Sun Screenings: Summer’s Hottest Films Offer Laughs, Thrills and Plenty of Nostalgia

Let The Good Times Roll

Photo: New York Times Co. /Getty Images

There are endless ways to enjoy a movie, but it doesn’t get much better than a balmy night with a bucket of popcorn. Whether you prefer the nostalgic mood at the drive-in (in a vintage T-Bird, if possible) or that opening weekend energy in a packed air-conditioned theatre, the cinematic memories we make in the summer stay with us forever.

This season promises no less as it kicked off in the most adorable way. Straight from their respective love-interest roles in last year’s phenomenon that was Barbenheimer, Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt tumbled for each other in The Fall Guy, a charming action comedy loosely based on the ’80s TV series starring Lee Majors.

Also on tap is Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (May 24) – a more serious but just as hotly anticipated actioner. This franchise has come a long way since Mel Gibson and Tina Turner ruled the Thunderdome. In this fifth instalment, director George Miller continues to hone his vision of the bleakly ominous realm – at once futuristic yet savagely retro  – with Anya Taylor-Joy from The Queen’s Gambit taking on the role of young Imperator Furiosa alongside Chris Hemsworth (a.k.a. Thor) as Dementus, the fabulously named warlord. 

Another dazzling pairing is found in Deadpool & Wolverine (July 26), which tees up two of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most bankable leads. Hugh Jackman brings Wolverine back to pal around with everyone’s favourite smartass anti-hero, Deadpool, brought to life by Canada’s “other Ryan” – or Mr. Blake Lively – Ryan Reynolds.

Sticking with mutants, Swedish actor Bill Skarsgård, of the family dynasty that includes father Stellan (Good Will Hunting; Dune) and brother Alexander (billionaire tech bro from Succession), stars in a remake of The Crow (Aug. 23), in which a reconstituted man/beast avenges his murder and that of his lover. The original ’94 film also starred the son of a famous actor – but ended in tragedy. Twenty-eight-year-old Brandon Lee died on set from a firearm malfunction two decades after his father, action star Bruce, never woke up from a nap while filming Game of Death at age 32.

That’s not the only nostalgic franchise being, ahem, resurrected this season – Eddie Murphy is set to wisecrack again as a  fish-out-of-water officer in Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F (July 3); and Bad Boys: Ride or Die (June 7) brings the buddy comedy genre back with Martin Lawrence and Will Smith. The latter, who showed up at the Coachella music festival in his Men In Black alter ego, is revisiting all his greatest hits, perhaps dan attempt to engender the kind of mainstream love his notorious Oscar-slapping freakout suspended.

It wouldn’t be summer without an epic disaster film piled with eye-popping special effects. The 1996 smash Twister gets a climate-change-ified update in Twisters (July 19) with leads Glen Powell (noted scene-stealer in Top Gun: Maverick) and Daisy Edgar-Jones (Where the Crawdads Sing) stepping in for original storm chasers Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt. 

Powell’s versatility is also showcased in one of the smaller but buzzy niche titles of the year. In Richard Linklater’s loosely fact-based comedy-thriller Hit Man (May 24), Powell – who co-wrote the script with the indie darling director of Dazed and Confused and the Before trilogy – plays a philosophy-prof-cum-fake-assassin working for the police. 

Meanwhile, creative kindred spirits Emma Stone and director Yorgos Lanthimos (Poor Things) hope to weave Oscar magic again with Kinds of Kindness (June 21), an inventive three-short-films-in-one creation, in which the actors (including Stone, Willem Dafoe, Jesse Plemons and Margaret Qualley) play different characters in each vignette.  

Expect more award-worthy performances in Treasure (Sept. 12), as wry British comedian Stephen Fry (Jeeves and Wooster) plays a Holocaust survivor exploring his past on a trip to Poland, circa 1990. Girls creator and “Voice of a Generation” Lena Dunham tags along as his journalist daughter in an all-grown-up role that doesn’t hinge on her reputation as a millennial lightning rod and body positivity icon.

Ellen Burnstyn plays a mom of three adult kids (Ewen McGregor, Rhys Ifans and Lara Flynn Boyle) in Mother, Couch (July 5) – a surreal drama that sees the matriarch take a seat in a furniture outlet store and refuse to leave. Meanwhile, two-time Oscar-winner (but-still-Spicoli-in-our-hearts) Sean Penn stars as a seen-it-all New York cab driver counselling his unhappy fare (Dakota Johnson) on life and love in the two-hander Daddio (June 28). 

Giving us Sons of Anarchy – more than Easy Rider – vibes, The Bikeriders (June 21) is the latest addition to the canon of edgy biker movies. Inspired by photojournalist Danny Lyon’s 1968 book and set in that decade, the film traces the rise of a fictional American motorcycle club, which starts agreeably enough but detours down sinister paths. Austin Butler, Tom Hardy and Michael Shannon feature in a strong ensemble cast. 

In Fly Me To the Moon (July 12), another nostalgia-fuelled, but much more lighthearted flick, Channing Tatum and Scarlett Johannson flirt and bicker as a NASA director and the marketing specialist tasked with fixing the space agency’s public image during the 1960s Space Race.

Wrapping up the season, Beetlejuice Beetlejuice (Sept. 6), Tim Burton’s long-awaited sequel to his 1988 comedy, screams end-of-summer laughs. In a nifty feat of casting, Jenny Ortega – so funny and creepy as Wednesday Addams in the eponymous Netflix series – plays the daughter of Lydia Deetz, cinema’s favourite goth, conjured in the original film by gen-X poster child Winona Ryder. Of course, Ryder’s back, along with Michael Keaton and Canadian Catherine O’Hara, who promises to delight once again with a new interpretation of Day-O. How do you like them bananas!