Summer Movies: Christian drama, murderous dolls, Charlie Manson, and wayward artists

by Charles Gerian

Summer is creeping along to the midway point as June starts to become July, and that means we're halfway through “blockbuster season” before “awards season” hits and we're right back to excessively pounding concoctions of vodka and Coke Zero as the Golden Globes and Academy Awards come around. Well, maybe not “we” but I definitely am.

So what do we have to look forward to for the rest of the year when it comes to going to the theater?

This week will be a genre-bending time as the reboot of CHILD'S PLAY releases on Friday alongside Disney/Pixar's TOY STORY 4, which obviously is ironic as “Buddy” aka Chucky the redheaded serial killer doll and the loveable cute figures of the Toy Story franchise couldn't be more different.

CHILD'S PLAY follows a single mom (Aubrey Plaza) who gets her hearing-impaired, socially outcast son an interactive doll which he names “Chucky”. Little do they know, Chucky has more than a mind of his own. Chucky is voiced by Mark Hamill this time around, and the film is planned to launch a new franchise. TOY STORY 4 follows Buzz and the gang on a road-trip to save Woody who has been lost- then found- at a midwestern carnival. But does Woody really want to come back home?

Next week, WB's ANNABELLE COMES HOME drops on Wednesday, June 26 which will be the second film in the “Conjuring Universe” this summer after April's well-made and culturally significant THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA. Annabelle is set in The Warren's occult home as the sinister doll brings to life an “Avengers” tier cast of haunted artifacts, dangerous spectres, and grizzly ghouls to terrorize the Warren's young daughter and her friends.

In July the action comedies reign supreme with SPIDER-MAN, STUBER, and FAST & FURIOUS: HOBBS AND SHAW, but we also have some high-concept dramas and horror films as well such as Paramount's CRAWL and A24's Ari Aster film MIDSOMMAR. July 19 will see families flock to the megaplexes with the live action remake of Disney's THE LION KING and finally Quentin Tarantino's 9th and penultimate film... ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD on July 26.

The latter is set in Summer '69 and deals with the loss of innocence that impacted both Tinseltown and America as a whole after the brutal killings orchestrated by Charles Manson and his family. The film follows a fading actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double (Brad Pitt) who struggle to find their place in the new Hollywood landscape...all while keeping a curious eye on their neighbor Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie).

The film screened at Cannes last month to widespread applause and is sure to be an Awards-season contender. The film also marks Luke Perry's final role and stars Emile Hirsch, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Kurt Russell, and Al Pacino.

In August we have the dog-friendly tear jerker THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN about a race car driver who adopts a dog (voiced over by narrator Kevin Costner), ANGRY BIRDS 2, and the Annapurna film WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE which looks very cute honestly, and I think might shoot up into my Top 10 because i'm a sucker for “slice of life” movies about rediscovery. 'Bernadette' stars Cate Blanchett as a reclusive architect who hates the world around her and, one day, simply vanishes. It's up to her daughter to find her in what looks like a heart-warming mother/daughter film about rekindling creativity and passion.

The faith-based film OVERCOMER also opens about a down on his luck baseball coach who agrees to take a job as a cross-country instructor and, teaming with an unlikely athlete, compels her to become one of the best there's ever been.

Next week I should be bringing you a review of either CHILD'S PLAY or TOY STORY 4, and I greatly look forward to seeing ANNABELLE COMES HOME.