Preview Time

‘Cruella’ and ‘Black Widow’ Are All That! Here’s Your 2021 Summer Movie Preview

Published on May 24, 2021

Remember the summer movie season? It’s been a few years, so here’s a refresher: Lots of shiny big-budget spectacles and sunny gems specially designed to whisk you away from the real world for a few hours. (Read: No traces of a Nomadland.) And after the sad effort of 2020 — thanks for trying, Tenet — the class of ’21 is determined to deliver the comedy-and action-packed goods. Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel and Emma Stone help; so do the usual slew of sequels and a musical from Lin-Manuel Miranda that will make you want to get up and dance. And hey, multiple sources even confirm that Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow will finally check-in too. Here’s an early look at 17 hot titles coming to a screen near you.


A Quiet Place Part II

This ultra-tense and taut sequel had already premiered to good reviews when it was pulled because of you-know-what. Now shhhhhh happens! Here’s what I can tell you: The Abbott family (led by fierce mama Emily Blunt) and a reluctant old friend (Cillian Murphy) fight for survival against the mysterious creatures that hunt and kill by sound. John Krasinski returns to direct and wrote the screenplay and appears in flashbacks. See this one on the big screen, OK? (In theaters, May 28; Paramount+ July 12)



Mulan and The Lion King disappointed, but trust me: This latest live-action interpretation of an animated Disney classic is spot-on. Emma Stone vamps it up as the misunderstood Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmatians in a deliciously entertaining origin story set in high-styling London in the 1970s. An orphaned fashion designer, she evolves into the titular character while apprenticing for a haughty baroness (Emma Thompson). (In theaters and Disney+ Premier Access, May 28)


In the Heights

That would be Washington Heights in New York City, where its Latin-American residents dream big over the course of three days in the summer. The bustling musical, based on the 2008 Tony-winning show, was composed by Hamilton maestro and star Lin-Manuel Miranda back when he was in college. He has a singing cameo here. (In theaters and HBO Max, June 11)


Kevin Hart is in the title role, but he’s not acting up in a broad shenanigan-heavy comedy. Instead he plays a single dad bringing up his baby girl after the unexpected death of his wife a day after their daughter’s birth. This five-Kleenex-worthy true story was adapted from the book Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love. (Netflix, June 18)



If you believe the web whispers, the gang — Vin Diesel, Charlize Theron, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster plus newcomers John Cena and Cardi B (!!!) — will crash and smash in outer-space for their ninth installment of their saga (which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year). Expect tons of high-octane brainless fun either way. (In theaters June 25)


Summer of Soul (. . . Or When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

For his directorial debut, Questlove unearths footage from the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival — i.e., the “Black Woodstock” of its era, which has never received its proper due. Concertgoers and experts add present-day commentary, but the main event is most definitely performances from the likes of Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone and many more. Winner of two big awards at the recent Sundance Film Festival. (In theaters and Hulu, July 2)


Black Widow

Not a misprint. The beloved Avenger/ex-KGB assassin (Scarlett Johansson) stands alone in this looooooong-overdue prequel. Set after the events of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, the flick features Black Widow returning to her native Russia to confront her obviously complicated past. (In theaters and Disney+ July 9)

Space Jam: A New Legacy

LeBron James already has 16 All-Star appearances, four NBA championship rings and two Olympic gold medals. But is he a leading man? In this reboot of the 1995 Michael Jordan comedy, James (playing a version of himself) and his son gets sucked into a Warner Bros. “Server-verse.” To save his son, defeat the Goon Squad and escape this virtual world, he and animated friends must play a round of hoops. Guess who wins! (In theaters and HBO Max, July 16)


Last Letter from Your Lover 

An ambitious journalist (Felicity Jones) discovers a trove of secret letters from 1965 and becomes determined to solve the mystery of the forbidden affair at its center. Said affair involves a woman (Shailene Woodley) stuck in an abusive marriage with a wealthy industrialist (Joe Alwyn).  Don’t read the JoJo Moyes book if you don’t want to know what happens next. (Netflix, July 23)


The Tomorrow War

A group of time travelers arrive from the year 2051 to deliver an urgent message: 30 years in the future, mankind is losing a war against the aliens and the only hope is for soldiers and civilians from the present to be transported and join the fight. To make a long story short, Chris Pratt portrays one of the recruitees. (Amazon Prime Video, July 23)


Jungle Cruise

Who’s ready for an old-fashioned family-fun adventure with two of your favorite stars? (Rhetorical question). Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt team up for a trip deep into the Amazonian jungle in the early 20th century to find a tree with magical healing powers. Based on the OG Disney attraction. (In theaters July 29)


The Suicide Squad

Forget that 2016 Suicide Squad dud and gear up for this R-rated re-launch in which lovable criminal misfits band together to save the day. Margot Robbie and Viola Davis return (smart move), along with newbies Idris Elba, Taika Waititi, Pete Davidson, John Cena and Sylvester Stallone as King Shark. (In theaters and HBO Max, August 6) 


The Kissing Booth 3

Now that Elle (Joey King) has graduated high-school, it’s time to make an adult decision: Move across the country with boyfriend Noah (Jacob Elordi) or fulfill her promise to go to college with her bestie Lee (Joel Courtney). This will end in heartbreak and life lessons, guaranteed. (Netflix, August 11)



Meet your favorite new indie stunner. Teen Ruby (Emilia Jones), a Child of Deaf Adults, must decide between pursuing her love of singing or staying behind with her family and serving as their interpreter. Heart-swelling moments ensue — in fact, if you’re not crying in during Ruby’s Big Scene then you have a heart of stone. (In theaters and Apple+, August 13)

Free Guy

Ryan Reynolds is a happy-go-lucky bank teller who discovers he’s actually a background player in a video game. His only play? Save the world from the baddie-in-charge (Jodie Comer) before it’s too late. It sounds like The Matrix-meets-The Truman Show but you know what? We could all use some of Reynolds’ cheery attitude right now.  (In theaters, August 13)



Baby, we know what you want and what you need: A biopic about Aretha Franklin starring Jennifer Hudson. The Oscar-winning powerhouse will belt out the title tune and more playing the Queen of Soul, whose extraordinary life spanned from Detroit choir-singing child prodigy to pioneering legend. Forest Whitaker plays her dad. (In theaters, August 13)


He’s All That

Time to start re-learning the steps to the Rockefeller Skank. This reimagining of the 1999 high-school classic revolves around an influencer (Addison Rae) who accepts a challenge to the school’s dork (Tanner Buchanan) into prom king. Featuring appearances from Laney Boggs herself, Rachael Lee Cook, as well as Matthew Lillard. But no Freddie Prinze Jr., grrrr. . . . (Netflix, August 27)