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The Summer Movies We’re Actually Excited For

Blockbuster season can be daunting, but these are the standouts that have us hyped

(20th Century Fox/Warner Brothers/Focus Features/Sony Pictures Entertainment/Ringer illustration)
(20th Century Fox/Warner Brothers/Focus Features/Sony Pictures Entertainment/Ringer illustration)

Summer movie season officially kicks off Friday, when Chris Pratt stars alongside a cartoon raccoon and a talking baby tree in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. With a deluge of comic book movies, reboots, and sequels, it’s hard to look at the summer 2017 slate and not feel at least a little fatigued. But fear not — there is some heat on the way. We asked the Ringer staff which of the summer movies they’re legitimately excited for, and here’s what they said.

‘Rough Night’

Release Date: June 16

Donnie Kwak: Fairly entertaining but forgettable summer fare might be my second-favorite film genre (next to Korean rom-coms). When it’s hot as balls outside, frigid air-conditioning and a comfortable seat are just about worth the $15 to me. Whatever’s playing on the big screen is a bonus, as long as it isn’t aggressively terrible or more than 120 minutes long. And all I ask for are some good trailers and a film to intermittently chuckle at while I devour Sour Patch Kids. It shouldn’t be that hard.

Rough Night looks like it will be the perfect accoutrement to AC and a reclining seat. There’s a lot to like. ScarJo is playing a white woman, for one. Queen Zoe is in it. Kate McKinnon is using an Australian accent. Jillian Bell, of Workaholics, seems to be killing it. And — key part here — the film features three Broad City staples: Ilana Glazer, writer Paul W. Downs, and director Lucia Aniello. I trust them.

There’s also some stuff not to like. The callous offing of a sex worker; a few too many "I’m on coke" jokes in the trailer; and it may not be a good omen that the plot — best friends accidentally kill someone, hilariously attempt to cover it up — is basically a female version of Very Bad Things, which is not a good movie. But in that 1998 film, the men all quickly turn on each other; in Rough Night, it appears that the women — being women and all — figure out a plan and bond closer. There’s no way I won’t watch this movie.

‘Baywatch’

Release Date: May 25

Kate Knibbs: Even by summer-movie standards, Baywatch looks like a cornball contender for dumbest fun blockbuster of the year — and that’s exactly why I want to see it. It will almost certainly be a lightweight romp that isn’t as clever as it thinks it is, but that’s fine. As long as Baywatch allows me to live inside a candy-colored world where Dwayne Johnson nobly patrols the beach and pals around with shirtless Zac Efron, where the high jinks are always obvious and a little meta, where the runs are always in slow motion, I’m in. What could be more comforting? I’m going to watch Baywatch on the hottest summer afternoon I can find, drink the biggest Diet Coke, and let the winking nostalgia piece wash over me.

‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’

Release Date: May 26

Riley McAtee: I have no good justification for this pick. There isn’t even a good justification to make. The last three entries of this series sucked. The directorial team of Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg has never overseen a big-budget film before. Javier Bardem has so much makeup (and CGI) caked onto his face he looks like the Wicked Witch of the West if she were infected with grayscale. Kaya Scodelario and Brenton Thwaites are incredibly transparent 50-cents-on-the-dollar Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom stand-ins. Zombie sharks already feel like a gimmick. Johnny Depp is 53.

And yet, I have a gut feeling this movie will be good. The last two films I had a no-justification-necessary gut feeling for: The Lego Batman Movie (enjoyable) and Zootopia (excellent). I don’t expect Pirates 5 to be as good as the latter, but it can at least be as fun as the former. Hell, if it has even one scene as thrilling as the duel between Jack and Will, it will be the second-best film in the series.

One concrete, promising observation: Disney has mostly hidden Johnny Depp in its trailers for the movie. I think that’s for the best; Captain Jack Sparrow works as a character when he’s a passenger in these films, shackled and dragged through the plot by everyone around him. When the movie leans too heavily on his antics, everything unwinds. Maybe that’s just nostalgia trying to win me over — betting on less Jack Sparrow and more this is a risky proposition — but I think it’s the right move.

‘Alien: Covenant’

Release Date: May 19

Chris Ryan: Saying you go to Alien movies for the mythology is like saying you read Playboy for the articles: Neither is true and both make you sound old. But I swear on my Weyland Yutani company ID badge I really love Alien mythology. That’s why Prometheus has stayed with me, despite its flaws: It tied the discovery of chest-bursting xenomorphs into larger questions about our quest for knowledge and the hubris of scientific discovery. And I think the engineers were gods? So while I am happy to have Ridley Scott back in the director’s chair and could not give this ensemble cast — Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, Demian Bichir, Amy Seimetz, Billy Crudup — warmer approval, I am going into Alien: Covenant with a little trepidation. Scott has said Covenant will "scare the living shit out of you," and that makes total sense, and bring on the blood fountains and screaming. BUT! The Alien franchise has always toed the line between repeat-the-beats horror series (we got lost/we got killed/one of us got away) and sci-fi. (Why did we decide to go mining in such far-off places? What are these things, who made them, and what do they want, other than to cocoon people, sweat like they were presenting closing arguments in the Inherit the Wind courtroom, and smile a lot?) That line is probably what makes them so continuously enjoyable and rewatchable. I’m so excited to see this one, my chest hurts.

‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’

Release Date: May 12

Sam Schube: The legend of King Arthur is a cool story. A great story, even. Entire civilizations have been built atop it. We’ve even seen it released as a gritty reboot.

But for all its world-historical cultural import, the tale of the sword in the stone has never been told the way it ought to have been: in gratuitous slow-motion, soundtracked by motherfucking Led Zeppelin.

Thank God we now have a savior riding in, Arthur-like, to save the day. Guy Ritchie, patron saint of the unnecessary, is bringing this most unneeded story to life again. And he’s brought a hell of a cast. I’m gonna go see King Arthur: Legend of the Sword on opening night, wearing one of those Beatles-meme shirts that reads:

Hunnam &
Law &
Bana &
Gillen &
Hounsou &
Bergès-Frisbey &
Beckham.

As Guy Ritchie is pretty sure King Arthur once said: "Babe, I’m gonna leave you. I’m gonna leave you when the summertime rolls around." And then Merlin plugged his wand into a Marshall stack and windmilled a couple of power chords, Arthur pulled his sword from the stone, and Guy Ritchie decided to make what I am certain will be the most purely fun movie of summer 2017.

‘The Beguiled’

Release Date: June 23

Amanda Dobbins: Please tag yourself in this photo:

(Focus Features)
(Focus Features)

I am, as always, Kirsten Dunst, because I prefer my female meanness blunt and un-self-conscious. Anyway: A Southern Gothic remake of a Clint Eastwood movie is not exactly what I would request from Sofia Coppola — I would request a Mitford biopic, please and thank you — but put more than five vengeful, artfully dressed women in one frame, and I am in. Congratulations in advance to Nicole Kidman on her back-to-back Emmy and Oscar nominations. Happy Sofia Season!!

‘Detroit’

Release Date: August 4

K. Austin Collins: "Excited" isn’t the word I’d use to sum up my feelings about Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit, a movie about the 1967 Detroit riots — but I’m eager to see it.

The movie, written with Mark Boal (who also wrote The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty) is focused on the Algiers Motel Incident, a police raid that resulted in the deaths of three black men and the severe beatings of several others. This isn’t the main story of the riots, but it’s an important side story. Color me intrigued.

On the other hand, I’m on the record as a bigger fan of early, genre Bigelow (Point Break, Blue Steel, Strange Days) as opposed to her recent, more acclaimed war dramas. Her recent films have struck me as extremely well-made, but politically unstable. Detroit could go either way. Hence my interest.

‘Baby Driver’

Release Date: June 28

Michael Baumann: Here are some things in the trailer for Baby Driver:

  • Kevin Spacey as a criminal mastermind reprising his role from 21
  • My man The Elgort, Gus from The Fault in Our Stars, jammin’ out to some elevator jazz on an eight-year-old iPod and giving Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds a run for his money in the "Worst Fake Southern Accent By an American Actor" category
  • The line "One more job and I’m done," which, cliché aside, The Elgort is, like, 17 years old. The character’s name is literally "Baby"; I don’t know what he’s planning on doing for the rest of his life.
  • The 1973 hit single "Radar Love" by Dutch rock giants Golden Earring
  • The Elgort flogging the absolute spiritual essence out of a red Subaru WRX
  • Jon Hamm with stubble, which is how you know he’s untrustworthy
  • Flea
  • Some virtuoso foley work (shotguns, rapping on tables, that sort of thing)

This would all sound like a disaster, but the following is also in the trailer:

  • "Directed by Edgar Wright"

Wright has made his career on films that steer directly into the hoariest, most tired clichés of a genre and come out the other side with something you’d call a pastiche if it weren’t so good: Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim. Even if he doesn’t pull off the trick again with Baby Driver, name the last heist movie you didn’t have fun watching.

‘The Dark Tower’

Release Date: August 4

Ben Lindbergh: The wheel of ka has finally turned toward a Dark Tower movie, although the forthcoming film definitely didn’t come like a wind. Hollywood’s take on Stephen King’s eight-book, genre-melding sci-fi/fantasy/Western series has been stuck in development hell for a decade, with first J.J. Abrams and then Ron Howard attached to direct as it cycled through several studios. Nikolaj Arcel will helm the version that got the green light, which will supposedly be more of a sequel than a straight-up adaptation. Idris Elba (as the badass/good-guy gunslinger, Roland Deschain) and Matthew McConaughey (as his adversary, the Man in Black) are ideal leads; no one wears a long coat better than Elba, as the set photos confirm.

So is it a bad sign that I’m still writing "supposedly" about even the broadest premise of a tentpole-type movie that’s due out in three months? Or that its premiere date has been delayed multiple times, amid reshoots? Or that while a rough cut of a trailer leaked last year, the real one only just came out?

Probably! The history of King stories on screen is spotty, as is the history of projects that have gone through this many permutations before (presumably) reaching theaters. But if this one works out, it could spawn countless sequels, not to mention a transmedia rollout that would likely include a companion TV series. King can’t stop returning to (and even inserting himself into) the book series, so there’s plenty of Dark Tower grist for future filmmakers to find. And since the series’ tendrils extend into decades of non–Dark Tower work, one success could seed a new onslaught of adapted King content — even a coherent King Cinematic Universe. As long as we’re living in a franchise-first industry, I’d sign up for seven more movies in Mid-World. Arcel just has to finish the first one before the world moves on.

‘Girls Trip’

Release Date: July 21

Hannah Giorgis: Every time I think about the massive injustice that was the ending of Set It Off, I am filled with rage anew. Stony and Cleo deserved better! So 21 years later, I’m more than ready for Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith to take an infinitely more joyous journey. The two, along with Regina Hall and Tiffany Haddish, play a group of lifelong friends who reunite in New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival. Of course, various high jinks ensue and the women get closer to one another (and some choice men) along the way. Girls Trip isn’t promising to offer some grand, heady meditation on the nature of female friendship in 2017, but that’s exactly why I’m ready for it. Sometimes I just want to watch my favorite black actresses let loose and have fun without the heaviness of a civil rights plotline or fatal altercation with police; not every movie with a primarily black cast has to be Set It Off, Selma, or a Tyler Perry production. Girls Trip has everything I love most about the summer: music, friendship, fruity cocktails, and gratuitous shirtless scenes of Kofi Siriboe.

‘Atomic Blonde’

Release Date: July 28

Alison Herman: Has there ever been a better match of action star and action franchise than Imperator Furiosa and the guy who codirected John Wick? Fresh off an epic squandering of her talents in Fate of the Furious, Charlize Theron now gets to prove that ass-kicking wish fulfillment isn’t just for dudes. Women, too, would love to picture an extremely ripped version of themselves MacGyvering murder weapons and rattling off potential log lines in an unplaceable European accent. (The foreign locations and arsenal of British character actors in this are just icing on the blood-soaked cake.) Atomic Blonde looks like the brutal efficiency of Wick grafted onto the Cold War espionage hangover of Jason Bourne — except this time, the star happens to wear excellent shoes and rock a platinum dye job. No offense to Rough Night or Girls Trip, but this is the summer girls’ night movie we deserve.

‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’

Release Date: May 5

Daniel Varghese: The appeal of Guardians of the Galaxy is self-evident: colorful world, colorful aliens, colorful music. The 2014 film was a joyful romp featuring a group of strange, compelling characters and some supremely beautiful set pieces. From the looks of it, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 isn’t doing anything fundamentally different. All of our favorite characters have returned — some in more endearing packaging — and are joined by others who promise to be just as weird, namely Pom Klementieff’s Mantis; many scenes in the trailer, particularly the one featuring Drax’s characteristic tactless way of speech without metaphor, are legitimately funny; and the music, oh, the music, is perfection.

The only real shift here seems to be an increased focused on the band of misfits as a proximate family for Peter (Chris Pratt), a familiar theme for contemporary blockbusters. The fact that it might be another movie featuring overbearing familial pride surrounded by, you know, violence, could make Vol. 2 feel feel clichéd, where the original felt … original. Still, there’s something about hearing Kurt Russell gently say, "I’m your dad, Peter," that eases all of my concerns. I’m in on this movie. I cannot wait for summer to start.

‘War for the Planet of the Apes’

Release Date: July 14

Andrew Gruttadaro: "Human get sick, ape get smart, human kill ape." That’s the basic plot synopsis of this new Planet of the Apes trilogy, which will culminate with War this summer. And though saying, "Humans go to war against apes," out loud will never not sound ridiculous, these movies have proved to be stunningly insightful, cathartic, and hauntingly real. At their core, they are a testament to the mercilessness of human nature and a condemnation of our destructive, self-appointed manifest destiny. Now comes the climax.

Exploding off the foundation of the previous two films, War for the Planet of the Apes appears to have all the markings of a classic war epic: the tense calm before the storm that brings sizing up and immense moral questioning, betrayal, unhinged warmongers, and all-out action. The big guns are out, and Woody Harrelson is shaving his head shirtless on a balcony in the middle of winter. How could you not be excited for this?

‘Dunkirk’

Release Date: July 21

Micah Peters: This is simple. First off, one of the immutable laws of movies is that every movie about war is dope. Whatever your counterpoint is, I want you to know that I’ve considered it and decided that it doesn’t matter because Enemy at the Gates. And also Saving Private Ryan. Tears of the Sun too. Fury. REMEMBER HOW SHIA LABEOUF IS THE GREATEST ACTOR OF HIS GENERATION?

Second, there’s a new war movie coming out. It will be exploring Operation Dynamo, the sinister tactics of the Wehrmacht, dire human cost, and the miraculous escape of the Allied troops from the unnavigable beaches of Dunkirk before right before World War II started in earnest. It’s called Dunkirk, and every British or Irish actor you’ve ever heard of is in it (Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy), as is Harry Styles, who you also may have heard of. Finally, Dunkirk is directed by Christopher Nolan, who’s made my favorite movies about magic and anterograde amnesia, and it’s possible he’s made my favorite one about war, too. It’s out July 21, and I gotta say that I agree with Chris — I hope it’s four years long.