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Dennis Perkins

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his lovely wife, the writer Emily L. Stephens, and their cat, Cooper. When not watching all the movies ever made or digging up stories about the Maine film scene, he can be found writing for the AV Club and elsewhere. The rest of the time, he's worrying about the Red Sox.

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Posted: June 20, 2016

Summer blockbusters: Order a large popcorn, or rent it later?

Written by: Dennis Perkins
Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon in Columbia Pictures' "Ghostbusters "Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon in Columbia Pictures’ “Ghostbusters ” Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Summer means only one thing for film geeks: staying out of the sun and the heat by relaxing into a nice, comfy theater seat. But you don’t have to be a film geek to enjoy a little air conditioning and a summer flick. Here’s a rundown of the biggest would-be blockbusters coming to the multiplex through the end of July.

Opening June 24

“Independence Day: Resurgence”: Ah, the mega-budget summer sci-fi sequel, what would we do without you rattling our molars with your surround sound and numbing our brains with your, let’s call it, dialogue. The aliens are back in this followup to the 1996 smash that smashed the White House (and the box office), and they are all upset because we whooped ’em last time. Presumably, they have upgraded their software so Jeff Goldblum can’t cripple their invasion fleet with a Macbook.

See it in theaters? Well, if you’re looking for dopey spectacle, “ID4” was the epitome of the form. Will Smith took a look and said “no thanks” this time, and swapping in the dullest Hemsworth brother seems like a downgrade. Still, if loud noises and shiny things are your bag, you won’t find any louder or shinier.

“The Shallows”: Blake Lively’s surfer sees the shore, but a big, honking shark won’t let her get there.

See it in theaters? Sharks are terrifying. Movies (not named “Jaws”) about sharks — not so much. Still, this sort of splashy jump-scare-fest is best when there are people squealing along with you.

Matthew McConaughey stars as Newton Knight in STX Entertainment's Free State of Jones Photo courtesy of STX Entertainment

Matthew McConaughey stars as Newton Knight in STX Entertainment’s Free State of Jones Photo courtesy of STX Entertainment

“Free State of Jones”: Summer historical drama (meaning with lots of big stars and action) sees Matthew McConaughey starring as a real-life Civil War-era Southern farmer who arms slaves, rebels against the Confederacy, and marries a black woman (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) as he attempts to set up a mixed-race community.

See it in theaters? The McConaissance marches on, as McConaughey takes on another high-profile, Oscar-friendly role. The mix of still-relevant social commentary, action and romance should provide plenty of entertainment value to make this a worthwhile alternative to the latest alien invasion.

July 1

“The BFG”: A little girl befriends a big, friendly giant. Hence the title.

See it in theaters? Steven Spielberg? Doing an animated adaptation of the beloved Roald Dahl children’s book? Tell your kids you’re doing them a favor by taking them, and enjoy.

“The Purge: Election Year”: The savage social satire series’ third installment sees the hero of the second film attempting to prevent the assassination of a presidential candidate promising to end America’s “once a year, you can murder anyone you want” Purge Night tradition.

See it in theaters? The dopey but pointed “Purge” movies have sneaky messages about class and race and the contempt the wealthy and white have for their fellow citizens. Venture out, or just turn on the news.

Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie in The Legend of Tarzan Photo courtesy of Village Roadshow Pictures

Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie in The Legend of Tarzan Photo courtesy of Village Roadshow Pictures

“The Legend Of Tarzan”: Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård this time) is back. Jane (Margot Robbie) is in trouble. You know the drill.

See it in theaters? Still trying to make Tarzan happen, eh, Hollywood? Good supporting cast (Samuel L. Jackson, Djimon Hounsou, Christoph Waltz), and I’m sure the apes are as good as CGI can make ’em (although ape-master Andy Serkis isn’t involved, sadly). But, the last good screen Tarzan hung up his loincloth in 1948.

July 8

“The Secret Life of Pets”: Pets. They talk.

See it in theaters? Do you like sitting in the dark with a theater-full of jabbering kids and their moderately bored parents as some overqualified stars (here: Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Kevin Hart) voice adorable cartoon critters? Your call.

July 15

“Ghostbusters”: A remake of the classic, with certified funny people Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones taking over ‘busting duties.

See it in theaters? Absolutely. Look, no one’s more skeptical of yet another remake of something that was perfectly fine to begin with, but these are our hilarious women, and the film is directed by comic genius Paul Feig, who’s responsible for the likes of “Bridesmaids,” “Other Space,” and the cult TV classic “Freaks and Geeks.” Plus, online hordes of whining man-babies have launched a hysterically misogynistic campaign against the film, so buying a ticket will anger all the right people.

July 22

“Star Trek Beyond”: J.J. Abrams’ rebooted Enterprise crew is confronted by a mysterious space thing that puts them in danger and whatnot. (Plot details are being kept under wraps, but that should cover it.)

See it in theaters? Abrams’ action-oriented take on the classic franchise slickly glosses over much of the Star Trek universe’s original philosophically curious nature, but the cast of ringers remains first-rate. And while this outing is co-written by geek god (and new Scotty) Simon Pegg — and brings in the ever-awesome Idris Elba — the trailer (Motorcycle stunts? Really?) suggests another glibly entertaining space chase.

July 29

“Jason Bourne”: Matt Damon’s back as, well, you read the title. He’s a spy with amnesia (again) trying to find out who made him a spy — with amnesia.

See it in theaters? Also returning is series director Paul Greengrass, master of lean action, so that’s a plus. And Damon’s always made Bourne a more compelling presence than he has any right to be at this point.

“Bad Moms”: More funny women! Katheryn Hahn, Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell are a trio of beleaguered moms who have a wild night on the town.

See it in theaters? It’s from the writers of the “Hangover” movies, so you know if that’s your bag already. That being said, it’s a chance for three fine comic actresses (especially the ever-underappreciated Hahn) to have a turn in the broadly comic spotlight.


Frontier (Brunswick)

Thursday-Saturday: “Miles Ahead.” The great Don Cheadle directs, co-writes and stars in this musical biopic about mercurial jazz genius Miles Davis.

SPACE Gallery (Portland)

Wednesday, June 29: “Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made.” Speaking of remakes, this feel-great documentary follows the seven-year journey of three 11-year-old friends to make a shot-for-shot remake of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

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