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Pixar’s Elemental aims to be cool and hot enough for the summer movie season. Courtesy Disney/Pixar

In encouraging news for theaters, the summer season has already started out with hit returns for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and Fast X. Looking to keep the win streak going is the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, which you can read my review of in this space next week.

June is packed with even more big-ticket items. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse marks the highly anticipated return of Miles Morales and his animated friends to the big screen. The following week sees Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, and we’ll see if the series can sustain the newly lighthearted tone that served it so well in Bumblebee. June 16 features a pre-pandemic style battle of blockbusters with the Pixar animated film Elemental (about a world populated by sentient air, earth, fire, and water particles) going up against The Flash, which stars Ezra Miller. Years’ worth of bad publicity about the star will clash with the adulatory advance reviews that have leaked out about the superhero movie, so we’ll see which wins out. The month ends with Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, in which James Mangold (Logan) takes over directing chores from Steven Spielberg. The early word about the archaeologist’s last adventure has been encouraging as well.

July brings Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One, as the Tom Cruise spy series that has been running since the 1990s prepares for its final installments. Jennifer Lawrence ventures into the territory of raunchy comedy with No Hard Feelings, where she plays an Uber driver who’s hired to deflower an introverted teenager. Another clash of blockbusters comes on July 21, as Christopher Nolan’s biography of the A-bomb developer Oppenheimer opens against Greta Gerwig’s satirical take on Barbie. Disney tried making a film of Haunted Mansion with Eddie Murphy 20 years ago and received critical pans for it, so they’ll try again with a new version helmed by Justin Simien (Dear White People) with a lot more stars.

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In August, the animated version of Harold and the Purple Crayon brings the beloved kids’ book to our multiplexes. The TMNT franchise goes animated with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, with a script by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Gran Turismo is not a straight adaptation of the video game but rather a dramatization of the group of gamers who tried out to drive real-life race cars. Last Voyage of the Demeter depicts the part of the Dracula story when the ship brings the count from Romania to England and loses much of its crew along the way. The DC universe hopes for a late summer hit with The Blue Beetle and that franchise’s first Latino superhero, while Strays may look like a cute kids’ movie about the inner thoughts of dogs and cats when it’s actually a foul-mouthed take on the genre with a dog (voiced by Will Ferrell) looking for revenge on the owner who abandoned him.

If the popcorn entries don’t do it for you, there’s plenty of gourmet fare on offer. The horror-comedy The Blackening is about a group of Black people who discover a hideously racist board game that preys on them. In a similar vein, Talk to Me is about a group of teenagers who contact the next world using an embalmed hand that comes to life. Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City sports an enviable cast of stars and the filmmaker applying his signature style to a story of an alien invasion in the American Southwest. Joy Ride brings Asian women into sex comedy, as a group of friends (one of them played by Oscar nominee Stephanie Hsu) drive through Southeast Asia looking for one’s birth parents. Nicole Holofcener’s comedy of manners You Hurt My Feelings may be her best film ever, and Celine Song’s Past Lives has been winning raves for its story about Korean lovers separated for 20 years. Lastly, the drama Sanctuary, starring Christopher Abbott and Margaret Qualley as a longtime client and his dominatrix, reportedly has some of the kinkiest BDSM sex scenes ever filmed. If your summer needs heating up, that’s where to go.

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