Next week is Victoria Day weekend, which has nothing to do with Memorial Day the following weekend south of the border, other than the fact that it is the unofficial start of movie blockbuster season.
And what a season it is: Sequels! Live-action remakes! Monsters! And… Pavarotti? Mark your calendars with a small sampling of what the warm-weather months have in store on the big screen.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Opening today with great hype is the third instalment of the John Wick franchise, starring Keanu Reeves as an assassin on the run after he went very off-book and killed someone he shouldn’t have at the end of Wick 2. No one’s got his back this time as he struggles to survive as a rogue agent with a bounty on his head. Halle Berry, Anjelica Huston, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne co-star.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
What’s summer without a giant creature tearing up the scenery? And if one is good, how about 18 of them? Cinema staple Godzilla is back, this time under the direction of Michael Dougherty (Krampus) and facing off against 17 titans that are destroying civilization as we know it. Ken Watanabe returns, while Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler and Millie Bobby Brown join in the fun.
Live-action version of the Disney animated film starring Mena Massoud as the “street rat” who goes on to capture the heart of a princess (Naomi Scott). The jury is still out on whether Will Smith as the wise-cracking genie will live up to the very high bar set by Robin Williams.
Continuing the trend of rock-star biopics is Rocketman, about the rise to fame of Elton John. But director Dexter Fletcher promises more than your standard life-and-times fare: considering the flamboyant, theatrical performances for which the singer is known, filmmakers incorporated fantasy elements in the telling of their story. Played by Taron Egerton (Kingsman), who does all his own singing and looks uncannily like the singer once he puts those sparkly sunglasses on.
The Secret Life of Pets 2
Another voyeuristic look at what our pets get into each day after we go to work and school, this one starring Lake Bell, Harrison Ford, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, Tiffany Haddish, Ellie Kemper, Kevin Hart, Garth Jennings, Pete Holmes, Nick Kroll and Eric Stonestreet, among others. The first SLOP has the distinction of being the sixth-biggest animated debut of all time, so expect long lines on opening weekend.
Men In Black: International
This addition to the franchise stars a new alien-policing duo: a veteran MIB agent (Chris Hemsworth) is partnered with rookie Agent M (Tessa Thompson, “Westworld”) and together they must fight forces from other galaxies and from within their own agency after it is compromised. Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson also star.
From the producers of Love Actually and the Bridget Jones films and directed by Danny Boyle. Washed-up singer Jack (Himesh Patel) has played his last gig doing covers of The Beatles. But after a cycling accident results in a crack on the head he wakes up to a world that has never heard of John, Paul, George or Ringo, and suddenly he’s a singer-songwriting phenom, much to the delight of his girlfriend (Lily James) and rapacious manager (Kate McKinnon). The only problem? Ed Sheeran wants to rework “Hey Jude” into “Hey Dude”.
Toy Story 4
There’s a new toy in town… sort of. It’s a spoon/fork combo named “Sporky”, and Woody and Buzz (Tom Hanks, Tim Allen) have sworn to protect it at all costs. But when Sporky goes AWOL and Woody runs into his old friend Bo Peep (Annie Potts), he’s seduced by a place where there’s of a never-ending line of adoring kids, and has to choose between his old life and a new one. Bonus: there’s a new Canadian toy, Duke Caboom, voiced by Keanu Reeves.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Hotly anticipated film from first-time director/producer Joe Talbot, inspired in part by his friend Jimmie Fails’ obsession with his Frisco childhood home. Fails stars alongside Jonathan Majors as two men looking to find their place in a small corner of the world. The film also examines neighbourhood gentrification and the people, culture and memories it leaves in its wake.
The X-Men face their greatest foe yet in one of their own after a space mission goes awry and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is transformed by a cosmic force into the most powerful mutant of them all. No Wolverine, but otherwise Dark Phoenix is a treat for fans as it features many X-faves in one film: Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Professor X (James McAvoy), Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), to name a few. Jessica Chastain makes her first X-Men appearance.
Did you know that Pavarotti was a rock star? The legendary tenor still holds the record for number of curtain calls, 165, at the Deutsche Oper Berlin in 1988, when the audience applauded for a straight one hour and seven minutes. Director Ron Howard makes a case for the man who brought opera to the people in this documentary featuring Bono, Spike Lee and Stevie Wonder, among many others.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
There’s a prodigious amount of buzz surrounding Quentin Tarantino’s latest film thanks to its world premiere at Cannes next week, almost exactly 25 years after Pulp Fiction’s debut at the festival. Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio share the screen for the first time, DiCaprio as TV star Rick Dalton, whose best years are behind him, and Pitt as Cliff Booth, his stunt double. The heady, hippie vibe is everywhere, just waiting to be shattered by Charles Manson (played by Damon Herriman) upon an unsuspecting Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), Rick’s neighbour. You can almost smell the weed and the Coppertone tanning oil; Supporting cast includes too many stars to list.
Easily the creepiest-looking movie of the season is Midsommar. It was written and directed by Ari Aster, the man who brought us Hereditary, one of last year’s best horror flicks. No need for shadows and dark corners: Aster’s brand of terror takes place in the incessant, bright white light of a Swedish summer festival where a vacationing Jack Raynor and Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth) unwittingly become part of a sinister cult’s ceremony.
Brahms: The Boy II
The Boy is back in town: in this sequel to 2016’s The Boy, Katie Holmes stars as one half of the couple who moves into Heelshire Mansion, unaware of its dark history and super-creepy inhabitants. When their young son (Christopher Convery) makes friends with the peculiar doll called Brahms, all hell breaks loose. Original director William Brent Bell is back, as is writer Stacey Menear.
Vita & Virginia
A sweeping period piece that takes place in the 1920s and tells the true story of the passionate relationship between writers Virginia Woolf (Elizabeth Debicki) and Vita Sackville-West (Gemma Arterton), the inspiration for her epic novel “Orlando”. Co-starring Isabella Rossellini as Lady Sackville.
The Lion King
A live-action and computer-generated retelling of the beloved Disney classic from director Jon Favreau. Simba will inherit the kingdom from his father, Mufasa, much to the dismay of his scheming uncle Scar, who will stop at nothing to inherit the land around Pride Rock. Donald Glover, Beyonce, James Earl Jones, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Seth Rogen, Keegan-Michael Key, John Oliver and many more lend voices.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
If you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame I’m not about to ruin the fun, so let’s just say that there’s a threat and that Spider-Man (Tom Holland) is the only one who can conquer it. The film’s trailer comes with a warning to watch Endgame first, part the territory when there’s so much crossbreeding of superhero films. With Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Jake Gyllenhaal, Cobie Smulders, Marisa Tomei and Jon Favreau.
An action comedy featuring Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) as Stu, a mild-mannered Uber driver whose passenger (Dave Bautista) is one tough customer. Murder, mayhem, hilarity ensues. But will he get a five-star rating?
Melting polar ice caps, record highs and unpredictable storms: today’s weather headlines are already a horror story, so expect a steady increase in weather-related thrillers. This one stars a category five hurricane and some very angry crocodiles. When Hayley (Kaya Scodelario) ignores evacuation orders to check on her father (Barry Pepper) she finds that floating debris and rising floodwaters are the least of their worries. From director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes) and producers Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Don’t Breathe) and Craig Flores (300).
Awkwafina stars in this Lulu Wang film (Posthumous) about a death in the family. But it’s a death that hasn’t happened yet, and the cultural and generational impasse about how to prepare and talk about mortality and other difficult subjects couldn’t be wider.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold
There are some serious Dora The Explorer haters out there. Like, with the purple-hot-intensity-of-a-thousand-Barneys kind of hate. Paramount Pictures is directing all that passion toward a live-action spoof of the kids’ series we love to hate, in which Dora (Isabela Moner) faces her biggest challenge yet: high school. After a bumpy introduction to civilization it’s back to the jungle, where Dora and a group of teens go on an adventure to save Dora’s parents (Eva Longoria and Michael Pena).
The Art of Racing In The Rain
Milo Ventimiglia of TV’s “This Is Us” stars in this adaptation of Garth Stein’s 2008 novel. It’s the story of a racecar driver (Ventimiglia) and his family (Amanda Seyfried) told through the eyes of a wise dog named Enzo (voiced by Kevin Costner). Directed by Simon Curtis (Goodbye Christopher Robin) and filmed in Vancouver.
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
It’s back-to-basics for the franchise that has amassed $5 billion (and counting) worldwide. Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham are back as Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw, lawmen of two very different stripes who must unite to save the world from a biological weapon and a genetically enhanced Idris Elba. Vanessa Kirby and Helen Mirren co-star, but frankly, you had me at “genetically enhanced Idris Elba”.
Playmobil: The Movie
Playmobil and Lego are in competition but churn out strikingly similar products, so give the success of The Lego Movie franchise, we shouldn’t be surprised that a Playmobil feature was in the works. And talk about your star-studded casts! Daniel Radcliffe, Meghan Traynor, Kenan Thompson, Adam Lambert and Jim Gaffigan, to name a few. When her younger brother goes missing into a Playmobil parallel universe, Marla (Anya Taylor-Joy) teams up with a misfit gang of non-chokable action figures to bring him home.
Ready Or Not
Just in time for wedding season: new bride Grace (Samara Weaving, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) realizes that her in-laws (Andie MacDowell, Henry Czerny) truly are from hell when they force her to take part in a family tradition, a terrifying game with lethal stakes. Also starring Adam Brody.
What happens when a group of 12-year-old boys skips school for the day in the pursuit of some spectacularly bad choices? Nothing wholesome, especially when you consider that the film’s producers are Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and James Weaver, the minds behind Sausage Party and Superbad. The shot-in-Vancouver feature is rated R for “strong crude sexual content, drug and alcohol material, and language throughout – all involving teens”. Rogen spoofs the rating in a trailer for the film, in which he informs actors Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams and Brady Noon that they’re too young to watch their own trailer.