[Baltimore Sun] Summer movies 2024: No ‘Barbenheimer,’ but plenty of buzz

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Recent speculation in the wake of “The Fall Guy’s” less-than-explosive opening might portend a cruel, cruel summer ahead at the box office, but let’s not jump the gun here.

Fact is, no one really knows how it will all go down during this summer’s so-called popcorn season, even if there are ample hints that 2024 won’t be nearly as scorching-hot as 2023 (changing movie habits and the residue of two strikes factor into the equation). At the very least, we know there won’t be another “Barbenhemier” — when two of 2023’s most anticipated films opened on the same weekend.

Nonetheless, there are golden nuggets aplenty in the 2024 summer film lineup, running May 23 to the end of August, even with some films that don’t have release dates yet (including Greg Kwedar’s buzzy “Sing Sing,” starring Colman Domingo, about a prison theater production; and “Kneecap,” the raucous Sundance hit about rebellious Belfast musicians). Here are some of the upcoming highlights. Note that release dates are subject to change.

“Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga”: George Miller tosses squabblers Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy and puts “The Menu’s” Anya Taylor-Joy into the driver’s seat for this action juggernaut. Now hold off on getting all “mad” about that — this is, after all, a prequel; the change makes sense. Chris Hemsworth (unrecognizable) plays the heavy, but the best news is there’s a 15-minute action sequence. Can’t wait for that. Opening: In theaters May 24.

“The Garfield Movie”: The high-maintenance feline created by cartoonist Jim Davis stars in this animated comedy in which our pudgy feline hero is reunited with his long-lost father (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) for an outdoor adventure. Chris Pratt voices that darn cat. Opening: In theaters May 24.

“Hit Man”: Glenn Powell’s g-force career rockets to an even higher gear with this dark Netflix comedy/romcom based on the incredible true story of an undercover police officer posing as a hitman who gets wrapped up in saving an enigmatic woman (Adria Arjona). Richard Linklater directed “Hit Man” and co-wrote it with Powell. Opening: In theaters May 24; available for streaming June 7.

“Sight”: In this inspirational truth-based drama from Angel Studios, a Chinese American eye surgeon (Terry Chen) revisits painful memories from his past while helping an orphan regain her eyesight after a horrific act by a stepmother. Greg Kinnear costars. Opening: In theaters May 24.

“Summer Camp”: Former chums (Diane Keaton, Kathy Bates, Alfre Woodard) reunite decades after having met at — you guessed it, summer camp! They proceed to get involved in PG-13 shenanigans. We hope it doesn’t crib a page or two from the lackluster “Book Club: The Next Chapter” handbook. Opening: In theaters May 31.

“Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle”: Tennis and swimming are scorching-hot sports on screens right now, so why not shower cinematic love on volleyball? This Japanese anime work positions two high school rivals as they square off in  “the ultimate showdown” between two underdog teams. Opening: In theaters May 31.

“Young Woman and the Sea”: Will Disney’s biopic swim in the same well-regarded lane as “Nyad”? It appears so; studio execs are so keen on it, they’re sending it to theaters before it streams on Disney+. Daisy Ridley (“Star Wars”) stars as Trudy Ederle, who navigates nasty jellyfish and sexist naysayers to become the first woman to swim across the 21-mile English Channel. Opening: In select theaters May 31; on Disney+ July 19.

“In a Violent Nature”: Cross the naturalistic ebb and flow of a Terrence Malick epic with a slasher flick and some say that’s what you get with Chris Nash’s ultra (and we mean ultra) gory horror debut. Sort of. Told mostly from the killer’s POV, “Nature” balances shots of tranquil nature with closeups of extreme carnage wrought by a hooded backwoods legend. Opening: In theaters May 31.

“Bad Boys: Ride or Die”: Will Smith and Martin Lawrence dodge bullets and deliver wisecracks as Miami cops Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett. In this third sequel, the guys seek to honor their former captain, now dead, by debunking implications he was involved in a drug case. We’re rooting for the directing duo of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah — aka Adil & Bilall — who helmed the well-received “Bad Boys for Life” in 2020 after Warner Bros. shelved their “Batgirl.” Opening: In theaters June 7.

“The Watchers”: Ishana Night Shyamalan’s feature debut follows in her father’s fear-inducing footsteps with an Ireland-set chiller starring Dakota Fanning as an unlucky motorist getting sidetracked in some creepy woods where critters lord over an assortment of freaked-out folks. The trailer harbors “A Quiet Place”-like vibe. Opening: In theaters June 7.

“Inside Out 2”: Emeryville-based Pixar unveils yet new emotions with a sequel to its 2015 megahit about a girl named Riley. Now a year older, the 13-year-old’s hit puberty, a change that ushers in four new emotions: anxiety, envy, ennui, embarrassment. Looks like director Kelsey Mann is taking Riley’s story into more exciting, complex directions this time. Opening: In theaters June 14.

“The Grab”: In this timely documentary, director Gabriela Cowperthwaite tracks a dogged investigative journalism team at Emeryville’s Center for Investigative Journalism, led by Nathan Halverson, as they uncover a shocking global power grab in which countries scramble to suck up precious land and vital resources. Opening:  In theaters June 14.

“The Bikeriders”: Indie auteur Jeff Nichols’s character-driven portrait of a macho ‘60s band of Chicago-area motorcycle riders (Tom Hardy, Austin Butler) and an observant narrator (Jodie Comer) who hangs out with them hit a road bump on the way to theaters. Who cares? “Bikeriders” remains one sleek ride that serves a tempting slice of Americana anchored around three terrific performances. Opening: In theaters June 21.

“Thelma”: A spirited senior citizen (June Squibb) channels her inner Ethan Hunt to get back at the dirty rotten scoundrel who scammed her. Screenwriter/director Josh Margolin’s bright-eyed comedy could make even the most sour person smile, particularly with its melt-your-heart exchanges between Thelma and her grandson (Fred Hechinger). Opening: In theaters June 21.

“Kinds of Kindness”: Outside-of-the-box filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos (“Poor Things”) serves up another cinematic curiosity, threading together three stories,  with Oscar winner Emma Stone heading a cast that includes Jesse Plemons, Willem Dafoe, Hong Chau and Mamoudou Athie, among others. Its trailer keeps things very cryptic, but it’s hard to pin down anything from Lanthimos in a couple of minutes. Opening: In theaters June 21.

“Horizon: An American Saga: Chapter 1”: Kevin Costner’s not exactly hanging up his spurs and cowboy hat after riding off the “Yellowstone” sunset. The Oscar-winning “Dances With Wolves” star wrote, directed and stars in this multi-part Civil War-era story (Chapter 2 arrives Aug. 26). Opening: In theaters June 28.

“Ghostlight”: A construction worker (Keith Kupferer) discovers a much-needed outlet for his unresolved feelings of grief and loss while performing in a local stage production of “Romeo and Juliet.” The drama is directed by Alex Thompson and Kelly O’Sullivan. Opening: June 14 in limited release, then expands.

“Janet Planet”: Tired of prequels, sequels, and rampant explosions? This deliberately paced A24 character drama is the very antithesis of all that. It’s about 11-year-old Lacy (Zoe Ziegler) who spends an eventful summer of 1991 in an unconventional home with her mom (Julianne Nicholson), while learning about her own place in the world. It’s the feature debut from Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Baker, who wrote and directed. Opening: In select theaters June 21, expands June 28.

“A Quiet Place: Day One”: John Krasinski doesn’t direct (he does earn a credit as a screenwriter) and Emily Blunt doesn’t star in this origin tale about the invasion of those hearing-sensitive critters. Lupita Nyong’o and Djimon Hounsou star, with Michael Sarnoski, who gave us the quirky and quite good “Pig,” directing. Opening: In theaters June 28.

“A Family Affair”: Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron reunite (they did steam up screens in 2012’s “The Paperboy”) for Richard LaGravenese’s romantic dramedy co-starring Joey King and Kathy Bates. King plays a daughter who stumbles in on Efron – her movie star boss – while he’s getting up close and personal with her mom (Kidman). (Opening: Streaming on Netflix June 28.

“Despicable Me 4”: Gru (voice of Steve Carell) and fam hide out in a safe house after vengeance-seeking villain Max Superball (voice of Will Ferrell) escapes from prison. This has Minions, too, of course, so it’ll set off box office fireworks over the 4th of July holiday. Opening: In theaters July 3.

“Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F”: Fast-talking former Detroit cop Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) is back on the beat and reunites with Billy (Judge Reinhold) and John (John Aston) while working with a new partner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Taylour Paige co-stars as Axel’s daughter. Opening: Available on Netflix July 3.

“Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot”: In this inspirational drama, based on actual events, an East Texas church community rallies to adopt 77 children in dire need of attention and care. Hearts will indeed get warmed. Opening: In theaters July 4.

“MaXXXine”: Ti West’s third in his X saga continues his bloody fantastic salute to old-school slashers. Here, porn star/wannabe actress Maxine (the unforgettable Mia Goth) hustles for a job in 1980s Hollywood and crosses paths with a serial killer dubbed the Night Stalker. Opening: In theaters July 5.

“Fly Me to the Moon”: Director Greg Berlanti’s romantic dramedy is a tricky proposition, and is set around the Apollo 11 lunar landing. Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum and Woody Harrelson play characters caught up in shooting a fake production of the moon landing — just in case. Opening: In theaters July 12.

“Touch”: Baltasar Kormákur’s drama about a widower Kristofer (Egill Ólafsson) looking to find his former love Miko (Yôko Narahashi) looks to become the season’s guaranteed blubber fest, with Palmi Kormákur playing the younger version of Kristofer to Koki’s younger Miko. Opening: In theaters July 12.

“Longlegs”: Actor Maika Monroe hits a “Silence of the Lambs” groove as a 1974 FBI agent who uncovers a personal link during her investigation of a series of killings with occult ties. Nicolas Cage co-stars. Even the trailer for Oz Perkins’ horror feature curdles the blood. Opening: In theaters July 12.

“Twisters”: A cocky tornado wrangler and viral sensation (Glen Powell) catches wind of a less laidback storm tracker (Daisy Edgar Jones) and her novel tech contraption as winds in Oklahoma ratchet up. Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”) tackles a disaster feature that’s a loose antecedent to the 1996 box office hit. Opening: In theaters July 19.

“Didi”: This guaranteed crowd pleaser — shot and set in Fremont — marks the winning feature debut of Oscar nominated Fremont native Sean Wang. The talented filmmaker tells a funny but piercing coming-of-age story about 13-year-old skateboarder Chris Wang (Izaac Wang, in a breakthrough performance) and his brushes with crushes, his feuds — in particular with an exasperated mom (Joan Chen) — and his exploits with his friends. Opening: In theaters July 26.

“Deadpool & Wolverine”: If there’s a matchup that could pull the Marvel Cinematic Universe out of its deep funk, it would be this one, which teams potty-mouthed Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), with ultimate brooder James “Logan” Howlett, aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). What’s it about? No one’s saying much, but it looks like Deadpool enlists the aid of Wolverine as they tangle with the villainous Cassandra Nova (Emma Corrin). Expect this unabashedly R-rated superhero action/comedy fest to juice up the box office. Opening: In theaters July 26.

“Harold and the Purple Crayon”: Author Crockett Johnson’s 1955 children’s classic about a crayon with magical, universe-creating properties and the 4-year-old boy who wields it, gets the studio treatment with Harold now a man ( Zachary Levi) entering the real world. Opening: In theaters Aug. 2.

“It Ends With Us”: One of novelist Colleen Hoover’s most popular, if controversial, bestsellers tells the complicated romantic story of the wary, conflicted Lily (Blake Lively) and her volatile relationship with neurosurgeon Ryle (Justin Baldoni, who directs) and her first dear heart, Atlas (Brandon Sklenar). No one’s gonna shrug over this one. Opening: In theaters Aug. 9.

“Trap”: In M. Night Shyamalan’s latest high-concept thriller, dad Cooper (Josh Hartnett) delights his teen daughter (Ariel Donoghue) by taking her to a concert where the feds have secretly concocted a bizarre plan to ferret out The Butcher, a serial killer. Is there a twist? Of course there is. Opening: In theaters Aug. 9.

“Flint Strong”: Oscar-winning filmmaker Barry Jenkins wrote the screenplay and serves as a producer for Rachel Morrison’s anticipated feature debut. It tells the true, inspiring story of boxer Claressa Shields as she prepares for the 2012 Olympics. Ryan Destiny stars. Opening: In theaters Aug. 9.

“The Instigators”: Matt Damon and Casey Affleck play a pair of neurotic failed robbers who take a therapist (Hong Chau of “The Whale”) along on their getaway ride. Opening: Aug. 9 on Apple TV+.

“Borderlands”: “Thanksgiving’s” Eli Roth co-wrote and directs a videogame adaptation that promises to be next level since it stars Cate Blanchett as a bounty hunter hired to collect a missing daughter, an assignment that leads to her joining forces with a band of bumblers (Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ariana Greenblatt and Florian Munteanu). They discover more than what they bargained for. Opening: In theaters Aug. 9.

“Oddity”: Damian McCarthy follows up his accomplished horror debut “Caveat” with an already praised sophomore effort about a psychic twin sister paying a “special visit” to her slain sister’s former husband and his new girlfriend. Opening: In theaters Aug. 14.

“Alien: Romulus”: Will the scaly, slithery outer space human eater pop out from more chests?  Or will it just lay a big egg? We’ll just have to see what director/co-screenwriter Fede Alvarez (“Don’t Breathe”) envisions for this installment in the iconic but well-worn “Aliens” franchise. “Civil War’s” Caliee Spaeny stars as the potential space chum in a chapter that parallel parks between 1979 “Alien” and 1986 “Aliens.” Opening: In theaters Aug. 16.

“The Union”: A New Jersey construction worker (Mark Wahlberg) meets up with his high school sweetheart (Halle Berry) who just so happens to be a spy who wants him to join in some spy games in Europe. Mayhem and mirth ensues. Opening: Available on Netflix Aug. 16.

“The Crow”: Claiming to be a modern re-imagining of a classic graphic novel, this reboot recruits the versatile Bill Skarsgard to portray the murdered, resurrected, and now vengeance-seeking Eric Draven, a role the late Brandon Lee — who died making the film — turned iconic in 1994. Opening: In theaters Aug. 23.

“Blink Twice”: Zoe Kravitz directs beau Channing Tatum in a thriller she co-wrote about the diabolical goings-on at a tropical island owned by slick, filthy-rich tech giant Slater King (Tatum). A cocktail waitress (Naomi Ackie) accepts an invite to party there and it’s one trip she might just regret. Opening: In theaters Aug. 23.

Contact Randy Myers at [email protected].

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