What’s ‘New’ This Summer at the Multiplex

With all the reboots, remakes and sequels, is there an original movie idea left?

click to enlarge Royalty Hightower stars as Toni in The Fits.
Royalty Hightower stars as Toni in The Fits.

With all the reboots, remakes and sequels, is there an original movie idea left?

I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t it a bit late for a summer movie preview? At this point you’ve already missed out on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (March 25), Captain America: Civil War (May 6), the wacky twin bills of The Angry Birds Movie and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (May 20) and then Alice Through the Looking Glass and X-Men: Apocalypse a week later, so why wander into the summer box office party so late?

In truth, the comic book craze seems to disregard prescribed seasonal limitations, with titles scattered throughout the year, all seemingly able to plant tentpoles whenever and wherever they like. Look at what Deadpool did with its February release date. Those are summer numbers, redefining Valentine’s Day as the start of the summer fun.

The real challenge is to find counter-seasonal/cultural programming that won’t necessarily be part of some media blitzkrieg with its protagonists spliced into sports teasers on network and cable channels or shilled via some inane flurry of appearances of drone-like stars on late-night television. What I’m offering here is a collection of movies that might actually transport us away from the social media and computer-generated heat that is focused on global box office domination.

The Fits (Not Yet Rated) • June 3

What better way to kick off the summer than with some indie Cincy love from co-writer/director Anna Rose Holmer? Young Toni (Royalty Hightower) works hard to fit into her new dance team in the West End, doing whatever it takes to live and breathe as part of the collective whole, but questions arise when the team succumbs to mysterious fainting spells. The film, which played this year’s Sundance Film Festival, marks the narrative debut of Holmer, who was included in Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” last year.

Swiss Army Man (R) • June 24

The new film from Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert just might make us forget about the undead for a moment, so we can focus on the plight of Hank (Paul Dano, perhaps my favorite under-the-radar star — yes, I said star), a nearly hopeless man stranded on an island, ready to kill himself, until he notices a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) on the beach. Hank foregoes suicide, names the body Manny and along the way discovers that Manny is a quite useful fellow, possibly even able to help him get off the deserted island and back to life as he knows it.

Captain Fantastic (R) • July 8

With a title like Captain Fantastic, this new film from Matt Ross, an actor transitioning into writing and directing, sure sounds super. And with Viggo Mortensen starring as Ben, a father raising his six children in isolation in the forests of the Pacific Northwest under an extremely rigorous physical and intellectual program — who must bring his brood in from the wild and face the challenges of the civilized world — the title certainly signals a heroic exploration into what it means to be a good parent and provider.

Lights Out (PG-13) • July 22

Before entering theaters for this summer’s chilling new nightmare, enquiring minds might want to sample the three-minute short of the same name from David F. Sandberg, about a woman haunted by a figure that only appears just as she turns the lights off. The full-length feature adds familiar faces — Teresa Palmer, Maria Bello and Billy Burke — but fortunately the basic premise remains the same.

The Space Between Us (PG-13) • Aug. 19

The potential exists for science fiction to delve into the most intimate spaces in The Space Between Us, as Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield), who has been raised by scientists on Mars, returns to Earth on a mission to track down his father. In typical coming-of-age fashion, Gardner hooks up with a young woman (Britt Robertson) along the way, but I’m reserving some kernel of hope that the space between this film, from Peter Chelsom (Hector and the Search for Happiness) and the usual young-adult fiction fodder is as wide as the known world.

CONTACT TT STERN-ENZI: [email protected]

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