Is it summer already?
Well, not technically. Spring shifts into summer on June 21, but the summer-movie season unofficially kicks off next Friday when Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” opens in theaters.
So, here is a rundown of some of the most anticipated films that will be opening between the beginning of May and the end of August.
May 5 — Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Writer-Director James Gunn’s final foray with his Guardians of the Galaxy series debuts on May 5, and from all reports the film drops the mic.
All of the Guardians return, but this movie delves into the brutal origins of Rocket Raccoon, and features a new big bad known as the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), whose story was comic creators Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s cosmic take on H.G. Wells’ seminal 1896 sci-fi/horror classic “The Island of Dr. Moreau.” There are several fun film adaptations of the Wells’ novel, including a very weird and daffy one from 1996 featuring Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, but I digress.
Wells’ novel was just the jumping off point for the insidious Marvel villain who debuted in The Mighty Thor No. 134 in 1966, but he continued to vex such Marvel characters as the Hulk, the Avengers, and Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), who is also featured in this film.
While Marvel’s last film “Ant-Man” and the Wasp: Quantumania” underperformed at the box office, strong early reviews suggest the Guardians will do quite well for Marvel. It has been called Marvel’s best movie since “Avengers: Infinity War.”
It will be Gunn’s last movie for Marvel for the foreseeable future. He now crosses super-hero universes to devote all of his energy to running DC Studios along with his co-studio head Peter Safran. Gunn’s next project is “Superman: Legacy,” which he wrote and will direct. The film is in pre-production now and won’t be in theaters until July 11, 2025.
May 19 — Fast X
Honestly, I’ve never been the biggest fan of “The Fast and Furious” franchise. Racing has never appealed to me, and all sense of reality exited this franchise a long time ago. The cast is filled with charisma and talent, but beyond Vin Diesel hosting a cook-out and talking about “family,” the series is too much for me to take.
Jason Momoa (“Aquaman”) is the opposing force this time around. I’m sure by the end of the film, he’ll be working with Dominic Torretto’s family in time for the sequel, which reportedly will be the last entry in this cash-cow franchise that creatively ran out of milk several movies ago.
I can’t promise I’ll see this movie, but I can almost guarantee if I do, I’ll complain about it.
May 26 — The Little Mermaid
While the “live-action” remakes of Disney’s classic animated films seem unnecessary to me, I’ve still found many of them to be entertaining, but I am a sucker for Disney material.
While I’m not necessarily excited about this redo of “The Little Mermaid,” the footage previewing the film looks gorgeous, and the actress portraying Ariel, Halle Bailey, looks the part and has a truly soaring singing voice. Melissa McCarthy seems like perfect casting for Ursula the sea witch, who convinces Ariel to trade her voice for legs so she can chase after Prince Eric (John Hauer-King) on land.
I’m guessing this movie will delight families with younger children, and will likely charm a lot of old fogies like me as well.
June 2 — Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
This highly anticipated animated follow-up to the 2018 hit “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” features the Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) version of Spidey teaming with Spider-Woman/Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) in a multiversal battle with the Spider-Society, led by Miguel O’Hara/Spider-Man 2099 (Oscar Isaac). It would not surprise me if this is not only the best animated movie of the year, but also the best super-hero movie.
June 16 — Elemental
“Elemental” is a Pixar CGI-animated love story that attempts to prove the fire and water do mix.
Ember (Leah Lewis) is a tough, hot-headed firecracker of a fire elemental who has fallen for Wade Ripple (Mamoudou Athie), an easy-flowing water elemental. Though their love is strong, it will be tested when they introduce each other to their families and friends.
Hopefully this will be a rebound movie for Pixar, which has struggled at the box office since the Covid-19 virus shut theaters down for much of 2020 and left a chilling effect on theater attendance ever since.
June 16 — Asteroid City
Director Wes Anderson’s latest feature looks as oddly charming as his previous off-kilter works have been. Set in 1955, parents and their kids gather in a fictional town, Asteroid City, in the desert west for the Junior Stargazer Convention where transformative events both big and small occur. As always, Anderson is working with a standout cast that includes Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston and dozens more.
June 16 — The Flash
The movie, which features an alleged real-life villain as its superhero in troubled actor Ezra Miller, has received overwhelmingly positive social-media reactions following its debut at CinemaCon, a yearly convention held in Las Vegas for theater exhibitors, on Tuesday night.
Some are even haling it as one of the best super-hero movies ever made. Other reviews point to a third-act weakness that has knee-capped many super-hero movies before.
Either way, it’s too bad Miller can’t fully enjoy what appears to be a success because of his alleged criminal actions. Many pundits feel WB will not make him available to the media for the run-up to the film’s actual opening and that this movie will be his last as the character.
Prior to and since the filming of “The Flash” completed in 2022, Miller has been accused of and arrested on a number of charges before the actor finally sought metal help last summer.
The film’s plot features the Flash creating an alternate time line when he travels to the past to save his parents from a monumental event in their lives. Reports say the movie is akin to the films in the “Back to the Future” series.”
The time fracture creates an alternate time line where the only super-hero left to hold off an invading Kryptonian army of super beings is a geriatric Batman, played once again by Michael Keaton, who starred in the 1989 original Batman film and its sequel.
Barry and his doppelgänger must regain their powers and help rescue the Kryptonian Supergirl, Kara, in hopes of helping Batman thwart Zod’s invasion. Ben Affleck also makes an appearance as Batman/Bruce Wayne in the movie’s opening time line.
Sorry if that description sounds convoluted.
If you’ve not seen “Man of Steel,” “Superman vs. Batman,” and at least one of the versions of “Justice League,” you might want to watch some homework before this movie opens. However, reports say that director Andy Muschietti keeps the plot clear and straight with everything essential explained.
June 23 — No Hard Feelings
This movie feels like the spiritual grandchild of the exploitation comedies male teenagers used to watch late at night on Skinamax, uh, I mean Cinemax back in the 1980s, complete with its double entendre of a title.
Jennifer Lawrence plays Maddie, a down-on-her-luck Uber driver who accepts an odd assignment off Craig’s List in order to make ends meet when the repossession of her car puts the kibosh on her Uber business.
Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti make a deal with Lawrence’s character to give her a Buick Regal, if she will act at their son Percy’s (Andrew Barth Feldman) girlfriend and teach their 19-year-old scholarly boy the joys of adult life.
The premise is trashy as all get out, and the film’s producers know it. The film’s tag line for its poster is perfect — “Pretty Awkward.”
June 30 — Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
Steven Spielberg isn’t back for this fifth Indiana Jones movie, but Harrison Ford is.
Evidently for the first 25 minutes of director James Mangold’s franchise finale, the magic of CGI de-ages Ford to his swashbuckling prime as the roguish archeologist.
Footage from the movie debuted this week during Disney’s presentation at CinemaCon, and social-media responses were overwhelmingly favorable.
The original three films are among my favorite movies of all time, so I’m highly anticipating this adventure, and Mangold appears to be the perfect director to step in for Spielberg. Indy’s going out fighting Nazis again, and that’s the way it should be.
July 14 — Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning, Part 1
Under normal circumstances, I’d wonder if a title that long might hurt business for a movie, but there is nothing normal about Tom Cruise or the franchise that he’s made his own. I doubt many under the age of 50 realize “Mission: Impossible” had two television iterations before Cruise brought the property to the big screen way back in 1996.
Yes, Cruise has been playing Ethan Hunt for 27 years across seven films with this release. That’s longer than Johnny Weissmuller played Tarzan (12 movies from 1932-48), Warner Oland played Charlie Chan (16 movies from 1931-37), Basil Rathbone played Sherlock Holmes (14 movies from 1939-1946), Mickey Rooney played Andy Hardy (16 times from 1937-58), and William Powell played the Thin Man (6 movies from 1934-1948). Cruise even tops Sean Connery (1962-1983) and Roger Moore (1973-1985), who each played James Bond in seven movies in terms of longevity of playing the character and equals them in number of films.
Harrison Ford has played Han Solo five times from 1977 to 2019, and Indiana Jones five times with his upcoming film from 1981-2023. Ford has played those characters for more years than Cruise has played Hunt, but in fewer films per franchise.
The same is true for Mark Hamill who played Luke Skywalker five times from 1977 to 2017, and Carrie Fisher who played Leia Organa six times from 1977 to 2019 with her last appearance being posthumous.
I’m sure I’m leaving out some movie franchises and their stars from over the years, but the point remains that Cruise has made “Mission: Impossible” his own, and that Cruise and the character will be remembered by fans of franchise for years if not decades after he leaves the role.
Honestly I could take or leave the first three M:I movies, but since the fourth film, “Ghost Protocol,” the movies have not only aged well along with their star but also gotten better and better. The previous two M: I movies and the upcoming one have all been directed by Christopher McQuarrie. McQuarrie and Cruise are a blockbuster combination in my book, and while there is very little plot information available, I’m looking forward to what they have in store for us with this upcoming adventure.
July 21 — Barbie
This live-action fantasy starring Margot Robbie as the titular character and Ryan Gosling as her boyfriend, Ken, is reportedly the tale of how the best-selling fashion doll gets booted out of Barbieland for having flat feet.
Barbie then endeavors to join the real world with Ken in tow. The film has a who’s who cast of Barbie and Ken variations with Will Ferrell serving as the villainous toy company CEO. The movie, directed by Greta Gerwig and co-written by Gerwig and Noah Baumback, seems to have more than a few references to the “The Wizard of Oz” baked into its mix.
July 21 — Oppenheimer
Director Christopher Nolan’s latest film stars Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist credited as the “Father of the Atomic Bomb” for his role in the Manhattan Project, during World War II. The all-star cast includes Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Rami Malek, Florence Pugh, Benny Sadie, Michael Angarano, Josh Hartnett, and Kenneth Branagh among others. Sections of the film were shot in IMAX photography. It also includes some black-and-white scenes. This film is sure to be an Oscar contender on several fronts, and it may be THE MOVIE to see not only this summer but also this entire year.
July 28 — Talk to Me
This Australian horror flick warns of what can go wrong when a group of friends slowly get hooked on the thrill of conjuring up spirits by using an embalmed hand in seances. Of course, they go too far and the repercussions are deadly. Danny and Michael Phillippou direct with Sophie Wild and Joe Bird starring in the horror flick that’s receiving a good amount of buzz for such a small feature.
Aug. 11 — Gran Turismo
This film directed by Neil Blomkamp and starring a great cast, including David Harbor, Orlando Bloom, and Dijimon Honsou along with lead Archie Madekwe tells the story of how a Gran Turismo player used the skills he developed playing the vide game to become an actual professional race car driver. The idea may sound outlandish, but the film is actually inspired by a true story of racer Jann Mardenborough.
Aug. 18 — Blue Beetle
After Discovery and Warner Bros. merged last year, much criticism was leveled at the new company’s chief executive officer David Zaslav for writing off a fully-shot but partially completed “Batgirl” film as a tax loss because of its quality and where the story eventually led. It also was going to cost another $20 million to complete on top of the $90 million already spent.
Lost in the criticism was that Zaslav also opted to move two movies made for release on the streamer HBO Max to theatrical release because of his confidence in their quality. One of the movies was “Evil Dead Rise,” which finished No. 2 at the box office last week with a $24.5 million haul. The other is the DC super-hero movie “Blue Beetle.”
The film stars Xolo Mariduena (“Kobra Kai”) as Jaime Reyes, a recent college graduate, who becomes the symbiotic host to an alien scarab that forms a powerful blue exoskeleton armor around Reyes body when the scarab feels threatened. The armor gives Jaime incredible powers, which he struggles to control. Think of a cross between Venom, Iron-Man, and Spider-Man, and you sort of get the idea.
Unlike most super-heroes whose identity is a secret even to their loved ones, Jaime’s entire family knows about his new abilities from the time he receives them.
Susan Sarandon is on board as antagonist Victoria Kord, whose company played a role in bringing the Blue Beetle tech to earth, and she wants it back.