Summer 2020 was a real bummer: If you weren't actively facing COVID-19 head on, you were probably scared of it, staying at home, not seeing friends or loved ones and worried this was how it was going to be from now on.
Fortunately, summer 2021, which is just around the corner, looks to already be about a thousand times better and more exciting — and this year, we're gonna be able to go back to the theaters!
In theory, at least. "This summer is really going to tell us a lot about the future of people's entertainment habits, because now finally mask mandates are being lifted," Turner Classic Movies host Dave Karger tells TODAY. "I'm really curious to see how some of these big ticket movies do in theaters."
So with a summer of true open door season coming fast upon us, what movie, TV and music delights await? Karger spoke with TODAY recently to offer the highlights he thinks are going to keep things red-hot!
"Fast & Furious 9"
The ninth entry in the franchise brings virtually the entire cast back (we'll always miss Paul Walker, who died in 2013) for another tour around the track. "It almost doesn't matter what it's about," said Karger. "It'll be a test of people's willingness and enthusiasm about going back to the theaters. The buzz is they've managed to outdo themselves in the action and stunt department. It's bigger and louder than any of the others before." (June 25, in theaters)
"In the Heights"
The Washington Heights, New York-based Tony-winning musical was a massive Broadway hit for Lin-Manuel Miranda in 2008, years before he became a household name with "Hamilton." It looks like more fun than ice cream on a hot day, too. "The reviews have just started coming out," says Karger, "and it's phenomenal. So energetic and fun and vibrant. They've made a couple of changes from the musical that make it relevant to today's issues, and could be an Oscar contender next year." (June 11, in theaters and HBO Max)
Inspired by the Amanda Knox story, Matt Damon plays a rural dad whose daughter is jailed for years in France after being accused of murder while studying abroad. "He ends up moving over there to help try get her out of jail," says Karger, who adds that the director is Tom McCarthy, who won a best picture Academy Award for "Spotlight" in 2016. (July 30, in theaters)
The title stands for "child of deaf adults," and focuses on an aspiring singer who is the only hearing member of her family. "She's caught between two worlds," said Karger, adding that the film "swept the Sundance Festival awards" in April. Most of the actors will be new to audiences, but Marlee Matlin (who is deaf in real life) plays the mother; Emilia Jones, says Karger, gives an "instant star-making performance." (Aug. 13, in theaters and on Apple TV+)
Two boys in Italy are hiding a secret: they're sea monsters! Pixar is at it again, clearly. "Whenever Pixar does a feature-length movie it's something you have to sit up and take notice of," said Karger. "This one doesn't seem as philosophical as 'Soul,' but it looks like a really fun European young friendship story with some mystical elements thrown in for good measure." (June 17, Disney+; not in theaters)
"We Are Lady Parts"
A new sitcom featuring an all-female Muslim punk band based in the U.K. "It sounds groundbreaking and irreverent and contemporary," said Karger. (Peacock, June 3)
Stephen King's novel about a woman haunted by her late husband and his writing career stars Julianne Moore and has been adapted as an 8-episode limited series. "I don't think Julianne takes on many TV projects unless they're super-high quality," says Karger. "Any time she signs on to something, I'm curious." (June 4, Apple TV+)
Yep, even this series — whose 2007-2012 iteration focused on young, privileged Upper East Side of Manhattan adults — is getting a reboot. "I'm curious to see how it gets updated for the 2020s," says Karger. "The producers have been tight-lipped. But I can't wait to see how they structure this show and what breakout cast members there might be from that." It's hard to imagine they could do better than the original, which gave us Penn Badgley, Blake Lively and Leighton Meester and featured an anonymous narrator voiced by Kristen Bell. (July, HBO Max)
"This Is Pop"
A new documentary series on Netflix will be a "user-friendly look at what makes popular music so appealing and infectious," says Karger. "Musicians and experts will comment on the history of pop music and how it's evolved over the years." (June 22, Netflix)
Season two of the earnest, fish-out-of-water series (Lasso is a football coach sent from Kansas to the U.K. to take over an ailing soccer team) starring Jason Sudeikis has really gained traction in the months since the first season premiered. "It did so well at some of the awards shows that people decided to binge it, and it has all of the momentum going into this second season to be even more popular than the first," said Karger. (July 21, Apple TV+)
Pink, "All I Know So Far: Setlist"
This live album recorded during Pink's "Beautiful Trauma" tour comes on the heels of the new Amazon Prime documentary about the singer, "P!NK: All I Know So Far," and the "All I Know So Far Limited Edition Zine Set" of photographs. It's a way to revisit the tour ... even if you never actually landed yourself a ticket. It also includes two new tunes: "Cover Me In Sunshine," recorded with her daughter Willow Sage (released in February) and "All I Know So Far." "She doesn't put music out very often," says Karger, "so whenever she does, it's an event." (May 21)
Maroon 5, "Jordi"
Named after the band's manager, Jordi Feldstein, who died in 2017, Maroon 5's new album "might be a tribute to him," suggests Karger. "I imagine it'll be one of the most personal and emotional albums that (singer) Adam Levine, or the band, has put out." (June 11)
Billie Eilish, "Happier Than Ever"
Another female artist with a documentary out, Eilish is the Grammy-sweeping phenom who recently blew up social media by going blond and posing for Vogue. Her new album is likely to do the same. "Billie is representative of a generation of artists in many media who've found a way to create on their own," says Karger. "It seems like Billie and her brother, Finneas, are making the biggest records of the year by themselves in a bedroom in their house, by themselves. That's appealing to a Gen Z audience." (July 30)