Emma Stone plays the title character in the live-action “Cruella.” (Courtesy Laurie Sparham/Disney)

Emma Stone plays the title character in the live-action “Cruella.” (Courtesy Laurie Sparham/Disney)

Back to the big screen: Summer Movie Preview

A brief look at the most promising of 2021’s offerings

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Movie preview stories often include the disclaimer “all dates subject to change,” but this summer the words are more meaningful than ever. With theaters slowly opening and taking every safety protocol, we will hope for the best, but prepare for the worst, for the big-screen season. Fingers crossed that these thrills, chills and laughs can be enjoyed in the best way possible.

MAY

Those Who Wish Me Dead (Warner Bros.)

Oscar-nominated writer-director Taylor Sheridan (“Wind River” and TV’s “Yellowstone”) returns with this wilderness-set thriller. A young boy is being hunted by killers and Angelina Jolie is the only one who can protect him. (May 14)

Spiral: From the Book of Saw (Lionsgate)

A spinoff from the successful gory horror franchise “Saw,” this one stars Chris Rock in a serious role as a police detective, taking on what appears to be a copycat killer modeled after the late Jigsaw. Samuel L. Jackson co-stars as Rock’s father. It’s from the director of “Saw” 2, 3, and 4. (May 14)

Riders of Justice (Magnolia)

Mads Mikkelson (“Another Round”) goes the Liam Neeson route, trying to find the man who blew up the train his wife was riding, in this revenge flick from Denmark. Veteran screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen directs. (May 21)

A Quiet Place II (Paramount)

Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe return, and they’re still trying not to attract the attention of noise seeking monsters. This time they stumble upon other humans… is there hope for survival? Or just more sequels? John Krasinski directs. (May 28)

Cruella (Disney)

Following in the footsteps of the money-making “Maleficent,” another famous Disney villain gets her own movie. Emma Stone stars as the nasty, puppy-hating antagonist from “101 Dalmatians.” Craig Gillespie (“I, Tonya”) directs. (May 28)

Other movies opening in May: “Above Suspicion” (Altitude Films), “Army of the Dead” (Netflix), “Bad Tales” (Strand Releasing), “The Djinn” (IFC Midnight), “Dream Horse” (Bleecker Street), “The Dry” (IFC Films), “Final Account” (Focus), “Los Hermanos /The Brothers” (First Run), “New Order” (Neon), The Woman in the Window” (Netflix)

JUNE

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (Warner Bros.)

Another story from the files of the real-life Ed and Lorraine Warren, this third chapter, and the eighth film in the “Conjuring Universe,” deals, of course, with demonic possession. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson return as the Warrens. (June 4)

Undine (IFC Films)

Acclaimed German filmmaker Christian Petzold (“Barbara,” “Phoenix” and “Transit”) directs this story of romance, betrayal, and a water nymph! (June 4)

Vivo (Columbia/Sony)

Featuring voice work and new songs by Lin Manuel-Miranda, this animated film tells the story of a kinkajou (“honey bear”) who takes a colorful musical journey. It will be released via Netflix. (June4)

In the Heights (Warner Bros.)

It’s the summer of Lin Manuel-Miranda! This big-screen adaptation of his first stage musical stars Anthony Ramos (“Hamilton”) in a spirited story of New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood. (June 11)

Censor (Magnolia)

Fresh from the SFFilm Festival (San Francisco International Film Festival), this creepy, excellent meta-horror movie takes place in the 1980s and the world of “Video Nasties.” (June 11)

Luca (Pixar)

In the latest Pixar movie, two sea monsters disguised as human boys visit a picturesque town in the Italian Riviera for animated adventures. Debuts on Disney+. (June 18)

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It (Roadside)

Berkeley’s own Oscar-winning Rita Moreno, star of “West Side Story,” gets her own documentary! (June 18)

“Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It” details the life and career of the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award winner. (Courtesy Roadside Attractions)

“Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It” details the life and career of the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award winner. (Courtesy Roadside Attractions)

The Sparks Brothers (Focus)

The amazing director Edgar Wright returns with his first film since “Baby Driver,” a documentary about the neglected 1980s pop group Sparks. (June 18)

Summer of 85 (Music Box)

Veteran French filmmaker Francois Ozon (“Swimming Pool”) helms this nostalgic, tragic LGBTQ+ love triangle. (June 18)

F9 (Universal)

The film offers more no-brain-required “Fast and Furious” stuff, with John Cena joining the series as a vengeful assassin out to get Vin Diesel. (June 25)

Zola (A24)

Based on a 148-tweet Twitter thread, this sure-to-be-talked about film follows Zola (Taylour Paige) and Stefani (Riley Keough), who take a pole-dancing cross-country road-trip. Janicza Bravo (of the very weird “Lemon”) directs. (June 30)

Riley Keough, left, and Taylour Paige star in “Zola,” a film about women interested in pole dancing that’s based on a Twitter thread. (Courtesy A24)

Riley Keough, left, and Taylour Paige star in “Zola,” a film about women interested in pole dancing that’s based on a Twitter thread. (Courtesy A24)

Also opening in June: “All Light, Everywhere” (Super LTD), “America: The Motion Picture” (Netflix), “Awake” (Netflix), “Blue Bayou” (Focus), “Chasing Wonders” (Gravitas), “Fatherhood” (Netflix), “Good on Paper” (Netflix), “Grace and Grit (Quiver), “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” (Lionsgate), “Holler” (IFC Films), “I Carry You with Me” (Sony Pictures Classics), “The Ice Road” (Netflix), “The Misfits” (The Avenue), Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” (Columbia/Sony), “Queen Bees” (Gravitas), “Samaritan” (MGM/UA), “Skater Girl” (Netflix), “Spirit Untamed” (DreamWorks), “12 Mighty Orphans” (Sony Pictures Classics), “Wish Dragon” (Netflix)

JULY

Black Widow (Marvel/Disney) (July 9)

The late, great Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) deals with demons from her past in a story that reportedly takes place just after “Captain America: Civil War.” Florence Pugh and David Harbour costar in the film by Cate Shortland (“Berlin Syndrome”), the second female director of a Marvel film after Anna Boden (“Captain Marvel”).

Space Jam: A New Legacy (Warner Bros.)

Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes gang are back in this sequel to the 1995 movie, now with Laker LeBron James filling Michael Jordan’s formidable shoes. Malcolm D. Lee (“Girls Trip”) directs. (July 16)

Old (Universal)

On a secluded tropical beach, Gael García Bernal and his family mysteriously begin to age rapidly, and time is running out, in a creepy-sounding M. Night Shyamalan movie. (July 23)

Jungle Cruise (Disney)

See the “back side of water” with Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt in this adventure-comedy based on the silliest of Disneyland rides. The screenplay is by the co-writers of “Bad Santa.” (July 30)

The Green Knight (A24)

Talented filmmaker David Lowery (“A Ghost Story”) offers his take on the Arthurian story of Sir Gawain, played by Dev Patel. Alicia Vikander costars. (July 30)

Matt Damon plays a father aiming to help his daughter who’s accused of murder in “Stillwater.” (Courtesy Jessica Forde/Focus Features)

Matt Damon plays a father aiming to help his daughter who’s accused of murder in “Stillwater.” (Courtesy Jessica Forde/Focus Features)

Stillwater (Focus Features)

Tom McCarthy, director of the Oscar-winning “Spotlight,” tells a story of a father (Matt Damon) coming to the rescue of his daughter (Abigail Breslin), when she’s accused of murder. (July 30)

Also opening in July: “Cinderella” (Columbia), “Enemies of the State” (IFC Films), “The Forever Purge” (Universal), “The Last Mercenary” (Netflix), “The Night House” (Searchlight), “Resort to Love” (Netflix), “Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins” (Paramount)

AUGUST

The Suicide Squad (Warner Bros.) (Aug. 6)

An attempt to start over after the disappointing 2016 movie, this one has “Guardians of the Galaxy” auteur James Gunn in charge, plus a whole new cast (Idris Elba, John Cena, etc.). Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is back for more mischief.

“The Suicide Squad” reboots the DC movie series with a new cast including, from left, David Dastmalchian as Polka Dot Man, John Cena as Peacemaker, Idris Elba as Bloodsport and Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher. (Courtesy Jessica Miglio/Warner Bros.)

“The Suicide Squad” reboots the DC movie series with a new cast including, from left, David Dastmalchian as Polka Dot Man, John Cena as Peacemaker, Idris Elba as Bloodsport and Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher. (Courtesy Jessica Miglio/Warner Bros.)

Ema (Music Box)

Acclaimed Chilean director Pablo Larraín (“Neruda,” “Jackie”) takes a tragic story of a couple’s failed relationship and their adopted child to new levels — with music and dancing. (Aug. 6)

Free Guy (20th Century Studios)

Ryan Reynolds stars as an NPC (non-player character) in a video game who becomes aware of his identity, and decides to take charge of his destiny and win the game. (Aug. 13)

Respect (United Artists)

Cynthia Erivo successfully played her on a Hulu series, and now Oscar-winner and former “American Idol” star Jennifer Hudson gets her chance to embody the legend, Aretha Franklin. (Aug. 13)

CODA (Apple TV+)

Emilia Jones plays Ruby, a hearing child of deaf adults who must decide whether to stay with her family or pursue her dream of singing. Oscar-winner Marlee Matlin plays Ruby’s mother. (Aug. 13)

Beatles Get Back (Disney)

Following his groundbreaking World War I documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old,” director Peter Jackson turns his sights on the Beatles, giving an unprecedented look at the band’s final days together recording the “Let It Be” album in 1970. (Aug. 27)

Candyman (MGM/UA)

Nia DaCosta, the director of one of 2019’s most unheralded movies, “Little Woods,” switches gears for this remake of the 1992 horror movie based on Clive Barker’s story. Jordan Peele is one of the screenwriters, so strap in! (Aug. 27)

Also opening in August: “Demonic” (IFC Films), “Don’t Breathe 2” (Screen Gems), “He’s All That” (Netflix), “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” (Sony), “Paw Patrol: The Movie” (Paramount), “Reminiscence” (Warner Bros.), “Sweet Girl” (Netflix)

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