Blake Lively Elle Fanning

Confederate McConaughey, Alien Invasion 2.0, and More: Some Movies to See This Weekend, June 24, 2016

Friday, June 24, 2016 Rob Samuelson

If you are one of those crazy people who wants to see every movie that hits theaters, you are going to be a busy person this weekend. But luckily for you, each of the four major releases appears to be very different, so it’s unlikely they will all bleed together. Let’s see what’s in store for you.

Free State of Jones
Director: Gary Ross
Writers: Leonard Hartman, Gary Ross
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mahershala Ali

Matthew McConaughey stars as a disenchanted Confederate soldier during the Civil War, one seemingly without any financial stake in the continuation of slavery. So he quits and helps a slave rebellion. A rebel of the rebellion, or so the lame tagline in my head says. Director Gary Ross comes over from the first Hunger Games movie, also known as the least impressive one. If he retained that movie’s shaky-for-no-reason camerawork, it will probably appear mighty anachronistic for a story involving the beauty of rural Southern life. If he changes things up, there is plenty of fascinating stuff to look at.

Independence Day: Resurgence
Director: Roland Emmerich
Writers: Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, James Vanderbilt
Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Jessie T. Usher, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Sela Ward

20 years have passed since the events of Independence Day, both in real life and in the movie. A lot has been learned in that time about the aliens that invaded, but not answered was their focus on destroying iconic landmarks. But it appears the aliens learned a thing or two, themselves, because they’re back and they aren’t messing around this time. Their ships are now approximately a gazillion times larger than they were in ‘96. But the humans still have a grizzled former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) and David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) to save them. Newcomers Liam Hemsworth, Jessie T. Usher, and Maika Monroe join the fight against the aliens, replacing Will Smith, who did not want to appear in this sequel. However, just about everyone else involved in the original movie is back, including director Roland Emmerich and screenwriter Dean Devlin, along with a small army of other writers.

The Neon Demon
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Writers: Nicolas Winding Refn, Mary Laws, Polly Stenham
Starring: Elle Fanning, Abbey Lee, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Keanu Reeves

A 16-year-old model (Elle Fanning) arrives in Los Angeles and begins rocketing her way to the top of the industry. This inspires jealousy in everyone around her. Things get tense and downright freaky. Co-writer-director Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Bronson) is one of the most divisive filmmakers working today. I am one of the cultists who think the idiosyncratic Dane may be the most essential filmmaker we have. But I’m in the minority. I’m always a little nervous to express just how profoundly his movies speak to me because how demented and downright weird they can be. The Neon Demon is no different. If you’re on a certain wavelength, it’ll be one of the best movies you see all year. If you’re not on that wavelength, I’m sorry. It won’t be a fun experience for you.

The Shallows
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Writer: Anthony Jaswinski
Starring: Blake Lively, Óscar Jaenada, Brett Cullen, Sedona Legge

Blake Lively plays a surfer who gets attacked by a shark. She finds refuge on a small rock that is maybe a football field’s distance from shore. The shark stalks her. There is nowhere she can go. That’s it. It looks terrifying. Director Jaume Collet-Serra has a thing for atmosphere and terror, like with his strong 2009 horror film Orphan. Here’s hoping he can pull off a tense single-location thriller with as much panache as he did in that twisty adoption horror.

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