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New in Theaters June 24: Independence Day: Resurgence, Free State of Jones, The Shallows, Neon Demon

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By Chris Kavan - 06/23/16 at 06:55 AM CT

It's going to be a crowded weekend for new movies, but it's probably Disney that is still going to come out on top as Finding Dory is likely to top all newcomers. Granted, two horror films, a historic period piece (even with action and Matthew McConaughey) and a sequel trying to ride a wave of nostalgia (ala Jurassic World) don't offer up the kind of competition that results in upsets. Even if Dory winds up on top, I'm still expecting a good weekend ahead of the big 4th of July holiday.

INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE It has been 20 years since Roland Emmerich ushered in the era of disaster porn he is so well-known for. Really, Independence Day kicked everything off - with a literal bang - in a tale of Earth being attacked by a superior alien force. But, of course, humanity prevailed thanks to a daring pilot (Will Smith), an inspirational president (Bill Pullman), an intuitive engineer (Jeff Goldblum) and a bunch of other characters. The sequel (which also takes place 20 years later - imagine that) follows the survivors of this attack, who have utilized the alien technology to hopefully protect against any future attacks. It turns out, the aliens have been preparing too - and they're an even bigger threat. Much of the original cast is returning - sans Smith - with a few new faces (Liam Hemsworth, Jessie T. Usher, Maika Monroe and Sela Ward among them) to liven things up a little. If Resurgence is looking for the same response as Jurassic World, I don't think they're going to get it. The film should play well - but not that well and with Finding Dory dominating the box office, it's going to find it an even bigger challenge. Still, I think it will do well enough around the world to justify a third film (it's already in the planning stages) and it certainly fits into the summer blockbuster mode. Will it be fun? Sure, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will be good.

FREE STATE OF JONES Movies based on history are often a bigger hit with critics than they are with audiences. Exceptions apply, but they are few and far between. Free State of Jones looks like a good film - a lot of big names; besides McConaughey, you have Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mahershala Ali, Keri Russell, Sean Bridgers and a huge supporting cast to go along with them. Essentially it follows Newton Knight (McConaughey) who defies the South during the Civil War after his son dies and forms a band of farmers, freedom fighters and runaway slaves into his "Free State of Jones". Of course he is out-manned and out-gunned against the might of the Confederacy, but he will not go down without a fight. This will most likely open to decent numbers, but I think this would have done much better in the fall, closer to awards season, than a big summer release. Still, I'm interested in this one and hope it does decent business.

THE SHALLOWS We have not one, but two horror movies trying to make their mark at the box office. The first one stars Blake Lively as a surfer coping with a horrific loss in the only way she knows how. Unfortunately for her, the secluded beach she chooses just happens to be the new home for a vicious and voracious shark. Despite being trapped just 200 yards from shore, she will have to use her wits and ingenuity to survive the encounter. Now the whole human vs. shark has played out multiple times since Steven Spielberg made us all afraid of the water with Jaws back in 1975. Sometimes the sharks are smart, sometimes deadly, sometimes part of tornadoes but for some reason, filmmakers like to make sharks the bad guys. In any case, The Shallows continues this age-old battle and looks to be quite tense - however, it's also pretty much Lively and the shark for most of the film. The trailers show a couple guys get chomped early on and that's pretty much it for co-stars. I have a feeling she won't be enough to draw a huge audience and suspect this to fall outside the top five, but we'll see.

THE NEON DEMON Opening in fewer theaters but looking far more compelling is the latest from divisive director Nicolas Winding Refn. The Neon Demon follows Los Angeles newcomer Jesse (Elle Fanning), an aspiring model. She falls in with a group of youth-obsessed women (Abbey Lee, Christina Hendricks and Jena Malone) who literally feed off her vitality in order to obtain what she has. It sounds bonkers, but damned if I'm not interested in seeing how this turns out. If nothing else, Refn has a distinctive style and this film really looks like a great outlet for that style. Slick, violent, beauty and horror - even if it doesn't find much love in theaters, I can't wait for this to stream, because this is exactly the type of film I like to watch late at night.

A lot to choose from this weekend. The good money is on Finding Dory to repeat as champion but we'll have to wait and see who gets the biggest piece of the pie.


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