Summer is upon us, and while this is the perfect time of year for outdoorsy type activities, this is also the time of year when Hollywood in known to drop the biggest of spectacles at your local multiplex. Summer 2017 will see the release of Ridley Scott’s return to the “Alien” franchise, savvy Jack Sparrow in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” a dramatic Tupac bio-pic called “All Eyez on Me,” a hotly anticipated “Spider-Man” reboot, Kathryn Bigelow’s much-anticipated return to thought-provoking cinema (“Detroit”), the family-oriented stylings of “Despicable Me 3,” Luc Besson’s colorful sci-fi epic “Valerian,” and a long-in-development adaptation of Stephen King’s beloved fantasy series, “The Dark Tower.” While the previously mentioned titles are all well worth getting excited about, there are five films in particular that this avid movie fan plans on being first in line for.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”

Opening May 5

Leave it to the great James Gunn to take a second-tier Marvel comic-book property and turn it into cinematic gold. Of course, with “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Gunn got a big-time assist from an extremely likable cast. In “Vol. 2,” Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and Michael Rooker are back in a grand space adventure that will no doubt deal with themes of family and good vs. evil. Also returning are Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and adorable Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) who promises to be a scene stealer of the highest order. Aside from returning favorites, watch for appearances from Sylvester Stallone and a fittingly cast Kurt Russell as Star-Lord’s long lost father. That’s right! As cool as “Guardians” is already, “Vol. 2” will offer up a “Tango and Cash” reunion! Beyond that, we can expect relentless quirky humor, a truly badass soundtrack, and the same spot-on cast chemistry that made the first film so damn appealing.

“Wonder Woman”

Opening June 3

This particular film is certainly the wild card on this list, especially when taking into consideration that it’s going to be sandwiched between “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” Further still,  if you take the wonderfully colorful “The Lego Batman Movie” out of the equation, the majority of DC’s latest cinematic offerings have been less than stellar (see “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad”). Having said that, I for one am hoping that star Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins get DC back on track with their adaptation of “Wonder Woman.” True, some of the action beats displayed in the trailers rely too heavily on that fast-to-slow technique that’s so rampant in the works of Zack Snyder but Gadot was an undeniable bright spot in the dour and dull “Dawn of Justice,” and her rapport with Chris Pine looks to be picture perfect.  Add to this an innocence and idealistic tone akin to “Superman” and you have what has the potential to emerge as DC’s strongest live-action superhero flick since 2008’s “The Dark Knight.”

“Baby Driver”

Opening June 28

Not all of this summer’s hottest cinematic prospects are sequels, comic book adaptations, or remakes. And few of the season’s releases are as hotly anticipated as Edgar Wright’s car-chase-infused, music-based romance, “Baby Driver.” Following his unfortunate departure from Marvel’s “Ant-Man,” the energetic fanboy storyteller behind the exceptional zom-rom-com “Shaun of the Dead” immediately got to work on this high-octane tale of a skilled getaway driver (played by Ansel Elgort) who uses music to help drown out the accident-causing ringing in his ears. “Baby Driver” promises to feature some of the most dazzling car chases ever committed to film, and the entire movie will be punctuated by the best soundtrack this side of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” What’s more, “Baby Driver” features an all-star cast headed by the likes of Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Lily James, Flea, and Jon Bernthal. This one is going to be a sleeper hit!

“War For the Planet of the Apes”

Opening July 14

Of the five films on this list, “War For the Planet of the Apes” is probably the movie I’m most excited to see. Twentieth Century Fox has done completely right by this series. With “War For the Planet of the Apes,” “Dawn” director Matt Reeves returns. This time, Caesar (played by Andy Serkis) must do battle with a human (played by Woody Harrelson) hellbent on bringing about the extermination of him and his primate brotherhood. Headed by the likes of a brilliant Serkis and with a mixture of stunning special effects and detailed character work, “War” looks to up the stakes both in terms of spectacle and emotional complexity. Often, re-boots and prequels feel wholly unnecessary, but Fox’s “Apes” series serves as both a great homage and an exciting continuation of an iconic franchise that still has plenty of life left in it.


Opening July 21

While under attack by the German army during a fierce World War II battle, allied forces from Belgium, Canada, France, and the British Empire would stage a harrowing evacuation in attempt to save lives. Legendary filmmaker Christopher Nolan meticulously details this intense, real-life survival story by way of an all immersive cinematic experience that will no doubt be best viewed on the biggest screen possible. At CinemaCon back in March, Nolan gave us an extended peek at “Dunkirk,” and to say that the footage was breathtaking would be a gross understatement. Translation: If you have an Imax screen in your neighborhood, that’s where you’ll want to watch this movie!  Nolan’s latest epic features a stellar ensemble including  Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, and Mark Rylance.

If it’s smaller, independent-minded movies you’re into, there will be no shortage of those either! The most noteworthy titles of the pack are the wonderful romantic comedy “The Big Sick” starring Kumail Nanjiana and Zoe Kazan, the underdog-rapper-makes-good charmer, “Patti Cake$,” and David Lowery’s hypnotic “A Ghost Story” starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. This trio of independent films garnered plenty of buzz at Sundance earlier this year, and all three should prove to be a nice change of pace in a summer movie season populated by large-scale spectacles.