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15 films we’re most excited for this summer

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                                Cillian Murphy stars in “Oppenheimer.”


    Cillian Murphy stars in “Oppenheimer.”

                                Greta Lee, left, and Teo Yoo in “Past Lives.”


    Greta Lee, left, and Teo Yoo in “Past Lives.”

                                Julia Louis-Dreyfus in “You Hurt My Feelings.”


    Julia Louis-Dreyfus in “You Hurt My Feelings.”

With all due respect to “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Elvis” and “Nope,” this summer movie season marks the first since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that feels like it’s firing on all cylinders.

Selected by Los Angeles Times entertainment staffers, the titles below — all scheduled to open between Memorial Day weekend and August (local openings may differ) — represent the full range of possibilities that longer, sunny days seem to offer, from indies to Indiana Jones, with films for all tastes arranged in between. Here are the 15 movies we’re most excited about this summer:

“You Hurt My Feelings” (May 26)

This sharp, spiky comedy follows a happily married couple confronting the limits of honesty in a relationship. The movie’s titular conflict comes when Beth, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ writer character, overhears her husband (an excellent Tobias Menzies) complain about having to read yet another draft of her long-gestating novel. This truth bomb crushes her. How can Beth trust anything this guy says? We’ve taken delight in watching Louis-Dreyfus come undone over the years. What distinguishes her work here is the moving way she makes us feel Beth’s dejection along with her angst about growing older. Like we needed another reminder, but she really is a treasure. — Glenn Whipp

“Past Lives” (June 2)

Celine Song’s autobiographical masterpiece begins and (just about) ends with a sequence in a dimly lit New York bar. Initially, we’re spies across the room, listening in on whispered speculations about the trio on screen; by the time we return, alongside Nora (Greta Lee, in a career-making performance), her childhood friend Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) and her husband, Arthur (John Magaro), we have been transformed by the year’s most luminous and surprising love story. Nora and Hae Sung have been separated since her family emigrated from Korea, reintroduced through Facebook and Skype, and finally reunited by an all-too-brief visit, and their relationship hews to rhythms so organic that to say much more would spoil the experience. — Matt Brennan

“Asteroid City” (June 16)

It’s become too easy to take Wes Anderson for granted, with his reliably intense level of filmmaking craft and impeccable attention to detail. His new film “Asteroid City,” set in a fictional American desert town circa 1955 against a backdrop of space-age hopefulness and paranoia, finds him poised to hit his stride again after a few (relative) stumbles. Frequent collaborator Jason Schwartzman matures in the Anderson universe from lonely boy to sad dad, along with a cast that also includes Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Steve Carell, Maya Hawke, Tilda Swinton, Hong Chau, Tony Revolori, Margot Robbie and many more. Anderson has a knack for somehow one-upping himself while simultaneously finding fresh twists on his ever-evolving aesthetic world. Fingers crossed “Asteroid City” will land in the right spot. — Mark Olsen

“The Blackening” (June 16)

In the horror genre, there are two tropes that are almost automatic — a young white girl will be the final survivor, and the first person to get killed will be Black. So what happens when all the characters are Black? That’s the irresistibly clever premise of “The Blackening,” which takes the “terror in the woods” formula and injects it with edgy cultural humor. The comedy follows a group of friends reuniting for a Juneteenth celebration, who discover they are being targeted by a vicious masked killer playing deadly racist games. Tim Story (“Barbershop”), who directs, and writers Tracy Oliver (“Girls Trip”) and Dewayne Perkins, who is also in the cast, have certainly done their homework, riffing on “Saw,” “Scream,” “Halloween” and “The Evil Dead” while also taking shots at Donald Trump and, of course, “Friends.” — Greg Braxton

“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” (June 30)

Anyone who stood in line in 1981 to see “Raiders of the Lost Ark” will never forget the throat-clutching thrill of seeing the film for the first time, following the outrageous adventures of whip-carrying archaeologist Indiana Jones. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring the incomparable Harrison Ford, the film set a new standard for the summer blockbuster, leading to three sequels, all directed by Spielberg. Indy and Ford are returning in the franchise’s fifth film, “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” just in time for summer. There is cause for concern — Spielberg is only a producer this time around, and Ford is 80 years old — but Ford still has his movie star chops, Phoebe Waller-Bridge is along for the ride, and the director this time around, James Mangold, is no slouch. — Greg Braxton

“Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken” (June 30)

A coming-of-age story involving teenage cryptids? Sign me up! Suffice it to say, “Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken” had me from its title alone. Ruby is a shy, awkward teen who just wants to fit in at school even before learning that she comes from a royal line of krakens. This movie flips the traditional fairy tale script, so the beautiful, vain mermaids are the villains trying to take over the (undersea) world. And of course, Ruby’s new classmate turns out to be one of these mermaids. No knock to ongoing franchises, but I’m always excited to see original animated stories on the big screen and cannot wait to learn more about the history of warring krakens and mermaids as Ruby inevitably embraces her heritage and destiny. — Tracy Brown

“Joy Ride” (July 7)

This gonzo misadventure comedy — think “Bridesmaids” meets “The Hangover” — features a female Asian American cast led by Ashley Park (“Emily in Paris”), comedian Sherry Cola, newcomer Sabrina Wu and Oscar nominee Stephanie Hsu (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”). As Lizzo would say, it’s about damn time. Add to that mix the consistently funny Ronny Chieng and Billie Lourd, and we’ve got a hootenanny. Veteran writer-producer Adele Lim (“Crazy Rich Asians”) makes her directorial debut with a script by Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao, who have collaborated with Seth MacFarlane and Awkwafina. And here’s the secret sauce: Producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have a strong record of turning potentially extreme material into smart and hilarious results (see: “The Boys,” “Sausage Party” and “The Disaster Artist”). — Michael Ordona

“Afire” (July 14)

German writer-director Christian Petzold is one of those filmmakers whose work I invariably look forward to; his dramas “Transit” and “Phoenix” are among the finest (and saddest) thrillers to have emerged from Europe in the last decade, and his gift for putting classical genre conventions into play with historical and political themes is practically nonpareil. I’ve been trying not to read too much about the director’s latest, “Afire,” which is about four characters trapped by raging forest fires on holiday. It did win the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize (effectively second place) at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, which is certainly an auspicious sign. — Justin Chang

“Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One” (July 14)

Why would I be so jazzed for the seventh installment in a popcorn spy franchise? Because the sixth, “Fallout,” is one of my favorite action films. Ever. Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie is back for parts one and two, along with several key department heads. Among the returning collaborators: stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood, fight coordinator Wolfgang Stegemann, composer Lorne Balfe and key members of the sound department. McQuarrie (who also co-wrote “Top Gun: Maverick”) and Tom Cruise seem to have cracked the code for delivering top-tier, big-screen thrill rides, as one highly publicized stunt demonstrates. I’m expecting this one to be worth the wait. — Michael Ordona

“Oppenheimer” (July 21)

The development of the atomic bomb might seem an unlikely jumping-off point for a summer tentpole film, but it’s never been wise to bet against Christopher Nolan. As the reigning king of mind-bending blockbusters, Nolan has proved he can take seemingly esoteric and cerebral ideas and topics, from the intricacies of dreams (“Inception”) to a lesser-known World War II battle (“Dunkirk”), and spin them into box office gold. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book  “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” Nolan’s period thriller gathers a star-studded cast, featuring Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Rami Malek, Emily Blunt and, in the title role, Cillian Murphy as the Manhattan Project leader who agonized over the morality of building a weapon that could destroy the world in order to save it. — Josh Rottenberg

“Haunted Mansion” (July 28)

It’s been 20 years since Disney released a movie based on its ghostly theme park attraction, which disappointingly landed with a thud. This second attempt, written by Katie Dippold (“The Heat”) and directed by Justin Simien (“Dear White People”), stars Rosario Dawson as a mother who enlists self-proclaimed supernatural experts to rid her New Orleans home of some stubborn spirits. The starry cast of the adventure comedy boasts Jamie Lee Curtis, Owen Wilson, LaKeith Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish, Danny DeVito, Jared Leto, Winona Ryder and Hasan Minhaj. From the looks of its trailer, it seems like this reboot will be slightly more frightening and exciting than its relatively timid predecessor. — Ashley Lee

“Talk to Me” (July 28)

Ari Aster. Robert Eggers. Danny and Michael Philippou? A24’s track record of launching first-time horror helmers-turned-hitmakers gets a promising new addition in July’s “Talk to Me,” the nifty, nasty supernatural debut of the twin Aussie filmmakers better known by their YouTube moniker, RackaRacka. Star-in-the-making Sophie Wilde plays Mia, a teen whose participation in a party trick involving peer pressure and an embalmed, spirit-conjuring hand turns dangerously addictive. Dripping with angst, energy, genuine dread and adrenaline-jolting practical effects, “Talk to Me” isn’t just a major level up from the stunt-laden comedy and horror shorts with which the Philippous racked up more than a billion views; it marks the first genuine discovery of the content creator-to-Hollywood pipeline. — Jen Yamato

“Bottoms” (Aug. 25)

“Bottoms” is an outrageous, queer teen comedy that could hit summer audiences like a sucker-­punch surprise. Directed by Emma Seligman, who co-wrote the script with Rachel Sennott, the new film is a stinging, freewheeling and fresh riff on the high school tale of self-discovery. Two misfits, played by Sennott and “The Bear’s” Ayo Edebiri, somewhat inadvertently start a self-defense class/fight club and soon discover it’s getting them closer to the popular girls (Havana Rose Liu, Kaia Gerber) they have crushes on and who were previously unattainable to them. “Bottoms” walks a fine line between silly and smart, with a provocative ridiculousness and unexpected sincerity that can leave audiences wincing and laughing at the same time. Unveiled with an uproarious premiere at SXSW, the film is an exhilarating beacon of the next generation of filmmaking. — Mark Olsen

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