The major blockbuster from the Marvel Cinematic Universe this summer is “Thor: Love and Thunder,” (July 8). Taika Waititi is back behind the camera for a direct sequel to 2017’s “Thor: Ragnarok.” Thor takes on a new adversary, Goor the God Butcher — played by Christian Bale; a character that looks to have more than a hint of Lord Voldemort from the “Harry Potter” movies about him. Thor is also reunited with an old flame, Jane Foster, who now wields a reconstructed version of Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor. The “Guardians of the Galaxy” crew also make an appearance.
In terms of box-office, Marvel’s closest challenger might come from another Disney subsidiary, Pixar. The animation studio’s “Lightyear” (June 17) tells the origin story of Buzz Lightyear from the “Toy Story” movies. It’s a shameless cash-in, like the “Star Wars” spin-offs, but the “Toy Story” team have barely put a foot wrong over four movies now, so we’re still definitely going to watch it.
For action fans, comedy thriller “Bullet Train” (August 5), in which Brad Pitt stars as Ladybug, an accomplished assassin trying to change his ways, looks like a must-see. He’s tasked with lifting a briefcase from a bullet train heading to Kyoto from Tokyo. Things get tricky when he discovers that his fellow passengers include several competing assassins all with connecting objectives.
Netflix’s big contender, meanwhile, is “The Gray Man” (July 15). With a $200 million budget, it’s the streaming giant’s most expensive film yet, and has the pedigree to match. Brothers Anthony and Joseph Russo direct (their CV includes four MCU movies) Ryan Gosling as Court Gentry — a deadly mercenary who works with the CIA. But when he discovers some secrets the agency would prefer to keep hidden, he becomes a target for numerous hitmen himself, including his psychotic former colleague Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans, clearly relishing a villainous role after years as that most vanilla of superheroes, Captain America).
Horror fans will be looking forward “The Black Phone” (June 24), in which Ethan Hawke plays a serial killer snatching children in a small town. His sixth victim discovers a phone in his room, through which he can hear the voices of the killer’s previous victims. Then there’s the latest from Jordan Peale’s twisted mind, “Nope” (July 22). Details have been kept closely guarded, but we know it’s a sci-fi crossover in which residents of an isolated town are traumatized by the presence of a UFO.
Other summer movie highlights include Elvis Presley biopic “Elvis” (June 24); “The Man From Toronto” (August 12), an action-comedy starring Kevin Hart and Woody Harrelson; and “Three Thousand Years of Longing” (August 21) in which Tilda Swinton plays a scholar who encounters a Djinn (Idris Elba) in Istanbul. The great George Miller (the “Mad Max” franchise) directs.
Since “Game of Thrones” ended, fantasy fans have had little to be excited about. But this summer might change that. First up is the long-awaited “GoT” prequel series, “House of the Dragon” (August 21 on HBO, and presumably OSN regionally). Based on George R.R. Martin’s 2018 novel “Fire and Blood,” the series — co-created by Martin — tells the story of the fall of House Targaryen.
Perhaps the only fantasy writer with similar pop-culture cachet to Martin is the late J.R.R. Tolkien. So fans really are spoiled for choice this year with the launch of Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” in September. Developed in cooperation with the author’s estate, the show is set in the Second Age of Middle Earth — millennia before the events of “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” — and covers the forging of the Rings of Power and the rise of Sauron.
Returning shows worth checking out include season two of whip-smart mystery-comedy “Only Murders in the Building” (Hulu, June 28), season three of Netflix’s quirky superhero series “The Umbrella Academy” (June 22), the fourth season of the dystopian sci-fi Western “Westworld” (HBO, June 22), and the second season of the understated comedy drama about Native American teenagers “Reservation Dogs” (August 3).
And there are several new shows we’re eager to catch — top of the list being Kuwait-born Palestinian-American comedian Mo Amer’s Netflix sitcom “Mo” (August 24), in which Amer plays Mo Najjar, a Palestinian refugee in Texas who’s unable to access healthcare or keep a job for long because of his immigration status — despite having spent the majority of his life in the US.
Elsewhere, we’re intrigued by Disney+’s “She-Hulk: Attorney-at-law” (August 17), which stars Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”) in the title role; Hulu’s “The Patient” (August 30) starring Steve Carrell as a therapist treating a serial killer; and “Loot” (Apple TV+, June 24), a comedy starring Maya Rudolph as a billionaire brought into the media spotlight by her husband’s infidelity, who decides to get heavily involved with her charity foundation (a foundation she previously knew next-to-nothing about).
It doesn’t seem like 2022 will be a vintage summer for gamers. In a fairly sparse field, there are a few titles worth looking out for, though. For a start, the brilliant indie run-and-gun shooter “Cuphead” has a DLC add-on adventure “The Delicious Last Course” coming June 30, offering more surrealist antics for the titular ‘hero,’ charged with repossessing souls owed to the devil after himself losing big at the devil’s casino. Speaking of returns for beloved characters, “Sonic Origins” (June 23) is a remaster (with some additional missions) of the first four games in the “Sonic the Hedgehog” franchise — offering a trip down memory lane for veterans, and a meaty chunk of throwback goodness for new fans drawn in by the recent movies. That whole “media synergy” thing will also be on show in September, when “The Lord of the Rings: Gollum” is released the day before Amazon’s super-expensive TV series. The action-adventure follows the adventures of the twisted ring-carrier prior to the events of “The Hobbit.”
We’ve been looking forward to the long-delayed “Stray” for a while, and it’s finally going to appear on July 19. It’s a third-person adventure game in which you play as a cat who has to navigate a dystopian world of machines and viruses in order to return to your family.
Other noteworthy releases include survival horror “Fobia: St. Dinfna Hotel” (June 30); “Xenoblade Chronicles 3” (July 29), the latest installment of the Nintendo Switch RPG; Square Enix’s co-op shooter “Outriders: Worldslayer” (June 30); and — for gearheads — EA Sports’ “F1 22” (July 1).
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