It’s mid-April, which means the summer movie season is very close to starting.
I’ve been looking at the calendar ahead, from May to August, and there are actually quite a few studio films that look promising. You won’t find “The Little Mermaid” or “Fast X” below, there’s no need for them. Ditto “Insidious: The Red Door,” “The Meg 2,” “Transformers: Rise of the Beast” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
I’ve also not included Indies that I’ve already seen, but that are absolutely worth your time, such as “The Starling Girl”, “Master Gardener”, “You Hurt My Feelings”, “Afire” and “Birth/Rebirth.”
The result is 12 movies that might shake up the summer movie season. You might not agree with every single one of these selections, but either word or mouth, or the filmmaker behind them, convinced me that they might be worth our time.
Oppenheimer (Christopher Nolan)
Obviously, this is the big one. Nolan’s 3-hour epic about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the hydrogen bomb, comes with expectations that will be very hard to meet. Then again, Nolan is talented enough to pull this high-wire act off. A starry cast, the return of DP Hoyte Van Hoytema, and Nolan tackling something that isn’t sci-fi has us all absolutely intrigued.
Barbie (Greta Gerwig)
Haters be damned, Gerwig’s third film as a director also comes with high expectations. It’s a peculiar big studio project for the “Lady Bird” filmmaker, tackling the titular Mattel doll (played by Margot Robbie) and her odd relationship with Ken (Ryan Gosling). Word of mouth has so far been very positive, but has it been as manufactured as Barbie herself? Reshoots are currently underway on the film.
Asteroid City (Wes Anderson)
We kind of know what to expect with Wes Anderson’s brand of cinema, but it’s always a treat when he surprises us with a good movie. This could be it. He’s assembled another star-studded cast that includes Tom Hanks, Margot Robbie, Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Ed Norton, Adrien Brody, Steve Carell and Willem Dafoe. The plot is being kept hush-hush, but it’s set in the 1950s and might have to do with UFOs.
Past Lives (Celine Song)
This A24 Sundance sensation is already guaranteed to be included in numerous year-end top 10s. The film is a multi-decade romance in Korean and is said to revolve around two childhood friends reunited for one fateful week. There’s already plenty of Oscar buzz for this one.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning (Christopher McQuarrie)
Will it actually be 3 hours? Tom Cruise, hot off “Top Gun: Maverick,” is bound to have another hit with this sequel to his ultra-popular franchise. It’ll be very hard to top 2018’s ‘Fallout,’ but it’s not like Cruise and director McQuarrie aren’t trying to one-up it. The footage we’ve seen so far hints at maybe the wildest stunts Cruise has ever performed on-screen. This is only the first installment of a two-parter that will be released next year.
The Flash (Andres Muschietti)
So much has already been written about how, supposedly, great this DCEU film is. But most of the word of mouth has come from the likes of James Gunn and David Zaslav, both connected to the film. Test-screenings have however been highly impressive. Warner Bros. has so much confidence in this one that they’ve decided to screen it a month in advance at CinemaCon.
Indiana Jones the Dial of Destiny (James Mangold)
This is set to be Harrison Ford’s final film as Indy and the longest of the franchise at 142 minutes. Harrison Ford doesn’t look a day over 80. It’s a back-to-the-basics adventure, which is maybe what we needed after the last film. The trailer does harken back to the style of the first three Spielberg films. An homage to the B-movies from the ’40s and ’50s. Did it really have to cost $300 million?
Talk to Me (Danny and Michael Philippou)
Filmmaking duo Danny and Michael Philippou’s “Talk to Me” completely subverts the clichés of the genre. The film stars Sophia Wilde as teenager Mia, who, on the anniversary of her mother’s death, gathers for a “calling” seance with her friends. They conjure up spirits using an ancient embalmed hand, and become temporarily possessed. The catch is that they must exorcise the spirit within 90 seconds, or it will try to stay. A24 is behind this one, so they’ll be pushing it hard everywhere.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (James Gunn)
This is one of the few Marvel movies that we look forward to. The first two ‘Guardians’ instalments were unique in their insistence to keep subverting the comic book genre. The cast helped, especially Dave Bautista’s comedy relief as Drax. Again, this one is long, clocking in at 2 and a half hours. Will the magic still be there? Or will “Marvel fatigue” also apply to this franchise? What we do know that this’ll be Gunn’s final hoorah with these characters.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson)
The first one was not only a box-office hit but also critically-acclaimed. It won Best Animated Feature at the 91st Academy Awards—being the first non-Disney/Pixar film to win the award since 2011’s Rango. The animation was great and there was this overall feeling that it was the start of a new kind of storytelling. Blending animation that looks both computer-driven and hand-drawn, this sequel comes with very high expectations.
No Hard Feelings (Gene Stupnitsky)
Jennifer Lawrence starts in this R-Rated comedy from Stupnitsky, the writer-director of “Good Boys” — he also wrote “Bad Teacher,” which this movie seems to slightly resemble. J-Law plays a desperate 30-something woman who is lured into a family’s plan to get her to date and have sex with their shy and college-bound 19-year-old son. The reward is a used car. So … she’s basically playing escort to a teenager for an old car? I’m not complaining about this premise one bit.
Pixar’s Elemental (Peter Sohn)
There’s always hope that Pixar will deliver another great movie. “Elemental” looks promising on paper, but its trailer still left me wondering if the toon company hasn’t lost a bit of its edge. “Elemental” tackles a city where fire, water, land, and air residents live together and the blossoming romance between total opposites.