Call them tentpoles, popcorn movies, mainstream entertainment, or whatever: Most of those films had their theatrical releases delayed 14 months ago, if they weren’t pushed to streaming services. Now that the pandemic is starting to be brought under control, we’re going to be drowning in popcorn as that backlog of big-budget flicks hits our screens, and I can’t wait. Get your vaccines — your fellow moviegoers and I will thank you for it — and watch this space for our takes on the first summer movie season in two years.
There’s plenty for those of you who’ve been missing those nights out at the movies with the kids, starting this week with the highly enjoyable Cruella, starring Emma Stone as a younger version of the Dalmatian-hating villainess. Disney also puts out Jungle Cruise in July, with Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson making like Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart in a film based on the amusement park ride. In non-Mouse House fare, the animated film Spirit Untamed is a sequel to 2002’s Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron with different human characters around the same horse. A sequel with even more distance from its predecessor is Space Jam: A New Legacy, with LeBron James teaming with Bugs Bunny for a game of hoops against cartoon meanies. The planned final installment of the Hotel Transylvania series, called Transformania, also comes to us, minus Adam Sandler. There’s also *sigh* Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway.
A Quiet Place Part II also comes out this week after its scheduled release in March 2020 was one of the first pandemic casualties on the calendar. That leads a pack of highly anticipated action movies that includes F9, the ninth of the Fast and the Furious movies that sees John Cena join the series as a villain. Scarlett Johansson receives her belated showcase in the Marvel series in Black Widow, while James Gunn takes over The Suicide Squad when he probably should have been running that series from the start. Ryan Reynolds has two entries here, one in the sequel The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard and the other in the more genial Free Guy, in which he plays a video game character who suddenly develops his own consciousness. Henry Golding makes his bid for action stardom in Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, playing the character often depicted as a silent commando.
If you want horror movies for summer, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is the latest in that series. M. Night Shyamalan’s latest brain-breaker is Old, about a family that starts to age rapidly during a beachside vacation. Fort Worth’s own David Lowery does a creepy-looking take on The Green Knight, with Dev Patel as Sir Gawain, and Nia DaCosta updates the 1992 horror film Candyman for the present day, with a script by Jordan Peele.
Looking for something lighter? The Lin-Manuel Miranda hip-hop musical In the Heights receives its big-screen treatment, with Anthony Ramos taking Miranda’s spot in the lead role as a Puerto Rican man watching his New York neighborhood gentrify. We’d be sorely remiss not to mention 12 Mighty Orphans, which was filmed here and is about the high-school football team built by Fort Worth Masonic Home in the 1930s. Pablo Larraín’s Chilean film Ema tells the story of a couple going through a crisis by means of some high-energy dance numbers, and Jennifer Hudson portrays Aretha Franklin in the biopic Respect. Then there’s Zola, surely the first movie ever adapted from a Twitter thread, starring Taylour Paige as a Detroit waitress who takes a wild trip to Florida with a stripper.
Music also dominates the documentaries scheduled for release this summer. Peter Jackson chronicles the last days of the Beatles in Get Back, which features unseen footage shot for their 1970 film Let It Be. Lin-Manuel Miranda makes appearances in both Questlove’s Summer of Soul (about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival) and Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It, profiling the EGOT winner who was such an inspiration to Latino entertainers. For those with more esoteric tastes, The Sparks Brothers is about the sibling duo called Sparks and is made by no less than Edgar Wright. We invented multiplexes to cater to many tastes, and this summer they’ll be back on that mission.