May 23, 2019 at 5:13 pm EST | by Brian T. Carney
Elton biopic, fests galore, superhero epics slated for summer ’19 movie season
summer 2019 movie season, gay news, Washington Blade
Zendaya as MJ and Tom Holland as Spider-Man in ‘Spider Man Far From Home.’ (Photo courtesy Sony Pictures Entertainment)

The summer 2019 movie season gets off to an exciting start tomorrow (May 24) with “Booksmart.” Directed by Olivia Wilde, the wildly original teen comedy stars Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever as best friends (one straight, one lesbian). On the eve of their high school graduation, the academic superstars realize they should have partied more and studied less. 

On May 31, get out your feather boas and platform shoes for the highly anticipated opening of “Rocketman,” a musical fantasy about gay superstar Elton John. The film is directed by Dexter Fletcher, who took over at the helm of “Bohemian Rhapsody” after Bryan Singer was fired, and stars Taron Egerton as the legendary performer and Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin.

In “Papi Chulo” (slated for a June 7 release), out actor Matt Bomer plays a lonely TV weatherman who develops up an unexpected friendship with a middle-aged Latino migrant worker after having an on-air meltdown and losing his boyfriend.

Helmed by out director Nisha Ganatra (the delicious “Chutney Popcorn”), “Late Night” stars Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling (who also wrote the screenplay). Thompson’s a grumpy comic whose long-running talk show is slipping in the ratings; Kaling’s the new head writer who’s brought in to save the show (June 7).

Thompson is also featured as a spy boss in “Men in Black: International.” Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, who developed their playful banter as Thor and Valkyrie, take over the popular franchise on June 14.

Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Men in Black International.’ (Photo by Giles Kyete for Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Who can resist the tagline “More Shaft than you can handle!”? Richard Roundtree recreates his iconic role in “Shaft” when he leads three generations of his family in a search for justice (June 14).

Quentin Tarantino turns his lens on the infamous Manson family in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (July 26). The blood-soaked cast includes Margot Robbie (Sharon Tate), Dakota Fanning (Squeaky Fromme), Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and the late Luke Perry in his final movie appearance.

Winner of the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival for writer/director Paul Downs Colaizzo, “Brittany Runs a Marathon” stars Jillian Bell (“Rough Night”) as an unemployed 30-something who runs into a delightfully diverse group of people and reclaims her life when she decides to train for the New York City marathon (expected Aug. 23).

While Disney executives figure out how to spend the record-breaking box office receipts from “Avengers: Endgame,” the studio is playing it safe this summer with remakes and sequels of classic animated movies. With Will Smith as the Genie, “Aladdin” takes a live-action magic carpet ride into theaters on May 24. “Toy Story 4” opens June 21. With a star-studded voice cast including Beyoncé, James Earl Jones, Donald Glover and John Oliver, the CGI remake of “The Lion King” roars into theaters July 19.

Baby Simba in the CGI remake of ‘The Lion King.’ (Photo courtesy Walt Disney Studios)

Also on the family-friendly front, there’s “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” (June 7) and The Angry Birds Movie 2” (Aug. 16).

On the CGI front, fans can return to the new and improved Marvel Cinematic Universe with the X-Men saga “Dark Phoenix” starring Sophie Turner (June 6) and “Spider-Man: Far From Home” with Tom Holland and Zendaya (July 2). “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” brings the mighty monster back to the screen on May 30. His esteemed co-stars include Mothra, Rodan, the three-headed King Ghidorah, Millie Bobby Brown, Charles Dance, Vera Farmiga, Bradley Whitford, Kyle Chandler, Sally Hawkins, Aisha Hinds, CCH Pounder, David Strathairn and, of course, Ken Watanabe.

Other notable opening include:

• Camp goddess Elizabeth Banks in “Brightburn” about a mysterious child from another planet (May 24)

• Jim Jarmusch’s hipster zombie comedy “The Dead Don’t Die” with Bill Murrray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi and Tom Waits (June 14)

• Daisy Ridley as Ophelia in a retelling of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Clive Owen, Naomi Watts and George MacKay play the royal family of Denmark. (June 28)

• And finally, the long-delayed release of “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” directed by indie auteur Richard Linklater and starring Cate Blanchett (Aug. 16)

Several local venues will feature interesting special programming this summer.

On Wednesday, June 5, the Avalon Theatre (theavalon.org) will screen “The Lavender Scare” as part of its Wednesday Signature Series. The award-winning documentary examines the Cold War campaign to purge all queer employees from the federal government. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with director Josh Howard, author David Johnson, LGBT advocate Kevin Jennings and Jamie Shoemaker, a gay federal employee who fought back and kept his job.

The late Frank Kameny (left) with ‘The Lavender Scare’ director Josh Howard. (Photo courtesy Full Exposure Films)

The summer programming at AFI Silver (afi.com/silver) in downtown Silver Spring includes retrospectives on “Recent Restorations,” “The Fourth Estate Film Series” and Part Two of the “United Artists Centennial Retrospective” which features the 1937 version of “A Star Is Born.”

AFI Silver will also be hosting “Silver Screens,” a series of free outdoor movies on Sonny’s Green. This year’s titles include “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” “Isle of Dogs” and “The Little Mermaid.” 

Programming at Baltimore’s SNF Parkway (mdfilmfest.com), the year-round home of the Maryland Film Festival, includes “Pasolini,” an unconventional biopic about the controversial queer filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini (Willem Dafoe) (June 7), and “This One’s for the Ladies,” a fascinating documentary about the sexual and social identities of black male exotic dancers and their female patrons (June 21).

Rescued by community volunteers in 2015, the Old Greenbelt Theatre (greenbelttheatre.org) in the famous core of Greenbelt, Md., offers a wide variety of programming for diverse audiences. The historic auditorium will be closed for renovations this summer; films will be screened at a temporary pop-up theater next door. To bid the old space farewell, there will be a joyous “Goodbye Gala” on Friday, May 31 and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show Experience,” complete with prop bags and the Sonic Transducers Shadow Cast, on Saturday June 1. 

Local film festivals will be a great way to beat the heat this summer. On June 21, D.C. Shorts (dcshorts.com) will host a hilarious evening matching stand-up comics with short cinematic comedies.

From June 19-23, filmmakers from all over the world will gather in Washington for AFI DOCS (afi.com/afidocs), the annual celebration of documentary movies in all shapes and sizes. One of this year’s highlights will be “Gay Chorus Deep South;” writer/director David Charles Rodriguez and producer Bud Johnston will be participating in the prestigious AFI DOCS Impact Lab.

Finally, Reel Affirmations, D.C.’s LGBT film festival, has announced two screenings for June: “Steam Room” and “Rafiki.” For schedules and announcements about other summer screenings, check out thedccenter.org/reelaffirmations.

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