21 Jun The 10 hottest films of summer 2018
From the Jurassic World and Mamma Mia! sequels to indie horror, a proper romcom – and a massive shark – Observer writers pick the must-see releases of the season
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
(Ol Parker), 20 July
The first Mamma Mia! was a head-spinning experience that redefined my understanding of the words “good” and “bad”; rarely has something so wrong felt so right. So it is with a giddy sense of expectation that I await the arrival of this sequel/prequel hybrid. “Last time we gave you the happy ending,” burbles the trailer: ‘This summer we’ll take you back to the beginning.’ Thus, we find Lily James as the young Meryl Streep in sunny ’79, trying on her new dungarees, and trying out three handsome suitors (Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan and Jeremy Irvine), who will grow up to become Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, and Pierce “Pick-a-note-any-note” Brosnan. Meanwhile, Amanda Seyfried calls upon her mum’s old chums for guidance through her own pregnancy in an idyllic island rerun of former events – “only this time we know who the father is!” It’s hard to imagine director Ol Parker improving on the bizarre brilliance of Phyllida Lloyd’s record-breaking original, but the prospect of Andy Garcia playing a character named (guess what?) Fernando has already got me in a tizzy. A few weeks ago, I walked past Benny and Björn in the foyer of a London screening room and was so starstruck that I had to sit down and gather myself. Their songbook has so far proved to be indestructible; let’s see what this sequel throws at it. MK
(Ari Aster), 15 June
American writer-director Ari Aster’s astonishing debut film premiered in the January snows of Sundance, but releasing it to audiences in June was probably an act of mercy: once you emerge from this nerve-destroying horror, you might just need a bit of balmy summer warmth (or at least some tepid English drizzle) to thaw your bones. Comparisons to The Exorcist, often thrown around too carelessly by critics, are earned this time. The story of a suburban family thrown into a nightmarish, haunted grief spiral after granny kicks the bucket, it reassembles familiar elements from possession thrillers and haunted-house hack jobs into something that feels genuinely, demonically inventive – the less you know going in, the better. The scares here are extreme, but not cheap: Aster riddles the story with psychic pain and complex family dynamics, and it’s galvanised by Toni Collette’s stunningly primal performance as the raddled mother at the centre of the chaos. It may just be the greatest work of the Australian actor’s career; that it comes wrapped in the most artful and frankly terrifying horror film in aeons is one of the summer’s happiest surprises.GL
(Brad Bird), 13 July
Director Brad Bird always maintained that he would only make a sequel to The Incredibles if he could come up with a story that was as good as or better than that of the original. And, after a 14-year gap, we are about to discover what tempted him back to family life with Mr Incredible, Elastigirl and the kids. This much is known: the sequel sees Bob, AKA Mr Incredible, adjust to one of biggest challenges of his super-career – that of stay-at-home dad to Violet, Dash and the uniquely gifted super-baby Jack-Jack. Fans of the original will be hoping for more nefarious villainy, a planet in peril and a reprise of the gorgeous retro-futurist aesthetic that made The Incredibles the best looking of all the Pixar movies.WI
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
(Desiree Akhavan), 31 August
The second feature from Desiree Akhavan, the director of 2014’s bisexual indie drama Appropriate Behaviour is as witty and sexy as its predecessor, but goes to a darker and more introspective place. Chloë Grace Moretz plays the titular Cameron, a lesbian teenager who has been sent to a Christian gay conversion camp (much like in Jamie Babbit’s But I’m a Cheerleader) where young people are psychoanalysed and brainwashed into being straight. SSA (“same sex attraction”) is treated as a disease, making it a potent examination of internalised homophobia and more general teenage self-hatred, though the film is buoyed by joyously good-bad early 90s fashion and music, and American Honey’s Sasha Lane as “Jane Fonda”, a teen marijuana farmer with a prosthetic leg.SH
(Jonas Carpignano), 15 June
Seeing charismatic non-professionals on screen has long been a part of cinema’s daily bread – at least since Luchino Visconti gave centre stage to a Sicilian fishing community in 1948’s La Terra Trema. But every now and then, this working method gets a fresh boost – as it does in Jonas Carpignano’s A Ciambra, in which Italian neo-realism lives again, with an executive-producer helping hand from Martin Scorsese. Carpignano previously paid a visit to the port community of Gioia Tauro in south-western Italy in his 2015 refugee crisis drama Mediterranea. Here he returns to some of the same characters – members of the real-life Roma family the Amatos, notably 14-year-old Pio, in a coming-of-age story about breaking away from the dominion of the reigning local hoods to start a criminal career of his own. This Calabrian-dialect drama crackles with unruly energy and sense of place, and Pio Amato is one of those screen naturals that come along only every few now and thens.JR
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
(JA Bayona), 6 June
“A rescue op to save the dinosaurs from an island that’s about to explode – what could go wrong?” In 2015, Jurassic World served up an eye-poppingly empty spectacle in which the digitally rendered 3D beasties seemed altogether more lifelike than their two-dimensional human counterparts. So why get excited about this fifth Jurassic instalment? Largely because it’s directed by Spanish maestro JA Bayona, whose CV ranges from the spine-tingling chills of The Orphanage to the sublime fantasia of A Monster Calls via the real-life tragedies of The Impossible. How much of his personal stamp Bayona will be able to imprint on this corporate behemoth remains to be seen; the trailer looks very smashy-crashy. But Jeff Goldblum is back (hooray!) pontificating about natural order, and the supporting cast includes an ever so slightly sinister-looking Toby Jones (hooray again!) banging a gavel. Fingers crossed. MK
(Daniel Kokotajlo), 27 July
Simple but sharp, and emotionally intense, this British debut by Daniel Kokotajlo offers rare insight into an enclosed and little understood community – the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Set in Manchester, it’s a story of a mother (Siobhan Finneran) and her two daughters, Alex and Luisa (Molly Wright, Sasha Parkinson), raised according to the faith’s rigorous code. But Luisa, discovering other possibilities in life, finds herself “disfellowshipped” – barred from the community and contact with her family. The brilliance of Apostasy is testimony to the fact that storytelling sometimes works best when film-makers are prepared to follow the unexpected path, at the risk of throwing their audience. Kokotajlo’s own background as a Witness brings a meticulously observed authenticity, and superb performances open up deep personal dimensions in this trenchant inquiry into the cost of fundamentalist fervour. JR
(Ian Bonhôte, Peter Ettedgui), 8 June
Working-class and slightly goofy-looking, Lee Alexander McQueen was, on paper, unlikely to even break into the hallowed world of high fashion, let alone become one of its brightest stars. But as this thrilling, troubling documentary demonstrates, McQueen had the kind of white-hot talent that is impossible to ignore. However, the problem with anything white hot is that it tends to burn out quickly, leaving plenty of wounded people in its wake. The (savage) beauty of this documentary by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui is that it goes beyond the admittedly fascinating life story of British fashion’s enfant terrible. The film attempts to capture the grand guignol theatricality of McQueen’s designs and – in particular – the often controversial shows.
Bonhôte and Ettedgui embellish the narrative with skulls and shadows, imagery from a baroque nightmare or a glimpse into the psyche of the designer himself. It goes without saying that this will be on the must-see list for anyone remotely interested in fashion. But McQueen was more than just a frock designer: he was both a cultural icon and an iconoclast; an avant garde artist and an East End geezer who camped up his cockney accent. The appeal of this vivid portrait will be similarly far-reaching. WI
Crazy Rich Asians
(Jon M Chu), 17 August
It has been so long since Hollywood released a proper studio romantic comedy. Not failed feminist thinkpieces like I Feel Pretty; watered-down imitations of the genre à la Home Again; or chemistry vacuums like the Fifty Shades franchise but a fun, glossy, big-budget movie with a capital M. Which is why I’m so excited about Warner Brothers’ Crazy Rich Asians, Jon M Chu’s adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s 2013 bestselling novel.
The plot is a classic culture clash: born and bred New Yorker Rachel Chu (Fresh Off the Boat’s Constance Wu) attends an ornate wedding in Singapore with boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding), only to discover that his relatives are crazy rich (and judging by the trailer, pretty bonkers also). Petty drama, a disapproving mother-in-law, a bawdy best friend, sex, romance and a sweeping pop soundtrack? Yes please. Even better, it’s a majority Asian cast (you’d hope so, considering the title, but with Asian characters recently rewritten for Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton in Ghost in the Shell and Doctor Strange respectively, it’s not a given), and the first contemporary film of its kind from a Hollywood studio since 1993’s The Joy Luck Club. SH
(Jon Turteltaub), 10 August
Ever since I was a child, I have been a sucker for a shark movie. Whether it’s a classy, fine-whittled tension exercise like Jaws or The Shallows or an all-out trash attack like the Sharknado series, any combination of watery peril, bad movie science and big gnashing chompers is delirious comfort viewing to me.
So this thrillingly stupid-looking thriller – locking the redoubtable Jason Statham in combat with a 75-foot megalodon surging from the depths of extinction – has been an easy choice for my most anticipated title of the summer ever since the gaudy, perfectly absurd trailer hit the internet a few months back. Hopes are high that this could prove the new century’s Deep Blue Sea, and if you understand why that’s an exciting prospect, then you are one of my people.