled Dead Men Tell No Tales (May 26), yet the tale of Johnny Depp’s fey, indolent, indestructible Captain Jack Sparrow character continues to be told when the concept appeared to have died a couple of episodes ago.

Wonder Woman (June 2) spins out of DC Comics’ 2016 Batman v. Superman movie with Gal Gadot reprising the Amazon warrior princess. Chris Pine stars as her comic book love interest Steve Trevor in a World War I setting.

Tom Cruise takes the lead in The Mummy (June 9), the planned start to Universal Studios’ rebooted, interrelated monster universe. Sofia Boutella stars as a dead Egyptian princess who comes back to life and terrorizes Cruise’s character and the rest of the world. Also on board: Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll, leading to all sorts of speculation about the rest of what Universal is developing.

When it comes to Hollywood sound and fury signifying very little, few producer-directors can hold a bazooka to Michael Bay and his Transformers series, based on the Hasbro toys that can change from vehicles to robot warriors. The scripts are as silly and shoddy as the computer-generated effects are over the top. The fifth exercise in elaborate toy marketing is Transformers: The Last Knight (June 23), wherein humans are at war with the giant robots and only working-class hero Mark Wahlberg can save the world along with an English aristocrat (Anthony Hopkins).

SPIDERS, VULTURES, AND APES

A more intriguing approach to a familiar property is Sony Pictures’ team-up with Marvel Studios to relaunch Spider-Man as part of Marvel’s cinematic superhero universe rather than in a stand-alone narrative. First, this new version of Spider-Man appeared in Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War. Now, we have Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7). This is a Spidey-centric effort starring Tom Holland as the teenaged wall-crawler, but featuring a crossover with good old Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and the villain Vulture (Michael Keaton).

War for the Planet of the Apes (July 14) continues the technically deft prequel revision of the classic Planet of the Apes movies with a third chapter about the rise of intelligent apes and their conflict with a plague-ridden humanity. Andy Serkis returns as ape leader Caesar with Woody Harrelson as his merciless human nemesis, a U.S. Army colonel.

Amid these continuing sagas and reimaginings, two fresh items will come our way: French filmmaker Luc Besson adapts an entry in a highly respected set of graphic novels with his grandiose space opera Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (July 21).

And Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron stars as an indestructible British spy in the espionage thriller Atomic Blonde (July 28), based on yet another graphic novel.

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Michael Snyder is a print and broadcast journalist who covers pop culture on KPFK/Pacifica Radio's David Feldman Show and on Michael Snyder's Culture Blast, via GABnet.net, Roku, and YouTube. You can follow Michael on Twitter: @cultureblaster

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