Fionn Whitehead in Dunkirk / Courtesy
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Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer to most, but don’t tell that to Hollywood.
“The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” broke the seal on the summer movie season last week, and along with mostly positive reviews, Marvel Studios’ latest effort blew the roof off the box office, topping the $500 million barrier worldwide in just one week.
Scores of films will be in and out theaters by the time Labor Day rolls around, and if you get that déjà vu feeling, you should. This summer’s release schedule is packed with sequels, remakes, reboots, and spinoffs.
Here’s a rundown of my eight most anticipated movies that will be battling it out on the big screen for your attention, time, and money this summer.
1. Dunkirk (July 21)
If there is one movie to see this summer, it’s “Dunkirk.” The film is the story of the evacuation of 330,000 British and French soldiers across the English Channel from the port of Dunkirk, France, between May 26 and June 4, 1940. The operation was the result of an early loss for the Allies to the Nazis in World War II, but the plan salvaged a large portion of the British military in the face of defeat. There’s no better director working today than Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar”) to bring the Miracle of Dunkirk to the big screen. The ensemble cast includes Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh and Cillian Murphy among others. This might not only be the movie of the summer but also the movie of the year.
2. Baby Driver (June 28)
The trailer for Edgar Wright’s latest film sold me. Ansel Elgort (“Fault in Our Stars” and “The Divergent Series”) plays Baby, a hearing-impaired getaway driver who constantly listens to music to drown out the ringing in his ears. Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx in supporting roles only make me more eager to see this action-comedy.
3. Wonder Woman (June 2)
The Amazing Amazon gets the big-budget treatment as the first super heroine ever to headline a major motion picture, and better yet it’s directed by the talented Patty Jenkins (“Monster, Arrested Development, Entourage, and The Killing”). Last year’s polarizing “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” introduced this version of the character to film fans, and many felt Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was a high point of the movie. Chris Pine co-stars as Maj. Steve Trevor, an American pilot whose plane crashes in the ocean near the Amazonian island of Themyscira during World War I.
4. All Eyez on Me (June 16)
This biopic, directed by Benny Boom, examines the life and career of hip-hop star Tupac Shakur, played by Demetrius Shipp Jr. Though he was murdered at just 25, Tupac stands as one of the most respected and influential hip-hop artists ever to record. The film depicts the ups and downs that melded the artist and his landmark career.
5. War for the Planet of the Apes (July 14)
Prequels seldom live up to the source material, but “The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” reboot series certainly honors if not surpasses the 1968 sci-fi classic “Planet of the Apes” and its sequels. The third film in the new series once again stars Andy Serkis in a motion-capture performance as Caesar, an intelligent chimpanzee who is the leader of a tribe of genetically enhanced apes at war with humans. Woody Harrelson joins the fray as The Colonel. He’s a soldier obsessed with wiping out Caesar and his tribe to protect his own kind. The trailer feature apes riding horses. How can anyone resist?
6. The Mummy (June 9)
There have been films that feature female mummies before, but there never has been one that featured a female mummy (Sofia Boutella) facing off against Tom Cruise. This high-octane action-horror thriller is the reintroduction of Universal Studios’ classic monsters to a modern film audience. Universal had the first connected, cinematic world back in the 1940s, intermingling its gothic monsters in a series of B films that have entertained generations. Now the studio wants to cash in on updated versions of its classic ghouls, like Marvel is doing with its big-screen super heroes. Russell Crowe plays Dr. Henry Jekyll in this movie. can Mr. Hyde be far behind? Other movies in the works are “Frankenstein” with Javier Bardem and “The Invisible Man” with Johnny Depp. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has also been mentioned for the lead in “The Wolfman.”
7. Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7)
Spider-Man once again will be swinging through your friendly neighborhood cineplex in July. This time Tom Holland (“The Impossible, The Lost City of Z, In the Heart of the Sea”) dons Peter Parker’s familiar red-and-blue underoos to face off against Michael Keaton as the Vulture. To make sure the film, a co-production of Sony and Marvel, is a hit, Robert Downey Jr. guest stars as Tony Stark/Iron Man. When done right, there’s not a better comic-book character than Spider-Man. Hopefully this movie returns Spidey to the cinematic glory the character deserves.
8. The Dark Tower (August 4)
There are nearly a dozen Stephen King-inspired projects in the works for TV and the big screen, and most sound at least promising. The first to hit will be “The Dark Tower,” featuring Idris Elba as sci-fi/fantasy gunslinger Roland Deschain and Matthew McConaghey as his rival Walter Padick. Nikolaj Arcel (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Department Q: Keeper of the Lost Causes”) directs, and his projects are always interesting. Adaptations of King’s work over the years have run the gamut from great to forgettable. Who knows about this one, but I am interested.
East of Eden
James Dean only had starring roles in three films, but what great films they were. Dean became a legend for his turns as young, misunderstood characters in “Rebel Without a Cause,” “Giant,” and “East of Eden,” but the latter was his only film released prior to the car accident that claimed his life on Sept. 30, 1955, at just 24.
“East of Eden” is a 1955 drama directed by Elia Kazan, loosely based on portions of the John Steinbeck novel of the same name. The plot pits two brothers against each other as they seek the respect of their father Adam Trask (Raymond Massey) and the love of the same girl, Abra (Julie Harris).
If it’s not obvious from the title, the plot loosely follows the biblical story of Cain and Abel but with a few twists.
Cal (Dean) is a rebellious, tortured soul who is jealous of his brother Aron (Richard Davalos), the favorite of their father, a California farmer and chair of the draft board.
Set just prior to the United States entry into World War I, the film depicts a family splitting at the seems as a business venture goes south and threatens their livelihood.
Cal receives a tip that beans prices will skyrocket when the United States enters the war, and he tries to convince his father to convert their land to bean production. However Trask sees that as wartime profiteering, and will have none of it.
Cal and his father continue to wrangle over the beans, and sparks fly in more ways than one from the friction produced between Cal, Aron, and Abra. However, it is an uncovered lie by Trask that unravels the family completely, leading to the film’s unlikely but moving climax.
Marlon Brando, who was considered for the role of Cal but deemed too old, obviously influenced Dean’s performance. The young actor’s commitment to the part creates an alluring but off-putting aura. You feel his yearning for his father’s respect, and his passion for Abra burns almost as hot as his guilt over loving his brother’s finance. Dean’s performance feels on the edge if not a bit unhinged. He makes you want to look away, but you can’t.
Dean garnered one of his two Academy Award nominations for the part of Cal. The other was for Jett Rink in 1956’s “Giant.”
Dean’s three films are enough to make him a Hollywood legend. The quality of his performances are haunting, leaving you wondering what he might have accomplished had he not died so young.