Roeper’s 2023 summer movie preview: Make way for Spidey, Barbie, Indy and J. Robert Oppenheimer

From small character studies to big blockbusters, here are 15 films that could be something special in the sunny season.

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The web-slinger (voice of Shameik Moore) has a lot of universes to save in “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.”

Columbia Pictures

Looking back at last year’s Summer Movie Preview, most of the titles we were most keen to see lived up to our expectations, e.g., the global blockbuster “Top Gun: Maverick,” which finally turned that Tommy Cruise fellow into a movie star; the gritty and grounded Adam Sandler basketball film “Hustle”; the Austin Butler starmaking vehicle “Elvis,” and the dark thrills we gleaned from “Black Phone,” “Nope” and “Emily the Criminal.”

Then again: the less said about “The Gray Man” and “Jurassic World: Dominion,” the better.

Not that our annual look at the summer movies we’re most excited about is intended to predict box office success or even widespread critical acclaim; we’re just saying, the potential is there for something special, whether it’s a seemingly slam dunk of a sequel (hello, Indiana Jones), a highly anticipated Serious Film (Christopher Nolan in the house) or a certain very pink movie that has generated so much advance publicity it almost seems like it’s already been released.

With a reminder our Summer Movie Calendar begins May 1 and closes Labor Day weekend, here’s what we’re most excited to see.

‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ (May 5)

Ever since Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill/Starlord cued up “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone on his Walkman cassette player nearly a decade ago, the Guardians of the Galaxy have contributed humor, heart and heroics to the MCU. For their curtain call, writer-director James Gunn and the all-star cast led by Pratt, Zoe Saldaña, Dave Bautista and Karen Gillan reunite for one last mission: to rescue Rocket (Bradley Cooper). As was the case with the first two films, expect an “Awesome Mix” of tunes popping on the soundtrack, including “Creep” by Radiohead, “No Sleep till Brooklyn” by the Beastie Boys, “Badlands” by Bruce Springsteen and “Crazy on You” by Heart.

‘BlackBerry’ (May 12)

Oh man, remember that miniature “thumbing” keyboard and that optical trackball and the ease with which you could access e-mail? The BlackBerry was a dominant force in the 2000s and early 2010s, holding nearly 50% of the handheld phone market, until it wasn’t. Looks like they’re going for a vibe akin to “The Social Network” with “BlackBerry,” which tells the origins story of the Canadian company and has earned rave reviews on the film festival circuit.

‘You Hurt My Feelings’ (May 26)

Writer-director Nicole Holofcener delivers the kind of smart, engaging, character-driven pieces that would have been right at home in the 1970s, e.g., “Walking and Talking,” “Lovely and Amazing” and “Enough Said,” so there’s no reason to believe she won’t deliver the goods once again with “You Hurt My Feelings,” starring the invaluable Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a novelist and teacher who has been married to Tobias Menzies’ Don for decades, and how’s this for something novel? Word is they’re actually still mad for each other. Like “Blackberry,” this one has been getting great reviews at film festivals.

‘The Little Mermaid’ (May 26)

Somehow, some actual grown adult human beings have expressed outrage over the casting of Halle Bailey in Disney’s live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid,” I guess because they think it’s not an historically accurate depiction of … A MERMAID? Let’s leave the idiocy and bigotry in the trash bin where it belongs and say that while Disney’s nonstop parade of live-action takes on their animated catalog haven’t always been embraced, I’ve found most of them utterly entertaining. And here’s the crazy thing: The existence of these reboots doesn’t mean they’ve erased the beloved animated films of your innocent youth.

‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ (June 2)

I absolutely loved the electric, life-affirming, crazy-clever rollercoaster ride that was “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018), so I’m amped about the return of Miles Morales/Spider-Man (Shameik Moore), who teams up with Gwen Stacy/SpiderWoman (Hailee Steinfeld) to save all the universes from the evil super-villain known as Spot (Jason Schwartzman). Expect to see a myriad of Spideys, voiced by the likes of Issa Rae, Jake Johnson, Daniel Kaluuya and Karan Soni.

‘Asteroid City’ (June 16)

Every film from Wes Anderson feels like a major event played in a minor key—the kind of movie that dazzles you with its intelligence, unique visual style and dry wit. From “Rushmore” through “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox” to “Moonrise Kingdom” to “The French Dispatch,” Anderson occupies a special and unique place among modern filmmakers. He has assembled the usual galaxy of talent—Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Bryan Cranston, Tilda Swinton, on and on it goes—in a mid-1950s period piece set at a Junior Stargazer convention. Let the quirky hijinks begin!

‘Elemental’ (June 16)

“Finding Nemo,” “Cars,” “Ratatouille,” “WALL-E,” “Up,” “Toy Story 3,” “Inside Out,” “Luca” — some of the very best Pixar movies have been summer releases, and hope is high once again for “Elemental,” which tells the story of the residents of Element City, including Air, Earth, Water and Fire, who all live by one simple rule: “Elements Cannot Mix.” Spoiler alert: That’s about to change.

‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’’ (June 30)

More than 40 years after Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones became an instant adventure movie icon in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Ford’s Indy makes his fifth and final appearance in an adventure set mostly in the late 1960s, with Phoebe Waller-Bridge playing his goddaughter, Helen Shaw, and the great Mads Mikkelsen as one Jürgen Voller, a former Nazi now working with NASA, and I wouldn’t trust that guy. Steven Spielberg hands over the directing reins to James Mangold (“Logan,” “Ford v. Ferrari”), while the legendary John Williams will contribute what is sure to be a rousing score.

‘Joy Ride’ (July 7)

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Stephanie Hsu as Kat, Sabrina Wu as Deadeye, Ashley Park as Audrey and Sherry Cola as Lolo in “Joy Ride.”

Lionsgate

The talented screenwriter Adele Lim (“Crazy Rich Asians,” “Raya and the Last Dragon” makes her directorial debut in this road trip buddy comedy/drama about Ashley Park’s Audrey, Sherry Cola’s Lolo, Sabrina Wu’s Deadeye and recent Oscar nominee Stephanie Hsu’s Kat, who set out on a journey across China to find Audrey’s birth mother. Early reviews for “Joy Ride” praised the textured performances and a screenplay that dives deep into cultural issues while supplying a steady stream of smart laughs.

‘Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning, Part One’ (July 14)

Tom Cruise isn’t one for promoting his movies, so we’ll help out by noting this is the seventh edition in the “MI” canon, one of the rare action franchises that has topped itself with virtually every new chapter. Cruise returns in the role he was born to play: the death-defying, globe-trotting, motorcycle-riding, sharpshooting, independent-minded Ethan Hunt, who no doubt will be called upon once again to save the world against nearly insurmountable odds, and yet he’ll, um, mount them. So to speak. In a nine-minute promotional clip showing the training for the already famous stunt scene involving a motorcycle, a ramp, a cliff and a base jump, we’re told Cruise skydived over 500 times and did 13,000 motocross jumps. Geez, I hope he found time to learn his lines!

‘Barbie’ (July 21)

If you ask me, “Would you like to see a ‘Barbie’ movie?” my initial response would be, “I’ve seen the G.I. Joe movies. I don’t need any more punishment.”

If you ask me, “Would you like to see a Barbie movie starring Margot Robbie as the title character and Ryan Gosling as Ken, with Greta Gerwig directing from a screenplay she co-wrote with her partner Noah Baumbach?” my response is, WHEN. Word is we’re getting multiple Barbies played by Dua Lipa, Nicola Coughlin, Kate McKinnon and Issa Rae, among others, and a multitude of Kens as well, with Simu Lu, Ncuti Gatwa and Kingsley Ben-Adir joining the smooth comedy.

‘Oppenheimer’ (July 21)

Here’s your great big Prestige Project Summer Movie Oscar Contender right here, folks. Writer-director Christopher Nolan is giving the three-hour treatment to this biopic of “the father of the atomic bomb,” one J. Robert Oppenheimer, who will be played by Cillian Murphy (appearing in his sixth Nolan film). With a wide-ranging epic such as this, you know we’re going to get an A-list supporting cast, and here goes: Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Rami Malek, Josh Hartnett, Matthew Modine, Jason Clarke. “Oppenheimer” was shot in IMAX, with some scenes filmed in black and white, a first for that format.

‘Talk to Me’ (July 28)

You gotta have a late summer horror movie in the mix, right? “Talk to Me” is about a group of friends who learn they can conjure spirits with the help of an embalmed hand, which once again proves it’s best to leave embalmed hands be.

‘Blue Beetle’ (Aug. 18)

Xolo Maridueña (from the Netflix series “Cobra Kai”) stars as Jaime Reyes/Blue Beetle, a DC Comics character who attains superpowers when an alien beetle scarab grafts onto him, forming an exoskeleton around his body. (This sort of merging deal happens a LOT in the superhero universe, don’t you think?)

‘The Equalizer 3’ (Sept. 1)

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Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) takes on the mafia in Southern Italy in “The Equalizer 3.”

CTMG

Denzel Washington will be turning 69 this year, but as is the case with 70-year-old Liam Neeson, we still love seeing these aging lions kicking the asses of henchmen half their age, even if they have to pause to take a breath once in a while. This is the third time Washington and director Antoine Fuqua have teamed up for an “Equalizer” film and their fifth collaboration in all, as Washington won Oscar for his performance in Fuqua’s “Training Day” and also starred in the “Magnificent Seven” remake in 2016. In this threequel, Washington’s Robert McCall has relocated to Southern Italy and is enjoying his new life—but then the mafia messes with some of Robert’s friends, and off we go. Mafia, you have no chance.

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