As far as movies are concerned, summer started last month with Avengers: Endgame, which is probably going to be the biggest box-office hit of the year, never mind the season. I’m still bummed that Julia Hart’s Fast Color and Claire Denis’ High Life, two excellent spring films that would have slotted in excellently in our multiplexes this summer, look like they’ll never reach our theaters. Even so, there will be plenty of fare for you to chew over when the days turn as hot and sticky as a freshly baked cinnamon bun.
Let’s start with the least interesting part: the remakes and sequels. Disney continues to raid its back catalog with live-action versions of Aladdin (out this week) and The Lion King, the former sporting actors of Middle Eastern descent (with the notable exception of Will Smith as the genie) and both of them boasting newly composed songs. Michael Dougherty, the director behind the cult Halloween film Trick ‘r Treat, takes over Godzilla: King of the Monsters, in which the Japanese behemoth battles other legendary creatures from the series: Mothra, Rodan, and Ghidorah. Dark Phoenix is slated to be the last of Fox’s X-Men films before Disney integrates the characters into the Marvel movies. Speaking of which, Spider-Man: Far From Home has Tom Holland’s Peter Parker and his school friends on a trip to Europe, though the fallout from the events of Avengers: Endgame promises to have repercussions here. Also, Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson collaborated so well in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame that they’ll do it again in Men in Black: International, a new adventure tangentially related to the old series. Another “sidequel” is Hobbs & Shaw, in which Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham’s unfriendly characters from the Fast & the Furious series team up for their own adventure. We’re also getting 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, because, uh, I’m not sure.
The kids won’t be spared the sequels, either. The Secret Life of Pets 2 lands in theaters, minus the voice of Louis C.K., for obvious reasons. There’ll be higher hopes for Toy Story 4, in which the toys adjust to their new home and a new child. The Angry Birds Movie 2 has the birds joining up with their enemies the pigs to combat a new threat, so perhaps the anti-immigrant sentiment of the original film will be softened.
The remakes and sequels seep into the horror films, too, as Child’s Play undergoes a series reboot and the painfully uninteresting Conjuring universe has a new installment in Annabelle Comes Home. Thankfully, there will also be original stories, such as Jim Jarmusch’s typically deadpan zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die and André Øvredal’s anthology film Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, based on Alvin Schwartz’ children’s book series. Octavia Spencer and her The Help director Tate Taylor collaborate for Ma, a horror flick that casts her radically against type. Ari Aster’s follow-up to last year’s Hereditary is Midsommar, with a group of tourists finding terror amid the daylight-soaked festivities of the Swedish holiday.
For whatever reason, this seems to be a big summer for movies that have to do with music. Before his retirement, Elton John is working on not only the Lion King remake but also on Rocketman, a film based on his life that promises to be more fanciful than the average biopic. Meanwhile, Danny Boyle’s Yesterday imagines a world where all trace of the Beatles has been wiped from history, except for the memory of one man, who promptly passes the Fab Four’s work off as his own. Gurinder Chadha (who directed Bend It Like Beckham) takes on Blinded by the Light, about a Pakistani teenager living in England in the 1980s whose life is transformed when he hears the music of Bruce Springsteen. If your taste is more country, Wild Rose stars Irish newcomer Jessie Buckley as a Glasgow single mother who dreams of moving to Nashville and becoming a country music star.
If you’d rather take your music in documentary form, Ron Howard’s Pavarotti profiles the legendary Italian tenor whose stardom became bigger than opera. David Crosby: Remember My Name is the rock musician’s cold-eyed look at his history of drug use and burned bridges. On non-musical subjects, John Chester’s The Biggest Little Farm (which is currently out in Dallas) chronicles his and his wife’s attempt to establish a farm outside of Los Angeles without any experience in farming. Fashion specialist Frédéric Tcheng comes out with Halston, following up his previous documentaries about Christian Dior and Diana Vreeland. Maiden documents the attempt by an all-female crew to run the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race in 1989. Speaking of women, This One’s for the Ladies interviews African-American male strippers and their customers.
If you like comedies, fear not, because Booksmart is out this week, and it is powerfully funny stuff. (See my review online for additional details.) Late Night is a scattered but occasionally potent look at a late-night TV host whose fading talk show receives a jolt when she hires a writer who is not an Ivy League-educated white guy. Dave Bautista could loom large in more ways than one: In Stuber, he’s a cop trying to bust terrorists opposite Kumail Nanjiani as a terrified Uber driver, while in My Spy, he’s a CIA agent whose cover is blown by a little girl who wants to learn his trade.
For the kids, the live-action version of Dora and the Lost City of Gold offers up a panoply of Latin actors, while The Wish Dragon (Amy Heckerling’s foray into animation) is set in modern-day China and contains an equally imposing set of Asian actors.
There’s even some prestige fare braving the storms of summer, starting with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino’s romp through Tinseltown in the late 1960s. Richard Linklater adapts Maria Semple’s novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette, starring Cate Blanchett as a faded starchitect who vanishes one day from her life as a contented housewife. A heavyweight cast (including Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, and Elisabeth Moss) stars in The Kitchen, about a group of mob wives who become mob bosses in the 1970s after their husbands’ arrests. Tilda Swinton’s real-life daughter Honor Swinton Byrne has already picked up accolades for her lead performance in The Souvenir, Joanna Hogg’s autobiographical drama about an artist coming of age. John Lithgow and Blythe Danner star in The Tomorrow Man, a romance in which the man is a survivalist building a bunker. Awkwafina does a rare dramatic turn as a Chinese-American woman who returns to her parents’ homeland for her mother’s impending death in The Farewell, and Claire McCarthy does a revisionist take on Hamlet with Ophelia, starring Daisy Ridley and Naomi Watts. Amid all the blockbusters, counterprogramming might be worth taking a flier on.