From the return of Kathryn Bigelow to Charlize Theron kicking Cold War butt, the big screen is about to get bigger

By Daniel Barnes

The summer movie season is always eagerly anticipated and even more eagerly forgotten, but the debacle known as the summer of 2016 will leave a lasting scar: “Ghostbusters,” “Suicide Squad,” “Ghostbusters,” “Independence Day: Resurgence,” people tweeting about “Ghostbusters,” “The Legend of Tarzan,” and let’s not forget “Ghostbusters.”

But hope springs eternal, and so we have these 10 highly anticipated films that might just make for the best … summer … ever.

Wonder Woman (June 2)
Finally! A female superhero movie helmed by a female director … was that really so difficult? Beyond checking off overdue boxes and rubbing Marvel’s nose in it, “Wonder Woman” could break out of the comic book bubble of bland mediocrity, if only because the character is more identified with bravery and sincerity than with wisecracking smugness or goth mopey-ness. It helps that the demigoddess warrior princess is played by real-life demigoddess warrior princess Gal Gadot.

It Comes at Night (June 9)
Nobody watched Trey Edward Shults’ brilliant debut film “Krisha,” but apparently the right nobodies watched it, because it won the 28-year-old director a two-picture deal with highly respected indie outlet A24. This follow-up is a horror movie, and after seeing Shults turn a Thanksgiving family dinner into hell on Earth, it will be fascinating to watch him plant two feet in the genre.

Baby Driver (June 28)
After a number of aborted projects, including a famously failed attempt to make “Ant-Man,” Edgar Wright finally delivers his first film since 2013’s “The World’s End.” I’ll take anything we can get from the maniacally creative Wright at this point, even if this romantic action musical looks like the sort of film that talented directors make when they have no idea what to make.

The Beguiled (June 30)
I’m not usually stoked about remakes, especially a remake of a good film like Don Siegel’s kinky 1971 drama “The Beguiled,” but I’m very curious to see a female take on this somewhat misogynist material. It will also be interesting to see if Sofia Coppola can snap out of her funk and invest the film with some of the old “Lost in Translation” spark.

A Ghost Story (July 7)
David Lowery provided one of last summer’s pleasant surprises with “Pete’s Dragon,” a project conceived as a cynical CGI remake, but imbued with love and optimism and old-school Disney magic (no wonder it tanked). His follow-up film, a supernatural love story starring Casey Affleck as a white-sheeted ghost trying to connect with his wife, received wide acclaim at Sundance.

Dunkirk (July 21)
Christopher Nolan is practically the only auteur permitted to make money-is-no-object, off-brand blockbusters anymore. That sucks, if only because Nolan seems inclined to make the sort of movies an important director is supposed to make (pretentious space epics and bloated WWII anything) rather than following his “Memento” muse. Still, this story of the Allied evacuation is probably our best chance for non-superhero-related IMAX awesomeness this summer.

Atomic Blonde (July 28)
A longtime stunt coordinator and one of the creative forces behind “John Wick,” David Leitch officially steps behind the camera with “Atomic Blonde,” starring Charlize Theron as an undercover agent kick-punching her way through a buffet line of Cold War-era stooges. Leitch has “Deadpool 2” lined up for next year, so hopefully we get one decent genre film out of him before that abomination kills us all.

Detroit (Aug. 4)
Kathryn Bigelow reteams with “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty” screenwriter Mark Boal for her first film in five years — a visceral ensemble piece about the 1967 Detroit riots featuring John Boyega, Anthony Mackie and John Krasinski. Sparked by racial injustice and inflamed by police brutality, the riots seem like the sort of historical event tailor-made for Bigelow’s brand of compellingly problematic cinema.

Wind River (Aug. 4)
This is the second directorial effort from Taylor Sheridan, but the barely released 2011 genre film “Vile” was made before he became Wunderkind Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, the Oscar-nominated scribe behind “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water.” Now there are legitimate expectations for this low-key mystery about a murder on a Native American reservation.

Logan Lucky (Aug. 18)
Steven Soderbergh is very bad at retirement. He claimed to call it quits following 2013’s “Behind the Candelabra,” but he has been working non-stop ever since, most notably on his Cinemax show “The Knick.” And now he even manages to beat the already overhyped “Ocean’s Eight” to the punch with his own heist movie, starring Channing Tatum and Adam Driver as brother thieves.

Daniel Barnes is the film critic for Sacramento News & Review, where a version of this story first appeared.

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