The Oscars are over, so let's talk summer blockbusters
For more from tt stern enzi on coming movies to watch and analysis of the 95th annual Academy Awards, tune into this episode of Cincinnati Edition.
The Academy Awards are over, so once again, audiences can turn their full attention to the upcoming slate of new releases as we speed through spring into summer. As usual, blockbusters will dominate the multiplexes, but it is always worth noting there will be a handful of smaller titles that will vie for a slice of the box office pie. The real question is whether audiences will flock back into theaters after being able to stream movies at home in next to no time after their brief theatrical runs. With choices like these to tempt moviegoers, butter up that popcorn and get ready for the biggest and best pictures of this still relatively new year.
JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 (March 24)
Is John Wick (Keanu Reeves) a Matrix-inspired simulation that a somehow still-plugged in Neo is experiencing in his pod as he waits for Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie Anne Moss) to set him free? Who knows, and maybe the better question is who cares, so long as director (and former Matrix martial arts stunt coordinator) Chad Stahelski continues to find breathtaking ways for the otherworldly assassin Wick to dispatch the many High Table foes in his path.
A THOUSAND AND ONE (March 31)
Little-seen diamonds from the early festival season, like writer-director AV Rockwell’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winner, deserve their chance to shine and this indie drama about Inez (Teyana Taylor), a daring mother with seemingly nothing to lose who kidnaps her young son from foster care and seeks to create a loving and safe home for the two of them in New York City. This first-time feature claimed a top prize at Sundance — now that’s what representation is all about. So why not take a closer look?
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AIR (April 5)
Maybe I’m reading far too much into the premise and the feel of the trailer, but there’s something about this new film from award-winning director and star Ben Affleck (Argo) that reminds me of the loose and quite engaging style of late-period Steven Soderbergh. It probably doesn’t hurt that Affleck is teaming up with his best bud Matt Damon (the two of them shared a Best Original screenplay Oscar for Good Will Hunting back in 1997) to tell the historic tale of shoe salesman Sonny Vaccaro (Damon) as he partners with Phil Knight (Affleck) to woo the greatest athlete of all time to endorse a new shoe line.
RENFIELD (April 14)
It feels like we’ve waited far too long for Nicolas Cage to make his triumphant return to the world of vampires – Vampire’s Kiss came out in 1988 — but he’s not wasting the moment. While the focus of this comedic horror-fantasy from director Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie) is Nicholas Hoult’s titular put-upon henchman, most audiences will be eager for Cage’s Dracula to accept his invitation to this tasty party.
THE FLASH (April 25)
Cinematic superheroes can’t get enough of time travel and endlessly branching multiverses. Studios are now using this trope to justify their miscues in their pursuit of box office glory. But despite the behind-the-scenes drama as DC attempts to reboot and rebrand their cinematic universe, I’m oddly intrigued by this long-delayed release from Andy Muschietti (It) that will spotlight the Scarlett Speedster (Ezra Miller) as he longs to change the one monumentally eventful moment from his past – the death of his mother. To be fair though, this feels less like a Flash movie than a team-up featuring an all-star line-up of Batmen (Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton). Bring on the Dark Knights!
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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3 (May 5)
If nothing else, Volume 3 of the exploits of Marvel’s ragtag galactic Guardians will signal the heartfelt farewell to the trilogy’s gonzo helmer James Gunn as he departs to take the reins of DC’s troubled cinematic brand. Gunn has infused life, heart and soul in this collection of star--faring misfits, transforming Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and his team into a raucous family that will wage war across the universe to save any of their own.
FAST X (May 19)
Most critics wouldn’t dare to admit, so openly, their guilty pleasures, but I am a proud card-carrying fan of this stupendously outrageous franchise. It requires blind faith, communal star power and a willingness to stare down scientific logic to push narrative boundaries like The Fast and the Furious. From illegal street racers to international fugitives to global spies to outer space, there truly are no limits on the Fast family. I have no idea where the two final installments of this series will go, but I’m willing to ride and die (and probably come back again) with the crew.
SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE (June 2)
Multiverses, spider-verses, bat-verses, you name it and there is likely a verse for it, but the Miles Morales-led animated Spider-Verse is where audiences will want to spend their time this summer. The first installment featuring Shameik Moore voicing the alternative Spider-Man just so happened to snag the Academy Award for Animated Feature in 2019, so the stakes are high for the return, which will take place across six dimensions and spotlight over 200 characters. Spiders everywhere!
THE BLACKENING (June 16)
The only film on this list that I’ve had the opportunity to screen in advance, thanks to its festival appearance at the Toronto International Film Festival this past September, The Blackening, from director Tim Story (Barbershop, Fantastic Four), humorously riffs on the idea of seven Black friends gathered together at a cabin in the woods facing off against a killer with a grudge. When everyone is Black, who dies first?
INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY (June 30)
Just as many of us have gotten used to seeing Harrison Ford tackling wry situational comedy — and, for my money, he’s operating well within a new wheelhouse on the Apple TV+ series Shrinking — he returns to his signature fedora-wearing character for one more wild ride. James Mangold occupies the big chair, as Ford’s swashbuckling adventurer, finds himself in position to punch more Nazis in the face with the likes of Mads Mikkelsen, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Toby Jones, and Antonio Banderas in tow. Will this be destiny’s final call for Mr. Jones?
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OPPENHEIMER (July 21)
While the story of Robert Oppenheimer, the godfather of the atomic bomb, doesn’t seem like the stuff of summer blockbusters, when writer-director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight trilogy) is at the helm, anything is possible. A visionary auteur with a decidedly twisted narrative perspective means audiences will be in for an epic explosion of talent (Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey, Jr., Rami Malek and Florence Pugh) and a presentation of atomic force rendered without CGI that could ignite screens and imaginations for years to come.
NOTE – all dates are subject to change.