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2016 Summer Movie Preview: 16 Blockbusters You Can’t Miss This Season

2016 Summer Movie Preview: 16 Blockbusters You Can't Miss This Season

All this week, Indiewire will be rolling out our annual Summer Preview, including offerings that span genres, a close examination of various trends and special attention to all the new movies you need to get through a jam-packed summer movie-going season. Check back every day for a new look at the best the season has to offer, and clear your schedule, because we’re going to fill it right up.

READ MORE: Indiewire’s Complete 2016 Summer Movie Preview

“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising,” May 20

The first “Neighbors” film was more amusing than it had any right to be, but it was also riotously amusing while still employing some played out tropes and stereotypes, the kind of stuff that, even two years, just doesn’t fly. Make your comedy smart, and you will have unlocked not just the key to funny bone success, but you may even crack the always-tricky comedy sequel. “Neighbors 2” may reunite the whole gang (Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco and more) and come with a premise that sounds like run-of-the-mill gender-swapping (“what if it was a sorority?”), but the final product isn’t just extremely amusing, it’s also progressive and clever in ways we rarely see in studio comedies. -Kate Erbland

“The Nice Guys,” May 20

There are only two kinds of people in this world: Those who love “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” and those who haven’t seen it. Sure, you might know someone who has seen “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” and doesn’t love it, but such poor souls aren’t technically considered “people,” so the binary remains true. Needless to say, Christmas is coming early this year now that writer/director Shane Black is essentially taking the same premise — two private eyes attempt to solve a crime, hilarity and violence ensue — and relocating it in the 1970s. Ryan Gosling is a natural fit for this sort of thing, but his co-star Russell Crowe doesn’t immediately come to mind as one of our great comedic talents (“Les Miserables” not withstanding). Then again, neither did Val Kilmer. -David Ehrlich

“X-Men: Apocalypse,” May 27

To make a tenuous analogy (apologies, non-sports fans), “X-Men: Apocalypse” seems to be the 2004 Lakers of summer blockbusters, gathering the best from similar franchises, regardless of how well those pieces may end up working together. From all accounts, this film (if not the franchise as a whole) is firmly in “more is more” mode after getting the band back together for “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” To one-up its predecessor and to keep pace with its time-hopping, titular, possibly immortal antagonist, the cast list has ballooned to poach talented young actors and franchise veterans alike (among the too-many-to-list notable additions are Sophie Turner, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Olivia Munn, Oscar Isaac and Tye Sheridan). Should this end up being more disappointment than cash cow, perhaps the more apt comparison would be the 2012 Lakers, who also had someone named Steve Nash. -Steve Greene

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows,” June 3

Less than two years have passed since Michael Bay successfully — or at least profitably — breathed new life into the venerable “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” franchise. Admirers of the Bay-produced reboot may be few and far between, but the movie grossed nearly $500 million worldwide, and so now we’re getting another. Good job, everyone. Fortunately, there are a few reasons to hold out hope for the sequel. For one thing, director Jonathan Liebesman (“Wrath of the Titans”) has been replaced by Dave Green (“Earth to Echo”). Change is good! More enticingly, Bay and co. have picked a killer trio of villains that stem from the franchise’s glory days, as the pizza-loving turtles are set to square off against hench-animals Bebop and Rocksteady (a pig and a rhino) and the fearsome alien Krang (essentially a brain with a face, stubby little brain arms, and a giant mechanical suit). -DE

“The Conjuring 2,” June 10

Ask most people what the scariest movie of the past couple years is and you’re bound to hear “The Conjuring” at least once, or twice… Okay, you’re probably going to be hear it a lot. Released in July 2013, James Wan’s terrifying exorcism tale became the year’s breakout hit, grossing $318 million globally against a $20 million budget. With an expert ensemble headed by Patrick Wilson and the always-game Vera Farmiga, Wan brought back the haunted house thrills and the demonic chills of 1970s horror movies and unleashed hell on audiences everywhere. We expect Wan to do the same in the sequel this summer, which finds Stewart and Farmiga heading to Britain to battle a nasty demon. We can’t wait to be scared to the bone. -Zack Sharf

“Now You See Me 2,” June 10

Nobody expected “Now You See Me” to be a huge hit when it was released in summer 2013, especially with its mediocre reviews, but a great cast (Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Mélanie Laurent, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman) and ludicrous twists turned it into the sleeper blockbuster of the summer. With most of the stars returning and new additions like Daniel Radcliffe, the sequel is all set to be the kind of mindless escapism that the summer season thrives off of. Plus, who doesn’t love magic? There’s nothing wrong with simply entertaining at full blast, and for that reason “Now You See Me 2” will be well worth the price of admission. -ZS

“Warcraft,” June 10

A massive multiplayer online role playing game doesn’t sound like ideal fodder for an epic movie; it sounds like another popular video game pointlessly adapted to the feature-length format. And yet “Warcraft” may offer more than meets the eye: Directed by Duncan Jones, whose inventive sci-fi efforts “Moon” and “Source Code” revitalized the genre, “Warcraft” focuses on a battle between orcs and humans as their two worlds collide. In development for years, “Warcraft” features effects by the ever-reliable Industrial Light & Magic — and a screenplay co-authored by Jones and “Blood Diamond” scribe Charles Leavitt, not exactly the kind of lowbrow hacks associated with the worst Hollywood blockbusters out there. Forget about the reductive trailers; there are plenty of reasons to hold out hope for a truly inviting fantasy experience on par with the popular series that inspired it. -Eric Kohn 

“Finding Dory,” June 17

In the animation studio’s history, it’s been interesting to see where Pixar has chosen to put their sequel energy. So far, with the exception of anything “Cars”-related, the worlds they’ve chosen to revisit have been the ones of their best and most complete films. “Toy Story 2” mined the premise of the original to deliver one of the medium’s best follow-ups. “Monsters University,” while necessarily removing the human element, is an unfairly-maligned delight. “Finding Dory” represents the Herculean task of giving a worthy spinoff to the studio’s most visually sumptuous and narratively satisfying effort. In the decade-plus since, let’s hope that Andrew Stanton and Co. have found a way to harness the magic of the original. -SG

“Independence Day: Resurgence,” June 24

Welcome (back) to Earth! It’s been 20 years since those pesky aliens first intercepted our radio signals and blew up our monuments, and now they’re coming back for vengeance. Fortunately for us, much of the cast that stymied the original invasion is ready for another fight — the bug-eyed extraterrestrials may have a spaceship so big that it spans the entire Atlantic Ocean, but we have a Jeff Goldblum. Advantage: Humans. Also returning for another tour of duty is franchise mastermind Roland Emmerich, back in the director’s chair for his first disaster movie since “Stonewall.” Will Smith is sitting this one out, but hopefully newcomers like Liam Hemsworth and Charlotte Gainsbourg will compensate for the superstar’s absence. -DE

“The BFG,” July 1

If there is one storyteller who outdoes Steven Spielberg in his ability to tap into the inherent wonder of childhood, it’s late novelist Roald Dahl. His 1982 novel “The BFG,” about a titular Big Friendly Giant who befriends a small child and shields him from the massive creature’s ravenous brethren, is a spectacular combination of awe-inspiring fantasy and ominous mysterious — two areas that Spielberg has excelled at exploring better than anyone. So it was only a matter of time before Spielberg turned “The BGF” into a movie, and the result premieres this month in Cannes ahead of its July release. With Mark Rylance as the Giant, in his second Spielberg collaboration following his Oscar-winning turn in last year’s “Bridge of Spies,” and newcomer Ruby Barnhill as the object of his affections, “The BFG” has all the makings of a classic Spielberg effort: A child in peril amid extraordinary special effects and first-rate performances. This seminal filmmaker has never really lost his groove, and his talent is matched only by his ability to choose ideal vessels for it. “The BFG” certainly looks like another one. -EK

“The Legend of Tarzan,” July 1

There may not be much interest in a new movie about everyone’s favorite monosyllabic wild man, but “The Legend of Tarzan” has an ace up its sleeve: director David Yates, whose sure hand helped deliver the “Harry Potter” series down the tricky home stretch. The cast isn’t too shabby either: Alexander Skarsgård Tarzan. Margot Robbie Jane. Best of all, this isn’t going to be yet another origin story — on the contrary, the movie begins years after our boy has left the jungle behind in exchange for a more civilized life in London. But when he’s coerced back to Africa as part of a trade mission, it isn’t long before he rips off his shirt and swings back into action. -DE

“Ghostbusters,” July 15

It’s almost hard to believe that the subject of whole decades of chatter and rumor (and whole months of ugly internet commenting thinly disguised as nothing more than run of the mill sexism) is actually coming out this summer. Fans of the original films have been buzzing about a trilogy-ender since the eighties, and now here comes a reboot-requel-remake that stars a coterie of some of comedy’s best working women that apparently exists in its own universe. It’s not what we expected by a long shot, but Paul Feig’s latest just might make its own mark on the franchise, injecting it with fresh blood (slime?) and a renewed interest in taking control, taking it higher and higher, etc. -KE

“Star Trek: Beyond,” July 22

Now that the “Star Wars” movies are off and running all over again, will anyone show up for a third entry in the rebooted “Star Trek” franchise? Better question: Why shouldn’t they? Ever since J.J. Abrams kickstarted the latest iteration seven years ago, “Star Trek” has lost none of its appeal in popular culture. Mixing action-adventure with hard science, the series still offers a rollicking twenty-first century riff on the Saturday matinee mold. With Justin Lin — the director behind some of the best “Fast and the Furious” movies — driving the ship this time, there’s no reason to assume anything but another breezy trip to the stars with familiar faces buried in impressive CGI. One always hopes to boldly go somewhere new, but there’s something comforting about the inevitable escapism of the “Star Trek” universe that weighted sagas can’t touch. (Yes, that includes galaxies far, far away.) -EK

“Jason Bourne,” July 29

Want to feel old? It’s been almost 10 years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass last teamed up for “The Bourne Ultimatum,” which capped off this century’s most bone-bruising spy franchise in high style. But now, perhaps determined to get the series back on course after Jeremy Renner led us on an ill-fated detour, the boys are back in business. The beauty of the Bourne movies is that they’re all about the execution. Nobody really cares about who Bourne was before he had his memory erased. Nobody really cares about any of the supporting characters. It’s all just about Damon kicking ass, crashing cars, and crank calling U.S. government agents just to let them know that he’s watching from the building next door. As long as he’s still doing all of those things, this should be one of the summer’s most satisfying blockbusters. -DE

“Suicide Squad,” August 5

The superhero craze may have reached its saturation point, but the super villain craze is a different story. David Ayer’s zany-looking tale of several notable bad guys from the DC Comics universe — Deadshot (Will Smith), the Joker (Jared Leto), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) among them — offers a morally ambiguous look at the arena of men in tights for the post-“Breaking Bad” era. Reports suggest Leto went to great lengths for his Joker lunatic (just like Heath Ledger before him) but the real question surrounding “Suicide Squad” is just how extreme it’s willing to go in siding with the bad guys. Yes, they’re recruited by special forces (led by Viola Davis) to fight crime, but don’t forget: These are psychopaths. And they’re the stars of the show. That alone makes “Suicide Squad” one of the most intriguing and potentially controversial blockbusters in ages. -EK

“Ben-Hur,” August 19

If there’s one thing the world needs in these troubled times, it’s a CG-heavy version of “Ben-Hur” from the guy who directed “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” Not technically a remake of William Wyler’s 1959 epic (or Fred Niblo and Charles Brabin’s silent take on the story from 1925), Timur Bekmambetov is going all the way back to the source, seeking inspiration from Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.” It’s strange that Paramount decided to ditch the subtitle, given that anything Jesus-related seems to bring in the bucks these days. But this story of an enslaved Jewish prince (Jack Huston) who grows to challenge an empire may be less focused on any religious elements than it is recreating the famous chariot racing scenes for 21st century audiences. -DE

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