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The summer movie season is here — with the good and the bad

by Philip Martin | May 12, 2023 at 1:32 a.m.
Old man and the sea: Harrison Ford returns as Indiana Jones in “Indiana Jones in the Dial of Destiny,” directed by James Mangold. Steven Spielberg has given the first Indian Jones he hasn’t personally directed his stamp of approval. “It’s really, really a good ‘Indiana Jones’ film. I’m really proud of what Jim has done with it,” Spielberg told a preview audience in New York. “I thought I was the only one who knew how to make one of these.

Summer's here and the time is right for ....

a) Racing in the street

b) Dancing in the street

c) Hot fun in the summertime

d) Rest, water and shade

e) Slumping mindlessly into a deluxe recliner at the local cinema-plex and letting the light and noise wash over you

f) All of the above

Those of you who've paid attention to this column over the years probably know summer is not my favorite movie season. It's too long -- this year it started with the release of "Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3" on May 3, and won't let up until the Toronto International Film Festival rolls around in September.

While some of the year's most anticipated movies are released during the summer -- when kids are out of school and standards of decorum are generally relaxed -- the movies I look forward to aren't usually released during the summer. As we have often observed about this time of year, there's a reason Pauline Kael used to take summers off.

That said, my sense is that there's less to the idea that specific seasons call for a certain kind of movie these days -- the proliferation of streaming services provides a venue for mid-major independent adult drama that are becoming more and more scarce around actual movie theaters.

It took a while, but I don't make any real distinction between movies I see in theaters and movies I watch on my home apparatus anymore. My preference is still theatrical -- I don't think I would have loved "The Power of the Dog" as much had I not watched it unfold on a big screen (and my anecdotal experience is that almost everyone who saw Jane Campion's film in a theater loved it, and everyone who found it boring and precious saw it on Netflix) -- but it's not the blinding white line it once was. Theaters are great, but the home experience is more than acceptable, especially if it's the only way to catch a particular film.

It's unseemly to complain; we are living in a golden age of television.

You can always find something good to watch -- I'm behind on "Succession" and "Barry" and "Perry Mason," just to mention the HBO series we're currently following. There's a Criterion Channel. And I've got at least six more seasons of the Irish soap opera "The Clinic" (the show that gave Chris O'Dowd his start) waiting on Acorn when I get around to it. And at least one more season of the silly (but charming) French police farce "Candice Renoir," which stars Cécile Bois, who has one of humankind's greatest smiles.

I don't need new content -- which may be pushing theatrically released movies further and further into over-the-top spectacle. If you're going to go out to a movie, maybe you need that movie to be something really special, and the surest and easiest way to ensure specialness is to invest in visual effects and experiential/visceral involvement. Summer movies have often been compared to amusement park rides -- by the looks of "The Flash" trailer, we're headed in that direction.

Which is fine. While more people play video games these days, movies still occupy a unique place in our culture, supplying us with common ideas and images. They are something most of us can talk about with each other. We know their tropes and their absurdities, we have broken their codes and learned their language. They teach us how to dress and dance and court affection. They are the reason some real-life cops now hold their sidearms sideways when they have occasion to pull them.

They may even be one of the reasons that sidearms are more prevalent than they might otherwise be in our society, but we'll save that discussion for a piece that's not an obligatory summer movie preview. Which is exactly what this one is.

So, for the umpteenth year in a row, let me remind you to keep all limbs inside the vehicle and that flash photography is dangerous to our performers. Absolutely no gambling is allowed, and management cannot be responsible for discrepancies in the brief plot descriptions herein (which were by and large cribbed from an Associated Press story) and the actual plots of any of these movies, which, once again, may or may not open on the dates we have assigned to them. Because, as the great William Goldman famously observed, about Hollywood, nobody knows anything.

Opening today

"Book Club: The Next Chapter" (in theaters): This sequel stars sees Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen traveling to Italy to celebrate an engagement.

"The Mother" (Netflix): See Courtney Lanning's review elsewhere in this section. Jennifer Lopez is a single mom who moonlights as an assassin in this actioner timed to Mother's Day.

"Love Again" (in theaters): Priyanka Chopra Jonas plays a woman mourning the death of her boyfriend who texts his old number, not knowing it belongs to someone new (Sam Heughan). Celine Dion (and her music) co-star in this romantic drama.

"Hypnotic" (in theaters): Ben Affleck plays a detective whose daughter disappears in this Robert Rodriguez movie.

'Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie" (AppleTV+): Davis Guggenheim helps Michael J. Fox tell his story, from his rise in Hollywood to his Parkinson's diagnosis and beyond.

"Monica" (in theaters): A transgender woman, estranged from her family, goes home to visit her dying mother in this film starring Trace Lysette and Patricia Clarkson.

Opening today (but not locally yet)

"The Starling Girl" (in theaters): Eliza Scanlen plays a 17-year-old living in a fundamentalist Christian community in Kentucky whose life changes with the arrival of Lewis Pullman's charismatic youth pastor.

"Fool's Paradise" (in theaters): Charlie Day writes, directs and plays dual roles in this comedic Hollywood satire.

"It Ain't Over" (in theaters): A splendid documentary (saw it at Tribeca last year) about the underrated Baseball Hall of Famer Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra. It may open here as early as next week.

"BlackBerry" (in theaters): Jay Baruchel and Glenn Howerton star in this movie about the rise of the BlackBerry.

May 19

"Fast X" (in theaters): In the 10th installment of the Fast franchise, Jason Momoa joins as the vengeful son of a slain drug lord intent on taking out Vin Diesel's Dom.

"White Men Can't Jump" (Hulu): Sinqua Walls and Jack Harlow co-star in a remake of the 1992 film.

"Master Gardener" (in theaters): Every Paul Schrader film is a major event. In this one, Joel Edgerton is a horticulturist and Sigourney Weaver is a wealthy dowager.

"Sanctuary" (in theaters): A dark comedy about a dominatrix (Margaret Qualley) and her wealthy client (Christopher Abbott).

May 26

"The Little Mermaid" (in theaters): Halle Bailey plays Ariel in this technically ambitious live-action remake directed by Rob Marshall and co-starring Melissa McCarthy as Ursula.

"You Hurt My Feelings" (in theaters): Nicole Holofcener takes a nuanced and funny look at a white lie that unsettles the marriage between a New York City writer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and a therapist (Tobias Menzies).

"About My Father" (in theaters): Stand-up comic Sebastian Maniscalco co-wrote this culture-clash movie in which he takes his Italian American father (Robert De Niro) on a vacation with his wife's WASPy family.

"Victim/Suspect" (Netflix): This documentary explores how law enforcement sometimes indicts victims of sexual assault instead of helping.

"The Machine" (in theaters): Stand-up comedian Bert Kreischer brings Mark Hamill into the fray for this action-comedy.

"Kandahar" (in theaters): Gerard Butler plays an undercover CIA operative in hostile territory in Afghanistan.

June 2

"Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" (in theaters): Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is back, but with things not going so well in Brooklyn, he opts to visit the multiverse with his pal Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), where he encounters the Spider-Society.

"The Boogeyman" (in theaters): "It's the thing that comes for your kids when you're not paying attention," David Dastmalchian explains to Chris Messina in this Stephen King adaptation.

"Past Lives" (in theaters): Already being hailed as one of the best of the year after its Sundance debut, Celine Song's directorial debut is a decades and continent-spanning romance about two friends separated in childhood who meet 20 years later in New York.

June 9

"Transformers: Rise of the Beasts" (in theaters): Steven Caple Jr. directs the seventh Transformers movie, starring Anthony Ramos and Dominique Fishback.

"Flamin' Hot" (in theaters): Eva Longoria directs this story about Richard Montañez, a janitor at Frito-Lay who came up with the idea for Flamin' Hot Cheetos.

"Blue Jean" (in theaters): It's 1988 in England, and hostilities are mounting towards the LGBT community in Georgia Oakley's BAFTA-nominated directorial debut about a gym teacher (Rosy McEwen) and the arrival of a new student.

"Daliland" (in theaters): Mary Harron directs Ben Kingsley as Salvador Dalí.

June 16

"The Flash " (in theaters): Past Batmans Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton assemble for this stand-alone Flash movie directed by Andy Muschietti and starring Ezra Miller as the titular superhero.

"Elemental" (in theaters): In Element City, residents include Air, Earth, Water and Fire in the new Pixar original, featuring the voices of Leah Lewis, Mamoudou Athie and Catherine O'Hara.

"Extraction 2" (Netflix): Chris Hemsworth's mercenary Tyler Rake is back for another dangerous mission.

"The Blackening" (in theaters): A scary movie satire that sends a group of Black friends including Grace Byers, Jermaine Fowler, Melvin Gregg and X Mayo to a cabin in the woods.

June 23

"Asteroid City" (in theaters): Wes Anderson assembles Tom Hanks, Scarlett Johansson, Jason Schwartzman and Jeffrey Wright for a stargazer convention in the mid-century American desert.

"No Hard Feelings" (in theaters): Jennifer Lawrence leads a raunchy comedy about a woman hired by a shy teen's parents to help him get out of his shell before Princeton.

June 30

"Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny" (in theaters): Harrison Ford puts his iconic fedora back on for a fifth outing as Indy in this new adventure directed by James Mangold and co-starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

"Every Body" (in theaters): Oscar-nominated documentarian Julie Cohen turns her lens on three intersex individuals in her latest film.

"Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken" (in theaters): An animated action-comedy about a shy teenager trying to survive high school as a part-Kraken.

"Harold and the Purple Crayon" (in theaters): Zachary Levi, Zooey Deschanel and Lil Rel Howery help bring this adaptation of the children's bedtime story to life.

July 7

"Insidious: The Red Door" (in theaters): Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne are back to scare everyone in the fifth edition.

"Joy Ride" (in theaters): Adele Lim directs this raucous comedy about a friends trip to China to find someone's birth mother, starring Ashley Park, Stephanie Hsu, Sherry Cola and Sabrina Wu.

"The Lesson" (in theaters): A young novelist helps an acclaimed author in this thriller with Richard E. Grant.

"Biosphere " (in theaters): Mark Duplass and Sterling K. Brown are the last two men on Earth.

July 12

"Mission: Impossible -- Dead Reckoning Part One" (in theaters): Tom Cruise? Death-defying stunts in Venice? The return of Kittridge? What more do you need?

July 14

"Theater Camp" (in theaters): Musical theater nerds (and comedy fans) will delight in this satire of a childhood institution, with Ben Platt, Noah Galvin and Molly Gordon.

July 21

"Oppenheimer" (in theaters): Christopher Nolan takes audiences into the mind of the "father of the atomic bomb" J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) as he and his peers build up to the trinity test at Los Alamos.

"Barbie" (in theaters): Margot Robbie plays the world's most famous doll (as do many others) opposite Ryan Gosling's Ken in Greta Gerwig's comedic look at their perfect world.

July 28

"Haunted Mansion" (in theaters): Another Disney ride comes to life in with the help of Rosario Dawson, Jared Leto, Tiffany Haddish, Owen Wilson, Jamie Lee Curtis and Danny DeVito.

"Talk to Me" (in theaters): A group of friends conjure spirits in this horror starring Sophie Wilde and Joe Bird.

"Happiness for Beginners" (Netflix): Ellie Kemper is a newly divorced woman looking to shake things up.

"Sympathy for the Devil" (in theaters): Joel Kinnaman is forced to drive a mysterious gunman (Nicolas Cage) in this thriller.

Aug. 4

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem" (in theaters): This animated movie puts the teenage back in the equation with a very funny voice cast including Seth Rogen and John Cena as Bebop and Rocksteady.

"Meg 2: The Trench" (in theaters): Jason Statham is back fighting sharks.

"A Compassionate Spy" (in theaters): Steve James' documentary about the youngest physicist on the Manhattan Project who fed information to the Soviets.

"Dreamin' Wild" (in theaters): Casey Affleck and Walton Goggins star in this film about musical duo Joe and Donnie Emerson.

Aug. 11

"Gran Turismo" (in theaters): A gamer gets a chance to drive a professional course in this video game adaptation starring David Harbour and Orlando Bloom.

"The Last Voyage of the Demeter" (in theaters): This supernatural horror film draws from a chapter of "Dracula."

"Heart of Stone" (Netflix): Gal Gadot plays an intelligence operative in this action thriller, with Jamie Dornan.

Aug. 18

"Blue Beetle" (in theaters): Xolo Maridueña plays the DC superhero Jaime Reyes / Blue Beetle in this origin story.

"Strays" (in theaters): Will Ferrell and Jamie Foxx voice dogs in this not-animated R-rated comedy.

"Birth/Rebirth" (in theaters): A woman and a morgue technician bring a little girl back to life in this horror thriller.

"White Bird" (in theaters): Helen Mirren tells her grandson, expelled from school for bullying, a story about herself in Nazi-occupied France.

"Landscape with Invisible Hand" (in theaters): Teens come up with a unique moneymaking scheme in a world taken over by aliens.

"The Hill" (in theaters): Baseball drama (starring Dennis Quaid) based on the true story of Rickey Hill.

Aug. 25

"They Listen" (in theaters): John Cho and Katherine Waterston lead this secretive Blumhouse horror.

"Golda" (in theaters): Helen Mirren stars in this drama about Golda Meir, the prime minister of Israel during the Yom Kippur War.

"Bottoms" (in theaters): Two unpopular teenage girls (Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri) start a fight club to impress the cheerleaders they want to lose their virginity to in this parody of the teen sex comedy.

Sept. 1

"The Equalizer 3" (in theaters): Denzel Washington is back as Robert McCall, who is supposed to be retired from the assassin business, but things get complicated in southern Italy.


  photo  This image released by Sony Pictures shows Patrick Wilson in Screen Gems' "Insidious: The Red Door." (Sony Pictures via AP)
  photo  This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Hayley Atwell, left, and Tom Cruise in "Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning - Part One." (Christian Black/Paramount Pictures and Skydance via AP)
  photo  This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Simon Pegg, from left, Ving Rhames, Tom Cruise and Rebecca Ferguson in "Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning - Part One." (Christian Black/Paramount Pictures and Skydance via AP)

  photo  This image released by Sony Pictures shows Jennifer Lawrence, left, and Andrew Barth Feldman in a scene from "No Hard Feelings." (Macall Polay/Sony Pictures via AP)
  photo  This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Xolo Maridueña in a scene from "Blue Beetle." (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)
  photo  This image released by Searchlight Pictures shows Ben Platt, left, and Molly Gordon in a scene from "Theater Camp."(Searchlight Pictures.via AP)
  photo  This image released by Focus Features shows Jake Ryan, from left, Grace Edwards, Ethan Lee, Aristou Meehan, and Sophia Lillis in writer/director Wes Anderson's "Asteroid City." (Pop. 87 Productions/Focus Features via AP)

  photo  Academically gifted but socially awkward Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman) somehow ends up dating financially strapped Uber driver Maddie (Jennifer Lawrence) in the coming of age sex comedy “No Hard Feelings.”

  photo  Release the hormones: Ruby Gillman (voiced by Lana Condor) is a 16-year-old sea monster struggling to fit it at Oceanside High when she finds out about her legacy via The Warrior Queen of the Seven Seas (voiced by Jane Fonda) in DreamWorks Animation’s “Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken.”

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