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Summer movie guide: The 24 films everyone will be talking about

The Washington Post

What's that buzz?

Is it the hum of the Millennium Falcon, warming up in "Solo: A Star Wars Story"? Or could it be the insistent, thrumming soundtrack of "Sicario: Day of the Soldado"? Or maybe the beating wings of Evangeline Lilly as the Wasp in "Ant-Man and the Wasp"?

No. It's the sound of movie fans in passionate conversation about this summer's lineup of big-screen entertainment. From the season's biggest blockbusters to the buzziest festival favorites just over the horizon, there's a movie for everyone to talk about this year.

Here's a guide to the films that are already burning up your Twitter feed -- and the ones that will be, in a couple months' time. Opening dates and ratings are subject to change.

"Solo: A Star Wars Story"

(May 25, PG-13)

Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover , Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, Joonas Suotamo.

Set 10 years before the action of the original "Star Wars," during the ascendancy of the evil Empire and the rebellion against it, this rollicking heist story - part of an expanded universe that includes "Rogue One" - introduces us to a young Han Solo (Ehrenreich) and his backstory, including relationships with the smooth-talking Lando Calrissian (Glover) and the hirsute Wookiee, Chewbacca (Suotamo). (In fact, the latter interspecies bromance is so richly developed, you could call this installment "When Hairy Met Solo.") Action and humor is plentiful. But the film, written by father-and son Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan, and directed by Ron Howard (after the original directors were fired), is just as much about relationships as revolution.

"Ocean's 8"

(June 8, PG-13)

Starring: Sandra Bullock , Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway , Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina.

Bullock heads up the powerhouse cast of this all-female spinoff of the "Ocean's 11" trilogy, playing Debbie Ocean, the estranged sister of George Clooney's master con artist, Danny Ocean (who appears to be dead, judging by the tombstone with his name on it in the trailer). But the durable heist franchise, which targets the Metropolitan Museum of Art this go-round, has always proven itself to be full of surprises, so who knows? Expect cameos by "Ocean's" veteran Matt Damon, along with a host of real-life models, designers and fashionistas in this crime caper set during the Met's glitzy annual fundraising gala.

 

"Hereditary"

(June 8, R)

Starring: Toni Collette , Gabriel Byrne, Milly Shapiro, Alex Wolff.

From the moment the trailer dropped for the feature debut of writer-director Ari Aster, it was clear that this deeply unsettling horror film - about the supernatural legacy of an old woman whose funeral sets the story in motion - had visual style to burn. Centering on a family of four with a history of mental illness and mysterious rituals, the movie's increasingly unhinged mayhem is grounded by Collette's tour-de-force performance, in the role of a visual artist (and less-than-perfect mother) whose work consists of miniature dollhouses that plumb her own nightmarish autobiography.

 

"Incredibles 2"

(June 15, PG)

Starring: Voices of Holly Hunter , Craig T. Nelson, Bob Odenkirk , Catherine Keener , Samuel L. Jackson .

Though 14 years in the making, Brad Bird's follow-up to his Oscar-winning animated superhero comedy picks up where the 2004 story - which explored what it means to be ordinary and extraordinary - left off. "Supers," as those with special abilities are known, are still banned, and Elastigirl (Hunter) becomes the public face of a PR campaign (spearheaded by Odenkirk's and Keener's characters) to rehabilitate their image. That leaves Mr. Incredible as a reluctant stay-at-home dad, tending to his brood of three evermore X-Men-like kids.

 

"Sicario: Day of the Soldado"

(June 29, R)

Starring: Benicio Del Toro , Josh Brolin , Isabela Moner.

Was a sequel to "Sicario," the 2015 drug thriller that ended on a note of delicious open-endedness, really necessary? Probably not, but fans of the darkly cynical Oscar nominee, set on the front lines of a shadow drug war, have been eagerly looking forward to the return of Del Toro's mysterious Alejandro, the attorney-turned-hitman at the center of the new film. "Day of the Soldado" reunites Alejandro with Brolin's paramilitary fixer, Matt Graver, until their joint effort to foment a war between rival Mexican cartels falls apart, resulting in a bloody game of cat-and-mouse, played with Blackhawk helicopters and high-powered weapons. Taylor Sheridan wrote the somewhat perfunctory screenplay, with Stefano Sollima (known for helming Italian TV crime shows) taking over directing duties from Denis Villeneuve.

"Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom"

(June 22, PG-13)

Starring: Chris Pratt , Bryce Dallas Howard, Justice Smith, Toby Jones 

When the titular dino-centric theme park is threatened by an active volcano, Pratt's dinosaur researcher/trainer returns to the island to attempt a rescue operation for the prehistoric critters that live there. But when a potential home for the dangerous beasts back on the U.S. mainland isn't the sanctuary it seemed, the action-adventure movie morphs into something a little more subtle. Sounds like a perfect job for Spanish director J.A. Bayona, whose feature debut was the horror film "The Orphanage," but who proved he could handle big-screen disasters with the tsunami-themed "The Impossible."

 

"Ant-Man and the Wasp"

(July 6, not yet rated)

Starring: Paul Rudd , Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Hannah John-Kamen.

Marvel just keeps 'em coming: In this sequel to the 2015 film about a teeny-tiny superhero - hugely entertaining, in proportion to its protagonist's size - Hope Van Dyne, a.k.a. the Wasp (Lilly), joins forces with Rudd's picnic-pest-size protagonist to rescue her mother (Pfeiffer) from an alternate dimension. Expect a refreshing tonic to the downbeat tone of "Avengers: Infinity War."

"Mission: Impossible - Fallout"

(July 27, not yet rated)

Starring: Tom Cruise , Rebecca Ferguson, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg .

Christopher McQuarrie seems to have something of a Tom Cruise fetish going, having written and/or directed multiple star vehicles for the ageless, gravity-defying megastar (including the previous "Mission: Impossible" film, "Rogue Nation," and this one). And for a director of action movies, what's not to love? Cruise, who famously injured himself while jumping from one building to another, hauled himself up to complete the shot - on a broken ankle. That footage is in the finished film.

 

"First Reformed"

(May 25, R)

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cedric Kyles (a.k.a. Cedric the Entertainer).

Writer-director Paul Schrader is back to form with a multilayered tale of hope, despair and everything in between. Ethan Hawke plays the Rev. Toller, a divorced military chaplain and grieving father, pickling himself in booze over the son he lost in Iraq, while trying to provide pastoral counseling to a troubled parishioner. When a violent act brings Toller closer to that parishioner's wife (Seyfried), the story goes really deep, diving into issues of personal responsibility, punishment and the possibility - or impossibility - of salvation.

 

"A Kid Like Jake"

(June 15, not yet rated)

Starring: Claire Danes, Jim Parsons, Leo James Davis, Priyanka Chopra, Octavia Spencer .

On the heels of "Roseanne," which tackled the issue of gender-nonconforming children with the character of Darlene's son, comes "A Kid Like Jake." Adapted by writer Daniel Pearle from his 2013 off-Broadway play, the film tells the story of a New York couple (Danes and Parsons) who are navigating the school application process for their 4-year-old - a boy who, in the words of his preschool director (Spencer), likes to engage in "gender-expansive play."

 

"Won't You Be My Neighbor?"

(June 8, not yet rated)

Starring: Fred Rogers.

This documentary portrait of the late "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" host by Morgan Neville - director of the Oscar-winning "20 Feet From Stardom" - is racking up accolades. And it comes at a time when many Americans are desperately in need of a reminder of the brand of civility and kindness practiced by the icon of children's entertainment.

 

"Under the Silver Lake"

(June 29, R)

Starring: Andrew Garfield , Riley Keough, Topher Grace .

Director David Robert Mitchell's follow-up to his breakout movie, the creepily elegant horror film "It Follows," is something of a change of pace: When a young man (Garfield) befriends a mysterious neighbor at his Los Angeles apartment complex (Keough), and she disappears the next day, he sets off on a surreal search for her through a La-La Land populated, in the words of the film's publicity material, by "dog killers, aspiring actors, glitter-pop groups, nightlife personalities, 'it' girls, memorabilia hoarders, masked seductresses, homeless gurus, reclusive songwriters, sex workers, wealthy socialites, topless neighbors and the shadowy billionaires floating above (and underneath) it all."

 

"Sorry to Bother You"

(July 6, not yet rated)

Starring: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, David Cross .

Rapper/producer Boots Riley wrote and directed this comedy in which an African American telemarketer (Stanfield) rises through the ranks after he discovers that the secret to success is using his "white voice" (provided by Cross). What starts off as an absurdist workplace satire about race gradually becomes, well, a lot more absurd as elements of science fiction threaten to overwhelm the story. Yet, even at its silliest, the story displays flashes of demented, disturbing brilliance.

 

"Blindspotting"

(July 20, not yet rated)

Starring: Daveed Diggs, Rafael Casal.

Written by Diggs ("Hamilton") and his childhood friend Casal, this topical, emotionally charged film explores the nexus of race and class in an Oakland-set story of police brutality, white privilege and gentrification. Diggs and Casal, who grew up in Oakland, play Collin and Miles, best friends who work for a moving company. After Collin, a recently paroled ex-con, witnesses a white police officer shooting an unarmed black man, his frustration builds to a cathartic climax.

 

"Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot"

(July 20, R)

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix , Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Jack Black.

Joaquin Phoenix plays the late, mordantly funny cartoonist John Callahan, an alcoholic and paraplegic whose 1990 memoir, "Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot," takes its name from the caption of one of the artist's most famous - and polarizing - drawings: A picture of a cowboy search party coming across an empty wheelchair in the desert. Phoenix, a three-time Oscar nominee whose roles have ranged from sweetly poignant ("Her") to intense ("You Were Never Really Here") to brilliantly off-putting ("I'm Still Here") seems like the perfect choice to embody Callahan's contradictions.

 

"BlacKkKlansman"

(Aug. 10, not yet rated)

Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver.

Washington (the son of Denzel) plays Ron Stallworth, the real-life African American cop who, in 1979, infiltrated the Colorado Springs Ku Klux Klan simply by picking up the phone and spouting racist garbage. Eventually, Stallworth rose to a leadership position. (When he needed to appear in person, he'd send his partner, Flip Zimmerman, played by Driver.) The latest from Spike Lee is sure to be outrageous.

 

"How to Talk to Girls at Parties"

(June 1, R)

Starring: Nicole Kidman , Elle Fanning, Alex Sharp.

Set in the South London borough of Croydon, circa 1977, the romantic fantasia by John Cameron Mitchell ("Hedwig and the Angry Inch") is based on a 2006 short story by Neil Gaiman about the star-crossed romance between a human punk rocker and an alien girl he meets at a party. Fanning plays the otherworldly love interest of the sweetly naive, Sex Pistols-loving teenager Enn (Sharp), who must turn to Kidman's Queen Boadicea - a prickly band manager in a Bowie-esque mop of platinum-blond hair - for backup when his beloved's life is threatened by her colony's leader. Although the aliens look more like fashion models than your typical Hollywood extraterrestrial, Mitchell's allegory of youthful rebellion captures a side of the early punk era that is often overlooked: Its optimism, not its nihilism.

 

"American Animals"

(June 8, R)

Starring: Barry Keoghan, Evan Peters, Jared Abrahamson, Blake Jenner, Ann Dowd.

British writer-director Bart Layton's tale of a 2004 rare-book heist at Lexington, Kentucky's Transylvania University by four young men mixes dramatic re-enactments of the crime (featuring Keoghan, Peters, Abrahamson and Jenner in the principal roles, and Dowd as their hapless librarian victim) with documentary interviews with the actual perpetrators. Like "I, Tonya," which was also based on interviews with its real-life inspirations, "American Animals" interrogates the slippery nature of truth and a sense of youthful entitlement, even as it manages to be wildly entertaining, funny and sad.

 

"Hotel Artemis"

(June 8, not yet rated)

Starring: Jodie Foster , Sterling K. Brown , Charlie Day, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Jenny Slate, Dave Bautista , Brian Tyree Henry, Zachary Quinto .

Set 10 years from now in a dystopian Los Angeles, the tale of a secret, members-only emergency room that caters to criminals may have the single best cast of the summer. Foster plays the Nurse to Brown's Waikiki, a bank robber who's fighting to save the life of his wounded brother (Henry).

 

 

"Eighth Grade"

(July 20, not yet rated)

Starring: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton.

Actor and stand-up comic Bo Burnham ("The Big Sick") makes his feature filmmaking debut with this festival charmer about the experiences of an unpopular 15-year-old. As the film's protagonist, Kayla, Fisher (a newcomer who is mostly known as the voice of Agnes in the "Despicable Me" films) seems poised to break out of cinematic oblivion with her sweetly angsty performance.

 

"The Meg"

(Aug. 10, PG-13)

Starring: Jason Statham , Li Bingbing, Winston Chao, Rainn Wilson.

The 1975 film "Jaws" set the gold standard for summer popcorn-horror (shark variety) with its depiction of a New England beach town terrorized by a 25-foot-long marine predator. That subject, which has often been riffed on since - most recently in the 2016 Blake Lively thriller "The Shallows" and in the series of "Sharknado" cable comedies - resurfaces with a thriller about an expert deep-sea rescue diver (Statham) who must save the crew of a submersible vessel that has been attacked by a 75-foot-long prehistoric shark known as megalodon. In "Jaws," the film's shark hunters coined a catchphrase: "You're gonna need a bigger boat." With "the Meg," it sounds like they just built a bigger shark.

 

"The Happytime Murders"

(Aug. 17, not yet rated)

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Banks , Joel McHale, Bill Barretta.

Call it "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" meets "The Muppets." In a noirish Los Angeles inhabited - in a tense and unease standoff - by puppets and the humans who despise them, a puppet detective (Barretta) teams up with his human ex-partner (a foul-mouthed McCarthy) to investigate a series of murders targeting the cast of a 1980 children's TV series, "The Happytime Gang." The raunchy, decidedly non-child-friendly film was directed by Brian Henson, the son of the late Muppets creator Jim Henson , and is the first release under his Henson Alternative label.

 

"Support the Girls"

(Aug. 24, not yet rated)

Starring: Regina Hall, Haley Lu Richardson, James le Gros.

Written and directed by the godfather of "mumblecore" cinema - a genre known for nonprofessional actors and naturalistic dialogue - Andrew Bujalski's latest film is practically a Hollywood blockbuster compared with his no-budget early films. Set in a Hooters-esque Texas tavern called Double Whammies, the punningly titled comedy stars Hall ("Scary Movie") as the mother hen to a staff of young waitresses coping with sexism and racism.

 

"The Wife"

(August 10, R)

Starring: Glenn Close , Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater.

Based on Meg Wolitzer's 2003 novel, Swedish filmmaker Björn Runge's drama centers on a character who has been marginalized for much of her adult life: The wife of a celebrated writer (Pryce) who gave up her own literary ambitions to support her husband's career. In the role of the self-effacing but steady Joan Castleman, who accompanies her arrogant spouse to Stockholm to receive the Nobel Prize , Close seems like an early contender for her own award. Could this be the role that finally rectifies the fact that this six-time Oscar nominee has never won the statuette?

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