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Film preview: Summer films bring an abundance of bright visuals, action scenes to life

(Illustration by Katelyn Dang/Illustrations director)

By Lily Rafat and Janice Yun

June 25, 2021 4:47 p.m.

As students bask in the summer sun, upcoming releases offer plenty of bright films to enjoy with family and friends.

Whether viewers continue to watch from the comfort of their own homes or venture out into reopening theaters, this summer’s films promise to deliver a wide range of entertainment. From colorful sports animations to adventurous superhero flicks, the season’s highly anticipated movies are filled to the brim with vivid visuals and thrilling action scenes.

Keep reading for the Daily Bruin’s top picks for the sunny season.

(Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)
(Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Space Jam: A New Legacy” (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Basketball superstar Lebron James is trading the NBA court for the cinematic spotlight in “Space Jam: A New Legacy.”

Directed by Malcolm D. Lee, the live-action/animation is a sequel to the original 1996 “Space Jam,” which starred NBA legend Michael Jordan. Similar to the first movie, the newest version follows the fan-favorite athlete as he teams up with the beloved Looney Tunes to protect his family in a mashup of the real and cartoon world. And after more than 20 years of technological developments, the 2021 reboot showcases both a live and animated James, setting it apart from its predecessor.

Hitting theaters and HBO Max July 16, other fan-favorite Hollywood stars who will appear alongside the Lakers small forward include Zendaya – who voices Lola Bunny – and Oscar nominee Don Cheadle. Despite James taking on the lead role with little acting experience, the project features a strong supporting cast and vibrant animations.

Frequently compared to Jordan as the greatest basketball player, James once again has big shoes to fill in “Space Jam: A New Legacy.”

[Related: Music Preview: Post-pandemic summer albums reflect optimistic attitudes]

(Courtesy of Disney+)
(Courtesy of Disney+)


“Jungle Cruise” (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

The timeless wilderness-themed Disneyland attraction is getting its very own live-action film.

Set to release July 30 in theaters and Disney+ Premier Access, “Jungle Cruise” stars Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson forming a somewhat unexpected, yet exciting Hollywood duo. From Johnson’s adventure comedy experience in “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” to Blunt’s recent lead role in Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” the pair are live-action veterans ready to play the roles of a charming boat skipper and a sharp researcher in their upcoming project.

Disney may be aiming to replicate the success of their previous ride-based film, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” as the upcoming movie follows the leads as they embark on a mystical and danger-ridden journey through the Amazon rainforest. The film will feature everything from a magical healing tree to vicious wild animals, as well as Jesse Plemons playing an evil submarine captain – all paired with colorful, whimsical set designs to transport viewers to an imaginary world.

Whether or not it can live up to the legacy of the iconic “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, “Jungle Cruise” certainly promises to take viewers on an action-packed ride.

(Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures/™ & © DC Comics)
(Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures/™ & © DC Comics)


“The Suicide Squad” (Warner Bros. Pictures)

The Suicide Squad has added a new member to their band of misfits: Marvel director James Gunn.

Premiering Aug. 6, “The Suicide Squad” revolves around some of the same villains from 2016’s “Suicide Squad” including Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), as well as new additions to the team such as Bloodsport (Idris Elba) and Peacemaker (John Cena) – all of whom are recruited to join Task Force X and infiltrate the island of Corto Maltese. As Gunn channels his “Guardians of the Galaxy” energy into the upcoming DC film, the 2021 soft reboot seems to have a more whimsical flair, with a plethora of new, out-of-this-world characters like King Shark (Sylvester Stallone) and Weasel (Sean Gunn) joining the squad.

Additionally, Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad” is R-rated unlike the PG-13 2016 original, which could mean more graphic violence – enhancing the action, adventure and unpredictability of the new project. Amplifying the anticipation are Gunn’s tweets leading up to the film’s release, such as his cast introduction post in which he ominously wrote “don’t get too attached.”

Whether they watch the film in theaters or on HBO Max, viewers can expect to be transported to a limitless world as “The Suicide Squad” unfolds.

[Related: ‘In the Heights’ seeks to represent Latino community, inspire pursuit of dreams]

(Courtesy of Disney)
(Courtesy of Disney)

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Marvel’s newest hero is slashing enemies and defying gravity with impeccable martial arts skills.

Releasing in theaters Sept. 3, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is the second feature-length film of Marvel’s Phase Four. Known for his role in the CBC hit sitcom “Kim’s Convenience,” Simu Liu plays the titular role of Shang-Chi, a martial arts master who is forced to face his broken past when he gets involved in the dark and mysterious Ten Rings organization. The trailer features fluid action-packed visuals in true Marvel fashion, paired with a dramatic background track – ensuring maximum excitement for the film’s release in the late summer.

Supporting cast members include Awkwafina, who the trailer suggests will likely provide her signature comedic relief, Michelle Yeoh and Fala Chen, marking “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” as Marvel’s first film with a nearly all-Asian cast.

Following the success of projects like “WandaVision” and the long-awaited upcoming “Black Widow” solo film, Marvel is bringing the heat this summer.

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Lily Rafat
Janice Yun | Theater | film | television editor
Yun is currently the theater | film | television editor for the Daily Bruin. She was previously an Arts reporter from 2019-2021. She is also a third-year communication and Asian American studies student at UCLA.
Yun is currently the theater | film | television editor for the Daily Bruin. She was previously an Arts reporter from 2019-2021. She is also a third-year communication and Asian American studies student at UCLA.
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