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These are the summer movies NPR critics are looking forward to

Movie stills from C<em>ha Cha Real Smooth, Fire Island, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, The Princess, Thor: Love and Thunder</em>, and <em>NOPE</em>.
Apple TV+, Searchlight, Hulu, Marvel, Universal
Movie stills from C<em>ha Cha Real Smooth, Fire Island, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, The Princess, Thor: Love and Thunder</em>, and <em>NOPE</em>.

Just like there's too much TV to keep track of, the summer movie slate is jam-packed after years of pandemic-induced disruption.

As temperatures get hotter, burgers, bat mitzvahs and Baz Luhrmann are headed to the big screen. Here's what NPR critics have their eyes on, in order of release date.

The Bob's Burgers Movie

In theaters May 27

I've seen every episode of Bob's Burgers at least once. Every week my partner and I will sit down, have dinner and watch the newest episode. And we are excited for this movie.

Little has been divulged. We know the main cast will be there – Bob, Linda, Tina, all of them. Apparently, they have, like, a week to keep their restaurant afloat, and the kids get into a mystery of some sort to try and save it. The trailer is a lot of Gene yelling things at the other siblings, and lots of one-off liners.

There are many things Bob's Burgers does well. But one of the best things is obviously the music and the songs, so I'm excited for those.

I do worry that this film has kind of gotten buried. It's opening in theaters, but I probably would have been fine seeing it on streaming first. – Aisha Harris

Fire Island

Hulu, June 3

This is a film written by and starring the very funny Joel Kim Booster, directed by Andrew Ahn. He directed two films I really like called Spa Night and Driveways. Both of those movies are really kind of quiet and introspective, but this doesn't seem to be. This seems to be a kind of raucous gay romcom set in a very privileged queer vacation destination, Fire Island.

And the idea behind this movie is just so simple and inevitable. Take the bones of Pride And Prejudice, and map it over the way that gay men tend to sort ourselves into these very insular cliques based on things like race and income level and age and body fat percentage, and frankly, it just works. It matters who's telling the story, because the film's two leads are Booster and Bowen Yang. It's going to be telling this very familiar story from a perspective we haven't seen a lot before. According to the trailer, at least, it's going to be directly addressing the white, rich, cis privilege of the queer community, and of Fire Island in particular. – Glen Weldon

Neptune Frost

In theaters June 3

An afro-futurist, sci-fi musical set and shot in Rwanda, this first film by slam-poet/composer Saul Williams and actor/writer Anisia Uzeyman debuted in 2021 at Cannes, and became a festival darling invited to show at Toronto, Sundance, London, New York and a host of other fests last year. It's enigmatic, poetic, allegorical, operatic, eerie, and so determinedly non-linear, it's hard to tell what's going on at any given moment. But if experimental and ambitious count as draws for you, this has plenty of both those qualities. – Bob Mondello

Crimes of the Future

In theaters June 3

David Cronenberg is back, and back to his old trippy/gooey/disquietingly pulsating body-horror tricks, bless him. This time, Viggo Mortensen and Lea Seydoux are a pair of performance artists who perform live surgery in front of audiences, demonstrating how Viggo's character can grow and mutate his internal organs due to a condition called "Accelerated Evolution Syndrome." Sing with me: "Tale as old as tiiiiiiiiime...." – Glen Weldon

Father of the Bride

HBO Max, June 16

One of the movies that is a gigantic comfort-food pick for me is the 90s-era Nancy Meyers Father Of The Bride with Steve Martin. And that is obviously a remake of a Spencer Tracy movie, where Elizabeth Taylor played his daughter. Of course, you definitely do not want to spend too much time with the harried father paying for the expensive wedding. But I've always thought this movie was funny and ultimately, really sweet.

The 90s version was a very particular era of Steve Martin. There's a moment in that movie where Martin, who is a sneaker magnate, has a bedazzled pair of tennis shoes made for his daughter to wear under her wedding dress. And when my sister got married a few years after this movie, which we both loved, I made her a pair of bedazzled tennis shoes, which she wore at the reception under her dress when she got out of her heels.

They are doing a remake of this with a Latinx family; Andy Garcia is the patriarch, Gloria Estefan is the mom. And I am really psyched. – Linda Holmes

Cha Cha Real Smooth

In theaters and Apple TV+ June 17

Cooper Raiff follows up his charming (if terribly titled) filmmaking debut S***house, with an indie romance at least twice as charming. Raiff is writer/director and ingratiating leading man, fresh-out-of-college and sleeping on a cot in his little brother's bedroom. When their mom makes him take the kid to a friend's bat mitzvah, he meets and falls for Dakota Johnson, gets her autistic daughter to dance, and is immediately swarmed by Jewish mothers who want to hire him as a party-starter for their kids' bar and bat mitzvahs.

Presumably, Raiff is more driven in real life than his character is – you don't get two films produced in three years without having sharp elbows – but he makes puppyish vulnerability enormously appealing. – Bob Mondello

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

In theaters and on Hulu June 17

A widowed ex-teacher (Emma Thompson) hires a much younger male escort (Daryl McCormack) hoping to make up for a lifetime of sexual timidity and boredom in this winning, surprising, funny, touching, and decidedly feminine (if not precisely feminist) take on self-discovery.

Sophie Hyde's direction is sensitive, and the performers have great chemistry – Thompson initially deflecting the escort's every attempt to do what she's hired him to do; McCormack by turns reassuring ("you're conflicted; conflict is interesting") and gentle ("may I kiss you on the cheek?"). That their roles will alter over time is a given – "I have some feedback and a couple of attainment goals" says Thompson at the start of a second meeting — and the situation grows interestingly complex. – Bob Mondello

Elvis

In theaters June 24

Austin Butler is a hip-swiveling Elvis Presley and Tom Hanks his manipulative manager "Colonel" Tom Parker in what director Baz Luhrmann has been telling interviewers will be an impressionist tapestry exploring mid-20th century America, with all its hangups about race relations and celebrity culture.

"It's a bit like [how] Shakespeare takes a historical figure and uses it to look at a bigger picture," he told Entertainment Weekly. Suspicious minds might question that, but since Luhrmann did a decent job with the Leonardo DiCaprio/Claire Danes Romeo and Juliet, we can probably take him at his word. He went on to say it's a tale of The King told in three acts – Elvis the punk, Elvis the family-friendly movie star, and Elvis the '70s jumpsuit fan. – Bob Mondello

The Princess

Hulu, July 1

Joey King and Veronica Ngo in <em>The Princess. </em>
/ Simon Varsano
/
Simon Varsano
Joey King and Veronica Ngo in <em>The Princess. </em>

Little is known about this R-rated dark fantasy film, in which a princess (Joey King) refuses to marry the evil man to whom she is betrothed (Dominic Cooper), gets trapped in a tower, and proceeds to kick medieval butt to save her family as mercenaries attack. We do know it's directed by Le-Van Kiet, the Vietnamese filmmaker whose 2019 feature Furie, a gleefully over-the-top martial-arts action film, featured a mother rescuing her daughter from a trafficking ring. This princess is no damsel. – Glen Weldon

Thor: Love and Thunder

In theaters July 8

Look, you've got in the world your Thor: Ragnarok people and your not-so-much Thor: Ragnarok people. I am the former. I think Thor: Ragnarok was full of good jokes. Thor: Love and Thunder is another Taika Waititi Thor movie, and I'm here for it.

Not for nothing, the thing that I liked the most about the original MCU Thor was Natalie Portman, and Natalie Portman is coming back for this movie. You've also got your Chris Hemsworth, your Tessa Thompson. At this point with the MCU, I want funny movies. I am somewhat over practically everything else. – Linda Holmes

Nope

In theaters July 22

We know very little about what this movie is about, which is always a good sign with Jordan Peele. I feel like the less we know going into anything he's working on, the better.

There are small hints in the trailer. It opens up with Keke Palmer's character talking about how one of the first moving images created was of a Black man riding a horse. She claims that it's her great-great-grandfather, and that she is now part of a collective of the only Black horse trainers in Hollywood. But then the trailer is just lots of images going back and forth, and it's great. You have Stevie Wonder's "Fingertips Part II" being cut and sliced and made into creepy music, the way we do with trailers.

I've seen people trying to decode the movie already, which – if you're doing that, you're doing it wrong. – Aisha Harris

Bullet Train

In theaters August 5

Five assassins are working interrelated missions on a 250-mph dash across Japan in stuntman-turned-director David Leitch's action-comedy. Brad Pitt's the one who left his gun at home — "if you put peace out in the world, you get peace back" he tells handler Sandra Bullock (who replaced Lady Gaga midway through the shoot).

Based on a novel by Kotaro Isaka, the film is encountering headwinds for casting non-Asian actors in leading roles, though the author's on record as being enthusiastic. – Bob Mondello

Three Thousand Years of Longing

In theaters August 31

Based on an A.S. Byatt short story, this fantasy film about a scholar (Tilda Swinton) who frees a Djinn (Idris Elba) while visiting Istanbul is co-writer/director George Miller's first film since the jaw-dropping visual (and logistical) stunner Mad Max: Fury Road. The trailer promises dazzling visuals, a millennia-spanning story that's epic in scope (and kinda funny), and a protagonist who, thankfully, knows very well how stories about magical wish-granting usually end. – Glen Weldon

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