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The BFG, Suicide Squad and the indies in between

By Eliza Berman
Updated: May 31, 2016 2:51 PM ET | Originally published: May 25, 2016

The summer movie season is upon us, which means, as always, superheroes and reboots galore. But this season, it also means adventures in the New Zealand bush, farting corpse humor, new takes on old chariot races and Meryl Streep singing very, very badly (on purpose). From the return of Jason Bourne and President Bill Pullman to gender-flipped Ghostbusters and Wall Street execs, here are the movies people will be buzzing about all summer long.


X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27)

The summer superhero season kicks off (well, continues, if you’re counting Captain America’s early-May entry) with the ninth installment of Marvel’s mutant-appreciation franchise, introducing Oscar Isaac as the big, bad Original Mutant with designs on annihilating civilization. Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender return, and newcomer Sophie Turner leads a squad of up-and-coming mutants still wrestling with their powers.


Alice Through the Looking Glass (May 27)

Mia Wasikowska returns as Lewis Carroll’s curious heroine in this Tim Burton-produced sequel to Disney’s 2010 live-action Alice in Wonderland. Johnny Depp reprises his role as the Mad Hatter, now madder than ever, and Sacha Baron Cohen joins the cast to play Time (the concept and the character).


Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (June 3)

From The Lonely Island, the comedy brains behind “Lazy Sunday,” “Mother Lover” and Hot Rod, comes this mockumentary about a pop star named Conner 4 Real, played by Island member and Saturday Night Live alum Andy Samberg. Sarah Silverman, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader and Imogen Poots round out the cast.

 


Me Before You (June 3)

Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke anchors this romantic drama, adapted by JoJo Moyes from her novel of the same name about a woman who becomes a caregiver for a cynical, paralyzed young man (Sam Claflin, of Hunger Games fame). It may be this summer’s most likely movie to make you kick yourself for leaving your tissues at home.


Finding Dory (June 17)

It’s been 13 years since we went looking for Nemo, and now it’s time for his amnesiac best friend Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) to embark on a search of her own (specifically, for her family). Pixar’s only movie out in 2016, Finding Dory also features the vocal cords of Diane Keaton, Albert Brooks and Eugene Levy.


Central Intelligence (June 17)

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Kevin Hart play a formerly nerdy CIA agent and a formerly cool accountant, respectively, in this action comedy, which may have been cast thusly just so it could wield the summer’s punniest tagline: “Saving the world takes a little Hart and a big Johnson.”

 


Tickled (June 17)

This documentary about the bizarre world of competitive tickling—yes, it’s a thing—starts off as a lighthearted profile of an underground subculture but gradually morphs into a disturbing thriller about a world of intrigue, secrets and crime.


The Neon Demon (June 24)

Nicholas Winding Refn’s horror-thriller about an aspiring model (Elle Fanning) terrorized by beauty-obsessed women looks as visually stunning as his divisive 2013 thriller Only God Forgives (which was booed at Cannes) and as compelling as 2011’s Drive (which received a standing ovation at the same festival).


Independence Day: Resurgence (June 24)

Despite grumbles that everything at the movies these days is either a sequel or a reboot, many fans are more than a little excited for this follow-up to the 1996 sci-fi disaster blockbuster Independence Day, which reunites Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman with director Roland Emmerich and finds a new lead (Will Smith’s absence gets its own explanation in the new film) in Liam Hemsworth.


Swiss Army Man (June 24)

If you can get past the idea of a farting corpse (which half the audience at the movie’s Sundance premiere could not), this story of a man (Paul Dano) stranded on a deserted island and the corpse he befriends (Daniel Radcliffe) is a surprisingly beautiful blend of erection jokes, whimsical visuals and deep philosophical reflection.


Free State of Jones (June 24)

Matthew McConaughey stars opposite Gugu Mbatha-Raw in this historical action-drama, based on the true story of Newton Knight, a Mississippi farmer who led a southern rebellion against the Confederates during the Civil War.


Hunt for the Wilderpeople (June 24)

From writer-director Taika Waititi, whose 2010 film Boy is the top-grossing Kiwi movie ever (and whose upcoming big-ticket gig is next year’s Thor: Ragnarok), comes this tale of a tough foster kid teaming up with a 60-something grouch to survive in the bush.


The BFG (July 1)

Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s 1982 children’s novel has a lot going for it, from a script by E.T.’s scribe (Melissa Mathison, who died last year after completing the screenplay), newly minted Oscar winner Mark Rylance as the titular Big Friendly Giant and, of course, source material that’s replete with charming linguistic inventions and a great deal of heart.


The Legend of Tarzan (July 1)

Based on the jungle dweller created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912, this adventure film features Alexander Skarsgård as the once feral, now civilized Tarzan. Known as John Clayton since his relocation to London’s high society, the king of the jungle must return to his home thanks to a scheme much larger than himself. Margot Robbie plays Jane and Christoph Waltz, doing what he does best, plays the bad guy.


The Secret Life of Pets (July 8)

This animated family movie explores the age-old question—which home surveillance technology will soon likely render obsolete—of what kind of shenanigans cats and dogs get up to when their humans aren’t around. Its all-star voice cast includes Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate and Ellie Kemper.


Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (July 8)

In a reversal of the Wedding Crashers formula, Adam Devine and Zac Efron star as brothers not looking to pick up ladies at their sister’s wedding, but forced to seek dates who will ostensibly keep them from destroying the event with their impish antics. Enter Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick, who feign nice girls for the free ticket to Hawaii before letting loose even wilder antics of their own.


Captain Fantastic (July 8)

If the doldrums of mid-summer have you pining for quirkier indie fare, Captain Fantastic offers up Viggo Mortensen as a different kind of superhero: a single dad raising his kids far, far off the grid. Writer-director Matt Ross won a directing award for the film at Cannes, where its gaggle of child actors also inspired praise.


The Infiltrator (July 13)

Bryan Cranston transitions from druglord to narc in this crime drama based on the true story of a federal agent, Robert Mazur, who went undercover in a major sting operation to bust Pablo Escobar’s Medellín drug cartel beginning in 1986.


Ghostbusters (July 15)

Three decades after they first unleashed their skills on a ghost-infested New York City, the Ghostbusters return with an all-female cast (Kristen Wiig! Leslie Jones! Melissa McCarthy! Kate McKinnon!)—a flipping of the script which has drawn both cheers and, disappointingly, jeers. Bridemaids director Paul Feig helms what is likely to be one of the most discussed blockbusters of the year.


Equals (July 15)

Cannes MVP Kristen Stewart stars opposite Nicholas Hoult in this dystopian sci-fi flick about a future in which human emotion is not only verboten but actually prevented by genetic programming. Stewart and Hoult experience love for the first time against director Drake Doremus’ gorgeous, if hauntingly sterile, vision of the future.


Star Trek Beyond (July 22)

The third installment in the latest reboot of the Star Trek franchise, Beyond finds Justin Lin taking the reins from J.J. Abrams, who was too tied up with another intergalactic franchise to direct this one. New additions Idris Elba and Sofia Boutella join returning cast members Zachary Quinto, Chris Pine and Zoe Saldana.


Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (July 22)

Two decades after Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley first appeared as the bumbling Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone on the BBC cult comedy Absolutely Fabulous, they’re taking their glamor-seeking characters to the big screen. In the movie, they are forced flee to the French Riviera after their quest to book Kate Moss as a new client ends with an unfortunate accident.


Jason Bourne (July 29)

Matt Damon swore that the only way he’d play Jason Bourne again would be if director Paul Greengrass returned alongside him. Greengrass did just that, and the result is the fifth installment in the franchise, the fourth starring Damon, and, per the trailer, an astonishing number of totaled vehicles.


Equity (July 29)

Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn gets a leading role in this financial thriller, which premiered at Sundance positioning itself as the first female-driven Wall Street flick. Its plot revolves around the familiar subject of the sketchy dealings of the financial world, but its themes of workplace inequality are nothing if not timely.


Bad Moms (July 29)

Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn ditch the unbearable expectations of perfect motherhood in this summer comedy penned by the writers of The Hangover. They’re your PTA’s worst nightmare, whip-its and all.


Suicide Squad (Aug. 5)

DC Comics is unleashing its baddest villains in this ensemble antihero movie, from the Joker (Jared Leto) to the bonkers Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). Robbie in particular is one to watch, as recent rumors suggest she may be starring in (and producing) her own spin-off about DC’s female superheroes and supervillains.


Pete’s Dragon (Aug. 12)

Disney aims to continue its streak of live-action fairy-tale success (see: Jungle Book, Maleficent, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland) with this live-action adaptation of its 1977 animated musical about a friendship between an orphan and an invisible dragon. Robert Redford and Bryce Dallas Howard star.


Florence Foster Jenkins (Aug. 12)

Meryl Streep is a superhuman who seems to do everything well. Here, she sings very, very badly, very, very well. The comedy, which costars Hugh Grant, tells the true story of a wealthy socialite who became an opera phenomenon for her utter and complete lack of rhythm and tone. Though his subject’s voice is hilariously atrocious, director Stephen Frears maintains a sense of compassion through the laughter.


Ben-Hur (Aug. 19)

This story of brotherly love, rivalry and redemption is not a remake of the 1959 Charlton Heston starrer —it’s based on that movie’s source material, Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ—but it promises a heart-pounding modern update to the epic chariot race that made that movie so legendary.


Southside With You (Aug. 26)

As the Obamas look toward their last months in the White House, this indie romance looks at the first day they spent together—a hot summer day in 1989 which began as a strictly platonic outing between colleagues (per Tika Sumpter’s Michelle) and ended with ice cream and a kiss (per Parker Sawyer’s Barack).


War Dogs (Aug. 19)

In 2007, a couple of stoners from Miami secured a $300 million ammunition contract with the Department of Defense. Here, The Hangover director Todd Phillips brings the stranger-than-fiction tale to life. Jonah Hill is at the top of his game as a deliciously conniving scoundrel. Miles Teller, who plays his partner, maintains just enough humanity to bring the audience along.

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