The pandemic robbed us of not just a summer movie season, but a year’s worth of theatrical experiences. But with more than 100 million vaccinated and many theaters reopening – even if not at full capacity – it’s time to once again to load up on popcorn and soda and let the images wash over us.
Wrath of Man (May 7)
Starring Jason Statham, Holt McCallany, Josh Hartnett, Jeffrey Donovan
Screenplay by Guy Ritchie & Marn Davies and Ivan Atkinson
Directed by Guy Ritchie
After a decade of diminishing returns with IP, Guy Ritchie got back to his roots with The Gentlemen, which featured all the best and worst qualities of a Guy Ritchie film. Here, he reunites with Statham, who plays an mob boss who goes undercover as an armored truck driver to find out who killed his son. If theaters hadn’t been closed, this absolutely would have been a “dumped in January” film, but a movie this low-rent being the summer opener is fitting.
Those Who Wish Me Dead (May 14)
Starring Angelina Jolie, Nicholas Hoult, Aidan Gillen, Finn Little
Screenplay by Michael Koryta and Charles Leavitt and Taylor Sheridan
Directed by Taylor Sheridan
A lot of people seem to absolutely despise Taylor Sheridan, but his movies have worked for me, except for that horrendous Sicario sequel. This is his second directorial effort, after the underrated Wind River. It marks the return of Angelina Jolie, action star. She plays a fire tower watcher forced into a life-or-death situation when she comes across a boy on the run from assassins.
A Quiet Place Part II (May 28)
Starring Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cillian Murphy
Written and directed by John Krasinski
The first film was an incredible in-theater experience, but it didn’t hold up on repeat viewings. That script was pretty bad and relied on some maudlin parental sacrifice stuff. But this sequel ditches Krasinski (who appears only in flashbacks) and expands the scope as the family looks for other survivors.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (June 4)
Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ruairi O’Connor, Julian Hilliard
Story by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick & James Wan
Screenplay by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick
Directed by Michael Chaves
Losing James Wan as director means there’s no way this will be as good as the first two films. But there’s still a chance this will offer some serious scares.
In the Heights (June 11)
Starring Anthony Ramos, Jimmy Smits, Dascha Polanco, Stephanie Beatriz
Screenplay by Quaiara Alegria Hudes
Directed by Jon M. Chu
Lin Manuel-Miranda’s first musical phenomenon gets the big-screen treatment, almost a year after it was originally supposed to hit theaters. Not only is this our first major musical since Christmas 2018 (when The Greatest Showman opened), it’s actually directed by someone with serious dance and musical experience. This should be the non-superhero film of the summer.
The Sparks Brothers (June 18)
Directed by Edgar Wright
The Maels have been crafting endlessly clever pop music for more than 50 years, but are widely unknown to all but the biggest music nerds in the U.S. Thankfully, superfan Edgar Wright dedicated months to putting out a definitive documentary, interviewing dozens of collaborators and fans, including Beck, “Weird Al” Yankovic and Patton Oswalt.
Zola (June 30)
Starring Taylour Paige, Riley Keough, Colman Domingo, Nicholas Braun
Screenplay by Janicza Bravo & Jeremy O. Harris
Directed by Janicza Bravo
The first, and to date I believe the only, film based off a Twitter thread, Zola is the wild semi-true story of the titular woman (Taylour Paige) and the crazy trip through Florida’s underbelly she took with Stefani (Riley Keough). Will it live up to the original story? Reviews from the 2020 Sundance Film Festival suggest it does.
Black Widow (July 9)
Starring Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, David Harbour
Story by Jac Schaeffer and Ned Benson
Screenplay by Eric Pearson
Directed by Kate Shortland
It might be the least anticipated MCU movie ever, but it’s still going to make at least half a billion dollars worldwide. My excitement is solely for this film’s supporting cast, who will hopefully bring some liveliness to what has felt perfunctory for 18 months.
The Night House (July 16)
Starring Rebecca Hall, Stacy Martin, Sarah Goldberg, Vondie Curtis-Hall
Written by Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski
Directed by David Bruckner
It’s got a bad title and a trailer that gives away too much, but it still looks like an effective thriller, one that’s not wholly reliant on jump scares.
The Green Knight (July 30)
Starring Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury
Written and directed by David Lowery
Aside from The French Dispatch (which still doesn’t have a U.S. release date), this is the movie I was most bummed about getting bumped to 2021. Dev Patel is past due for a starring adventure vehicle, and I can’t wait to see how Lowery’s attention to detail and intimate storytelling merges with lush landscapes and large-scale filmmaking.
Stillwater (July 30)
Starring Matt Damon, Abigail Breslin, Camille Cottin, Deanna Dunagan
Written by Thomas Bidegain, Noe Debre, Marcus Hinchey, Tom McCarthy
Directed by Tom McCarthy
Since winning an Oscar for co-writing the script for Best Picture winner Spotlight, McCarthy did the first two episodes of controversial Netflix series 13 Reasons Why and one already forgotten Disney+ movie. This project will be closer to the real world, though the small, intimate dramas that made him a sought-after writer appear to be long gone. Damon plays a rugged Oklahoman (don’t laugh) who travels to France to free his daughter (Breslin), who’s charged with murder. I’ve been dying for a studio to spend money on an original screenplay for a drama aimed at adults.
The Suicide Squad (August 6)
Starring Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman
Written and directed by James Gunn
The original was an absolute disaster, one of the worst films of the decade. So why am I excited for the sequel? Because DC upgraded, turning David Ayer into James Gunn – who at the time of his hiring had been fired by Disney for tweets that were already up before and after he had made two Guardians of the Galaxy movies – and keeping only a few characters and adding a whole bunch more. It will be violent, profane and hilarious.
Reminiscence (August 27)
Starring Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton, Cliff Curtis
Written and directed by Lisa Joy
I know absolutely nothing about this movie, other than it has a great cast and marks the feature debut of Lisa Joy, co-creator of Westworld. Women getting big budgets for original projects… you love to see it.
Candyman (August 27)
Starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Colman Domingo, Vanessa Williams
Screenplay by Jordan Peele & Win Rosenfeld and Nia DaCosta
Directed by Nia DaCosta
Though Jordan Peele produced and co-wrote the screenplay (and has gotten all the headlines), it’s writer/director Nia DaCosta whose vision excites me the most. Her debut Little Woods was powerful and felt lived-in, which will be crucial to making the scares more impactful in this sequel.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (September 3)
Starring Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Leung, Michelle Yeoh
Written by Dave Callaham and Destin Daniel Cretton and Andrew Lanham
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton
Labor Day has long been a slot for studios’ leftover garbage. But with this crazy year so far, and numerous shifted release dates, this seems guaranteed to be the biggest film to open on summer’s last weekend in decades. Once again, a director known for tiny, piercing dramas gets the chance to go big. Cretton’s film Short Term 12 was one of the best unsung films of the last decade. This is a full-on martial arts epic, but I’ve seen enough Marvel films to know how much of the director’s vision will get a chance to shine through. Should still be a lot of fun, though.