It’s shaping up to be a hot summer for actresses
They say there are no good parts for women on the big screen.
They say that movie stars are a thing of the past.
They may be right — generally speaking. But, somewhat unexpectedly, the summer of 2018 looks to be a celebration of great actresses, great acting, and straight-up star power.
Yes, there are the usual sequels, remakes, and reboots, and many of them feature male characters or male stars with major box office clout. Han Solo of "Star Wars" is back in an origin story called "Solo," with Alden Ehrenreich playing the young Han. (That said, people seem more excited about seeing Donald Glover as young Lando Calrissian.) Tom Cruise will play Ethan Hunt in the 532nd "Mission: Impossible" movie. There will be a second "Deadpool" (Ryan Reynolds), another "Equalizer" (Denzel Washington), a new "Superfly" (Trevor Jackson of TV's "Grown-ish"), and a fifth in the "Jurassic Park" series ("Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom"). Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stars in something called "Skyscraper." It wouldn't be summer at the box office without an overdose of testosterone.
This year, though, there's an incoming tide of counteractive estrogen. Consider "Ocean's 8," a spinoff of a sequel of a remake that nevertheless trades in the guys of the earlier heist films for Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, and more. Or "Book Club," a comedy in which Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen set their literary group on its ear by reading "Fifty Shades of Grey"?
In the upcoming "Tully," Charlize Theron gives herself yet another makeover to play an exhausted new mother on the brink of collapse. Melissa McCarthy goes back to college in "Life of the Party." Elle Fanning plays an alien crashing a party in "How to Talk to Girls at Parties," based on a Neil Gaiman short story and directed by John Cameron Mitchell ("Hedwig and the Angry Inch"). That one also features Nicole Kidman as the rebel Celtic ruler Queen Boadicea.
We're getting double the Saoirse Ronan, first in "On Chesil Beach," based on an Ian McEwan novella, and then in an adaptation of Chekhov's "The Seagull," costarring Annette Bening, that just conquered the Tribeca Film Festival.
There are movie queens returning to the screen: Jodie Foster as the mysterious proprietor of the "Hotel Artemis," set in post-apocalypse Los Angeles; Glenn Close gunning for an Oscar in an adaptation of the Meg Wolitzer novel "The Wife," and Our Royal Majesty herself — Meryl Streep — letting her hair down and raising her voice in "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again." (It's her very first sequel, for those keeping score.)
In case you're worrying that summer has become one long class act, know that actresses are anchoring genre projects like the psychological horror film (and SXSW hit) "Hereditary," starring Toni Collette, or the action-suspense prequel "The First Purge," toplining Marisa Tomei. Mila Kunis and "Saturday Night Live" cast member Kate McKinnon go undercover in the espionage buddy-comedy "The Spy Who Dumped Me." Toward the end of the summer, "Crazy Rich Asians" gives Michelle Yeoh ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"), Constance Wu (TV's "Fresh Off the Boat"), and Gemma Chan (TV's "Humans") a chance to play broad mainstream farce.
Nor can you discount the new faces arriving this summer: Elsie Fisher in the coming-of-age indie "Eighth Grade," Thomasin McKenzie in "Leave No Trace," and the entire freshly found cast of teenage skater girlz in "Skate Kitchen," from "The Wolfpack" director Crystal Moselle.
Even the summer's documentaries are dedicated to women who have stirred things up, past and present: Ruth Bader Ginsburg in "RBG," Whitney Houston in "Whitney," and the late proto-punk chanteuse Christa Paffgen in "Nico, 1988." By contrast, male subjects getting the doc treatment in the coming months include the pope ("Pope Francis: A Man of His Word," from Wim Wenders) and Mr. Rogers ("Won't You Be My Neighbor?"). Icons of kindness and decency, both of them — but this summer it's the women who have all the fun.
Sebastián Lelio, who won this year's foreign language film Oscar, for "A Fantastic Woman," directed this drama about an unusual love triangle. Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, and Alessandro Nivola star.
Director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody, who collaborated on "Juno," reunite for this comedy-drama about the friendship that forms between a mother of three (Charlize Theron) and her children's nanny (Mackenzie Davis).
Betsy West and Julie Cohen directed this documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — whose initials are, of course, R.B.G.
Also opening: Overboard, Little Pink House
LET THE SUNSHINE IN
Juliette Binoche plays a Parisian painter who may or may not find romance after her divorce. Claire Denis directed.
LIFE OF THE PARTY
A middle-aged mother (Melissa McCarthy) returns to the same college that her, um, daughter (Molly Gordon) goes to. McCarthy and Ben Falcone wrote the script. Falcone directed.
Also opening: Breaking In, Lu Over the Wall, Racer and the Jailbird
When four friends (Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen) read "Fifty Shades of Grey," they find it hard to turn the page.
Everyone's favorite foul-mouthed superhero is back. This time Ryan Reynolds's Wade Wilson/Deadpool is up against Josh Brolin's Nathan Summers/Cable.
A MAN OF HIS WORD
Wim Wenders ("Buena Vista Social Club") directed this documentary about the pontiff.
A Rottweiler (voice of Ludacris) goes undercover at a fancy dog show. Will Arnett and Natasha Lyonne play the two primary humans.
Also opening: Beast, Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Bye Bye Germany, In the Intense Now (opens May 16)
Politics and religion, violence and guilt collide in upstate New York. Ethan Hawke, as a rural pastor, is at their center. Yes, it's a Paul Schrader movie. He wrote and directed. Amanda Seyfried costars.
ON CHESIL BEACH
This adaptation of Ian McEwan's 2007 novella, about ill-fated newlyweds, stars Saoirse Ronan, Billy Howle, and Emily Watson. Stage and TV veteran Dominic Cooke makes his film-directing debut.
SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY
Meet Han Solo's backstory. Alden Ehrenreich plays him. Donald Glover is the young Lando Calrissian. Also on hand are Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Thandie Newton, and, naturally, Chewbacca. Ron Howard directed.
Also opening: Filmworker
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING
That's André as in André Leon Talley, the one-of-a-kind fashion eminence. Maybe a documentary can win the Oscar for costume design.
HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES
Extraterrestrial teens in a London suburb in 1977? Spot on, mate. John Cameron Mitchell directed and helped adapt Neil Gaiman's short story. Elle Fanning and Nicole Kidman star.
Willem Dafoe narrates this visually spectacular look at some of the planet's tallest peaks.
Michael Mayer directed this adaptation of Anton Chekhov's classic play. Annette Bening stars, with Saoirse Ronan, Corey Stoll, and Elisabeth Moss.
Also opening: Action Point, Adrift, Upgrade
Jodie Foster runs an exclusive "hospital" in a dystopian LA future. Where's Rick Deckard when you need him? The intriguingly varied cast also features Sterling K. Brown, Dave Bautista, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Zachary Quinto, and Jenny Slate.
An all-female version joins the caper franchise, with the site of the heist switched from a Vegas casino to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, and Rihanna star.
WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?
Oscar winner Morgan Neville ("20 Feet From Stardom") directed this documentary about Fred Rogers, the famously cardigan-wearing host of "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood."
Also opening: Hereditary, Summer 1993
HEARTS BEAT LOUD
Brett Haley ("See You in My Dreams") directed and co-wrote this drama about a father (Nick Offerman) and daughter (Kiersey Clemons) who become a songwriting team. Also on hand are Ted Danson, Blythe Danner, and Toni Collette.
After a 14-year hiatus, the first family of superhero society is back. Brad Bird again writes, directs, and (yes!) voices Edna Mode. Also returning are Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, and Samuel L. Jackson.
A KID LIKE JAKE
Claire Danes ("Homeland") and Jim Parsons ("The Big Bang Project") play the parents of a 4-year-old boy who's begun ignoring gender stereotypes. Octavia Spencer, Priyanka Chopra, and Ann Dowd costar.
Director X, of music-video fame, remakes the 1972 blaxploitation classic, "Super Fly" (yup, the original one had a two-word title). Trevor Jackson plays the drug-dealing title character.
Not only is this comedy about a nationwide game of Tag. It's based on a true story. Heading the cast are Ed Helms, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Isla Fisher, and Rashida Jones.
Also opening: Nancy, The Quest of Alain Ducasse
Christopher Plummer plays a marijuana dealer (!) who gets thrown out of his Oregon nursing home. His daughter (Vera Farmiga) has to drive him down to Los Angeles, where he's going to live with her sister.
THE CATCHER WAS A SPY
The based-on-fact story of Moe Berg, major league ballplayer (including several seasons catching and coaching for the Red Sox) and World War II espionage agent. Paul Rudd plays Berg. Guy Pearce, Jeff Daniels, Paul Giamatti, Siena Miller, and Connie Nielsen costar.
Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska play an engaged couple. The problem is she's out West, he's back East, and it's the 19th century. What ensues is a very 21st-century updating of the western. David and Nathan Zellner ("Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter") directed.
JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM
A volcano threatens the dinosaurs on Isla Nubar. Returning from "Jurassic World" (2015) are Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, and B.D. Wong. J.A. Bayona ("A Monster Calls") steps in for Colin Trevorrow as director.
Natalie Portman narrates this documentary based on Jonathan Safran Foer's book about livestock farming and food ethics.
SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO
The drug war along the US-Mexican border heats up even more. Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro return from "Sicario" (2015), as does screenwriter Taylor Sheridan. Stefano Sollima replaces Denis Villeneuve as director.
Those Pepsi Max commercials, with the Celtics' Kyrie Irving playing an old-guy hoopster? Now they're a movie, with Irving making his big-screen debut as the title character.
UNDER THE SILVER LAKE
David Robert Mitchell ("It Follows") wrote and directed this atmospheric neo-noir set in LA. Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, and Topher Grace head the cast.
THE FIRST PURGE
Fourth of July fireworks come to the multiplex: The three films in the "Purge" series get a prequel. Marisa Tomei stars.
ANT-MAN AND THE WASP
Even among superheroes, size matters. Paul Rudd returns as the title hero, as does Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man. Evangeline Lilly plays his daughter, Hope. She's the Wasp.
LEAVE NO TRACE
It's been eight years since Debra Granik directed "Winter's Bone." She returns with this story about a father (Ben Foster) and daughter (Thomasin McKenzie) whose happy existence living off the grid in Oregon runs afoul of the authorities.
Oscar winner Kevin MacDonald ("One Day in September") directed this documentary about Whitney Houston.
The bad news: Disaster strikes Hong Kong's tallest building. The good news: Dwayne Johnson is the building's head of security. Neve Campbell plays his wife.
SORRY TO BOTHER YOU
Boots Riley, in his writing-directing debut, got a lot of attention at Sundance with this look at a comically alternative Oakland, Calif., in which an African-American telemarketer (Lakeith Stanfield) finds that adopting a white voice is the key to success.
Also opening: Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, Puzzle
DON'T WORRY, HE WON'T GET FAR ON FOOT
Gus Van Sant wrote and directed this adaptation of cartoonist John Callahan's memoir. Joaquin Phoenix plays Callahan. Also on hand are Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Jack Black, and Carrie Brownstein.
Hamilton native Bo Burnham wrote and directed this story about a 13-year-old (Elsie Fisher) who faces more than her share of middle-school turmoil. It made a major splash at Sundance.
THE EQUALIZER 2
Denzel Washington returns as justice-dealing Robert McCall. This time the need for justice hits close to home.
MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN
Ten years after "Mamma Mia," a now-pregnant Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) learns about her mother's past. Playing Mom are Meryl Streep (as she did in the original) and, as her younger self, Lily James.
Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui directed this documentary about Alexander McQueen (1969-2010), whose innovative, transgressive designs made him a giant of 21st-century fashion.
Two friends, Collin (Daveed Diggs) and Miles (Rafael Casal), work as movers in Oakland, Calif. In three days, Miles's probation ends. Complications ensue. Diggs and Casal wrote the script, Carlos López Estrada directed. Much attention was paid at Sundance.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE — FALLOUT
Tom Cruise is back as Ethan Hunt in the sixth go-round for the franchise. Don't expect the secretary to disavow any knowledge of this Impossible Missions Force's activities.
HOT SUMMER NIGHTS
Those nights take place on Cape Cod, as does sex and drug dealing. Starring is Timothée Chalamet ("Call Me by Your Name").
Also opening: Generation Wealth, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
The title character, whom we know from A.A. Milne's "Pooh" stories, has grown up and is in a bad way. His animal friends from the books enter the real world to help him out. With Ewan McGregor as Christopher Robin, and Hayley Atwell as his wife.
FAR FROM THE TREE
A documentary adapted from Andrew Solomon's best-selling study of how much children can differ from their parents.
Can a veteran US operative (Mark Wahlberg) extract a human asset (John Malkovich) from a dangerous foreign country? Before answering, keep in mind that this is the first movie in a planned trilogy. Peter Berg ("Deepwater Horizon," "Patriots Day") directed.
THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME
Audrey gets the heave-ho. What makes this breakup special is that the boyfriend is an espionage operative, Mila Kunis plays Audrey, and Kate McKinnon plays her best friend. Round up the unusual suspects. Directed by Susanna Fogel ("Chasing Life").
Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce) has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. This inspires his spouse (Glenn Close) to have second thoughts about her life.
Also opening: The Darkest Minds, Searching
Twenty years after becoming famous as the glamorous one in the Velvet Underground, the singer known as Nico (Trine Dyrholm) is down and out in the north of England.
Also opening: Dog Days, The Meg, AXL
CRAZY RICH ASIANS
Think of it as "Their Big Fat Chinese Wedding." Three fabulously wealthy families collide in Singapore at a fabulously over-the-top wedding. Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh, and Ken Jeong head the cast. Based on Kevin Kwan's best-selling novel.
THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS
A neo-noir comedy thriller populated by people and puppets? Absolutely. Brian Henson, son of Jim Henson, directed. Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, and Elizabeth Banks star.
A very big fan (Chris O'Dowd) of a cult rock star (Ethan Hawke) gets to meet him, with serious consequences for them and the fan's wife (Rose Byrne). Adapted from Nick Hornby's novel.
Crystal Moselle ("The Wolfpack") makes her fiction film debut, directing this story of New York skater girls.
Also opening: Alpha
Charlie Hunnam stars as Henri "Papillon" Charrière, a French criminal trying to escape from Devil's Island. Based on Charrière's memoir, it's a remake of the 1973 film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.
Also opening: Slender Man
Crime meets sci-fi, as gangster James Franco chases ex-con Jack Reynor, who's in possession of a piece of high-tech weaponry. Lending support are Dennis Quaid, Carrie Coon, and Zoë Kravitz.
SUPPORT THE GIRLS
A comedy about a day in the life of a Hooters-style sports bar. Regina Hall plays the manager. Also on board are James LeGros, Brooklyn Decker, and Lea DeLaria. Mumblecore master Andrew Bujalski directed.