What’s on the big screen this summer?

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James Drew anticipates eight movies coming to a cinema near you over the summer. As the thermometer rises, is there anything more refreshing than spending around two hours in a cool, air-conditioned theatre, with a good movie and a cold drink? We think not.

Barbie
In a comedy directed by Greta Gerwig (Little Women, 2019) Barbie, played by Margot Robbie, is expelled from Barbieland for being a less-than-perfect doll; she is accompanied on her adventure by Ken – of course – played by Ryan Gosling. With a cast that includes Will Ferrell, Rhea Perlman and Helen Mirren this anti-Barbie movie – where I guess we’re all going to start loving the “real world” despite its flaws – might turn out to be as much fun for adults as Barbie’s younger fan base. Will Barbie find happiness in the real world? Who’s to say? But I think we might have a lot of laughs finding out. 119 mins. 

Oppenheimer
The release of this film makes one wonder why Hollywood has not essayed an account of the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the ‘father’ of the atomic bomb, before now. Upon seeing the first successful detonation of a nuclear device in 1945, Oppenheimer, quoting Hindu scripture, said: “Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” The always excellent Cillian Murphy plays Oppenheimer, and it is directed by cinema’s present wunderkind Christopher Nolan (Tenet, 2020) telling the story of Oppenheimer’s contributions to the Manhattan Project, which changed the world forever. 150 mins.

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One                                                        This year appears to be the day of reckoning for major cinematic franchises. We already know that Indiana Jones is hanging up his whip and fedora in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, and this, the first of two films, is possibly the end for Mission Impossible, if the producers are to be believed. Christopher McQuarrie, who wrote the outstanding The Usual Suspects (1995), directs, and Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt, facing a truly world-threatening weapon in this latest instalment. Given that this is the longest Mission thus far, one can only hope that the excitement will last until the end of Part Two. 147 mins.

Haunted Mansion                                                                                                            The second theatrical film adaptation of Walt Disney’s theme park attraction The Haunted Mansion, following the 2003 film of the same name, this enjoyable comedy caper is directed by Justin Simien (Bad Hair, 2020). Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) and Travis (Chase W. Dillon) enlist the aid of a team to help exorcise their mansion and destroy its ghosts and, following her recent Oscar-winning turn in Everything Everywhere All at Once, Jamie Lee Curtis is also involved. 99 mins. 

Smoking Causes Coughing (Fumer fait tousser)
A French comedy anthology written, shot, edited and directed by maestro Quentin Dupieux (Rubber, 2010). With an ensemble cast, led by Gilles Lellouche, Vincent Lacoste and Benoît Poelvoorde, the film follows the adventures of a team of five superheroes who are on a compulsory retreat in order to “strengthen cohesion within their group” until an enemy named Lézardin (Poelvoorde) interrupts by deciding to destroy the planet Earth. If you know the films of Dupieux and his merry team, you’ll know what to expect – it may not be to everyone’s taste, but there will be more than a few belly-laughs, that’s for sure.
80 mins. In French, subtitles. 

Fathers and Mothers (Fædre & mødre)
Having already proved hugely popular in Denmark, where the film was made, Fathers and Mothers relates the story of a married couple, Piv (Katrine Greis-Rosenthal) and Ulrik (Jacob Lohmann) who have to navigate hierarchy, rivalry and hidden agendas at their daughter’s new school, during a school camping trip. Paprika Steen (That Time of Year (Den tid på året), 2018) directs, and Jakob Weiss, Steen’s screenplay collaborator on That Time of Year, writes a humorous portrait of the challenges of being parents to school kids. 97 mins. In Danish, subtitles. 

The Last Voyage of the Demeter                                                                        Dracula, The Last Voyage of the Demeter, is directed by Norwegian André Øvredal (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, 2019), is an intriguing take on a chilling part of Bram Stoker’s horror classic. It is an adaptation of ‘The Captain’s Log’, a chapter from the 1897 Stoker novel, which recounts the fate of the crew of the Demeter, the merchant ship chosen by Dracula to transport him from mainland Europe to Whitby in England. The original part of the novel is chilling enough, dealing as it does with a ship’s crew becoming increasingly convinced that something evil is aboard their ship. Will any of the crew survive the strange and horrifying events that begin to befall them as they attempt to survive the ocean voyage? Javier Botet stars as old fang-face. It will be interesting to have another perspective on one of the most retold tales in cinema. 100 mins.

Ghost Dog – The Way of the Samurai                                                                          A very welcome re-release for the 1999 classic by Jim Jarmusch (The Dead Don’t Die, 2019), with Forest Whitaker as the mysterious Ghost Dog of the title, a hitman in the employ of the Mafia, who follows the ancient code of the samurai as outlined in the book Hagakure. When his bosses decide he has strayed from their commands, they put the order out for Ghost Dog to be killed – and it is a truly hazardous path our hero now has to walk. 116 mins.