One film journalist’s stream-of-consciousness cinematic journey through the pandemic, Part 85
By Laurence Lerman / New York City
Last month, Reel Streaming presented a curatorial selection from May’s theatrical release schedule, which was a far cry from that of May, 2021. Back then, a number of major productions initially slated for late spring and summer release were being rescheduled for the fall of 2021.
That’s not the case this year—and I couldn’t be happier!
Just as May’s theatrical rollout list was much healthier than that of 2021, June’s schedule is also extremely robust. Gone—at least, at this point—are the days of major films bypassing theaters completely and receiving solely digital and streaming releases.
What a difference a year (or two) makes.
Think back to the early days of the pandemic, lockdown and quarantine. It was on March 11, 2020 that Hollywood couple Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson revealed their positive Covid diagnoses to the world, which underscored the increasingly dire situation created by the virus. The two were in Australia for preproduction of director Baz Luhrmann’s as-then untitled Elvis Presley film from Warner, in which two-time Oscar winner Hanks co-stars.
Well, two years and change later, that film, Elvis, is complete and readying for release to some 2,000-plus theaters across the country on June 24. That’s a month after Top Gun: Maverick starring Tom Cruise, which opened on Memorial Day weekend, and was booked into 4,727 theaters in the U.S. and Canada, making it one of the widest theatrical releases of all time.
So, yes, we’ve come a long way—even as we clearly still have a long way to go, what with Covid cases once again spiking around the U.S..
But along that journey, we have scads of choices as to what we can see in our local movie houses (or, in the case of some of the smaller titles, in theaters and on streaming platforms).
Here are 10 of them!
Crimes of the Future
Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart star in David Cronenberg’s first feature since 2014’s Map to the Stars. The Canadian auteur’s latest marks a return to the evolutionary body horror themes he explored decades back in his signature works Crash (2004) and Videodrome (1983). This one revolves around a pair of avant-garde performance artists who use internal organ mutations as their canvas. Sounds like Cronenberg, alright!
The oh-so-French-and-beautiful Romaine Duris and Emma Mackey star in this biographical drama-romance about celebrated 19th-century civil engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose creativity is piqued when he encounters a mysterious woman from his past. This prompts him to design something truly spectacular for the 1889 Paris World’s Fair. One guess as to what that might be….
Jurassic World Dominion
Dominion, the sequel to 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, serves as the sixth installment in the Jurassic Park franchise and the conclusion to the storyline started in the original Jurassic Park trilogy. Appropriately, the cast of the first installment from 1993—Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum—reunite for the first time in nearly 30 years for this latest film, which promises dinosaurs wandering through cities and jungles alike.
Xavier Giannoli’s sumptuous-looking adaptation of Honoré de Balzac’s epic novel focuses on an ambitious aspiring poet named Lucien in 19th-century France who leaves his provincial town for Paris. Overwhelmed by the sophistication of the city’s elite, Lucien is introduced to the business of journalism via a salon of wordsmiths and wunderkinds who can make or break the reputations of actors and artists with the stroke of a quill. Rising French actors Benjamin Voisin and Vincent Lacoste star, with able support from lovely Cécile de France and veteran Gerard Depardieu.
The latest Pixar production unveils the origin story of heroic Buzz Lightyear of the famed Toy Story franchise. This spinoff focuses on the early life of the fictional test pilot/astronaut whom the Buzz Lightyear action figure featured in the Toy Story films was inspired by. How meta! Chris Evans provides the voice of everyone’s favorite Space Ranger.
Brian and Charles
The feature directorial debut from the UK’s Jim Archer is a quirky comedy that follows Brian, a lonely inventor in rural Wales, who uses a washing machine and various spare parts to invent Charles, an artificially intelligent robot who learns English from a dictionary and has an obsession with cabbages. Screenwriters David Early and Chris Hayward star as the titular twosome.
The second feature from German writer-director Leonie Krippendorff is a coming-of-age drama revolving around a shy 14-year-old Berlin girl who takes her first steps toward adulthood over the course of one unforgettable summer. The acclaimed Cocoon finally arrives on U.S. shores two years after its premiere at the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival.
Baz Luhrmann’s music-filled, big ticket movie explores the life and career of Elvis Presley as seen through the prism of his complicated relationship with his dodgy manager, Colonel Tom Parker. One of this summer’s most anticipated arrivals, it stars Austin Butler as the King, a prosthetics-outfitted Tom Hanks as the Colonel and the Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla Beaulieu Presley.
The Black Phone
From writer/director Scott Derrickson, the season’s most anticipated horror entry concerns a shy but clever 13-year-old boy named Finney who is abducted by a sadistic killer and trapped in a soundproof basement where screaming is of little use. When a disconnected phone on the wall begins to ring, Finney discovers that he can hear the voices of the killer’s previous victims. Young Mason Thames portrays Finney and the busier-than-ever Ethan Hawke is on board as the bad guy.
The strangest-sounding release of the month revolves around a group of experimental performance artists known for “sonic catering” (the extracting of disturbing sounds from various foods) who encounter even more bizarre situations when they take up residency at a remote institution. Written and directed by Peter Stickland, this black comedy horror film features an idiosyncratic cast that includes Asa Butterfield (Netflix’s Sex Education), Gwendoline Christie (HBO’s Game of Thrones) and Greek-French cult star Ariane Labed (The Lobster).
Laurence Lerman is a film journalist, former editor of Video Business--Variety's DVD trade publication--and husband to The Insider's own Gwen Cooper. Over the course of his career he has conducted one-on-one interviews with just about every major director working today, including Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Clint Eastwood, Kathryn Bigelow, Ridley Scott, Walter Hill, Spike Lee, and Werner Herzog, among numerous others. Once James Cameron specifically requested an interview with Laurence by name, which his wife still likes to brag about. Most recently, he is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the online review site DiscDish.com.