It’s a rite of summer: Every year about this time (or earlier), your favorite multiplex reserves dozens of its screens for movies that (how to phrase this delicately?) skew to a somewhat younger demographic. It can be a dark time for, shall we say, more mature moviegoers as beautifully acted dramas and witty comedies give way to flicks featuring actors in skin-tight costumes (hello, “Black Widow”) or driving vehicles with jet engines attached to the roof (and hello to you, “F9.”)
But for moviegoers with more refined tastes, all is not lost in the onslaught of summer movies. (And, truthfully, as we collectively emerge from our pandemic cocoons, I would not blame you if you decided to throw caution to the wind and indulge in a high-spectacle popcorn flick or two this summer. If you see me at “F9” or “Cruella,” nod and wave.)
If you know where to look, your favorite movie theater or streaming service will be featuring movies this summer that involve more thoughtful themes than what happens to the bodyguard of the hitman’s wife.
So here’s my annual look at movies due for release this summer that are suitable for adults. As always, I have just two rules: No sequels. No superhero movies. Typically, I mix a handful of documentary movies into the list, but there’s such a rich list of docs due this summer that I’m preparing a separate list that I’ll post soon on the website.
As always, some caveats: The release dates listed with each title could change. Some of these films might never make it to a mid-valley theater — or, for that matter, one of your streaming services. And, of course, since I haven’t seen any of these titles yet, some of them might turn out to be not that good. But it’s just as possible that some of these might be hidden gems — movies that will stay with you long after the summer of 2021 is over. Unless otherwise noted, these movies are scheduled to be released into theaters.
And speaking of theaters, if you go, be sure to follow the guidelines posted at the theater and follow the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here we go:
- “In the Heights” (June 11). Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first big musical hit comes to the screen in an adaptation helmed by Jon M. Chu, who directed “Crazy Rich Asians” but also knows something about filming dance numbers; he directed two of the “Step Up” movies. The screenplay is by playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes. (Also on HBO Max.)
- “Queen Bees” (June 11). Think “Mean Girls,” but set amidst a retirement community. I know, it sounds a little dubious, but check out the cast: James Caan, Ellen Burstyn, Ann-Margret, Christopher Lloyd, Jane Curtin, Loretta Devine and Elizabeth Mitchell.
- “Fatherhood” (June 18, Netflix). Kevin Hart stars in this drama about a widower adjusting to life as a single father. It’s based on a memoir by Matthew Logelin; Paul Weitz (“Mozart in the Jungle”) directs.
- “Zola” (June 30). This comedy-drama, based on a viral Twitter thread (really), is about a waitress and occasional stripper who goes on a wild road trip to Florida (but of course) with another stripper. A story about the Twitter thread by a reporter for Rolling Stone concluded that, although some of the tweets had been embellished, the basic story essentially was true.
- “The Tomorrow War” (July 2, Amazon Prime). The future of humanity hinges on whether soldiers can be recruited today for a war against alien invaders that takes place … 30 years in the future. Chris Pratt stars in this sci-fi action flick along with J.K. Simmons and Yvonne Strahovski. It could be fun; at worst, it could make you go back and watch “Edge of Tomorrow,” which you should do anyway.
- “No Sudden Move” (July 1, HBO Max). Do I want to watch a Steven Soderbergh-directed crime thriller set in 1950s Detroit with a cast that includes Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, Ray Liotta and Jon Hamm? Yes. Do I want to watch this badly enough to hang onto my HBO Max subscription? Yes — well, this and “Last Week Tonight” and “Hacks.”
- “Summertime” (July 9). This comedy-drama, about the lives of two dozen or so young residents of Los Angeles intersecting on a hot summer day, is structured like a musical — except that the characters don’t break out into song, they speak in poetry (written by the cast members). It could come across as pretentious, but I’m intrigued by this Sundance selection.
- “Old” (July 23). M. Night Shyamalan’s first flick since wrapping up his “Unbreakable” trilogy appears to be a horror flick about a family vacationing at a beach that’s magically causing them to age rapidly. Metaphorically, that sounds like a theme that will resonate with parents (the kids grow up so fast!), but my guess is that Shyamalan has a twist or two up his sleeve. Gael Garcia Bernal and Vicky Krieps (from “Phantom Thread”) star.
- “Stillwater” (July 30). Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”) directs this Matt Damon drama about an oil worker whose daughter (Abigail Breslin) is accused of murder while studying in France. Damon’s character moves to France to try to clear her name.
- “CODA” (Aug. 13). This drama, a favorite at this year’s Sundance festival, is about a child of deaf adults (a CODA) who longs for a singing career. Emilia Jones stars; the cast also includes Marlee Matlin. (Also on Apple TV+, which plunked down a record $25 million for the film at Sundance.)
- “Respect” (Aug. 13). Speaking of singing careers: Before her death, Aretha Franklin herself tapped Jennifer Hudson to play the lead in this biopic of the Queen of Soul. Mary K. Blige, Audra McDonald and Forest Whitaker also star.