Back in ancient times (aka pre-1975), Hollywood for the most part considered summer to be one of the slower times for business. After all, who wants to go to the movies when it’s nice outside and the kids are off from school and there are a million other things to do?
Well. In a word: everybody.
It took Universal Studios, producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown, and a kid director named Steven Spielberg to show us the way. After an unprecedented advertising blitz, “Jaws” opened on June 20, 1975, in a then-astounding 409 theaters in the United States and a few dozen more in Canada — and within three months, it had supplanted “The Godfather” as the highest-grossing film of all time.
These days, the summer blockbuster has become as much a part of the American hot weather landscape as baseball, Fourth of July fireworks and people posting Instagram photos of their toes as they bake on the beach.
Not that we have to wait until late June for the summer movie calendar to kick in. This year, the unofficial start of the season begins with “Guardians of the Galaxy” on May 5 — and by late August, we’ll already be looking ahead to autumn and all those award contender releases.
In chronological order, the summer movies I’m most keen to see:
‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ (May 5)
Spoiler Alert! The “Awesome Mixtape Vol. 2” soundtrack list for “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” has been released, and it’s an even better collection of classic oldies from the 1960s and 1970s than the list of tunes from the original.
The highlights include “Mr. Blue Sky” by ELO; “Fox on the Run” by Sweet; “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass — and two favorites from Illinois-based bands: “Surrender” by Cheap Trick and “Lake Shore Drive” by Aliotta Haynes and Jeremiah.
For sheer entertainment value, few 21st century superhero films can match the original “Guardians.” Odds are Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Kurt Russell, Sylvester Stallone et al., will ensure the sequel is just as much fun.
‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’ (May 12)
Charlie Hunnam gave the best performance of his movie career in “The Lost City of Z,” but he could top that with his work in Guy Ritchie’s remix origin story of the King Arthur legend. Based on the advance clips (one trailer is set to the sounds of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” by Led Zeppelin), this looks like a mash-up of “Sons of Anarchy” and “Game of Thrones.”
That would be a good thing.
‘Alien: Covenant’ (May 19)
When it comes to headache-inducing timelines and “Wait a minute, how is THAT possible?” discussions, it’s possible the “Alien” universe is second only to the “Terminator” universe on the Confuse-O-Meter.
To wit: The great Ridley Scott’s “Alien: Covenant” is the sequel to “Prometheus,” making it the second chapter in the “Alien” PREQUEL series and the sixth overall “Alien” film. I might have to binge-rewatch the first five just to get comfortable for this one.
Michael Fassbender reportedly plays two android characters in “Covenant,’ and the cast also includes Billy Crudup, Demian Bichir, Katherine Waterston and Danny McBride. Yes, Danny McBride.
‘Wonder Woman’ (June 2)
Ever watch a trailer and think, “Ooh, this could be really great or REALLY bad?”
That’s where I’m at right now with “Wonder Woman.”
On the plus side, the director is Patty Jenkins, a seriously talented filmmaker who wrote and helmed “Monster” (2003), with Charlize Theron in an Academy Award-winning performance. In addition to Gal Gadot in the title role, what a great supporting cast: Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Danny Huston. They’re not playing around.
Also, it would be cool for Wonder Woman to finally get her due in an adaptation. The 1970s TV show was garbage, and the pilot for the 2011 series staring Adrienne Palicki was so problematic, NBC never even aired it.
So. Fingers crossed. Here’s hoping the film is better than the underwhelming trailers, which are peppered with cheesy dialogue, unfunny comedic relief and seemingly unintentional silliness.
‘The Mummy’ (June 9)
I’ve never been a “Mummy” guy, because the Mummy is usually just such a … dopey monster. (One exception: the 1932 Boris Karloff film. That’s some freaky stuff right there.) But with a cast led by Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe, and this being part of the ambitious Universal Monsters “shared universe” that includes reboots of Frankenstein’s monster and Count Dracula, among other legendary scaaaaaary icons, this could be something special.
‘Rough Night’ (June 16)
This is basically an all-female version of “Very Bad Things,” Peter Berg’s disturbingly effective 1998 black comedy about a bachelor party gone very, very wrong. Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, Ilana Glazer and Jillian Bell star as best friends from college who reunite 10 years later and kill a guy.
Hey. It was an accident!
‘Baby Driver’ (June 28)
The immensely gifted Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” “The World’s End,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”), writes and directs arguably THE buzz movie of the summer. Ansel Elgort stars as a bank robbery getaway driver who does his best work when fueled by his favorite songs. Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, Lily James and Jamie Foxx co-star. So, YEAH.
‘The House’ (June 30)
Comedy greats Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell star as a married couple who install a casino in their basement in the hopes of raising enough money to pay for their daughter’s college education.
The writer-director is Andrew J. Cohen, who gave us “Neighbors” and “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates,” two comedies that were a lot better than the premises would lead one to believe.
‘A Ghost Story’ (July 14)
Could be the most effectively goosebump-inducing movie of the summer. Director David Lowery reunites with “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara as “C” and “M,” respectively, a married couple. After C is killed, he rises up from the morgue with a sheet covering him, as if he’s wearing the most convenient and clichéd of Halloween costumes — and he returns to the house where he once lived.
‘Dunkirk’ (July 21)
If you’re looking for best picture material to emerge from the summer movie season, our next two entries are strong contenders.
Over the last two decades, writer-director Christopher Nolan has compiled a track record few in the world can match, from “Memento” to “Insomnia” to the “Dark Knight” trilogy to “Inception.” With “Dunkirk,” Nolan tells the miraculous story of how literally hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers were evacuated from the beaches of France after being surrounded by the German army. The pedigreed cast includes Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh and Cillian Murphy.
‘Detroit’ (Aug. 4)
The award-winning duo of director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal (“The Hurt Locker,” “Zero Dark Thirty”) team up again to tell the story of the “12th Street Riot” in Detroit in 1967, one of the most violent and tragic disturbances in United States history. Bigelow’s film will reportedly focus on “The Algiers Motel Incident,” in which Michigan law enforcement personnel and National Guardsmen killed three people and brutally beat nine others.
‘The Dark Tower’ (Aug. 4)
Gotta love the casting of Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey in this sci-fi Western adaptation of the Stephen King series. You can’t judge a book by its cover and you can’t judge a movie by its poster — but the teaser poster for “The Dark Tower” IS stunning, and gives us extra hope.