Summer Cinema Extravaganza

A personal summer-movie hit list.

Summer is looming. There’s ice cream, Flying Squirrels games, James River idylls, fireworks, and a culturally implanted aura of nostalgia. There’s also a humidity of 107 percent that will linger for the better part of six months, and, come to think of it, I eat ice cream all year around anyway and start thinking of autumn in January.

There are also summer movies. I’m old enough to remember when these super-productions more or less only showed up during summer. Big spectacles, usually recycled from prior editions, seem to be with us continually now. We’ve had at least three already this season, ranging from the okay (“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes”) to the fun (“The Fall Guy”) to the visionary yet tiresome (“Furiosa”). But no matter how tedious many of them will be, summer movies are, for some of us at least, an institution.

Like holidays rituals, summer movies are Something to Be Done as an exhibit in the continuity of life. Or maybe they’re time killers. Choose your rationalization. And there are always good movies being made, even on the grandest of scales. We must remain open to currents. My most anticipated movies of the summer include a few huge wannabe blockbusters replete, I’m sure, with toys and fast-food tie-ins. My list also includes more intimate items that will hopefully spice up the season.

This is my list, of course, subject to my interests and not comprehensive in nature. “Deadpool & Wolverine,” which will probably dominate theatrical attendance this summer, is of little appeal to this person who finds Ryan Reynolds’ smug, pretend-rebellious shtick unbearable. Ditto Pixar’s annual sequel: I don’t care. Below is what I presume will light my fire, subject to shifting release dates and surprises, and hopefully these choices will give a leg-up on your own summer in the dark.

“Hit Man” (Richard Linklater)

I’ve seen this one and it’s delightful, following Glen Powell’s nerd as he role-plays being a sexy hit man for the police and tumbles into mistaken-identity shenanigans. Powell is every inch the star that the hype machine wants him to be, and Linklater finds a way to bend the rom-com template to fit his discursive sensibility. (On Netflix June 7)


“The Bikeriders” (Jeff Nichols)

A 1960s-era, Midwestern biker movie with Austin Butler and Tom Hardy, and directed by Jeff Nichols, who has a feel for rural settings that’s unusual for modern American filmmakers. Nichols has been M.I.A. since 2017’s “Midnight Special” and “Loving.” (June 21)


“Horizon: An American Saga—Chapter One” (Kevin Costner)

Kevin Costner westerns sound better in theory than they are in reality, but it tickles my nostalgic bone to see that a long, stolid-looking American saga can still exist in 2024. Costner seems to be aiming for “Lonesome Dove.” Can he even land at “Silverado?” I intend to find out. “Chapter 2” is slated for August. (June 28)


“Last Summer” (Catherine Breillat)

Provocative French filmmaker Catherine Breillat is back after a 10-year hiatus, and once again probing taboos in this story of a successful middle-aged attorney (Léa Drucker) who has an affair with her 17-year-old stepson (Samuel Kircher). I’ve seen this one already as well, and what Breillat has fashioned is a dangerously erotic movie that is aware of its social implications, from sex and gender politics to porno-fed fantasies and the actual realities of sexual life. (June 28)


“MaXXXine” (Ti West)

The third film of Ti West’s “X” trilogy finds Maxine in Los Angeles in the 1980s, pursuing an acting career while a killer runs amok. The trailer is terrific, the cast is eclectically hip, and West is riding high after “X” and “Pearl.” Perhaps this will be the gnarly little palette cleanser that the summer movie season usually needs. (July 5)


“Longlegs” (Oz Perkins)

Oz Perkins, son of Anthony, is a filmmaker to watch. “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” and “I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House” are unusually creepy and atmospheric, less interested in plot than gothic vibe. “Longlegs” sounds like Perkins is jumping into the serial killer genre, with Maika Monroe (“It Follows”) and Nicolas Cage in tow. (July 12)


“Skywalkers: A Love Story” (Jeff Zimbalist and Maria Bukhonina) and “Twisters” (Lee Isaac Chung)

“Skywalkers,” which I’ve seen, is a documentary that follows two self-styled media adventurers as they set to climb one of the most forbidding skyscrapers in the world, which becomes a referendum on their troubled love story. The filmmakers have no distance from their subjects, but the footage is terrifying and the love story is surprisingly poignant. This same weekend offers “Twisters,” a sequel to the 1990s-era Jan De Bont movie that I barely remember. But this one has Glen Powell as some sort of tornado cowboy and an admirably ludicrous trailer. (Both release July 19)

“Trap” (M. Night Shyamalan)

Shyamalan is a highly variable lunatic who’s coming off one of his worst movies (“Knock at the Cabin”) and yet I can’t quit him. In a conformist world, he is unshakably true to himself, and his films have a weird power and stylistic bravura to burn. “Trap” has what sounds like Shyamalan’s best premise in years, and a trailer that seems to casually give away what, in theory, sounds like a blue-medal “Shyamalan twist.” Does that mean he’s got something crazier in the chamber? Maybe, maybe not. (Aug. 9)


“Between the Temples” (Nathan Silver)

I’ve seen this one too, and it’s a breakout for independent filmmaker Nathan Silver as well as a comeback for Carol Kane. Jason Schwartzman is a troubled cantor, grieving the death of his wife, who begins tutoring his old music teacher (Kane) for her much-delayed bat mitzvah. What ensues is a moving and lived-in culture clash comedy that suggests “Harold and Maude” as written by Philip Roth. (Aug. 23)


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