Happy June, and welcome to planet Earth, now open again for business–and pleasure. In between reuniting with everyone you haven’t seen in A YEAR (give or take), revisiting your favorite restaurants, and remembering what you look like with an actual (non-Brad Mondo directed) haircut, you may find you’re ready to check out the theater again. Likewise, this return to some semblance of normalcy may leave you ready to duck back into your hidey-hole, so here are the finest of this month’s movies, available in both locations.
Open Your Eyes
June 1, 2021 (VoD)
Directed and written by Greg A. Sager (Gray Matter, Kingdom Come); starring Ry Barrett, Joanna Saul, and Suzy Giannakopoulos. I can’t find a connection to Alejandro Amenábar’s film (nor Vanilla Sky), but this psychological horror sets out in a similar vein: a troubled writer meets a woman and subsequently begins questioning his reality. Fellow minimalistic mystery lovers, join me in trying to suss out what’s really going on.
June 4, 2021 (Theaters, VoD)
Feature directorial debut by Elaine Bogan and Ennio Torresan Jr.; written by Aury Wallington, Kristin Hahn (Dumplin’, Stargirl), and John Fusco (Hidalgo, Young Guns, Thunderheart); starring Isabela Merced, Jake Gyllenhaal, Julianne Moore, Walton Goggins, Marsai Martin, Mckenna Grace, and Eiza González. Dreamworks’ animated next chapter (following 2002’s Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron) with the story of Lucky Prescott (Merced), a young girl who bonds with a wild mustang and discovers a deep connection to the mother she never knew. If you’re ready to set your kids free in a movie theater, this story about following one’s heart might be just the ticket.
June 9, 2021 (Netflix)
Directed by Mark Raso (Kodachrome, Copenhagen); written by Gregory Poirier (The Spy Next Door, National Treasure: Book of Secrets); starring Gina Rodriguez, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gil Bellows, Barry Pepper, Finn Jones, and Shamier Anderson. This month’s apocalyptic science fiction nightmare is … dun dun dun: mass insomnia! No, seriously. And not only that, but all electronics cease working, which–let’s be honest–is a fate worse than death for at least half the population. Luckily, one little girl has escaped the titular seemingly permanent affliction. Unluckily, the government now wants to experiment on her (typical), though I have a feeling mama bear Gina Rodriguez will kick all the necessary ass to keep her daughter safe. The world will just have to learn to love nature walks and playing checkers with rocks.
In the Heights
June 11, 2021 (Theaters, HBO Max)
Directed by Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians, Now You See Me 2, Jem and the Holograms); written by Quiara Alegría Hudes (My America); starring Jimmy Smits, Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Daphne Rubin-Vega, and Gregory Diaz IV. Based on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical about a Washington Heights bodega owner with big dreams and the tight-knit community that surrounds and supports him. Hitting the streets to break out in song and dance sounds like exactly the right way to celebrate summer 2021, and with a talented cast full of actual singers and Broadway stars, this adaptation belongs on your must-see list.
June 11, 2021 (Netflix)
Feature directorial debut by Manjari Makijany; written by Makijany and Vinati Makijany; starring Rachel Saanchita Gupta and Shafin Patel, Amrit Maghera, Jonathan Readwin, and Waheeda Rehman. A woman-powered (written and directed by, and starring) story about learning your own power? Yes, please! This sweet tale of a girl in Rajasthan, India, being introduced to and falling in love with skateboarding looks part Footloose, and all heart–just the thing to see with your own kidlets.
June 11, 2021 (Paramount+)
Directed by Antoine Fuqua (The Magnificent Seven, The Equalizer 2, Brooklyn’s Finest); written by Ian Shorr (Splinter) and Todd Stein; starring Mark Wahlberg, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Wallis Day, Jason Mantzoukas, Rupert Friend, Kae Alexander, Toby Jones, and Sophie Cookson. Based on D. Eric Maikranz’s science fiction novel, this action/thriller features Wahlberg as a guy who thinks he’s got psychological problems when in actuality, he’s just having memories of his other lives. Listen, Mark, it’s okay; we’ve all been there. Regardless, with this cast and premise, we all want to go to there.
The Ice Road
June 15, 2021 (Netflix)
Directed and written by Jonathan Hensleigh (The Punisher, Kill the Irishman, The Saint, Jumanji, Die Hard with a Vengeance); starring Liam Neeson, Laurence Fishburne, Amber Midthunder, Holt McCallany, Benjamin Walker, Martin Sensmeier, Matt McCoy, Marcus Thomas, and Matt Salinger. Let’s face it: disaster movie storylines are often dumb as shit and only entertaining if you’re high, half-drunk, or asleep through most of the middle. But THIS ONE has Laurence Fishburne and Liam Neeson navigating a treacherously icy route on the way to save trapped miners, and a nefarious corporate entity trying to evade responsibility with FIRE AND EXPLOSIONS! What more could you ask for on your big-screen TV? (Nothing. The answer is nothing.)
June 16, 2021 (Theaters, VoD)
Directed by Patrick Hughes (The Expendables 3, The Hitman’s Bodyguard); written by Tom O’Connor, Brandon Murphy, and Phillip Murphy; starring Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas, Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Morgan Freeman, Frank Grillo, Caroline Goodall, Rebecca Front, Gabriella Wright, Alice McMillan, Kristofer Kamiyasu, Tom Hopper, Blake Ritson, and Richard E. Grant. Summer blockbusters are returning full force, so strap in and enjoy the ride. This sequel reunites Reynolds’s Bryce with Jackson and Hayek’s Kincaids to take on a madman (Banderas) plotting against Europe (yes, the whole continent), even though Bryce is supposed to be off weapons. Sounds simple!
The Birthday Cake
June 18, 2021 (Theaters, VoD)
Feature directorial debut by Jimmy Giannopoulos; written by Giannopoulos, Diomedes Raul Bermudez, and Shiloh Fernandez; starring Ewan McGregor, Val Kilmer, Shiloh Fernandez, David Mazouz, Lorraine Bracco, Vincent Pastore, John Magaro, and Ashley Benson. On the anniversary of his father’s death, Giovanni brings a cake to his mobster uncle, setting off a chain of events that put his own life in danger. Semi-unrecognizable eighties demigod “Iceman” Kilmer is apparently ramping up his screen time in advance of Top Gun: Maverick with his take on a creepy mafia boss. If that alone doesn’t bring you running, how about Ewan McGregor as the priest that guides young Gio?
June 18, 2021 (Theaters, VoD)
Directed by Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant, King of New York); written by Ferrara and Christ Zois (Welcome to New York, The Blackout); starring Willem Dafoe, Simon McBurney, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Dounia Sichov, and Cristina Chiriac. Let’s face it: that trailer leaves us with the feeling this will either be really terrible or so bananas crazy we won’t be able to look away. That said, Ferrara and Dafoe are a compelling combination and if you’re in the mood for a surrealistic head-scratcher about a man trying to find himself through his dreams, this fantastical piece may just be the thing.
June 21, 2021 (Theaters, VoD)
Directed by Michael Haussman (Do Not Disturb, The Audition); written by Rob Allyn (Red and White, Java Heat); starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Dominic Monaghan, Hannah New, and Josie Ho. Based on the life of James Brooke–who inspired the novels The Man Who Would Be King and Lord Jim–a British soldier who set up his own kingdom in Borneo. If you’re sailing down the river to crazytown (think Conrad’s Kurtz), who better than Rhys Meyers to lead the way (the man knows his wheelhouse)? I can’t tell from the trailers whether this will trend more Apocalypse Now or The Island of Dr. Moreau (how ’bout that Brando connection?), though I’m ready to dive in and find out which way things go.
F9: The Fast Saga
June 25, 2021 (Theaters, VoD)
Directed by Justin Lin; written by Lin and Daniel Casey (Kin, The Passage); starring Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, John Cena, Jordana Brewster, Nathalie Emmanuel, Sung Kang, Michael Rooker, Helen Mirren, Kurt Russell, and Charlize Theron. Get your reliable (number nine in the Fast and Furious franchise, and more to come) kickass summer blockbuster here, with Cena in as Dom’s brother and nemesis.
June 25, 2021 (Theaters [limited], VoD)
Directed by Josh Ruben (Scare Me, What Children Do); written by Mishna Wolff; starring Sam Richardson, Milana Vayntrub, George Basil, Sarah Burns, Michael Chernus, Catherine Curtin, Wayne Duvall, Harvey Guillén, Rebecca Henderson, Cheyenne Jackson, Michaela Watkins, and Glenn Fleshler. Based on the Ubisoft/Red Storm Entertainment VR game, this horror-comedy looks a treat! Some of the best scary movies come with darts of black humor, and a trapped group of people playing Who’s-the-secret-lycanthrope sounds like just the ticket for summer fun.
June 25, 2021 (Hulu)
Directed by John Lee (Search Party, Broad City); written by Lee and Ilana Glazer; starring Glazer, Justin Theroux, Pierce Brosnan, Sophia Bush, and Josh Hamilton. A24 strikes again with what looks to be another gloriously twisted horror story about Lucy (Glazer) and her husband Adrian (Theroux) who are trying to conceive, and get a little more from their fertility doctor (Brosnan) than they bargained for. This modern-day take on Rosemary’s Baby is right up my… alley.
June 25, 2021 (Theaters, VoD)
Directed and written by Eytan Rockaway (The Abandoned); starring Harvey Keitel, Sam Worthington, Anna Sophia Robb, Minka Kelly, David James Elliott, and John Magaro. Get your godfather on with Keitel as real-life gangster Meyer Lansky, who, along with Lucky Luciano, ran one of the largest gambling empires in history, as well as Murder, Inc. (both were part of the National Crime Syndicate). Keitel is acting royalty and infinitely watchable, so if mafioso movies are your jam, get ready to be pulled back in.