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Summer movie preview 2017

Pratt, Depp, Gadot and Gru battle for box office supremacy

By CLINT O'CONNOR | Akron Beacon Journal | Published: May 16, 2017

It's the summer of Chris Pratt.

Again.

For many of us who enjoyed Pratt's comedic antics as Andy Dwyer on "Parks and Recreation," it was easy to assume that the likable actor would enjoy a fruitful sitcom career as a beloved second or third banana. Then he surprised us by starring as the fabulously charismatic Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, in Marvel's hugely appealing action romp "Guardians of the Galaxy."

It was the top-grossing film in the summer of 2014, hauling in more than $773 million worldwide. Pratt topped himself at the box office the following summer, starring as Owen Grady in "Jurassic World," which raked in more than $1.6 billion worldwide.

The first "Guardians" was a funny film with tongue planted firmly in cheek, and Pratt was the perfect ringmaster wearing a Sony Walkman while rocking a '70s mix tape no less.

Of course, with success comes excess, and in Hollywood the biggest S-word isn't summer, it's sequels.

The season officially kicks off Friday with "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2." Pratt is back, with cohorts Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Baby Groot (voice of Vin Diesel) and Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper), along with a host of new characters. Director James Gunn returns, and this time, the team goes in search of Quill's parentage while battling mega-monsters and grooving to a new mix tape. Can it be an equal sequel?

"Guardians" is not the only franchise battling for summer supremacy.

"What we're going to see this summer is Hollywood's greatest hits," said Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst for Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles. "These are the franchises that have made the most money -- 'Pirates,' 'Transformers,' 'Despicable Me.' Along with 'Guardians,' these big budget sequels have the potential to make a billion dollars worldwide, each."

Other films that could make a splash include the "Spider-Man" and "Mummy" reboots, the latest "Planet of the Apes" and DC Comics' "Wonder Woman."

"'Wonder Woman' looks like the real deal," Bock said. "This is the first female heroine from the DC canon that is actually going to be a huge success. This has blockbuster written all over it. I don't know if that means $500 million or upwards of $700 million."

Is there a saturation point for audiences who may feel overloaded with superhero movies and summer sequels?

"People may complain about sequels, but that's what drives the film industry," Bock said. "They help it stay afloat as it competes with serious competitors like Netflix and Amazon and Hulu and all the other online streaming services."

And what is Bock's prediction for this summer's ultimate box office champion?

"I will be surprised if anything beats 'Guardians.' The only thing that might have a chance is 'Despicable Me 3.' Families love the Minions movies, and they also draw the adult audience and teenagers. It has every demographic going for it."

Here is a look at more than 50 films headed our way in the next 16 weeks. Happy viewing.

MAY

May 12: With an assist from LeBron James, Amy Schumer's "Trainwreck" was a smash in 2015. This summer she teams up with Goldie Hawn (in her first film in 15 years) in "Snatched," a comedy about an ill-fated mother-daughter trip to the tropics ... Once a legend, always a threat: That whole sword-in-the-stone thing really has legs. Guy Ritchie's "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" stars Charlie Hunnam as a streetwise Arthur whose life changes when he grasps Excalibur ... John Cena and Aaron Taylor-Johnson star as two soldiers pinned down by an Iraqi sniper in the thriller "The Wall."

May 19: Thirty-eight years after the original "Alien," director Ridley Scott revisits his sci-fi roots with "Alien: Covenant." You know the drill: an intergalactic mission, a spaceship, an unwelcome passenger ... Debra Winger and Tracy Letts portray a couple reconsidering their extramarital affairs in "The Lovers" ... "Norman" stars Richard Gere as an eternally annoying New York hustler.

May 26: Johnny Depp returns as Capt. Jack Sparrow in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales," the fifth in the series. Regulars Geoffrey Rush, Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom are also on board. Seems like the lovable pirates ran out of gas with "On Stranger Tides" in 2011. Will the six-year hiatus help? ... If you like your lifeguards buff and bouncy, check out the TV show-turned-movie "Baywatch," with Dwayne Johnson and Kelly Rohrbach subbing for David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson ... The romantic comedy "Paris Can Wait" features Diane Lane as a woman on a journey of self-discovery during an extended road trip in France.

Also in May: Elle Fanning stars as a teenager in the process of transitioning from female to male in "3 Generations" ... The romance-drama "Everything, Everything" tells the story of a sickly, house-confined teenage girl who pines for the boy next door ... A bride has a wedding but no groom in "The Wedding Plan," while "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul" tracks a disastrous road trip for the Heffley family.

JUNE

June 2: "Wonder Woman." Word is this one is better than its predecessor "Batman v. Superman." (How could it not be?) DC Comics is still playing catch-up with Marvel in the superhero sweepstakes. But at least it has the talented Gal Gadot. This spinoff takes us back to her, all together now, "ORIGIN STORY!" ... On a lighter note, Kent State University alumnus Dav Pilkey's book series finally comes to the screen with "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie." The stellar voice cast includes Kevin Hart, Ed Helms and Jordan Peele.

June 9: Because Tom Cruise does not have enough money or enough franchises ("Mission: Impossible"; "Jack Reacher"), "The Mummy" is being resurrected for yet another go-round. Somewhere Brendan Fraser is weeping.

June 16: Why should men have all of the drunken, bawdy fun? "Rough Night" brings together Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Kravitz, Kate McKinnon and Jillian Bell in a girls-gone-wild comedy involving a crazy party and a dead male stripper ... The animation wizards at Pixar return with "Cars 3" as Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) teams up with a young race technician ... Newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr. plays the legendary Tupac Shakur in the biopic "All Eyez on Me."

June 23: Billion-dollar director Michael Bay is back with one more Autobots-Decepticons showdown in "Transformers: The Last Knight." This is supposedly the final sequel. A show of hands for anyone buying that? Anyone? ... Comedian Demetri Martin takes a stab at writing and directing a feature film with the comedy-drama "Dean," which screened last month in the Cleveland International Film Festival.

June 28: Ansel Elgort ("The Fault in Our Stars") is a young getaway driver in way over his head in "Baby Driver," from writer-director Edgar Wright ("Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz").

June 30: Will "Despicable Me 3" become the biggest summer hit of all? It turns out Gru (voice of Steve Carell) has a twin he never knew about named Dru (also Steve Carell) ... In "The House," Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler look for laughs as parents who blow their daughter's college fund and must open a casino in their basement ... Colin Farrell stars in Sofia Coppola's remake of the Clint Eastwood Civil War drama "The Beguiled." When a Union soldier is taken in by a Southern girls' school, things turn romantic. And dark. With Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman and Kirsten Dunst.

Also in June: Mandy Moore ("This is Us") and Claire Holt are sisters trapped underwater in "47 Meters Down" ... "Megan Leavey" stars Kate Mara in the true story of a Marine and her dog ... Joel Edgerton battles an unnatural threat in the horror flick "It Comes at Night" ... The comedy "Beatriz at Dinner" features Salma Hayek as a spiritual health practitioner ... Naomi Watts uncovers dark secrets in the thriller "The Book of Henry."

JULY

July 7: It's deja vu all over again, as Peter Parker returns in "Spider-Man: Homecoming." This Spidey (Tom Holland) debuted in last year's "Captain America: Civil War" and now he gets to web-sling in (yet another) reboot of the series. Michael Keaton is the Vulture, while Robert Downey Jr. lends a hand as Tony Stark/Iron Man ... The drama "Patti Cake$" asks: Is America ready for the music and message of New Jersey rapper Patricia Dombrowski (Danielle Macdonald), aka Killa P, aka Patti Cake$?

July 14: In "War for the Planet of the Apes," Caesar (motion-capture expert Andy Serkis) and the apes engage in a devastating showdown with the humans. Expect lots of revenge, vengeance and avenging.

July 21: Big day, movie fans. We have two heavily hyped releases and neither is a major franchise sequel. Christopher Nolan, the creative force behind such winning films as "Memento," "The Prestige," "Inception" and the Dark Knight trilogy, turns his attention to World War II with "Dunkirk," the story of one of the great rescue-escapes in the history of warfare. And at the other end of the multiplex, we have director Luc Besson ("La Femme Nikita," "The Fifth Element") with his latest, "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets," a sci-fi odyssey starring Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne as Valerian and Laureline, agents of the Spatio-Temporal Service in the 28th century.

July 28: Former vice president Al Gore cleaned up 10 years ago when the global warming film "An Inconvenient Truth" led to a Nobel Prize, and an Oscar for best documentary. Now Gore is back with "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power," about his latest climate-change travails ... In the spy thriller "Atomic Blonde," an MI6 undercover agent (Charlize Theron) descends upon Cold War Berlin. Berlin, consider yourself warned! ... Gene (voice of T.J. Miller) sets out to become a normal emoji in "The Emoji Movie." No. Really. It's a movie about emojis.

Also in July: Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish and Jada Pinkett Smith ignite New Orleans with drinking, dancing (and romancing) in the raucous "Girls Trip" ... Rachel Weisz is Rachel in the mystery-romance "My Cousin Rachel" ... A wish-granting music box drives the horror-thriller "Wish Upon" ... Oscar-winner Casey Affleck stars as a spectral figure in "A Ghost Story" ... Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan tussle in the culture-clash romantic-comedy "The Big Sick" ... A young woman (Florence Pugh) is sold into a miserably oppressive marriage with an older man in "Lady MacBeth." But girls just want to have fun.

AUGUST

Aug. 4: Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" comes to the screen with Idris Elba as the Gunslinger and Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black ... In "Detroit," director Kathryn Bigelow ("Zero Dark Thirty," "The Hurt Locker") chronicles a massive outbreak of civil unrest in the summer of 1967 with John Boyega and Anthony Mackie.

Aug. 11: Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen team up to investigate a murder on an Indian reservation in "Wind River," written and directed by Taylor Sheridan (the writer behind last year's Oscar-nominated "Hell or High Water") ... Pierce Brosnan and Kate Beckinsale star in the drama "The Only Living Boy in New York," about a young man who gets involved with his father's mistress. It doesn't go well.

Aug. 18: Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson star as long time adversaries -- a protection agent and a hitman -- who reluctantly join forces for a mayhem-filled 24 hours in "The Hitman's Bodyguard" ... Brothers Jimmy and Clyde Logan (Channing Tatum and Adam Driver) try to pull off a big heist at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in "Logan Lucky" ... Will Arnett and Katherine Heigl lend their voices to the animated adventure "The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature."

Also in August: A young orphan girl (voice of Elle Fanning) dreams of becoming a ballerina in the animated comedy-adventure "Leap!" ... The documentary "Step" looks at senior year of a girls' high school step team ... A custody battle in Brooklyn's Hasidic community drives "Menashe" ... And, finally, if possessed vintage dolls are your thing, check out the horror sequel "Annabelle: Creation."

___

(c) 2017 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Gal Gadot as the titular character in "Wonder Woman."
DC ENTERTAINMENT INC

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