The fourth entry in the DC Extended Universe – after Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad – Wonder Woman is this summer’s most anticipated film. It’s also one of the season’s most unique, despite being a superhero film: the comic book character’s first solo theatrical outing after more than 75 years of existence is also the first female-led superhero movie to be released in 12 years. On top of that, the action feature starring Gal Gadot as Diana of Themyscira is set in World War I, combining superpowers with No Man’s Land.
Director Patty Jenkins (Monster) opted to shoot on film rather than digital, saying “there’s a certain type of epic grander escapism that film gives you that you cannot… [get] on video”. It’s not just escapism that fans are after, however: some commentators have asked whether the big-screen Amazonian princess will push identity boundaries, after a DC Comics writer confirmed the character’s bisexuality. It doesn’t look like the merchandising will, though, with promotions including make-up products and diet bars. On general release from 1 June.
My Cousin Rachel
Roger Michell (Notting Hill) writes and directs this mystery-romance based on a 1951 novel by Daphne du Maurier, in which a young Englishman (Sam Claflin) falls in love with a cousin (Rachel Weisz), despite believing she murdered his guardian. Co-starring Iain Glen, Holliday Grainger and Simon Russell Beale, it’s the first feature film adaptation of du Maurier’s novel since a 1952 version starring Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton. There’s plenty of suspicion and distrust mixed in with passion and heady cups of tea, as a story penned by the writer of The Birds and Rebecca ramps up the tension. Released 8 June in Australia, 9 June in the US and 24 June in Singapore.
In the latest reboot of a franchise that dates back to 1932, Tom Cruise awakens an ancient princess in her crypt beneath the desert. Cruise plummets from the sky, runs around a lot and wakes up naked in a body bag – but it’s Sofia Boutella as the Mummy who steals the show. “Making the Mummy a woman is a whole other modern way to go that feels utterly necessary,” director Alex Kurtzman (People Like Us) has said, describing how Boutella bowled him over with her mute performance in Kingsman: The Secret Service. “If you look at her eyes… there's a whole performance going on here. And in not saying anything but conveying that much to me, I thought oh my God, no matter how much prosthetics we put on her, no matter how much CG we put on her face, if I see this, she's going to convey something very emotional to me.”
It’s the first instalment of the Dark Universe film series, yet another shared cinematic universe: lacking a stable of superheroes, Universal Pictures instead chose to bring together different classic monsters (the studio has already lined up Johnny Depp as The Invisible Man, Russell Crowe as Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde and Javier Bardem as Frankenstein’s Monster). Kurtzman claims that monsters like these have endured because they relate to “us all having a monster inside of us… they’re all weird reflections of aspects of our personalities”. On general release from 8 June.
Whitney: Can I be me?
Film-maker Nick Broomfield remains in the background in his latest documentary, which according to Variety “gets us to know Whitney Houston, to feel her pain and grace and dizzying spiritual rifts, in a way we haven’t before”. Its title refers to something Houston said early in her career, referring to the music she was allowed to make: but, as Variety argues, “the line comes to mean: Could she express all the human being – the princess and the ghetto sister, the pop and the R&B star, the lover of women and men – she really was?” Broomfield mixes interviews with Houston’s siblings and members of her inner circle with previously unseen footage shot by music video director Rudi Dolezal during her 1999 tour, just before her drug addiction overtook her singing.
Broomfield wasn’t just aiming to document her downward spiral, however. “What we tried to do was to explain it from her point of view,” he says. “The irony is that the wonderful person she actually was is so much more interesting than the image that was created around her.” Released 8 June in Germany, 16 June in the UK and 24 June in the US.
As a Netflix commission with no French theatrical release in contention for the Palme d’Or, the latest from South Korean director Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer) has caused controversy at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Organisers have issued a statement saying that streaming-only films would be banned from competition starting in 2018, while the Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar – who is Cannes jury president – and US director Sofia Coppola have come out in defence of the big screen.
None of this has stopped critics praising the film, however: BBC Culture’s Nicholas Barber argued that, if the swearing and violence had been cut, the satirical sci-fi romp would have been “a 21st-Century ET The Extra Terrestrial, except with a bilingual script and a hard-hitting pro-vegetarian message”. Following a young girl (played by An Seo-hyun) who attempts to prevent her pet mutant pig from being turned into sausages by the CEO of an evil conglomerate (Tilda Swinton), Okja had a five-star review from The Guardian, which says “the pure energy and likability of this film make it such a pleasure”. Streamed online from 28 June.
Ansel Elgort (The Fault in our Stars) is a getaway driver forced into working for a crime boss (Kevin Spacey) in what’s been described as “a fresh, funny spin on the classic heist flick”. Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx and Lily James co-star in the comedy-action-romance from British writer-director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), which is as much about the soundtrack as the visuals. The result, says The Telegraph, is “a crime caper that feels like a musical, but is mercifully free of the earnestness that has made La La Land such a lightning rod”.
Wright came up with the idea 22 years ago, listening over and over to Bellbottoms by the Jon Spencer Blue Explosion – which features in the film – and tried out the idea in a music video he directed in 2003 for the band Mint Royale. Yet according to Indiewire, Baby Driver isn’t just a series of song setpieces. Instead, it finds its form “in the elegant, rapid-fire synthesis of movement and sound… rooting its fancy surfaces in legitimate emotions and the recklessness they cause”. Wright has created a sophisticated take on the action genre, a world away from The Fast and The Furious: “If Busby Berkeley made Grand Theft Auto, it might look something like this.” Released 28 June in Canada and the US, and 30 June in Turkey.
Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler star as a couple who set up an illegal casino in their basement with a neighbour (played by Jason Mantzoukas) after spending their daughter’s college fund in this comedy directed by Andrew J Cohen. Show-stopping scenes include an all-girl fight club, with Ferrell telling EW: “It turns into the Fall of Rome.” One trailer reveals debauched gambling and Ferrell’s character attempting to stem bleeding with a Croc shoe after accidentally hacking off a gangster’s finger.
Yet there are tender moments too, as he revealed. “We take a hard right turn when we drop our daughter off at college,” he says. “We have this moment where we realise we are each other’s best friend. We played that very real, and we are both crying. I don’t think I could have done a scene like that without kids and without being married for 17 years.” He imagined dropping his eldest son, who’s currently 13, at college. “I put myself in that situation… I’ll probably be crying like a baby at some point.” On general release from 29 June.
After the Storm
This complex family drama “has what the Japanese call mono no aware, which translates as ‘the pathos of things’,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “It is a film that is aware of the transient, impermanent nature of life.” Hiroshi Abe stars as Ryota, a divorced father who was once a prizewinning novelist but now works as a private detective, blowing his earnings on gambling. After the death of his father, he renews contact with his family and attempts to regain control of his life as well as find a connection with his young son (Taiyo Yoshizawa).
Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda (Our Little Sister) has created a “solid yet subtly sphinx-like new drama”, according to The Washington Post. “As with all of Kore-eda’s films, very little happens that is conventionally cinematic. Even the titular storm takes place largely off camera.” When the storm allows the father and son to bond, it’s no conventional happy ending. Instead, “there’s a glimmer of hope that life might someday offer Ryota, if not the salvation of more soppy melodramas, then maybe a bit more breathing room”. Released 25 May in Argentina and Italy and 2 June in the UK and Ireland.
A Man Called Ove
Fredrik Backman’s 2012 novel proved an unexpected hit, becoming one of Sweden’s most popular literary exports since Stieg Larsson’s thriller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Its feature film adaptation has been equally popular, drawing praise as “Sweden’s answer to Frank Capra's Yuletide classic It’s a Wonderful Life” and becoming one of the country’s biggest ever comedies. Following an isolated retiree (Rolf Lassgård) who has given up on life, trying – and failing – to kill himself, before finding a way back through an unlikely friendship with his Persian neighbour Parvaneh (Bahar Pars), it has all the tropes of a conventional tearjerker. Yet, despite veering close to cliché, with a grumpy old man showing he really has a heart of gold, it “hits all of the genre’s sweet spots, without ever tipping into the saccharine”, according to The Globe and Mail, managing to be “touching and endearingly sentimental in a way that would seem cloying if attempted by any American studio”.
The familiar storyline is lifted by “the moving twists and turns of the love story and the bright comedy”, says The Washington Post, while Lassgård has drawn particular praise for his “beautifully nuanced performance”. EW picks out writer-director Hannes Holm for creating “a darkly funny, tragic, and ultimately heartwarming tearjerker about the life of one lonely but extraordinary man”. Released 25 May in Hong Kong, 30 June in the UK and 14 July in Poland.
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