This year, summer started in April.
Oh, your calendar says June 21, but summer at the movies starts well before that.
That’s the power of Disney.
To capitalize on the huge success of this year’s “Black Panther,” Disney-owned Marvel Studios moved up its surefire summer blockbuster “Avengers: Infinity War” from May 4 to April 27. And, sure, the summer movie season usually starts that first weekend in May, so we’re only talking about one week. On the other hand, at the time of this writing here in Northeast Ohio, the weather suggests summer is a loooong way away.
Nevertheless, it’s time for the thrills, spills, booms and brawls of the summer movie season.
Now, we know many of you cannot get to more than a movie per week, if that, so we’ve mapped out the biggest or most interesting movie slated to open each week into early August. That meant ignoring several flicks, so apologies to the ridiculous-but fun-looking “Tag” (June 15)” and to former Cleveland Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving, who brings his aged-but-deadly basketball character to the big screen in “Uncle Drew” (June 29). And we’re even more sorry we had to skip “Sorry to Bother You” (July 6), a film getting good early buzz that has Lakeith Stanfield — who has made the most of supporting roles in last year’s “Get Out” and the great FX series “Atlanta — as a telemarketer who starts to excel at his job after taking on a white accent.
So try to squeeze in those and others we’ve left out if you can, but here’s our plan for your calendar.
Now playing: ‘Avengers: Infinity War’
So who’s gonna die?
Sorry to be so blunt, so negative, but that is a question on a lot of fans’ minds as this biggest-yet entry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe hits theaters with the force of a Wakandan superweapon. Speculation runs rampant this could be the last ride for a key hero such as Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man or Chris Evans’ Captain America, both of whom have been around since the early days of the MCU.
And this movie — directed by brothers and Cleveland natives Joe and Anthony Russo — certainly has heroes to spare. Team-ups quickly are becoming old hat, but this one brings together an impressive roster that also includes Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange, Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord — and the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy — and, last but not least, Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther.
Even late last year, would you have guessed Black Panther would be one of this movie’s biggest draws? That’s what having a megahit — as “Black Panther” was early this year — will do for you.
All this superhero firepower is needed to combat the powerful Thanos (Josh Brolin), who looks to cause serious problems for Earth and the universe by uniting all the Infinity Stones.
The smart money says “infinity War” ends on a cliffhanger. The film was shot back to back with its sequel, set for release in May 2019.
May 4: ‘Tully’
The first time actress Charlize Theron, director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody collaborated, the result was the resonating, rough-around-the-edges dramedy “Young Adult” in 2011. (Reitman and Cody had previously worked together on acclaimed 2007 film “Juno,” of course.) All three are back for the terrific-looking “Tully,” which focuses on the relationship between a burned-out mother and her night nanny (Mackenzie Davis of AMC’s “Halt and Catch Fire”).
Given the track record of these folks and based on the excellent trailer, it’s hard to see how this one doesn’t prove to be something memorable.
May 11: ‘Life of the Party’
She’s talented, but sometimes Melissa McCarthy crashes and burns. (Cough, “Tammy,” cough.) And while it’s a red flag that this comedy, about a woman who starts living it up at the college her daughter (Molly Gordon of the “Animal Kingdom” TV series) attends, is, like that 2014 dud, directed by McCarthy’s husband, Ben Falcone, it looks pretty funny.
May 18: ‘Deadpool 2’
Not long after he tries to turn the Avengers into space dust as Thanos, Josh Brolin portrays Cable, the new thorn in the side of Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds). While, like the men and women of The Avengers, Deadpool is based on a Marvel Comics character, this film — like its smash-hit 2016 predecessor — is a 20th Century Fox property and not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And aside from it being action-packed and centering on a costumed protagonist, “Deadpool” felt little like an MCU flick.
Expect more of the same from “Deadpool 2” in terms of crude, crass and reasonably clever humor. However, with David Leitch (“John Wick,” “Atomic Blonde”), replacing Tim Miller in the director’s chair, we reasonably can expect the quality of the action sequences to be raised a bit.
As if the story really matters, this time we’ll see Mr. Pool trying to protect a boy from the heavily armed, time-traveling Cable, who packs a glowing left eye.
May 25: ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’
Few seem to be optimistic Disney-owned Lucasfilm’s latest “Star Wars” stand-alone film — another prequel of sorts — will be terrific. That’s understandable considering the highly publicized change of directors that landed Ron Howard with the project and a teaser trailer released earlier this year that underwhelmed.
However, the recently released full trailer looks promising, and “Star Wars” nation has had time to get used to seeing Alden Ehrenreich as the young captain of the Millennium Falcon, which looks brand-spanking-new in the advanced footage. (Seriously, how would you like to play a character Harrison Ford made famous?)
We love the casting of “Atlanta” star Donald Glover as the young Lando Calrissian, and we’re eager to see what some other supporting players, including Woody Harrelson and “Game of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke, bring to a galaxy far, far away.
Heck, seeing how Han hooked up with beloved wookie copilot Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) should be worth the ticket price alone.
Han and Chewie fly again!
June 1: ‘Adrift’
Two people at sea, portrayed by Shailene Woodley (the “Divergent” films, “Big Little Lies”) and Sam Claflin (“The Hunger Games” movies, “Journey’s End”), enjoy a magical romance — until an epic storm enters the picture and they must fight for survival. Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur (“Everest”) is at the helm.
June 8: ‘Ocean’s 8’
Sandra Bullock. Cate Blanchett. Anne Hathaway. Sarah Paulson. Rihanna. Do we have your attention?
That’s not even all of the talented women playing the titular group at the heart of this spinoff of the Steven Soderbergh-directed “Ocean’s” heist movie that boasted George Clooney, Brad Pitt and other talented chaps. As Debbie Ocean, estranged sister of Danny, Bullock is the leader of the gang, which also includes characters portrayed by Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina and Helena Bonham Carter. They, of course, will try to pull off a huge heist. And, yes, there are men involved, including director Gary Ross (“Dave,” “Seabiscuit”) and actors Richard Armitage and James Corden.
Matt Damon and Carl Reiner are said to be doing cameos as their characters from the “Ocean’s” trilogy. By George, are we really not going to get a pop-in by Mr. Clooney?)
June 15: ‘Incredibles 2’
We’ve had to wait almost a decade and a half for a sequel to Disney-owned Pixar Animation Studios’ wonderful superhero adventure “The Incredibles,” based on a family of supers. Based on the most recent trailer, family dynamics will be a big driver of this one, as Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter) gets an exciting new job, leaving hubby Mr. Incredible to stay home with youngest child Jack-Jack. With the small child’s abilities, Mr. Incredible looks to have his hands plenty full.
The highly creative Brad Bird returns as writer-director, guiding our heroes — who also include children Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Huck Milner) and family friend Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) — in an adventure that will see them face off with villain The Underminer (John Ratzenberger).
Superhero films weren’t nearly as prevalent when “The Incredibles” hit the big screen, but the guess here is this sequel will feel relatively fresh nonetheless.
June 22: ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’
It was a dinosaur-sized hit, but we were a little underwhelmed by 2015’s “Jurassic World,” with its paint-by-numbers formula for cooking up a blockbuster.
Two reasons for optimism this sequel will take a big, lumbering step forward: Former “Jurassic” regular Jeff Goldblum reprises the role of chaos theory expert Dr. Ian Malcolm, although he has said his part is small; and J. A. Bayona takes the directing reins from Colin Trevorrow (who remains as a co-writer). We’re a big fan of Bayona efforts “The Impossible” (2012) and “A Monster Calls” (2016) and hope he can bring something interesting to the “Jurassic” world.
The story has returning character Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) working to save the dinosaurs who were left on the island after the events of the first movie, and she recruits her old pal Grady (Chris Pratt) to help.
A third “World” already is on the books for June 2021.
June 29: ‘Sicario, Day of the Soldado’
You’d have to guess this sequel won’t match the quality of the gripping 2015 drama “Sicario,” about an FBI agent trying to take on a Mexican drug cartel while navigating the situation made murkier by her collaborators. After all, the fantastic Emily Blunt, who portrayed said FBI agent, isn’t back for the follow-up, and neither is brilliant director Denis Villeneuve.
However, Blunt’s costars, Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro, as shadowy government agent Matt Graver and undercover operative (and assassin) Alejandro Gillick, respectively, are back for a tale involving cartels transporting terrorists across the U.S. border.
Directing this time is Italian filmmaker Stefano Sollima (“Suburra”), while Cleveland native Isabela Moner portrays the daughter of a drug lord who becomes key in the efforts of Matt and Alejandro.
July 4: ‘The First Purge’
The Wednesday Fourth of July holiday gives us an excuse to sneak in a bonus movie this week in the form of the latest entry in this guilty-pleasure series in which one night of the year almost any crime is legal, murder included, in the interest of keeping crime rates down the rest of the year. (It really makes sense as long as you don’t think about it.)
While the fourth movie, “The First Purge” is a prequel to the first, 2013’s “The Purge.” It also is the first entry not directed by James DeMonaco, who is nonetheless around as the screenwriter.
And, as always, blessed be our New Founding Fathers for letting us Purge and cleanse our souls.
July 6: ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’
We would have said Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man obviously survives the events of “Avengers: Infinity War” based on the existence of this movie — the sequel 2015’s fun “Ant-Man” — but the official synopsis from Marvel informs us that it is set after the events of 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War.”
Evangeline Lilly’s Wasp, introduced in the earlier movie, shares the billing this time around as the shrinkable insect-inspired heroine. It’s unclear who plays the villain, but one guess is Michael Pena, who returns as Louis, a former associate of Scott Lang (Rudd). Also returning are Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, father of Lilly’s Hope van Dyne, and director Peyton Reed.
July 13: ‘Skyscraper’
This looks very much like “Die Hard” meets … any number of movies starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Um, where do we sign up?
Johnson, busy fighting giant, genetically altered animal monster right now in “Rampage,” plays a former FBI agent who must stop terrorists who take over a huge, modern skyscraper in Hong Kong. And if you’ve seen the money shot from the trailer that debuted around the time of the Super Bowl, you know Johnson’s character has an artificial leg, which proves the opportunity for the trailer’s money shot and what undoubtedly will be a fun scene in the movie. (Hang on, man!)
We will say Rawson Marshall Thurber, whose filmography — comedies “DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story,” “We’re the Millers” and 2016’s “Central Intelligence,” which co-starred Johnson — is solid but doesn’t exactly suggest a top choice for an action flick. Well, we’ll probably have a few laughs, at least.
Where do we sign up?
July 20: ‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!’
With any luck, you can count us out for this sequel to the 2008 musical film powered by the music of Abba. (We never saw it but had seen the stage production, which was enough “Mamma Mia” for a lifetime.) Yet, the movie and “Dancing Queen” group have their fans, who no doubt will be glad to hear Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried return for round two.
Here’s the official synopsis: “Sophie (Seyfried) finds out more about her mother’s (Streep) past while seeking guidance on how to handle her pregnancy.”
Well, enjoy that.
July 27: ‘Mission: Impossible — Fallout’
If the previous films in this mostly enjoyable spy series — which, somehow, stretches back 22 years — have taught us anything, it’s that things will go badly for the Impossible Mission Force team led by Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, which thus will be disavowed by the IMF and forced to go rogue in the name of saving the day.
Eh, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Frequent Cruise collaborator Christopher McQuarrie, who directed and co-wrote 2015’s very well-received “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” is back for this one, as are past series players Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Michelle Monaghan and Alec Baldwin.
Aug. 3: ‘Disney’s Christopher Robin’
This next release from Disney has a grown version of Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor), the boy from the Winnie the Pooh stories, having lost his imagination. Luckily, he’ll run into his old friend Pooh, a digital creation voiced by Jim Cummings. Marc Forster (“Finding Neverland”) directs.
Aug. 10: ‘The Meg’
One viewing of the not-taking-itself-too-seriously trailer for “The Meg” suggests this blend of action, horror and sci-fi will be right at home in theaters in late summer. The film has action star Jason Statham (“The Fate of the Furious”) taking on a huge prehistoric shark called a Megalodon. Turn off your brain for this one and just go for a swim.
‘Book Club’ bonus
Look, “Deadpool 2” is not going to be for all tastes, so we wanted to give you a nice counter-programming option, if you will. (OK, the truth is we wrote up two movies being released on May 18 and didn’t realize it until later.)
That said, “Book Club” appears to be worthy of some attention. It seems improbable that this movie won’t appeal to its target demographic.
The romp has four older women choosing “Fifty Shades of Grade” as the next work they’ll read for their book club, a choice that, well, stimulates them to spice up their love lives. It doesn’t hurt that the women are played by heavy hitters Diane Keaton, Mary Steenburgen, Jane Fonda and Candice Bergen, while the noteworthy men of “Book Club” are portrayed by Andy Garcia, Craig T. Nelson, Don Johnson and Richard Dreyfuss. The highlight of a trailer for the film has Nelson’s character looking very confused when, after asking his wife (Steenburgen) to hand him some zip ties, she responds, “Are you thinking of tying me up?”
This will be a hit. Book it.