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'Tenet,' 'Hamilton' and more: 17 movies, shows and books debuting this summer

Here's a month-by-month guide to some of the notable cultural offerings arriving between now and the end of August.
Image: Matthew Rhys in \"Perry Mason;\" Lin-Manuel Miranda and Philippa Soo in \"Hamilton;\" and Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett in \"Lovecraft Country.\"
Matthew Rhys in "Perry Mason;" Lin-Manuel Miranda and Philippa Soo in "Hamilton;" and Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett in "Lovecraft Country."Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

In a normal year, summer is the season for beach reads, outdoor concerts and a glut of Hollywood blockbusters. But in the age of COVID-19, most of our seasonal cultural rituals are on hold. That's not to say pandemic-weary pop culture junkies don't have promising options. Here's a month-by-month guide to some of the notable movies, TV shows and books dropping between now and the end of August.


"Love, Victor" (June 17 on Hulu)

The writers of "Love, Simon" (2018), the first major Hollywood production to center on a gay teenage romance, created this episodic spinoff about a closeted Texan teenager who transfers to an Atlanta high school and struggles to forge his identity in a new city. The actor Nick Robinson, who played the title character in "Love, Simon," narrates the series.

"Perry Mason" (June 21 on HBO)

Emmy-winning actor Matthew Rhys ("The Americans") takes the lead role in this pulpy, decidedly downcast reinvention of the popular CBS legal drama that ran from 1957 to 1966. The eight-part miniseries, set in murky Depression-era Los Angeles, follows Rhys' shabby private investigator as he gets mixed up in a child kidnapping case and the city's Christian revival.

"Irresistible" (June 26 on VOD)

Jon Stewart goes behind the camera for a second time in this political satire about a Democratic party guru (Steve Carell) who works on the mayoral campaign of a retired Marine (Chris Cooper) in small-town Wisconsin. (The film, written and directed by Stewart, will be released via video-on-demand by Focus Features, a division of NBC News' parent company, NBCUniversal.)

"I'll Be Gone in the Dark" (June 28 on HBO)

The late true crime writer Michelle McNamara, consumed and haunted by the gruesome crimes of the Golden State Killer, wrote a book about the serial murderer that was published posthumously in 2018. Liz Garbus ("What Happened, Miss Simone?") directed this docuseries adaptation; comedian Patton Oswalt, McNamara's widower, served as co-executive producer.

"Mexican Gothic" (June 30)

The novelist Silvia Moreno-Garcia ("Gods of Jade and Shadow") conjures the creeping terror of Alfred Hitchcock's "Rebecca" in this atmospheric thriller set in 1950s Mexico, largely within the walls of a sinister countryside manor. The book's publisher calls it "a reimagining of the classic gothic suspense novel."

"Sex and Vanity" (June 30)

Kevin Kwan, the Sinaporean novelist behind the megahit "Crazy Rich Asians" and its two sequels, returns with this comic riff on E.M. Forster's "A Room With a View." Kwan's publisher describes the novel as a "glittering tale of a young woman who finds herself torn between two men," forcing her to spin a "web of deceit."


"Hamilton" (July 3 on Disney+)

The culture-devouring Broadway smash "Hamilton" gets another life on Disney's streaming service in this film, edited together from recordings of three 2016 performances. The original cast — including Renaissance man Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr. and Renée Elise Goldsberry — is on hand, just in time for Independence Day.

"The Old Guard" (July 10 on Netflix)

Gina Prince-Bythewood ("Love & Basketball," "Beyond the Lights") directed this sci-fi action flick, based on a comic book of the same name, about a close-knit pack of mercenaries impervious to death. Charlize Theron leads an ensemble cast that features KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

"Utopia Avenue" (July 14)

The genre-twisting, form-bending English novelist David Mitchell ("Cloud Atlas," "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet") returns with this prismatic portrait of a fictional London rock group called Utopia Avenue, "the strangest British band you've never heard of," according to the publisher's description.

"Brave New World" (July 15 on Peacock)

Alden Ehrenreich ("Solo") and Jessica Brown Findlay ("Downton Abbey") lead the cast of this ambitious dystopian drama based on the seminal 1932 novel by author-philosopher Aldous Huxley. (The series will premiere in the U.S. on Peacock, the new streaming service from NBC News' parent company, NBCUniversal.)

"Mulan" (July 24, tentatively)

Disney's live-action remake of the beloved 1998 animated adventure could become the first marquee Hollywood production to debut in theaters since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down businesses — unless the studio decides to push it back. Chinese American actress Liu Yifei plays the title character, the daughter of an ailing warrior who disguises herself as a man to join the Imperial Chinese Army.

"Memorial Drive" (July 28)

Natasha Trethewey, who has served two terms as U.S. poet laureate and won a Pulitzer Prize in 2007, explores interlocking themes of domestic abuse, grief, trauma, white racism and memory in this wrenching memoir. The publisher, HarperCollins, describes it as a "luminous, urgent, and visceral memoir from one of our most important contemporary writers and thinkers."

"Tenet" (July 31)

Christopher Nolan, the mind-warping impresario behind "Inception" and "Dunkirk," is aiming to bring pandemic-era audiences back to movie theaters with this mysterious espionage thriller starring John David Washington ("BlacKkKlansman"), Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki. Nolan is a reliable hitmaker, but will legions of masked-and-gloved devotees show up?


"Lovecraft Country" (TBA August on HBO)

Jonathan Majors ("Da 5 Bloods," "The Last Black Man in San Francisco") and Jurnee Smollett-Bell ("Birds of Prey") co-star in this horror series about two friends on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America, where they encounter terrors both fantastical and achingly real. Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams are among the show's producers.

"An American Pickle" (August 6 on HBO Max)

WarnerMedia's new streaming service, HBO Max, notches its first original film in this absurdist comedy about a 1920s immigrant laborer (Seth Rogen) who tumbles into a vat of pickles and gets brined for a century. He wakes up in present-day Brooklyn, where he meets his great-grandson, also played by Rogen.

"The Good Lord Bird" (August 9 on Showtime)

Ethan Hawke stars as American abolitionist John Brown in this adaptation of the National Book Award-winning novel of the same name by the author, screenwriter and musician James McBride. The series dramatizes Brown's 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry, an effort meant to spark a slave revolt and one of the key events that preceded the Civil War.

"Bill & Ted Face the Music" (August 14, dude)

Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are totally reprising their roles as the righteous headbangers Bill and Ted in this bodacious sequel to "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" (1989) and "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey" (1991), set in the present day. The third installment in the franchise is co-produced by no less than auteur Steven Soderbergh.