From long-delayed action flicks to stellar Canadian indies, this season’s movies come in all sizes and formats.
We usually open this section by singing the praises of air-conditioned mornings, crowd-pleasing blockbusters, and oversized fountain drinks. But that will not yet be possible. With indoor theaters unlikely to reopen until late July or early August – although drive-ins may resume earlier – movies are still a thing at home in the summer of 2021.
And most distributors have accepted it, which means we’ll be able to showcase the biggest releases in our lounges, subject to regional availability and ISP speeds. (Release dates are subject to change).
In the heights
Director John M. Chu’s cheerful and visually marvelous adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s breakout musical is a loving bachata and hip-hop swan song to the Latinx community of Washington Heights. The film is overloaded with a winning cast and playoff musical numbers, all celebrating the culture of a community suffering from gentrification. We’ve seen this before and it’s safe to say we’ll be playing our favorite numbers on repeat all summer long. Read our review here. Digital output, June 11
Charles Officer’s first feature drama in 12 years stars Saul Williams as a mid-level drug dealer trying to recover stolen goods after a robbery goes awry, and possibly save a child (Thamela Mpumlwana) to follow the same path that swallowed up his own future. Urgently paced and beautifully photographed – Maya Bankovic’s cinematography won one of four Canadian Screen Film Awards last month – this complex and artful thriller came as a surprise at TIFF last year. Digital TIFF Bell Lightbox June 11; Wider digital release on June 15th.
“Based on a Twitter feed” is a thing now. Janicza Bravo’s adaptation of Aziah “Zola” Wells’ hilarious and horrifying viral tweets stars Taylour Paige as the titular exotic dancer who sets off on a wild and dangerous trip to Florida with a fellow manipulative dancer (Riley Keough ). There are pimps, con artists, and the adorable Nicholas Braun of Succession who finds himself caught in the middle. June 30th
Summer Of Soul (… Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
Roots lead man Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s first film unveils previously unseen footage from the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival for a documentary that strikes the perfect balance between stunning performance sequences and insightful social analysis. You can tell Thompson is an audio commentary guy – Summer Of Soul mixes in-depth anecdotes, socio-cultural analysis and emotional first-person interviews to capture a pivotal but little-known moment in music, politics and history. black Americans while giving exciting performance footage of Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Mahlia Jackson, Sly and the Family Stone (and many more) have room to express what words can’t. Disney + Star, July 2.
The war of tomorrow
So here’s the deal: Soldiers from the year 2051 are arriving today to warn us that aliens are invading Earth, and only we can stop them by… traveling into the future and joining the battle. Chris Pratt and Sam Richardson are among the rookies of what appears to be a fairly straightforward sci-fi actor – except that The Tomorrow War also marks the live-action debut of veteran animator Chris McKay, who directed The LEGO Batman Movie. So we have no idea what to expect, really. Amazon Prime Video, July 2.
Natasha Romanoff just can’t take a break. Russian dark ops specialist Scarlett Johansson was the first Marvel character to have her film delayed by the pandemic, adding an insult to (fatal) injury to the set of Avengers: Endgame. But after several delays, it’s finally locked down for a hybrid release in theaters where possible and on Disney + as a premium purchase, and fans can finally find out who Florence Pugh and David Harbor play and what the Australian minimalist is. Cate Shortland brought to this project as a director. Drive-ins and Disney + Premium Access, July 9.
The Toronto filmmaker who swings between cult cinema and gay porn returns to mainstream crossover mode with an exploitation film about twins separated at birth. Set in the rural Quebec town of the same name, Saint Narcisse tells the story of a narcissistic Montrealer who sets off in search of his long-lost mother to meet a monk who seems surprisingly familiar. It’s basically like a Freudian reimagining of The Parent Trap with a heavy dose of psycho-sexual Catholic terrors. Digital release July 23.
Tracey Deer’s first feature film recreates the 1990 Oka Crisis through the eyes of a 12-year-old Mohawk girl (Kiawentiio, Anne With An E and Rutherford Falls) forced to confront racism head-on when her whole world crumbles in chaos and rage. And even though the story takes place over 30 years ago, the themes are unfortunately very contemporary. Beans was named Best First Feature and Best Picture at last month’s Canadian Screen Awards – and yes, it really is that good. Digital release, July 30.
The green knight
Dev Patel trades Charles Dickens for an Arthurian legend in this lavish tale of a Camelot knight who accepts a supernatural challenge from a mystical warrior. Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton and Sean Harris co-starring; Writer / Director / Editor David Lowery has demonstrated a knack for otherworldly storytelling with Pete’s Dragon and A Ghost Story. If there is one film that we hope to see in the cinema, it is this one; it looks positively lovely. Premium digital rental, August.
The suicide squad
Aside from the casting of Margot Robbie as DC’s supervillain Harley Quinn, the previous Suicide Squad movie was a gray and joyless grind. So why get excited about the future? Because Warner gave it to Guardians of the Galaxy writer / director James Gunn and let him do whatever he wanted. Which means Robbie’s Harley is now fighting alongside a group of much more savage weirdos – including Bloodsport of Idris Elba, John Cena’s murderous peacemaker, and Sylvester Stallone’s King Shark, who is a shark – to save the world. , or something like that. At least we’ll have some jokes this time around. Premium digital rental, August 6
The death of Aretha Franklin in 2018 opened floodgates for cinematic content. The Amazing Grace concert documentary was released from the archives, and Cynthia Erivo presented a TV biopic about the Queen of Soul earlier this year. But the one we’ve all been waiting for is the official Hollywood big-screen biopic starring Jennifer Hudson, who was “hand-picked” by Franklin to play the role before her death. Mary J. Blige, who has played the role of actress lately, plays Dinah Washington and Marc Maron plays Franklin producer Jerry Wexler. At the cinema, August 13
Imagine La La Land by Leos Carax. Nine years after his intoxicating toast to the Holy Motors cinema, the French director returns with a dark and black musical written by The Sparks Brothers. Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard embody the seismic push-pull forces in this mysterious and lyrical Hollywood love story. On Amazon Prime Video Canada, August 20
Nia DaCosta’s “spiritual sequel” to Clive Barker’s classic adaptation – about a seeker of urban legends who inadvertently summons a vengeful but deeply romantic ghost – has been on the verge of release for over a year, but we have the feeling that a horror film rooted in America’s Gruesome History of Racism and Class Wars will always come at the right time. And Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris and Colman Domingo only became bigger stars in the meantime. At the cinema, August 27
Shang-Chi and the legend of the ten rings
We’ve been waiting for this one for a long time – ever since we picked Kim’s Convenience star Simu Liu as the role shortly before the casting announcement in 2019. Martial Arts Epic Starring Asian Leading Role The Marvel Universe was originally slated for a February 2021 release date but has been pushed back to the end of the summer, so we really hope that Toronto theaters will be open again by then. At the cinema, September 3.