While May has always signaled the start of Summer Movie Season, the past few years have showed that April is a ripe time for blockbuster dabbles. Last year, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” exploded into theaters in early April earning rave reviews and a $95 million opening weekend. This year, Cap’s record was quietly put to rest by “Furious 7,” which not only nabbed a $147 million three-day haul but has also crossed the $1 billion worldwide mark in record time. Has summer extended into April? Maybe not entirely (“Furious 7” had little mainstream competition for the entire month), but April has becoming one my favorite months at the movies as one unstoppable blockbuster is flanked by high-powered indies that have a good chance of resonating for the rest of the year (see: last year’s “Under the Skin,” this year’s “Ex Machina”). If April can remain as it always has with those under the radar picks, then I don’t mind a mega-budget film taking control of the box office all month. Plus, it makes for a nice range of options and with the weather starting to change, it’s the time when going to the movies starts becoming fun again.
But April has officially passed, and summer is firmly upon us yet again. As always, there’s a flood of cinematic programming heading our way. Blockbuster season always starts off with a bang, and three years after Joss Whedon’s first “Avengers” film blasted into theaters, his sequel will be setting the stage for the next four months. The film hits theaters today (we’ll be running our review later on) and is projected to make somewhere between $210-$230 million. That is insane! How is that even remotely possible you may ask? Well, here’s at least one reason. Like “Furious 7,” “Age of Ultron” will be crossing a billion dollars worldwide in no time, which will evidence 2015 as the potential rebirth of the blockbuster. Granted, many other summer films will have a hard time measuring up to “Ultron’s” precedent, but by the time we get to “Spectre” and “The Force Awakens” in the winter (both unquestionable hits), the summer will have made Hollywood a nice mountain of cash.
Anyway, in and around “Ultron’s” shadow, there’re a lot of other things to look forward to. As always, we’ve put together a ranking of our twenty most anticipated films of the summer, followed by some comments and a brief rundown of what else you’ll find between now and the end of August. Let us know which films you’re excited for.
Release date: July 17th
Wishful thinking has plopped this hair-puller at number 20 on our list. We will forever bee torn up about the “what could’ve been” – “Cornetto Trilogy” mastermind, Edgar Wright, was attached to this project for some eight years before creative differences regarding the overly complex interconnectedness of the Marvel Cinematic Universe forced him to step down – but the trailers, albeit a bit stampless, have definitely teased some bits to be excited about. First and foremost, Paul Rudd in the title role, will get to flex his superhero muscles while still employing his signature comedic delivery as “House of Cards” standout, Corey Stoll, will antagonize as the technology-hungry Yellow Jacket. Throw in Evangeline Lilly and Michael Peña for good measure, plus an “and” credit for the legendary Michael Douglas as Rudd’s mentor and you have a high-caliber cast working off Wright and Joe Cornish’s original story (and a screenplay dusting by Rudd and “Anchorman” director, Adam McKay). Still, the director change-up from Wright to Peyton Reed (director of “Bring It On” and “Yes Man”) is somewhat worrying, especially after EW’s cover story about the heated on-set atmosphere. But there seems to be a firmly rooted sense of humor and some dynamic special effects in play, and if Reed can just get this thing over the finish line in one piece, we’ll be satisfied just to know that Marvel kept the fire lit. Plus, if it means that Paul Rudd eventually gets to step toe-to-toe with Robert Downey Jr. or Chris Pratt come “Infinity War” time, then “Ant-Man” will still be an aptly miniscule triumph.
Release date: June 26th
Seth Macfarlane’s 2012 debut about an anthropomorphic teddy bear with the foulest mouth the city of Boston has ever seen cleared multiplexes with a staggering $218 million take. With big-screen clout to match his well-known television persona, Macfarlane followed up “Ted” with the pathetically unfunny “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” a meta-western romp with a wasted ensemble cast and Charlize Theron out-doing Macfarlane at his own schtick in just about every scene. Looking to make good on his first outing, Macfarlane brings back his beloved Ted and co-star Mark Wahlberg for an irreverent follow-up, this time substituting out Mila Kunis for Amanda Seyfried and carving out an actual plot about Ted being brought before the Supreme Court to prove his humanity. It’s an admirable premise – a nice change of pace for the pop-culturally scatterbrained Macfarlane – but don’t count out Macfarlane’s signature crudity. The officially released trailers are expectantly NSFW so it’ll flaunt its hard R rating like Wahlberg’s wears his thick Bah-ston accent. Expect a number of cameos, from the most obscure C-listers to others will more right to fame than Macfarlane, plus nonstop gags, of both sight and sound, tied together with a decidedly un-PC bow. With this one, you definitely know what you’re in for.
Release date: July 24th
You may argue that the trailer is way too spoiler-y, going as far as to reveal the death of its third billed co-star, but the RR team will always be eager to see a new Jake Gyllenhaal film, especially after his coyote-like, Rupert Pupkin-inspired turn in last year’s “Nightcrawler.” The now-beefy Gyllenhaal looks to be bringing his A-game to some overly familiar material – the script, by “Sons of Anarchy” creator Kurt Sutter, centers on a recently retired boxer who returns to the ring after his life shatters to pieces – but there’s minor promise in the director’s chair in the form of Antoine Fuqua, coming off an last year’s early autumn smash, “The Equalizer.” Nobody’s saying Fuqua is flawless (for ever “Training Day” there’s an “Olympus Has Fallen”), but Fuqua is formidably established in the type of rough-handed aesthetic that might serve this against-the-ropes picture well. Ultimately, we might know exactly where it’s going, but now tried and true, Gyllenhaal will forever be worth the price of admission.
Release date: June 3rd
Cue Jane’s Addiction…Vince, Drama, Turtle, and E are headed to the big screen for a triple-sized episode of HBO’s long-running, and massively adored, observation of misogyny, narcissism, and lack of sympathy in overly romanticized Hollywood. When the show (finally) ended, showrunner Doug Ellin gave everyone a ludicrous sendoff – Vince got married to a girl he just met, Eric got married to Sloan, his soul-eating, smoking-hot girlfriend, Drama career resurged after success with an animated series, Turtle made millions off an investment in Avíon tequila, and Ari was offered the CEO chair of Time Warner immediately after retiring with Mrs. Ari on the Amalfi Coast. The film picks up in the wake of all this greatness (which piggybacked a season full of drug rehab, pervasive adultery, a suicide, and clashes with an incorrigible Andrew Dice Clay) and Ari, in his first act as studio head, offers a leading role to his buddy Vince. Unfortunately, Vince being Vince, the boneheaded actor wants to try his hand at directing and won’t take the part unless Ari gives him the reigns. Trouble will surely ensue, then retract, then come back and then…who fucking knows? I’m more excited for the abundance of cameos that this film will surely unleash and some angry Ari insults directed at just about everybody who shares the screen with Jeremy Piven. Fan-heavy theaters will give screenings of this sure-to-be-hit some nice energy, but I’m curious to see if this film would’ve been better off premiering in my living room.
Release date: August 7th
It must become a great burden in your professional life when you’re the director of one of the few films worthy of being labeled ‘perfect.’ Jonathan Demme won an Oscar in 1992 for “The Silence of the Lambs,” and while he’s kept busy in the last twenty or so years, even acceptable sub-“Lambs” heights have rarely been brushed. His last feature, “Rachel Getting Married,” was his best in years but still a far cry from “Lambs.” Seven years later, he returns to direct Meryl Streep in “Ricki in the Flash,” a Diablo Cody-penned dramedy-musical about a former female rock star whom returns home to make amends with the family she abandoned for stardom. It’s got a musically balanced cast, including Audra McDonald and Rick Springfield, the latter as a band member pining for Ricki’s love, while Kevin Kline plays her long-suffering ex-husband and Streep’s real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer, plays her on-screen daughter here as well. CinemaCon-goers called the first footage surprisingly commercial, which is unusual for Demme but, given the premise, sounds about right (though after March’s “Danny Collins” might feel repetitive). Still, the Demme-Cody-Streep triumvirate sounds like the ingredients for a winner, and even with her most commercial films (“The Devil Wears Prada, “Julie & Julia,” “Into the Woods”) it’s foolish to ever count Meryl Streep out of awards season.
Release date: June 12th
Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” is iconic for many reasons, all of which make it one of his best features in a career full of classics. First, there’s the cast, all doing soaring work in dynamic roles, and Spielberg’s immaculate sense of scope and wonder, not to mention comedy, where actors like Richard Attenborough and Jeff Goldblum can cohabitate in a frame and it feels simultaneously energetic and legendary. There’re also the set-pieces, all handled deftly by a director who makes even his less action-y films feel equally as exciting. John Williams’ score, of course, is one to be reckoned with, as head-filling a theme as any of his best works. And lastly, there’re the timeless special effects. Give the film a watch today and you’ll be shocked; the film is twenty-two years old – as old as I am – and those dinosaurs look better than any of the “Hobbit” films. It’s a bar that has occasionally been surpassed, but it’s to the credit of the film’s VFX team that they have outlived much younger, far more ambitious films. Two sequels later (one ambivalent, the other horrid), we’re being brought back to the Park, which has now opened and is a fully functional SeaWorld With Dinosaurs. But, like Dr. Hammond before her, Dr. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) has overseen the creation of a hybrid dino called the I-Rex, which – you guessed it – was a really, really, really bad idea. Enter Star Lord in a spiffy vest to save the day on a motorcycle while Vincent D’Onofrio and Jake Johnson mull around in the background. If it isn’t obvious yet, our skepticism is way, way high on this one. Trailers have been ok, and indie director Colin Trevorrow looks like he may be in way over his head here. We’ll try to hold back until we see it, but trying to pick up a Spielberg franchise when he can barely resurrect some of his own (see: “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”) is no freelance job. Plus, Pratt’s riding the Marvel high horse at the moment and he’s in danger of franchise over-saturation.
Release date: May 8th
Arnold Schwarzenegger has a blockbuster rehash hitting theaters this summer (another “Terminator” do-over, *rolls eyes*), but we’re much more fascinated by his supposedly moving and sensitive turn in “Maggie.” Schwarzenegger plays a father whose eponymous daughter (Abigail Breslin) is infected by a disease that slowly transforms the infected into cannibalistic zombies. Despite the horrific transformation and obviously painful outcome, Maggie’s father stays right by her side comforting her through the process. The film had a really fantastic trailer and given Schwarzengger’s supposed atypical approach to the role, he’s really the selling point here. Reviews out of Tribeca have been praiseful, and when done right, unconventional zombie films have been proven to do well.
Release date: July 31st
Director James Ponsoldt has a knack for hard-hitting character dramas and a real gift with actors. Fascinated by the interactions between internally tangled people, his breakout “Smashed” was a subtly heartswelling showcase for Mary Elizabeth Winstead and his tragic yet lovely “The Spectacular Now” turned Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley into youthful presences to be reckoned with. His newest is the long anticipated portrait of David Foster Wallace, as adapted from the book by David Lipsky, a magazine reporter who traveled with Wallace during a promotional book tour (in the film played by Jesse Eisenberg). Besides the exciting prospect of another Ponsoldt project (Nick saw the film at the Boston Independent Film Festival and adored it), eyes will be on the film’s co-lead, Jason Segal, who portrays the clinically depressed Wallace. Word on the actor’s work from Sundance reached awards-level highs, but with a summer release it will be hard to say if that’s likely just yet. At the end of the day, this film took a while to finally get out in the open (Donald Margulies’ script was on the 2013 “blacklist”), but with Ponsoldt’s sandy aesthetic and a ripe acting pair at its core, we could be seeing another Sundance favorite pushing all the way through the summer and into awards season. Here’s hoping.
Release date: June 5th
Music biopics are always a part of the yearly output. “Love & Mercy” is a time-jumping look at the reclusive life of Beach Boys front man, Brian Wilson. The first half of the film centers on the successful time in Wilson’s career, bringing his band into prominence through orchestral pop albums like “Pet Sounds,” with Wilson being played by Paul Dano. The back half involves Wilson’s earth-shattering nervous breakdown and the relationship he strikes up with controversial therapist, Dr. Eugene Landy. In this half Dano is replaced by John Cusack. Co-written by ‘The Messenger” director, Oren Moverman, and directed by Bill Pohland, a hard-working producer moving behind the camera for the first time, “Love & Mercy” has earned sterling reviews for it’s dual leads, which is expectant of Dano but also exciting for Cusack, who in recent years has started to take on more daring roles. While music biopics can usually be written off given their over-abundance, this is one that has us eagerly intrigued…
Release date: August 14th
…as does F. Gary Gray’s long-gestating look at the creation, formation, and instant sensation of Compton-bred rap group, N.W.A. Co-produced by Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, based entirely on their South Central upbringing and the explosion of their monumental rap group in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the cast is comprised almost entirely of newcomers personifying the magnetic original lineup which includes MC Ren, DJ Yella, Arabian Prince, Snoop Dogg, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. Paul Giamatti also earns his tag-along billing as the group’s eccentric manager, Jerry Heller. Standing to expose their dangerous, troubled day-to-day lives in the projects, N.W.A angrily proposed a need-to-be-heard cultural message that is still reverberating today (loud and clear, as a matter of fact). While hardly an A-lister, Gray is still a great choice for the material, especially if he can tap into the tight-knit, agitated sense of fury that invigorated his early projects like “Set It Off” and “The Negotiator.” Plus, it’s only fitting that the director of “Friday” returns to the stomping grounds of his debut to helm what looks to be his most rousing picture yet. To top it all off, Gray has borrowed Darren Aronofsky’s usual cinematographer, Matthew Libatique, to arrange the compositions. From a distance, it may appear conventional, but we believe it’ll turn out to be something a bit more illuminating and necessary.
Release date: August 7th
Though less than a decade’s gone by since the last “Fantastic 4” film – “Rise of the Silver Surfer” which was amazingly worse than its lousy predecessor – “Chronicle” director Josh Trank helms this audacious reboot which has remixed a great deal of the comic lore, cast a diverse roster of hot, young talent, and supposedly takes a great deal of its influence from the body-horror films of David Cronenberg. The teaser trailer released a few months back exuded an inherently ‘Nolan-y’ vibe and glimpsed a scope that goes beyond our physical realm (fittingly, given the titular quartet’s physically impossible capabilities) but it was followed by a far more rote, and depressingly less exciting, theatrical trailer that possessed a “been here, done that” aura. Yes, gone are the Looney Toons-like representations of the powers and the Party City outfits; Jamie Bell’s Thing looks more like a walking stalactite than a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. All of this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. What remains to be seen, however, is the full story (which again sets up Dr. Doom as the antagonist, this time played by Toby Kebbell), which partly comes from Simon Kinberg, the brain behind the narrative obstacle course known as “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” and from director Trank, who despite doing an inspired job on “Chronicle” is making the big-budget jump after just one feature. Ultimately, if the finished film is more teaser trailer than theatrical trailer, then this could be the “Fantastic Four” film we’ve been waiting for.
Release date: June 19th
After a jamming teaser trailer comprised strictly of graphics and an energetic theatrical trailer that teased the tone, vibrant California locations, colorful cast and jambox style of Rick Famuyiwa’s Sundance breakout, we’ve been jumping at every snippet of this must-see summer scramble. A coming-of-age story centered around Malcolm, a hip-hop obsessed geek who finds juggling senior year school work, college applications, interviews and SAT prep to be far less difficult than avoiding the rampant gang activity in his local Inglewood borough, called The Bottoms. But when a chance encounter leads him and his group of offbeat characters on a gritty adventure filled with bad choices, he’s going to have to fight harder than ever to persevere. The reward of doing so, however, will allow him to evolve from being a geek to being dope. Anchored by “Short Term 12” breakout Keith Stanfield, and spiritedly photographed by Rachel Morrison, the burgeoning cinematographer behind for “Fruitvale Station,” it’s hard to believe that Famuyiwa’s mid-June blast will be anything other than what its title suggests.
Release date: May 1st
Few directors have ever felt a pressure like Joss Whedon has with his back-to-back “Avengers” films. A TV auteur with a preference for writing, Whedon’s vast adoration for the comics made him an inspired, but no less risky, choice to shepherd all of Marvel’s new MCU heroes into one massive, coherent adventure. However, the director – who had previously helmed only one other feature – accomplished the task with stunning ease, and immediately stepped up to the Herculean task of writing and directing the sequel. We’ve been able to see film already, and while, yes, it is a blast, it’s easy to see why the eager Whedon, who found widespread recognition after the success of the first film, is now a nearly haggard, insanely exhausted, almost totally shelled out version of his former self. This film is HUGE. Bigger scope, way more characters, and a lot more to set up – the pitfall of operating within a shared universe – and for that reason alone, “Ultron” still possesses that unshakable Marvel coating of being a cog in a persistent wheel. Still, there’s a lot to love in the “Ultron,” even if it’s not as special as its predecessor. Whedon does a really impeccable job of keeping it altogether, plus it’s got a killer cast, arguably the best villain the MCU has seen outside of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, and a bunch of new characters that will be great to see in future films. Still, it can be exhausting, and the final cut is some 40 minutes less than the first one Whedon was happy with. Needless to say, Whedon did the unimaginable, and we can totally see why he tapped out.
Release Date: June 12th
After Sundance wrapped up in January, word on the street was that Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s adaptation of Jesse Andrews’ debut novel of the same name was poised to be this year’s “Whiplash,” a.k.a. the little film that could. The film was welcomed with a standing ovation following its premiere screening and it walked away from the festival with the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for Drama (the same award “Whiplash” took home last year). The film follows Greg, a Pittsburgh high school student who befriends a leukemia stricken classmate named Rachel. Greg and his best friend Earle are aspiring young filmmakers who, in their spare time, put together low-budget films, and in honor of their new friend decide to make one for Rachel. In some ways, it’s “The Fault in Our Stars” meets “Be Kind Rewind,” with many claiming it’s the next modern generational touchstone. Its phenomenal trailer teased Gomez-Rejon’s alluring style and the performances by Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, and Ronald Cyler seem mesmerizing. Nick was lucky enough to catch the film at the Boston Independent Film Festival, claiming that Gomez-Rejon “hits something real inside the heart of the audience, whether they knew it was there or not.” Preparing my heart now.
Release date: June 5th
My loathing of Melissa McCarthy is well documented at this point (here are my reviews from “Identity Thief” and “Tammy”), but leave it to Paul Feig to remind me why I shouldn’t be so harsh on the rotund comedienne. Her newest vehicle, “Spy,” lands in a year where sendups to the spy genre are all around us, from Matthew Vaughn’s “Kingsman” to Guy Ritchie’s “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” (not to mention a new James Bond film hitting theaters in November), but “Spy” isn’t some kind of lame “Scary Movie” farce, but rather a trope crushing balancing act between action and comedy that embodies both halves to the fullest. Characters rail off caustic one-liners without sidestepping their genre-embedded characters, while Feig goes full force with action set-pieces, thankfully avoiding “Austin Powers”-type slapstick. Plus, Jason Statham, poking fun at his on-screen persona, plays ying to McCarthy’s yang, where the two face-off against a perfectly snooty Rose Byrne. Years after her Academy Award-nominated antics in “Bridesmaids,” “Spy” might be the renaissance Melissa McCarthy desperately needs.
Release Date: May 22nd
Part of the Pixar hive mind and a contemporary in J.J. Abrams’ “mystery box” mentality, Brad Bird’s elusive “Tomorrowland” remains no less eyebrow-raising under than a month before its release than it did when the project was first announced. Supposedly based on an archival discovery regarding Walt Disney, this advanced science fiction adventure seems to involve a young girl (Britt Robertson) who discovers a ‘portkey’ of sorts that can momentarily relocate her to the futuristic world of Tomorrowland. Desperate for answers, she seeks out George Clooney (who always has answers) and then…well, we don’t really know what happens after that. The trailers have been (expectantly) lean on plot, but word has it that the film is immensely layered and bent on breaking down the conventions of the science fiction genre, which is proving impossible to market clearly. Bird’s previous films have rarely stepped afoul (“The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille,” “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”), so it might be enough to go on his skill alone here, but the Damon Lindelof screenwriting credit is where things get a little hairy. Between “Lost,” “Prometheus,” Abrams’ second “Star Trek” film and HBO’s “The Leftovers,” Lindelof isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. Depending on how Bird and Lindelof decide to narrow their ambition will be the decider here, but the mystery will have us antsy in the ticket line.
Release date: July 31st
So while Brad Bird transports us to a world in the future, “The Usual Suspects” scribe, Christopher McQuarrie, picks up the slack on the franchise that Bird brought to new heights. “Rogue Nation” has to, honestly, do very little to be a box office smash; Tom Cruise’s two decades-old franchise has kept the able actor in good graces (and in good shape) and as the series has matured past Brian De Palma’s ’96 starter, it’s picked up impressive co-stars in the forms of Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, and Jeremy Renner who have graciously agreed to stick around (the latter two have other big franchises to operate around). Our heroes find enemies in their mirror images as they step up to the plate against the ‘Rogue Nation,’ more candidly referred to as an anti-IMF. Action surely abounds, Pegg quips while Cruise breaks necks, Patton will flaunt her looks and Renner will brood; Alec Baldwin also joins the ranks here as (potentially) a new villain, and Tom Cruise hangs out of a plane (he actually did it for real). The “Mission: Impossible” films have gone through a number of surges, each one drastically affected by the individual in the director’s chair (for better or for worse), and while we trust McQuarrie to do right by the first four films, Bird’s entry was one of the best action films of the past decade. But remember…Tom Cruise hanging off an airplane…one ticket please!
Release date: May 15th
You don’t have to be a fan of George Miller’s post-apocalyptic franchise to be excited for this Tom Hardy-fronted semi-reboot. Described as a two-hour long car chase, Miller returns to his R-rated monster truck rally with more confidence (and $$$) than ever. The trailers have been works of art in and of themselves – brilliantly colorful, downright angry, and excessively destructive. There’s little underneath the action and visuals here, but anyone who knows “Mad Max” knows that in Miller’s hands both of those hold their own against a thinly veiled “plot.” But beyond Miller, some true excitement lands at the feet of Tom Hardy, the brutish Brit replacing Mel Gibson in the hopeful franchise reopener. Hardy’s said that he approximates he has somewhere between four and twenty lines of dialogue throughout the entire film, and while that’s a wide gap, even at 120 minutes that’s barely any dialogue at all. Charlize Theron shows off a skinhead look and a mechanical harm, while Nicholas Hoult is barely recognizable underneath a sheet of body paint. This is going to be one hell of an celluloid anxiety attack, and even if it proves too much to make a box office dent (especially with “Age of Ultron” only two weeks old come its release), the crowd this is catering toward is more excited for this than probably anything else coming in these summer months.
Release Date: July 17th
Amy Schumer has been dominating the Internet lately with segments from her series, “Inside Amy Schumer,” erupting with provocative commentary on dynamic and controversial social issues prevalent in everyday life and pop culture. With her popularity on the rise, it couldn’t be a better time for her first foray onto the big screen. “Trainwreck,” written by Schumer, flips the romantic comedy convention of an eager girl who falls for a commitment-fearing guy, by playing a commitment-phobic career girl who slowly but comes to find truth in monogamy when she meets a good-hearted guy. And brilliantly, the good-hearted guy is Bill Hader, finally being granted a leading role after years of being standout support (and immediately after his stunning dramatic turn in last fall’s “The Skeleton Twins”). But better yet, at the helm is Judd Apatow, directing for the first time from a script that he did not write, which makes “Trainwreck” as much an opportunity for Apatow to express his directorial diversity as it is for Schumer to make a platform jump. The film premiered as SXSW and people are thrilled with the work. As Schumer continues to climb, the mid-summer release date couldn’t be more perfect. Watch out for this one, it could turn out to be very, very big.
Release date: June 19th
Have you ever wondered if the voices inside your head, the various shaded thoughts that inhabit your mind, were actually personified versions of your emotions having verbal jousts with one another? Maybe not, but the geniuses at Pixar surely have. In their newest animated film, “Monsters Inc.” and “Up” director Pete Docter ventures inside the mind of adolescent Riley who is torn out of her Midwestern life when her father is relocated to San Francisco. Struggling to acclimate to the new setting, her anthropomorphic emotions are faced with an internal struggle that has external ramifications. The emotions ‘Joy’ and ‘Sadness’ accidentally get lost in the young girl’s mind, far away from the emotional headquarters where human emotions operate from, while the remaining emotions have a tough time trying to assist Riley navigate her new life. ‘Joy’ and ‘Sadness’ traverse through Riley’s mind-scape, encountering all kinds of surreal diversions, as ‘Sadness’ starts to finally see the brighter side of life. To emphasize the amount of sensitive control Pixar has over me, I almost teared up just writing out that plot synopsis. There’s nary a Pixar film that hasn’t affected me in some seismic emotional way (let’s just all agree “Cars 2” was a dream, ok?) but Docter specifically has amazing handling when it comes to touching tales about adolescence. Both “Up” and “Monster’s Inc” – my favorite non-original-“Toy Story” Pixar film – are all about growth and finding the ability to move on, and “Inside Out” seems to be concluding some kind of internal, unofficial Pete Doctor trilogy. It’s been about five years since Pixar was last on it’s A-game (yes, I know, “Toy Story 3” was already five years ago), but this looks like a return to form in a big way. The film will be making it’s full-length debut at Cannes in a couple of weeks, so we’ll know for sure, but let it be known that I would forego well over half of the films on this list to be able to see this movie right now.
Outside of these twenty films, the summer still has a lot to offer, though some are more of niche interests and others are fluff that we’re not convinced are totally worth the $12 expense. Firstly, on the specialty side, there are some great gems to be on the lookout for should they venture to the smallest corner theater in a major multiplex.
Those of you with a high tolerance for disturbing imagery and genocide will be excited to learn that Joshua Oppenheimer’s spiritual sequel to “The Act of Killing, entitled “The Look of Silence,” will be arriving July 17th. Woody Allen will be making his annual big screen visit in July with “Irrational Man,” about a troubled professor (Joaquin Phoenix) who strikes up an unorthodox relationship with a student (Emma Stone). Mark Ruffalo’s circuit breakout, “Infinitely Polar Bear,” will finally be rearing its head in May 22nd. “The Connection,” a French-inspired stepbrother to William Friedkin’s 1971 classic, “The French Connection,” will be poking up in art houses later this month. Sundance curio, “The Overnight,” which just dropped a wicked and wired trailer has a sweet mid-June release. Samuel L. Jackson plays the President caught in a very comic book-like crisis in “Big Game,” appearing June 26th. “Far From the Maddening Crowd” might have set itself up for instant defeat coming out the same day as “Age of Ultron,” but reviews for Thomas Vinterburg’s sweeping period drama are grand. There’ll be chills to be had from the gritty British gangster thriller, “Hyena,” and from Sundance highlight, “The Stanford Prison Experiment,” the dramatized version of the highly controversial trial of which it is named after. And in late August, Alejandro Amenábar returns with Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson in tow for the dynamic “Regression,” about an abusive father who gets accused of a crime that he has no memory of committing.
I also must single out Miroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s “The Tribe,” which is not only one of the most challenging films I have ever seen but also one of the best. This directorial debut out of Ukraine employs an entirely deaf cast who only communicate to one another via sign language and makes the daring decision to not include subtitles for audiences. Unless you know sign language, nobody, of any lingual background, will fully understand what’s going on. There’s also no soundtrack. The soundscape is entirely barren, outside of diegetic sound. It’s tough, it’s terrifying, and about 15-20 minutes in, you’ll come to realize just how LOUD it is. These actors – all unknowns, all first-timers – are mesmerizing and fearless; the film goes to disturbing places and showcases all types of violence – mental, physical, emotional – and these actors carry the weight of Slaboshpytskiy’s vision with tenacity and verve. It’s a mind-blowing film, and Slaboshpytskiy’s direction is magnificent, traversing scene-by-scene in staggeringly positioned and choreographed long takes, like a Ukrainian Steve McQueen. The film finally hits theaters on June 17th, and if you’re up for the challenge, I cannot recommend the film enough (it was #3 on my Top 10 of 2014).
And yet, the summer is still filled with goodies elsewhere, but many of them are obvious fluff, and some will be under heavy scrutiny until they hit theaters. Still, there will always fun to be had at the movies this summer. Here’s what else you can see popping up in multiplexes: Bowing in a few weeks is “Pitch Perfect 2,” probably the only other noteworthy May presence outside of what has already been mentioned. Passingly, you may notice a Jack Black/James Marsden comedy called “The D Train” that might peak your interest, but I’m here to tell you to stay away; it’s a pathetic and wasted opportunity for the two of them. There’s also “Hot Pursuit” which looks like an even worse version of “Identity Thief” and arguably the strangest post-Oscar nomination move that Reese Witherspoon could have made. Dwayne Johnson will fight an earthquake in “San Andreas” (shocker: it’s not directed by Roland Emmerich) and Cameron Crowe returns with “Aloha,” a familiar star-studded schmaltz that would be worth some excitement if it wasn’t so terribly titled. Also, at the end of the month there’s Andrew Bujalski’s harmless-looking, mainstream-oriented “Results,” with Guy Pearce and Cobie Smulders. There’s some horror coming up, but nothing you haven’t seen before, like another “Insidious” sequel (this is the third for those counting at home), a “Poltergeist” remake, and “Sinister 2,” only this one will not be directed by Scott Derrickson who is currently prepping next fall’s “Doctor Strange.” There’s an update of National Lampoon’s “Vacation” on the horizon that I’m sure nobody knows about. Also, if you were excited for Joe Wright’s “Pan” it’s now been bumped to October in order to evade the “crowded summer.” Rupert Friend from “Homeland” jumps into another attempt at a “Hitman” adaptation, meanwhile Adam Sandler will fight arcade game characters in the absurd-looking “Pixels,” and those lovable “Minions” from “Despicable Me” will get they’re own full feature length film to do more “Minion-y things” for your endless enjoyment.
On the franchise front, “Terminator Genisys” is the most desperate blockbuster of the summer pulling that sequel/prequel/reboot/alternate universe gag that will most likely crash and burn, while Channing Tatum & Co. will dance in minimal clothing in the stripper sequel, “Magic Mike XXL,” and Guy Ritchie looks to shepherd a swift new “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” back toward relevance, which probably would’ve worked better if “Kingsman: The Secret Service” hadn’t did the ‘slick spy’ thing so well already. Somewhere you might also see “Mr. Holmes,” a quaint-looking new take on Sherlock Holmes with Ian McKellan playing a haggard version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic detective for director Bill Condon (who’ll be directing the pretty exciting-sounding live-action “Beauty and the Beast”). Author Jon Green gets back-to-back big-screen treatment with “Paper Towns,” adapted by the same team as “The Fault in Our Stars,” and Ryan Reynolds, months before his “last chance/romance” with worthwhile stardom in next year’s long-gestating “Deadpool” solo film, has the iffy-but-interesting “Self/Less” from Tarsem Singh in July. And if you’re in a documentary kind of mood, the Amy Winehouse documentary, “Amy,” will surely quench your thirst and remind you of the late singer’s powerhouse qualities.
So there’s Summer 2015, see you at the movies!
Article by Mike Murphy