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4 Must-See Summer Movies With Top-Shelf Talent

For your viewing pleasure: films about vocal legends Mary J. and Aretha, Questlove’s ‘Black Woodstock’ documentary and a new horror flick from Jordan Peele.

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Beat the heat and chill out with these four summer flicks in a cineplex near you or stream them in the comfort of your home. Our picks include a documentary about Queen of Hip-Hop Soul Mary J. Blige and the much-anticipated biopic about the Queen of Soul, starring Jennifer Hudson. 

Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (in theaters and streaming on Hulu)

Questlove (Ahmir Khalib Thompson) is an acclaimed drummer, DJ, writer and the bandleader of the Grammy-winning hip-hop group, The Roots, and now the Renaissance man can add film director to his resume. The Philly native’s documentary, Summer of Soul, chronicles the under-the-radar Harlem Cultural Festival, also known as “Black Woodstock.” Hosted in Marcus Garvey Park (back then it was Mount Morris Park), this celebration of Black pride, music and culture spanned six concerts in the summer of 1969. Most of us didn’t know about this dope historic event, so it’s a treat to watch never-before-seen concert performances by legends like The 5th Dimension, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Mahalia Jackson and Sly and the Family Stone.

Mary J. Blige’s My Life (now streaming on Amazon Prime)

Mary, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways — from her raspy soulful vocals to her fly, round-the-way girl swag and her meme-worthy dance moves. This confessional documentary celebrates the 50-year-old New York native’s seminal 1994 album, My Life. In the trailer, the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul opens up about her mental health during that period of her career. “My Life is probably my darkest album at one of the darkest times I’ve had,” she explains in the trailer. “Most of the time I was depressed and didn’t want to live.” But Blige is a survivor, and many of us can relate to her quest for self-love and happiness. 

Respect (in theaters Aug. 13)

No shade to the talented Cynthia Erivo, who portrayed Aretha Franklin on the small screen earlier this year. But this is the Aretha Franklin movie we’ve been waiting for. In this big screen biopic, Jennifer Hudson takes the lead as the Queen of Soul and sinks her powerful vocal chops into Franklin’s timeless music catalogue. “When I look back on my career, Aretha was like the blueprint of it all,” J-Hud says in a behind-the-scenes interview. The cast is rounded out by Forest Whitaker and Audra McDonald as Franklin’s parents and Marlon Wayans in a surprising dramatic turn as Ted White, the legendary diva’s first husband.

Candyman (in theaters Aug. 27)

If you’re a scary movie fan, this reboot of the 1992 horror classic Candyman is right up your dark and deserted alley. Directed by Nia DaCosta and cowritten by Jordan Peele, this “spiritual sequel” stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Watchmen) as a curious artist who moves with his girlfriend (Teyonah Parris) to the gentrified Chicago neighborhood where the folklore of the boogeyman began. The Cabrini Green housing projects have been turned into luxury condos, but the terrifying urban legend lives on. (You remember how it goes, say Candyman’s name in the mirror five times and then, well, you’re a goner.)