Film & TV

A Look Ahead to Summer 2021 Blockbusters

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June is right around the corner, which means summer blockbusters are back. These are big budget, fun and entertaining movies that viewers will watch multiple times during the dog days. It all started with “Jaws” in the summer of 1975 and these films have been a staple of cinema for many years. 

Due to COVID-19, theaters were largely closed in 2020 — “Tenet” tried its very best — and summer 2021 movies like “In The Heights” and “The Suicide Squad” underwhelmed at the box office. 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” “The Lion King” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” are arguably the last blockbusters to have been released during summer. However, many fall and winter 2021 releases succeeded, showing audiences were ready to get back to theaters. 

This summer is filled with exciting movies. Here are The Phoenix’s picks for blockbusters to look out for in the next couple of months.

“Top Gun: Maverick”

The long-awaited and oft-delayed sequel to 1986’s “Top Gun” is finally here. Tom Cruise is back as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell along with Val Kilmer as Tom “Iceman” Kazanky. Pete is no longer the student but rather the teacher to a young group of aspiring Air Force trainees — including the son, Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Pete’s late partner. 

If the trailer is anything to go by, this movie promises to be a total blast. The aerial sequences look breathtaking and the cast is even better than the first. Having Cruise and Kilmer back is a treat, though the new additions are particularly exciting. In addition to Teller, Glen Powell, Jon Hamm and Ed Harris round out an all-star cast. 

This is a journey to the danger zone that can’t be missed.

“Top Gun: Maverick,” rated PG-13, releases in theaters May 27.

“Jurassic World: Dominion”

It isn’t hyperbolic to say the “Jurassic World” movies have disappointed in comparison to the masterpiece that is “Jurassic Park.” However, these films mint money faster than a flying pterodactyl. The first installment made $1.67 billion worldwide and its sequel made $1.31 billion worldwide. In short, audiences love these dinosaur movies.

The principal cast from the series — Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and Blue the dinosaur — are back. They are joined by the “Jurassic Park” OGs: Laura Dern, Sam Neil and Jeff Goldblum. Even if “Jurassic World: Dominion” doesn’t live up to “Jurassic Park,” it’ll be worth watching for the nostalgia or the original cast. 

“Jurassic Park: Dominion,” rated PG-13, releases in theaters June 10.

“Lightyear”

Animated movies are a staple of summer blockbusters — “Toy Story 3,” “Inside Out” and “Toy Story 4” all released in June of 2010, 2015 and 2019, respectively. “Lightyear” is the latest addition to the Pixar summer movie canon. This film is not about the action figure but about the astronaut Buzz Lightyear whom the action figure was based on. Chris Evans replaces Tim Allen as the voice of the Space Ranger. 

As ridiculous as the idea sounds, if Disney-Pixar wants to rehash intellectual property, this is the way to do it. Find an original story within their arsenal and create another world. These movies continue to look better and “Lightyear” looks colorful and stunning. There’s a chance this doesn’t work out, but it wouldn’t be a proper summer movie season without a tentpole animated film that dares to go to infinity and beyond.

“Lightyear,” rated PG, releases in theaters June 17. 

“Thor: Love and Thunder”

Thor is the first Avenger to have four solo movies and this one looks to be the wildest yet. With a trailer coming out only 81 days before its release — a new MCU record — and following up “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” the possibilities are endless when it comes to this entry. Director Taika Waititi took one of the duller Avengers and imbued him with color and energy in “Thor: Ragnarok.” 

Many fans will love that the trailer for “Thor: Love and Thunder” has even more of Waititi’s eccentric touch. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is on a journey toward peace but is interrupted by Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) and the return of his old flame, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who now wields Mjölnir as Lady Thor. Waititi rarely misses and most likely won’t with “Thor: Love and Thunder.”

It’ll be an electric night when this MCU installment comes out. 

“Thor: Love and Thunder,” rated PG-13, releases in theaters July 8. 

“NOPE”

Jordan Peele is back with his third horror-comedy, “NOPE.” Very little is known about this project (as has been the case with Peele’s prior two ventures), except an ambiguous plot synopsis: “Residents of an isolated town in California, among them ranch owners James and Jill Haywood, witness a mysterious and abnormal event.” This will be the signature horror movie of the summer and perhaps the year.

Peele has a knack for casting and he doesn’t disappoint with “NOPE.” He’s reuniting with Daniel Kaluuya after “Get Out” and cast Keke Palmer and Steven Yeun for the first time. Some speculate this will be Peele’s alien movie and the title is an acronym for “Not Of Planet Earth.” Whatever this movie ends up being, it will be an event for sure and a big “yep” from audiences this summer. 

“NOPE,” not yet rated, releases in theaters July 22. 

“Bullet Train” 

This list would not be complete without an all-out, pulpy and action-comedy movie and David Leitch’s “Bullet Train” has the makings of the most entertaining movie out of this list. Set on a bullet train in Japan, multiple hired assassins are tasked with retrieving a briefcase and must fight one another to get it. The film stars Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Andrew Koji, Brian Tyree Henry, Bad Bunny and many more. To say this cast is stacked is an understatement. 

Leitch, along with Chad Stahelski and Sam Hargrave, are pioneers in “New Wave Action Cinema,” action movies that focus on telling a story through choreographed, hand-to-hand action. The action in this movie looks brutal and every punch feels real. Pitt has great comic timing which will also be a delight to see. 

Audiences will be fighting each other for a ticket to experience “Bullet Train” when it arrives at their local stations. 

“Bullet Train,” not yet rated, releases in theaters July 29.

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