Though we still have more than a month until spring actually fades into summer on June 21, the summer movie season unofficially arrives next week with the release of Marvel Studio’s latest offering “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness,” which continues the adventures of most everyone’s favorite cinematic stable of super heroes.
From then until the end of July, Hollywood unleashes what it expects to be many of its most profitable pictures of the year as our society continues to move into what we hope is the post-Covid era.
Box office numbers haven’t yet rebounded — and maybe never will — from the Covid setback, which began in the spring of 2019, but this year’s summer slate is an interesting one, full of action, horror, but seemingly very few comedies, particularly for adults.
Here’s a run down of some of the most-anticipated movies scheduled to be released from May through July.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (May 6)
Director: Sam Raimi
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiewetel Ejiofor
This is the 28th film in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, which dates back to the 2008 release of “Iron Man,” and from all accounts, it’s going to be a doozy.
The film deals with the ramifications of Doctor Strange and Wanda the Scarlet Witch’s use and perhaps misuse of magic and what kinds of issues it creates not just for the universe but also for multiple universes. Internet speculation is running rampant about whether this film will or will not introduce the X-Men and perhaps other heretofore unseen Marvel characters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe proper. The voice of Patrick Stewart, who portrayed in Prof. Xavier in several of Fox’s X-Men films, is heard in the trailer and a familiar-looking mobility chair is glimpsed in the latest TV ad for the movie.. Marvel usually does a solid job of setting up its movies within the film, but if you haven’t watched “Spider-Man: No Way Home” or the Disney Plus streaming series “WandaVision,” you might want to do so before checking out this film.
Firestarter (May 13)
Director: Keith Thomas
Stars: Zac Effron, Ryan Kiera, Michael Geyeyes
This is a remake of the film adaptation of the 1980 Stephen King novel of the same name. Effron plays the dad of a young girl, who is developing the ability to start fires with her mind. They are on the run from nefarious government types who wish to exploit or extinguish her abilities. Thomas’ previous film “The Vigil” was a thrilling piece of horror. Maybe he can pump new life into one of King’s early hits?
Downton Abbey: A New Era (May 20)
Director: Simon Curtis
Stars: Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael
If you are a fan of the popular historical TV drama, this movie about a film being shot at Downton Abbey should be right up your alley. If not, it might be a good place to jump on board to one of the most beloved and revered shows in recent years. The trailer is charming, setting up what appears to be a romantic mystery.
Men (May 20)
Director: Alex Garland
Stars: Jessie Buckley, Rory Kinnear
This film might be the freak show of the summer, and what else would you expect from a movie distributed by A24, which brought us creep-fests like “The Witch,” and Ex Machina” as well as critical hits like “Room” and “Spring Breakers.” The movie, which features Kinnear playing a number of ominous characters bedeviling Buckley in the trailer, is set to debut at Cannes, and it looks like a one-way ticket to nightmare town to me.
Top Gun: Maverick (May 27)
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Stars: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly
Crusie and Kosinksi have been sitting on this sequel to the 1986 hit for three years because of Covid. Can Crusie catch lightning in a bottle nearly 35 years after releasing it in the original? We will know in less than a month. The trailer looks thrilling, but do Cruise’s middle-age fans still have the need, the need for speed, and more importantly will younger movie-goers even care?
Jurassic World Dominion (June 10)
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Stars: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Chris Pratt, Jeff Goldblum
While I am a child at heart — and some would say in mind, too — I’ve never had the fascination with dinosaurs that so many children often do, but I did enjoy the original “Jurassic Park,” so the return of Neill, Dern, and Goldblum is somewhat of a draw for me. Seeing the expertly crafted CGI dinos do their thing in several different environmental settings in the trailer has my interest peaked as well, but of all the summer blockbusters, this one has the least amount of interest to me.
Lightyear (June 17)
Director: Angus MacLane
Stars: Voices of Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Taika Waititi
After Pixar showed the first reel of this film at Cinemacon, an expo for theater exhibitors, in Las Vegas this week, the anticipation for “Lightyear” is to infinity and beyond for this animated film. There is even very early Oscar buzz for it to receive a Best Picture nomination. The film’s conceit is that it is the movie that inspired “Toy Story’s” Andy to get his mom to buy him a Buzz Lightyear action figure. Pixar has been the most consistent studio at producing crowd-pleasing hits for decades, and it looks like it has another winner here.
The Black Phone (June 24)
Director: Scott Derrickson
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Finney Shaw
The shock factor is great with this trailer, and Cinemacon reports from its preview screening say this film delivers. Ethan Hawke plays a kidnapper and serial killer, whose ghostly ex-victims attempt help rescue the latest child, who has fallen into his clutches. Like the best horror films, the trailer makes you want to look away, but just won’t let you.
Elvis (June 24)
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Stars: Austin Butler, Tom Hanks
Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge!” and “The Great Gatsby”) is an eccentric and musically minded director with an outstanding visual flair. He populates his films with the best eye candy. If all his movies aren’t great, they are at the very least interesting, and I am excited to see his take on the King of Rock and Roll’s life story. The trailer is probably my favorite of the year so far, and hopefully the movie will be even better. It’s hard to go wrong with an actor like Hanks, who plays Elvis’ manipulative manager Col. Tom Parker, and while Butler isn’t a dead ringer for Elvis, he does seem to have the appropriate charisma.
Minions: The Rise of Gru (July 1)
Director: Kyle Balda
Stars: Voices of Steve Carell, Pierre Coffin, Taraji P. Henson, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews
This movie is both a sequel to “Minions” (2015) and a prequel to “Despicable Me” (2010), telling how a 12-year-old Gru (Carell) formed an alliance with the Minions and began his career as a super villain by first joining and then fighting a group of baddies known as the Vicious 6.
Thor: Love and Thunder (July 8)
Director: Taika Waititi
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale
Marvel strikes again with this fourth film in the Thor series. Hemsworth’s Thunder God is struggling with his identity and purpose after the loss of so many friends, family and foes. However, Portman returns as former paramour Jane Foster, who now becomes “The Mighty Thor” by wielding the somehow reconstructed mystical hammer Mjolnir. They join forces to battle Gorr, the God Butcher, (Bale) in Waititi’s fanciful adventure film that also features the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Where the Crawdads Sing (July 15)
Directed by: Olivia Newton
Stars: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith
Adapted from the best-selling novel by Delia Owens, the film is about a 1950s young woman, Kya, who raised herself on the bayou after being abandoned by her family as a young girl. After a relationship with a high school quarterback turns sour, Kya is accused and put on trial for his murder. This swampy, romantic mystery thriller looks promising, and might be a welcome respite among all the higher-concept films that populate the rest of the summer schedule.
Nope (July 22)
Director: Jordan Peele
Stars: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun
This follow-up to “Get Out” and “Us” looks promising in Peele’s third venture into horror, but this outing boasts a distinct taste of sci-fi, as aliens appear to be the monster on the menu thanks to what’s revealed in a high-energy and riveting trailer.
Bullet Train (July 29)
Director: David Leitch
Stars: Brad Pitt, Joey King, Brian Tyree Henry
Once a stunt double for Pitt, Leitch (“John Wick,” “Deadpool 2,” and “Atomic Blonde”) now directs the star in this ultra-violent action-comedy that pits a gaggle of assassins against each other on a bullet train missiling its way from Tokyo to Kyoto. Looks like a kinetic and fun way to bring July to a close.
New in Local Theaters
• Memory (watch trailer) / (R) 1 hr. 54 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Towne, Skylight