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Summer Movie Preview 2018: From ‘Infinity War’ to ‘BlacKkKlansman’

From superhero epics to a stranger-than-fiction KKK drama – your complete guide to the season’s blockbusters and big-name movies

Summer Movie 2018

Your complete Summer Movie 2018 Preview guide – from 'Avengers: Infinity War,' to 'BlacKkKlansmen,' blockbusters to big-name dramas and comedies.

Digging for summer-movie gold – that’s what it’s all about, folks. Striking it rich. Hollywood suits spend most of the year digging themselves out of the financial hole left by those “serious” films that win awards and court prestige. But in summer, the gloves are off: It’s sequels, prequels, retreads and anything else safe the non-creatives can come up with to hit the cash jackpots to keep them warm all winter. 

What about audiences? Mostly, we play along, indulging in the box-office game of ranking movies like sweepstake winners. Forget the real calendar that says summer starts on June 21st; with Marvel/Disney releasing the record-breaking Avengers: Infinity War on April 27th, Hollywood now insists the season begins when sure things parade into the multiplex. 

There are over 130 movies opening between now and Labor Day. Are any of them decent or better? Will even a handful of them matter by the time the season ends? Can quality still sneak in while the money counters aren’t looking? In this oh-so-selective summer preview, we’ll focus on 30 movies that might at least have something to recommend them. 

And we’re off!

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‘Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot’ (Jul. 13)

Gus Van Sant proves the ideal filmmaker to tackle the true story of John Callahan, an alcoholic partyboy who ends up in car crash that leaves him a quadriplegic. The Drugstore Cowboy director is allergic to tearjerking – as is a dynamite Joaquin Phoenix, who plays Callahan with an exuberance that shows how he finally found his voice as an iconoclastic cartoonist. Jonah Hill, in a caftan, also scores as an eccentric AA sponsor. The offbeat sensibility shared by Van Sant and Phoenix deflects any detours into to biopic formula. They keep it real.

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‘Eighth Grade’ (Jul. 13)

Heads up, Oscars: Here’s one of the best and transfixing of the year, not just the summer. Eighth Grade gets inside the head and bruised heart of Kayla (a phenomenal Elsie Fisher), a 13-year-old about to enter high school. She ignores her single dad (Josh Hamilton), dotes on classmates who pretend she doesn’t exist and clings to social media like a digital blood transfusion. As directed by Bo Burnham, 27, a stand-up comic and musician in a stunning feature debut, this coming-of-age flick plays it tender but never safe – it speaks to the agonizing pain of growing up that all survivors of adolescence can recognize.

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‘Skyscraper’ (Jul. 13)

No, Dwayne Johnson doesn’t play the title role. But unlike Rampage and a handful of other escapist fantasies in which The Rock isn’t required to do much more than show up and turn on the charm, Skyscraper requires the star to, y’know, act. As a war vet with an amputated leg, Johnson is a man in crisis, a security specialist on assignment in China. It’s there that he must save the world’s tallest building (240 floors) from burning to the ground before his family dies in the blaze and he’s locked up for allegedly causing the whole thing. Fans are not accustomed to seeing Johnson show fear or vulnerability. Check it out.

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‘Blindspotting’ (Jul. 20)

All hail the new team of Daveed Diggs, who won a Tony for playing Thomas Jefferson and Lafayette in Hamilton, and Rafael Casal, his creative sparring partner from Oakland, California, and co-writer on this powerhouse tale of a friendship tested. Diggs plays Collin, serving his last three days of probation and trading rap verses with Casal as Miles, his volatile best friend. When our hero witnesses a white cop shoot an unarmed black man, the comedic plot turns tragic – and opens the door for a look at the Bay Area city’s uneasy relationship with race, class and mobility.

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‘The Equalizer 2’ (Jul. 20)

Funny how sequels don’t seem like such a paycheck thing when they star Denzel Washington. This second Equalizer film, again directed by the regular collaborator Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Magnificent Seven) is actually Washington’s first sequel. How did the filmmaker persuade him to return to the role of retired special-ops agent Robert McCall who heaps rough justice on criminal scum? Fuqua reported that Washington read the script and thought it was “different and better.” Sometimes it’s that uncomplicated.

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‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again’ (Jul. 20)

At a recent CinemaCon presentation in Las Vegas, Cher – a newcomer to the Mamma Mia family – showed up to deliver ABBA’s “Fernando” live and brought down the house. So that’s one reason, besides the 2008 original’s mammoth $609 million box-office gross, to return to the Greek island where everyone’s a dancing queen. Meryl Streep is back as hotel owner Donna, but the focus here is on flashbacks to the young Donna, played by Lily James. And who does Cher play? Donna’s mother, of course – the rocker lady who started it all.

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‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ (Jul. 27)

It’s the sixth Mission: Impossible movie in which 55-year-old Tom Cruise, as the intrepid Ethan Hunt, has to keep topping himself with stunts other stars would leave to their doubles. Christopher McQuarrie – the only director so far to guide two M:I epics – points with pride to the skydiving scene that the mega-movie star did in one take. And what about Cruise piloting a chopper while other choppers surround him? We could tell you about the plot, but who cares? We’re all in it for the adrenaline rush, Cruise included.

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‘The Darkest Minds’ (Aug. 3)

Dystopian thrillers aimed at young-adult audiences took a hit when the declining popularity of the Divergent series couldn’t even get a fourth film into theaters. Still, The Darkest Minds, based on Alexandra Bracken’s bestselling YA series, aims to break the jinx. Its teen runaways, led by Ruby (Amandla Stenberg, a.k.a. Rue in The Hunger Games), have escaped a killer plague at home and developed super powers to help them evade capture by controlling adults. Mandy Moore is along as a supportive doctor, and Gwendoline Christie of Game of Thrones fame plays a bounty hunter ready to kick their asses. 

‘Mile 22’ (Aug. 3)

Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg are a team worth betting on – see Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day, all true stories of men up against it. Mile 22 lets them fly for the pure adventurous fun of it, with Wahlberg playing a CIA agent stationed in Indonesia. His job is to transport an informant to an airport 22 miles away, running . a gauntlet with more obstacles than Stormy Daniels every getting another date with Trump. “We’re coming at you with a big ass action movie,” says Berg. In summer, isn’t that enough? 

Summer Movie 2018

‘Searching’ (Aug. 3)

A nerve-frying suspense thriller seen exclusively through the lenses of smartphones and laptops, Searching is a technical marvel with a beating heart at its core. Aneesh Chaganty, in an exceptional feature directing debut, sparks high-voltage tension by making John Cho, as a frantic widower, track down his missing teen daughter (Michelle La) solely through modern technology. A pushy detective (Debra Messing) joins in the fun. 

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‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’ (Aug.3)

It sounds like the most formulaic plot ever lifted from the female buddy comedy summer playbook: Two thirtysomething L.A. roommates get tangled up in a spy plot that puts assassins on their tail and fear in their unprepared-for-espionage hearts. But sometimes casting is everything. That’s SNL MVP Kate McKinnon and Bad Moms’ shining star Mila Kunis as the roomies. Justin Theroux plays the spy who dumped Kunis; Outlander hunk Sam Heughan is a British agent who further thickens the plot. How’s that for promising?

Summer Movie 2018

‘BlacKkKlansman’ (Aug. 10)

Can director Spike Lee get his career mojo back with this true story of Ron Stallworth, an African-American detective in Colorado Springs, Colorado, who answered an 1978 ad in a local newspaper seeking new Klan members? Signs look promising. The veteran director will produce the film with Get Out‘s Jordan Peele, and John David Washington, (Denzel’s son) plays Stallworth, a cop who infiltrated the Klan by pretending to be a white supremacist on the phone. Since violence against unarmed black men hasn’t abated in 40 years, this stranger-than-fiction story has the makings of both a history lesson and a film for our time.

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‘The Meg’ (Aug. 10)

A giant, 75-foot-long prehistoric shark – known by experts in such things as Megalodon – takes on Jason Statham, the British actor whose cold stare is shark repellant personified. It’s Jaws supersized, and The Transporter star is the expert deep-sea rescue diver charged with saving the crew of a submersible trapped under the Pacific. Meanwhile, the toothy apex predator is closing in. This movie sounds like the very definition of the term guilty pleasure. 

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‘Crazy Rich Asians’ (Aug. 17)

Already shaping up as the comedy to see this summer, this take on Kevin Kwan’s bestselling novel investigates the fun possibilities that ensue when New Yorker Rachel (Fresh Off the Boat‘s Constance Wu) joins her boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding) on a trip to Singapore. It’s all fun and games until Rachel finds that her man is from a family of super-wealthy eccentrics ready to make life hell for this stranger. With Awkwafina, aka rapper comic Nora Lum, stealing scenes as Rachel’s best friend, expect director Jon M. Chu’s fractured farce to be crazy rich with laughs.

‘Papillon’ (Aug. 24)

Prison breakout movies are a dime a dozen – but Henri Charrière’s acclaimed memoir about the “butterfly” prisoner who makes a daring attempt to escape from Devil’s Island has always been one-of-a kind. Steve McQueen starred as Charriere in a 1973 film version with Dustin Hoffman as his fellow convict Louis Dega. Now, we get Charlie Hunnam as Big Papi and Mr. Robot‘s Rami Malek in the role of Dega. Director Michael Noer knows his duty is to provide a Shawshank-like escape thriller, but he insists that the core of the film resides with “two men who develop a relationship in pain.” Any similarities to the movie’s Thirties-set penal colony and current penitentiary horror stories are, of course, not coincidental, and the result is a summer movie with a conscience. Let’s hope it’s a trend. 

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